30 Oct 2014

Groovy Owl Art Project

Last week my class drew some owls!

I drew a simple owl on the white board while the kids followed along.

After we had the basic shape with the wings, eyes and beak, I told them to decorate the rest of the owl any way they liked.

They used crayons to colour and then they outlined their owls in black.

My original plan was to have them paint a light wash over their artwork, but they were quite adamant that they were beautiful as is, so we left them alone:)

They all look gorgeous and every child is so proud of their art.

PS  Today is my birthday and I'm spending it at a farm where we get to ride a train, pick pumpkins and pet the farm animals. Couldn't be better:)

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28 Oct 2014

Pumpkin Life Cycle & Marshmallow Math

This week we're learning about pumpkins.

First we read a book about pumpkins and then we watched a video (it's a super cute video with accurate info and a song. My kids loved it!) We also pretended we were pumpkin seeds growing into pumpkins, which was silly but memorable. 

Afterwards, the kids made pumpkin life cycle booklets.  All I had them do was trace a circle onto construction paper, cut out, decorate, then add a green stem.

And here are some middles. This was easy, too. I gave them a piece of paper with a circle sectioned into quarters. I drew the life cycle on the white board (with the class's help) and then they did the same on their own sheets.

If you're looking for a "Pumpkins need..." sheet, just click the image below to see what I did last year.

During math we estimated how many marshmallows would fit onto 3 different sized ghosts.

Then we counted to check our estimate and wrote the number in tens and ones.

It was hard work but lots of fun!

A BIG thanks to Jill from Mrs. T's First Grade. If you click HERE you can grab the sheet.

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26 Oct 2014

Chapter 6: The Book Whisperer

The Book Whisperer.png

Chapter 6 ~ Cutting the Teacher Strings ~ was a very compelling read.  I'm laughing at myself here because if you've read this chapter then you'll recognize my lame joke:)

But seriously it was immensely thought-provoking, the gist of it being that teachers need to take a long hard look at the traditional and so called tried and true practices around reading instruction.

Just because it's the norm, doesn't mean it's worthwhile. In particular, Donalyn slams whole class novels, reading logs, incentive programs (think accelerated reader and the like), book reports, round robin reading, popcorn reading, and teaching to the test.

She even goes as far as shunning book talks, instead preferring book commercials and book reviews.

Donalyn offers well thought-out reasons for these choices and gives many viable alternatives.

"Any activity that substantially replaces reading, writing, and discourse in the classroom needs to be better than the activity it replaces, and nothing, not even test prep, is better for student's reading ability than just plain reading, day after day."

I think this quote is brilliant and couldn't agree more!

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19 Oct 2014

The Book Whisperer: Chapter Five ~ Freebie & Giveaway !

The Book Whisperer.png

Welcome to Chapter 5 of The Book Whisperer!

"Walking the Walk" was a quick, inspiring read.

The big idea in this chapter is that it's the teacher's responsibility to be an awesome reading role model. 

"Readers are made, not born" (p. 108). 

And since we can't assume all students will get the role modelling they need at home, we, as teachers, MUST ensure they receive it at school.

Donalyn spoke briefly about the two different stances teachers take towards reading, which I found very interesting.

First is the efferent stance. This is when teachers see reading as "a way to acquire knowledge". Obviously this is super important.

But! Is it more important than taking an aesthetic stance? This is where teachers see reading as an "emotional and intellectual journey".

Donalyn argues that both are needed, but the aesthetic stance is the most important one. I whole heartedly agree with her and so does Ruddell (1995). Ruddell said that teachers with an aesthetic stance do a much better job motivating students to read. 

If kids aren't LOVIN' reading, then they aren't going to read. And chances are this will carry right on into adulthood. 

Donalyn shared this revealing statistic:

Findings from a 2007 Associated Press poll, reported in the Washington Post, indicate that the average adult American read only four books that entire year. This statistic does not tell the whole story; of the adults who read, their average was seven books, but 25 percent of the respondents did not read a book at all (Fram, 2007). (p. 106)

It gets better! Or scarier, I should say:

Teachers fare no better on surveys of adult reading behaviours than the general population; in the 2004 article "The Peter Effect," Anthony and Mary Applegate report that of the preservice teachers whom they studied, 54.3 percent were unenthusiastic about reading, leaving little hope that these teachers would be able to inspire students to engage in an activity they themselves did not enjoy.  (p. 107)

WOW! I think that's crazy. I'm sure the stats would be similar for Canadians, too.

If more than half the teachers aren't avid readers, how can we pass on a love of reading to our students? Especially to those borderline students?

Donalyn shares her reading plan (so that teachers can "walk the walk"), which includes reasons why adults should read children's books. Yay! Now I have an excuse for my teen lit weakness:) 

She also lists this website, which I think is fabulous. I'm so glad I found it!


I'm an AVID reader. I even have a reading journal. I'm always buying children's books for my class and I read to them every single day!

But do I share with them my own personal loves for reading? Not directly. They know I love books because of my enthusiastic reading, all the books in my classroom, and all the reading I expect them to do.

But I'm not sure I've ever actually said to them, "I LOVE reading. I can't live without it. Look! Here's the reading journal I've been keeping for the last 10 years."

So...I'm walking most of the walk, but not the whole kit and caboodle. That will change:)

I have a fun freebie for you. I just made this sweet little blinkie to remind us to read, read, read! Just copy the code, open a new html gadget in your sidebar and pop it in. You can see mine off to the top right.

Barbara Leyne Designs

The penguin comes from mycutegraphics.com
but I made the blinkie:)

AND, before you go, I'm having a quick giveaway at Barbara Leyne Designs for some autumn clipart I just made. I'll be giving away a few sets... hope to see you there!

Thanks for stopping by!

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My Favourite Pattern Math Lesson!

Every single year I do this math lesson cause it's FUN, it looks great, and the kids get some excellent pattern practice.

Some years I go with a Halloween theme but this year I went with autumn.

I always use a bucket of foam stickers from Michaels. I wait 'til early October to buy them 'cause they always seem to be 40% off at that point.

We've been doing patterns off and on for the last couple of weeks ... I don't just jump into this.


First off, I sorted the stickers and put them in piles. The kids chose 2 or 3 different kinds of stickers and went back to their desks to make their patterns. I don't let them use AB (too easy for Grade 1) but pretty much anything else goes, EXCEPT for ABBCDEFFG. You get the idea. There's always one kid who wants to make the longest pattern but I say no because they have to repeat it at least once and the paper backing is only so wide:)

Once they've made their repeating pattern and I've checked it, I give them a long strip of paper. They build it again on their paper and then peel off the backing and stick it to the paper.

There are usually 3 or 4 kids who need help with the pattern. They manage the "core", it's just that darn repeating part that gets confusing :)

After the pattern is in place they fill in the accompanying piece of paper with their name and the pattern name.

Last step: Colour the pumpkin border using the EXACT SAME pattern (that was also hard for a few kids, but excellent practice)!

You can CLICK HERE for a copy of the pumpkin pattern sheet that goes along with it.

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17 Oct 2014

PPBF: Little Blue and Little Yellow

Title: little blue and little yellow

Author: Leo Lionni

Publishing: HarperCollins, 1995

Suitable for Ages: 4 to 8

Genre: Children's fiction

Themes: Friendship, Similarities & Differences, Colours 

Synopsis (from Amazon):  Little blue and little yellow share wonderful adventures. One day, they can't find one another. When they finally meet, they are overjoyed. They hug until they become green. But where did little blue and little yellow go? Are they lost? 

Opening: This is little blue. Here he is at home with papa and mama blue.

Why I Like This Book: I love the simplicity, charm and innocence of this book. Each page has just a few dots, but even though the illustrations are sparse, the book is surprisingly full of character and carries an important message. My class LOVED it when I read it to them this afternoon.  They loved how the dots mixed and changed colours and they decided that the blue family and yellow family should just merge and become the green family forever:)


1. Scholastic has a fabulous lesson plan pdf HERE. My favourites are the Paint-Blot Book and a lovely poem called "Yellow".

2. Rainbow Milk Experiment. This fits right in with the science part of the book.

Fill a dish with homogenized milk, add some food colouring, dip a q-tip in liquid soap, then dip the q-tip into the milk.


It can be repeated over and over ... the milk just keeps moving and swirling. This was a BIG hit with my class today.

Then we found some neon food colouring so of course we had to start all over:)

Looking for MORE great book suggestions? Be sure to check out Susanna's Perfect Picture Book Friday Linky!

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16 Oct 2014

The Welcoming Classroom & A FREEBIE!

I just finished reading the last three chapters, and for me, Chapter 4 ("Becoming a Culturally Competent Communicator") was the most relevant.

The big idea I took away from this chapter is that culture influences communication and without this understanding in place, there's a real danger of miscommunication.

To communicate effectively with people from another culture we need to be thoughtful observers. We need to watch people as they interact with us and with others, and notice what makes them comfortable. We also need to pay close attention to body language, and in particular to touch, eye contact and personal space. 

To sum it up, it's all about being thoughtful and respectful. 

Chapter 5 specifically addresses pre-school organizations and discusses ways to be culturally competent.

The book concludes with Chapter 6, "Culturally and Linguistically Competent Classrooms". My favourite part in this chapter was Ernst's advice to lose the lingo and use language that families will understand. My guess is that most teachers already do this, but it's definitely worth a reminder. For example, instead of saying "gross motor development", say "large muscle development". Similarly, talk about how "children feel about themselves and how they get along with others" rather than using the terms "social and emotional development".

My Personal Opinion

Overall, I thought this was a well researched book with a great message. While it's geared towards pre-school, there's certainly LOTS that a teacher of any grade can take away. My only complaint (and it's a mild one) is that it reads like a text book.  

If you'd like to read my earlier chapter reviews you can find them below:

Before you go, you can grab this little freebie. If you click the image it will take you to my other blog (Barbara Leyne Designs) where you can download the bunting.

Thanks for stopping by!

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15 Oct 2014

Our Kindness Bookmarks

As part of our Kindness unit we made these bookmarks. They're a little hard to see, but they say "Have a beautiful day!"

Last week we hid them in some books in the school library as a lovely surprise for the other kids in the school!

Before we made the bookmarks we watched this video twice. The kids were begging me to play it again. It's been around for a little while now, but in case you haven't seen it before, it's worth a listen.

You can find TONS more great ideas on my Kindness Pinterest Board (which is so full thanks mainly to Barbara from The Corner on Character. Thanks, Barbara!)

Have a sunshiney day!

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