Holiday Cards: A Grade 5 Decision to Donate &/or Upcycle

Ask your students to save their family holiday cards.

Those who choose to do so can bring them in to either upcycle or donate to St. Jude’s Ranch for Children.

I have included below some information about an organization that “recycles your used greeting cards and creates new holiday and all-occasion greeting cards. Recycled cards are sold to support … programs and services for abused, neglected and homeless children, young adults and families.”  (source:

I have also included some sites that I have looked to in the past for arts and crafts ideas using old holiday, birthday and greeting cards.

Have fun and happy Holidays!

PS For some cute free clip art check out:

(A) Donate:

Recycled Card Program – St. Jude’s Ranch for Children – St. Jude’s Ranch for Children recycles your used greeting cards and creates new … for their work and learn basic job skills and the importance of recycling.”=


(B) Upcycle:
Recycled Christmas cards – Free Crafts
“Turn old greeting cards and Christmas cards into new ornaments and decorations. With this collection of recycling ideas.”

Recycled Christmas Card Crafts | Hallmark
“Give your holiday cards a second life with these Christmas card craft ideas by Hallmark designer, Em Byerly. … Kids will love to help craft …”

Recycle Christmas Cards – Crafty Journal
“Recycle your holiday cards into used Christmas card ornaments. Greeting Card Gift Boxes … Create these fun and different used Christmas card crafts for kids.”=
Recycle Christmas Cards – Preschool Learning and Crafts”:“Find 10 easy ways to recycle Christmas cards into preschool crafts and learning activities. Easy ideas for turning used greeting cards into ornaments, handmade …” 


“RECYCLE & REUSE CHRISTMAS CARDS WITH CRAFTS FOR KIDS: Arts and Crafts Projects, Ideas, decorations, instructions and activities for children, teens, and preschoolers”:

Things to do with Christmas Cards – Pinterest

“Recycled Christmas Card Crafts | Martha Stewart Holidays:=


“Christmas Card Projects: Decorative Ways to Recycle Christmas Cards”:

“18 Surprising Ways to Reuse Greeting Cards”:


& finally from “Planet Pals”:
“Creative ideas to help you recycle and repurpose old calendars.”





Revision Techniques for Young Writers

Revision Techniques for Young Writers –
… in no particular order.

1. Ensure that students fully understand the difference between revising and editing.

2. Encourage students to put their work (first draft) aside for a little while. Come back to it with fresh eyes; as though reading it for the very first time.

3. Ask student to read their stories out loud; either to themselves or to a friend. Make sure that they are reading for meaning. What do they notice as they read? Does the story make sense? Is it missing something? Should something be removed? etc.

4. Use strong verbs, i.e. “shouted” – not “said”; “scampered” – not “ran”; “tumbled” – not “fell”.

5. Look for repetitions. Has the same word(s) been used over and other? If so think of another word or grab a thesaurus.

6. Having trouble adding detail & description?
Try these strategies:
a) Talk, talk, talk – Invite students not just to read their work to someone else, but to talk about it, go into detail, see what emerges! Laugh about it! Giggle! Play!
b) Students can close their eyes and picture their work. Ask them to consider their five senses: What do they see, hear, taste, touch, and smell?
c) Students can be encouraged to illustrate their story. Are there things in the pictures that are not included in the written work?
d) Consider adding literary devices. Is the student able to add metaphors, similes, personifications, or alliteration?
e) As the student reads each sentence, see whether he/she can come up with a question, and record it on the first draft either above the sentence with a carrot or in the margin. Then answer the question(s) in the next draft. For example:
S: “My dog is my best friend. She plays with me every morning and every night.”
Q: “My dog is my best friend. (What is her name? What kind of dog is she?) She plays with me every morning and every night.” (What do we play?)
R: “My dog is my best friend. Her name is Sonic and she is an adorable schnoodle. She plays with me every morning and every night. We love to run around in the garden and play fetch.”

7. Discuss trying to use an “active” vs. using a “passive” voice when writing.

8. Model the above strategies for and with your students – and do this a lot.

9. Finally, celebrate students’ efforts and well as their achievements. Celebrate not just the products but the process as well!


Introducing the Following for 2014

New for 2014

1. “NonFiction Fridays” – Fridays are devoted to non-fiction text!
Reading books as well as online news sites.
a) Have a ton(!) of books spread around the room hidden in corners and nooks for children to “hunt for”.  Choice is important: Students can choose to read alone, with friends, in groups.
b) Fire up our computers and check out these “news sites” for students:
P.S. Stories can be of a sensitive nature … so always preview!
c) As a starting point consider the use of these Graphic Organizers when recording ideas, observations, opinions & questions:

2. “Calendar Math” Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays (This term we will include cells for “odd & even”, “factors & multiples”, “multiplication & division”, “All the ways to make ….”.) Google & Pinterest have tons of example pintables to view and make your own.

3. Mindfulness in the Classroom – for more information view the following:
a) What is Mindfulness? &

4. “Habits of Mind” – Class meeting theme – for information view the following:
a) Integrating the 16 Habits of Mind:
d) Kingsway College in Toronto has truly embraced this concept: “Habits of Mind, Body & Action”. They have fulfilled those promise/goal. Please visit their school site to learn more!

What are you planning to embrace, include, do differently in 2014?
We would love to hear from you!

Happy New Year!


P.S. I recently came across this site which I found quite practical : dolch/frye


Twitter 101

How to Create a Twitter Account:

  1. Visit
  2. There is a “sign up box” (or
  3. Enter your email address, you name and a password … & then just click “Sign Up”
  4. Now here’s the hard part … choosing a username! Trust me … this isn’t as easy as it sounds … at least it wasn’t for me! 😉
  5. Go to “Create my account” and then follow the prompt so that they/we know you’re not a robot 😉
  6. You will recieve a message at your email account … and accept.
  7. & that’s it folks!
  8. Oh – posting a pic & a bio is a good idea. “Eggs” are often Spammers and you do not want to be mistaken as one
  9. Dive right in and play. Find people you are interested in connecting with … who do they seem to follow and chat with?
    There are also some great #chats out there! Have a look around … you’ll be amazing at what you find!
  10. Consider using a social media dashboard like in order to manage incoming messages

Basic Twitter Lingo

# Hashtags – connect a stream on consciousness
@ + usernames = the  link to a Twitter profile
DM = (d +space & username) a direct message between you and other; not seen publicly
#FF = “Follow Friday – use it to suggest fab tweeters others might like to follow
RT – when you re-tweet a message you think others ought to see – share!
MT – if you have to make slight changes as there are only 140 characters to play with – & share again

Twitter Chats at #ecoo13 – Bring IT Together

I am so excited to be sharing my passion for Twitter and Twitter Chats at the Bring IT Together Conference ( (#ecoo13) next week.
You see, seldom do I get up on a soapbox …. however … in breaking with tradition …. I am doing just that …
You see …
I believe that not only is it to our benefit, but I believe that it is in fact our professional responsibility to be connected educators — to establish and participate in our own professional online learning networks.
After all, if we’re asking our students to become authentic, involved, digital, global citizens — we ought to be doing the same …
We should be teaching them about global citizenship and learning along side them.
& you know, now that I think about it– I really don’t believe that any one group has leveraged the true power of Twitter in quite the same way – in quite  as powerful and meaningful a way – as teachers.
I believe that Twitter and Twitter Chats are among the most effective ways to reach out to, learn from, and share with other connected educators in a professional, productive and positive manner – to engage in online learning experiences in real time.
& so … if you are at all interested in learning more … in learning how to set up a #chat … or just want to encourage a colleague or two to get onto the Twitter “Bandwagon” 🙂 then I look forward to seeing you at Bring It Together #ecoo13 next week in Niagara Falls.
It’s going to be a fan-ta-bu-lous 3 days!
Hope to see you at :

Test Taking Strategies in a Grade 5 Class

Although I introduce, model and review many test taking strategies with my students, I tend to include those below on the 2nd page of every test (after the “cover”). …. & so I thought I’d share today!

Introductory Strategies:
1. Go over the test as a class. Ask for clarification as we address each question.
2. Highlight important words.
3. Make note of those questions that seem the easiest to you. Mark them somehow, and do them first. This will “get them out of the way”, make you feel good – show that you know your stuff – and are making progress. Feeling positive and making progress immediately will give you the confidence to move on!

Mid-way Strategies:
1. Half way through the test we will put our pencils down and grab a hoola-hoop! Let’s move and stretch and twist! Let’s have a “Hoola Break”! Fun! Fun! Fun!

End Strategies:
a) When you are done, put the test for one side.
b) Do something else (e.g. read, write in your Journal, engage in an iPad activity (math app., country research), do a word search, a maze or a puzzle until I say “Stop”. (You may also choose to doodle or draw a picture on this page should you wish.)
c) When I give you “the go ahead” return to your test with “fresh eyes”. Pay close attention to both the questions and to your written responses. COPS your work.
Attend to what you see – wonder – think – & feel.

I do hope that these prove useful to some of you. I wonder what other wonderful strategies are out there ……



The Gamification of Learning

Playing games in the classroom, be they of a cooperative or competitive nature, is a wonderful way in which  to increase student engagement and motivation.

 Admittedly, the simple act of saying, “Okay kids, so now we are going to play _________ games,” magically heightens “the happiness/alertness factor” in the classroom.

 & so … why do I believe in “the gamification of learning”?

Alphabetically speaking, games involve/embrace the following:

  •  Active engagement
  • Challenges – ongoing & ever present
  • Challenges – often very “cool”: i.e. “Save the world”, “Save the Prince”, “Climb the mountain, cross the ocean, etc.” with the implied understanding that as a player, “You can do it!”
  • Clear goals – players learn to “follow instructions” as they morph and become increasingly complex over time
  • Co-operative learning or friendly competition – choose the “type” that appeals to individual students
  • Developing strategies – skills acquisition
  • Fun – it’s a game! 😉
  • Goals – clearly laid out, increasing in complexity as the “user” becomes more proficient/adept
  • Immediate feedback  – players know exactly where they stand relative to personal goals and/or to other players
  • Levels –  playing & learning are levelled according to individual strengths and needs
  • Practice – often repetitive in nature as well – with the goal of achieving “mastery” in order to reach the next level
  • Problem solving – let’s learn “how” and in new ways …. students are able to “try out theories” and take risks, to develop problem solving and critical thinking skills in a safe, fun environment
  • Progress – attainable goals; visible; rewards 😉
  • Risk taking – players learn to take calculated risks in a safe environment
  • Role-playing – creativity – Students choose who or what they want to be – a unicorn? a wizard?  yourself?
  • Skills acquisition through a clearly outlined process.

 … & so there it is – alphabetically speaking – the “the gamification of learning” —- just one among many of the “cool” approaches to learning – one that engages students as active learners.

(Please note: I am grateful to all those who have spoken and written before me on this most entertaining and effective teaching strategy … I tip my hat to you … for your ideas and input — for these are surely not all my own but, rather a co-operative process.)