Friday, 18 August 2017

It's Giveaway Time!

The back to school countdown has begun.  I've teamed up with some great educators to bring you a raffle for a gift card to Really Good Stuff. They do have some really good stuff and you can win $100 worth of merchandise:
Prize: $100 Really Good Stuff Gift Card

Giveaway organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher)
Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter.  Giveaway ends 8/25/17 and is open worldwide.

Are you a blogger who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your blog?  Click here to find out how you can join a totally awesome group of bloggers! 

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Thursday, 17 August 2017

Building Self-Esteem in the Classroom

If this is your first year teaching or your twentieth, you know that students come to you from very different backgrounds, languages, experiences and needs.  Getting to know your students is never easy.  Even with parent conferences, documentation from previous teachers, or questionnaires, your goal is to know your students well while providing a safe place to learn and grow.  My greatest memories as an elementary school teacher are not of the students who were outspoken, commanded attention or were "good" at everything.  It was of the students who came into the classroom painfully shy, uncertain and a bit overwhelmed.  Those were the students who needed me most.  They needed a boost of confidence and a place the build their self-esteem.  The suggestions I provide below may not work for everyone but they certainly helped with ways to jumpstart discussions and to build a classroom community.

The Magic Box

As a decorative artist, I always look for ways to create whimsical things for the classroom.  This box was made of wood and was a blank one waiting to be brought to life.   I used acrylic paint to "wash" the box inside and out.  Then, I painted some fun designs to make the box inviting.  The box opens up to reveal something "magical" I tell my students.  As I gather them in a circle, class by class has had a peek into the box.  I ask the students to slowly peek inside the box, close it and pass the box to the next student.  This activity is completed with "no" words.  I have used the box from grades 1 through 6 and each group of students have different reactions:  smiles, surprises and looks of wonder.

The box contains a mirror that is glued in.  Why a mirror?  It showcases the greatest gift to our classroom:  the student!  I tell the students before they open the box that they are going to see something magical and wonderful.  There is nothing else like it.  It is one of a kind.  Beginning the school year with these powerful messages sets the tone for the year.  Everyone is valued, everyone is respected, everyone is validated.

By mid-October, students are very comfortable in the classroom and usually the quietest ones are the ones who come and tell you things about themselves when you least expect it.  

Read Alouds

What I Like About Me! by Allia Zobel Nolan is a fun way to build self-esteem with younger students.  It's a message about being different and why that can be a special thing.  At the end of the story about wearing braces, glasses or even having large feet, you will find a mirror.  The mirror is a way to take a look at what makes the students so special: a great way to reflect about themselves.

Blessings Jar

The Blessings Jar was introduced to find a way to bring students closer together.  The jar includes little blessings discovered throughout the day.  I began putting blessings in the jar but as the year unfolded, the students would add things to the jar as well.  These could include thank you notes to other students for their help, things they are grateful for and random acts of kindness.  Reading the blessings during our weekly gathering was a great way to set the tone for the rest of the day.  For a free link to the jar labels, click here.

Know Your Students

If you show that you have an interest in your students' hobbies, likes, and dislikes, you become the caring classroom teacher.  Yes, we teach the curriculum but we also teach students.  I begin my first week of school with an "All About Me" showcase.  I often ask for empty shoeboxes from colleagues, parents and will often collect them from friends and family.  The shoebox becomes a treasure chest for the "Me" Showcase.  Students are asked to select 5 artifacts that describe them well.  I often create my own box and go through a "me" presentation.  I bring a family photo, a paintbrush, Zumba gear, a piece of jewellry that I have made, and a writing tool.  I ask the students to predict what they may mean to me. While I introduce each artifact, I tell, relate and reflect upon each one.  The outside of the box is decorated with whatever the students like.  Some students have attached hockey cards, stickers, ribbon, decals, logos, etc.

With older students, I provide a planning sheet, prompts and rubric to help guide them.  Students are encouraged to practice at home first.  The boxes are presented over a week with anywhere between 5 and 7 presentations a day.  I often introduce jot note taking as well during the activity.  Students are encouraged to take jot notes of 2 of the 5 or 7 presentations.  They then pick one jot note to summarize.  This is all modelled through my presentation first.  For the "All About Me" presentation guide, click on the link here.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Planning for Independent Reading

Are you thinking about some ways to differentiate teaching that supports students in developing reading proficiency?  This is something that I have struggled with over the years.  A highly active classroom often gets the better of me and my independent reading practice goes by the wayside.  The suggestions I provide are not foolproof but they are practical enough for anyone to implement.  Once independent reading is established, the goal is to use this time to work on small group guided reading with your students.  Begin by setting a time for uninterrupted reading.  I usually do this for 20 minutes each day.  Your students will thank you for it!  The "I don't know what to read" will diminish if you give students some choice.  During the first week, we gather with a few read alouds.  As I read aloud, I talk about ways I'm reading the book.  This includes how I hold it, how I read the book jacket, looking for the copyright date, the author, the illustrator and even where it was published.  Students love when we can find out "how old the book is."

I then ask students to select books they may be interested in reading from the classroom library.  The library is filled with bins and labelled genres.

Students are asked to choose 5 books to read at the beginning of the week.  They are then placed in labelled magazine box holders with students' names on them.  Choosing 5 books allows them to not travel back and forth to the classroom library.  They have chosen 5 books just incase one is not appropriate.  Books range from graphic novels, reading series, sports, hobbies, science, math etc. I often keep double copies of my read aloud so that one goes back in the classroom library.  Sticky fingers off my own read aloud selection!

We create an anchor chart for what Independent Reading looks like, sounds like and feel like.  I model Independent Reading time.  I often invite another teacher in to demonstrate or a student I taught from the previous year.  Once students "see" the process, they are able to co-construct an anchor chart.  

Over the next few days, during independent reading time, I interview each student.  I can usually get through 5 a day. This involves taking a reading interest inventory.  

This practice allows me to know what the students might be interested in reading.  Often they have repeatedly said "I don't know what to read" or "I don't like reading."  They slowly realize that they do have an interest in some genre.  When I know what that is, I make an effort to stock my classroom library with things they will like.

Once independent reading time routines are in place, I can begin working on exploring reading levels through running records. This usually happens during the second or third week of school.  Within the first month, reading interests are discovered as well as reading levels.  I am then able to focus on my guided reading groups during independent reading time.  

Sunday, 6 August 2017

First Week of School Survival Tips

Our jurisdiction begins school in September.  This is the month to begin prepping for a week of  getting to know your students, understanding their needs and building a positive classroom community.  A first day can be filled with multiple subject areas that reflect on students. Here's a fun math one: a great way to decorate a classroom is with a name glyph.   I have used these to create borders that stay up all year.

Each letter is traced onto a large paper. I used precut letters.  For example, the first letter asks if the student is a boy or a girl.  A design is completed based on that.  Once the glyphs are created, they are all different but the students are able to "read" them based on the glyph criteria.  The older the students, the longer the glyphs take to make.  They are quite meticulous by 6th grade when it comes to designing and colouring them.

Add more colour to your walls with these self created student portraits. After tracing their hands and feet, students sketch in their faces and bodies.  This becomes a "Falling into Grade......"  Students can write poems to accompany their portraits or short stories.  It's a mini biography of sorts.  One year, I posted the portraits at the top of the wall.  These stayed up for "Meet the Teacher Night"  with autobiographies under them.

Another great way to get to know your students is this free downloadable questionnaire.  


Sunday, 30 July 2017

So Many Resources, So Little Time!

We are back into back to school preparation where I live.  Once July comes to a close, teachers begin thinking about the first few weeks of school.  To be honest, I'm always thinking about school. I've been working on a summer course for teaching English language learners.  This is where I began my career and this is where it will unwind.  I always thought I'd concentrate on Math but I've always had the desire to return to my roots of watching language acquisition unfold.  To be honest, I love Literacy!  It embeds every aspect of the curriculum.

When it comes to Literacy, I 've accumulated quite a stock of resources.  From Debbie Diller to Tony Stead, I have it all.  The problem is finding enough time to sit down and read one from cover to cover. Now, with this new position, I've begun to accumulate new resources.  I love this new one from Fenner and Snyder:  Unlocking English Learners' Potential

It's the why and how to access English language learner's potential.  There are tips for scaffolding, promotion of oral language development and academic language, analyzing text through close reading and text-dependent questions, building background knowledge and designing formative assessments.

The strategies in this book are perfect for any teacher of English language learners.  Whether it is in a mainstream program or sheltered class, this resource will support instruction.  Now, off to reading the next book. 

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Guest Post on Minds in Bloom

Hi everyone,

I'm thrilled to be a guest on the blog, "Minds in Bloom", where  I write about encouraging writing skills. To find useful tips and a free download, click on the link below:

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Back to School Giveaway

I've teamed up with some fabulous TpT authors to host a giveaway.  The entry dates are from July 23rd to 25th.  

Just click on the link below to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Social Justice Leadership for English Language Learners

After reading “Leading inclusive ELL: Social Justice Leadership for English Language Learners”, it is argued that ”social justice leadership has a necessary connection to creating more equitable and better services for ELL students and their families”. (p. 37) In two elementary schools mentioned in the article, the leaders maintained a stance that language is a valuable resource.  Both schools were able to promote social justice for ELLs while providing access for educational opportunities.  Both principals understood the pedagogy behind ESL instruction, the value of inclusion, collaboration, co-teaching, building capacity within the school and viewing parents as partners.    
I view these factors as essential to creating a socially just school for elementary ELLs.  I will speak to my own teaching experience at three schools.  I taught from grades K to 6 and in most cases had combined grades.  Each year I had anywhere from 10% to 25% ELLs in my classroom.  Each of my schools was assigned an ESL itinerant teacher.  My first two schools used a withdrawal model.  The students met one block per week with the ESL teacher in another classroom.  Students were often pulled out during the Language Block. My third school had an ESL teacher who was comfortable with co-teaching, co-planning and collaboration.  We would often meet to go over the STEP framework to determine which next steps were beneficial for our ELLs.   I prefer the inclusive model.  My students thrived this way.  Most of the time, the itinerant was able to support the activities presented by scaffolding for the ELL student.  She also rotated her scheduling to work with the students during other subjects.
We tried to work on cross-curricular activities that blended in well with our Language block. My third school had evidence that “the success of ELL inclusion depends on the full and consistent pedagogical and attitudinal commitment of all educators.” (p. 8)  In this case, the school did.  Although our instructional leader was not an ESL specialist, he did meet with the itinerant teacher,classroom teacher and resource teacher each term to go over class profiles.  Additional support systems, if warranted, were put in place.   These included support of an interpreter, MLO, speech therapist, psychologist or itinerant resource teacher if needed.
A question comes to mind after thinking about the three schools I taught at. How could I begin to initiate a collaborative approach to inclusive learning opportunities for ELLs?
Another question has me questioning the different approaches to ESL teaching. How do I in my new role as ESL consultant begin to support the 30 itinerant teachers in developing strategies for inclusive programming?  In other words, how am I going to put research into practice?
Thinking of the two schools in the article and their approaches, they had strong instructional leaders who brought a wealth of knowledge, were able to access resources, funding and build communities with release time, teacher voice, parent partnerships and community involvement. “Their example brings hope and clarity to the field by redefining integrated, inclusive services for ELLs and promoting the ongoing evolution of socially just ways to meet the needs of ELLs and their families.” (p. 36)  
Article: Theoharis & O’Toole, “Leading Inclusive ELL: Social Justice Leadership for English Language Learners.” Educational Administration Quarterly, Queen’s University, 2011.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Build a Positive Classroom Community

This is a repost about one of my favourite ways to build a classroom community:

Two years ago, I decided to implement something in my classroom that changed the classroom community.  We had kindness week and things just didn't resonate with the students like I thought they would.  So, I brought in my Blessings Jar: It was a simple empty jar decorated with a label and glued on buttons.  It was what was inside that became the thing that my classroom needed:  validation of students from one another and to each other.  

Students were asked to notice things during the day that made them feel blessed.  They would then write them down and place them in the jar.  At the end of the week during our class meetings, we would open the jar and read the blessings.   

We then gathered the blessings and placed them into categories.  This was a great way to incorporate math into our lesson as well.  Just click on the image to download your own copy of the blessings jar templates. All you need is a jar!

Friday, 14 July 2017

Back to School Mega Giveaway!

Fancy winning some extra spending money to help you purchase everything you need for your 2017-18 classroom? I have teamed up with a group of amazing teachers for a giveaway pack:

PRIZES INCLUDE 1 x $200 TPT Giftcard. 1 x $200 Amazon Giftcard, 1 x $25 Starbucks Giftcard, and 1 x $15 Starbucks Giftcard!

Starts: Friday 14th July 2017 12am

Ends: Saturday 21st July 2017 12am

Just enter below:

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Saturday, 3 June 2017

Summer Resources

My district has another month of school.  Here's a fun way to think about Summer with these fun resources:

This is a resource designed to assist students in writing their own Summer poems. You will find helpful vocabulary associated with summer terminology, templates for writing poetry, some samples to help students get started and task cards to add to your poetry station. Summer templates include the following poetry forms: ABC Poem, Acrostic, Cinquain, Concrete, Couplet, Diamante, Free Verse, Haiku and Quatrain Poetry. A student-friendly rubric is also included. 

This package includes summer letter writing paper and lined paper for emergent and established writers. Art work created includes an ant, sun, ice cream cone, fish, kite, pail & shovel. Bonus gift tags included.

Silly sentences have always been a fun way to explore sentence building and recognizing parts of speech. Students in grades 3 through 6 will have the opportunity to use subject, verb and complement cards to build and simplify silly sentences. Challenging verb cards are included with this unit as well as nouns associated with the Summer theme, a blank sentence building template, display and label cards and a synonym chart. This is a perfect activity to use in your Word Work Stations or as an extra project for early finishers. 

This Math Stations pack includes 5 games with a summer theme. Students from grades 3 to 6 will practice their addition, multiplication and place value facts. A description of each game is listed below:

1) SUMS & DOUBLE SCOOPS: Students will generate sums and then double them. The student who covers three answers in a row is declared the winner.2) SUMS THEN DOUBLE + 1: Students will generate sums, double them and then add 1. This game is in a bump game format.3) RACE TO THE SUN: Numbers will be added and then multiplied by 10. The first person to reach the sun is declared the winner.4) RACE TO THE FISHBOWL: Using a game board format, students will generate products based on cubes or cards numbered 1 through 10. How a student moves on the board depends on his or her product.5) ODD & EVEN PLACE VALUE RACE: This game is played using place value from 0 to 99. Players move on the game board depending on whether or not the number generated is odd or even. A variation may be played by dividing the number by 2.

Students will be prompted to tell or write story with a summer theme. This unit includes a story prompt sheet, graphic organizers, word lists (summer & transition words), rubric and specialty writing paper with full and half lined pages. 

Friday, 26 May 2017

Father's Day Resource Round Up

Here are some fun ways to honor fathers on Father's Day.  Those who have worked tirelessly at fatherhood, created bonds or have been an influence on fathers in society can be celebrated with some fun quick writing activities:

Add a fun spin to a writing project for Father's Day with this specialty writing paper for emergent and established writers:

Here's a free printable for a Father's Day Card:

Monday, 22 May 2017

Planning Ahead for a Full Year of Writing

As the school year winds down, many teachers are caught between thinking about finishing the year off and then planning ahead for the next school year.  If you've been placed in a variety of different grades in the same school, the thought of taking on a whole new grade can be overwhelming.  My last placement had me in grades 4/5, 5, 5/6, 6 and then 3/4 within a five year stretch.  I stopped questioning why but starting asking myself "What can I do to make this grade change easier for myself?"  I began creating my own units for writing.  I knew I had to teach writing genres in each of those grades but I wanted to be able to move into different grades and combined grades knowing my students could still use the resources I developed.

In some cases, I taught students for two years in a row.  The one thing I knew was they had to comprehend the writing form but I could differentiate for them by allowing them some choice in their writing.  Here's a fun "snippet" of what my writing for the year program looks like:

If you're planning to a full year writing program, this sampler contains some ideas to get you started. This resource includes: a writing organizer with sample ideas, sample narrative writing task cards, a descriptive warm-up, transitions word list, procedural writing sample anchor chart and specialty writing paper. 

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The End of a School Year - Ideas to Keep Students Engaged

As the school year winds down, keeping students engaged can be a difficult task.  Here are some activities I have tried with students.  Some are cross-curricular while others involve gathering memories into a keepsake:

Think about all the Math strands you have taught.  If you live in a jurisdiction that has worked through standardized testing, you have most likely taught all the strands a lot sooner than year end.  This activity from grades 3 to 6 has worked.  Students love it, parents love it and I love it!

We often brainstorm how Math could be an person, place or thing.  Our title for our final display is "If Math Were.."  Most students like to keep the theme the same.  For example, we have written about Math being a sport, food, animal or person.

One year we did a range.  Students could choose whichever topic they wanted.  They were encouraged to think mathematically about their choice through three of the math strands.  Below is a sampling of "If Math were An Animal".

After writing about their topic mathematically, students were able to create a showcase of their topic. Many students chose to draw, sculpt, create dioramas or even act out their topics.  Creating a class book with the final products is a great way to keep students' work.  Taking a photo of the display and holding on to that will ensure students can take their artwork home.

If "Math Were a Sport" is a great one to use especially when the Olympics are taking place.  I love how students write very "visually" about their choices.  The geometry of a hockey rink, the dimensions of a basketball court or the 3-dimensional figures of a gymnastics studio.  Students become very creative and confident about writing when they are writing about something they are passionate about. 

"If Math were Food" was one of the first topics I explored with students.  These students were in Third Grade.  Their choices included pizza, lasagna, waffles and a myriad of desserts.  They wrote about sharing, fractions, cooking time, shape and size.  When students have real world connections, it is easier to write about them.

A fun way to create a memory book is to create an accordian booklet.  

Creating some "High 5" memories include making lists, writing about their year in review.  A fun autograph page is included plus covers for grades 3, 4, 5 and 6.  This little booklet has been a great way to create memories for combined grades.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Mother's Day Resource Round Up

Here are some fun ways to honor mothers on Mother's Day.  Those who have worked tirelessly at motherhood, created maternal bonds or have been an influence on mothers in society can be celebrated with some fun quick writing activities:

Students will have an opportunity to choose from 5 quick writing tasks.  They can be compiled into a fun booklet or be turned into cards or scrolls.  These include:

- Mother’s Day Similes
- Mother’s Day Rhyming Couplets
- A Mother’s Point of View Letter
- Writing about Then & Now
- Helping Hands Checklist

For those students wishing to create their own written masterpieces, they may appreciate some themed writing paper:

Here's a fun free download. Have students create their own pop up card:

Saturday, 22 April 2017

So You Have to Teach Stem and Leaf Plots

I remember changing grades one year and reading over the curriculum.  I envisioned a plant when I saw the words "stem and leaf plots".  I quickly ran to my same grade partner and asked her "What on earth are stem and leaf plots?"  She laughed out loud because I drew one on the board thinking the "stem" was the "stem" and the "leaf" was the "leaf" of a plot.

This concept is a tricky one but can be explained easily if students see it as a bar graph turned on its side.  A good stem and leaf plot shows the first digits of the number (thousands, hundreds or tens) as the stem and the last digit (ones) as the leaf.

Always using topics students are familiar with helps.  I've often turned to things students like:  bus trips, ice cream, bowling scores.  Ending the unit with a game also keeps students aware of place value when it comes to teaching stem and leaf plots. 

For extension activities, think of ways to incorporate the measures of central tendency into stem and leaf plot practice.  Why not take the data and determine the mean, median, mode and range?  Below is a sample of the unit I developed to assist my students in comprehending stem and leaf plots. 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Everything Earth Day

April 22nd marks the anniversary of a modern environmental movement.  Explore Earth Day and what students can do to help our environment.  Here are a few activities to prepare for this.  You will find Media Literacy, Language Arts, Math and Science activities to keep your students engaged.

Here are some great Earth Day activities to keep your students engaged in Language Arts, Science, Media Literacy and Math curriculums. There are several ideas for large group, small group and individual activities. These include: sorting parts of speech, letter and poetry writing, oral communication activities, Science experiments, tips for Media Literacy and managing data from everyday garbage/compost/recycling materials. A vocabulary list is also included.

Earth Day Math games are a fun way to celebrate April 22nd. This package includes 3 games. The first game involves adding two numbers to generate a sum and then multiplying the sum by 3 (representing the 3 R's of recycling) . The second game involves using 3 numbers to generate an answer as close to 22 as possible (representing the 22nd). Students have the opportunity to use any of the basic operations to produce an answer. The final game involves place value. Students use 4 or 3 digits in the 1000,100,10 or 1's place to represent the number 2204 (for 22 April) or 224 (differentiated). Full instructions, game cards and playing boards are included.

This package of writing paper contains friendly letter writing paper, emergent journal paper for half pages and full pages, as well as established journal paper for half pages and full pages with an Earth day Theme . Images include a recycling bin, a garbage can, planet earth, bear holding an earth balloon, earth day pencil, bear holding a recycling box and bear holding the earth. 

Celebrate Earth Day with 5 quick writing activities. You will find an Earth Day vocabulary list, specialty writing paper and templates for each of the following tasks: 

- Earth Day “To Do” List
- Earth Day Slogans
- Earth Day Guess the Word
- If Earth Could Speak Letter Writing
- Earth Day Rhyming Couplets

These may be used for writing stations or as part of a choice activity.

Students will be prompted to tell or write story with an Earth Day theme. This unit includes a story prompt sheet, graphic organizers, word lists (Earth Day & transition words), rubric and specialty writing paper with full and half lined pages.

Earth Day Free Craft Instructions

Here's a fun way to get your students involved in ways to make earth friendly choices. This freebie gives you directions on how to design your own light switch covers for your classroom or for the entire school. This is a great activity for your earth friendly school clubs or even a classroom project for Earth Day. Step by step instructions are included.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Celebrating Canada's 150th Birthday in the Classroom

People are celebrating the 150th anniversary of Confederation across the country. Ranging from local and community events to national celebrations, Canadians have been celebrating in 2017. There are plenty of ways to get involved and celebrate with students in the classroom.

Since it's National Poetry month, why not have a Canadian themed poetry cafe?  Here's a pack I created to celebrate Canada:  

For some math activities, Canadian coins are showcased.  Students will learn to make change and make change for a loonie or a toonie.  The student who reaches his or her coin choice is declared the winner.

Another activity to extend the learning about money involves Counting Coins Using Canadian CurrencyUsing Canadian coins, students will have the opportunity to create money amounts up to $5.00 in challenging ways. On each task card, there are two ways to represent the amount: using the lowest possible coins and then using the number of coins stated. Money amounts range from 5 cents to $5.00.\

Here's a free download to write about Canada: