Sunday, November 27, 2016

10 Holiday Activities to do with your Students

Holidays are coming up, and what better way to celebrate the holidays by preparing some fun but educational activities in your classroom! Here are ten FREE activities to help you!

The Purple Teacher

Runde's Room

Cinnamon's Classroom

The Teaching Rabbit

Brain Ninjas

Diamond Mond

Hanging Around in Primary

Mrs Beattie's Classroom

Ms Makinson

Ms Makinson

I hope you enjoy these last few weeks with your students before the holidays! 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Keeping Students Engaged Before the Holidays

We all know it! That time of year is coming up and we all know how students behaviour can decline in the following weeks.  But that doesn't mean your classroom can't function like it should, and students can't stay engaged! I'll share with you a few tips I kept up my sleeve to ensure my classroom ran smoothly right up to the last day!

Routine, routine, routine!

I am a stickler for a proper routine in my classroom. Students came in the classroom in the morning and immediately knew what to do. In my case, we did our Weekly Paragraph Writing.  They got right to work and then afterwards, we'd start our literacy centres. I'll be working hard on this routine right from September, and ensuring that students stay focused and engaged right from the beginning makes a BIG difference come the holiday season!

You can read more about how I structure my classroom here and here.


I don't care what grade level you teach, students LOVE decorating the classroom! Plan some time in your schedule to have students help you decorate the classroom. Turn it into an art project, like this ornament here for big kids or this Christmas tree.

I personally planned this about two weeks before the end of the year, and always right the end of the day.

Add some holiday fun to your work!

Some ideas include:

- using holiday-themed task-cards in your math and literacy centres
- use holiday writing prompts
- plan a budget for buying Christmas presents
- build Santa Claus' workshop, using specified materials and while calculating the area and perimeter
- engage in friendly debates around holiday ideas, such as "Does Santa Claus exist", "Should children get more or less than 2 weeks off at Christmas", "Do kids get too many presents from Santa"
- read holidays stories
- write a letter to Santa Claus
- research how they celebrate the holidays in different countries and cultures
- research the origins of various holidays
- plan inquiry projects based around the holidays

This allows students to feel excited about the holidays coming up and makes them want to stay engaged and focused!

Plan some hands-on activities!

Students love getting nitty-gritty and hands on! Find some hands-on projects related to the subjects you are teaching now that allows them to move, get dirty, and learn all at the same time! These don't necessarily have to be holiday-based, it's simply a way to keep students entertained and engaged during this particular week!

Another idea would be to have more oral communication activities this week. Instead of trying to fight with students, go with what works! If they're "talkers", then let them talk! But do it while working a specific goal!

If you want to try your hand at literacy circles, December is a great month to start! Start with short stories or short novels (something that they can all read in 2-3 weeks) and plan weekly literacy circle meetings. This way, they can discuss what they're reading, chit chat about the book AND you're keeping it educational!

Don't load yourself up with papers to grade during the holidays!

I get it - you want to finish up all those units before the holidays and have projects and tests all due that last week. I'm telling you - don't do it! Don't do that! Find other ways to grade students that week that don't include pencil/paper!  Have oral presentations that you can grade right on the spot, or short exit tickets that you can grade quickly and efficiently. Students don't want to be stressed over having to study this last week and trust me, you don't want to have that pile of papers to mark over the holidays (because as much as you say you'll have time, you won't...)

Do you have any other tips to add?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Classroom Management Tip #3 : Being Consistent and Fair

Last week, I talked to you about how to create structure and routine to properly manage your classroom.  This week, I want to look at being consistent and fair.

Now being consistent is obviously easier said than done. But it's so important. It means that you have to work hard and be organized ahead of time to ensure that you can be ready and deliver.

Consistency will win you the race in the long run.

If you're implementing a system where students can simply go to the washroom during work time as long as they write their name on the board, but then Johnny simply goes whenever he wants and you're not consistently making sure he's doing it right, then others will start following Johnny's example because it's easier.

If you want students to walk in the hallways quietly and you've practice this but there's that one time that you're late for an assembly and you simply allow them to walk while talking to the gym, then students will think it's not that important to you and start talking a lot more in the hallways. You're back at square one and gotta start all over again.

If you always check students homework in the morning and expect them to have their homework out and ready for you by 9am, but you're always late doing it, then you can't expect students to actually have their homework out for you. They've learned they don't need to!

You're not consistent, and that brings you right back to square one.  And we don't want to go back to square one! You've spent a lot of time practicing these routines with your students, so make sure you keep on being consistent throughout the year. Use an alarm system if you need to (seriously, I used alarms on my phone ALL the time for stuff like this! It worked beautifully!)

And be fair.  Fair doesn't mean equal, but remember, to students eyes, it's all about perception. If Nick feels like you're always getting mad at him for not having his homework out at 9am but yet, Alex does it and you don't even bat an eye, you're going to have issues on your hands with Nick.

Be consistent, be fair and it'll be great!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Classroom Management Tip #2 : Implementing Structure & Routine

Last week, I talked about how important it is to build relationships with your students for proper classroom management. You can read more about it here.

This week, I want to talk about implementing structure and routine in your day.

Think about it for a second. Imagine your students walking into your classroom. Johnny walks over to Alex, Nicky and Ron and starts chit chatting about their hockey game last night. Jennifer, Jill and Joanne start moaning about the latest TV show. Roxy starts reading her book. You want to begin your day, but you must first wait for them to be quietly in their seats. So you make a noise to get their attention. Joanne notices but she's too enthralled into what Jill is saying to shush the rest of her group. You make another noise and Joanne starts going back to her seat, but all while she's still talking. Johnny's group starts to dissipate as well but they're having issues stopping their conversation right at that point. Roxy is still blissfully reading. Finally, you get them at their seats and quiet but now you have to get Roxy's attention, since she had been in the zone and not paying attention to anything. By the time you get to start your lesson, 3 minutes has gone by (and that's quick!)

3 minutes x 3 times a day x 5 days a week = 30 minutes a week wasted on waiting for students.

Not only is this precious classtime wasted, but it's also showing students that they can continue chatting and/or reading for those 3 minutes before they really have to listen to you. Not a good combination.

So how can we change this?

By doing the same thing all the time. This is the power of structure and routine.

Now picture this : The bell rings and Johnny walks in your classroom. He says hi to Alex and might make a comment about the hockey game last night but walks over to his desk and immediately starts working. Roxy never even opens her book and Joanne, Jill and Jennifer talk in the hallway and when they enter your classroom, they promise to keep the conversation going at recess. Within a minute, everyone is at work. Because they know what to do and they know what's expected of them.

Now this isn't as easy as simply giving them work to do and then thinking they'll do it.  Nope, sorry, not that easy.

That first month of school, you will be continuously practicing. Practicing how to enter your classroom and getting to work. Showing them what needs to be done. Showing them how NOT to do it (students always love this) and then practicing again and again and again.

I always scheduled my class the same way :

First thing when they walked in, they worked on their Weekly Paragraph. Every. Single. Day. They simply knew what we were going to do and they did it.

After morning recess, we worked on our Number of the Day. Again, same thing, every day. After lunch, we did silent reading & literature circles and after last recess, I read to the students.

Every time my students walked in my classroom, they simply knew what we were going to do and that routine simply made things work smoothly.

There's so much more I can write on this subject, so I promise more blog posts are coming! But for now, think of all those transition times and how you can make them smoother for your students by doing the same thing over and over again. You'll be amazed at the results!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Classroom Management Tip #1 : Fostering and Nurturing Relationships

Last week, I talked about why I got rid of my behaviour chart and why I'm begging you to do the same! You can read more about that here.

For the next 3 weeks, I'm going to bring you my 3 no-fail tips to have the absolute best classroom management. It takes work, but trust me, the benefits are very worth it! When you have a classroom that still behaves and has fun the week before Christmas, or the week before the end of the school year, you will know that all your hard work paid off!

My first tip is probably my most important. Because without it, none of the other tips will work. They'll help, but they won't really achieve what's important in your classroom.

Because in your classroom, you don't want students to simply sit and listen and maybe learn.  You wan them to be engaged, you want them to take charge of their learning and you want them to be curious little souls.

My first tip? Foster and nurture relationships with them.

That means showing them that you love them for exactly who they are. Because every student is perfect just the way they are.  They might have behaviours that aren't ap. preciated, but they need to know that you, the teacher, cares truly about them.

How can you show them this?

It all depends on the students, but one of the easiest ways is to be present.  When students are coming into your classroom in the morning, be there, at the door or in the hallway. Greet them, talk to them about their night or their morning. Be interested in what they're interested in by asking questions and letting them talk. Smile.

At lunch time, take 5 minutes to sit down with a couple of students and chat with them. At the end of the day, wish each and every one of them a wonderful evening.

Take 2 minutes out of your day to talk to that student that gives you a headache each day. But truly talk to them. Ask them what they enjoy doing, or their favourite TV show or sport to play. Whatever. Just don't talk shop. Don't start talking to them about their behaviour or what they can do to improve. Don't talk to them about their potential or how you know that today can be a better day than yesterday.

Be genuine, be real, be affectionate (in a proper teacher-relationship way) and really build those relationships.

Because when students love you, they'll do anything for you.

Stay tuned for my next tip : Implementing Structure & Routine

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Please! Get Rid of that Behaviour Chart!

My 4th year of teaching, I found an amazing chart.  One that I thought was going to change the way I taught forever!

You guessed it, it was a Coloured Behaviour Chart. I made it myself, with 7 coloured squares. Everyone started on the middle green square and could either move up or down throughout the day depending on the choices they made.

Sounds good in theory. Students are responsible for their own actions, they were made accountable for those actions by their placement on this chart.  To make it more enticing, every square represented a point (1 through 8) and at the end of the day, you added your number to a class list. When you reached a certain amount of points, you received a reward.  There were also class-wide rewards for when everyone reached a certain amount of points.

It was awesome.

Or so I thought. 

Imagine having a behaviour chart in the staff lounge, where your boss could move you up or down depending on various circumstances.  Would you like to see your pin moved down? How would you feel as a teacher? Would you hold your head up high and feel proud and happy?

Every child is perfect the way they are, and it's not by moving them up or down that we change their behaviour (if we so desire).  That chart simply acts as a tracking tool, but it doesn't foster nurturing relationships that students crave.  It doesn't allow students to grow in your classroom. It airs out their dirty laundry and that's just not right.

So please, do yourself a favour and throw that behaviour chart out! Just throw it away! Don't give it to another teacher (like I did! Oops! I majorly regret that one) but throw it out. You don't need it and your students certainly don't need it.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Tricks & Treats: A Halloween Blog Hop and Giveaway!

Its my favourite time of year! Leaves are brightening our world, bugs have disappeared, cool but sunny days are in the forecast and the holidays are right around the corner! So what's a gal to do to celebrate this wonderful time of year? Participate in an amazing blog hop and giveaway with a few other TpT Authors and friends! 

Last year, I took my students on a field trip around the school. We visited each classroom, and were able to see everyone's costumes. It was a lot of fun, and my students loved showing off their costumes as well.

Then, when we went back to the classroom, I whipped out this Halloween Writing Activity, where students simply write about their favourite Halloween costume and justify their answer. We discussed options at first, and really dived into the *why*. I love developing their critical thinking! 

I always have a page protector glued onto each locker and students will decorate and add their finished text to this page protector to decorate the hallways and showcase their work. This turned into a whole-school activity as other classrooms wanted to come and read what my students wrote and see if anyone thought their costume was the best! 

Click here (or the image) to be able to download your Halloween Writing Activity for free! I have both Canadian/UK as well as US spelling included (because I use the word favourite/favorite!)

I told you this blog hop and giveaway was amazing! Not only do you get tips and tricks, you also have a chance to win one of 4 TpT $25 Gift Cards! How amazing is that!

Entering is simple! The rafflecopter is below, but you need my secret word to enter! My secret word is Skeleton! Fingers crossed!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now don't forget to keep on going and "haunt over" to our next wonderful blogger, I Heart Grade 3 for her tips, tricks and secret word!

Want to add even more educational fun to your Halloween day? Check out my Halloween Close Reading Poetry and Writing Activity

Happy Halloween!