Hundredth Day in the English Classes

Yes, today we reached the hundredth day of the school year. At assembly this morning Ms. Sylvia explained to the pupils in the English Classes that this tradition of celebrating the 100th day of school is a little more than forty years old. The tradition began as a way of making the concept of 100 more concrete to entry level pupils. It has developed into a tradition that has gradually crept up through primary school grade levels. From kindergarten pupils to sixth graders, the English Classes at Cygnaeus School celebrated in a myriad of ways. After their Finnish lesson this morning, our first graders quickly made the dazzling 100-eyeglasses shown in the photo collage above.

Together with their fifth grade peer pals, the first graders created a list of one hundred adjectives. With their peer pals, the first graders searched their classroom to find 100 numbered stars that had been hidden. Once no more stars could be found, each first grader arranged the stars that s/he had found in ascending numerical order. The fifth graders checked their work. Then the first grade pupils sorted their numbered stars into even and odd numbered stars. The next challenge was to create a long line of all 100 stars in numerical order.  That was when we discovered that there are still three stars that have not been found!

The last challenge using the numbered stars was to lay them out on a table in rows of tens.  With a little trial and error, this task was mastered, too. The session with the fifth grade peer pals concluded with 100 seconds of silence. During the last lesson of the day Ms. Sylvia read the book, Fluffy’s 100th Day of School by Kate McMullen to the first grade class.

The fourth graders, together with the English Class kindergarten, started their Hundredth Day workshop with a rousing workout to Jack Hartmann’s Let’s Get Fit: Count to 100 Song. Then the pupils practiced estimating numbers of unifix cubes up to one hundred and then actually counting them.

Other activities included filling in the missing numbers on a hundred chart and drawing pictures of how they imagine they will look one hundred years into the future.

The second and third grade classes, along with some sixth graders, had 100th day booklets that offered lots of fun activities. These included estimating how many dice rolls it would take to reach a total of 100, estimating how many times someone’s name could be written in 100 seconds, doing fitness activities for 100 seconds and lots, lots more.

Finally some sixth graders were challenged with the task of writing poems celebrating the 100th day of school by using exactly 100 words under the guidance of Ms. Sandra. Incidentally, while thinking about what to write, a realization was made that our sixth graders have passed their 1000th day of school. The Finnish school system has 190 school days in a year. That means that the thousandth day in total for sixth graders occurred just before the autumn break. The Hundredth Day poems will appear in this blog within the next couple of days.


Sharks and Coconuts in P.E.

Last week the ice skating rink in our schoolyard still was not ready for use, so p.e. classes were held indoors. English Class first and second graders played the time-honoured game that is so beloved by English Class pupils, Sharks and Coconuts.

To an outside observer who is unfamiliar with the rules, the game appears to be fast-paced chaos.  That being said, it is really a wonderful lively non-competitive game that children ask to play again and again. A very bare bone description of the game, called Shark Island in this case, is available here.  (Note: we use two benches rather than a mat for our “safe island”.)

Learning About Emotions

Since the beginning of this new school term English Class second graders have been learning about different types of emotions. In the photo collage above pupils are doing an activity where they are trying to make their own facial expressions match the emotion shown on a card that they were given. They are using a mirror to check and compare their own facial expressions to that on the card they have.

Yet another activity involved sorting and matching faces to specific vocabulary words describing the faces. Research shows that social and emotion learning not only improves social and communicative skills, but it also significantly increases pro-social behaviors such as kindness, sharing, and empathy.


Spring Term Begins

The spring term started this week on Thursday, the 4th of January for English Class first graders and all of the other pupils at Cygnaeus School. To celebrate the new year the first graders created some outstanding scratch art that showed colourful firework displays in the sky over town.

One of the activities at their Friday math stations was creating number expressions. The first graders used sea creature manipulatives to enhance the experience.

Christmas Games and Activities

Lots and lots of activities took place in the week before school let out for the Christmas holidays. In the photo collages above and below English Class first graders are decorating gingerbread biscuits for their Christmas party which was held last Friday.

Don’t they look yummy?

In the week before the Christmas holiday break the first graders also played a few Christmas Minute to Win it games. The objective in the game shown in the collage above is to carefully blow 5 Christmas cards so that at least one card is still on the table, but is dangling over the edge. (The green arrow in the top left photo shows a card that has been blown successfully.) The time limit for the game is 60 seconds which is why the game is one of the many Minute to Win it games.

“Merry Fishmas” was another Minute to Win it game the first graders played during an Advent activity recess.  The goal was to try to hook all five Christmas balls within a minute. The first graders had a lots of fun trying!

On Monday of this week the fifth graders brought the Christmas cards they had made to their first grade peer pals. Together the first and fifth graders sang and danced the Reindeer Pokey.  Then the fifth grade and first grade peer pals played a snowman race game with dice. On Wednesday the fifth graders paired with their peer pals to walk to the Chirstmas church service at Keskipori Church. They also sat together in the church.

The English Class fifth graders enjoyed their Christmas party yesterday. The pupils had prepared several Kahoot trivia quizzes for one another. Ms. Sylvia introduced some Minute to Win it games as well. The game above, called Christmas Conveyor Belt Ball, involves transporting the red Christmas bauble all the way along the ribbon twice.

The best way to do this is to spin around at both ends of the ribbon and to keep the ribbon taut at the same time. A couple of pairs of pupils were successful in doing this within the 60 second time constraint.

“Stacking Snowmen” involves competing to stack as many sets of  3 tri-coloured mini-marshmallow snowmen as possible in  sixty seconds.



The goal of “Jingle in My Trunk/Boot”  is to empty the box of the twelve jingle bells by moving your body.

“Rudoph’s Sticky Nose” got lots of laughs from the fifth grade competitors and audience. Each competitor applied a dab of Vaseline to his/her nose. The object was to transport 5 cotton ball noses from a paper plate at the back of the room to the paper plate at the front of the classroom within 60 seconds. Only a nose could lift and drop the cotton balls. It did not take long for the players to realize that blowing upward helped dislodge the cotton ball nose onto the plate.

Either individually or in small groups the fifth graders selected and played certain Christmas music pieces that they like,. After listening to a piece, the pupils would award points from 1 – 5.  Wham’s Last Christmas, I gave you my heart  won, but Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You came in a close second.

In the photo above the fifth graders are sporting photo prop beards they fashioned themselves from paper. They are wishing all the readers of our blog a very Merry Christmas!




Design and Craft Textile Studies

In accordance with Finland’s newest curriculum all primary school pupils learn design and craft. Half of the English Class sixth grade class have been learning textile studies skills while the other half have been learning woodworking skills . Now, after Christmas, the groups will change over. The sixth graders shown in the photo collages in this post sewed mittens from fleece material. Then they learned basic knitting so they could knit cuffs for their mittens using the garter stitch.

It didn’t take very long for the pupils to master the new skill of knitting. They sewed the cuffs to the mittens by hand and voilá, the mittens were ready for use.

Since today was the last lesson for these sixth graders in the textile studies room, pupils purposefully finished up projects that needed to be completed. The new year will begin with learning brand new skills.

Researching Domesticated Farm Animals

In their environmental studies lessons English Class fourth graders have been researching various domesticated animals found on farms. Working in small groups the pupils used their Chromebooks to find out about the life cycles and young of these farm animals, their unique features and the many ways these animals benefit humans.

The groups of pupils worked diligently and learned much about these useful animals.

Today pupils presented what they had learned so that the rest of the class could learn about  specific farm animals. Just learning the vocabulary of common farm animals is a feat: sow, hog, piglet, ewe, ram, lamb, billy, nanny, kid, hen, cockerel/rooster, chick, mare, stallion, colt, filly, heifer, calf, bull, cow, etc.