Be The Principal Who Says “No.”

Can I talk to you when you have a chance? No, you can talk to me right now because I value our conversations.

Do you think we could look into getting this for the school so I could use it with my students? No, I’ll look into right away so we can use it with all the students in the school.

Do you mind if I send you this funny email? No, I encourage you to send that funny email because I am also human and am capable of laughing.

Can we look into getting some updated technology in my classroom? No, because I’ve already looked into it and it’s on its way. I noticed how well you use technology already and thought it might be beneficial to have a teacher encouraging students to do the same. 
I’m applying for a new job and was hoping you could give me some guidance? No, I will personally make some phone calls for you because I believe in your strengths and abilities. 

Can you let me know when you’re going to be coming into my classroom? I don’t like the feeling of being spied on. No, I will come in at random and on a consistent basis because I believe in what you’re doing with your students is in their best interest and that you are always giving 100% effort towards your job. 

This conference is a bit expensive, but I was hoping to go if you think it’s OK. No, I think it’s more than OK. I think it’s wonderful you are wanting to further yourself in your professional development.

Do you want me to sign up for another intramural? No, I want you to sign up for another intramural if you’re passionate about wanting to teach the students what you have to offer out of choice not obligation. 
Do you think I should try this new activity with my students? No, I know you can try it and I know you will do it well while failing, succeeding, and picking yourself back up in between.

Oh, I see you’re sitting with me at lunch. Do you want to know what happened today in my classroom? No. Again, I’m a human being and am able to talk about subjects other than education.
I’m going to be away tomorrow afternoon. Can we switch supervision times? No, I’ll just do your supervision block for you.

I have a student causing me lots of problems in the classroom. There are a few people scheduled to come in and see this student in the coming weeks, but do you have any tips or tricks you think I should try? No, but let’s sit down and think of some together and then I can come to your classroom to help implement these strategies and observe the student. That way when the specialists arrive, I’ll have an idea of what’s happening in the classroom.
I’d really love to use that new tech tool with my students that you mentioned at the last staff meeting. Can you show me how to use it after school so I can best teach my students? No, let’s arrange a time where I can come and teach your class alongside you so we can both learn and teach simultaneously. 

Can I pop out of school on May 15th for a few hours? My son’s school is having their Mother’s Day Tea and I would really like to attend. I will arrange my own coverage with my colleagues. No, I’ll cover your class for you. Your family is important.

This parent has been questioning my every move since the first day of school. They requested a meeting with me and would like you to come, too. Do you want me to tell them we can all meet after school tomorrow? No. Let’s sit down and have a chat just you and I to talk about what will be discussed at the meeting, before we schedule anything. I will always have your back.
Be the principal who says “no.”

The Back to School Blazer: Look No Further

I have found it.

“It” being a blazer. THE blazer. THE blazer to have for “Back To School”.

I know those last three little words are a bit painful after having a fantastic and restful summer break, but at least it’s time to shop for some new clothes.

If you’re looking for a new blazer, look no further. I have found it at a store called Lole. I love how the store has a mix of active wear that can take us ladies from the classroom to the gym and back again.

When I am shopping for any jacket or tailored sweater, I struggle to find one that is broad enough in the shoulders. A few of my jackets have succumbed to that one time I bent over to help a student with their shoes or reached down to grab my coffee cup or keys I placed on the floor. Therefore, I like to find pieces that are stretchy. And at my job, I move. Lots.

Pros to this blazer:

– stretchy

– super mega comfy fabric (it feels like wearing a hoodie but you look all posh and put together) with SPF 50 protection

– arms stretchy enough to wear full length or rolled up to a 3/4 length

– nicely tailored for a close fit

– a flattering length that hits just below the hip

– did I say it was stretchy? Yeah, it’s stretchy.

Cons to this blazer:

– nothing.

I bought this blazer in black and know that due to its fit and colour that it will be a staple in my work wardrobe, from bends to boogers.

You can buy The Suitable Blazer here in red, grey, blue, or black.

The best news of all is that the Lole Whyte Avenue location is offering teachers a 20% back to school discount on the new fall line when a teacher ID is presented at the checkout.

Looking to get fit this Fall? Allow our fitness community to provide the support and inspiration you need to achieve your goals. Come down to our 4000 square foot facility and discover our Fall specials, plus mention this blog and get $25 off your first month of fitness! Welcome to the BeFit Family beyoutifulyoufit.com

I am an ambassador for Lole Women’s Clothing. All opinions expressed in this blog post are my own.

Back to School: It Doesn’t Matter

Teachers, it doesn’t matter. You can tell yourself it does, but it doesn’t. 

Stop wondering about what colour to dye clothes pins.

Stop questioning what theme you should decorate your classroom.

Stop obsessing over how you should organize every scrap of construction paper at your art station.

Stop contemplating buying a 100$ personalized school planner.

Stop making sure absolutely every pencil holder in your classroom matches every other little item.

Start wondering how clothes pins can be added to your loose parts play area to promote creative thinking.

Start questioning the themes your students will be interested in during the upcoming school year, in order to plan meaningful learning opportunities.

Start obsessing over how you organize your materials best for your students’ needs.

Start writing down all your ideas in a coil notebook in perfect printing or chicken scratch – make it look unique.

Start making sure absolutely every tiny little detail about your teaching matches every tiny little student coming into your classroom.

Sit back. Relax. Clean your classroom. Make it organized. Make it you.

Stop thinking it matters.
Start thinking the pedagogy matters more.

  

Earth Day: Paperless Pleasure in Nature

I just did a mega successful Earth Day activity with my students. I’ve seen much too much paper and styrofoam Earth Day activities being shared on educational websites and that’s just not right. Try this one out for size!

To create this lesson, I was inspired by two activities:
1) the cloud frame you have all seen on Pinterest, where students make a frame that has different types of clouds around it and they can use outdoors to identify different types of clouds
2) yarn weaving

I thought long and hard to come up with a fun activity for my students to get closer to nature. My pal Mardelle is super outdoorsy and is always in the back of my mind as soon as I pick up a stick or a leaf. My idea of outdoorsy is hanging out on my deck with some snacks. So this was out of my comfort zone for sure.

My fabulous student teacher and my excellent Educational Assistant both helped tie and hot glue a stick frame for each student.

After we brainstormed about what we find in nature, each student helped me finish off the frames by wrapping some stretchy elastic cord all around the frame. We talked about how we have different sizes of items in nature and how we need something to help hold all our items in our frame.

Here is a photo of all the supplies we used.

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Is that stretchy elastic cord made out of gold? No? Well it cost just as much as gold at Michael’s. Ugh.

I helped the students knot as each end. While I did so, they wrote their name on half of a paint chip. I hole punched the paint chip and used a small amount of wire to wrap it onto the bottom of the frame.

Afterwards, we were ready to capture nature!

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The students did such a great job and found some items I never thought they would. They look beautiful hanging in the hallway. I can’t keep a plant alive, but these will be up for a while because I don’t have to water them.

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I’m not quite sure how the popsicle stick got in there, but oh well!

Edit: I was just looking around some sites for some new Mother’s Day gift ideas and came across another version of these Nature Frames at this site! It’s pretty cool they did it in a triangle shape rather than a square.

Not A Turkey In Sight: Thanksgiving

Toiler paper roll turkey? Hard pass. It’s just not me.
I like to build lots of language into the activities we do. I also like to throw the religion piece in there.
In my classroom, Thanksgiving is all about thanking God for what we have in our lives. We take a solid three or four days doing Thanksgiving activities.

First, I create the word “Thank You God for” on individual pieces of paper. The students and I practice how to arrange the words of the sentence properly. We talk about how word make up a sentence. Then we think of something they are thankful for and place it at the end of the sentence. Afterwards, students do this individually with myself, and they learn how to take a picture with the iPad.

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They usually have to stand on a chair to get everything in the frame.

Afterwards, I put all their photos into the app SonicPics where they then record their voices. You can check out my PM class’ video here!

The next day, the students basically do the same activity only individually with their own set of small words. I ask them to do it on a 4×6 index card so the papers can easily be slipped into a photo book from the dollar store. Students also need to brainstorm their own idea rather than finding an item in the classroom. I also have some visual supports we practice with on the Smart Board.

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Here are a few examples of student work.

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Afterwards, the students can “read” the book together.

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During the week leading up to Thanksgiving, the students also practice a Thanksgiving poem.

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I came up with a nice keepsake idea. This way the students can take the prayer home and if they need help saying it at Thanksgiving dinner, their family will know how the prayer goes. Since we have also been practicing the sign of the cross, the students used yarn and cardboard to add one to their work.

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Gotta love me some Mod Podge! That’s the fancy glue we used to adhere the poem to the artist canvas. Also gotta love a nice Michael’s 50% off coupon because that stuff is pricey.

Happy Thanksgiving!

3 Literacy Activities for Struggling Students: Starting Now

The two month countdown has begun. I only have so much time left with my students to help them learn as much as possible. As per usual, schedules have been crazy (what DOESN’T happen during the last few months of school?! Motion to move Mother’s Day to the end of January please and thank you) but I have been making a huge effort to work with my weakest group of literacy students every single day on top of everything else. Confession: I didn’t want to say “weakest” so I sat staring at my iPad for a good 20 minutes trying to reword my sentence or say it differently, but I can’t. So. Yea. There’s that.

In order to do this, I knew I would need to be organized. My grade partner and I pow wowed about what we could do for those students in need. I had come to the immediate conclusion that it’s too difficult for those students to do literacy activities that work with the whole alphabet. We needed to get it down to 2 or 3 letters and work our way up from there.

Here are three literacy activities you can do with you students tomorrow to help them out.

1) Highlighter Letters
I created a document with two different letters in a whole bunch of circles. I put about 6 of each letter on the page. The photos below are from me practicing with a group of students learning the difference between C and K. I wrote each letter on a separate sticky note. We practiced before starting, saying the letters out loud and noticing one letter had all lines and one letter was just a curve. After reviewing both the letters, I hid the letters behind my back. I pulled a letter out and asked the students to say it. We did this about 6 times. On the 7th time, I asked them to colour in the correct circle with a highlighter. They. Loved. It. Then I showed them the next letter, and they coloured it in, and so on and so forth. After a few times of them colouring the circle in with a visual aid, I placed the stickies in front of them and verbally asked them to colour in a letter. This scaffolding really set them up for success. It was very important for me to have ALL the students say EACH letter EACH time. If not, they would just be matching the letter, not recognizing and saying it.

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2) Sticker Letters

I used the same templates as the Highlighter Letters activity, and changed it to using stickers. I am obsessed with those, what I like to call, “garage sale stickers” from Wal-Mart. You get 300 in a pack and they are only a dollar! They’re like the kind of stickers you see at garage sales, because people use them to mark prices on items. I use them for pretty much everything else in the classroom. Bonus: fine motor practice. Woot!
I wrote out the two or three letters on two sheets of stickers, and practiced and modeled the same way I described in the previous activity. And again, they loved it.

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Simple Sort

It’s embarassing I didn’t come up with this one sooner. I cut a piece of paper into 12 pieces and wrote each letter 6 times. I also like to include a happy face drawing in the top left hand corner, Handwriting Without Tears style, so there is no confusion regarding upside down letters. We practice, flip them all over, and then sort them one at a time. This is a great reinforcement activity to do either after or before any of the above mentioned activities.

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It was super simple for me to snap a photo of each student’s work and put it into their Evernote e-portfolio right after. I also commented on their strengths and difficulties during the activity. I have even had parents ask for copies of the activity to do at home, which I sent easily in an email.
If you would like the template from the first two activities, please DM me and I will send them to you.

Kindergarten Assessment: Quick & Easy

I recently shared an assessment template with my PLN on Twitter. I’ve had lots of requests to have the template sent to other teachers, as well as a few questions about how it works.
I give full credit to my good friend and coworker @mllekmn who shared with me this is how she does some assessment in her 4/5 combined class.

Here is what the template looks like. This specific template is to assess which students know what about patterns in math. The subject, unit, and outcomes are at the top of the page. This specific outcome is about identifying, reproducing, continuing, and creating a pattern. In each box there is the student’s name and then 4 bullets. Each bullet is a part of the outcome (identifying, reproducing, continuing and creating). Knocking it down to one word really simplified the look of this document, which I love.

I had a finger paint centre happening in the classroom. The students were asked to create patterns for me. This would allow me to understand where my students were at the start of our unit, before we went into any specific patterning activities.

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After student work had dried, I quickly went through the finished products and checked off who would create a pattern.

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It is clear this student above can create their own pattern. I found their name on my document, checked the bulletin off, and then stamped the date next to that bullet to let me know when that student had achieved that specific section of the outcome.

To take it a bit further, I wanted to be able to refer back to this document and know what student mastered which outcome with which activity. I flipped my document over, and quickly scribbled down the activity they did that showed me they achieved that outcome. I stamped the date next to my scribble writing so that there was correlation between the front of the page and the back of the page.

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When this math unit is completed, I hope to have many checks on the front, many dates stamped on the front, and many scribbled boxed off activities on the back.
With all the student work nice and dry, I added page protectors and cardstock to a duo tang to create a class book of examples of patterns they created.

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I also threw a sticky note on the front so we could tell which book belonged to the AM class and which book belonged to the PM class.

If you would like me to send you the template, DM me on Twitter.

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