Monday, January 30, 2012


Is there anything better than adorable, personalized, teacher-friendly clip art? No? Didn't think so. {Alright, maaaaaybe a big bowl of Baskin Robbins Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream. Or a homemade pretzel. Or a big ol' glass of iced tea on the hottest day.... but those don't really count.} Seriously, there is one super talented, super sweet artist out there, and she puts all of her hand drawn wonders into digital format and then puts them into our big huge cyber world to share {and sell}. How wonderful! Take a look at all Nikki has to offer at  Melonheadz Illustrating and you won't regret it. She even takes requests! Can you believe it?! At the moment she has about a week or two wait list because she's soooo busy {Obviously! Her work is so cute AND that is one heckuva great offer}. I've asked if she will make a few things for the Reader Response forms I am in the process of making, and I am confident she will not disappoint. I am pretty excited about that!

Because I couldn't resist making something using her great graphics, here is a little measurement printable I made {Click the link to download}. I felt seriously inspired the first time I found Nikki's site - every visit back gets the creative juices flowin'!

Next post - a rice pudding recipe! It's SUCH a good recipe that I'll even be sneaking it into the curriculum.

Happy Tuesday!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Are penguins not the funniest little birds? I love them. They have a hilarious little waddle and they are super easy to draw {ha!}. I thought I'd get a little crafty for the intro to the mini-unit, so I made KWL penguins.

The best part? As soon as I showed the class, one kid {the most smug, self-confident kid in my room - sigh} put up his hand {amazingly!} and said, "Miss, that one is McQueen, that is The Chick, and that...The King." Awesome. {I didn't realize at that moment he was naming the penguins after Cars.} I said, "What a great idea, grade two! Don't you think?" And so, we decided that we would vote on three names for the penguins based on the letters on their tummies. After a quick vote we were introduced to "The King," "Wilver" and "Lily." For ESL students, I think that is pretty great. Plus, any time I can make it more memorable for the students, I say go.

Here is the Can/Have/Are chart I made for when we delve into the more "research-based" part of the unit. I found a corresponding worksheet to have the students complete after the discussion, but it's on the old computer aaaaand I'm feeling a bit lazy. I can't even remember from whose wonderful blog I snagged it anyway.

Last week we studied long "i" words for our weekly spelling dictation. I found a great printable from The Lesson Plan Diva that I decided to use in a snap since I couldn't print the colourful word sorting cards {out of ink - dang} AND because the school laminater is broken anyway {sad face}. I figured since all of my kids have i-Pads etc. this would be a good little motivator. In hindsight, I'm not sure it was - after all, it's JUST a phone. So boring and everyday. {Roll my eyes.} But, this center group did a great job and I decided to put their work on a bright page to post in the class.

Good night!

A Mish-Mash {after a looooong break from blogging thanks to reports!}

Have I mentioned yet how much I love Math centres? I love them. I love finding great activities and seeing the finished products in my classroom. I love the independent learning. I love the chance to focus on differentiation. I love the chance to work with small groups. I try to do Math rotation three times a week {when my 6-day rotation schedule allows for double Math periods}, and I am happy to say that my students are all getting the hang of it. Most of them.

I have a few little friends that are not keen on following instructions or participating in their group's activity, and so I
kick them out have them work in another classroom. I know, I probably shouldn't be doing this. And I'm sure my team teachers don't love having the extra student in their room. BUT, let me explain. We have been working in Math centres for over two months now. I have discussed with the students over and over how we need to act/learn/talk/participate during centres and why. I even have a centre time rubric that I use with them! They all know what it means to get a level four and how to actually get there. I reward great behaviour constantly - I'm big on positive reinforcement. I have taken the few students that {on occasion} refuse to participate and discussed with (there it is again!) them why they are in school, why they should participate, how their behaviour affects others, yada yada yada, blah blah blah. It's the same few students and it's the same conversation. I've even spoken to some parents about this! So, they get a simple worksheet, one I know they can complete independently {like a 100 chart fill-in} and I march them to the next grade two room where they will sit to complete the work.

Fair or a cop out? I'm interested to hear some opinions. {I should add that I ALWAYS tell the misbehavers that I really really really WANT them in my class - that I think they have a lot to learn independently, that they have a lot they can teach their group, and that I KNOW mistakes happen. I stress the second chance factor.}

Anyway. I grabbed an idea from Erica Bohrer's blog to practice word problem solving that works along with my mini-unit on penguins. My group seems to struggle with deciding when to add and when to subtract, so I'm trying to make the skill a little more hands-on. {This despite the fact that we do a simple word problem Every Single Day as bell work AND that I have addition and subtraction key word posters hanging up!} Here is how their super-cute addition problems turned out. Love them!

I will be adapting another idea I found on Kinder Hoppenings to create a subtraction Valentine's craft for the next round of centers. We are going to use cut-out decorated heart "cookies" on a doily on a bright red paper plate.

Click HERE for the word problem PDF I made to match, three per page.

{Watch out, there's another blog coming up  in about.... fifteen minutes!}

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Frog Facts (I thought I'd switch up the usual blogger New Year's Activities post for the first week back!)

I don't know what's going on, but this has been the. longest. week. ever. in Kuwait! I've barely noticed the weeks flying past since we got here, but this one, this one decided to hang around! Maybe it's because it was the first full week back. Maybe it's because reports are looming and they know I still have a lot I want to fit in before writing them up -- in that case, thank you, time!

While December was a mad flurry of finishing up units and projects, I was able to find some time in this slow week back to put up some of the work my students did. I have to say I'm pretty happy with it! Their non-fiction frog writing turned out pretty well, even if some didn't quite follow instructions and are were missing crucial elements (like a title!).

It may have been useful to preface that with "My students are EFL learners" (even though it's tough to see the actual writing). At any rate, I LOVE the upside down eyes guy. It's interesting, but the work actually reminds me of the student that created it. (PS - I don't in any way mean to imply that he looks evil.) Isn't it funny the way that happens? We start to see our students in their work... Just one more tiny reason I love my job!

Click HERE for the Frog Facts graphic organizer I made to complete with my students, and HERE for the page topper that I drew up. I originally wanted two frog topper patterns per page (I'm a bit of a softie when it comes to saving paper!), but the day I did this one I was in a bit of a rush so the larger freehand had to do! If ever I redraw it, say, for next year's class, up the new pattern will go.

I hope everyone has had a wonderful week back (or week and a half, like me!). Can hardly believe it's January already...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Sri Lankan Christmas

Back! And I have to say, it does feel good. It was so wonderful to have a two week vacation and I don't think it could have come at a better time. I feel refreshed and more motivated.

Sri Lanka is so beautiful. For a small island country, it is pretty amazing how quickly the landscape changes. From beaches to mountains to urban sprawl in a matter of hours! We started in the bustling city of Colombo, where there was really not a lot to see but it helped us to organize the rest of our trip. We opted to take a 4-hour city bus down to the South (as the railway was under construction), which was a rather bumpy ride but it was a venture that cost only about fifty cents, and that really can't be beat! We stopped first in Mirissa Beach, a lazy little surfer's paradise that boasts fresh catch dinners and a laid-back atmosphere. Although it rained a lot of our three-night stay, it is still a very pretty little spot that was not super busy. Here we enjoyed amazing Ayurvedic massages at a place called "Secret Root" (up a little path in the direction opposite the beach), which truly felt like a secret spa. It was so peaceful. I had an Ayurvedic massage while in India, and it was not even close to as good as the one in Sri Lanka.

We then hopped on another bus for two or three hours to what is the most peaceful beach I've ever visited. About three kilometers from Tangalle Bay is a quiet little beach area called Goyambokka. The best part is we had not planned on going here - we were supposed to stay in Tangalle. But after wandering down the beach there and being thoroughly unimpressed we thought we'd head back a bit to Goyambokka. It is deemed too expensive by a lot of people, due largely in part to the presence of two large (more fancy) hotels and to its semi-private feel, but we managed to get a great little cabana for $23 CAD per night. We spent Christmas Eve/Day here and were happy to find Wi-Fi at a restaurant to make some phone calls. It's not a great feeling to be away from the whole family during the holidays, but waking up at the beach, this beach in particular, was pretty fantastic!

From here we headed into Sri Lanka's Hill Country. There are some majorly windy roads as you zig-zag up through the mountain towns, but the views are so spectacular. We stopped first in Ella, and I seriously regret not staying here longer. Our guesthouse, called Ambiente, was pretty special - we had a small patio that opened on to Ella Gap, an extraordinary view. We climbed to Little Adam's Peak in the evening, and while we had a little trouble seeing on our way down, it was a pretty cool night-time view with the deep blue mountains and the rising clouds.

From Ella to Nuwar Eliya, the coldest island town I've been to, at almost 2000 m above sea level. The town itself is pretty boring, but it has a neat leftover-colonial-era feel thanks to the architecture. We visited World's End and Bakers Falls at Horton Plains National Park, where we enjoyed some pretty incredible views and got some great shots. It cost us about $100 total (totally unexpected!) once we factored in transportation up the mountain and the park fees and taxes. The drop at World's End is a doozie! (Yes, a doozie.)

On the way to Kandy we stopped at a tea plantation. It was field after field of tea on this drive, and it is mind-boggling to think people have to pick every single tiny leaf on every single tea plant on these farms only to enjoy a simple cup of tea. Oh so tedious! I do love my tea, though. In Kandy we saw a really interesting traditional cultural dance show and visited a spice and herb garden. I am a sucker when it comes to this sort of stuff, it seems. Our visit went something like this.

Guide: "This natural herb will cure this painful/annoying/inconvenient ailment!"

Me: "Ooooh! That is very cool."

From Kandy we travelled further north to Sigiriya where we went on an elephant safari and opted out of visiting a World Heritage Site in the interest of saving a few bucks. Hmm. Jeff and I spent a LOT of money on this trip. Way more than we expected. One of the big expenditures was the elephant tour, but we were able to see something like fifty elephants and were even privy to a little elephant rage! We were sitting in the jeep taking way too many photos of one really nearby elephant, when he seemed to get a little annoyed by our incessant voyeurism and actually took chase. Of course I do not mean full-on "you're-about-to-die-you-annoying-tourists" chase, but it was still an adrenaline-filled experience! Jeff bravely snapped photos as he charged and the tracker menacingly threw ...water... onto its head. We spent the next couple of days replaying the episode using elephant-y low voices to portray the thoughts of the elephant: "Oh, come on, man, you know, I was just playing. Water? Come on. That's just, euh, that's so...well now I'm done. You throw water on me" We think we are funny occasionally.

Did we take too many elephant photos? Way more than anyone could every possibly need? Yep. Did we spend entire days laying around the beach being more than entirely unproductive? Yep. Did we forget about school for two whole weeks? Yep! Did we spend so much that we missed out on some potentially amazing sites? Yep. All Entirely Worth It. Sri Lanka is such a beautiful country - there is so much to see and so much to do and a lot of it is widely different. It was great travelling around, even for such a short time. Next destination is Portugal in April!