Sunday, 27 April 2014

Freebie product - Is this a triangle?

I've just uploaded a new freebie to my TpT store. It's a worksheet to help students revise the rules for a triangle.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Five for Friday on ANZAC Day

One of my favourite posts: it's time for Five for Friday with Doodle Bugs Teaching!

This was our first week back after having two weeks off. I loved being back. I had such a productive/relaxing holiday that it was awesome getting back into work and seeing my little preppies.

It was a three day work week! With the Easter Monday public holiday and the ANZAC Day public holiday we were only at school Tuesday-Thursday. We still crammed a lot in to the week (but I didn't take any photos...).

I started reading groups with my preppies this week. They loved it! I thought they would. My students do two activities a day and we will be doing reading groups twice a week. It was awesome to sit with a small group and work on their reading, and some of my kiddoes really blew me away with how far they've come along in their reading. One of the activities used my coloured rice - I had put Scrabble tiles, plastic letter tiles and magnetic letters in amongst the rice, and they had to fish around for the letters then sort the letters into lower case and upper case. They loved it, and worked really hard not to make a mess with the rice. I will take a photo when I'm at school and post it, totally forgot!

This week our maths focus has been on skip counting by 10s. My class has done a super job. We recited counting to 100 many times, and they just keep on joining in and trying their best. We have used our fingers to show ten, we have clapped with each number, we have marched around in a circle as we counted, we have taken fairy steps as we counted, we made a poster with 10 fingers on a card that shows the numbers we say when counting by 10s starting with 10, and on Thursday each child had an abacus and we practiced moving 10 beads at a time across the bar as we counted to 100.

I did the first lesson of a new Science unit with my kids today. I had the help of my Science coach which was awesome. This term our topic is called "What is it made of?" For the first lesson the focus was on starting a TWLH chart. We focused on the questions "What do we think we know?" and "What do we want to know?". My kids pretty much amazed me. They have such awesome inquisitive minds! I'll have to take a photo of our two charts, because they had some pretty awesome ideas. I will definitely write some follow up posts about our Science unit, because I am totally enjoying teaching Science in such a structured/regular/consistent way!

I love the book corner!

I asked yesterday with Wordless Wednesday if you have a book corner/reading corner and how you used it. So I thought I would answer my own question, too.

This is my book corner:
I must have a book corner in my classroom. It is an absolutely non-negotiable inclusion when I'm setting up my room. I use it for lots of different things. Early on in the year I use it as the go-to spot for early finishers. They can browse books, play with construction blocks or play with puppets. Later in the year I use it as a reading group station, with the rule that students in the book corner must be quiet! No construction blocks during reading groups, and students must stay in the book corner during that time. I also use the book corner as a option during free play and inside recess time.

I think the book corner is really important because it shows the teacher's commitment to reading and browsing books. Books are always on display in my room. During term 1 the books in the book corner are my own books, but from term 2 onwards I take my class to the school library and each student gets to pick a book to add to our classroom library for that term. They love selecting the books that will be added to our room!! I don't sort out the books in the book corner, I don't really have enough of them to bother. The books are all just on a book stand.

Last year I also had kids magazines in the book corner, and this year they are still there but my class this year couldn't care less about them! They are totally uninterested in the magazines. This might change when I begin using the book corner for reading groups, so I'll wait and see.

One of my favourite things about the book corner, though, is watching our big buddies (grade 3/4s) sit with the little buddy and read a book to them. It is lovely watching cross-age interaction focused on the enjoyment of books!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Book corner

I'm joining up with Christina at Sugar and Spice for Wordless Wednesday!

Here is my pic:
And my question:
Do you have a book corner/reading corner? How do you use it?

Monday, 21 April 2014

My amazing cupboard

I am so lucky to have the most awesome cupboard in my classroom. In fact all four classrooms in my building have them. Let me show you this piece of awesome-ness:
It has three big doors (which are so heavy and hard to move that they are "teacher only" doors) and inside there is heaps of storage. Although, as you can see, I have so much stuff that I even use the space above the cupboard. But the bit that I love the most about it is that the doors are half magnetic whiteboard and half pinboard!! Yup, I can staple gun things into the blue bit across the bottom half! I love this cupboard. Actually, I probably love it a bit too much, but it is so handy.

Up until today the cupboard had a few empty spaces, but I added the rainbow word wall (the words are colour coded by the groups in Magic Words, and then alphabetised) and the big number cards.

Here it is again, and I thought I would tell you a bit about what I put on the cupboard because this is the main hub of my classroom, we sit in front of it for carpet time, and you can just see the edge of my mobile whiteboard on the left in the picture above.
Starting on the left. On the left door is our visual timetable and mini calendar on the whiteboard part, and a 100s chart, our five star listening rules and an emotions poster.
On the middle door is my school's "classroom noise management" system (white sound is no sound, amber sound is whispering, green sound is talking sound, and red sound is outside sound), the space where I write my learning intentions for reading, writing, maths and science, and also where I write our class behaviour goal (this week's is "To keep our pencils, textas, scissors and glue in our pencil cases", if they get to the end of the week and have achieved the goal they get a special treat), and on the pinboard part are anchor charts for Writer's Workshop (from Deanna Jump and Deedee Wills pack), my groupings for fine motor skills and perceptual motor program groups, and big number cards.
On the right side is where I write our successful classroom goals, then I have our class jobs, and underneath that on the blue bit is our new word wall.

Phew! We fit a lot on to one small space, which is why it's looking a little cluttered, but they all have a specific purpose so they all have to stay! And they also have to stay because if you looked around the rest of my room you'd see that I don't have another wall space that I could put this stuff on (I have lots of windows and two giant doors - the doors are the size of half a wall!).

So there you go, that's my amazing cupboard, the hub of my classroom, and what I use every single day!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Positive reinforcements in the classroom

Yesterday I linked up with Miss DeCarbo at Sugar and Spice for Wordless Wednesday. I'm going to explain more about my post.

I was talking to a friend recently who was concerned about some of the specialists in her school using lollies frequently as a positive reinforcement tool. It got me thinking about what I thought about using lollies for this, and also about what I do in my classroom.

I'm a big fan of stickers. Huge fan!! I have a mini-suitcase full of them. I can't help but buy a few extra packets every time I got to a "cheap shop". I use them as encouragement (read: bribery) for cleaning up the classroom, I use them to say happy birthday, I use them to say "well done" when students do assessment/testing work with me. I love stickers. They are a cheap and easy positive reinforcement of behaviour.

Along with my stickers, my whole school uses a clip chart model for behaviour management. Here is mine:
I got the template from someone a couple of years ago and I have absolutely no idea who it was. If you know please let me know!

Each child has their own peg and they start the day on green. If they make a good choice, they move their peg to blue. Another good choice and they move their peg to purple - then they get a sticker! The best bit, though, is that I bought customised address label stickers from Vistaprint for my "I've been on purple today" stickers. The kids love them. I get a new set each term, and they get so excited to see the new stickers.

I also have a 'treasure box', but I never use it. I had planned to use it many years ago when I first started teaching, but I have found the stickers have been enough for the students I've taught so far. There may come a time when a group of students needs a bit more encouragement/bribery, but so far I haven't needed that.

One thing I don't use as a positive reinforcement is food. Sure, if we have a class celebration we might have some lollies, but I don't like to use lollies as a daily positive reward. We don't have an official policy on this at my school, but as teachers we are meant to be good role models and I don't believe giving lollies to my students everyday is good role modelling. But that's just my two cents!

I'd love to hear about what you do in your classroom for positive reinforcement.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Positive reinforcement?

I'm linking up with Christina over at Sugar and Spice for Wordless Wednesday.

Does your school have guidelines (official or unspoken) about the kinds of things you can use for positive reinforcement in the classroom? eg. stickers, stamps, lollies, treasure box, etc.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

New product: 100th Day of School Party Pack

I have just uploaded a new product to my TpT Store. It is a 100th Day of School Party Pack!
It contains:

- 100s charts with different numbers missing for different abilities or grade levels
- 100 is 10 groups of 10 maths sheets, two version
- Making 10 using tens frames sheets, two versions
- An original 100th Day of School poem
- Writing prompt sheets, three versions
- Alphabet writing and tracing sheets, Victorian Modern Cursive and print fonts
- 100 snacks placemat
- Colouring page using Graphics from the Pond clipart
- Simple 100 Days crown
It will be a great pack to use on your 100th Day of School. I can't wait to use it for ours, which is still a couple of months away. I have made different versions of some of the activities so that they can be differentiated across ability levels and can be used at different grade levels.

I even wrote an original poem!! I'm definitely not a poet, but it is something for our students to read and it has rhyming words, too.

I had fun making it, and I hope you have fun using it!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Five for Friday - holidays edition

I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday. This week mine will be a holiday edition because I'm currently on the two weeks of holidays between term 1 and term 2.

I have been catching up with lots of people this week which is awesome. I'm not a coffee drinker so it's been yummy hot chocolates for me. I absolutely love having catch ups during the holidays and I make sure to make coffee dates with as many people as I can. Term time can be so busy, and the holidays are the perfect time to catch up on all the goss.

You may have noticed that I've been hitting the social media/blog/TpT stuff hard this week. I'm really trying to create an online teaching network for myself and to increase my involvement with teaching as a profession. I love the people I work with, and they're awesome for advice, but it is so rewarding to read about other schools, other classrooms and other teachers! Big thanks to all those awesome bloggers out there whose blogs I love to read!

I can't believe it but this weekend my niece turns 4!! Those four years have flown by and she is growing up so quickly. Only a year and a half until she starts school which is amazing. I'm think I might make her some really easy writing sheets and counting sheets so she can practice "school stuff" before she gets there. Just for a bit of fun, and I'd love her to be able to write her name before she starts school!

I do a photo a day challenge on Instagram and the other day the prompt was "hobby". I found a serious lacking in this area when I needed to photograph it. I love reading teacher blogs and making teaching resources, so I put up a photo of a product I've made. But I need to expand my horizons a bit. So this week I took up knitting again. And I love it! Last year I started knitting squares with different wool just for something to do, but I've decided to keep making them and then stitch them together to make a blanket. I've got a long way to go, but I'm determined!

Last (very) random thing - I'm going to see The Lego Movie tomorrow with my sister (who is only two years younger than me). We both love kids movies, and me being a teacher is such a great excuse for going to see them!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Sensory activities in my classroom

I see huge value in engaging students senses in activities we do in the classroom. We do lots of sensory-related activities throughout the day, from quick songs to fine motor skills centres.

Throughout the day we sing songs that involve finger and hand movement, and do little activities that support finger control. For example, we sing songs such as Where is Thumbkin? and Little Rabbit Foo Foo. Before writing I often get my students to hold up all ten fingers, wiggle there fingers, then put all fingers down except for one. I might say "wiggle all ten fingers, now hide all except for your pointer finger". We do this with rapid fire instructions so that my students have to listen carefully and also have to have quick control over their fingers.

During the first 7 weeks at school I ran a perceptual motor program (PMP) or a fine motor skills (FMS) program every morning for the first hour (alternating days). For PMP we explored lots of gross motor skills, including balancing, jumping, crawling, hopping, crossing the midline and throwing/catching. I don't have any photos of these, but the kids loved doing this every morning. I had them in two groups (one group with me and one with my classroom aide) and the students would do both activities for 10-15min. I think this program helped my students settle into school, and it certainly helped with their gross motor skills. I have a pack at my TpT store with activity cards for PMP.

Our fine motor skills program is something that I will continue throughout the year, but from term 2 on it will be incorporated into our reading groups sessions, instead of a stand alone lesson. We have done such a huge range of fine motor skills activities, and the kids love the variety. I have photos of some of these! Here they are:

Giant chalk drawings to support arm movement and control. It is also a very different experience drawing on concrete with chalk, than drawing on paper with pencils.

Constructions with soft blocks supports control/stability of arm movements. And, as an added bonus, it helps kids learn to share and get along!

Sorting small objects works to engage kids because the items are interesting, the items all feel different and I get them to sort by as many different attributes as they can, so they might sort by colour first, then size, shape, texture, if the object can roll, if it's shiny, etc.

We do lots of threading and weaving. This one is very straight forward and supports their hand/eye coordination. We have different patterns that we focus on, like all straws going one way, or criss-cross, or on a diagonal.

Very easy threading task using bright coloured buttons that are different shapes and some rubber string. Some students like to create patterns or sort out the buttons before they thread.

And, finally, the coloured rice from yesterday!
I will be using the coloured rice, all mixed up in a big container, as a sensory bin. It will be a centre in my reading groups session. The first centre is going to be focused on sorting out capital and lower case letters, students will have to fish out the magnetic letters from in amongst the rice and then sort them out on a chart. I know that the sensation of having their hands in rice will interest all of my students, but it will also be calming for a couple of them.

I love using sensory activities in my classroom!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Wordless Wednesday link up

I'm linking up with Christina at Sugar and Spice for my first Wordless Wednesday.

Coloured rice to use for sensory-based activities.


What sensory activities to you have in your classroom?

Leave me a comment!

Celebration Freebie - Alphabet Chart

To celebrate the new blog design and starting a Facebook page I have put up a new freebie on TeachersPayTeachers! It is an alphabet chart in Victorian Modern Cursive, with clipart by Graphics from the Pond.

Thanks for supporting me!

New to Facebook!

I'm on Facebook! Find the page here and like the blog. I will post freebies on it occasionally, but I'm still getting things up and running for now.

A maths lesson in Prep L

My school has been lucky enough to have a maths coach over the past year (I think I've mentioned her before). Her name is Andrea Hillbrick, and she is amazing!! One of the biggest changes I have made from her coaching has been in regards to the structure of my maths lessons. They have been tweaked, finessed, and moulded into a much more productive hour.

This is how my lesson runs:
  1. 5min Warm Up: this can be any skill that has already been taught and that needs to be revised regularly - we do lots of counting (backwards, forwards, counting on, counting back, clapping, etc).
  2. 5min Hook: this is something that links the content of the lesson to the real world, for example if you are learning about ordinal number you might watch a video of a race being run.
  3. 10min Tuning In: this is when you teach the skill, practice the skill, model the task and develop success criteria for the lesson.
  4. 20min Learning Experience: this is when students work in groups/in pairs/independently to complete the main task of the lesson. While this is happening I take a small group for a Mini Lesson which is either focused on supporting or extending student knowledge.
  5. 10min Reflection: before packing up the activity I gather my students together for a reflection. We use a Reflection Journal to document our learning in maths.
  6. 10min Pack Up and Closure: after Reflection we pack up our materials and get ready for whatever will happen next in our day!
The best new parts of my maths lessons are the Reflection Journal and packing up after Reflection.

It is amazing what a difference it makes to pack up after you have reflected. Students are still focused on the task, they don't feel like it's finished yet, and sometimes we reflect 5min early so that we can keep working on the task after reflection (this works particularly well if your reflection is about tips or hints related to the task).

The Reflection Journal has really refined my skills. I identify a specific reflection task/tool/focus for each session. I often record what my students tell me they have learned in that lesson, and when I do this reflection I let the students hold a pretend microphone - they love it!! If we are talking about something interesting they noticed then my students get to wear groovy, superstar sunglasses. Often I will get students to record something that is related to the task on post-it notes and get them to add their note to the journal. For example, we were working on number formation during one session so they had to write a number (in their neatest handwriting) and add it to the journal.

I love how my maths lessons run, now. They are really structured, have purpose and motivate my students to be engaged with the content. It took me a little while to get my head around all of the different parts, but it was totally worth it!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Whoops, March went by quickly!

Boy, did March speed on by! We finished off Term 1 and I'm now on two weeks of holidays - fantastic. I thought I'd play catch-up by doing a Currently, Five for Friday and general update type of post all at the same time. And on my To Do list for these holidays is to post a bit more and maybe start a Facebook page to go with this blog. I'm heaps better at posting to Instagram than I am posting on the Blog, so if you like some of the stuff I put on the blog then you should also follow me on Instagram!

Currently - linked up with Farley from Oh' Boy 4th Grade

 My neighbours are quite close to me and today I can hear them banging around in the kitchen as they cook something that smells delicious - jealous!
I'm an Australian teacher, so we have just finished Term 1, and now have two weeks of holidays!
One of my best girlfriends, who I've been friends with for fourteen years, lives in the UK at the moment and she sent me a very sweet parcel this week. I miss her.
I have heaps on my holiday To Do list, including things related to work, home and blogging/TpT.
New week grocery shop needs to happen soon - the fridge/cupboard are very bare.
These are my work hours generally. The kids come 9-3.30pm. We finish up on the Friday before Christmas.

To celebrate the Very Hungry Caterpillars 45th Anniversary, I organised for a whole school art project at a lunchtime event, giving all students and teachers the opportunity to add a piece of artwork to a canvas. My mum stenciled the Very Hungry Caterpillar across eight canvases, then the school used Posca paint textas to add something that you would find in the garden with a caterpillar. Here is our final piece!!
When we learned the letter Oo a couple of weeks ago my students made this awesome Ocean mural.
I had a student teacher for the past two weeks. He was the first student teacher I've had who actually had to teach. And it was eye-opening and awesome for me! It really made me reflect on what I do, how I do it and why I do it. I had to coach him in behaviour management and lesson planning, which really made my think about how I do it. I also learned a lot about my class by being able to just watch them doing their work, while someone else managed the activity. I was really careful to give my student teacher lots of space to teach and manage the class. I remember that it was often frustrating when the supervising teacher stepped in over and over again; it felt like they didn't trust you. So I sat at my desk, kept an eye on things, and got some assessment done. Win win!

I finished reading Veronica Roth's Divergent series last week - love it!! Now I'm reading Markus Zusak's The Book Thief. I haven't seen the movie yet, so I thought I'd read the book during my holidays, then see the movie when it's available. I'm really enjoying the book so far.

The last week of term was a bit strange this year because Easter falls on the last weekend of our holidays, so it felt weird doing Easter activities knowing that Easter was still two weeks away. But we did a little bit anyway. My school had an Easter Had Parade (love the effort our families put into it!!) and on the last day my class spent two hours working on an Easter Booklet of fun activities (just things I found online). It was a nice way to wind down on the last day of term.

Phew, this is a big post!! I'm planning to post a few things about my classroom/teaching etc. It's nice to share what you do in the classroom with other people.