Monday, 7 May 2018

Speech Arts

Each spring communities across Manitoba and Canada host an arts festival where students and adults gather to showcase their progress and abilities in various disciplines such as piano, singing and speech arts. 
Prairie Sounds Festival is held in Portage la Prairie each April and usually students from four different colonies participate: Baker, Elm River, Fairholme and Good Hope.
Here at Brennan School, enroll all of our kindergarten to grade 8 students in speech arts.  For weeks they work on reading,  memorizing, then presenting their poems with clarity, good expression and poise.  Of course, participating in this project improves their articulation and oral language skills.  Furthermore, they develop skills in stage presence and confidence.
This year three Brennan students received awards: Jenna Waldner in kindergarten, her sister Ava waldner in grade 2 and Marcus Hofer in grade 8.

And the winners are...

At the final concert, all award winners present their pieces in front of a large and attentive audience.

Speech arts award winners representing four different colonies.

All the award winners of the Prairie Sounds Festival 2018


I started writing this post around Christmas time or shortly after, but for some reason it wasn't published, so here goes...

As usual, a month or so before Christmas, we bring out our boxes of Christmas library books.  It's always fun to watch the students find their favourites, then delve into others.  I typically also pick through and search for some of my personal favourites to read to my class.  This year it occurred to me that we have several versions of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and that I could use them in my math class.  Yes! I decided to use those books to introduce ordinal counting.


After reading  the books and discussing that math concept, we did several activities including
1) counting the ordinals orally: first, second, third...
2) having the students line up and asking students them where they stand in the line -up.
3) sequencing ordinal cards from first to twelfth
4) play concentration and/or go fish with ordinal cards
5) following directions sheets pertaining to ordinals,..

Thursday, 23 November 2017


Outcomes pertaining to Remembrance Day are found at every grade level, in the Manitoba social studies curriculum.  In my primary classroom, my focus is generally on the aspect of "peace".  I have collected several great mentor texts that I've started using to introduce our "peace" discussions and lessons.
Below are brief descriptions of the books (according to Amazon) and how I've used them.

 Peace begins with You

 Explains, in simple terms, the concept of peace, why conflicts occur, how they can be resolved in positive ways, and how to protect peace.

The Peace Book

  Peace is making new friends.
Peace is helping your neighbor.
Peace is a growing a garden.
Peace is being who you are.

The Peace Book delivers positive and hopeful messages of peace in an accessible, child-friendly format featuring Todd Parr's trademark bold, bright colors and silly scenes. Perfect for the youngest readers, this book delivers a timely and timeless message about the importance of friendship, caring, and acceptance.
We created a chart on how we can be peacemakers in our homes, school and community.  Next, each students created his/her personal peace dove by tracing his/her hands and feet.   I found the idea here, however, we turned ours into mobiles, rather than gluing it to a background paper.  They wrote one of their "peacemaker" thoughts on each side of their doves' body.  

Sensing Peace

What does peace smell like? What does it taste like? Feel, sound or look like? Through Sensing Peace, children ages 4 to 7 are encouraged to see what peace looks, sounds, feels, tastes and smells like their everyday moments things like laughing, cooking, gardening, singing or sharing ice cream.

Through this encouraging and delightful story, children will realize that peace isn't something big out there that only adults can know about they already experience and create peace in meaningful ways each day.

On alternate years my five senses unit coincides with our "peace" unit, so it works out really well for my students to write their own "Five Senses Peace Stories" using this story.

 Can You Say peace?

International Peace Day is September 21st. On this day and every day throughout the year, children all over the world wish for peace. Karen Katz takes readers on a bright and colorful journey around the globe to meet some of these children and learn about the many ways to say peace!
Karen Katz's bright and childlike illustrations are the perfect way to introduce the very young to the concept of peace and this annual day to celebrate it.

After reading this book, we copied "peace" in all the languages mentioned in the book on coloured paper.  We found the countries where the languages are spoken on a large world map and labled them with "peace" in their language. 

Somewhere Today

Somewhere in the world each day, people just like you are acting in kind, peaceful, loving ways. Perhaps they are visiting someone who is old, teaching a little sister to ride a bike, or sharing an experience with a friend from a different culture.

We wrote our own rendition of "Somewhere Today" after reading this book.  It was wonderful to see that the children could, with a few prompts, identify the peaceful happenings in their everyday life.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Ish Art

Related imageOne of the first art projects of this school year began with the reading of Ish by Peter H Reynolds.  Amazon writes that"A creative spirit learns that thinking "ish-ly" is far more wonderful than "getting it right" in this book. " 
My students were delighted with this concept and we find the suffix "ish" creeping into almost every subject area now.  

We created "ish" paintings by crumpling up 4" x 5" rectangles into balls and dabbing liquid water colours all over it.  We flattened them out and recrumpled them, then repeated this with two other colours.  We discovered some interesting ishly shapes and colour combination, some were sping-ish, others Christmas-ish and a whole bunch of other ish ones!

Grandparents Day Cards

During the next art class, my grades 6 - 8 class transformed their paintings into "ish" Grandparents Day cards.  I know that at least one gradma was "ishfully" pleased with the cards she received.








Support Staff Appreciation Cards

My grades 1 & 2 students designed thank you cards to present to our EA for all he hard work at our Support Staff Appreciation party.


  Christmas Cards

 Finally, just before Christmas, my grades 3 - 5 class turned their ish paintings into Christmas cards for parents, grandparents and other family members and friends.

I'm sure all who received these cards were absolutely, ishfully delighted with them.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Writing and Publishing Beginnings

Hi Elma, I'm trying to reconstruct the Young Cooperators Club page on Facebook since it mysteriously disappeared several months ago. Elaine Shein and I thought we should start up another one, and since the interest is there with members, we did! Here is the new Facebook page if you would like to rejoin. We'd love to see you there!

I read the message from Carol MacKay over a second time. Young Cooperators (YC) Club sounded familiar to me, but who was Carol and how did she get my contact information?  YC Club took me back many years…

The Western Producer

My dad had a subscription to the Western Producer, a weekly farm paper, when I was growing up. Since he was responsible for raising our colony’s poultry and water fowl, he was interested in most of the farm news.   My sisters and I usually just paged through each new edition, not really getting much involved in the agricultural articles. 
One day however, things changed for my sister Linda and me.  We were both avid readers and also enjoyed writing, so when we discovered the YC pages, we felt this might be where we could have our ramblings published! We sent a letter to Sister Anne, the YC editor and soon received a letter welcoming us to send in our contributions.  Both of us submitted stories, poems and also a bit of art work and were as excited as young children watching a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis when we received YC crests for our first publications and then certificates and 5th contribution stamps.  Feedback given to us by fellow YCs, (leaders or poet laureates) was another aspect that added to our enthusiasm.  For months, we anxiously waited for each weekly paper to see if our contributions had been published.
A dozen or more years later, I enrolled in Brandon University’s Bachelor of Education program.  Towards the end of the four-year program, I took a course on children’s literature.  It was here we were assigned to write a children’s book.  Immediately, I knew I wanted mine to be published!  I found an illustrator who did a fabulous job adding pictures to my words.  Although I sent query letters to numerous publishers, it took ten years for me to find the right one, or more accurately, for the right publisher to find my manuscript and me!  I’ve since published a second book and have a third one ready to be published.  Since I belong to a writers’ group, I’m always writing something, so I have a few more stories in the back burner that I hope will be published one day.


I teach kindergarten to grade eight at Elm River Colony where I grew up and still live; therefore, when I started planning my first book, I knew I wanted it to serve three purposes:
1)    Provide my Hutterite students with a book where they could connect and identify with the characters.
2)    Offer non-Hutterite children a glimpse into my unique culture.
3)    Create something I could use in my teaching to introduce different concepts.

The main characters in my books are an inquisitive mouse named Marty and his friend Lizzie, a Hutterite girl.  The text is written in rhyme and is interspersed with words in the Hutterite dialect.  Cynthia Stahl from Odanah Colony, my illustrator, captures just the right balance of whimsy and Hutterite culture.  In the first book, Marty learns about shapes, in the second one it is colours and in the third one, he’ll learn to count.

Since our YC days, my sister Linda (Lucky Lynn) has had several books published: Linda’s gl├╝cklicher Tag, a picture book written in German and Hutterite Diaries, a collection of short stories about Hutterite life.  She’s also written articles for Herald Leader Press, Winnipeg Free Press and Manitoba Cooperator.  My books and also Linda’s are available at

Little did we know when we wrote our introductory letters to Sister Ann that our contributions to the YC pages would be just the beginning of our writing careers.
Thanks Carol, fellow YC contributor, for inviting me to join YC on Facebook.  Although I never met any of the YC members in person, it’s wonderful to connect and discover the writing journeys different members are taking – journeys that found their beginnings in the YC pages of The Western Producer.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Nobody Ever Told me it Would be Like This!

Everyone I know is learning to drive this year – my cousin Sharon, my friend Ruth, my colleague Jennifer.  Even my seven year old nephew Jakobi has been begging for driving lessons.  So I may as well also join that esteemed rank.  I announce my proposal to my youngest sister Shirley who’s been driving for years.  Shirley agrees, but nobody ever told me learning to drive would be like this!
We get ready right after supper and lucky for me we’re in the season of slow summer sundowns.  “Can I come along, I’ll sit in the back,” begs Danaea, a third grader who lives next door.
“Sure, why not?”  Quick as a bunny, she hops on and we drive to the orchard, Shirley, Danaea and me.  Shirley sits in the driver seat, in case we meet someone on the way!
We switch seats at the first apple tree.  For the first round or three, Shirley’s instructions aren’t overly specific or lengthy.  Perhaps she’s too busy dodging, being swayed this way and that…
Anyway, nobody ever told me a road could be so narrow!  The orchard road is more like a fox trail than a road.  Well, twin trails with a wide swath of portulaca growing in between.  Is it even possible to keep the tires on those thin paths? On further analysis, I decide it must have been made with bike tires in mind, skinny speed bike tires, in fact!  That road has some straight sections, but I’m constantly having to turn left, right, left, right again, narrowly missing some, but not all of the natural features along the way! 
And the turns!  Nobody ever told me they could be so sharp!!  And they appear when you least expect them.  I grip the steering wheel as we approach a corner, start turning and turning and turning.  We make the turn just in time and keep turning – in circles, even though we’re already on the straight road.  Wordlessly and a bit breathlessly, Shirley grabs the steering wheel and whips us back onto the road again.  It’s a good thing I brought her along, or else, who knows how long I’d be spinning in circles.
Neither did anyone ever mention that there could be so many obstacles beside the orchard road!  Why ever would anyone make a road alongside the La Salle River with just inches between the road and the river?  So treacherous! Luckily I missed that obstacle.  I’m all for going green, but I wouldn’t want to go swimming in algae, even if I could swim. 
There are trees along one stretch.  Fortunately we miss most of them, but unfortunately ram into an apple tree.  Just one!  It whips back and forth in unison with our heads, like a wheat field during a tempest.  I guess there’ll be a few less apples to pick in autumn.  Hmm, maybe I should suggest this picking technique to the apple pickers.   
And the cornfield?  They may as well have planted that crop in the middle of the road! Let’s just say that first row wasn’t quite so lucky!  “We’re scraping the first row of corn,” Danaea warns from the back, anxiously hugging the rail opposite the cornfield.  We whip by, shaving off several sturdy stalks that tumble like a nudged row of upended dominoes.  It’s a good thing we’re growing fields and fields of them, I appease myself.  They shouldn’t miss that row. 
“Even though the road appears straight,” Shirley finally finds her voice, “you still have to gently turn from side to side periodically so you don’t displace the entire landscape.  If you turn a bit to the left, you have to turn that much to the right.  And… whatever you do, don’t over compensate!”
“Now you tell me!” I retort.
“Time for you to learn how to reverse,” Shirley suggests.
Reverse?! I’m just barely staying in the middle of the road going forward!” I mumble to myself.
“Okay,” I obediently reply, stepping on the brake at the corner. 

 A few days later my friend comes for a visit. “Catherine, do you want to take Elma on her next driving lesson?” Shirley asks hopefully.
“Why?” Catherine asks.
“Nobody ever told me teaching someone to drive would be like this.”

Please note: This story is loosely based on a true happening.