Monthly Archives: February 2010

>IEPs for All

>IEPs for All

Reading Sean Grainger’s February 7th blog entitled, “Personal Learning Stories” ( got me thinking about the idea of IEPs for all students …. regardless of their learning profiles.

Now, I have to admit that the first time I ever sat down to write my very first IEP (never mind one for every student in my class as required) I felt completely and totally overwhelmed … fortunately I have a wonderful mentor/supervisor who guided me through the process. Now … I actually love creating them. I mean, I’m sure that there are other things I’d rather be doing in the moment … but they are fascinating really … & Like Grainger I feel that IEPs must be viewed as organic, always changing and growing with the individual …

OK, so this in mind, Grainger raises an interesting point: In his blog he writes, “I was left wondering why writing IEP’s wouldn’t be a good idea for every student. ” After reading his blog I was left wondering the same thing … I didn’t wonder for long however …  In my opinion? IEPs for all!!!

& As I sit here (on a snow day) sipping coffee, snacking on scones & staring at a pile of book reports to assess, I am left with the following: My 2 cents:

Whether teachers are aware of it or not, every child in every class has an IEP of sorts set firmly in place … always changing and growing, but always there. These “unwritten IEPs” guide us every day … they are part of every unit and lesson that we plan, of every anecdotal record we write. They are part of every assessment process and tool that we use … of every report we type. They are part of every student-teacher conference and of every parent-teacher interview …
They are tied to our awareness of who our students are: they guide us and in turn help us to guide them … They are part of every conversation that we have with and about our students.
They exist in the thoughts that we have as we enter the classroom in the morning. They are floating around as we deliver carefully planned lessons, and  are present as we reflect upon those lessons on the drive home.
They live on in the internal dialog that takes place as we make dinner or try to fall asleep at the end of each day.

I love the idea of formalizing that which is already in place … IEPs for all!!!!

& now on to those book reports ….


Improving Memory

Improving Memory:

Lately I have become obsessed with the topic/concept of “working memory”.

It all started the other day when I was thinking about the fact that for years now the overwhelming majority of my students have struggled with (& have been identified on their psycho-ed reports as having) weak working memories.

“Working memory is the ability to hold information in your head and manipulate it mentally. You use this mental workspace when adding up two numbers spoken to you by someone else without being able to use pen and paper or a calculator. Children at school need this memory on a daily basis for a variety of tasks such as following teachers’ instructions or remembering sentences they have been asked to write down.” (

Studies and articles on the importance of working memory abound. The majority demonstrate effectively that working memory is so much more important than IQ, and furthermore can be strengthened.

Take the following excerpt for example:
“Working memory: a better predictor of academic success than IQ? … The findings revealed that a child’s success in all aspects of learning is down to how good their working memory is regardless of IQ score. Critically working memory at the start of formal education is more powerful predictor of subsequent academic success than IQ in the early years.
…. In summary the present article suggests that the traditional reliance on IQ as a benchmark for academic success may be misguided. Instead schools should focus on assessing working memory as it is the best predictor of reading spelling and math skills six years later….
Problems with working memory can be easily addressed in schools … Early intervention in working memory could lead to a reduction in the number of those failing schools and help address the problem of under-achievement in schools.” (

With this in mind, here are some of my classroom accommodations that address student needs & working memory:

Classroom Accommodations:
– Chunking: Break concepts down into smaller, more manageable units
– Give directions using multiple formats
– Know what kind of learners my students are (e.g. visual, auditory, etc,) and tailor information to their individual styles
– Multi-modality teaching
– Supplement lessons with visual aids, and concrete materials (e.g. posters, charts, props)
– Use manipulatives int eh classroom; hands-on learning
– Model/introduce meaningful organization
– Linking Connect facts/concepts/information to what the students already know
– Make mind maps
– Teach/model visualization techniques
– Teach/model association techniques
– Provide time for discussion
– Provide additional processing time
– Provide opportunities for students to paraphrase instructions
– Provide opportunities for students to rehearse concepts
– Provide retrieval practice
– Ongoing repeated review of skills
– Encourage students to over-learn concepts/facts/ideas
– Highlight key words on written assignments
– Use colour coding strategies
– Provide/model/teach the use of graphic organizers
– Use mnemonic devices
– Use rhymes, jokes, songs, poetry
– Encourage students to eat well exercise and get plenty of rest
– Stay motivated
– Make having a positive attitude a habit

See also: Great Sites for Improving Memory:
*”Improving Your Memory: Tips and Techniques for Memory Enhancement” (great general site on how to improve memory)
*”Working Memory”:
*”Working Memory Training and RoboMemo: Interview with Dr. Torkel Klingberg”
*”Brain-Friendly Teaching: Strategies to Improve Memory”:
*”Memory Improvement Techniques”:
*”Memory Improvement Techniques”:
*”10 Strategies to Enhance Students’ Memory”:
*”Sharp brains” Bairn Fitness for all”: (I like this site!)

Now here’s where you come in … I need your help ….!
I have always focussed on teaching specific strategies to individual students in the classroom.
What I am on the hunt for now is a program(s) that I can deliver in the classroom. I am looking for the best program(s) aimed specifically at strengthening working memory; a program(s) that I can start in September and one that will carry me all the way through to June.
Your expertise, support and suggestions are invaluable … and very much appreciated!

All the best,

How to Encourage Children to Read (Just some thoughts & practical ideas to play with ….)

How to Encourage Your Child to Read: Creating Happy Readers & a Lifelong Habit

Okay … so if you’re reading this post there are two things of which you are certain:

1) You know your child: You have a great kid, she just doesn’t happen to enjoy reading (& that’s no crime … just a shame ….).
2) You have already decided that “raising a reader” is important. …. Why? Why is reading important?

Well, according to Susan Hughes, in her article written for Canadian Living,
“Reading takes our children into places where their imaginations can soar, where they can problem-solve, empathize and gain insight into other times, places and cultures. As Barb Kissick, children’s librarian Confederation Centre Public Library in Charlottetown, states, “A child who reads taps into the collective knowledge of a culture.” Children can enter into the minds of different characters and experience their points of view and motives, and the consequences that might result from their actions.” (

So, right now you feel that encouraging your child to read is going to be a priority … From here, your actions/approach might well be twofold:
I: Ask yourself, “Why doesn’t my child like reading?”, & look for answers.
II:”I want my child to love books. How can I encourage my child to read, to enjoy books?”

(I) Do a little detective work: Find out why your child doesn’t enjoy reading:
Determine the reason(s) behind his lack of interest in books.
The possible reasons are seemingly endless, but here are just a few to get you started:

1. Is your child is intimidated by books? Is she afraid to read because she thinks that it’s going to be “really hard mum!”?
2. Perhaps he just hasn’t found the right reading materials/book(s) to get him interested yet.
3. Are you modeling reading? I mean let’s face it, your child loves you, your child looks up to you, wants to please you, wants to do what you do! Even if you don’t like reading (and not everyone does)
fake it!
4. Maybe your child is having difficulty learning read. Perhaps she is an “at risk reader”.
If so, this is what you ought to know:
According to Crystal Kelly, MA.Ed. and Linda Campbell, Ph.D. in their article, “Why Do Some Students Struggle with Reading? …  (T)here are several causes of underachievement in reading. The four most common ones we found include 1) reading role models and life experiences, 2) the acquisition of reading skills, specifically phonics and comprehension, 3) visual processing, and 4) learning disabilities. ” (
Watch both her effort and achievement. Talk to her teacher. Talk to her!

(II) Now that you’ve done you due diligence (e.g. explored/identified the reasons why …) it’s time to take action!
Her are some things that you can do to get your kid hooked on books!

1. Find the “right books” for your child.
a) Know what your child is interested in. I mean no kid (or adult for that matter) would ever choose read something that doesn’t appeal to him from the outset!
b) Find out which books are hot, hot, hot! What’s popular? What’s all the rage?
c) Ask around town. Ask for suggestions: Ask friends, other parents, teachers, librarians, the staff in bookstores, look on line, etc. Here are three sites to get you started:
* “(A) list of one hundred books selected by the National Education Association”:
* Bestsellers in Children’s Books  (update hourly!):
* Great advice:

2. Choosing great books that are “high interest/low vocabulary” might just be your best bet:
If your child seems to be struggling, or feeling intimidated by books try reading some high interest/low vocabulary books.
High Interest/Low Vocabulary Book Sites:
* Great source for book titles (divided into grade levels)
* Other sources:;

3. Graphic Novels are a great way to encourage reluctant readers.

Graphic novels are a great way to encourage children to explore books! In fact, they are the latest & greatest addition to my classroom library! My reluctant readers gravitate toward them naturally, enthusiastically.
Graphic Novel Sites:
* A wonderful resource for graphic novels:

4. Take a non-fiction “approach”:
Maybe your child just isn’t interested in stories/works of fiction. Why not try non-fiction?!
What is their passion? Expose them to books about: animals, science, biographies, sports, magic, art …. books about people, events  and places … about “real” things. Find books about skateboarding, hockey, riddles, jokes, horses, sports heroes, movie stars, music, history (e.g. ancient Egyptian mummies), the Guinness Book of World Records, etc. (FYI: In 16 years of teaching I haven’t had a class yet that hasn’t obsessed with a Guinness Book of World Records at some point in the school year!)
Children’s Books: Nonfiction Sites:

5. Read Newspapers:
Newspapers offer high interest, bite sized articles, on several subject areas (e.g. world news, local news, sports, travel, entertainment, comics, horoscopes, etc.)
Children’s Newspaper Sites:
* (“Newspaper Activities Support Children’s Learning In Many Ways”)

6. Read Magazines:
Magazines also offer high interest, bite sized pieces, on several subject areas, both non-fiction & fiction (e.g. short stories, puzzles, world news, sports, travel, entertainment, comics, horoscopes, etc.). It’s also great fun to get things in the mail! Once you have found a magazine that your c child loves, why not try ordering a subscription? What a treat that would be!
Children’s Magazine Sites:

7. Read Comics:
Comics are a great way to get kids hooked on reading! There are a ton of comic books out there that are great/appropriate for kids …. just have a look:
Children’s Comic Book Sites:
* Top children’s comics:
* “The latest news, links, and events related to kid-friendly comics!”
* Comics in the Classroom:

8. Model Reading; Make reading a habit:
Read together …. Read aloud to your child.
Talk about books. Discuss, question, show interest, laugh, cry … have fun with books! Share! Explore!
Additional articles worth checking out:

Lastly, leave little (love) notes for your child everywhere … e.g. under his pillow, in her lunchbox, in a special place! She will love getting little notes from you (& reading them too)!

Ok, so the above is simply some food for thought. I do hope that you have found this post helpful.
Reading is such a gift.


>Olympic Sites for Parents & Teachers

>Olympic Sites

With the Olympics right around the corner I thought I’d post a few sites for teachers & parents.
It’s such an exciting event! Let’s follow closely & promote national pride!

This is also a wonderful opportunity to talk to your children & students about effort & achievement, following dreams, goal setting, teamwork, tolerance, good sportsmanship & so much more!

All the best,

Sites for Olympic Lessons Plans/Ideas for the Classroom:

Olympic Printables & Colouring Pages:

>Great Sites for Social Studies & Science

>Great Sites for Social Studies & Science (Second Term)

As a Grade 5 teacher I am always looking for exceptional sites for use on our Smartboard.

Not all children learn in the same way. For visual learners in particular, using interactive sites/games on the Smartboard and viewing videos are a two means of enhancing learning; of exploring concepts and sharing information.

I hope that you find the sites below useful!


(A) Using videos in the classroom: Sites addressing the issue:

1) Teaching Tips: Using Video in Your Classroom

2) Tips for Using Video in the Classroom

3) Sparks Fly: Effective Use of Video in the Classroom


50 Great Sites for Studying Ancient Egypt Online

Ancient Egypt Fun

BBC Mummy Maker

Shambles: Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt, by Mandi Barrow

Ancient Egypt Lesson Plans for Teachers

Ancient Egypt Civilization‚(video):

Educational Videos and Lessons for K-12; Ancient Egypt


Kids Health: How the Body Works

FAQ Kids: The Human Body

Science Newt Links

Human Body On Line Games

Science & Nature: Human Body & Mind: Interactive Body

Human Body Games