Friday 23 March 2018

TGI Spring Break!

Can we just take a minute to appreciate the greatness that is Spring Break? Up until a few years ago we were still only getting one week off in March and now that just seems way too short. Thank goodness for whichever powers at the school board decided to save some money by closing the school for an extra week...I really appreciate it!

With Spring Break comes so much extra free time. Free time to sit and think about school stuff, just from the comfort of my couch. One of the things I've been thinking about this week are read alouds. Here are some of my latest favourites that you might want to check out.

1) Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate for Grades 4-6

When Jackson and his family have to deal with the possibility of moving again, his imaginary friend Crenshaw - an oversized cat - shows back up in his life. This book deals with a lot of heavy topics - poverty, the illness of a parent, moving - which can lead to some great discussions about growth mindset, grit, and sticking together.

2) Refugee by Alan Gratz for Grades 4-7

Refugee follows the stories of three characters: Josef, a Jewish boy living in Nazi Germany; Isabel, a Cuban girl in 1994; Mahmoud, a Syrian boy in 2015. This book would be a great read aloud during a Social Studies unit on immigration/refugees to help students build compassion and empathy for what people around the world may be going through.

3) Ugly by Robert Hoge for Grades 3-6

If your students loved Wonder, try Ugly, the memoir of Robert Hoge who was born with a tumor in the middle of his face. This sounds like a great story highlighting the importance of courage, resilience, and overcoming obstacles.
*Disclaimer* This is the one book on this list that I haven't read, but I am intrigued by it.

4) The Wild Robot by Peter Brown for Grades 3-7

I've always loved Brown's picture books, so when I saw this come out, I had to grab it. This is a charming tale about a robot that is shipwrecked and comes alive on an island. She must learn to adapt to the wilderness (and its inhabitants) in order to survive.

5) The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown for Grades 3-7,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=detail

If you loved The Wild Robot then you have to pick up the sequel (which came out last week) to see how Roz's story concludes. 

6) Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Another one by Applegate; her writing style is so engaging for students and teachers. This is a fantastic story that introduces students to the topic of prejudice. Since the narrator is a tree, there are a lot of interesting observations made about human nature and how we treat each other.

Well, now I'm off to enjoy another week of sitting on my couch. I hope you are also enjoying a relaxing break. If you're still in school, or just returning, and need something to occupy your students, make sure to grab my *free* Spring Break Mini Pack of Fun Activities {HERE}.

Tuesday 8 August 2017

Why I Love Graphic Novels

A new school year is approaching and it’s the perfect time to reassess your classroom library.

Do you have books that you love, but haven’t been picked up by a student in years?

Do you have books that are so well-loved that they lose pages every time they are read?

Or do you just need some new suggestions to keep your student readers engaged?

Whatever your classroom needs, I am here to suggest that you make sure you have at least a few graphic novels on hand.

When I was first introduced to graphic novels during my university years, my professor mentioned that some people didn’t see any value in them.

This is not how I feel. At all. For me, graphic novels have so many fantastic qualities.

1) They are aesthetically pleasing (insert: less overwhelming)

Let’s be honest. When choosing a book, some students - especially reluctant readers - get overwhelmed when they flip through a novel and find page after page of text. The appealing visual aspects of graphic novels allow students to quickly get a feel for the story in a less daunting way.

2) They can cover serious topics in an accessible way

From bullying to illness, while some graphic novels are full of fun, lighthearted adventures, many others tackle daunting issues that students may face.

via Amazon
**El Deafo tells the tale of author Cece Bell's hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent feelings of being isolated from her peers.

3) They help students learn to make inferences

In graphic novels, so much must be left to the reader to infer because of the limited space for text and graphics. When students scan from panel to panel, they must be able to follow the story and think beyond what is explicitly shown. This is great practice for making inferences in novels that strictly contain the written word.

4) They engage reluctant readers

Students who struggle with reading often become discouraged when choosing texts at their level, especially as they move into the intermediate grades. They often want to read the same books as their peers, rather than stick out by reading books that appear too "babyish." Just as with picture books, the images in graphic novels allow struggling students to follow the plot, but with more mature texts.

**BONUS** In recent years, some popular novels have been getting rereleased as graphic novels. Struggling readers are now able to access some popular series that they may not have been able to in the past and I think that is just fantastic.

Percy Jackson & the OlympiansThe Baby-Sitters Cluband A Wrinkle in Time are just a few books/series that have recently been transformed into graphic novels.

5) They get kids reading

From struggling readers to students reading well beyond grade level, I have found that most of my students thoroughly enjoy graphic novels. Students often eagerly form their own waitlists for popular graphic novels from our classroom library and I could not be more thrilled. After all, don’t we want our students to develop a genuine love of reading?

Sunday 12 March 2017

Spring Break Here I Come!

It's been ages…is it too late in the year to wish you a Happy New Year?

I am so excited that Spring Break is right around the corner so I wanted to quickly post about a Spring Break freebie I created a few years ago. It's perfect for filling time on that crazy day before the holiday.

Click {HERE} or the picture below to grab it…

Wishing you all a relaxing break!

Monday 28 November 2016

25 More Christmas Picture Books

A few years I did 25 days of Christmas picture books here on the blog. For 25 days I blogged about a different Christmas book (you can find all of those posts HERE). Well this year, I ain't got time for that, so I've decided to blog about 25 more Christmas picture books, but this time they'll all be in one post.

To keep this simple, I'm just going to list the titles and book covers with links to the books on Amazon in case there are any that you'd like to check out further.

1) Russell’s Christmas Magic by Rob Scotton

2) How to Catch an Elf by Adam Wallace

3) Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson

4) The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert

5) How to Catch Santa by Jean Reagan

6) Mr. Willowby'Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

7) Merry Christmas, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt

8) The Biggest Christmas Tree Ever by Steven Kroll

9) The Night Before the Night Before Christmas by Natasha Wing

10) Dream Snow by Eric Carle

11) Click, Clack Ho! Ho! Ho! by Doreen Cronin

12) The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas by Laura Murray

13) When Santa Was a Baby by Linda Bailey

14) The Smallest Gift of Christmas by Peter H. Reynolds

15) Memoirs of an Elf by Devin Scillian

16) The Last Christmas Tree by Stephen Krensky

17) Home for Christmas by Jan Brett

18) The Knights Before Christmas by Joan Holub

19) Samurai Santa: A very ninja Christmas by Rubin Pingk

20) The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen

21) Santa’s Underwear by Marty Rhodes Figley

22) A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas by Philip Yates

23) The Christmas Crocodile by Bonny Becker

24) Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood

& finally

25) Monster Needs a Christmas Tree by Paul Czajak

If you're still in need of some December resources, the Teachers Pay Teachers Cyber Monday & Tuesday sale is still going on. You can click the image below to check out my Christmas resources.

Get ready, December will be here before you know it!

Sunday 27 November 2016

Free Polar Express Train Tickets

As a general rule I don't do anything Christmassy before December 1st. There are no holiday books in my classroom library, no Christmas art has been completed by my students, and my house won't see a Christmas tree for at least a few weeks.

But today...I am breaking that rule. I know the next three weeks are going to fly by, so I'm trying to get a little jump start on anything holiday related.

A few years ago I blogged about The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg and included some free train tickets. You can read that post {HERE}, but I thought I'd kick off this holiday season by updating that freebie.

The Christmas season is a great time to make lasting memories for your students. Host a day filled with The Polar Express by having students wear pajamas, setting up your chairs to resemble train seats, and serving hot chocolate. Round out the day by providing students with a train ticket to help make the day complete. You can click {HERE} to grab the tickets.

In other news, Christmas for many means a lot of sales and a lot of shopping trips. If you are looking to get some TpT shopping done, make sure to head over there tomorrow or Tuesday for the Cyber Sale. If you do shop, make sure to use the promo code "CYBER2016" to get up to 28% off!

Thanks to 1st Grade PandaMania for the cute sale button

If you're in need of a few Christmas resources to get you through the next few (very busy) weeks, I've got quite a few for you to check out. Just click {HERE} or the pic below...

Happy Holidays…too early?

Thursday 18 August 2016

Math Mystery Phrases…Find a Classmate Edition

I’ve raved on and on and on about my love for Math Mystery Phrases. They engage students and make basic facts practice fun, especially for students who struggle with pen and paper tasks. As I’ve been gearing up to go back to school, I was racking my brain trying to think of how to combine the fun of mystery phrases with a getting to know you activity for students. Enter my latest math mystery phrases pack, Addition & Subtraction Math Mystery Phrases - Find a Classmate Edition.

**Before I continue, can we take a minute to just stare in awe at that horrible iPhone picture above. Like, really? I thought the iPhone camera was so advanced that it wouldn't let me take something that is so rough on the eyes. Is it the middle of winter? Why is the light so cool? I think it's time to put down the camera and retire from photography.**

This pack contains six “Find a classmate who …” question sheets and corresponding answer sheets. Similar to my other math mystery phrases, students must complete the math questions first. If done correctly, they then use the answers and letters to fill in the mystery phrases on the corresponding answer sheet. But wait, the work is not done. Each answer sheet contains three mystery descriptions. When completed, students must find three classmates, one to fit each description.

I’ve tried to make the mystery descriptions fairly general, so hopefully they will fit most classes. Some examples: Find a classmate who…has never been on an airplane, plays on a sports team, has more than one sibling, etc.

The idea behind this pack is to get students interacting with their new classmates in a new & fun way. Plus, starting off the year with some addition & subtraction practice never hurts! I’ve differentiated the printables, so you can accommodate various ability levels and still have students working on the same activity.

If you're interested in the pack click {HERE} to find out more.

Excuse me while I go soak up some more sun before back to school reality sets in

Sunday 7 August 2016

Never Let Your Students Pick Their Own Partners

Some things just have a way of sticking with you. When I was getting my B. Ed., I had a fantastic behaviour management prof. A lot of what she said has stuck with me, but the thing I remember the most is when she said she NEVER lets her students pick their own partners. Not in university, not in elementary school. As she explained her reasoning, I was probably nodding my head without realizing it because it made so much sense. To paraphrase her...

Isn't that the truth? As soon as you talk about working in partners, you've got a class full of this...

with a whole lot of this mixed in…

Either way, it is very likely that most of your students are no longer paying attention. That's why, from the beginning of the year, I set the tone with this rule…

Image via Snapshots by Amy

This alleviates the worry and stress that most students face when asked to work in partners.

So, if your students can't pick their partners, how should you manage it? There are lots of great ideas from drawing popsicle sticks to using an electronic random name generator. Another great option is to use "Find Your Partner" cards.

To use, just choose a set of cards that best suits your students, shuffle them, and hand them out to students. Students are then responsible to find their partner based on how the cards are meant to be organized.

Each card set is labeled and color-coordinated to help keep them organized.

But wait…what about making groups? Don't worry, I've got you covered by including "Find Your Group" cards, too.

Truthfully, I've found that as soon as you start making choosing partners and groups random, students jump on board. These cards help you take the stress out of it, and allow you and students to focus on learning. Plus, once you've got a set (or few) of these cards printed and laminated, they are ready for repeated use, making your job that much easier!

If you're interested, you can check the cards out by clicking {HERE} or the picture below.