Category Archives: classroom

Year End Thank Yous!

Year End Cards / Thank Yous

This year we (a.k.a. “I”) have decided that our class should make the most marvelous “Thank You” cards for all those who have done so much to ensure that we have had an amazing school year.

These individuals include: Specialty Teachers, Eco Team Leader, School Director, Principals, After Care Staff, Custodians/Cleaners, Hot Lunch Staff, Class Parents, etc.

The cards are simple cards … but they they are huge & handcrafted – big & bold … & best of all they are “from the heart” … so far the kids have done an awesome, amazing, outstanding job! I can’t wait to see what the final product looks like!

In order to ensure that they are “well done”, I have assigned certain students to be in charge of creating each card according to what I believe to be their favourite subject (teacher).  😉
The students are really into creating these cards and gathering as many signatures as possible!

What a wonderful addition to our year end activities … I am only embarrassed that it took me this long to schedule this time into our last few weeks.
Ugh … live & learn …


What’s on your “Wish List”?

My Wish List for the Immediate Future
Today I am going to make three wishes for the immediate future as relates to teaching in my world.
What’s on your wish list?

1. A continued greater emphasis on and sharing of 21st Century skills – kids developing real world skills and making real world connections. We are global citizens.

2. A conscious shift from current classroom configurations, toward more child-friendly spaces (e.g. furniture, floor plans, accessories, lighting, etc.) that allow for greater movement, alternative work spaces and choice …. that cater to a range of learning styles, and that foster creativity and collaboration.

3. A regular time scheduled into my work week for reflection upon teaching practices and to stay current with regard trends in education and resources. I would love for example, more time during the work week  to collaborate with and benefit from the expertise of teachers, administrators and in-house specialists. I wish that I had more time and resources to take full advantage of on-line learning opportunities by attending webinars (which often take place during the day), reading blogs, participating in online forums and otherwise connecting with professionals.  Currently, this all happens outside of work hours between planning and marking and parent contacts. I do it (a lot!), I love it(!), it’s necessary and it’s really worth(!) it but it is time consuming. … and even though I spend a lot of time doing the above I know that there’s so much more that I want to share and learn!

Memory Strategies to Use in the Classroom

Identified as Having a Weak Working Memory?
Memory Aids:  To-dos, Tricks & Techniques

Last week a parent and another teacher both asked me for any “memory strategies” that might be useful at home and in the classroom.
… Here you go!
Memory strategies to use in the classroom:
  • Relate a new concept to something you already know: When you activate prior knowledge the information becomes more meaningful
  • Explain a concept to someone else in your own words
  • Organize facts/concepts into units that make sense
  • Grouping
  • Visualize facts/concepts. Make the picture as creative, colourful, silly or as ridiculous as possible
  • Subvocalization
  • Movement – you may need to activate (e.g. chew gum, walk and learn, walk and rehearse)
  • Elaborative Interrogation: 1) Read fact 2) Turn the fact into a why question 3) Answer the question
  • Webbing, Mind-mapping
  • Mnemonics – teacher or student generated
  • Acronyms – teacher or student generated
  • Linking/Chain Method – link/associate consecutive pairs of items (vivid, unusual, interact)
  • The House Tour Method
  • Make Board Games as a review at the end of a unit
  • Rehearsal – simple repetition
  • Review concepts/ facts ASAP
  • Pair up with a buddy and practice/consolidate
  • Paraphrase as you read. Take notes in the margins, underline, highlight (colour code) and make notes on a Post-It (e.g. SEEDS). Stop & Talk. Act it out.
  • Practice active listening skills 
  • Use Learning Logs
 (For Study Strategies see my last post:

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!

>My Favourite Classroom Accommodations: Be a Fly on My Classroom Wall

>Be a Fly on My Classroom Wall: My Favourite Classroom Accommodations
(In recognition of & with a special thanks to all of those gifted individuals & websites that helped me to gather these along the way! )

Instructional Accommodations

– Based on individual pycho-educational assessments: build on individual strengths & address needs
– Encourage / model independence
– Provide a highly structured, predictable environment: No surprises! Students must feel valued & safe
– Provide clearly defined rules and expectations – review often
– Minimize distractions – calm, cool, collected; pleasant, positive, predictable
– Prepare students for transitions – again: no surprises
– Establish prerequisite skills – never assume anything
– Cue students before giving directions
– Give clear, simple oral instructions …. one at at time, properly sequenced
– Read and repeat both oral and written instructions; ensure for understanding
– Provide opportunities for students to paraphrase instructions
– Provide opportunities for students to rehearse concepts
– Ongoing repeated review of skills and concepts
– Provide time for discussion
– Provide additional processing time
– Monitor (closely!) understanding of all concepts
– Chunk assignments: Break tasks down into smaller, more manageable, sequential steps/units
– Highlight key words on written assignments / colour code
– Present everything as concretely as possible
– Use colour coding strategies
– Multi-modality teaching
– Supplement lessons with visual aids, and concrete materials (e.g. posters, charts, props)
– Provide/model/teach the use of graphic organizers
– Provide samples of end products
– Homework agendas

Environmental Accommodations
– Create a highly structured environment (safe & secure!)
– Provide consistency (safe & secure!)
– Post timetable & rules in a highly visible area (review often)
– Minimize distractions
– Give clear focusing signals
– Use teacher proximity
– Provide preferential seating
– Vary work surfaces
– Increased breaks

Assessment Accommodations:
– Teach / model study strategies
– Teach / model test taking skills and strategies
– Prepare/explain test expectations
– Provide & share clear criteria for evaluation with students
– Provide examples of end products
– Provide rubrics to ensure understanding of expectations – Provide study guides /review sheets
– Provide reduced / uncluttered test formats
– Reduce the number of questions on each page
– Give short, simple directions
– Encourage students to rephrase/repeat written & oral instructions
– Do whatever necessary to ensure understanding
– Highlight questions/key words/key vocabulary
– Provide vocabulary reference sheets
– Allow for processing time
– Check-in often for understanding
– Accept unconventional spelling
– Use a variety of test techniques /alternative forms of assessment
– Give equal weight to the process (understanding of concepts) & the product (application of concepts)
– Keep work samples

>Dreams in the Classroom


In Honour of Martin Luther King Jr.: In Our Classroom
On January 18th, 2010 we celebrated Martin Luther King’s life, dreams, messages and accomplishments. As a class we looked deep into the life, heart and mind of a great, great man.
We listened to him speak, we heard his words, we read, we role played, we discussed.
The following day, we talked about dreams. What are they? Are they important? Why?
We split into groups and the students read, discussed and debated some famous quotes about “dreams”. We came back as a group to present our findings.
Finally, each student chose a quote and created a poster. Students were encouraged to look within, and to choose a quote that really meant something to them. A quote that they fully understood (& this is not as easy as it seems) and believed in. A quote that they wanted to share with the school. A quote that might resonate with and inspire others.
It was a heartwarming, uplifting, moral boosting, group solidifying, delicious, wonderful experience.
I loved it —- they did too. What a wonderful group.
I have listed the quotes below.
We all have dreams.
Dream Quotes: “I have a dream ….”
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”
Henry David Thoreau
“Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living.”
Anais Nin
 “The inability to open up to hope is what blocks trust, and blocked trust is the reason for blighted dreams.”
Elizabeth Gilbert
“We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a long winter’s  evening. Some of us let these great dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they bring them to the sunshine and light which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true.”
Woodrow Wilson
“Dreams are necessary to life.”
Anais Nin
“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.”
Anatole France
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
Eleanor Roosevelt
“Commitment leads to action. Action brings your dream closer.”
Marcia Wieder
“Nothing happens unless first a dream.”
Carl Sandburg
“The question for each man to settle is not what he would do if he had means, time, influence and educational advantages; the question is what he will do with the things he has. The moment a young man ceases to dream or to bemoan his lack of opportunities and resolutely looks his conditions in the face, and resolves to change them, he lays the corner-stone of a solid and honorable success.”
Hamilton Wright Mabie
“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”
Gloria Steinem
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the  strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”
Harriet Tubman
“The end of wisdom is to dream high enough not to lose the dream in the seeking of it.”
William Faulkner
“There is nothing like a dream to create the future.”
Victor Hugo
“A man’s dreams are an index to his greatness.”
Zadok Rabinowitz
“The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die.”
Edward Kennedy
“I have spread my dreams beneath your feet. Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
W.B. Yeats
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”
Henry David Thoreau
“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”
Henry David Thoreau
“Dreams are the touchstones of our character.”
Henry David Thoreau
“Hope is the dream of the waking man.”
French Proverb

Building Success in Reading & The Matthew Effect

Success in Reading

Simply put: Reading is a gift. … & to love to read is even better 😉

Parents often ask why some children are better readers than others … and of course to this there is no simple answer.

Recently, however a colleague came to me with the following article about something called “The Matthew Effect” (

“The “Matthew Effect” is a term coined by Keith Stanovich, a psychologist who has done extensive research on reading and language disabilities. The “Matthew Effect” refers to the idea that in reading (as in other areas of life), the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” (source:

Simply put, this theory states that children who are successful in reading (acquiring skills) early on often move steadily ahead, while those who struggle fall further and further behind. Children who are successful enjoy reading more. They read more, practice more, learn more, love it more. Those who struggle, dislike the experience more and more, and end up reading less and less. These children fall further and further behind.

Ok, so now what? What if your child is not enjoying or achieving the success in reading that you would like to see? Where do you go from here?

Well, here are just a few steps along the road to encouraging successful, life-long readers:

1. Read to/with your child all the time: at home, in the car, at the grocery store, etc.
2. Sing songs, read poems … expose her the the rhythm and rhyme of language.
3. Be a role model! Read! Read! Read!
4. Write little, lovely notes for your child to read. Leave them everywhere: Under his pillow, in his drawer, under his shoe or in his lunchbox.
5. What are your child’s interests? Once you know this, provide lots of reading materials base on this theme(s) e.g. books, magazines, comics, posters, etc. Whatever gets him looking at, and engaged in print.
6. Engage in activities that require reading together, e.g. games, cooking, reading maps, following the directions for a model, etc.
7. Buy your child a subscription to her favourite magazine.
8. Keep the lines of communication pen between you and your child’s teacher.
9. Early (sensible) diagnostic assessment.
10. Whenever and whenever possible: Individualized instruction. Know your child’s strengths and needs.
11. Have fun reading and let it show!!! Laugh, learn new things, be amazed!

Reading is a gift.

Read all about “The Matthew Effect”: