Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Teach & Tell

The “Teach & Tell”

If you were  a fly on my classroom wall you would see my students presenting a “Teach & Tell” three times a year (once per term). This activity is simply a variation of a favourite for many students in the primary grades: “Show and Tell”.  This practice provides students with an opportunity to share individual areas of expertise/interest & to  develop their speaking and listening skills as well.

A “Teach and Tell” requires that students teach their classmates about something that is of interest to them. Students tell the class about something they like or do well, and then teach the class about, or how to do it. Presentations must also include some sort of visual model (a poster, model, or related item).

This activity encourages students to make organized, engaging oral presentations, while developing effective speaking and listening skills. The 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 our most memorable presentations last year were “The Basics of Football”, “Why Is It That Birds Can Fly?”, “How Magnets Work”, “No Bullies!”, “How to Make The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever!”, “How to Add and Subtract Using an Abacus”, ”Motorcycle Maintenance”,  “Sudoku Puzzles”, and “How To Play King’s Corner and Solitaire”.

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

Encouraging a Love of Reading

Encouraging a Love of Reading

I am often asked by parents how to get their children hooked on books – how to encourage reading at home. I love it when I am asked this question! Reading is such a gift & I welcome any and every opportunity to encourage my students to see the value & pleasure that comes with reading.

… & so, if you were a fly on my classroom wall you would see and hear me sharing he following ideas with parents.


(A) AT Home & At School

  • Model reading – “show them” that reading is both entertaining & informative
  • Interest “Surveys” – find out what children want to read –  what interests them – what’s “hot”
  • Easy Access – have reading materials everywhere around the house, in the car, in the classroom
  • Variety is the Spice – provide options/choice e.g. novels, picture books, graphic novels, magazines, fiction, non-fiction (e.g. biographies, sports, geography, science, poetry, etc.)
  • Read alouds – Read aloud to your children. Even older kids often love being read to.
  • Talk-Talk-Talk – talk about what’s being read – make it social as well
  • Play with Books
  • Time – set aside enough time for reading – give them the time & the place/space
  • Re-read – give children permission to re-read old favourites

(B) At Home
A Special Place – create a special place for children to read (e.g. fill the corner of a room with pillows, build a reading-fort under a table, pitch a tent in the garden, etc.)

(C) At School

  • Read alouds – do this a lot, talk a lot, stop along the way …& don’t forget that there are many amazing picture books out there for older students
  • Author visits
  • Provide alternatives/choices to the traditional book report
  • Skpye with authors
  • Exploring: “Free Time” – scatter books (novels, picture books, graphic novels, magazines, fiction, non-fiction) on the carpet & allow students to read/explore them along or with a buddy(s)
  • Exploring: “Speed Dating” with Books – Students are given a few minutes with each book & then they switch to the next



Students are often recommended for tutoring. By the same token I am often asked why or whether a child ought to be tutored.
More often than not the answer is quite clear from both an academic and an emotional standpoint.

…. & so, when approached by parents – & if you were a fly on my classroom wall – you would see that I often refer to the following points of consideration when recommending tutoring for a child.

I hope that you will find these benchmarks useful as well.


(A) Academic Performance:

  • Despite the child’s best efforts his/her grades continue to decline.
  • The child consistently experiences difficulty grasping concepts.
  • The child can not complete class work or homework in a reasonable period of time.
  • The child is easily distracted & / or makes excuses for incomplete work.
  • The child refuses to engage in & / or complete activities (e.g. class work, homework).

(B) Emotional: The child exhibits the following behaviours as relates to school / learning / academic performance:

  • An increasing lack of motivation & / or feelings of helplessness.
  • Unhappiness or anger with regard to school.
  • Consistent disruptive behaviours at school.
  • An ongoing frustration with school & teachers.
  • Increasingly poor self esteem – e.g. “I’m not smart.” – “I’m dumb.” –  “I’ll never be abe to do this/anything.”
  • No longer wants to go to school. Makes excuses to stay home.

(C) Recommendations:

  • Parents and teachers keep a journal and record any observations (e.g. including times & dates) that may relate to the above points of consideration. These journals often prove invaluable.
  • Parents need to be open to teacher concerns and recommendations. Teachers need to do the same.
  • Finally, parents need to trust their instincts. e.g. You know your child. When in doubt make an appointment to see your child’s teacher. Express any questions and concerns. Remember that we are all here to support and encourage your child.

Initial Reading Assessments in the Classroom

Initial Reading Assessments in the Classroom

At the beginning of ever school year we spend a great deal of time getting to know our students … as they get to know one another, as well as their teachers and new surroundings!

It’s a balance of:

a) Learning from day 1(!)
b) Ice Breakers & Getting-to-Know-You-Activities
c) Establishing Routines, Expectations & Rules

d) Organizing our space, materials, day, etc. 
e) Carrying out both Formal & Informal Assessments
f) & so much more 😉

In thinking about September I sent a “Tweet Out” the other day looking for suggestions regarding reading assessments in the classroom.
I was looking for something authentic, practical, efficient and “free”.  I was looking for something just to use as a “springboard” … to help me get me feet wet …. because as we all know assessments (both informal and formal) are ongoing and organic.

I love Twitter & was fortunate enough to have received many responses. …  So now I want to share with you what some of my Tweeter Friends have shared with me (with a special thanks to @mitcheta3477 among others)!
(I would love to see any additional resources as well!)

& .. of course, if you are a fly on my classroom wall in September you will see me carrying out several initial assessments – including reading assessments.


For Your Consideration: Reading Assessments: