Monday, November 30, 2015

Countdown To Christmas In The Classroom

Some of your may have found your way here from my other blog Confessions of a Modern Day Mennonite where I am counting down to Christmas with Blogmas.  If you're a new reader I just wanted to say welcome here!

Today we are talking about ways to count down to Christmas in your classroom!

Only once have I done a countdown for Christmas in my classroom.  It was my first year as a teacher and I was teaching kindergarten on a week to week basis because the regular teacher had lost her voice.  So, my idea was not the most thought out... but I'm going to share it with you anyways!

What I did when I was teaching kindergarten was we made a green and red paper chain (I can't recall if I did this with the students or not but I do recall that we were learning about patterns at the time so it kind of just fit right in with that).  and we hung it up on the bulletin board... not in any fancy full way... we just had it hanging down the side.  Every morning I would call on a different student to come and snip one ring off the chain and every day we watched the chain get smaller and smaller until, on the last day of school, we removed the last one from the board!  It was okay... but I've seen better ideas!

Most of them are things you can buy or make and although I'm no so sure about you I know that I NEVER had time to make anything around this time of year (although, hopefully, if you made it once you could reuse it every year).  For this reason I'm going to show you some that you could reuse every year (or you can just head to the Dollarstore and buy a cheap chocolate one... assuming you have 25 or fewer students (and I really hope you do!)

My other requirement was that they wouldn't take up a lot of space.  Now, I've always been in someone else's room waiting for them to return from their sick leave or maternity leave... so it has always been full of someone else's things.  Maybe if I had a room of my very own it wouldn't be so full.  But I'm just going to assume that space isn't always at a premium in a classroom and therefore these advent calendars can't take up a lot of it (space that is).

Growing up my mom had one that I'm assuming she (or my grandma) made out of felt... similar to this one

Felt Advent Calendar

I'm thinking you (the teacher) could make the tree and the pockets with numbers and every year each student could make the different ornaments to put on it... I would stick them on with pieces of velcro (just like my mom's)... one side of the velcro stays on the tree and the other side goes on the back of each of the ornaments.  Just before the break you can either give students their ornaments back or you can save them for the next year's crew to glean ideas from.

This next idea I got from The Primary Techie
She made her own out of a tool organizer thingy.  Where all those numbers are is a drawer which would hold a surprise for the student that opens it.  I think I would also include some kind of holiday trivia, fun facts, riddles, or problem of some kind (especially if I were teaching middle school)... something for the whole class to be involved in at the beginning of each day.   

The Primary Techie also reads the story "Waiting for Christmas: A Story About The Advent Calendar" which I think even my middle schoolers would have enjoyed.

Want more advent calendar ideas? 
Check out my personal blog for to see the advent calendar I made for myself to count down the days until Christmas.

Do you do anything special in your classroom to count down the days until Christmas? 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Just Dance

Did you know that you can find Just Dance on Youtube? 

Did you know that doing it with your class of nursery and kindergarten students is just the cutest thing ever?

The class that I was substituting for loved their One Direction!

We used is at a break after carpet time and as a replacement for gym.

Of course it doesn't actually monitor if you are doing it correctly but that class didn't know the difference!  Plus, the older grades might just want to dance and be happy with that!

I could also see this being used:
- For indoor recess 
-  To do during a class party (at the end of the year last year all the grade 5 and 6 teachers worked together to plan something different in their rooms.  We had a game room, movie room, and karaoke room (maybe this could have replaced my karaoke room).

How else could you use Just Dance in the classroom?

Friday, November 27, 2015

5 things I'm thankful for

T'is the season of recognizing that a lot of us are very blessed. I know I am. Although I celebrated Thanksgiving over a month ago (because I'm Canadian) I thought I would write this up for the American Thanksgiving instead (since most of my readers are from there anyways).

I'm linking up with Doodlebugs Teaching today for this post.

So, in no particular order


This guy.

He is nice and awesome and sometimes he buys me flowers just because. And girls, we should all be so lucky to have someone in our lives that buys us flowers just because.


My Place.

I love my condo and I love that I got it all on my own. I'm so fortunate to be able to find work and earn enough to buy this place.
Yes, the lighting is bad... it happens when you take the picture after you get home from work.


 My Friends.

These girls are wonderful. Sometimes we give each other scarves for Christmas.



I'm also very fortunate to always have food in my fridge. I'm so fortunate that sometimes I have too much food in my fridge and it goes bad.  


My job. 

I may not have a classroom of my own this year but I still love my job. I'm thankful that I was able to work every single day last month.

I'm also thankful for my parents, my sisters (who are in the group of girls I called my friends), and the rest of my extended family, my boyfriends family, a warm house, a comfy bed, my slow cooker, warm showers, warm hugs, my lifegroup, snow (even though the cold comes with it), hot chocolate, cookies, my car, Christmas, my church, my pastor, a good book to read, frozen pizzas that are on sale (because sometimes a girl just doesn't want to cook), and anything else that's on sale... the list could go on and on.  I'm just really thankful!

What are you thankful for this year?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Days like These

Found this here

Had a day like this recently where you were just flying by the seat of your pants?

Maybe you went in thinking you would be an English teacher and ended up being the phys-ed teacher or maybe you went in thinking it was grade 9 and it ended up being kindergarten.
Whatever it is, we've all been there (or at least I have).
You can read about some of my experiences here or here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Social Media in the Classroom

social media is big these days.  I would be shocked if you taught a class that was grade 4 (or higher) that didn't know about one form of social media (even if they aren't on it their older siblings may be or their parents).

first up, Facebook.

Everyone and their mom has Facebook these days (except I don't have it... nor does my mom).  If you Google for a Facebook template you'll get a lot of good options.  I found this site which has 7.  My favourite?  #6.  It has a lot of information that you can include (perfect for older grades) and I would take out  the last page for sure for anything below grade 6 I think.

How I would use a Facebook profile in the classroom?  I think I would introduce the idea near the beginning of the year with them having to make one for themselves.  We are all experts on ourselves so knowing what information to put in the spaces wouldn't be the issue... we would spend the bulk of our time getting to know the template and what all has to be changed (before doing this I think I would make one for myself as a way to introduce myself to my students)

Now that we all know how the template works I would use it in one of two ways or both ways if they are really loving the Facebook.

1.  Make a profile for the main character in a book we (or just them) are reading.  Last year we did The Westing Game as one of our read alouds which has A LOT of characters in it.  I gave each student a different character and their job while I read the book was to gather information about their character.  Because it was a murder mystery we made wanted posters for our characters near the end of the book... but it could have been these Facebook profiles.

2.  In Social Studies you learn about all kinds of people from the past.  Students could take the time to make a Facebook profile for anyone that we are studying here.  Past prime ministers, an explorer, a famous Canadian... the options would really be endless and it might almost be hard to not make these over and over again!

here's a bonus third way if you are an art teacher... you could make the bulletin board yourself or get your students to help.

Next, we have Twitter.

Much like Facebook I'm not on Twitter either but I know enough about it that I could use it in my classroom.

A long, long time ago I saw this filing cabinet in one of the classrooms I was visiting.  Students used it as a space to regularly say what they were up to or had been up to.

Here we have an example of a bulletin board where students can write about what they are doing

But, as a way to link this back to the curriculum you could also use it in in Social Studies (or again with a book students are reading) where students write out tweets for what their character is doing in the book they are reading or what they are learning about in Social Studies.

If I were using this idea in my classroom I think I would just stick with the filing cabinet idea.  No need to make everything big, elaborate, and amazing.  Students will love to write on the filing cabinet and inform their classmates of what they are doing.  Plus it gets them writing... even if it is just 144 characters at a time (no, I wouldn't hold them to this number... but no writing novels on the filing cabinet either!).

Next up, Instagram (are you shocked that I also do not have this?)

Just like above I think if I were to use an Instagram themed bulletin board or space in my classroom I would be keeping it simple.  Print off some photos that we had been taking them, crop and cut them so that they are a square and post them for students to look at.  Voila!  Instead of using it for just one classroom you could also use it for the whole school as one of the main bulletin boards in the hallway

Finally, Pinterest (which, you guessed it, I'm also not on).

This one I struggled with for a bit but in the end I thought you could use it as a way for students to write (and draw) about their favourite thing they learned about in the last week, or month... or however often you want to do it.  You could post them on your Pinterest bulletin board because it is what students were (hopefully some still are) interested in.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Funky Friday

... On a Sunday

The other day I was in a grade 4 classroom where they subscribed to the idea of "Funky Friday".  This meant that at the end of the day; once the classroom was all cleaned up and everyone had filled in their agendas the students would stack all the chairs, push the tables to the side of the room, and turn out all the lights (yes, we even closed the blinds).  And then... we danced.

Here was the set up... they knew Funky Friday was coming and we were writing in our agendas and let me tell you... I've never seen an entire class get their agendas done faster than this one.  I barely had time to put down the white board marker and pick up a pen (and find the princess stickers in the teachers desk because they insisted on stickers) before I had a line up of students waiting to get their agendas signed.

Then all of a sudden I had a student pulling a chair up to what I'm going to call the dj station (he was creating a play list on YouTube of all the songs we would listen/dance to in a couple minutes.  Another student found a disco ball somewhere... I swear they just pulled it out of their pocket.  And another one had a flashlight.

Then the lights went out and the blinds went down and the music started playing.

Most of the class was dancing.

I had one student hiding under a table and one student was always holding the flashlight while sitting on a table.  Their job was to apparently shine the flashlight at different people and then they would have to dance for everyone.  This didn't always happen though so their job was also to shine the flashlight at the disco ball (because it wasn't a fancy disco ball that lite up anything).  Another student was in change of holding the disco ball... although they also told me that they hang it from the lights (which were about 10 feet above the ground so I didn't let them do that).

What kinds of dance moves did we bust out?  I had students "break dancing" which is also known as acting like a crazy person on the ground.  Others were doing the worm.  But the best part was when pretty much the entire class danced to Watch Me Whip/Nae Nae

FINALLY, I know how to Nae Nae

Friday, November 13, 2015

Five Apps to use in the Classroom

(that are all free!)

Okay folks, technology is big, BIG, BIG these days… it’s even bigger than us just having computers in our classrooms.. now we get SmartBoards and tablets, and iPads as well. Some of these app suggestions require an iPad (or something similar) that you are willing to let your students use. Others you can use just on your iPhone… I decided that any that required you to have multiple iPads in the classroom was perhaps asking too much (so I left them out). Also, I don't have an Android device so I don't know if you can find all these Apple apps for Android as well... but I'm sure there is something similar out there!

Today I'm linking up with Doodlebugs Teaching for another Five for Friday post!

Let's get started,



Great for exit notes! The best part about using this for exit slips is that you get your results right away – no trying to decipher students writing that they quickly scribbled down at the end of class.



I used this app in my classroom last year (when we had an iPad). With this app you have to be willing to give students the use of an iPad (preferably) but an iPhone or iPod (with a camera) would work as well.

In my room we used it when students did a written piece for our Museum of Language Arts (MOLA) they would make a video to go along with the piece. It was usually up to them and could have been them reading the work, an about the author, a demonstration, or the next part of their writing. The only rule was that it had to have some kind of connection to their writing. Then, when a student held the device up the work the app would recognize the writing and pull up the video for them to watch.

By using this app I had students reading others work AND doing some presenting in front of a camera as well!


My Math Flashcards

I could see this being used in a small group. It would be awesome if you had a couple iPads/Phones/Pods to play it on so that a small group of 6 could pair off into 3 groups but this may not be the case (maybe you could get all your friends to sell you their old idevices for super cheap?).


Random Name Selector

Do you keep a jar of popsicle sticks on your desk with the student names on it? Because I always have. It just made it super easy to pick a few names from there for making groups. But gone are those days. Now an app will put your students into groups for you (or pick students to call on randomly).


Epic Books

I could also see this one being used in small groups (maybe during my writing centers?). Luckily, all the classes that I have taught have still found books to be exciting BUT if that started to change you could just pull out your iPad with this app on it. You can choose to have it read to you or you can read the stories yourself.

Last year I think I would have let a different student use it every day we had buddy reading… we didn’t have a lot of picture books to read to our grade 1 buddies and that is what my students wanted to read... despite me insisting their buddies would be happy with a chapter book!

Last week I did a Five for Friday post on 5 Ways to Use Technology in your Classroom.  So, if you are still looking for ideas for how to use technology in your classroom you should definitely check out that post!  Some of the things I talk about on there can also be found in the apple store (Spelling City and Sumdog)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Giving to Others This Christmas

I know it's a little early to start talking about Christmas but I just finished a post on my other blog and I thought it could apply in a classroom setting as well.

The last couple of years that I had a classroom of my own I've always asked my students what they want to do for Christmas and they have always decided to pull names and buy a present for one of their classmates.  It has always worked with great success!  I feel like I've been pretty lucky to work in an area where students needs are being provided for them... but this isn't always the case.

John and I filled two reusable containers instead of shoeboxes
I wrote about Operation Christmas Child on my other blog and I think it could apply here too.  To get your students to think about others on a global scale why not try to see how many shoe boxes your classroom could fill?  You may not even have to have any specific requirements... just to have them bring in what they can (letting them know the guidelines set out by Samartine's Purse of course).  Shoe boxes are likely due back before December even starts... so you could do this and talk about others around the world and then on the last day of school have your own Christmas party where you exchange gifts with each other.

Later on in December, your class could also do a hamper for a needy family in the city/town that you work in... we have a Cheer Board where I live that a class could likely easily put a hamper together for.

This is everything we manages to fit inside... we filled
them for boys in the 10-14 age category.
Christmas shouldn't just be a time about giving to your friends and family... or getting from your friends and family... it should be about spreading cheer to EVERYONE!

AND... you could also learn about some of the places the boxes go to... I know that where I live in the grade 4 social studies curriculum they are to learn about 2 different places in the world.  Maybe this could be how you pick those 2 places?

Anyways, like I said at the beginning I wrote about this on my other blog Confessions of a Modern Day Mennonite (if you want more information).

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Let's Remember

I originally had a different post planned for today but then I realized that I had a Christmas post scheduled on Remembrance Day and that didn't seem right.

If you are anything like the teachers I am subbing for you are in the midst of report card writing.  But maybe in between figuring out what kind of grade to give Amber and Jodi you could take time to think about all those people that fought for and gave their lives for your country.

And today's original post will come tomorrow.. let's not forget what is important today though.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Remembrance Day/Memorial Day in the Classroom

On November 11th we are going to be honoring all those who have fought (and are currently fighting) for our country.  On November 10th schools across this great country will hold a service to remember those same people.  I've always struggled with what I can do with my students to honor this day and to make sure they recognize what an important sacrifice these people made.  Here are a few ideas that I've found though

Once again, everything is free...

This anyone can easily do and shouldn't really require a link but I just put in Remembrance Day into a search on teachers pay teachers and then organized it all by price... there were quite a few free things that I think you should check out.

I was subbing in a grade 5 classroom this past week and the teacher didn't leave much of a sub plan.  Luckily, I had an EA in my room who was happy to go and find supplies that I needed for an art project and I knew I had done one a couple of years ago when I taught grade 4.  Unfortunately, they didn't have paint so I altered my Poppy Art Project just a little and I think they turned out quite good.

I searched on the Canadian Government site and came across all of these resources

I was also subbing in a grade 4 class this past week and the teacher asked me if we could create a poppy wreath (for this schools Remembrance Day service a representative from each class walks in carrying the wreath.

  In that same grade 4 classroom the teacher had left a book for us to "read" I put read in quotation marks because this was a wordless picture book.  But the message was a strong one (I wonder if she choose it for now because of the message... she probably did).  Anyways, I took a picture of one of the first pages and the last page.  Basically, it appears that the mouse starts a fight with the frog because he has a flower.  It turned into both of them gathering up all their friends and starting a big fight (one might even say war).  You can tell that a lot happened just by looking at the first and last pages... the first page looks beautiful and green and a fantastic place to live.  Whereas the last page looks dirty and ruined and desolate and a not so great place to live.  We talked about how war can do more than just take lives... it ruins the places that it takes place too.  We talked about how the tiniest of things can blow up into something much bigger. We talked about how war and fighting is not the answer or the way to solve problems.  The book was titled "Why" by Nikolai Popov if you are interested in seeing if your library has it (or if you want to quickly run out and buy it).

Activity Village has more activities to do for Remembrance Day (colouring pages, worksheets, word searches, information, and poems).

Also, in that grade 4 class (this teacher had it together for Remembrance Day stuff!) we read Bunny the Brave War Horse by Elizabeth Macleod.  The students loved this book!  It was a bit of different spin on regular talks about Remembrance Day because it was about an animal.  I really liked the part in the book where it talked about how animals didn't get the choice but to be in the war.  It also gives facts throughout it and at the end.  But I think what really drew the students in was that it was based on a true story.

And finally, here are a couple of videos you could show your students

This first one is by poppy Scotland but I showed it to a class of grade 5 students and they enjoyed it.

This one is a song and photos.  I like that there are more current photos and ones from a long time ago.

What activities are you doing with your class this Remembrance or Memorial Day?

Friday, November 06, 2015

Five for Friday – Five Ways to Use Technology in your classroom

Technology is big in schools (at least around here it is).  I'm sure your principal, superintendent, and community would be pleased as punch to see your utilizing all those expensive technological things your classroom (in my old classroom we had 2 of them... perhaps you've heard of them - computers).  So, here are 5 ways to use those computers to your (and your students) advantage.

So, once again I'm linking up with Doodlebugs Teaching for another Five for Friday post. 

Be sure to review the news program before you show it and then give them a sheet to record some summaries and thoughts on.

Have students create their own personal blogs.  You can make it so they can comment on each others too.  This way they are writing AND reading.  You might want to make sure you have it so that you review the posts and comments before they get published to eliminate any inappropriate comments/posts or plagiarism.
I briefly talk about Kidblog here

Use it in an early years classroom for brain breaks or for something to do during indoor recess or as something to do to calm the students down after recess.  I’ve been using this quite a bit while subbing – I recently had a busy class of grade 2 students that we would “play a game” after each recess to get them quieted down after recess.

Set each of them up with an account (you might want to send home a letter before doing this to give the parents the option for using their child’s first and last name on the site or if they would rather you make up a name like “batman” for them to use on it.

I wouldn’t use this beyond grade 6 (even then it may be stretching it a little).  But if you register for the site you are given your own home page and you can put your students spelling words on there for every week.  If you have your students in different spelling groups you can give them each a colour (or animal, or number, or whatever you want) and all they have to do is find their groups words.  Then they get to play games that help them practice their spelling words and do practice tests with them to get them ready!  There is a letter you can print off to send home so that they can do this at home (and not just at school).

My lasat Five for Friday post was a couple weeks ago on  teacher organization for substitutes.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

How to Inform Students About Current Events (part 2)

a couple weeks ago I talked about using CNN Student News in your classroom in Part 1 of this 2 part series  to try to generate interest for current events and to keep your students informed on what's going on in the world around them.

At the end of that post I mentioned that I was trying to find a Canadian version of it (just because some of the things like the elections for example are more American)... I said I wasn't exactly successful but did come across Teaching Kids News

If you happen to know of a different Canadian version of CNN student news you should definitely let me know in the comments below.

Anyways, Teaching Kids News is a site that you can get news articles from (so instead of viewing the news story they will be reading about it).  I don't think I would have used this when I was teaching my grade 5/6 class.. some of the language can be difficult to understand.  I would definitely use it above grade 6 though!

What I liked about this is that there is pretty much nothing you (the teacher or substitute) have to do other than print off the article for your students... and you don't even have to do that!... because you could just read it to them.

I started off with the article on the Canadian Vote and also read the article on Mars.  I think some of the questions with the voting article would be easier for students to answer BUT I also think that sometimes we need to challenge students more.  Yes they may struggle through that first question about what the discovery of water on Mars means to them but they will be exercising their brains and their ability to think by doing it.

Anyways, at the bottom of the article there are writing prompts, reading prompts, and a language feature question.  ALREADY DONE FOR YOU!  That's right, you don't have to sit there and think up 3 questions for your students because someone else did it for you... isn't life grand (sometimes)?

Much like CNN Student News I don't think I would use this more than a couple times a week.  I would probably use it at the beginning of the class when kids are coming in from another room and need to get settled and doing something quickly.  Maybe give them 20 minutes of class time to do it and then move along to something else (and make anything they didn't get finished homework).

How would you use Teaching Kids News in your classroom?

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Very Important Questions Students Ask

1) What’s your name?
2) What’s your first name?
3) No really, what is your first name?
4) Where do you live?
5) How old are you?
6) Do you have any pets?
7) Are you married?
8) When is your birthday?
9) Do you get paid to be here?
10) Are you wearing a skirt or a dress?

Yes, it’s true… I’ve been asked each and every one of these questions (many on a regular basis). 

I’ll admit that the last question I’ve only been asked once (that I can recall at least). I guess 2 of the girls in my class were having a very important discussion on as to whether I was wearing a dress or a skirt. Each one insisting that she was right (in the most quiet way ever because I had no idea this was going on). When suddenly one of their hands goes up and they ask their very important question “Ms. Penner, are you wearing a dress or a skirt?” I told them it was a dress (though I could definitely see how it could appear to be a skirt/shirt combo) and solved another one of their burning questions.

#9 I'm assuming was because we had been having so much fun in class that day that the student that asked me if I got paid to be there just couldn't understand how someone would get paid to have fun!  Psst... we were playing Snake and doing Go Noodle
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