Back to School/Getting to Know You Pages

30 Aug

Okay, so it’s back to school time and we are thinking about those first days back and the oh-so-important getting to know you activities. It seems that everyone has some cutesy idea and crafty bulletin board ideas posted. You know those ones, the kind that make the rest of us feel like we couldn’t come up with that kind of display even if we were graded on it! Despite our ineptitude in this area, we still always try.

So we have a superhero theme going on but we kind of wanted a social media take on the getting to know you activity. This is where our mildly, somewhat, okay scary compulsive side comes into play. We have an idea in our heads and then we look around. There are some amazing resources available but they are not quite exactly what we want. For some reason we don’t want a full page but we don’t want a half page either.  It’s weird. The normal thing to do would be to use the premade pages and say “This will work for me very well, thank you”.  It is not to obsess about how it’s still not what you want.  Instead, you set about making your own. You even sign up for Instagram because you want to see the images and the layout. You create an Instagram theme getting to know you page. For a while you’re happy…

Then, you start thinking about selfies. That could be cool and there’s even some clipart with superheroes taking selfies. Again, you follow similar steps as before. At least this time there isn’t anything you have to register for and a cellphone template is surprisingly quick and easy to make.  Again, you’re happy.

At least for a while…

Anyway, for anyone who is still looking for variations, here are a couple more ideas. You can say “This will work for me very well, thank you” or set about  on your own compulsive ways.  Good luck!

… maybe we should be checking out superhero themes …

You can download the files here:

All About My Selfie Brownlee and Belanger

Getting to Know You Instagram Page Brownlee and Belanger


Genius Project Inquiry

23 Aug

The topic of inquiry is still very much on our minds. Maybe it’s because it’s so pervasive in our curriculum. Maybe it’s because we are looking at our back to school long range planning. Maybe it’s because we are in line to read the follow up to IQ called THINQ for grades 4 to 6. Most likely it’s the last one as we hate waiting!!

We often utilize Genius Projects in our classroom to help students explore areas of personal interest. We are also thinking of adding a Makerspace this year for some STEAM activities as a further source of personal inquiry. Wait – back to the original inquiry topic!  We also need that THINQ book because one of us, in particular, has a short attention span. Anyway, as Genius Projects are personal inquiry projects we decided it would be beneficial to add in a more formal inquiry organizer. This is also for us, as when we reflected on the process, we realized we didn’t really have our students adequately make connections and reflect on their own learning. To this end, we utilized the format in OPHEA’s inquiry process to help shape our organizer. (Check out their full resource here: We have seen these same questions/format in other documents but wanted it in our genius project docs. Since no one else would make that for us we ended up making our own.

As per usual, we decided that we might as well share.

To download the file:

Genius Project Organizer Brownlee and Belanger

Inquiry Process – Thick and Thin Questions

8 Aug

This year we are excited to partner up with another class to strengthen our inquiry skills. Inquiry is integral in our curriculum yet it seems like our students struggle with key components. We always worry that maybe we take away the scaffolding a little too quickly – such as the time we realized our students didn’t really get that Google was search engine instead of a website. That’s a whole other discussion! Anyway, we ended up reading the book IQ: A Practical Guide to Inquiry-Based Learning – based on a Facebook recommendation, of course

Image result for IQ inquiry book

Yea FB friends, as it is an excellent source of ideas and we are looking forward to trying many of the activities!!

While we recognize the inquiry process isn’t really a linear procedure we decided to segment it into smaller steps as our class will be responsible for supporting the younger students. Our hope is that breaking it down into “steps” will make them more mindful of their own part in the process. (Can you tell we’ve been talking about metacognition too?).

We want to start with a look at our focus and then move into a discussion on thin and thick questions (this will also tie in nicely with Language Arts). To help out we want them to keep the definition and examples of thick and thin questions in their notebooks. We have seen sandwiches, burgers and mustaches all used as a visual for thick and thin but we ended up using the mustache example. Would have been perfect for last year’s mustache theme – too bad we’re using superheroes this year Going to admit we’re still trying to think of a way to make a superhero visual on this one!



We tend to have ones already completed for students who may have some fine motor concerns

We think we will also discuss how to use a Q-Chart at the same time. We have found thin questions are popular because they are quick and easy. Hopefully, by the end of the year, we will have them more comfortable with creating thick questions and recognizing not every question has a “right” answer.

For anyone looking for a thick and thin questions template, you can use the one here. A small Q-chart is also in the document.

Reading and Inquiry INB Thick and Thin Questions BLM Brownlee and Belanger

Recount Writing and EQAO

24 Jul

When we were going over our recount writing plans, we started thinking about the constantly looming spectre of EQAO in Grade 6. While we were consistently using the reading passages, we hadn’t delved into the writing component to the same level. The multiple choice questions in particular are usually stumbling blocks for many of our students. To help out, we decided to look through past EQAO assessments to determine which prompts would be compatible with recount writing.

At this point we are not certain how we are going to integrate them into our plans. They may become quick write prompts or shared writing. We may use them as a source of exemplars.  Many of the multiple choice questions would support mini lessons on organization or focus.  As you can tell we are reviewing but don’t have a lot of great ideas at this point!

For anyone else who may want to consider ways to work in EQAO writing, we are posting the recount related prompts. We have cited the year for each prompt. Hopefully you can come up with some creative ways to incorporate them into your writing plan. Apparently our brains are on summer vacation too (as you can tell by our exciting blog title). Happy planning!

EQAO Recount Writing Prompts Brownlee and Belanger


Writing Process: TAPF

19 Jul

Thinking about our goals for this coming year, we started to think about ways to revise our language program. This year we decided we are going to incorporate an interactive language notebook. While we aren’t totally certain if we are going to use separate ones for reading, word study and writing or just one general notebook, we started with a focus on writing.

This year we are going to start with a Topic, Audience, Purpose, Format approach. It seems straightforward and student friendly. Also, after several years of reading “so, yeah” in formal writing we are hoping enough focus on the audience piece might help eliminate that problem! If you haven’t encountered students randomly writing “so, yeah” in every genre, especially when they run out of things to say, then consider yourself lucky!

We decided after our introductory classes we would start with this foldable for our books.

Using a 4-section foldable, students will label the outside flap with the letters TAPF. Inside they will write out the title and definitions for each section.

We will do follow up lessons on each topic before using format to start our first focus on recount.  As we work through other revisions we will continue to share some ideas and activities. So, yeah. Enjoy.






Rotational Art

21 Jun

During a recent unit on transformations in geometry, we decided to combine math and art. We have done this before with Wassily Kandinsky’s concentric circles and an attempt at a perimeter art. While we would happily do Kandinsky’s circles again, we definitely need to revisit the perimeter art idea!

In art, we had been looking at the Pop Art movement through the works of Jim Dine and Keith Haring and were to continue with a look at Andy Warhol. We decided to take the Warhol lesson and mix it up by adding in the concept of transformations. We focussed on the idea of a 4 quadrant approach, bright colours, images from pop culture and, the requirement to complete one of each transformation. Students needed to reflect, rotate and translate their image. How they did this would be explained in their artwork reflection. Since it was one of those last minute decisions the lesson itself needs some work but the overall idea yielded some great artwork!

Using Technology to Support English Language Learners

10 May

Recent technology has really helped some of our English Language Learners with developing literacy skills and content knowledge.  One of the challenges is that there are so many websites and apps available that people don’t know where to start.  It is also tricky to find sites that are good for elementary-aged students so many of our recommendations were created for all students.

These are some of our top picks at the moment for early learners of English in elementary schools.  Many of them work well with any student who needs these skills.

For Literacy:

Unite for Literacy – – This site has numerous books arranged by categories.  Most of the collection is non-fiction so it can be used with more age groups.  The books are narrated in English but there are also 37 other languages that can be chosen.  The student can hear/read the book in two languages to help with understanding.

Epic- – There is a vast collection of books all separated by subject.  The books have a suggested age range for interest.  The books can be read aloud.  Audiobooks and some videos are also included.

Pebble Go- – Non-fiction books are sorted by categories.  The books include narration and there are related articles about the different subjects.

Reading a-z –  – There is a yearly fee to use this site but it has a complete levelled library of resources for 29 reading levels.  There are worksheets to go along with each of the books.  Flashcards are included.  Spanish and French books are also available.

Early Literacy Skills:

Starfall- Still one of the best for teaching the names and sounds of the letters in the English alphabet.  Graphics and music are engaging.  The games are great practice for early learners.

Endless ABC (app) – The individual letter sounds are highlighted with fun graphics and sounds.  Higher level words are illustrated and practiced.

Phonics Island (app) – The student gets to practice upper and lower case letters and traces letters to learn the formation.  There is also some identification of animal names.

Early Writing:

iWriteWords (app) – For practice in forming the letters of the English alphabet, this is great.


Vocabulary Builder (app) – There is a series of these apps.  Body parts, verbs, and shapes are only some of the categories.

Rewordify- – English text can be placed in the text box.  The text will then be simplified so that students can more easily understand the content.  Students can also get definitions of unknown words. – For older students, this is spelling practice in the form of a video game divided into categories of vocabulary words.

For current events: – This site provides articles at different reading levels for numerous current topics in the news.  (Easily adapted for the whole class.)

Content Knowledge:

Britannica School-  – Articles on topics can be selected and then three different reading levels can be chosen to reflect achievement level.  Images and videos are realistic.