Monthly Archives: August 2010

>The First Day of School: A Teacher Checklist in Great Grade 5

>The First Day of Class: A Teacher Checklist in Great Grade 5

If you were a fly on my classroom wall this is what you would see in and around my classroom on the first day of school:
(…. well … you would see so much more but it’s a good start).

The Classroom: 

 1. One smartly dressed (or so I like to think … I try), smiling faced, welcoming, professional yet approachable teacher at the door.

2. One welcoming classroom: bright but not too bright, full of things to do and see (but not too full/overwhelming)

3. Desks in a “u-shaped” configuration (right angled) so that everyone can be seen and heard.

4. Paper lunch bags on every desk. A personalized “Welcome to the Start of a New School Year” note stapled to the outside of each bag … & on the inside? Treats for all! (Please refer to the following sites:  or

5. A “Grade 5 Fun Book” on each desk with 2 colourful pencil and erasers laid on top. Each fun book contains: several student interest surveys, a back to school word search & crossword, a math puzzle, etc.

6. A welcome note, cute graphic & our morning routine displayed on the SmartBoard

7. Posted: Timetable, Rights & Responsibilities & Job Board

8. Bulletin boards: Attractive, subject-relevant … with space for student work

9. Individual bins for paper, binders, duotangs, pencils, pens, glue sticks, etc.

10. Fantastic Grade 5 appropriate picture books displayed around the room … Placed so that they are easy to “pluck & read” at a moment’s notice.

11. A carpet area: A chair for me to sit in. A book to read on the chair. A teacher’s “Bag of Me” on the floor beside the chair to share later in the day (e.g.). Students will be assigned the same project; to be presented the following week.

12. Empty paper towel rolls or Pringles cans available for our Time Capsule activity (see site:

13. A “list” of games to play “on hand” for any moments that we need to fill 😉

14. “Welcome Back Letters” for each family

15. Everything colour coded & laminated

My Desk & Me

1. A pleasant, uncluttered desk: my computer, photographs, teacher supplies, flowers

2. Copies of my class list (as a table/checklist)

3. My detailed lesson plans for the first week of school

4. A completed Supply Teacher Folder including “extra” work/activities for students to engage in

5. For me: Delicious nut-safe snacks in my desk & a wonderful lunch in the fridge!

>Developing Oral Presentation (Speaking) & Active Listening Skills

>From “Show & Tell” to “Teach & Tell”
Developing Oral Presentation (Speaking) & Active Listening Skills

OK … I have to admit it:
As a Grade One teacher I was never a huge fan of “Show & Tell” … but the kids loved it(!) and I understood the benefits. Show and Tell offers students an opportunity to develop speaking and active listening skills. It provides a glimpse into their lives: the people and the things they love, the places they’ve been and the experiences they’ve had. Finally, it gives them a chance to shine(!): All eyes are on them!

Now, opportunities to develop formal public speaking and active listening skills should be sought after, recognized and embraced. Having said that, once I made the move to Grade Five I began to look for authentic activities that address and develop speaking and active listening skills.

… So one night I was over at a friend’s house for dinner. We were enjoying a glass of wine in her kitchen when I noticed a letter from her son’s classroom teacher on the fridge door. I read the letter …. and good thing I did! For right then and there my search was over! I had discovered the “Teach and Tell”.
“Teach and Tell” puts a new spin on “Show and Tell”, and it’s suitable for my Grade Five students.
Instead of “showing” something to their classmates, students are asked to “teach” the class about something that they love, are really interested in, want to learn more about, or do well. They are the teachers! Students must also create some sort of visual aid to enhance learning: a poster, a model, etc.

This activity encourages students to make organized, engaging oral presentations, while developing effective speaking and listening skills. Teach and Tell is also a great way to increase class interconnectedness as students learn important things about one another’s interests and skills.

Some of the most memorable presentations last year were “How Do Birds Fly?”, “How Magnets Work”, “No Bullies!”, “Global Warming”, “How to Make The Best Banana-Strawberry Smoothie Ever!”, “Australia”, “How to Add and Subtract Using an Abacus”,  “My Hero”,  “Sudoku Puzzles”, “Craig Kielburger’s Free The Children”,  and “The History of Ice Cream”. 

Students have a tremendous amount of knowledge and many outside interests to share. “Teach and Tell” gives them an opportunity to be successful academically using something they love to do and do well.

If you were a fly in my classroom wall you would see students delivering one Teach & Tell presentation per term. These presentations are engaging, entertaining, often hands-on, and provide yet one more opportunity to devlop effective speaking and listening skills.


A Few Additional Notes:
1) Skills Development: Speaking & Active Listening Skills:

(A) Speaking:
-prepare – research, rehearse, review
-focus – focus on the message and your audience
-organization – sequencing & timing
-pace, tone & volume
-gestures – not to be be over or under done
-aside: incorporate interesting and appropriate visual aids that enhance the presentation

(B) Active listening skills include:
-facing the speaker and giving him/her full attention
-listening optimistically – project interest, keep an open mind
-listening with (and not ahead of) the speaker
-stay involved – ask for clarification only when appropriate, ask interesting and engaging questions

2) Four Public Speaking Rubrics:

Easy Games to Play at Home or in the Classroom at a Moments Notice

Easy Games to Play at Home or in the Classroom at a Moments Notice
(With little or no materials …)

If you were a fly on my classroom wall
you would see these games being played n the classroom throughout the school year. Enjoy!

(Please note that these games are just for fun &  some are clearly more appropriate for the school yard or the home … )


*Broken telephone
*Memory game: Show children a number of items on a tray. Cover the tray. Have students record as many items as they can remember. Who is able to remember the most?
*Bubble gum blowing contest: Who can blow the biggest bubble?
*Cracker Whistle: Give children three crackers. On the count of three chew the crackers. The first child to whistle is the winner.
*Egg & spoon replay race. Place an egg on a spoon and run! Don’t drop it 😉
*Feather Race: Each person gets a feather (or have a relay race). Place the feather on the floor and blow it across to the other side of the room. The first person to cross the finish line wins!
*Opposite Simon Says. Play Simon Says, the added challenge being that the children have to do the opposite of what Simon Says!
*Balloon relay race: In teams of two: Place a balloon between two people’s shoulders and have them run as fast as they can without dropping the balloon.
*Shoe Toss: Who can throw a shoe the farthest? (Yes! It’s as simple as that!)
*Snowball Fight: Two teams. Everyone crumples up three pieces of paper form the recycling bin. Use a skipping rope to create a dividing line down the middle of the room. On the count of three students toss their “snowballs” onto the other side of the room for 30 seconds. If it snowball lands on “your side” pick it up and throw it back! The side with the fewest number of snowballs wins. Wonderfully exhausting!
*Musical chairs
*Paper planes. Give each student a piece of paper form the recycling bin. Have them make their own paper airplanes. You can award points for longest flight, further flight, or coming closest to a mark.
*Basketball. Two teams. Each student makes a “basketball” out of paper from the recycling bin. Place two “baskets” in the middle of the floor. Have students stand back. Now throw! The first team to get the most baskets wins!
*Talk-Talk: Stand opposite another student. “On your mark – get set – go!” See who can talk the longest … no pausing! No uhms! Lots of giggles! Whoever wins form the pair now “talks against” the winner from another pair.
*Story round robin. Sit in a circle. You start the story, “Once upon a time ….” after 30 seconds the next person in the circle continues on with the story … and so on, and so on, and so on!
*Last Letter, First Letter: Sit in a circle. The teacher says a word. The next student in the circle must say a word that begins with the last letter of the previous word. Keep going. When someone makes a mistake he/she must sit out.
*Making words: Write random letters, a long word or a saying (e.g. “Happy New Year”) on the board. Students must make as many different words as possible using only the letters that appear in the word(s) on the board. Set the time. The student who makes the most words wins.
*Pictionnary (on the board)
*Taboo (teacher assigns the “word”)



Have a peek at this site for additional ideas!!! —->

Note: One idea for keeping track of games and ideas … and keeping them on hand:
Fishing for Fun
Grab a fish bowl. Bring it into the classroom and create a creative sign that reads “Fishing for Fun”. Every time you think of a game to play or an actvity write it on a cue card/slip of paper and place it into the fishbowl. So now, on those days when you have an extra ten minutes to spare reward a student by giving him/her the opportunity to reach in and pull out a game or activity from the fish bowl!  Voila!

>Helping Your Child Make Friends (& Booklist)

>Helping Your Child Make Friends
(& Booklist)

I was recently approached by a friend regarding her child’s social skills.
“Lila” is a sweet child, but is having difficulty making and sustaining friendships.
Being such good friends we had a long chat, a heart to heart …  We worked together and developed a “to-do list of sorts”: Ways in which this mum –  my friend – could support and encourage her child.
It was a true collaboration … and I can’t wait to see what happens as a result!

I hope that you find what follows useful … and please add to/suggest any additional activities, links & books to read!


Supporting the Shy Child

(A) At Home With Family:
– Observe Lila – What do you see? What do you hear? What you you feel (e.g. What’s your gut telling you?)?
– Listen to Lila – What do you see? What do you hear? What you you feel (e.g. What’s your gut telling you?)?
– Offer support and guidance. Talk with Lila about friends and friendship. e.g. What does friendship look like? What makes a good friend? How to be a friend.
– Role play; rehearse social skills (e.g. speaking & listening skills/games; don’t forget about body language!)
– Read friendship themed books
– Make this an area of focus but remain relaxed – approach every talk/activity with a cool, “light hearted” confidence

(B) At Home With Friends:
– Invite one or two of her classmates over for a playdate – She may be more comfortable on her home turf
– Model (as a parent) friendship/having friends over – At times allow Lila to see you chatting, sharing & having fun with your friends

(C) At School:
– Talk to Lila’s teacher(s) at school. Voice your concerns. Is Lila’s teacher seeing the same thing at school & if so what support can be provided?
– In an effort to help Lila develop her social skills and come out of her shell ask the teacher to consider his/her seating plan and group work. Is it possible to ensure that Lila is placed with students that she gets along with, who are supportive and friendly? Can she sit with those students who model good social skills?

(D) After School:
– Carpool! What a great opportunity for Lila to get to know and talk to other children in a safe environment. It’s also another opportunity for mum to observe her daughter’s social behaviour.
– What are Lila’s hobbies and interests? Enroll her in one or two clubs or sports activities after school. (Don’t overload Lila, but provide as many opportunities as possible.)

& Finally:
– Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t overwhelm Lila and put too much in place all at once. Let common sense be your guide. Trust your gut. You are the mum and no one knows your child better than you.
– Don’t push or panic. Be clam, happy and supportive around Lila. Your confidence will rub off on her! Inspire!

Lila’s mum and I felt so much better after this brainstorming session … I certainly hope that it proves useful and provides a starting point for other s as well.


Reading List: Books to read with your child:
Amelia and Eleanor Go For a Ride by Pam Muno
Best Friends by Kim Anderson
The Different Dragon, Jennifer Bryan
Duck at the Door, Jackie Urbanovic
A Friend, Anette Bley
The Hare With Many Friends, Aesop’s Fable
How to be a Friend: A Guide to Making Friends and Keeping Them by Laurie Krasny Brown [Little, Brown Young Readers, 2001]
Katie Loves the Kittens, by John Himmelman
The Lonely Little Monster‚ by Andi Green
Making New Friends, by Jacqueline H. Blumenstock and David C. Pool
My Friend and I, by Lisa Jahn-Clough
Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley, Aaron Blabey
Penguin, Polly Dunbar
Rainstorm, Barbara Lehman
Regards To The Man In The Moon, Ezra Jack Keats
This is Our House, Michael Rosen
Wemberly Worried, Kevin Henkes
What are Friends For, Sally Grindley
When Giants Come to Play, Andrea Beaty, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

>Kids: Free Classroom Rewards for a Job Well Done

>(Same post … different focus:)
Kids: Free Classroom Rewards for a Job Well Done

Ok … so in a perfect world children (people) should not be given or expect rewards for doing what’s “right” or expected … but let’s face it, we all like a little special recognition now and again, and children are no different.

The question then becomes: What rewards can I offer my students for a job well done that won’t break the bank?

Here are some “free” rewards to keep in mind when you want to give your students a little something extra!

(Free) Classroom Rewards for Students:
Sit at the teacher’s desk
Student’s choice: Move his/her desk anywhere in the room
Sit with a special friend
Work with a friend
Messenger for the day
Use pen
Draw on the Smartboard / whiteboard / chalkboard
Be the leader (e.g. first in line, first to play a game, etc.)
Additional bin / centre / puzzle / reading time
Choose a drama activity or game for the class to play
One less homework assignment
Help in the “JK” classroom*
Extra computer time*
Extra  Library time*
Extra Music class*
Extra Art class*
Extra Gym class (e.g. join another class)*
Eat lunch at the teacher’s desk
Eat lunch with the teacher / principal*
Choose a friend from another class to join him/her for lunch*
Have a lunchtime picnic at the carpet
Choose music to listen to during lunch
Choose a video to watch during lunch
A hand stamp
A note  / email / phone call home regarding the student’s excellent behaviour
A certificate (a computer printable)

(* be sure to coordinate ahead of time with the appropriate adult/teacher)

>Kids: (Almost) Free Rewards for a Job Well Done (at home)

>Kids: (Almost) Free Rewards for a Job Well Done (at home)

Ok … so in a perfect world children (people) should not be given or expect rewards for doing what’s “right” or expected … but let’s face it, we all like a little special recognition now and again, and children are no different.

The question then becomes: What rewards can I offer my child for a job well done that won’t break the bank?

Here are some “free” rewards to keep in mind when you want to give your kiddies a little something extra!

(A) Indoor Rewards:
Arrange for a play date
Have a sleepover
Go camping in the house: Create a makeshift tent and sleep in a different room (e.g. livingroom)
Play a favourite family game (child’s choice)
Ask your child to plan the menu for his/her favourite meal
Extra computer time
One extra TV show
Extra phone time
Extended curfew
Do one of your child’s chores
Hugs & kisses (as always!)!

(B) Outdoor Rewards:
Arrange a play date
Go for a bike ride / hike / walk (your child plans the route)
Go to the park
Have a picnic in your garden or at the park
Play in the sprinkler
Have a food fight outside
Go camping in the garden
Play in the ball room at Ikea
Visit the library (check their calendar for any free readings/events)
Visit an art gallery or museum (e.g. The Royal Ontario Museum is free from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m on Wednesdays)
Visit the zoo at High Park (Toronto)
Hugs & kisses (as always!)!

e.g. for additional Toronto ideas check out the following links:
“Ten FREE (or CHEAP) Things to Do With Kids in Toronto By Toronto4Kids”:
“Toronto with Kids (For Free)”: