Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Halloween plans and a freebie

Halloween is on it's way.  Are your students starting to get excited?  I've definitely noticed that the level of noise in my classroom is increasing this week.
Right now we're working on Communities and Responsibilities in Social Studies, because I like to hold off on doing Halloween activities until "the week of" to avoid the over stimulation.  Luckily Halloween falls on a Friday this year:  the best possible scenario!
But I must admit that I'm getting a bit excited about it myself.  Especially since we picked the pumpkins from our garden last weekend.  We had lots of plain ones that will be good for carving, but these were a variety we put in called "Cinderella".  We had no idea just what they were like until mid August when they really started to take shape.  They won't be good for carving, but very cool for display.  (They got pretty big).

One of the grade one teachers in our school always organizes rotating Halloween centers for us on the morning of Halloween.  We have 6 primary classes this year, so that means blocks of about 25 minutes.  Last year I decided to use my time with each class taking a group Halloween picture that I emailed to their teachers who forwarded them to the parents.  Then we did "Looking for Dracula" by the fabulous Charlotte Diamond, which I used to have on tape but now have on iTunes.  I love doing it and the kids always enjoy it too.  I found a video on You Tube:

During the week leading up to Halloween this year I made a set of survey questions and a graphing activity to go with them to put into my Math centers.  The kids always love doing surveys and I made a back-to-school set like this that we did in September and it was a huge hit.

First they choose the question they want to ask.  I go over them first so the grade ones know what they are, then the pictures help them remember.  Then I give them the graphing sheet and the title and labels that go with it.  Once they have glued the question and the labels onto the graphing sheet they get a class list and they can go around surveying their classmates.  Each time they ask someone they cross the name off the list and put an X in the box above the answer to make the graph.

When we did it in September I had quite a few kids ask if they could do more than 1 survey.  To me that is the hallmark of a good classroom activity;  they enjoy it so much that they want to do it again.
Click here to see it in my store.

I'm looking forward to seeing all the great ideas that will be popping up on teaching blogs this week and next.  I'll be back with a few more of my own, too.

Here is a link to a Halloween freebie in my store.  It's a pack of pumpkin frames and writing papers.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Pumpkin Blanket

The Pumpkin Blanket by Deborah Turney Zagwyn is a favourite of mine for fall classroom read alouds.
It is the story of Clee who receives a quilted blanket as a baby gift. It becomes her special blanket as she grows up and readers are treated to views of her through the seasons as she enjoys it as she plays and draws comfort from it. 

As Clee approaches school age she helps her father in the garden and especially enjoys the pumpkin patch. When frosty fall weather threatens the pumpkins Clee gives up her cherished blanket square by square to protect the pumpkins from freezing. 
This story with its beautifully evocative illustrations conjures up powerful images of growing up and letting go. It is a wonderful text for making personal connections and mental images. You can almost FEEL the chill in the air. It also provides a great opportunity for a discussion on sharing and giving. 
I love the mysterious mood that Zagwyn evokes in this book. If you haven't read this story before I highly recommend it. (Be prepared to get a little choked up, especially if you have kids of your own....).
After reading this book I often give the kids a piece of drawing paper and have them design their own quilt square.  Then I put them all together in a hall display. 
Because this story has such wonderful imagery it is good for launching a fall poem. I use this form to get them started. 

Click here to get a copy. Sometimes we just do this and not write a poem - depends on the age and ability of the class. The poem makes a good choice for Work on Writing for individual students even if the whole class isn't writing their own. 

For reluctant or emergent writers I provide a set of cards to help them be successful. Last year I had a little fellow in my class who was refusing to write anything. With the support of these cards he finished the form above with one adjective for each noun and went on to write a basic "Fall Is...." poem. Click here to see the cards in my TpT store. They're free until Saturday. 

I made the pumpkin frame and several other writing papers and they're free too. Click here to get them. 

It's a little late in the week for Mentor Text Monday, but I'm linking up with Emily from The Reading Tutor OG anyway. Better late than never, right?  To see more pumpkin themed books click here.

Monday, 22 September 2014

If Everybody Did with a FREEBIE

If Everyone Did by Jo Ann Stover was one of my favourite book finds last year. I read it to my grade two class in September and they howled with laughter at the outrageous consequences when everyone breaks the rules. 

Rhyming text and hilarious illustrations engage the book's audience and make it fun to read aloud. 
If one person walks inside with muddy shoes footprints are left behind, but:

If one person squeezes the cat: 

The book provides excellent opportunities to make text-to-self connections and is a perfect lead-in for a discussion about personal and community responsibility. 

The best part, though, is that Stover ends What If Everybody Did with examples what happens when good choices are made. 

After reading the book I had the class draw pictures of one situation where kids at school all do something they shouldn't and the consequences (an example was everyone left their things out on the floor instead of putting them away in their lockers). Then they did a second drawing of something they could do to make the school or our classroom a better place. 

Looking back, I think I should have read this book at least 2 or 3 times to my class last year!
I made an Incentive tag to give to students who help others. 
If you'd like it you can get it free at my TpT store by clicking here.

For more books that foster responsibility click to visit Emily at The Reading Tutor/OG for Mentor Monday.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Back to School AT LAST!!!!!

Back to work AT LAST The longest teachers' strike in B.C. history is finally OVER!  We're able to get back into our hastily-abandoned classrooms this morning. Three days to put things in some kind of order for kids' arrival Monday. Not much chance of classroom makeovers here this year.....
We learned in mid-June after we were at school that it would be our last day on the job until an agreement was reached. I'm SO happy to get back to work!
Here's what my calendar looked like when I walked into my classroom after 3 months. 
It was like the education clock had stopped cold. And I guess it actually did. 

Here's my classroom looked like.

 This needed tidying, but THIS is a bigger problem:

While we were off I made a few things to use this year at school. I posted about Incentive tags here. Last week I finished up a bundle with tags for every month of the year. 
I also made a mini bundle of Fall tags:

Click  here to go to TpT if you'd like them.

Loving my laminating machine. It's getting quite a work out the last few days as I get things ready to go back. 

This is what my classroom looked like after a few hours of work today. It's surprising what you can do in a few hours.

It's much better, but I think I'll have some weekend time.  My so-called desk area still needs quite a bit of organization.  I got rid of my desk last year in a bid to save room. I was totally disconbobulated for a few months, but eventually came to love it. 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Ten Red Apples

Ten Red Apples by Pat Hutchins is a fun, simple countdown book. Bright illustrations and repetitive rhyme make this book engaging.

At the beginning of the story the tree has ten apples, but animals arrive and eat them one by one.  The horse is first: Ten red apples hanging on the tree./ Yippee, fiddle-dee-fee!/ Horse came and ate one,/ chomp, chomp, chomp./ Neigh, neigh, fiddle-dee-fee./ "Horse!" cried the farmer./ "Save some for me!" 

Finally there's only one remaining apple. But the farmer's wife has been planning to make a pie. 

I often stop reading the book at this point and ask for predictions about how the story will end. There are always lots of entertaining ideas. Sometimes I read the end (The farmer spots another tree with ten apples), but sometimes I give them this sheet to complete first.

If you'd like a copy click here.  (There's a second page with plain lines)

There are oodles of possibilities for activities to go with this book. I find that having a picture book read to them is a real treat for older students, and this one is good for them to use as a template for writing their own countdown booklets. Change the farmer to a soccer player, change the apples to soccer balls.........let their imaginations run!  If you use this idea and have a younger "buddy class" these booklets are great for sharing with their little buddies. I have also done them as a joint project with older and younger buddies.

This book is available from Amazon here.  There is a good "peek inside'. 

I also found this video on  YouTube
Amazingly I think that I am actually going to be able to imbed it into my blog!!!

I'm linking up with at The Reading Tutor OG for Mentor Monday today. Click here  to find more good book ideas to use with your class. This week it's all about apples!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

More incentive tags and an October freebie

I'm going to talk more about these wonderful tags that work so well in my classroom. They have so many different names - Brag Tags, Behavior Tags, Behavior beads. Whatever they're called, I've found they are great for student motivation. This year I've decided to call them Incentive Tags because it sounds more positive than Behaviour Tags (which I used to call them).

I blogged about how I use them for Math and a freebie Math tag here.  

I used the tags last year together with my clip chart. Students got ONE point if they finished on GOOD CHOICES, TWO points for finishing on WAY TO GO, and THREE points if they ended on STAR STUDENT (I didn't dock them points for being in the red because I thought that might be too discouraging and have the opposite effect than I wanted).

I kept track of their points each day and a couple of times a month I'd give them chances to use their points to buy tags. I saw a great idea a couple of weeks ago from Elementary AMC that you can see here. She made classroom money to give out for the points. I am going to try giving out the money at the end of each day instead of juggling their points on a sheet, which was time consuming and could become confusing at times. This way each student can keep their own "money" and they'll know exactly how much they have to spend. With my tally system they were constantly asking how many points they had. 

I had some tags that were suitable for them to get for their points, but I needed more. I didn't want them to buy the reward tags that were for specific behaviours or accomplishments, so I decided to make monthly tags that they could buy. I couldn't believe how popular these became. The kids liked them so much that several months I ended up making two different tags. Here's a look at the October tags.
I made them in sheets of 20 tags. I'm going to put them in my TpT store soon, but if you'd like to get them free they're available  here for a short time. Just print, laminate, cut apart and hole punch and they're ready to distribute. 

I checked out the chains that I'd seen other teachers were using to hold the tags, but they're pretty expensive in Canada. So I made lanyards from parachute cord that I got from Michael's. 

Tie a loop in one end and tie a clip like this to the other and you're ready to go. 

I'm linking up with Joanne from at Head Over Heels for Teaching for 

To see more ideas for inspiring your students check out other blogs on this topic here.