Monday, 21 September 2015

New Classroom 2015/16

New Classroom, New Year, New Things

It is a new year and I have revamped my first grade classroom.  I made better use of the space, and created more engaging areas for the students. I am also trying to implement a bunch of new strategies and habits.
Here is the look of the new classroom.
Things I have added and changed are:

Two separate carpet areas
Easy to use classroom library
Area for calming down
Changed my desk to face the students
Added computer area
Separated free centers from math and language centers
Message board on cupboard
Counting up to day 100
Class store

Classroom Library

This is the classroom library. The books are separated according to authors in the green and blue bins. On the shelf I am trying something new, I separated an assortment of books into fiction and nonfiction shelves. I also am putting on display the feature books of the week. Once a week I am asking a student to be the classroom librarian. Their job is to organize the books for me, and it is a great way for them to show me their understanding of fiction and nonfiction.

Math Area and Centers

My math and math centers area is very similar to last year's set up. I am counting down to 100 this year, or should I say popping corn to 100. :)
I have been modelling these centers with the students since the first day of school. They have been shown how to use each center for math purposes and play. They keep surprising me with ways to use these manipulatives to solve good math questions. 

Go Green !

This is where we celebrate our part in taking care of the earth. Throughout the year, I take photographs of students doing their part in taking care of the earth. 

Classroom Message

Each month I plan on putting a message for the classroom. 

Classroom Store

Over the summer, I spoke with an incredible teacher from the Ottawa board and she told me about her classroom store. I was so inspired , I wanted to give it a go. 
During independent reading the students can earn 5 cents.  Over the course of the week they put the money they earn in their piggy boxes. On Friday of each week, I open the store and the students can purchase items or save their money for the more expensive items in the store. I only use 5 cent coins with the students and they have to trade the nickels in when I run out for higher value coins. What a great way to understand the value of money without actually teaching money. 

These are their money boxes. 

Free Centers

This is the free center area. These are for use during free center time. They are still grade one's and still need time to play and interact with their peers. These centers consist of playdough, kinetic sand, Shrek scrabble, memory, lego picture tasks, big floor puzzles, 

Daily visual schedule

Birthday Bags

I am trying something new this year, each bag is filled with something different. I have not put names and birthdays on these bags. The students choose a bag on their birthday and it is more of a surprise. 

Calming Area

This year I have created a calming area. A place for a student to go to when they become frustrated, upset, emotional, or when they are unable to make good choices in the classroom.  

My Space

I have my desk facing the students with nothing much on it this year.  I am working hard to only use the top of it for my day book and for the work the students finish in a day. My new goal is to have my day book ready for the next day before I leave each day. I also try not to leave the school without going through student's work and placing it where it belongs. It is only the third week of school, and I have been able to keep up with my new goals. I did have to make some changes to my daily routine. I arrive 20 minutes earlier each day and leave 30 minutes to an hour later each night. I won't lie, the changes feels good even when I am exhausted, and want to leave. I always walk in, feeling prepared for the day and very glad I stayed and finished the night before. 

Have a great week!

Happy First Day of Fall Tomorrow


Sunday, 13 September 2015

Thoughts About Teaching Upper Grades and Some New Packs

For quite a few years I taught primary. Which I loved. I loved getting the kids early on and helping them love school even more. I loved teaching them the basics--- how to get organized and how to demonstrate responsibility ... setting the groundwork. 

A few years ago I was offered an intermediate class (7/8 combined). I wanted to cry. Older kids? Ewww! Attitudes and hormones and drama. No thank you! I didn't know the curriculum and it just wasn't my niche. 

Until I took the position.

Best decision ever. I loved intermediate. I loved instilling the same things I thought you could only teach in primary. Yes, they were a little more stubborn and had some habits that needed refining, but all in all..... it was the SAME haha. My goal though was to continue to make the tougher curriculum fun. To bring back a little primary nostalgia (Big kids like all that stuff too). 

If you have been in the junior or primary or senior classroom for a while, I encourage you to try a new division. You really begin to appreciate every grade and where the students are going or coming from.

With that being said, making "Upper Grade" resources this year has been my goal. Things I use in my classroom that I can share with others. 

Here are a few new ones......

Terry Fox: Activities for Upper Grades

Here's what's inside the pack...

Book Summary Sampling Party
The Summary Sampling Party is a Coffee House for kids. Students read, summarize and then share their summaries in their "Classroom Coffee House".

This pack includes:
*How to run a Summary Sampling Party/Coffee House
*Anchor chart on how to write a summary
*Fiction Summary Checklist
*Fiction Summary Checklist -mini-version for students
*Non-Fiction Summary Checklist
*Non-Fiction Checklist -mini-version for students
*What to include on the "day of" your summary party
*Success Criteria & Learning Goal Printables to display
*Peer Feedback Summary Sheets (Sampling Cards)
*Pictures from my Summary Sampling Party/Coffee House

Social Studies: Canada's Interactions with Global Communities
“Canada’s Interactions with Global Communities” package is specifically linked to the 2013 Ontario Social Studies Revised Curriculum. It is a great pack to use if you are teaching a straight or combined class. 

What’s inside this pack?

•All activities have learning goal(s) attached (curriculum & cross-curricular expectations)
•International Accords and Organizations ‘Cheat Sheet’ activity.
•International Accords and Organizations – various cards/notes for students notebooks 
•Word Study Activity
•International Accords and Organizations Quiz for Students/ Assessment for Teacher
•Poster Design Assignment with Marking Rubric for Teacher
•Read and Respond Short Answer Cards (Written in EQAO-type format) – issues Canada has had to deal with (Social, Environmental etc.).
•Perspective Writing Activity – Child Labour (Letter or Poem)- with Marking Rubric for Teacher
•Natural Disaster Presentation Expectations and layout
•Teacher/ Student Conference Sheet
•Marking Checklist
•Canadian Groups and Organizations Assignment
•How to make a “Who Are We?” booklet—step by step with pictures
•Marking Checklist for Teacher
•Class debate ideas (Canada’s interactions with the world) with debate marking sheet
•Canada’s Relationships- with World Map and Activity
•Musical Recap- Final Assignment with marking sheet for teacher

Many assignments involve the use of technology.

Have a great week, everyone :)

Friday, 4 September 2015

Teacher Week: Favourite Subject

Today is the last day of Teacher Week 2015! During my little babes naps this week I've learned a ton of ideas, tips and tricks from hundreds of teachers! Woooooooo!

Today's blog is all about my favourite subject to teach.

When I think about it LITERACY is by far my favourite. However, when I was growing up, I hated math. Mostly because of the way it was taught to me. It paper pencil, paper pencil.... and when you asked "why" the answer was always "because". I hated that. Which is maybe why deep down I went into teaching. So that kids could ask questions, get answers and have fun. And that even their most hated subject had the potential of becoming their favourite. 

So I am going to say Literacy, but my favourite challenge is to teach math.... and teach it well.

I have included a slew of pictures below. My goal is to try to make it "practical" to their lives (as much as possible). I try to teach to avoid the question "when would we need to use this?" Hahaha.

I try to use math in relation to what's going on around us. For example, during the Olympics, I used a lot of data and results in my lessons.

I try to find things that the students are interested in and let it guide my lessons.

I try to use small group problems with challenging questions --creating a little competition. Always good!

I try to incorporate games. They don't even feel like they are working on math if they are playing a game, most times. 

Creating interactive notebooks has made studying for tests and reviewing material A LOT easier!

Hands on! I try to have the kids lead my lessons and participate often (getting out of their seat to do so).

I do use food sometimes. I am sorry, but kids remember when things when there's food involved! 

However you teach it.... Make it fun..... Make it memorable..... and remember not to ever answer your students questions with "because that's how you do it!"

Happy Friday!

Best wishes to those who start back on Tuesday! :)


Thursday, 3 September 2015

Teacher Week: Sanity Savers

Today's post is all about "Sanity Savers". 

I am not sure how to approach this.....HA!

Ok, first and foremost, in order to start the day "sane", I need to get to school at least 30-60 minutes before the bell. I usually have everything together the night before I leave the school, but I like to just have a little quiet time in my room before the kiddos enter.

As for my classroom and how I maintain sanity......

Here are my 5 "stay sane" ideas :)


Using Monday to Monday Folders in the primary grades saved me a lot of time and anguish. 

For example, once upon a time, I was checking reading logs every day. I'd get notes like "Sorry didn't read! Johnny had hockey!" or "Samantha was grocery shopping with me so we didn't get to the reading". Ugh. I knew people were busy, but reading was important too.
Christine told me about an idea she had heard about called "Monday to Monday Folder". Everything you send home (ie. words of the week, books to read, reading logs, weekly or monthly newsletters etc.) all goes home on Monday and gets returned on Monday. So if Johnny has hockey and can't read, he has his reading log at home and can catch up or read extra some other night. Kids can practice their sight words any day of the week. And parents don't have "nightly homework". I have had many parents thank me for these folders and told me that it took a lot of pressure off at home and it gave their kids more responsibility.

You can pick a free copy HERE or our updated version HERE


A year ago I had quite the crew on my hands. 
 19 boys and 6 girls and a slew of needs, made for fun times ! Ha! With a few behaviours in my room, I needed to come up with a system that would allow for better transitioning from task to task. For goodness sakes, just taking out their books was a task and a half!

I worked with the Behaviour Specialist in my school to come up with a classroom program. 

I'm sure it isn't new to the teaching world..... But it was new to me!

It's called SPA TIME.
Student Preferred Activity Time.

Each block of time/transition the students are given a time to get ready-- I.e. bathroom breaks, drinks, sharpened pencil and books on their desk. Whatever time remains goes onto the SPA Board (+) and if they run over time it is entered under the (-) time. At the end of the day they can use their SPA time or move it to BONUS. The kids created a list of preferred activities (i.e Capture the Flag, Board Games, Social Time etc.) which we keep posted in the classroom. If they move their time to BONUS, they can continue to add to it. Bonus preferred activities might include a Movie or Pot Luck etc. (depending on how much time is banked).

Here is the board that I made for my classroom. Click the link HERE to see my post and spa board freebie.

Around ANY holiday in the upper grades, I would host a month long ticket system!

I purchased a roll of tickets and gave students tickets for various things --(i.e. agenda or tests signed, having books out on desk without being told, completing homework, beating their mad minute math scores, demonstrating kindness, helping others, etc.). 

The students held onto their tickets until the last day and then put their tickets in for various prizes. Last year I held an auction, but this year I decided to do a blind raffle.
I purchased various items to raffle off.

The students walked around with their earned tickets and dropped them into the bags of choice. They were not allowed to touch or pick up any of the prizes. Just a good ol' fashion game of chance!


Schedule Cards. I use them in ALL GRADES. I know some teachers think that once kids get into the upper grades that schedules look silly or are not appropriate for the age. Oh goodness...... I CANNOT tell you how much grief and headache these cards have saved me. They are editable and easy to use! I don't get "when is gym?" OR "Miss, when are we presenting our projects?" OR "When is the assembly?" You don't even need the cards..... just have the schedule written somewhere for the students to see. 

Kids come in after recess, check the schedule and go with it. 
After Lunch Recess, I usually have independent reading time. The kids look, see the schedule cards, grab their books and read. No wasting time and asking what we're doing and me answering the same question a bazillion times. 


Don't bring home things to mark (if you can).

For years I trucked bins of books home to mark. They either stayed in my car or at the front door. My husband is married to a teacher, and he knows it's par for the course. However, I am a big believer in family time and that school (which is a job) can wait. It doesn't make me less of a teacher, but a better one.

Alright.... how else can we stay sane? 
Check out other ideas HERE.