Monthly Archives: November 2012

Add Improv into Your Classroom with This Holiday Freebie

My students are very vocal and energetic this year. Many are hands-on learners as well, and they love activities where they can get out of their seats. Rather than fight this, I’ve been trying to embrace it and to draw on those strengths and learning preferences.

Well, Christmas is quickly approaching and you know what that means! The holidays (for me, anyways) mean more chatting, more restlessness, and energy levels reach a new high. Monday mornings are like Friday afternoons, if you know what I’m saying. So, knowing that this is what lies ahead for the next month, I’ve been trying to think of some activities that I can do with my students to incorporate their excitement for the upcoming holiday, while still covering the curriculum that I am responsible to cover.

Not too long ago, I posted about an excellent book that I found (CCSS aligned) about teaching literary elements with picture books. I mentioned in that post about a “Point of View” improv activity from the book, that I was excited to try with my students. Since writing that post, I have done the activity and as expected, they ate it up! So, I decided to take the idea and add a holiday twist.

For this improv activity, students put themselves into a character’s position and speak from their point of view. It helps students identify point of view in what they read and to take on different points of view in their own writing. It also builds their skills with the writing trait of “voice”.

Adding Improv Into Your Classroom…

Improv is not for everyone and it’s definitely not for all students. However, if you think this would be up your students’ alley, this is what you need to do!

Create some scenarios for students on cards, much like in the game Charades. These scenarios can be as creative as you like (this is where you add a holiday twist) and call the student to speak from a unique point of view.

A volunteer chooses a card, reads it out loud and then speaks from the point of view dictated by the card.

Here are two examples:

Point of View Improv scene

Point of View Improv scene

Most of my students love being in front of an audience and so activities like this are perfect for them. I know that they are not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea. However, with the Christmas season upon us and energy levels on the rise, I’ll be saving this holiday version of the improv activity that they loved, for a time when they need to get out of their seats and be a little silly.

Following this improv activity, students can work with a partner to create their own improv scenes for Christmas. They could act out these scenes or even choose one to inspire a short creative writing piece. I have a freebie in my TPT Store, if you have a class like mine, that would thrive on this type of kinesthetic activity and I’ve done all of the work for you. Point of View Improv Activity


Laura Candler of “Corkboard Connections” is hosting a Holiday Learning Link-Up. This is an awesome collection of holiday teaching ideas, tips and resources to make your holiday season the best yet! Christmas is just a month away, now. Be sure to check out this link-up if fresh ideas for your classroom is on your Christmas wish list!

Thanks for all of your hard work in putting this link-up together, Laura.


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 For more freebies- check out TBA’s Freebie Friday!

Freebie Fridays

Cyber Monday…Plus Tuesday…Don’t Miss Out!

Cyber Monday Plus Tuesday Teachers Pay Teachers Sale photo

It’s that time of year again – the TeachersPayTeachers Cyber Monday Sale. This year it will be even better, as it is actually Monday AND Tuesday. That’s two days to stock up on some essentials for your classroom.

Teachers Pay Teachers is offering 10% off of all purchases – just use the code CMT12. In addition to that, many store owners (myself included) are also putting their items on sale for those two days. All items in my TPT Store will be on sale, at 20% off. That’s 28% off overall.

You really don’t want to miss out. Head over to TeachersPayTeachers and join the frenzy! People have already started filling their carts and crossing items off of their wish lists.

As if that wasn’t enough, The 3am Teacher has set up a link-up for your viewing pleasure. Hop around to everyone’s blog – see what they’re offering in the way of sales and score yourself some deals. Thanks again for setting this up, Michelle!Photobucket





Enough talk – let’s get to the good stuff! So many savings…where to start? 


Math Project: Create a Math Themed Game, Poster or Rap

This is one of my newest products. It’s for grades 5-8 and students work to create either a math themed game, poster or rap. Rubrics are included and students really enjoy this math project. It’s also generic, so that it can be used with multiple grade levels and math concepts.

Math Menu: Differentiating Math in Your Classroom

My Math Menus resource has been very popular. It’s a great way to differentiate math in your classroom and again, is generic enough that you can use it with various concepts throughout the year. Multiple menus are included, so that you can adjust to your own needs.
In my TPT Store, I also have Language Arts
 and Health resources. I teach Math, LA, Social Studies and Health to grade 7 students and so I have a variety!
Organizing Writing
My Health Choices Activities
I have lots of other resources on everything from Making Connections in Language Arts, to Transformational Geometry, Fractions, Classroom Management, Integers, Rounding, Probability, Independent Reading, Vocabulary and lots more! I have lots of great freebies too – one of my newest ones is on Word Choice and it’s been very well received! I’m also busy trying to get a holiday writing lesson posted – and I hope to have it up in time for the big sale!
Well, that’s it for me! Happy blog hopping and have that cart ready for check-out on Cyber Monday or Tuesday:)
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Successful Parent Teacher Conferences and Efficient Reporting Link-Up

I don’t know about you, but man o’ man this year is going by quickly! Maybe it’s just that I’m getting older, but whatever it is – it’s just shocking to think that our first parent teacher conferences are behind us and Christmas is just around the corner. Our conferences finished up yesterday. As I waited for my first parent to arrive, I was remembering  how anxious I was, the first time I had to meet with parents. Those first parent-teacher conferences can be terrifying to think about! I’ve always had nothing but great experiences, but it’s the unknown that can be scary. Will they tear into me about how I’ve been teaching Math? Does their child tell them that I’m cranky? Do they think I’m doing a good job of educating their child? The potential judgements can make your head spin!

successful parent teacher conferences photoWith that in mind, I asked around a bit for tips on how to make parent teacher conferences most successful, for new and seasoned teachers alike. Some of the ideas are mine, things that I already do, some have come from fellow teachers (including the book recommendations).

How do you make parent-teacher conference MOST successful?

1) Have the students write about what they’ve done a good job of so far in the term, and what they could improve on. This way, they are assessing themselves, and the teacher doesn’t have to look like the bad guy bringing up the things the student needs to improve on. Nine times out of ten, the student will write about the things you’d like them to improve – the need to study more, do more homework or stop chatting so much. This way, you can show the parent, “Well this is what he said he needed to work on…” And you’re on your way!

2) Always start with something positive about the student. If you don’t have something – find something! This child is their parents’ whole world. Be kind.

3) End with a positive. You want your parents walking away feeling good about the conference – so end on a high note!

4) Straighten up your room and make it as inviting as you can. It should be shining and looking as spiffy as it did on Day 1 this year.

5) Have a basket of business cards and candies on the table and tell parents to help themselves. You can pass along your information to them if they didn’t receive it at the first of the year, or if it’s been misplaced. And let’s face it: Candies put everyone in a better mood!

6) Make sure to leave time for parents to ask questions. Have a pad of paper at the ready to record questions that you need to go and find the answers to (questions for other subject teachers, resource teacher or principal etc.). Take down their phone number as well, so that you can contact them when you find the answer to their question.

7) It you teach younger children, have a table set up with adult sized chairs, so that parents feel more comfortable.

8) Always try to stick to appointment times and have parents choose another time to continue the meeting if need be.

9)There should be no major surprises at parent teacher time. Make sure to contact parents ahead of time about behaviors and/or marks that are a major concern. If parents know what their child needs to work on, they can help them. If the child is failing and report card time is the first the parent has heard that their child is struggling, you may have some explaining to do.

Link Up Effecient Reporting10) Be prepared. Have your comments ready to share and any paperwork the needs to be signed by the parents ready to go. Many teachers at my school keep a folder on each child where completed work, tests, and assignments are stored. I teach grade 7 and so I have students file their own work, which makes things easy. When parent-teacher time rolls around, I can pull out each file to help me write report card comments and for my discussions with parents. Make sure to have files like this available to help you discuss what you need to, with parents.  

A friend of mine has a great blog post on efficient reporting and is hosting a link-up as well on the topic. Head over to Teaching FSL to get some great tips or to link up  your own blog post.


Some book recommendations…

When recommending books, sometimes I recommend books that I found, own and have read. I recommend the book based on having read it and seeing the potential for how it could be used in the classroom. Sometimes I recommend books on the glowing reviews I’ve received about titles, from other teachers. The three books below, I haven’t personally read, although I trust the judgements of my colleagues. The second one on how to deal with difficult parents was mentioned by multiple teachers and looks like a funny and light read (and may be where I’d personally start)!


For help writing your report card comments – this book may provide some inspiration:


To give you some ideas for dealing with difficult parents:


While this book is not specifically for parent-teacher conferences, it is a new release for how to effectively establish “student led” conferences, which is not completely unrelated to the topic at hand – plus I saw that the foreword was from Rick Stiggins – so it’s got to be good!


To all of you new teachers out there who have yet to get your first classroom, or who are in your first year of teaching, I hope that these tips will help you on the way to having the best parent-teacher conferences possible. If we don’t have parent support, it makes it very difficult to do our jobs. Do what you can to get parents on your side and keep them there.


~Thank you to those who left your ideas for me on my Facebook page on this topic – Queen of Click, Melissa Henderson, Sue Kenmotsu, Dalia Guillén Alvarado and Jennifer Cramer Armour.~


Have you had parent-teacher conferences yet this year? How’d they go and what tips could you add?

Have you asked your students to assess you yet this year?

It’s report card time here in PEI, and we have parent-teacher interviews tomorrow and Friday. I have a few years in at this teaching gig, but P-T interviews still give me those little butterflies in my stomach. Until I get going, that is. Once I’ve spoken to a few parents, I always loosen up and relax. It’s the pre-interview time that I’m a little anxious.

Anyhow, with report card time, comes assessment. This is generally assessment of our students – how are they doing? Where do they need to improve? If you’re a follower of my blog, then you know that at the end of the school year, last June, I asked my students for some constructive feedback of my teaching. I asked them to anonymously write some things that they enjoyed or that I did well and ONE thing that I could work on (because ONE thing x 25 students is a lot to work on!).

So, being that I’ve assessed my students and given them feedback on their report cards, I thought I’d let them have a crack at my teaching and give me some feedback. The great thing about doing this, is that you always get some warm fuzzies from the comments: Good sense of humor, I liked the read aloud that we did, you don’t assign to much homework, I like the Math games that we play… and so on. With the good comes the ugly. So far, it looks like my class would like to do more hands on projects, art work and it looks like I’m doing a good job of teaching math, but my social studies needs some work. (Go figure, guess what my favorite subject to teach is?)

have students assess your teaching

Feedback is how we improve – students and teachers alike. Seeing it in black and white from the minds of the students who sit in front of me now, is extremely empowering! Of course it’s a little scary to ask them what they think of your teaching, that first time. It’s such a great exercise though. Just think, how many times have they put themselves out there to do something for you this year (read in class, do a presentation, post their artwork – the list goes on.)

The end of the week is approaching, why not make a point of asking your students for some feedback. You might be surprised with what they come back to you with! Good luck:)

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All Children Deserve a Place To Play, Don’t You Think?



Okay folks, I’m just going to lay this out there. We need a new playground. Ours, among other things, is simply not accessible to all of our students. We have a child in a wheelchair, who literally can’t GET to the playground. This, my friends, is not acceptable. It’s not good enough for him, nor for any other future students who may be in his position. Oh, but my community is not one to sit back and complain – we’re trying to shake things up and make things happen.

Barrier-free playground equipment is not going to simply fall from the sky – even if we wiggle our noses and say, “Pretty please”. It’s not. I’ve tried.

souris school needs a playground for all

Souris Consolidated School

We’ve taken matters into our own hands and have applied for the funding we need through the Aviva Community Fund program. It’s an awesome program, but what it all boils down to – is that we need votes! Can you guess where this is going….come on – think of the kids!

Yes, you’re right – we do need your help. If you could ever spare 60 seconds (or less) to vote for our school project, John, and our entire school and community would be forever grateful and oh, so appreciative. You can literally sign in with your Facebook account (or use your email address) and click “Vote” for our project. Your few seconds of selflessness and kindness could make the difference for our project. Voting is open for the next two weeks and you can vote every day. Did I mention that you can vote every day, for the next two weeks? I just wanted to make sure to get that in there. In case you needed a link to your curriculum (because you could get your students to vote for us too)  this would go along perfectly with an “empowerment” or “change the world” type of theme, or even a “random acts of kindness” theme in your classroom. Just think, if everyone reading this post voted each day for the next 2 weeks, and perhaps shared this post on his/her Facebook page or Twitter feed…we’d have our playground in no time.

Okay – that’s it. My shameless plea for your time and your votes. All children deserve a place to play, don’t you think? What if it was your child?

Thank you.

You can vote here!

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Using Picture Books to Teach Literary Elements in Middle School – A Great Find and CCSS Aligned

I’m super excited about the book that I just got Using Picture Books to Teach 8 Essential Literary Elements: An Annotated Bibliography of More Than 100 Books With Model Lessons to Deepen Students’ Comprehension. What a mouthful!

The book covers:


~Point of view






~Figurative language

 It’s for grades 4-8 and contains 2 lessons for each of the 8  literary elements above, using suggested titles. Each lesson is based on a model text – a picture book! The title, author and brief plot summary are included for each model text. Each lesson begins with a critical question based on the literary element and the materials required for the lesson are listed. A step by step explanation follows, as well as black line masters if applicable, and a wrap-up. Beyond the 16 lessons, there are  “More Books for Teaching…” each of the 8 literary elements. Along with the additional title suggestions, are teaching ideas and interdisciplinary connections for each.  Over 100 titles are included in all and this book is aligned to the Common Core – which is a bonus! There is a two page spread at the beginning of the book listing which standards are addressed.

One of the lessons that I can’t wait to use is a Point of View Improv activity. The group that I have this year will love it! Most of them love an audience and thrive on acting silly! There are 10 cut-apart scenarios that willing students will draw from a basket, each putting them into a unique situation by giving them a specific point of view to speak from. For example, “You are a cheeseburger. You see a big mouth coming towards you. What do you call out?” I mean, come on!  What a unique idea! There are only 10 cards included, but it would be easy to come up with some others. Students could also create their own “point of view improv” card and the cards could be added to a class set.

I just love when I buy a book that I can see so many uses for! I already own 5 titles that are included in this book and I’ll be looking at gathering more!

Picture books are so powerful and I think that sometimes we forget that in the middle and upper grade levels – I know I do. However, so many picture books are extremely versatile and could address multiple teaching points. I don’t mean for you to run out and purchase this book – although I do think it’s a good buy! What I’m suggesting is to have a look at your library, or the class libraries of teachers of other grade levels. Most picture books will offer opportunities for teaching literary elements – it’s just to find the time to read through some good ones and to make those connections. That’s what I love about this particular book – all the connections and titles are there for me! 

Do you have any titles of picture books that you use to teach particular literary elements?

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