Michael J. Allen

Class of 2017 - 2018

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Teacher Plans

September 6th - 9th


Welcome to the 'Teacher Plans' page.

You will be using this page frequently during our time together if you want to find out about the exciting and thrilling events in the class.

It is usually to be found crisp, fresh and new each Sunday afternoon, laden with the ambitions, plans and follies of the following week!

The structure of the page is usually something like:

  • Review of the previous week - what went as planned and what didn't!
  • Language plans - Reading and Writing.
  • Math
  • Project: Usually Science and Social Studies appear under this category.
  • Homework.
  • Science-class link for Ms. O'Donnell's class.

So, without further ado, let's get started:



That was an enjoyable start to a school year.

It was relatively relaxed.  I did avoid 'talking the student's ears off'.  The students had plenty of opportunity to sit around and get to know each other/catch up.

Definitely an interesting vibe in the room, with some nervousness in evidence! The Grade 4 team obviously made a strong impression on many of the students.

We didn't really get much academic work done, beyond back to school adjustment, and I fully expect this first almost-full week to follow that pattern, too. I did get two writing samples and some decent artwork from some of the group. I'll be posting some of this work here on the website at the end of next week.

Most of the students seem relaxed and ready to get to work. Of course, it's all about building community for these opening weeks:  we need to establish three very important words at the top of the list: Kindness, gentleness, relaxation! These will be the guiding principles of our community-building phase.

I want the students to have a completely fresh start with me, and I want a fresh start with each of them. It's very invigorating and exciting for me and, I hope, refreshing for the students, too.

This week, the Math program kicks off and Ms. O'Donnell will have the pleasure of getting to grips with the 'NVisions' program along with the students. It will take a couple of weeks to get all the online access aspects authorized for the students, so bear with us during this period.

The new class strikes me as a creative, intelligent and excitable group. They seem keen to take part in team projects and their enthusiasm for school and their easy laughter and comfort with each other (notwithstanding the inevitable 'gender divide') is already contagious. The signs are good!

See you back here next week to see how the first almost-full-week went!


Morning meeting

As part of the whole-school philosophy each class begins each day with a thirty-minute long class meeting.

The meeting is structured into four phases:

  • Message - topic of the day, often with academic angle

  • Greetings

  • Activities - short, fun community building activities

  • Sharing - short news items from members of the class

The Sharing phase will not start for a few weeks yet.

This week our greetings will be using backwards versions of our names, using adjectives and French greetings.

This week's activities include the game Caught red-handed, the game, Grandma's trunk, and a math game called Pico Ferme Nada. Ask your child to explain the activities!

The messages this week will include listing adjectives to describe friends, talking about the weekend, and thinking about class rules and our class contract.



Our school is applying a philosophy to working with the social-emotional needs of the students.

This philosophy is called the Responsive Classroom.

This approach to teaching and learning, stresses the importance of building and maintaining a classroom climate of warmth and safety. Here are seven of the guiding principles of the approach:

  1. The Social Curriculum is as important as the Academic Curriculum.

  2. How children learn is as important as what they learn.

  3. The greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.

  4. Children need a set of social skills in order to be successful academically and socially.

  5. Knowing the children we teach is as important as knowing the content we teach.

  6. Knowing the parents of the children we teach is as important as knowing the children.

  7. Teachers need to model the social and academic skills which they wish to teach to their students.

Along with a few colleagues, I've been trying to base my early encounters with students and colleagues around these ideas for a number of years; concepts and structures outlined in, for example, 'The First Six Weeks of School', by Paula Denton and Roxann Kriete. 

I'm excited that these ideas are now school-wide principles!

Many of the opening activities and games which will feature in the opening weeks of school are directly addressing these Responsive Classroom goals.


Alongside the Responsive Classroom work are Standard Curriculum goals.

As my journey begins with these students, my primary goals for September in Language are all about learning. My learning!

I need to collect information about each student's abilities. Specifically, I'm going to try to hear many of the students read a little by the end of the week, collect in more writing samples, and make an early assessment of each student's broad linguistic skills.


Group Contract

The students will be working in small groups this week discussing and sharing their ideas for class rules. By the end of the week, I hope to be able to have thoroughly explored and voted on a small, but well thought out, collection of rules for our community.

  • Hopes and goals for the year

  • What rules do we need - partner discuss and list

  • Sort and categorize the lists - small team activity

  • Make a contract chart and sign it in a whole-class ceremony. The contract will be posted in the class for the entire school year!


Group Skills

Learning how to be effective and efficient personally and in small teams is the goal of these exercises.

  • How to deal with feeling angry, feeling sad, non-involvement - partner activities - discuss and list ideas, whole class share and discuss. Create class charts of strategies.

  • How to apologize - 'Juice bar' partner role-play dramas.

  • How to solve problems - model mediated discussions:

    • This is what happened

    • This is how it made me feel

    • This is what I want

    • Options, turn taking and final resolutions

  • How to make decisions in groups: 5:0, 4:1, 3:2, how to manage 'tie-breaks', how to deal with those who lose in the vote in a fair and powerful way.

  • Turn Taking and keeping involved: Practice Activity: How to make top five rules for Perfect World. Report back the opinions of the other group members.

  • How to delegate team roles - Practice activity: find out about responsibilities and decide who is Organizer, Quality-control, Time-keeper, Team encourager/Troubleshooter for each team.

  • Team Skills Rubric - investigate team skills rubric with partner. Discuss which are the most important qualities. Conduct a self-assessment using the rubric.


Summer Writing

The third piece of freeform writing I'm going to collect will involve the students writing to me about their summer vacations. This will be a timed exercise. The subject matter is deliberately very open ended (I need to collect some basic data), although I will provide more of a framework for those students who need it.


Read-Aloud story

I am reading a collection of short stories to the group written by Neal Shusterman, (www.storyman.com)  using those stories as launch pads for various writing and art pieces:

'Opabinia' - discuss paradox, time travel, the distant past.


Assignment/Agenda books

We will start using assignment/agenda books on Tuesday. I will be modeling how to fill in them in during this first 'training' week. The week after, they will go 'on-line' for real!

I have published a page for your information about this subject here.



We get started this week in Math looking at the subject of Place Value.

The lessons for the week look like this:

Tuesday: Introduction to the Ms. O'Donnell and the program

Wednesday: Placement assessment - a review containing fourth grade material.

Thursday: Lesson 1:1 -Introduction to Place value

Friday: Tenths and Hundredths

There will be daily practice worksheets for homework. Each worksheet will be due to be handed in the following day. The worksheet number will be posted in the Assignment book each day.

I'll be posting on-line links to the worksheets as soon as I can, so that students can reprint them if the originals are accidentally lost or eaten by the family pet.



Perfect World


My primary goal for the start of the year is to give the students plenty of opportunity for catching up with each other, as well as getting to know new people, as we all start to learn about each other.

Together we are going to build a kind, respectful, and empathic place for us all to live and work. I would like re-entry into school to continue be as gentle and stress-free as possible for us all!

I think the opening project will be an excellent vehicle for all of the above.

The opening project is called 'Perfect World?'

We will ask the question: 'What will our Perfect World be like?'

The students will work in collaborative teams of four or five for this project.

Their challenge will be to create a shared vision of a Perfect World that they would like to live in.

Slightly fantastic aspects will be encouraged.


  • The students will design a specific wall space in the classroom with maps, drawings and other artwork representing their Perfect World.
  • The students will write newspaper stories about events in their Perfect World.
  • They will present their Perfect World to the whole group, and they will explain and show what makes them great.
  • The students design ten important 'laws' for their Perfect World.
  • The students design and create a song/anthem for their vision of a Perfect World.


This primarily relaxed and creative project takes just over three weeks.

The opening project is designed to set the background for many of the group's future explorations in Grade 5.


Each aspect of the project will be 'graded' using the rubric system.

I've published the main rubric on the Rubric Home Page.

The students will be provided with the rubric while they work.

There is an emphasis on points awarded for team-work, effort and team-spirit.

The project grades are not as important to me, however, as starting to find out how the students work with each other.

I'll be publishing their work to the site, so keep checking back to the ‘News' page for updates!

On the Rubric page also is the rubric I will use to ascertain teamwork scores for each individual in the group.

Tune back in here next Sunday for the next thrilling full plan!!


Homework will be 'kicking off' on Friday, September 9th.

Students who want to get a head start on the project this week can do so - I have already posted the project. I'll be preparing students for the homework expectations all week. If you want to talk to me about this thorny subject, please speak to me after school at pick-up, or email me! I really want to meet and to get to know all you parents.

Don't be shy!

Students will usually receive their homework jobs for the whole week each Friday. Look for it in the student's backpack. Students should complete one homework job each day for five days.

I will be doing a detailed introduction to the project in school each Friday.

Each project will be up on the 'Homework' page here at the site each Friday evening.

Check out the 'News’ page for the 'Parent's Guide to Homework', as well as other delicious treats for the start of the year!

See you back here next week!


Science-class teacher plan

This is the 'Specialist Class' page.

This page is for the students and parents of Ms. O'Donnell to find out about what happens during the Science class!