Jul 29, 2011

Classroom Update

Lots of things have been happening in my classroom, namely getting ready for September and some painting, actually a lot of painting. More on this later. 
 Here are the first pictures I've taken of my room. As all of you well know, it's work in progress. 

 Don't you love the mess on the shelves? Since this photo has been taken most of it has been returned to it's correct location.

Now for the painting project. I have decided to paint my GORM shelves from IKEA. They are great shelves for the classroom. I've cut them into smaller shelves to accommodate little people who can't reach really high. They were the standard brown and I thought it would be nice to add some bright spots in the room. 
I've made quite a mess with the spray paint. I can't work outside because we've got a tremendous amount of wind here and spray painting in the wind isn't recommended. I tried it and it didn't work.

They are so much easier to paint when not assembled. I'll have to remember this for the new ones I buy next week.

This is nice and bring but I think have 10 of these bright shelves around the room will be too much.
This has since been primed and it's ready to get it's paint tomorrow.
After painting one full shelf and returning it to it's original location and starting on the others, I'm not sure I'm going to love the yellow. Don't get me wrong, I love the brightness of the color but having the larger shelf at the front with this big bright color might be WAY too much for me. Especially when I put brighter colored baskets on it. I think it's going to be way too much color. I thought I would redo them a light blue color but upon further thought, I think I'm going to paint them white and let the contents stand out. If you look around the room, I've got splashes of color and some white to tone it down. White is my background color and I think the perfect choice for these shelves. I don't want one color to overpower the rest of them. What do you think? 
 I'm hoping to have the shelves finished tomorrow, the mess cleaned up and things put back where they belong. Until then...

Jul 22, 2011

I Shouldn't Have Gone! But I'm Glad I Did!

I really shouldn't have gone to Dollarama but I did and I'm so glad I did. I had come from an afternoon matinee because I can due to summer holidays with my friend Mem and I asked if she wouldn't have minded go to the store. I had never been which she found quite shocking. After my purchases, I know why I hadn't gone before, in fact I had to go back to get more of the smaller containers and found even more.
I had noticed other teachers were posting some great finds at Dollar Tree, Target Dollar Store, etc. We just got the Dollarama a couple of months ago and I refrained from going because I knew there would be things I came out with that I didn't really need. I'm trying to down size. The items I found were exactly what I needed. Are you ready to see them? 

 I bought these little butter containers so kids could put their cut out words for Word Study in them. They will fit in their book boxes perfectly.
 I had to buy these because Mem suggested it. They are nice and big for mixing paint.
 This was a fab find when I went back for the butter containers. I am planning on making word sound cards for Word Hunts. These cheese boxes will store these cards perfectly.
 The table cloths are for art. Instead of putting out newspaper every time we do art/paint/oil pastels, these table cloths can quickly be put out and cleaned up easily. Best idea I've had in about 2 weeks :-).

These rectangular tubs will be used for math work stations. They are nice and wide to have images taped to bottom or lid as well has hold any materials needed. So excited to build the stations now. Shoe tubs were too skinny for what I needed. This is a great find.
Oops!!! I forgot to take an individual picture of the paint brushes. These are nice and small for little hands and they last a long time especially if they are taken care of. Plus if something happens, they are 20 cents. Not a huge loss. 
I hope you have gotten some inspiration from seeing the items I found today.
Have fun shopping!

Jul 18, 2011


I can't seem to get away from school. After reading The Book Whisperer and No More, I'm Done, I started thinking about my timetable and how the students day should be structured. I wasn't really all that excited about what I had handed into the office, and lets be honest, what you hand in, isn't always what you actually do. The first timetable has math first thing in the am followed by some LA work, lunch more LA work and then Science/Social etc. I've always scheduled it this way because I wanted a large chunk of time for LA. Unfortunately, my day isn't ideal and I've got Music and Library scheduled into larger chunks of my timetable. There are certain parts of my day that I can not change (Gym, Library, Music) because of scheduling conflicts and times given by administration. However, I can change and modify the spaces that are not already scheduled. Our Alberta curriculum is very intense which means it's go, go, go all day long, of course with breaks in between.
Timetable 2
The second picture is a revised timetable with my LA/Social in am and Math/Science in pm. I've always taught math in the morning so this will be a huge change for me. I like the idea of concentrating on LA/Social all together in one area of the day. It allows me to prep and prepare things accordingly in a certain time rather than jumping all over the day. I'm questioning the hour and a half of math on Monday's and Fridays. I know that I will be introducing Math Work Stations so that I can meet with smaller groups of students. I'm thinking I will train students to come in from recess and start on Math Stations while I work with a small group of students, we would then do a group lesson with practice and I could then work with another group or individual students depending on their needs. In the past, I would have jumped at having an hour and a half of math time daily but if you don't always have a lesson and task that fills this time period you end up pulling your hair out.
The hour of writing in the morning would involve writer's workshop and Daily 5 writing. They would be one in the same but from what I've been reading they don't sound all that different, at least I didn't get that impression from Jennifer Jacobson's book No More, I'm Done. Students will read everyday in one of the Daily 5 blocks and the other will be a free choice. I've also got to fit in some time for Word Study, it takes a few minutes to sort their words & do their activities but it's an important part of my day and I don't have it scheduled in quite yet. 
I'm going to have to think about this some more as I work on planning more of my year. I know this will change and as I've typed and read I've already found some problems with this timetable. I'm going to review more of what others have done with their daily schedules and timetables and make revisions. I'll keep you posted. If you have any comments or ideas please feel free to leave them.

Jul 16, 2011

2 or More of My New Favourite Things

Well number one has to be Pinterest. I'm so addicted. I haven't quite got all of my pinning done but I'm working hard at it. How am I ever going to get anything accomplished that I see. There are so many great ideas. I'm just getting started pinning so please excuse the BLANK spaces. I'm sure they'll get filled soon enough. 
If you want an invite please leave me an email in my comment section and I'd be happy to oblige.

The second thing I love is Hot Yoga. I've NEVER gone before and had my first class tonight. Oh my goodness. Why haven't I gone before. 

The other things I love these days are the sun. We haven't seen it up here in Northern Alberta for about a week but today it made an appearance and we are so happy to see it. 
Until then, what are some of your favourite things.
I'm also loving summer vacation and being able to look at all of the blogs I've found and read books that have been on my reading list for over a year.

Jul 14, 2011

I just got my invite...

I have been watching and taking note of this phenomenon called Pinterest. What is it you ask? I'm sure but I'm about to find out. I had asked I Love 2 Teach for an invite but she must be busy so I went to the site myself. Well, I tell you the waiting was killing me. I went to Facebook and joined up and then it arrived in my inbox. The anticipation and waiting was killing me. I felt out of the loop which isn't good. 
I've got it now so I'm going to create an account and log in to see what fuss is all about. Wish me luck!

No More "I'm Done"

I never thought a teaching book could inspire me to work on my own writing skills but this one has. This was another resource I've read this summer and I can't stop telling people about it. Every teacher who has struggled with teaching children how to write should read this book. Jennifer Jacobson has hit the nail on the head with this one.
Why do I love this books so much? Well here are a few reasons, actually more than a few. I hope you gain some insight and make some changes to how you teach writing next year. Here goes:

1. She shares her conferencing codes with us. When she's met with students depending on what they've worked on she uses (it's so simple, why didn't I think of this :-) )
  • C = Conference
  • P = Published
  • S = Shared work
  • T = taught a mini-lesson with me
  • A = Absent
 2. She gives you great ideas and the reasons why certain items should or shouldn't be in the writing center.  My favorite was Name books so kids can pick different names rather than their 'best' friends. 

3. She gives you routines that help to support independence such as leaving them along to write or draw. If we constantly help them they will continue to be dependent on us when we work hard to make them independent, or do we. 

4. I love how Jacobson schedules her day. Students writing everyday first thing in the morning, she uses the morning to working on LA and Social then after lunch is used for Math and Science work. 

5. She avoids giving writing prompts, she says it leads to list making from students. The 'And then' syndrome. Instead, teach them to write from what they like and understand in your mini-lessons. More is explained in the book. 

6. Quiet 10 - What a wonderful idea. Once kids are dismissed from the carpet/sharing area everyone writes for 10 minutes with some quiet music playing, even the teacher. You don't work on marking or planning or reading your emails, it's time for you to show students that you also write. This is the time when students can plan by drawing a picture, creating a list of ideas, etc. Once this time is up then it's time to conference with kids who have signed up. Yes you read that correctly, she has her students sign up for conferencing time, you don't make the schedule. Of course, if someone is in need of meeting with you, you gently persuade them but students make the choice as to when and what they want to meet with you about. I can't wait to try this next year. 

7. Jacobson gives you Conferencing Procedures to follow or suggests you use. The procedures are easy to follow and keep you on track. For those of us who like to ramble on, it will help to make the conference short and sweet. 

8. Author's Chair - a colleague in my school does this and I could never figure out how to do it. Yes, I was going to ask but time just gets away from me. Only 3 students share a day. Take 10 to 15 minutes after each writing period for them to share what they wrote. You will need to model, model, model so the students learn to ask the write questions of the author. She offers up some very good ideas. 

9. Lastly, she gives you several ideas or mini-lessons on how to teach the Traits of Writing. They are easy and quite doable. She breaks the lessons up into months of the year. Obviously, you can adapt them to how you teach and when you might teach each concept. 

I have gained a tremendous amount of ideas and lessons for my Writer's Workshop time this coming September. There are many more suggestions and ideas in No More, I'm Done but I couldn't possibly write them all down. You'll have to pick it up and read it yourself. The book is easy to read and although it's a teaching resource, a bit of a page turner for me. I know, that sounds really geeky but it's true. I would love to know your thoughts, please leave a comment. 

Happy Reading!!!

Grade Level Linky Party

This is my very first Linky Party and I'm not sure I'm going to do it the correct way but I guess I'll learn. What a great idea from The Teacher's Lane Blog to link up with other blogs that are in your grade level. If you are interested click on her badge to link up with the party. Follow her instructions.

Jul 12, 2011

Classroom Set-Up 2010

 I have been inspired by many posts from various other teachers who've showed their classrooms and shared some of their organizing ideas. These pictures are from last years classroom set up. I've changed a lot of things. I like to take the time after school is finished and think about what worked well and what didn't work well. My school is being cleaned now so I can't show you pictures of what the class looks like this year but stay tuned for them in the coming weeks. 
 This is snap shot of coming into my room. I love having fresh flowers displayed and my collection of penguins.

 Here's what you see when you walk in. The teacher desk has been moved against the wall and the chart stand sits on the same wall as you walk in on.
 The CAFE board has also been moved. I found it wasn't being utilized here. Half way through the year I moved it under the SMART board. Bulletin board space is limited because I use it to display a lot of my students work and not prepackaged charts, etc. I am working on creating a Notebook file to display it on my SMART board and to put up another one at the back where I've moved my guided reading table.
 Back of the classroom.
 When this picture was taken, I hadn't gotten my kidney shaped guided reading table. It arrived the next day.
 Looking from the area where the computers sit.
 Our reading area and some of our books.
 Discovered too many kids sitting at these tables causes them to talk. This year, I've only put two chairs at each table. As I look at these pictures I can't believe how many changes I've made. I can't wait to show you. Our rooms are quite small so I've got to take advantage of every square inch. I'm replacing the 4 desks with two tables.
 Behind my desk. Last time it was clean :-). This is an odd shape in the room. I have to use this space for my teaching resources and desk because all of the electrical comes to this location. My desk basically a larger table for my personal computer, classroom computer that controls the SMART board and the document camera (non of which are shown). 
I love the Sterilite drawer units for holding my weekly materials and some teaching resources.

Again behind my desk.
The space is going to be arranged differently for this year. Please come back and visit to see the updated version. It seems very bare and sterile but everything is not out and ready for the year.

Jul 9, 2011

New Look

It's been raining here ALL DAY which gave me an opportunity to play around with the new Dashboard for Blogger (I think I'm going to like it) and to also find a different background and layout for the blog. I hope you like the changes I've made. I felt it needed a simpler and a far more fun and whimsical look to it.
I hope you enjoy it.

Jul 6, 2011

Royal Visit to Slave Lake

When I heard that William and Kate would be making an impromptu visit to Slave Lake I knew I had to be there. I got up at 6:00 a.m. today and headed out to pick up my friend Allison. Thanks for sharing in the experience with me. We drove to Slave Lake and found a spot. There must have been thousands of people. Not as many as other places but a lot for this small northern community. 
We ended up meeting two friends who also made the trip, it was nice to see others we knew. I had to go to the washroom the whole time but I refused to leave. It was hot, hot, hot. I'm sure my summer tan got started today. 
We waited and waited in the hot sun. Apparently they went to the burn site first and then made their way back to Northern Lights College. This caused them to be very late. They arrived in a bus and got dropped off at the main doors quite a ways from where we were. 
I know they are on here. I was so busy snapping the picture that I couldn't look.

We thought if we waited in this spot they would eventually get out and do a walk around and wave. Instead, they went inside and met with many of the locals who had lost their homes in the fire. Lucky for them to meet the prince and princess but not for having lots their homes. 
Allison and I decided to stay in the same spot fighting off people who were shorter than us. I'm sorry but we were here first and it would have meant we were that much farther away. We actually got a bit closer because others left do to not wanting to wait anylonger. 
You could hear the crowd cheering when they emerged out of the college and we were sure they would be walking by us. Unfortunately, they got into the vehicles and only did a short walk. The SUV carrying them did drive by us, you'll hear me screaming in the video that I saw him. The picture is very blurry but I did see him. He waved and flashed his gorgeous smile at the crowd. I'm sure it was only at me (te, he). It was hard to see Kate because of the darkness inside the vehicle.
I'm so happy I went and had the experience. I've never done anything like this before and I'll never forget it. 
Allison's photo of him.
We drove to the airport to see them take off but were told they had left 35 minutes before. Allison wasn't convinced because the police were still hanging around. We toured around town a bit and then finally saw this huge aircraft carrier take off then a smaller white plane and a helicopter. If you look in these photos you will see each of these planes. We're not sure if we actually saw them leave but I'm going to say, yes we did and end it with that. 

This photo is copied from Global Edmonton website but notice the white plane and military helicopter. We saw all of these take off.
 We think the policeman told us a little fib. Shame on you.

What a day!!!!!! and an experience I will NEVER forget.

Jul 2, 2011

The Book Whisperer

I love reading and I love books. Whenever I return from a PD day or a trip I come home with MORE books. The first thing I do on Monday during Daily 5 is share the new stories and adventures. I always joke with colleagues and my students that my husband has no idea how much money has been invested in the books in my classroom. I hope he doesn't read this post... I am forever ordering on line or from Scholastic book orders. Oy!!!
Yesterday I finished reading Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer. It was the first book I chose out of my huge stack of books to read this summer. I'm so happy I started with this one. She believes everything I believe about books. Kids need to read in order to become better readers. If we are not allowing them to read in school how can we expect them to enjoy books and become better readers. We know that some kids don't get read to at home or have access to going to the library/books, so it becomes our job as educators to provide opportunities for them to read. Therefore, worksheets and comprehension stories need to get thrown away. Kids need to read books, have opportunities to discuss and share. 
I'm in the process of reorganizing my classroom and I was looking at ALL of my books thinking I needed to weed through them but after reading this book, ALL of the books are staying other than the tattered and old books that can't be repaired. I've also decided to add my favourite books that I use for instruction (Kevin Henkes, Melanie Watt, Leo Leoni, Mem Fox and Barbara Reid). Why am I keeping these fabulous authors from kids? I should be ashamed.  I had to buy more shelves mind you, but it's worth it. 
I'm not going to go into a great amount of detail about the book because I want you to read it for yourself and then comment about what you thought. As I read, I kept thinking about what I wanted to change and what I wanted to keep the same. Here it is:
  1. My students usually ask if they can take home more than one book from my library to read at night and in the past I've said just one, but that will change. I think between 1 - 3 will be acceptable. Of course it will be with a promise to return them all when finished. I have to come up with a sign out system that works for little kids and it's not a huge time consumer for me. I'm open to ideas. Remember I've got THOUSANDS OF BOOKS.
  2. If they want to add a book of their choice from home to their reading box for Daily 5 it will be allowed. In the past I've said no. Why you ask? I think it was my way of wanting to have control over what they read but still allowing them choice in the classroom. I know this makes no sense but it's going to change. 
  3. I've always had them read when they are finished work and this will stay the same. I have books spread out everywhere in the classroom. Pictures will follow when it's all cleaned and organized.
  4. We have a huge chart in the classroom where I or the kids write the title of the books we've read. I'm going to have the students do this with the books they read, so they can see their totals. I can't wait to see how they respond to this. 
  5. Whenever we're waiting or in transitional times, I'll have favourite books for them to take. For example, waiting to have pictures taken, waiting in line at assembly's, they can be reading while they wait for other kids to come in. 
  6. I think incorporating writing with reading is very important and I love how Miller has her students write about a book they've read once a week and give reasons for this. It's a great way to connect with students. 
  7. I will be doing more personal reading in the classroom with the students. I'm not sure when I'm going to find the time but I'll find it. I'll model and show the book I'm currently reading. 
  8. We'll have more book sharing time. 
  9. During conferencing time, I'll read to small groups or have a student who wants to read, read to us. Only if they want to, it won't be a requirement because many students don't like reading aloud but I will encourage it if they want to.  
  10. I'm sure as the summer progresses and I do more reading I'll come up with more ideas. If you have some ideas on what you're planning on doing,  I would love to hear them.
I am looking forward to starting the year off and getting those little grade two's to catch onto reading and the love of books. I hope you take a day or a week to read Donalyn Miller's book. It's an easy read and you won't be disappointed or be able to put it down once you start. 
Happy Reading!!!
P.S. Simply 2nd Resources has created a fabulous survey for grade two student's to do at the beginning of the year.