Category Archives: helpful

Teacher Tips – Things I Try to Keep in Mind

Teacher Tips – Things I Try to Keep in Mind

What follows are words, ideas and practices that I try to live by.

I would love to hear from those in my PLN … What do you try to keep in mind as you plan, approach and maneuver through your day? What are some of the things that keep you grounded, and make your experiences rewarding, successful, motivating & authentic?


  • Be Authentic & Smile – Teach in a way that speaks to you, that feeds your soul and keeps you motivated … teach “what/how” you love and love what you do! (All the while: Be open to change … there’s no “one way”. Be adventurous, explore alternatives.)
  • Be flexible. Be open to change. In your practice: maintain focus, all the while rolling with the curves/punches.
  • Never bite off more than you can chew. There are so many amazing ideas out there … It’s easy to get caught up in moments and want to do it all. Be enthusiastic, be eager … but above all be realistic.
  • Over plan … have a bag of tricks! You never know what each day will bring … it always pays to be prepared.
  • Share your thoughts, ideas & successes — on the flip side address those lessons that didn’t go as planned … Ask for support when necessary … You can’t do it all and your colleagues, your PLN, etc. have so much to offer.
  • Show you care. With each day, try you best to show each student that you care about him/her: as an individual.
  • Teach to all learning styles: e.g. acknowledge the auditory, visual and kinesthetic learners in the room.
  • Use a mixed approach; use a mix of teaching strategies every day. Ensure that students are active, involved & invested.
  • Challenge students. Provide choice when possible. Encourage students to take ownership of their learning experiences in the classroom.
  • Teach strategies as well as facts/concepts (e.g. how to read for meaning, how to study for and take a test, how to problem solve, how to be an active listener, etc.)
  • Keep up with the latest trends: technology, music, movies, fashion, books, etc. Understand your students’ world/environment.
  • Embrace technology — need I say more? Love the Smartboard, Wordle, Voicethread, Google Earth, Blogging, Twitter etc.!
  • Set goals – As you approach each lesson keep in mind your #1 goal. What is it that you are trying to “teach here”? i.e. a fact, a strategy, an approach, etc.
  • Reflect – at the end of every day take a few minutes for you-the-teacher. Ask yourself: What went well today? What would I do differently? What will I keep from this lesson/day/experience?
  • Be firm, be kind, be caring and be accepting of your students.
  • Be as firm, kind, caring and as accepting of you as you are of your students.
  • Be a professional – be human – be you.
  • Be a leaner as well a a teacher. We are so lucky. There’s so much to know!


My Top Picks: Activities & Approaches that Rocked Our First Term!

My Top Picks:
Activities & Approaches that Rocked Our First Term!

Always Give Away the Ending
I start every unit in Social Studies & Science by “giving away the ending”. For example, when introducing our unit on Ancient Egypt we read a short article (or watch a video, read a picture book) all about life during that time: the roles of men, women & children, the foods they ate, where they lived, their kings & queens, religion, gods and goddesses, rituals, etc. We then discuss interesting facts (i.e. the fact that only boys were allowed to go to school) and “play with” the topic for a day or so. This introduction peaks their interest and serves as a foundation to build upon.

Choice is Choice
This year I have provided more “choice” than ever …. my students loved it … & I loved it. This approach allowed students the opportunity to build on their strengths while learning about and addressing their needs. With this apporach there is a true sense of ownership, interest, engagement and enthusiasm.
For example, upon finishing both class novels this term (The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick & The Iron Man: A Children’s Story in Five Nights is a 1968 novel written by British Poet Laureate Ted Hughes) students were provided with a “menu” of final assignments to choose from. Some excellent examples of project menus are as follows: 1. Book Projects 2. Final Novel Projects 3. 91 Ways to Respond to Literature  4. Novel: Tic Tac Toe

Project & Inquiry Based Learning
Love it(!) and I am excited to do more, more, more!
To learn more check out:

The Teach & Tell
A “Teach and Tell” requires that students teach their classmates about something that is of interest to them.  Much like “Show and Tell” this activity provides students with an opportunity to share individual areas of expertise/interest. It 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.

Blogging Rocks!
This was the first year that I had my students blogging … & we all loved it! I used There’s nothing jazzy or fancy about this site … but it is easy to navigate and it is super secure: and that’s all that really matters to me.
The Benefits of Student Blogging include:
-Authenticity – authentic writing for authentic audiences;
-Affordability – is for example is free;
-Builds confidence as students shine, share & respond;
-Carries across the curriculum;
-Collaborative discussions as students respond to & learn from one another;
-Communication skills – writing for an audience necessitates & builds effective communication skills;
-Connections between students & classes, between home & school;
-Develops higher order thinking skills (as students write, read, reflect & respond).

Hot Penning Please
Three times a week I set our timer for 5 minutes. When I say “Go!” my students write and write and write. They write about whatever comes into their heads. They might write a story, a memory, a poem or a stream of consciousness. The “deal is” that they can’t lift their pencil from the paper! My students just love this opportunity “free write”. They tell me that “it’s fun!” and that “it feels like a game!” On occasion we go back to highlight favourite passages, sentences or ideas to use as a springboard for longer, more formal pieces.
Check out:

Strategy Driven
It’s so important for my students to learn about and play with different strategies. I want them to build on their strengths (e.g. know what works for them) and addresses their needs. I want them to understand how to listen and read for meaning,  how to answer comprehension questions, how to study smart, how to write a test, how to problem solve, etc.
For some tools of the trade check out:
Test Taking Tips:
Active Listening Skills:
Writing Strategies:
Math Problem Solving: ;

Picture Books in the Grade 5 Classroom
I love reading, exploring and sharing picture books with my Grade 5 students. I use them in all(!) subject areas: Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, etc. They are quite simply a fantastic resource.

Class Meetings Building a Classroom Community
Class Meetings are just that: A time for students to sit and discuss issues that speak to them. They are student directed and teacher facilitated. The agenda is set by the group and depends on the group’s various interests, needs and concerns at any one time.

Learning Logs
Learning Logs develop metacognitive skills, guide my teaching practice, and provide yet another authentic assessment tool. Learning Logs are classroom journals. Students use them in order to keep honest and reflective records of their understanding of subject areas in the classroom (e.g. Math, Science, Social Studies, Writing Workshop, Reading, etc.).
Read more here:

Home Journals: Authentic Writing & Communication Between Home & School
Every Friday students write letters home to their parents about their week. Home Journals help to answer the age-old “dinner table question”, “What did you do at school this week?”. These journals also provide parents, students and teachers with weekly examples/snapshots of individual writing skills development.

Well, although I am sure that there are more …. these are my top picks for our First Term/2011 in Grade 5!
What are some of your “hot picks” in your classroom? I would love to know!


>Math Sites to Explore: Have Fun ;-)

>A “Million” Math Sites to Explore!
Have fun 😉

(A) Math Tricks & Helpful Sites:

(B) Math Games & Puzzles:

(C) Additional math links from a colleague: