Mathematical Problem Solving using Pumpkin Seeds

In order to build academic language and record the students’ thinking around math, I challenged my beginner English language learners to a math problem involving pumpkin seeds and snack time.

Pumpkin seeds are a good snack.  If a handful of pumpkin seeds is a snack for one person, how many people can have a pumpkin seed snack with one small pumpkin?

Math Pumpkin Problem Solving from AISB EAL on Vimeo.

My reflection: This was definitely a guided inquiry and it gave some really good information on what the students can do in terms of counting, estimating/predicting, and using mental math.  The students were engaged and used lots of language to show their thinking.


  • It was clear that the students are still independently counting by 1’s.  When we initially counted how many seeds were in a handful, Ziv counted by 1’s.  She got an answer of 106.  I asked how we could check her answer and Sipan suggested we re-count (by 1’s).  I suggested we make groups of 10.  They applied this strategy when they counted the small pumpkin’s seeds.
  • The students are not using division to problem solve. In the final step of the problem, they needed teacher support to answer the original question. They used multiplication.
  • They can count by 10’s with visual support (the numbers written linearly on the whiteboard).
  • They understand and can use the following mathematical academic language: predict, count, plus, time, equals, problem, how many, number, and groups of …,
  • The students need support with 30 versus 40.

Math Pumpkin Problem Solving from AISB EAL on Vimeo.

An Inquiry into the Past Tense

After reading “I Looked Everywhere”, fourth grade English language learners inquired into how to form the past tense for regular verbs.

An Inquiry into the Past Tense from AISB EAL on Vimeo.

Response to Literature – acting out a book

A great way for English language learners to respond to something they’ve read, or something that has been read to them is by acting out the book.  A colleague of mine loaned me Yo! Yes? by Chris Raschka which is a 34-word story about the beginnings of a friendship between two boys.  I didn’t even have to suggest that Sipan and Ziv act it out, after the first reading by me, Ziv was already pointing to one of the characters and then pointing to herself.

The video is fantastic.  It captures the true facial expressions, gestures, voices and feelings of the two characters.

Yo! Yes? from AISB EAL on Vimeo.

Acting out stories is always fun..especially when you are a beginner English language learner and still experimenting with the language.

Grade 5 Inquiry into Solar Energy

Welcome to another year in English as an Additional Language (EAL) at AISB.  This year, I’m working with Grade 4 and grade 5, so I am lucky to continue working with some of my students from last year.

For the first six weeks, we have all been busy settling back into school routines and have completed our first unit of inquiry.  The unit in Grade 5 was under the Sharing the Planet transdisciplinary theme.  They were inquiring into resources around the world, specifically energy resources.  We decided to inquire into solar energy in EAL class and I challenged them to cook an egg using only the sun.

They started writing down what they knew about solar energy and then we used various websites and on-line books to research solar energy and its various uses.  The children learned about solar panels and solar ovens.  Initially, they came up with various solar oven designs, based on their prior knowledge.

IMG_2766  Here is Anna’s initial prototype, made out of clay.

After they went home and continued to research ‘solar ovens’ by talking with parents and searching on the web, their initial designs changed.  Yeonatan came in with his prototype oven, and Anita and Anelise arrived with their oven half-built.

IMG_2827 IMG_2828 IMG_2831 IMG_2869

Once they wrote their plan and built their solar oven, they took their devices outside.  Luckily, it was an extremely sunny day.  Each of the box ovens had one whole egg (still in the shell) and two s’mores.  I decided that even if the egg worked, melted chocolate with marshmallow was going to be more exciting (and tasty) for the students than a (potentially) cooked egg!


Anna is so proud of her egg-cooking device

Yeonatan smiling with his oven

Yeonatan smiling with his oven

Omer with his final design

Omer with his final design

Anelise and Anita with their solar oven

Anelise and Anita with their solar oven

The four devices - you can see the reflecting happening already...

The four devices – you can see the reflecting happening already…

We put the devices outside at 9:00 a.m.  They drew lots of attention from other students during recess and the fifth graders constantly ran over to change the position of the ovens depending on where the sun was.  They later informed me in class that they were not only changing the position, they were also moving the lid up or down depending on the position of the sun.  What great scientists!

Changing the oven's position as the sun's position changes

Changing the oven’s position as the sun’s position changes

The ovens get a lot of attention at recess

The ovens get a lot of attention at recess

Making some adjustments

Making some adjustments

Checking on progress... "Ms. Erika, the chocolate is starting to melt!"

Checking on progress… “Ms. Erika, the chocolate is starting to melt!”

6 hours later…

The first ones to open the oven are Anita and Anelise.  They didn’t want to wait any longer so they decided to eat one each of the s’mores and check the egg.  At this point, the sun was behind the school and the oven had been in the shade for the past hour or so.

And…..the results?


Anelise and Anita eat their cooked egg!

Anelise and Anita eat their cooked egg!

The next person to check his egg was Yeonatan: Check out the video below!

password for watching the video is aisbeal

The next person to check his egg was Omer.  Check out his video below!

Password for watching the video is aisbeal

Then finally the girls decided to eat their s’mores….

Password for watching video is aisbeal

The results varied depending on the oven.  It was an incredible inquiry.

Non-Fiction Picture Books created with Book Creator

Fourth grades students completed their non-fiction unit last Friday.  They spent five weeks asking questions, researching, note-taking, drafting, revising and finally editing their picture books on Book Creator.  It was a lot of work and they were extremely proud of their finished ebooks in the end.

They shared a printed version of the ebook with their grade level – the celebration can be seen here.

Photos of their research:

Upon completion of their ebook, I printed out a copy for them (in color) for them to share with their classmates during the celebration.  Had we had plenty of iPads, I would have just given them an iPad to use to share their book.


The finished Non-Fiction books created with Book Creator.

Knowing that some students don’t have access to iPads at home, I uploaded a pdf version of their ebook into Issuu, so the book can still be read on-line.  Enjoy!


Non-Fiction Picture Book Celebration

Non-Fiction Picture Books from AISB EAL on Vimeo.

Grade 4 students chose a non-fiction topic to research, take notes, draft chapters and create a final e-book copy. Topics ranged from ‘Endangered Penguins’ to ‘The Brain’. During the celebration, all four fourth grade classes were mixed and groups of 4 were formed for students to share a chapter of two of their masterpieces.

EAL Grammar Quiz

My Two Corgies

Using ChatterPix Kids for talking photos

It’s always great when you can add funny props and animate photos.  ChatterPix Kids is a wonderful app from Duck, Duck, Moose that allows you to import any photo, add a line for a ‘mouth’ and record up to 30 seconds of audio.  This video file can then be saved to the camera roll and exported as a video file.

Fourth grade just started nonfiction reading and writing.

Here is Sasha’s 30 seconds on non-fiction books.

Sasha talking about non fiction books from AISB EAL on Vimeo.


Dual Language Texts

There is lots of research on the importance of developing a English language learner’s first language (mother tongue).  It is so important to remember that just because a student is unable to express her/himself fully in English, it doesn’t mean they are illiterate.  Allowing students to write in their mother tongue provides freedom for the students to express themselves in more detail and share their culture.

Grade 4 has just started non fiction reading and writing.  In order to activate prior knowledge, I asked my beginner fourth grader to create a dual language text on any topic she choose.  We started by reading several non fiction texts at her level, and then she choose to write a narrative expository text on Spring.

She created the story by hand and then used Book Creator to take photos of her drawings, and Chinese text, before adding English text using the iPad.