Friday, December 28, 2012

Photo Friday

We flew into Toronto last Friday for the best Christmas surprise ever for our families! So nice to be home for the holidays, but I do hate winter. At any rate, it looks pretty here with all the snow.

Hope everyone is enjoying winter break!
- Amanda

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Some "Smart Art" holiday projects

This cute penguin pattern came from Amy Lemons. 
I made a simple glyph for the students to personalize the penguins.
I whipped up a simple measurement page and then students measured them in centimeters and converted that measurement to millimeters. This worked perfectly with our current Math unit!

Next up:
This snowman idea comes from here.
We created them after reading this cute story.
We Give Books
Actually, we read it on our SmartBoard - thanks to We Give Books, which is a really great resource.
Apparently I live in a desert community where students don't see much snow...haha!
After cutting and gluing they drew some snowflakes, then they drew some more, and then they added the two amounts together to create a snowy word problem. Ta-da!
Tomorrow {our last day!} we have my Oh Christmas Tree! craftivity on deck.

Happy crafting!
- Amanda

Friday, December 14, 2012

Last week fun

Fun or pandemonium? Hmm... Let's just say I'm gearing up for both with some hands-on activities. One I am sharing with you today is a Christmas tree craftivity that can be adapted for a Math or Language Arts extension - a "Smart Art" project. I have included some differentiated activities - story starters, addition and subtraction word problems, and colours practice. Feel free to download it from Google Docs by clicking below - I'd love to see if your students create these :)
It's funny - living in a Muslim country we aren't supposed to really "do" Christmas, but all of the malls here are playing festive tunes and have decorations to the max. Also, every time I say "winter break," my kids say "Christmas holiday time," so I though I'd make it all a wee bit educational :)
- Amanda
PS - Also available here on TpT and here on TN.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Performance Walls

Last year, I made this sample writing chart to help show my students what awesome writing looks like and to help them strive for higher achievement:

{You can read the original post here.} This was writing my class completed during a non-fiction writing unit integrated with our Science unit about animals.{This was also my first formal observation and the principal really like this writing lesson!} Enough with the back story..

The other day my VP said the words "performance wall" in a mini-workshop I went to and I had to stop and ask, "What is a performance wall?" Turns out, it's what I did above with the leveled samples! Not going to lie, I was pretty excited about that - now I have a fancy term for what I already do with my class.

Here's one I made to show the students how to achieve a level 4 in our latest descriptive writing task - my favourite animal:

Later, I will colour-code these samples to show the specific things seen at each level {i.e. periods will be blue, interesting words will be green, capital letters will be pink, etc.}. I kid you not, after we discussed these samples in class, I had about ten kids stay in at recess because they were really excited about adding detail to their writing and improving their rough drafts overall. Wwwwhhhaaattt?! I was so proud! And, let me add, this week was a little wonky in our room - I saw a lot of behaviour that I don't usually deal with. This Thursday lesson really made the perfect end to a long week!

I'll post the writing pack and modeled writing that we used to complete the entire writing process for this project. For ESL, I've been blown away by their dedication and a lot of the overall improvement, so I definitely feel it's worth writing about!

Have a great weekend.
- Amanda

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bucket Fillers!

We are officially Bucket Fillers in 2B! {Actually, we've been Bucket Fillers for over a month now but I haven't found myself the time to write this post.} I love this book
Have You Filled a Bucket Today: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids
and I think it has such a positive and powerful message for our young friends. Hey, for us oldies, too! In fact today, after some group work that resulted in a couple of arguments and quite a few whiney and controlling voices, I had my class finish up by giving a bucket-filling compliment to someone in their group. It was a great end to a not-so-cooperative work period.
In the interest of time here's a quick summary of the things we did:
Group word sort. {Confession: I can't remember from whom I downloaded the words file, but they were perfect!} Each group had pictures and words - pre-selected for each student based on their abilities - and a T-chart for Bucket Fillers and Bucket Dippers. After they discussed and glued them on the right side, we made a whole-class chart. The Bucket Dipper side? Oh, we cut that off and threw it out. We decided we only want to focus on being Bucket Fillers, so we got rid of all that negativity.
Pledge and sample Bucket Filler statements.
This is our bucket display. I just made the little printable in my trusty PowerPoint, had the kids colour them, and then laminated them. Behind each bucket is actually a small plastic Ziploc bag... I was racking my brain trying to figure out how to display the buckets without them getting ruined, so having them hang like this has been perfect! I just hot-glued the plastic bag to the back and a strip of ribbon to the two top edges of each bucket, then taped the top of the ribbon to the wall, with the rest hanging loose. Maybe my description make that sound more complicated than it is? I swear it works and really well!

This is our Guided Reading groups display. The names are not attached permanently to the books so that my groups can be flexible as certain students move up in levels {perhaps faster than others}.

And this was just part of my weekend. I laminated these signs so I can rub off the details as we discuss the main idea of different books. Now we have a permanent "graphic organizer" on our wall! {No picture of the final display - oops.}

December 10 already... As they say in Korea, ASSA!
- Amanda

Friday, December 7, 2012

Addition product {by request}

Awhile ago I posted this set of worksheets that focus on addition using a number line. As always, they are differentiated to meet the wide range of abilities in my class. A Teachers Notebook user asked if I could create a product for addition combinations for all numbers from 5 to 20, and although it took me a loooooong time, I did it! You can find them at TN here and at TpT here.

- Amanda

Photo Friday

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Monday, December 3, 2012

Looking for suggestions

I have a great class. Truly great. I love the mix of personalities, the creativity, and the different learning styles. 
I have this one kid, just one, who drives me nuts. He is a good kid. Really. And I can see that he is smart. Unfortunately, he refuses to complete ANY class work. It's not an aggressive refusal, it's a lazy refusal. So, all that "smart" that I see can't always be assessed. Plus, he missed the entire first quarter (because his family was travelling) so I have a feeling he doesn't see his education as important. I've talked with him. I've talked with his Mom. I've talked with his older sister. I've talked with our principal. I've talked with our vice-principal. He's talked with the principal even! I hear from his family that this is the same behaviour he showed in his last school.

So I made an incentive chart to track {what little} work is actually completed. He was made fully aware of the rewards and consequences and even agreed it would help. I promised rewards like positive phone call home! The treasure box! The chance to change seats at snack and lunch! It didn't work.

I researched. I read all of this information. I gave him a dependable buddy in class. I gave him a little extra of my time to explain assignments. I called on him in group discussion and he was proud to answer! {Hurray for small successes!} I talked seriously with him about the importance of school, his goals, and of course I was very firm and consistent with consequences. I helped him start assignments. I praised and praised and praised and still do, as often as I can. It didn't work.

I made a behaviour contract, went through it with him, saw a bright glimmer of motivation in his eyes and smile; I almost screamed with joy at my hopefulness! But in the very next class - the very next class, I say! - the kid still would not do a thing. And when I say he won't do a thing, I really do mean that - he won't write his name. He won't even colour. He barely participates. I feel like I'm not sure what to do anymore.
Any help? How do you motivate the unmotivated?

Saturday, December 1, 2012


You know, I really do love shopping. What I love more, though, are shopping deals. Man, do I love me a good deal. It's sad, but I'm cheap, so it all works out in the end. But I managed somehow - let's call it a miracle - to get through TpT's Cyber Monday/Tuesday with buying...
{drum roll, please}
{lean forward in seats with anticipation}
{"Did she say 'one?'"}
yes, one...
TpT product.
{"Wha?!" "How did she..." "It's too crazy to be true."}

I don't know how I did it, because I have more than a few items on my wishlist, but I did. I'm so happy about my purchase, though, because I think it will be very effective with my ESL groups. What is the one special item, you ask? The only item that could tempt me to click "Checkout"?

Christina DeCarbo's Sight Word Fluency Passages for Reading Intervention. 
It's all about helping your students understand their sight words in context - sure, they can read the word on a flash card, but when they come to it in a body of text, they suddenly don't know that word or don't understand its meaning. I feel like I'll be able to make extra progress by adding this to my Guided Reading instructional plan. You can even get a sample lesson {I'll admit, it's what reeled me in} when you download the preview of this item. I'll be waiting patiently for her 2nd and 3rd grade Dolch words packets to meet the range of abilities in my class!
Even though I didn't go totally wild, I'm linking up with Stephanie from Falling Into First for her linky. Maybe mine will be the anomaly-edition link.
Happy weekend!
- Amanda

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Persuasive Writing

We've been working on persuasive writing projects for two weeks, and things are going so well! We started by listening to "I Wanna Iguana" by Karen Orloff - it is a perfect book for this unit. Bonus: it also introduces letter format! Two birds, one stone. Afterward, we talked about the book: we sorted reasons why Alex should have an iguana, we discussed the difficult time he had getting his mom to do what he wants, and we made connections to our own lives by talking about times we had to ask our parents for something.
Their first persuasive writing task was to convince me to give them a night off from homework. {Have I mentioned before that many parents here prefer homework every night? It's a lot.} So they set off, writing letters to me in their journals after some quick brainstorming. Of course, they got the night off!

The next day, we reviewed what persuasive writing is using these {FREE!} posters from Jodi Southard. Then we wrote a letter together to our principal. My students don't know it yet, but we have a field trip planned to go to the Scientific Center/Aquarium at the end of the month, so they wrote letters trying to persuade him to let us go. {Ha!} After, we made a bulletin board together showing the different parts of a letter using our shared writing piece. I will be choosing a few students to head out and read their letters to our principal so they can feel they were, in fact, very persuasive in their writing. {Or maybe, I can convince him to write a letter back to us saying no for whatever reason - you know, in the style of "I Wanna Iguana" - and we'll have to try even harder. Hmmm!} For homework on this night they had to tell their parents what specific meal they wanted for dinner and give three reasons why.

For our last project, we read Hey, Little Ant by Phillip and Hannah Hoose.
This book is great because it's very open-ended - no decision is made in the end - and will allow the students to make the ultimate choice: to squish the ant or let it live. It's perfect for hitting on character education and works pretty well with our word of the month: integrity. After we talk about the reasons given through the story, students will write their own conclusion with reasons to support their decision using this graphic organizer and friendly letter writing page. Find it free here on TpT or here on TN.

Afterward, I'll be assessing their writing using this rubric:
Find it free here on TpT or here on TN.
Hope you got some ideas to teach persuasive writing in your class!
- Amanda

Friday, November 23, 2012

Photo Friday

Since Fall is a season I haven't experienced in some time... 
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Yesterday was Picture Day. Which isn't so much "Picture Day" for me, but more "Fuzzy Hair Day." 

We've moved on to double digit subtraction with regrouping in grade two. Most-difficult-concept-to-teach. Ever. Seriously, it has to be right up there with things like listening, being kind to one another, and why it's important to finish all of your work. {Or was that just in my class this week?!}
I made these subtraction mats to help students visualize the regrouping.

They were to show each question using tens and ones and regroup where necessary, showing the steps in the question by crossing off the numbers where regrouping happened. 

No, it didn't work for everyone, even after we practiced together on the SmartBoard with this file...

...but, it did help some! Feel free to grab copies of both (click the pictures) if you have some kinesthetic learners that might benefit.

I'm also joining in on the TpT Cyber Monday Sale if you'd like to take a little look at some deals.
Happy weekend!
- Amanda

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Took the early bus home

Seriously, I never ever do this. School ends at 2:00 with last duty ending at 2:15 and a bus that brings us back to our apartment at 2:40. I can Never be ready to leave at 2:40. Never. Things come up and people come by and some days I'm not even ready to take the later bus at 3:45. But today, it was necessary. Last week was only a two-day week (long weekend!) and I felt even less prepared for school because of it. When my class started getting crazy after lunch, I realized, "Ah, right - we've all missed our usual afternoon nap!"

Somehow, we were able to get through an introduction to two-digit addition, which my kids actually rocked. Making life much happier for me! We used this little file together on the Smart Board to talk about how to start and practice some questions, then they completed a similar worksheet.

Next we will study two-digit addition with regrouping. For that, I made this simple little Prezi,
and this same-as-the-last whole-group practice page and worksheet {included in the set, which you can find here in my TpT, free for all those that leave loving comments and follow my tiny blog!}

Happy adding!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


They're over - long day! I really do like meeting with parents about progress in the first quarter, though. And I've learned to tell it like it is in the short ten minutes we have: "_______ can't focus long enough to complete any class work." Boom. Point blank. 
I compiled my thoughts over the whole first quarter for each student {strengths, weaknesses, behaviour}into this little form to keep me organized. It was sort of like my anecdotal records!
I also used this little "happy notes" form to send home with each parent. I got this idea from Cindy at Granny Goes to School and I think it was really appreciated it! I teach a lot of ESL, and seeing that "Progressing with Difficulty" in English Language Arts can't be a good feeling, so I really try hard to keep it positive.
Now time for a looooong weekend! Hope all of your conferences went well. 
- Amanda