Passing Notes

Notes from a Parent/Teacher to Parents and Teachers


Data Management: not just “graphing” anymore. Simple ideas for the wee ones.

I often hear parents comment on the “newer” math terminology that is used in school.  True.  In school, back in the day, we used to call it “graphing”, period.  But there’s so much more to “graphing” than graphing itself.   The language used in the Ontario Progress Report Card and by the Ontario Ministry of Education is Data Management which is much more accurate of what graphing really entails.  The last graph you saw required:

  • the need to get information (for advertising for example)
  • the collection of information (a survey perhaps?)
  • the display of that information in such a way that people would most easily be able to interpret it (tables, circle, plot, bar graphs)

So  in other words Data Management, is about how we organize information to make it easy to understand.

As our world becomes increasingly more visual, we need to develop the types of skills that allow us to interpret what we see and understand what it’s really trying to tell us, how to create  and organize information and how to find bias in that information.  A pre-curser to all of that is the ability to sort things.  Pretty simple huh?  It doesn’t require much, just what you have on hand.

Here are some ideas to try with the younger set (Kindergarten -gr.1) at home. (I’ll have some ideas for the older folks in a later post.)  In the early primary years, one of the many expectations laid out in the Ontario Curriculum states that children are to: demonstrate the ability to organize objects into categories and  that students should be able to sort and classify objects using one attribute (size, colour, shape).

Without further ado:

Have your child notice the categorization and organization of produce in the market…

Let your kids help you sort groceries either while shopping or at home.  It may sound messy but it’s very concrete for them.  They can sort cans into sizes and do the same for boxes for example.

Or they can sort by type of food.  You can extend the activity by having them re-sort in different ways.  In order for you to actually get something beyond math learning, have them sort first using something like colour or size, and then sort through “type” so that that can actually help you to house the food you bought.  Two in one, who can ask for more?

Children can sort jelly beans easily by colour, dry legumes/ beans by shape or colour…

Or help sort materials into recycling containers…


After laundry is done, they can sort their socks by colour, size, owner, patterns, (and help you match up the missing ones!)…


They can sort Lego pieces by colour and size, while cleaning up their playful mess…

Or sort cutlery (if they can be trusted…)


You get the idea…

Not so messy, a little bit of fun, and sorting practice to boot.  Math is everywhere!




Picture credits:




Environmental action + family fun = Earth Hour

“Mom, where’s the remote control? Whoa! Why’s it so dark?!”

In this day and age when we are all so “plugged into” technology all the time, it is of vital importance that we teach our children to respect the Earth and our natural environment. The Earth’s resources are being depleted through overuse by both industry and individuals. And, as a result, we need to impress upon our children about the marvelous environment they live in and how important it is to preserve it so it is there for many generations to come. Read on to find more suggestions on how we each can do help a little bit to make our world beautiful forevermore.
On Saturday March 31st 2012, there is a well-known event called Earth Hour. Its goal is to recognize the non renewable qualities of our Earth and to help promote awareness that we, as a society, need to take better care of what we do have, while also teaching the next generation that there is fun to be had WITHOUT a lot of technology. Below you’ll find some activities to promote a healthy Earth, healthy child, and healthy society for many future generations.   These are some simple ways for kids to begin to lessen his/her carbon footprint all the way into April! Sunday April 22nd, 2012 is Earth Day, the perfect opportunity to show the Earth how you care about it. Check out these activities and try them out to show Earth why it’s special to you!

My top 5 Activities for Earth Hour:

1.  Park-in-the-dark: A night walk

Take a walk with the family around your neighbourhood, through your local park, or around your favourite part of the city. Explore the city in the dark, take a flashlight with you and pretend it’s an ancient ruin that you’re walking through. This could be especially appropriate if your child (ren) is (are) studying ancient civilizations in the grade 5 curriculum. Pretend you are archaeologists trying to figure out what kind of life the people had when the city was full of life, where they lived, what their occupations were, and what they did in their spare time. How would the future scientists look at our society? What would they see?

2.  Is that the Milky Way??

In our usually light-filled city, Earth Hour provides the perfect time to have a star-gazing contest! Most of the lights in Toronto will be out on March 31st (except for emergency lights) so it’s the perfect time to stop by your local park, look out your balcony or backyard and try to find the North Star/ Polaris?,The Big Dipper, the little dipper, Orion’s belt, or a shooting star. Can you find them? See if you can find those constellations you used to be able to see when you looked up at the sky as a kid? Use this perfect occasion to teach your child some of the exciting things about our sky. This also makes a great connection to the grade 6 Earth Science unit where your child learns about our solar system.
3.  Candlelit Celebrations: Food, Drinks, and Games, Oh My!
This coming Saturday is the perfect time to invite a few friends over and encourage a camp-like potluck dinner. Bring a few dishes that do not require heating (such as salads, pasta salad, or cheese plates) and enjoy some good laughs with friends this Saturday evening! Light some candles, play a few board games or cards, and catch up on old memories while making new ones. If you have children, this celebratory dinner is a great time to talk about healthy food choices and why eating the correct serving sizes, getting enough physical activity, and generally living a healthy lifestyle is important (which connects to the grade four curriculum in Ontario on Healthy Living).
4.  Extra, Extra, Read all about it!
Discuss all the ways you and your family can reduce your carbon footprint on the Earth. If you have a literary-minded child who likes to write, turn it into a great opportunity to do some writing outside of school. In order to facilitate discussing the benefits of Earth Hour and how to help our environment sustain itself in the long run, create a family newsletter that you can distribute to family and friends via email before Earth Hour. Sending it by email will eliminate your need for paper waste, while also allowing you to send it to more people. You can include things like: activities to do during Earth Hour, a list of ways everyone can reduce their individual carbon footprint, ways to stay healthy while helping the environment such as riding your bike instead of driving to work or school. Get as creative as you can and have fun while doing some literacy! This is a great opportunity to work on descriptive or persuasive writing.
You can do some reading of your own. Dr. Seuss’s book “The Lorax” (recently made into a movie) is a great starting point for discussing ways to help the environment with your child and help them learn in a way that they may not even think they are ‘learning’ something! Check out your shelves in the days leading up to Earth Hour and you may just find a book or two that you can read during Earth Hour by candlelight!

5. “Oh Earth Ow-Er! Our home is dy-ing!” A modification of our national anthem!
Promote musical awareness and have a song writing contest. Discuss with your child(ren) how music has healing properties such as calming rhythms or strong social justice messages. Take some time to write a song about why you like the Earth, what your favourite outdoor activity is to do, what your favourite memory was as a little kid in the winter, or anything else earth-related. Be sure to practise using as much description as possible to get your message across! This will also provide a perfect opportunity to talk to your child about poetry, and the fact that songs are in fact poems. Shocking I know!


Ideas to reduce your energy use and carbon footprint all through the year:

- turn the water off when brushing your teeth
- get a shower head/nozzle where you can turn off the water during your shower when you aren’t using it (such as when you’re shampooing up your hair!)
- turn off your lights, or get timers to set the lights when you want them on
- walk or bike to school or work
- walk to the local grocery or convenience store when you need to pick up just a few items
- go for a walk or take the dog to a dog park
- wash clothes in cold water and hang them out to dry instead of using a dryer

For more ideas, refer to the Living Planet Community at (where much of this information came from). You can also pledge to participate in Earth Hour for more activities, bonus rewards, and ideas!

Do your part to help the Earth live a healthy life and turn out your lights this Saturday!

Ms Whitworth