Opinions expressed on this blog are my own and do not represent any other organization or affiliation I may have.

Thursday 29 January 2015

E-books and E-readers in the K-5 Classroom

Ideas and resources for using e-books in the elementary classroom. Strategies to help your students be effective close readers whether they are using Kindles, Nooks, iPads or traditional books. Check out this link for a pinterest page full of resources.

Don't just stop at print books.  Give your students access to all kinds of media, including e-books!


Wednesday 28 January 2015


I will be using this with my Grade 3/4s when we do perimeter and patterns. True, it is a lot of "paper waste" but I think this type of hands on learning is perfect for my class. And I can def. reuse the stickies after =)

Have you used post-it notes for a creative math lesson yet?! (See post from 2012 about post-it math art). They're a fantastic tool to introduce the concept of area and reinforce perimeter. For this lesson, students used 25 or less post-it notes. We made a prediction: Do different shapes that have the same area have the same perimeter? Working in groups of 4, students mapped out their design on 1-inch graph paper and figured out the area and perimeter of their shape. Then, they found a blank wall to construct it! Click here for more math/art projects!


Tuesday 27 January 2015

11 Vocab Review Games to Make the Learning Stick

Here are 11 classroom games with free downloadable reproducibles perfect for practicing new vocabulary or test facts. Hope you find them useful! 
  • Oranges to Oranges: Quick, define "chimerical"! Based on the popular game Apples to Apples, this is a great way to practice and expand on weekly vocab words or terms from your latest unit.
    oranges to oranges vocabulary game
  • Fun With Synonyms: Guess That Word: Can your students guess a word by its synonym? They can after playing this game! Having students create the cards—researching the synonyms—is an important part of the learning too!
    guess that word vocabulary game
  • Vocab-Categories: Just like with Scattergories, kids have to think and use vocab words creatively to win the game. The download includes letter cut-outs, vocab-category lists and make-your-own list cards.

    vocabcategories vocabulary game
  • Vocabulary Land Game Board: This is one of my favorites—I loved creating this board game! If you have access to a laminator, print and laminate 8 to 10 boards for your classroom and use dry-erase markers. Instant classroom game or language arts station!
    vocab land game board vocabulary game
  • You're on a Roll Dice Game: This game gives students the chance to improve their vocabulary skills while playing with their friends.
    on a roll vocabulary game
  • Vocabulary Checkers: To move checkers on the board, players must use the vocabulary word in the square correctly in a sentence. Challenge students to build on one another's sentences to tell a quick story or to make up the silliest sentences that they can.
    Checkers vocabulary game
  • Bracket Battles Vocabulary Game: With bracket battles, the best word always wins. Students have to sort the words into parts of speech to play. So you sneak in a little categorization practice at the same time!

    battle brackets vocabulary game
  • Bingo Vocabulary Game: Admit it, everyone secretly loves bingo. Now your students can play while simultaneously enhancing their vocabulary skills. Give away new pencils as the prize and maybe your students will finally give up those tiny stubby ones.

    vocabulary bingo game
  • Color Your Vocabulary Activity: Challenge students to creatively use their vocabulary words to label pictures. It's harder than it looks!

    color your vocabulary game
  • Picabulary Vocabulary Game: Divided into teams, students have to creatively draw out vocabulary word meanings for their teammates to guess. Chances are, they are going to make you draw too. Be forewarned!

    picabulary vocabulary game
  • Think-Tac-Toe: To execute their tic-tac-toe strategy (three in a row), students must complete the vocabulary activity within each square. Two students (or two halves of the class) can take turns choosing squares. If it ends in a draw, that means you snuck in more vocab practice!
    think tac toe vocabulary game


Wednesday 21 January 2015

5 Ways to assess students writing progress

This is from the sixth post in the Teaching Young Writers blog series sponsored by Zaner-Bloser's Strategies for Writers. You can see the previous post on 5 Peer Revision Strategies.

  1. X Marks the Spot
    Too often we teachers grade papers as if we are preparing a manuscript for publication. We proofread, line-edit and rewrite. Stop now. Refrain from spending all of your time writing long comments on your students' papers. A piece of writing filled with comments and proofreading marks can cause students to feel overwhelmed and bewildered. The goal is for your students to slowly gain writing skills and confidence, not to feel discouraged and negative about writing. Instead, focus on the content of the paper. When you see a grammar mistake or a spelling error, simply put a small x next to it. Let your students problem-solve what needs to be corrected. They figure out the mistakes marked with an x and enter their corrections in the margin. This will cut back your time and help students grow as writers and assess their own work. Save the proofreading marks for your students to do on their own writing, as well as on their peers'papers.

  2. Write an End Comment
    Save your comments for the end of your students' writing. Your comment should include at least one strength. Then, it can point out a problem that the student needs to improve. Finally, it should end with suggestions for the student's next step in the writing process. Students can take your recommendations to assess their writing and set goals to continue their progress.

  3. Address Common Errors Together
    If you notice that many of your students are inserting semicolons willy-nilly or skimping on the textual evidence, rather than writing this note over and over on each student's composition, do a mini-lesson (or three) with the class. By having a class discussion, students will all receive the same comment you would have written on many papers in one simple whole-group conference.

  4. Use a Rubric
    Using a rubric to assess students' writing is a great way to see exactly what students are grasping and and what they're struggling with. Teachers can find premade rubrics or create their own on iRubric. This is my favorite site for creating and adapting rubrics, and it's free! What makes rubrics efficient is that teachers can circle and add notes to each category. Then, they quickly calculate the score. Rubrics help teachers pinpoint exactly what the student needs help with or where the student needs more of a challenge.

  5. Incorporate Student Reflection
    Rather than viewing assessment as something only teachers do, have students complete a self-assessment. Encourage students to assess their own strengths and needs in their writing. An easy way to motivate students to evaluate their own writing progress is to create a rating scale. The rating scale could be in a traffic light format (red, yellow, green). Students color in the circle to describe their level of understanding: Red = I don't understand, Yellow = I'm starting to get it and Green = I got it! After they assess themselves, have your students create goals for themselves. By doing so, you will get an insight into what your student is thinking and feeling, which will make the ongoing assessment process a lot easier and more efficient!
Looking for more? Nine free Strategies for Writers lesson plans complete with teacher and student pages!


Saturday 17 January 2015

Keep cellphones out of bedrooms!

A screengrab from the Children of the Street Society's newest campaign, asking parents to remove smartphones from their children's rooms at night.

It’s an attention-grabbing poster – a teenager girl, typing her on her phone at night, with a text bubble lifting up her skirt. But the Coquitlam-based Children of the Street Society say their “Hooked” campaign, meant to convince parents to ban smartphones from their children’s bedrooms at night, is grounded in education.

Source: http://globalnews.ca/news/1778928/coquitlam-organization-wants-cellphones-out-of-kids-bedrooms-at-night/

Thursday 15 January 2015

11 Questions that will make your child happier

I love these as a mom and a teacher they are great reminders on how to frame questions and conversations with children. These were taken from this article.

1. What was your favorite part of today?
This is a good question to ask at bedtime, to help your child feel content and happy before sleep. It also instills a habit of focusing on the best thing that happened in any given day rather than the worst. If you make this part of your bedtime routine, it will become second nature.
2. What are you grateful for?
This is a good question for the dinner table. Every family member can take a turn saying what he or she is grateful for that day. There is a strong correlation betweenhappiness and gratitude, so this one is very powerful.
3. What are you going to do about that?
When a child comes to you with a problem, ask this question in a warm and curious tone. Don't just jump in and solve their problem; how does that help them in the long run? At least give them a chance to work it out on their own, and give them the gift of your confidence in them, which is evident by this question that implies that they can think of solutions to their own issues. If your child says "I don't know," you can say, "I am not sure either, let's try to figure it out together." Happy people are people who think of problems as surmountable, and think of themselves as effective problem solvers.
4. How did that make you feel?
At the risk of sounding shrink-y, an essential part of happiness is being able to notice and express your own emotions. If you can verbalize what you're feeling, you can make sense of it, you can process it, and you can obtain support from others. This is a great question to ask when your child comes to you with something "bad" that happened, instead of either dismissing it ("that wasn't that bad") or fixing it ("let mommy get you some ice!"). It trains your child to be aware of his feelings, and to use that information effectively.
5. What do you think he/she feels?
In any situation, you can cultivate empathy by asking your child to wonder about what someone else feels. Empathy will make your child a happier person; he or she will have stronger interpersonal relationships, feel better about himself for thinking of (and then, often, helping) others, and derive more meaning from life.
6.  How can we look on the bright side?
In any situation, you can teach your child that there are positives. With preteens or teenagers, this question may be way too corny, but little kids will like it. You can also teach them the expression "making lemonade out of a lemon" and ask them how you can make lemonade out of a bad situation, like, "You fell and hurt yourself, so that's a lemon, but you got a Tinkerbell bandaid, and that's lemonade! Now you tell Mommy one."
7. What part of that can we learn more about?
In any TV show, book, trip outside the house, basically any situation at all, there is something to learn more about. And look at you, Super Parent, you already have your smartphone at the ready!  So this time use it for teaching your child that life is full of learning opportunities.  Happy people are people who are curious and always learning.  So when you watch TV and someone says "Bonjour," you can look up pictures of France or a YouTube song sung in French. When your child realizes that this question means that you're going to whip out your phone and show them something new and special, they will ask it to you all the time. And that's how you end up looking at pictures of real estate in Nebraska with your 4-year-old. Don't ask.
8. What do you want to do on the weekend?
Research shows that anticipation of positive experiences brings more happiness than the experiences themselves. Once your child is old enough to realize that tomorrow is not today, start instilling a habit of positive anticipation of small pleasures. A child who is excited all week to get frozen yogurt on the weekend is a happy child, just as an adult who plans a vacation six months in advance is happier during those six months.
9. What can we do to help/to make someone happy?
Bringing your child along to visit a sick relative, or someone recovering from surgery, or to volunteer at a soup kitchen is a wonderful gift that you can give to your child. Your child will feel even more proud of his behavior if he is the one to think up the nice thing that can be done (e.g., baking cookies to deliver, drawing a card). Research shows that giving even releases oxytocin and endorphins, so it's like a high that your child can become addicted to. Also, involve your child in your charitable activities, as giving charity is a form of altruism that is also linked directly to happiness (and just to being a good person, which you also want for your child).
Incorporate a spirit of generosity into your child's daily life. Whenever you're out, buy something little for someone else.  When you color, make a picture for someone else. Giving things to others makes people happier than buying things for themselves, and enriches interpersonal relationships.
10. What do you want to do outside today?
Getting outside and engaging in physical activities alongside your child is a wonderful way to get him or her in the habit of not just sitting around. Exercise releases endorphins and is as effective at treating depression as SSRI's. And the most powerful way that you can teach your child about exercise is to do it yourself. Children whose mothers exercise are more likely to exercise themselves. And sunlight can also help boost mood and regulate circadian rhythms, which means better sleep for your kids, which makes everyone happier.
11. When do you feel happiest?
If you direct your children's attention to the experiences that they most enjoy, they will start to realize that they can choose to proactively increase their time spent in activities that make them feel best about themselves.  According to researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, "flow" is the state where people find an activity so enjoyable and rewarding that they become completely immersed in it, losing all sense of time and feeling completely in the moment. If your child is lucky enough to have found an activity that makes him feel a sense of "flow," it is helpful for you to point this out and allow your child enough time to attain this state. Note: for many kids this is video gaming, which is actually fine, since a great deal of research points to many psychological benefits of gaming (and anecdotally, I know many people who met their spouses while gaming, and gaming actually brings spouses closer if both participate!). The best case scenario is for your child to find a career that puts him into "flow," since then, as the saying goes, he will never "work" a day in his life.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/samantha-rodman-phd/11-questions-that-will-make-your-child-happier_b_6401788.html

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty

For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation.
The Southern Education Foundation reports that 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches. The lunch program is a rough proxy for poverty, but the explosion in the number of needy children in the nation’s public classrooms is a recent phenomenon that has been gaining attention among educators, public officials and researchers.
“We’ve all known this was the trend, that we would get to a majority, but it’s here sooner rather than later,” said Michael A. Rebell of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College at Columbia University, noting that the poverty rate has been increasing even as the economy has improved. “A lot of people at the top are doing much better, but the people at the bottom are not doing better at all. Those are the people who have the most children and send their children to public school.”
The shift to a majority-poor student population means that in public schools, a growing number of children start kindergarten already trailing their more privileged peers and rarely, if ever, catch up. They are less likely to have support at home, are less frequently exposed to enriching activities outside of school, and are more likely to drop out and never attend college.
It also means that education policy, funding decisions and classroom instruction must adapt to the needy children who arrive at school each day.
“When they first come in my door in the morning, the first thing I do is an inventory of immediate needs: Did you eat? Are you clean? A big part of my job is making them feel safe,” said Sonya Romero-Smith, a veteran teacher at Lew Wallace Elementary School in Albuquerque. Fourteen of her 18 kindergartners are eligible for free lunches.
She helps them clean up with bathroom wipes and toothbrushes, and she stocks a drawer with clean socks, underwear, pants and shoes.
Romero-Smith, 40, who has been a teacher for 19 years, became a foster mother in November to two girls, sisters who attend her school. They had been homeless, their father living on the streets and their mother in jail, she said. When she brought the girls home, she was shocked by the disarray of their young lives.