Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween Costumes for Teachers

My first year teaching grade 4 (and grade 5 and grade 8) I was a peacock
and last year I was Minnie Mouse. 

Complete with yellow shoes

I was told I needed 3 costumes to recycle throughout my teaching career (assuming I stayed at the same school). Since I’m substitute teaching this year if I happen to be working today (October 30th) I’ll bring along my Minnie Mouse costume because it is easy to bring and change into… no new costume this year. 

For those of us looking for an idea (probably for next year now since it is already Halloween) here is a list (with pictures) of 31 teacher costumes 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Buzz (a math game)

I played this game with some grade 2 students the other day that were skip counting by different numbers (2’s, 5’s, and 10’s) and for the most part… we had very little problems with it.

Here is the gist of it.

Have everyone that is going to be playing sit in a circle (ideally this would be the whole class). The game is basically just a counting game but anytime you get to a number that you would be skip counting by instead of saying that number one would say “buzz” instead. If the person says “buzz” on the wrong number they are out. If a person says the number instead of saying buzz they are also out. If someone says the wrong number they are out. The nice bonus to this game is that students need to be quiet in order to hear what number they are at so they know what they need to say.

It can however, get a little noisy once more than a couple people are sitting out so have something (like reading) for them to do at their desks).

In case my explanation made no sense at all here is a quick example. In this example we would be skip counting by 5’s (or saying buzz on any multiple of 5)

So here is what the students should be saying

1, 2, 3, 4, buzz, 6, 7, 8, 9, buzz, 11, 12, 13, 14, buzz, 16

Makes perfect sense right?

When students get a little older you could have them practice it with 7’s (so you would be saying buzz on any multiple of 7) or you could add in a second rule such as you must say buzz on any factor of 5 but you must say fizz on any multiple of 10. In this case the sequence should go:

1, 2, 3, 4, buzz, 6, 7, 8, 9, fizz buzz, 11, 12, 13, 14, buzz, 16

You need to say both fizz and buzz on number 10 because it is divisible by 5 and 10.

Use whatever number(s) you are currently working on in your math class and have fun!

Want more simple math games?  Try SNAKE!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Halloween Activity Booklets - for all ages!

It’s nearly here… Halloween that is. I always liked doing some activities specific to what holiday was coming up when I was in school and so when I’ve been a teacher I’ve also always enjoyed giving my students a little booklet of holiday activities to do. Today I’m doing the hard work of finding the work to put in these booklets for you (and I’m dividing it up by skill level and subject!). I’m also making sure it is free because that was ALWAYS a selling feature for me. Of course some of the material may be a little too easy for some of the groups or too difficult… so just use your judgement!

Warning: This post is going to be long and full of link... just scroll to through to the age level you teach and scan for the activities you want... I've given a brief description of them all.
To start with we have the early years (or kindergarten-grade 3). I always find this group the easiest to find free material for (and there is always so much of it!).
First, we have some writing paper. I found it on Teachers Pay Teachers but don’t worry… it’s free. The pages have big lines for kids who are still learning how to write.

Some reading comprehension pages (so a short story to read and a few questions) can be found on Itsy Bitsy Fun.

Here is a really simple crossword for your students that I got from ESL Themes.

and a simple word search compliments of Chicken Scratch.

An ABC maze (just follow the path in ABC order) from

and also from is a cut and paste Frankenstein activity (if you are putting this together in a book just make sure this page is not double sided)

On Halloween Ideas I found a matching worksheet where you match the word of a Halloween thing to a picture of it and a maze (that looks kind of difficult).

Next, I found a counting and colouring worksheet on Students just have to find and count all of the ghosts (amongst other things) and write down the number… they can colour them as they find them so that they don’t count the same one multiple times.

Here is a colour by number page on There are a ton of similar ideas like this out there… just put in colour by number into Google for lots of other options.

Here is a Halloween themed page for adding one digit numbers to one digit numbers by Twisty Noodle.

I found this connect the dots page on Big Activities… I just picked one that was fairly simple. Finding more difficult ones isn’t hard with a simple Google search.

You can teach your students about bar graphs using this activity from Printables 4 Kids. All they have to do is count the number of the different kinds of candies and fill in the graph.

Have students work on their patterning by deciding what comes next in these Halloween patterns from Classroom jr.

For a whole class activity you could play some Halloween bingo. Artsy Fartsy Mama has 10 different cards ready for you to print.

And of course there are a plethora of Halloween themed colouring pages out there… just put it into Google or steal one of the following (or all of them).

Disney - Pluto

Or a few different Halloween pages

Next up we have the grades 4-6 range.

First, here is some Halloween writing paper from Total Pict for them to write a terrifying story on (just choose the one you like best)

Or use one of these papers instead that already come with writing prompts on them

Haunted Hose  or what’s behind the door. or monster under the bed

Use one of these sheets for students to practice adding punctuation

There is a Vampire version or witches
Students can learn about monsters around the world with this worksheet from or all about vampires (complete with a quiz at the end)

I found this vampire bats reading comprehension activity on Teachers Pay Teachers (don’t worry, it’s free)

And here are 2 word scramble worksheets on

Verbs and different halloweeny things

Here is what appears to be a slightly more difficult word search than the last one I found from ELS Themes

this maze seemed REALLY hard for my other group so I’m putting here as well

Here is a math colouring worksheet (similar idea to colour by number).

Some Halloween themed word problems from Teacher Vision
I really like this idea on Teachers Pay Teachers. Just give each student a bag of M&M’s and have them complete this fraction activity. You could also add in a graphing activity.

Finally, some art ideas for Halloween can be found on

Rainbow Skies and Dragonflies (this one isn’t necessarily Halloween – which is great if you are at a religious school or any other school where Halloween may be a taboo topic.

A Faithful Attempt is one of my favourite art idea blogs. This art project could also be considered a fall art project and not necessarily Halloweeny.

Of course you can go up and get the bingo game from the other group above for some whole class fun too!... there is probably another Halloween themed bingo game out there that has more than 10 cards too.

Finally, the rest of the grades. These grades were the most difficult to find things for. What are they even into above grade 6? It’s a real mystery.

Pretty sure they would still a word search. This one from ESL Themes looked a little more difficult

The Teachers Corner has some different Halloween themed writing paper for your students to write a scary story on.

The Teachers Corner also has some riddles (with answers) for your students.

My students LOVED working with coordinate pairs last year (in grades 5 and 6). Math Aids has some 4 quadrant ones to make things a little more difficult for those upper grades.

And there you have it… a rather long list of fun, free, printable activities for you to do with your students this Halloween.

When all else fails.. plan a Halloween science experiment (or just show a bunch of Steve Spangler from YouTube

Am I missing anything? Is there something you like to do with your students that I didn’t include? Feel free to link it below in the comments section!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Case of Mistaken Identity (Part 2)

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me… in fact it happens A LOT. I’ve had random strangers in stores trying to guess my ethnicity (Chinese, Asian, Metis, Aboriginal, Hawaiian, French??). I’ve had good friends convinced that I must be Asian (I’ve also had good friends not see the Asian side in me at all). But I digress.

ANYWHO, I was substitute teaching in a grade 3 class and the class had just come in for the day. This was the very first time any of them had seen me (to my recollection) and right away one young girl approached me to ask me a very important question.

“are you…. Were you… were you born… were you born…”

At this point I’m assuming she is going to ask if I was born in Winnipeg and she is just struggling on the word Winnipeg

So she continues “were you born in China”

Wait, what.

This hasn’t happened to me in the school setting for a number of years now… in fact not since an excited Asian girl blurted out before I had time to say anything.

Anyways, I told her I wasn’t and asked her if I looked like I had been. She gave me a confused look and then told me I did look like I should have been born in China… I’m sure she wasn’t satisfied with my reply of not being born in China but I left it at that and it wasn’t brought up again.

My last name can also be a confusing concept for children to grasp. Click here for that story.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Halloween Writing Activity

I was subbing this week for a teacher that was extending her first sick day to two sick days.  When she called me she warned me that there would likely be some gaps in the day so I should feel free to bring something to do with the kiddos.  And I obliged.

Who Will You Meet on Scary Street
The first thing I did was brought a book.  This is no surprise as I've talked about it before...  I [almost] always bring a book to read to the students.

So I read it to them and then told them to create their own monsters that they would meet on scary street.  I told them that not everything on scary street needed to be scary and so there were at least a couple of girls that opted for the non scary monsters.

After they had their monsters all drawn and coloured I picked one page of the book

meet Triffid
and we used this page to work on our descriptive language.  So we talked about how looked like a plant, a venus fly trap, someone counted his teeth, and that his eyes were coming out of his head and looked like oranges.  I did this on the board in point form and then we wrote it into a short paragraph.  
I loved our last sentence
"His bite is worse than his bark"

Here are a couple of our finished products

One of the students suggested that we put all the pages together and make a class version of "Who Will You Meet on Scary Street"... there wasn't time to do that so I left it for the teacher to do.

To do this you don't need this exact book (I've had mine for years).. just go out and find any other halloween book.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How to Inform Students of Current Events (part 1)

I watched a slightly older news broadcast (from October 7) and actually found it quite interesting!... and I know my grade 5 and 6 students would have been hooked with the flooding story at the beginning.  Plus weather is in the grade 5 science curriculum!

Before you show your students one of these broadcasts there is a "warning" to the side that says they are intended for middle and high school students and that you should preview the broadcast before showing it.  
I think I would preview a couple from the previous week on the weekend and use those the following week... so they may not be watching them on the exact date that they aired but they would still likely be "current events"

How would I use this?
I could guide my students to this site for when they are the News Reporter for our TUSC meetings.
I could use it a couple times a week either at the start of the day, end of the day, or after a recess break when they need to wind down.
I could also use this as one of the centers during our guided writing groups... I would just have to find a way for them to not play it too loud or to hook up multiple sets of headphones to one computer.

I also found this google document.  I thought it had a lot going on by dividing up all the potential segments the news broadcast might have

so I made a little more simple and saved it like this...

CNN Student News recording sheet

I made it so that I have this doubled on the page... I would need to decide if at the beginning of the year I would give them a bunch of student news recording sheets to just keep in their binders or I would keep them, cut them in half, hand them out, and they would hand them back in for me to go over... I'm leaning more towards the 2nd option.

I guess the way I altered it is more specific for what I would use it for... I think I would use this as a way for students to show me that they are able to take in information and summarize and reflect on it.

I couldn't see this taking more then 15 minutes for a student to complete if they are focusing on the task (I guess there are always a few that aren't).

Later on I quickly skimmed through some of the older broadcasts and found ones on space (grade 6 science curriculum), elections (grade 6 social studies curriculum - it's just too bad it is American), and animals (maybe not directly related to the curriculum but we could come up with something!).

If you want the recording sheet I would be more than happy to send it to you (or you can make your own as mine took all of 2 minutes to make)

Would you use CNN Student News in your classroom?

PS. later on I tried to find a Canadian version of this and wasn't exactly successful... but I did come up with something!  Check back next week for what I found!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

How a Conversation About Canada Turned into a discussion about the Titanic

You know how kids are... you begin a story about your fish (RIP Sushi) and suddenly your entire class has their hands up with a story about their pet. Except for little Owen, Owen tells a seemingly unrelated story about his favourite video game. Half an hour later everyone has had a turn to talk once and you are now on the second round (because now that Owen has talked about a video game everyone else needs to share about a game).

I was teaching in a grade 3 class the other day and at the end of the day the teacher had left me a book about Canada to read with the students. We were having a great time learning about Canada and the different things about this fabulous country (it was in the style of an ABC book so A was for something and B was for something) when we got to the letter G (which was for glaciers). On each page we would stop to talk a bit more about it (because I was trying to stretch the book out to get us to the end of the day) and what did we talk about for glaciers? Naturally they decided to talk about icebergs which led to us talking about the Titanic… I guess it wasn’t so far off.

It just reminds me of the time I was getting my grade 5/6 students to come up with some reflections on fairy tales (we were using The Three Little Pigs as an example). I told them that if they were in grade 1 they would all shoot their hands up and start talking about how the grandpa’s neighbor had a pig which would lead to someone else talking about how their grandpa’s neighbour’s neighbor had a dog. Which would obviously lead to someone telling me about their cat (because it often ends with discussions on cats). They had a good laugh about it and came up with some great reflections!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Five for Friday: Ways for Teachers to be Organized for a Substitute

I've already discussed ways for teachers to remain organized this year and ways for substitute teachers to get themselves organized when you get those last minute jobs; today I bring you Ways for Teachers to be Organized for a Substitute and once again I'm linking up with Doodlebugs Teaching for another Five for Friday post.

Trust me, I know how hard it is to prepare for a substitute teacher when you aren't sick... we don't even want to think about it when we are sick!  I think I usually had to stay after school for about 30 minutes just to prepare for my subs when I had one... BUT I knew what I liked as a substitute teacher and just in case I wasn't the only one like that I wanted to prepare for my substitute the way I would want every teacher to prepare for me (as a substitute teacher).

I have over 5 years of experience as a substitute teacher so needless to say I know what I like (and I know what I don't like)... below are 5 things that I really, REALLY like to see when I come into a classroom.

Leave a Plan

Listen, I wasn't in your classroom last week and I wasn't in your classroom yesterday.  I have no idea what you were studying in ANY of the classes and if we are being completely honest with ourselves I think we would agree that sometimes kids aren't 100% honest (although you can usually find at least a couple that will show you the work they've been doing).  Chances are you do not prepare your lessons on a whim, 5 minutes prior to class starting and so we shouldn't expect substitute teachers to do the same.  Of course I have some tricks up my sleeve so that we can do some sort of learning no matter the grade but it would be so, SO, SO much more helpful if you just left a plan... plus this way we get to keep your students on whatever kind of routine you've implimented from the beginning of the year... because I also don't know that you have sharing time every day at presely 9:17.  

Also, because you are typing out a plan anyways (or photocopying your day book at the very least) it would be super helpful if you included times for when periods start and end on it... this way if we are working on an assignment I can tell them they have 10 more minutes left rather than guessing when the buzzer will ring (assuming that a buzzer will ring... because I've been in schools where they don't have these for inbetween classes)... you could even just photocopy your classroom timetable for this and leave it for me.. which ever is easier!

Make Things Easy to Find

When I had a substitute teacher come into my classroom I always left stuff in 2 places: the front table or my desk.  I didn't have them wandering all over the room pulling games from the cupboard or riffling through the filing cabinets.  I always did all of that for them ahead of time.  Having to locate and hunt around for stuff takes time and substitutes don't have a lot of that.  To make life easier for us it would be helpful if you could get it all out for us ahead of time.  Naturally, I know this isn't always possible because often you might have to call in sick from home.  No, I am not expecting you to drive to school when you are sick to set up for me... in this case it would be helpful if your classroom was just generally tidy and the games cupboard was just easy to locate so that I didn't have to open everything only to discover it was the first one I looked in but didn't see the games hiding all the way in the back.

Label Things

This was an easy one... I would leave piles of any worksheets or games that my students would do for the day on that front table or my desk and then on top of each I would leave a sticky note saying which class it was for.  All it would say was "Science" or "Math" the rest of the information was in my plan.  I would stack everything in the order the substitute would need it for the day and leave it at that.

Let Us Know About Duty!

I REALLY don't like it when I arrive at a school and am surprised to discover that I am not only on both recess duties but also for the morning.  It just makes my day a little more hectic (especially with that first thing in the morning duty because it gives me less time to look at the plan).  BUT, I would come just a little earlier if I knew about having to be on that first thing duty.  I would also come prepared with warm clothes and not wearing a dress if I knew I would be on duty on that frigid -27 day.  I always warned my substitutes when they would be on duty (whether it was a beautiful day or not)... I mean you don't get your 2 15 minute breaks when you have recess duty and sometimes that is something you'll want to prepare for on your drive to work!

Over Prepare

If at all possible I always like it when a teacher leaves too much for us to do.  I rarely feel bad when I don't get through everything a teacher left for us (but I do often try to) because a day with a substitute isn't the same as one without one.  I especially like it when in the plan there are extra things to do (like play this game if you have time, read this book, or do this page).  Having down time in a classroom with a substitute teacher can be a disaster when the students don't have anything to do... so let's keep them occupied!

Of course, if your students love to read, which mine (thankfully) always did.... giving them extra reading time in the day is a super easy way to "over prepare".

And, of course I also don't mind if there is a little extra time because I do have some tricks up my sleeve to fill some of that extra time... just don't leave too much.  Okay?

There, that wasn't so bad was it?  Now you are all prepared for your substitute and he/she will come in thinking you are just the most prepared person ever and doesn't even beleive that you left school with a headache, cold, and broken arm yesterday because your class ran like a dream!

Like I said at the beginning, I know that preparing for a sub can be tough... I would never expect this kind of preparation all the time.... but boy do I love it when I get it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What You Can't See When You Look at Me

I was substitute teaching in a grade 4 class the other week and the teacher had some art and writing projects up on the back wall of the classroom that the students had done.  I snapped a few quick pictures of them because I really liked the idea behind them:  That there is much more to a person than what they look like.  We have feelings, desires, hobbies, and interests but you don't always know what those are just by looking at a person.  

Anyways, I tried to do a Google search to see where this teacher got the lesson from... did it go with a story or another poem but I've come back relatively empty handed... the closest thing I found was this from Education World if you have any idea you should definitely let me know in the comments!

I loved their pictures, I loved their writing, and I especially loved the last couple of lines of their writing
 "All of this, you will only see, if and when you get to know me"

I think this is a great message for anyone to hear... you are not only what you look like... there is so much more to you than that and this seems like a great activity to get students thinking about all the other things they love and that make them who they are.

Once again, if you've used this in your classroom or have any idea of where this teacher got this idea let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

This Week At School

This week I was lucky enough to not only work the entire week but also only work in 2 classrooms!  I started the week off working a couple of days in a grade 8 classroom and ended it off in a grade 2 classroom.  It was in my grade 2 classroom that I discovered their All About Me posters... 2 of them stood out to me.

If these kids had a magic wand they would wish for...

1) A baby brother (aww)

2) I think this one is supposed to say that he (or she) would be a robot.

If I had a magic wand I would wish for a teaching position and class that had 20 or less students that adored me... 

What would you wish for?

Friday, October 09, 2015

Five for Friday: Substitute Organization Edition

Last week I brought you my tips for how a teacher can stay organized this school year and once again this week I'm linking up with Doodlebugs Teaching for another Five for Friday post.  
This time I'm speaking on how the substitute can keep herself (or himself) organized this school year.
Most of these ideas are ways to get you out the door faster because if your division is anything like the ones I work for you sometimes don't get that phone call early enough (well that and I just like to take my sweet time in the mornings).

So, without further ado...

Get yourself an agenda.

My first few years of substitute teaching I always used an agenda... I have always been in multiple divisions (I think the most I have ever been in is 4... or 5) and having an agenda was a necessity so that I wouldn't double book myself.  My agenda preference had a page for each month for a "month at a glance" kind of deal... that was big enough for me to write the schools that I was in each day.  This made it easier when I got my pay stubs to make sure the number of days they were paying me for was correct.. I even went as far as to colour code each separate division so that I could really just glance at it and see how many days I worked in each division.  But it also needed a couple pages for the weekdays.  On these pages I would write who I was subbing for, where I was subbing, start times, and whether I had outdoor duty.  
Why outdoor duty?  
At most schools teachers either have a day of the week that they always are on duty for or a day of the cycle (and no they don't match up here).  If I wrote it down once all I had to do was flip back in my agenda to know if I would have duty for that teacher.

This year I am not using an agenda and am trying to get by just using the calendar on my phone.  And to be honest with you... it just isn't the same *sigh*

Have a lunch ready to go

... and for the love of everything make sure it isn't a peanut butter sandwich or you'll be eating in your car!
I have a freezer full (okay, currently it isn't actually full... I wish it were!) of already portioned out leftovers that I use for my lunches.  
For the rest of my lunch I always bring the following:
some fruit (I always have apples in the fridge so if I'm in a rush that's what I'll grab)
(Fun Fact: I used to keep a box of these in my filing cabinet.. because who doesn't file away their crackers?)

So I'll just quickly grab those other few items, throw them into a lunch bag and be out the door (the crackers I put in a baggie in my purse because they are the perfect mid morning snack!)

Now, I'm not always on top of things and sometimes my freezer runs low on pre portioned out leftovers (like this week for example).  On these days I'll grab a couple of muffins that I also keep in the freezer.  

I don't believe there is really a good excuse to eat out all the time... I could never see myself doing that no matter how much I was making (money wise) and so 99% of the time I make sure I have something around to bring!

Have what you are going to be wearing ready to go

Given that I'm a substitute teacher it is fairly rare that I'll be in the same school more than a couple times a week... it also isn't always the case that I will work every day in a week.  I'm also okay with wearing something a couple *gasp* sometimes even three times before I wash it.  For these reasons I really only need about 2 outfits/week to wear to work.

at the beginning of each week I pick out 2 outfits (one always involves pants and the other is either a dress or a skirt).  I hang everything that I'll need for that outfit in a certain spot in my closet and wear it that week.  All I need to do in the morning is decide if it is a dress kind of day or a pants kind of day throw it on and I'm set.

These were my options for this week (minus shoes and jewelry which doesn't take long to decide on)

Substitute Teacher Clothes
Of course on this week I was only in 2 schools and worked the full 5 days.  So, needless to say this way doesn't always work as I had to put together a third outfit... but it usually does.

Have a stack of optional books to bring

I've written posts about this before here and here but I always ALWAYS ALWAYS bring a book when I go subbing.  I bring something for me to read (which isn't in the picture below) and a book to read to the students.  If I'm going to be in a grade 5 or higher I'll bring The Book of Awesome (you can even use it to get them to create Awesome Stories).  It is a collection of short stories.  If I'm in a grade below grade 5 I bring a picture book.  Right now, because it is October I bring a Halloween one, usually.  Except, one of the divisions I work for Halloween is a little taboo so I've got a different one there.  
Of course, just like my lunches and the outfits this book selection wasn't enough because the school I was at 3 times this week was in an early years classroom AND it was one that I couldn't bring the Halloween book to AND it was one that I had already read the other book to.  So I grabbed another one from my closet.

I keep this stack of books on a chair right by my door (sometimes I'll even move a book to my car for the week).

Substitute teacher books to bring to class

Have a quick and easy breakfast

I'm not making bacon and eggs any morning I need to work but I definitely wouldn't even consider it if I've gotten a last minute job.  And, once again, I wouldn't dream of spending money and going out to buy an over priced bagel from a fast food place.
For these reasons there are always 2 things I try to have in my place for breakfast.  The first is cereal... this is my go to breakfast on days that I work.  Unfortunately, what is cereal without milk?... although I may always have cereal in my cupboard milk will go bad or I run out and so cereal isn't always an option.
So when my milk supply is no more I always have bagels where else but in my freezer.  I'll just throw half of one of those in the toaster oven and I'm all set!  
(I know, I know - breakfast is supposed to be the most important and biggest meal of your day... mine just get bigger as the day goes on)
My bagel recommendation is for the french toast one... it's delicious and doesn't require cream cheese... because much like the milk that stuff will go bad!

So... substitutes (or former substitutes) what are your tips for being an organized substitute?  Is there anything you do to get yourself out the door faster when you get a late call?  Leave a comment below and let us know!

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Guided Writing Groups

A couple of weeks ago I talked about my Guided Math Groups... today's post is a similar idea (just for a different subject).

I think we can likely all agree that much like in math our students all have a wide range in writing abilities.  Wouldn't it be nice to hone in on each student's trouble area and not have half the class being bored because they already know how to use periods in their writing?

Before we begin though I must confess... I have never actually tried writing groups.  Math groups: yes, Reading groups: of course, I've even done spelling groups... but I never got around to trying this in my classroom (yet).

How I would set it up:

I would start by giving my students a simple writing task at the beginning of the year.  I would want to make sure they would have to write multiple paragraphs (because I would expect a lot not to know where to start a new paragraph).  I think I would get them to write me a story.  Whether I give them a story idea or not wouldn't really matter to me.  

Then, based on their writing samples I would start grouping them (I would be looking at everything in their writing other than their spelling).  Based on what I remember about my students last year I think I would begin to set up my groups like this:

Group 1 (my group that struggles the most) - Where to use capital letters
Group 2 - Punctuation
Group 3 - Paragraphs (and when we know to start a new one)
Group 4 (my top group of writers) - Describing words

How much time I devote to each topic would depend on how quickly the students in that group started showing me they were understanding.  AND, I would know they had got it when they were using the new topic in their every day writing.

Much like my Guided Math Groups I would give my ELA a 2 period block.  This would mean I would get to see each group for about 15 minutes... my centers would be as follows (using Group 1 as an example and the rest would follow):

Center 1 - work with teacher.  I would go over the lesson for them that day
Center 2 - independent work.  I would give the students a worksheet or writing assignment to work on during this time.  Eventually, I would want them to spend time writing a story... but the first couple of days would likely be worksheets on the topic.
Center 3 - Spelling activity (I had a list of different spelling activities for them to do some were individual and some were with a partner... I would expect that there would be a lot of overlap with spelling and writing groups but your spelling partner doesn't necessarily have to have the same words as you).
Center 4 - Spelling/writing/word game (I've seen giant boggle games on bulletin boards, Scrabble, Madlibs, etc).  A couple times a week I think I would also make this a silent reading/read with a partner center too.

An example of a Boggle bulletin board
You can find some free Boggle templates here and the templates for students to write on here

My group 4 would start at independent work and have their time with me at the end.

What I like about this set up?
This last year I devoted one period a day to spelling.  2 days a cycle it was for me to go over the words with them and then to give them their spelling test.  The other 4 days were for them to be practicing their words.  Incorporating it into their writing groups frees up an extra period for those 4 days.

I wouldn't worry about needing those writing samples right away because the first week of school is all about getting to know each other and learning the new expectations for the year.  After that, I would start telling them about T.U.S.C and using the writing group time to help them with all their T.U.S.C jobs.

If we are doing Guided Math that day and not whole group instruction in math class they will get a chance to play 2 games in math class and another in Writing... that doesn't seem so bad.

My students last year really enjoyed our Guided Math Groups and because the Writing Groups are the same idea (just a different subject) I would think that they would also really enjoy these periods.

I can't wait to try them out in a classroom of my own one day soon!

Have you tried Guided Writing Groups in your classroom?
How did you set them up?

Sunday, October 04, 2015

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Case #1

I'm going to preface this story with this: I work in 2 divisions.  One is rural and one is in the city... this story took place in the rural setting.

I was subbing outside of the city in a grade 2 class... but that isn't as important as this... you should know that I have a very popular last name for the rural division that I've worked for.  When an adult finds out my last name they are always asking me if I know this or that person (which I never do because all my relatives that live in my province live in the city)...

ANYWHO... grade 2

I had perused the class list and noticed that one of the boys had the same last name as me (again, not uncommon in this division... the last 2 years I've taught I have had students that shared my last name).  I told the class my last name and this little boy (that I'm going to call Darryl) excitedly announces "HEY, THAT'S MY LAST NAME!"

Yes, yes... and we are over it.  Clearly this boy is already well aware that he is going to run into others with his last name and it is barely a big deal... he just needed to make his extra loud announcement.

Class goes on for about an hour or so when one little girl approaches me and is very concerned... "Ms. P" she says.. "is Darryl your younger brother"

In case you didn't know... I'm 30.  I think in grade 2 kids are about 7.  That's quite the age difference there!  But I politely told her no and back to work we went.

And I left with a smile on my face because I'm sure those kids thought I was 12.

On an unrelated note this week I received an email from my union stating that they think they had given me 2 files and 2 numbers over the years and they needed to confirm a bunch of stuff (like where I attended university, previous address', my middle name, and different meetings  I had attended).  In the end they decided that the 2 files both belonged to me and they gave me a fancy new number (which I'm assuming is just my original number) and are sending a new card in the mail.  Huzzah for new cards?

Friday, October 02, 2015

Five For Friday: Teacher Organization Edition

I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching on this lovely Friday to do Five for Friday... a post where one would normally speak on 5 things from the week or day.  I'm doing it a little different though.  I'm speaking on 5 tips to keep yourself organized this year.  This week is the teachers edition to staying organized and next week I'll have 5 tips on how to keep the substitute organized.

But enough with the yammering... let's get started... shall we?

I would like to start off this post by saying that in order to stay organized you don't (and shouldn't) do all of these things... it just wouldn't make sense.  Just some thoughts I had on how to keep yourself organized this school year.
Get a Teacher Planner
Whether you make it yourself or buy one at the store it doesn't really matter... just have one. 
Confession: my first year of teaching I hardly ever wrote in my planner.  I thought I had it all together and when I knew I didn't have it all together (which, if I'm being completely honest, I likely rarely had it ALL together) I just thought writing stuff in my planner would take too long.  My 2nd year of teaching I used my planner nearly every day.  I tried to write a couple of days in advance in it (one day, once I've been teaching for a while, I would like to be able to write a week in advance).  It was a lifesaver.  I'll forever use a teacher planner when I'm teaching and I think you should too.
The planner I used had a column down the side of the page for "notes"... I liked this because I could write where we got to with something or things I needed to mark, or what I needed to buy/bring from home, etc.

Use a cart to stay organized

You can find this one here but I'm pretty sure Michaels also sells them and they almost always have a 405 coupon in their flyer... so shop around!

There was something like this in my classroom and I labelled them according to subject (and sometimes grade when they were doing different things).  Then I would do a bunch of photocopying and keep the pages in these bins so that I knew I would have it when I needed it.  With the extra bins I had a couple of missed work ones where students could come and pick up what they missed, a bin with some "I'm Through" work in, and the larger bottom ones held the teachers stuff that would be returning to her classroom.

Binders - one for each day of the week (or cycle)
I've thought about it and I would REALLY like to be able to plan a week in advance.  I'm not sure if this is possible until I've been teaching the same grade and subjects for at least a couple of years but I would really like it to.  Once I've got an idea of everything I will be getting through and how long it all takes I think I would have a binder for each day of the week (likely a different colour of binder for each day).  Inside each binder I would use dividers to section of the different subjects I teach and inside those different sections I would put the work that I would be handing out to students, lessons for the week, books I would be reading... basically anything I could need that could be placed in a binder.  This would be a HUGE help for when I need a substitute teacher too... it always took me at least a half an hour at the end of the school day to get everythig photocopied and layed out for a substitute that would be coming in the next day... could you imagine just being able to pull a binder off your shelf for that substitute instead?  That's the dream.
Accordian files could also work for this... I just thought binders would be better for storing on a shelf.

Hand in and Hand back Bins
A way to keep track of things to hand back and things to mark.  I've always used hand in and hand back bins (last year I put them on top of that organizational cart in #1).  When there was stuff in the in bin I knew I had marking to do (helpful hint: don't bring your marking home... mine never got done that way but if I stayed at school an extra half an hour and got there a little earlier I found that for that most part I was able to stay on top of it).  If you teach multiple classess you might want to have some other sort of filing system for this... so that you don't get all the grades and classes mixed up (which would make it more difficult for handing back bit)

No Clutter!
Stay away from clutter!  This was always a hard one for me because the classrooms that I've taught in have always been someone else's that would be returning from a maternity leave.  If I had my own classroom I would get rid of resources that I don't use to free up shelf space, counter space, and cupboard space.  Space is not always at a premium in classrooms and I think it would be lovely to use some of that shelf and cupboard space to put extra things you might need for teaching (like some art supplies) and free up some extra cupboard space for games, and puzzles for students.  I just love the look of an organized classroom and you can often tell an organized room from an unorganized one as soon as you walk in.

So, now it's your turn.. 
what do you do to help yourself stay organized this school year?

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