Friday, September 27, 2013

Five for Friday

This is my first time linking up with Five for Friday over at Doodle Bugs Teaching! I know, where have I been? But I thought this would be a good way to continue to share my teaching thoughts while I am on mat leave (6 weeks till my due date!) and don't really have a classroom. 

So here we go!

I love this idea for Science vocabulary words I found over at the Science Penguin. How cute would this be? And a great way to integrate literacy with your science program.

Photo via The Science Penguin

I LOVE this idea!! 100 bead strings..think of the possibilities. I also love DIY math manipulatives. I found this amazing idea over at The Elementary Math Maniac. The post explains how to make the bead strings and how they can be used in the class. Genius. 

Photo via The Elementary Math Maniac

This next find is from Pinterest and it links back to a twitpic not a blog. If you've seen it before and know where it came from, please let me know.

As I've posted before I started using The Power of Retelling to format by large group reading instruction. This retelling rope would be an excellent addition to small group activities based on our larger lessons. 

Photo via

I am excited to find a use for these in my math centres next year. They are from 3rd Grade Thoughts and are available in her TPT store.

Photo via 3rd Grade Thoughts

Lastly, is this great Writer's Workshop anchor chart...but the pin also doesn't lead to the actual site! 
Again, if you know who it belongs to please let me know.

Photo via Pinterest.

And that's it for my first Five for Friday! Have a great weekend. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Classmate Interview- Writing FREEBIE

I started to embrace having to teach writing a lot more in the past few years. I've always loved teaching reading, sharing books with my students and discussing what we read...but writing was a different beast.

Every year I re-vamp my writing program and I still haven't found one that I love, but I figure as long as I keep working at it- I'll get there. Since I am going to be off work for the duration of this school year I have been using some of time to scour the blogs I love, Pinterest and over sites for ideas that I can take back with me next fall. 

Here are a few of my finds:

Photo via:

This site has a ton of great writing notebook ideas and lesson plans. Set aside some time for this'll there for awhile.


This site has a great explanation of how writer's workshop is set up and a great selection of writing units! This one is a must see. 


Flying High in First Grade

Ashley from Flying High in First Grade has this great resource available in her TPT store. This resource includes 18 lesson ideas to get your writer's workshop up and running...and it has been added to my wish list for next fall!

If you are interested in checking out my Pinterest board of Writing Resources- click the image below.

Now time, for my freebie!

I created this freebie to use as a diagnostic tool with my students. It gives students an opportunity to learn a little more about their classmates, I can introduce the writing process and see what the students already know about this all important part of Writer's Workshop. 

Included in this freebie:
  1. Interview questionnaire (pre-writing)
  2. First draft paper
  3. Editing Checklist
  4. Good Copy paper
  5. Title page

Click on the image above to download this freebie. 

Click on the image above to download this freebie. 

I hope you find this useful and I would LOVE to hear about any posts you have, TPT/TN products...etc so I can continue my search and start next fall ready to hit the ground the running. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Class Messenger- Using Your Smart Phone to Keep in Touch With Parents/Students

First things first...I'm on mat leave!! 8 weeks till the baby comes...hopefully, right. No early surprises. I do have some ultrasounds to check in on the baby's growth over the next few weeks but I am feeling good and looking forward to some time to rest and get ready before our whole world turns upside down.

Button clipart from Scrappin Doodles

Have you seen this new app/website? I heard about it from a colleague in the staff room last week. I must preface this post with the fact that I have not personally used this app but I think it looks great!

Here is an article I found about the app/website:

This site looks great in itself and I think I will be back often to see what else they are writing about. 

Now, the app/website itself. I downloaded the app from the app store on to my iPhone and I don't really know much about other types of you'll have to investigate if you don't have an iPhone. The best part is that the app is FREE!! FREE!! All teachers love something free, right?

The website for this app is and it is powered by Scholastic. Apparently the app used to be called What Did We Do Today? and has now changed to Class Messenger. Perhaps you have heard of the first but not the name change?

Here's the home screen-

I first created my account on my iPhone, because I downloaded the app first but I don't think it matters if you go to the website first. 

Once you are registered and logged in the app provides two different demos to help you see how it all works.

As I played around with the site, I found a great FAQ's section- for Teachers, Parents and Students. It seems like they've thought of everything!

There is also a great DEMO section that walks your through each step of setting up your classes and has demos for parents and students as well. 

Since I am off on leave, I don't actually have a class to try this out with...this year! But I am hoping that one of you all will jump on board and tell me all about it?! Yes??

I did start to attempt to build a class just to see how easy it was and  here's what you will see on the screen as you start to build your class. 

I like that Class Messenger has the option to build multiple classes, so if you teach rotary or want to organize your students by groups/classes that can be done as well.

There is a section where you can add contact details for your students/parents and I have highlighted some of the sections using arrows on the picture below. 

I think a form will need to be created in order to gather the email addresses needed to contact parents so they can sign up with the app. I haven't found a form provided on the site, so this may need to be done at your own school site. 

From here, there's not much more I can do...not actually having a class to sign 


I think this app/website has a lot of possibilities and I am very interested in hearing from anyone that uses it with their class this year.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Children's Book Reviews

I was contacted back in the late spring by Heather from Thomas Allen & Son about reviewing children's books....and of course loved the idea! Then the summer hit, we moved house, I'm pregnant, it was hot...etc, etc and somehow the draft of the this post got lost in the shuffle.

But, I've found it and it's ready to go!

First up is Mad Science 2- Experiments You Can Do At Home, But STILL Probably Shouldn't by Theodore Gray.  The title alone is enough to get anyone excited about this book!

I think any boy I've ever taught would grab this book off the shelf and dive right in! (Quite of few of the men I know would do the same...and then run to the hardware store for supplies....!) This book has amazing pictures and some really interesting scientific information. The non-fiction reader in your class would probably gobble it up. I think it's a little advanced for my Grade 3 class, but I've no doubt the boys would enjoy skimming through and exclaiming over the pictures and ideas. 

I would recommend that this book be in classroom libraries for grades 5 and up, and could be used as a suggestion for reluctant readers. It would also make an excellent addition to a non-fiction text features unit!

Next up we have, Just Grace and the Trouble with Cupcakes by Charise Maricle Harper. 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book! The cover is enticing and the title grabs the reader's attention. My two and half year old daughter was even intrigued by this book and we have sat down together to read a few pages here and there...and if a chapter book can hold the attention of a toddler that's saying something!

I would love (and plan to) to get more copies of this book and the rest of the books in the series. I think they would be a fantastic addition to my Grade 3 classroom library and to use for literature circles or novel studies. 

Harper's writing of Grace and her classmates is very realistic and positive. It shows the actual trials and tribulations of a grade 3 student (especially a girl) without seeming preachy or condescending. I also enjoy the pencil drawings (i.e. Diary of a Wimpy Kid) found throughout the book. The drawings and heading require the reader to delve a little deeper into the text on the page as they are a part of the story.

Just Grace and the Trouble with Cupcakes is about the school fair that Grace and her classmates have been assigned to plan by their teacher. Of course, they have to pick a theme which leads to a rift in Grace's friendship with her best friend, then she ends up in a group of kids she's not sure she likes and to top it off the visit from her Grandma does not go as planned. The students will enjoy reading how Grace handles these real-life student problems and be able to connect to their own experiences in the classroom.

This book is definitely a A!

The first book I read when the box arrived was Parched by Melanie Crowder. 

What a powerhouse!

This is the kind of book that makes me miss teaching the older kids...where was it 5 years ago when I taught Grade 7 and 8! For anyone with a social-justice focus in their class this is a must have book. I will admit though, it's a challenging read. For some students the vocabulary and story-telling from multiple perspectives might prove to be difficult. However, it would do well as a class read aloud or a lit circle book for more advanced readers.

If your curriculum involves water and conservation than Parched would be an excellent way to integrate your literacy and science curriculums. Here is the description from Thomas Allen & Son's website:

In this haunting, lyrical novel told from three perspectives, Sarel has just witnessed the violent murder of her parents. But she is not completely alone on the drought-ridden land. Nandi is the leader of a pack of dogs who looks out for her pups and for skinny Sarel-girl. Nandi knows they are all in trouble, and she knows, too, that a boy is coming—an escaped prisoner with the water song inside him. A hard-hitting but ultimately hopeful survival story.

This book drew me in from the first page (okay, the cover) and I just couldn't put it down. Imagine the conversations it could spark!

The last book in the package was The Ugly One by Leanne Statland Ellis. 

This is an interesting book...and yet, I'm not sure if I liked it.

Here's the description from Thomas Allen & Son:

I had always been ugly, as far back as I could remember.

Micay has a deep scar that runs like a river from her right eye to her lip. The boys in her Incan village bully her because of it, and most of the adults ignore her. So she keeps to herself and tries to hide the scar with her long hair, drawing comfort from her family and her faith in the Sun God, Inti. Then a stranger traveling from his jungle homeland to the Sacred Sun City at Machu Picchu gives her a baby macaw, and the path of her life changes. Perhaps she isn’t destined to be the Ugly One forever. Vivid storytelling and rich details capture the life and landscape of the Incan Empire as seen through the eyes of a young girl who is an outsider among her own people.

The content of the book are interesting and I like connections to a Cinderella type story but I had some trouble maintaining my focus while reading. The slightest noise or movement would draw my attention away from the book. 

With the changes that have taken place in the Ontario Social Studies curriculum this year I am not sure where this book could be placed most effectively for integration either. I think that for a good understanding the students reading this book would have to be at least Grade 6 or higher, perhaps an advanced Grade 5?

I do think it's worth looking into if the description intrigues you...the storyline is rich in detail and lends itself to a great deal of visualization. I would love to see student drawing's of Micay as part of a class art project.

This is one I'm just not sure about. It wasn't my cup of tea but I wouldn't say it wasn't interesting either. 

Have you read any good children's books recently? I'd love to hear about them. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

First week done! Pictures and more pictures.

We returned to school year in Ontario on Tuesday and had a nice 4 day week to ease us back into the routines to school. This year is a little very odd for me because I am only returning for the first 2 weeks of the year!

I decided to focus on curriculum rather than routines because I have no idea how the teacher coming in will want the class to be set least curriculum is constant and by completing some expectations they will be able to focus on the typical beginning of the year community building. 

Here is the makeshift calendar that I created (only using chalk...blah). The first math expectations I have been covering with the class are place value to 1000 and skip counting...nothing too complicated.

I have been reading picture books that focus on the theme of inclusivity. First we read Odd Velvet by Mary Whitcomb and worked through the structure I followed last year after reading The Power of Retelling.  I love following this structure because it keeps all of the comprehension strategies fresh in the student's minds. 

The first writing unit in Grade 3 is procedural writing so we did 2 different shared writing procedures to provide some examples for the students. These are the only real "classroom routines" I have tried to implement for the new teacher coming in. I hope they are okay with it. 

I was pleasantly surprised when I asked the class to make a mind map of everything they could think about math...and they came up with so many good ideas!

Here is a chart I made to illustrate the math goals we have been covering during our calendar time and during different class discussions. 

On Friday, we made this class bar graph about our birthdays. The other curriculum expectations that are covered in the beginning of the year is graphing and sorting so I thought that by making a bulletin board bar graph the students would have a HUGE anchor chart for how a bar graph should look...and it created a small sense of community when we could see when all our birthdays fell during the year. 

My biggest goal of these two weeks was to create a portfolio of diagnostic work to help the new teacher have a sense of where the students are academically and not feel as though they are coming in super's what I would want someone to do for me. So in addition to the diagnostic tasks we have been working on creating a portfolio cover. I blogged about this art assignment a few years ago when I taught my own art (oh how I miss that!)

Lastly, we brainstormed all the things a good classmate is/ does/ says and is not...a great idea I found on Pinterest(!!) but is originally from Using My Teacher Voice. Hopefully, the new teacher coming can use this to create the classroom rules they want to have posted in their room. 

Well, there's my first week in a nutshell...and tomorrow I start my last week! What a weird feeling. 

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