Thursday, 31 July 2014

Blast Off Back To School With Lifelong Learning

250 × 120Back to school season is drawing closer and TpT is celebrating with a back to school sale. August 4th-5th buyers will receive 8% off their purchase at the checkout. Adding to that I will be having an additional 20% off sale on all the products in my TpT store. This means you get 28% off all Lifelong Learning products. This will be the time to save on all the back to school resources you will need for the beginning of the year.

Here are a few resources you might be interested in this upcoming school year.

Getting To Know You Backpack Glyph
This glyph is designed to be a fun introductory activity to help students get to know one another. Following the instructions students colour their backpack accordingly as they answer questions about themselves. They also fill out a getting to know you farm in which they write a few sentences about themselves. The finished glyphs make a fun and welcoming addition to your back to school bulletin board. You could also use this glyph later in the school year to emphasize and practice the skill of following written directions. 

FREEBIE: Student Groups & Pairs Organization Using Playing Cards 

Here's a back to school gift from me to you. Are you looking for a way to manage student groups and pairs in an easy and clear way? Try this simple solution using playing cards! Each student is given a playing are which can be used for a variety of pairings that are clearly displaced using the posters and cards included in this package.

Daily Student Writing Journal- 180 Daily Writing Prompts For Levels 3-5 

Start off a year long writing journal with your students. Prompts are non-denominational and include a variety of opinion, explaining events and processes, and creative writing narrative prompts.

Mark your calendar and start your wishlist, this sale is the perfect launching point to start your school year off right.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Make Mistakes, Get Messy

One of my favourite quotes is from the children's show Ms. Frizzle- "Take chances, make mistakes, get messy". Though it presents a good sentiment for children to know as they learn, that it is alright to make mistakes and that learning is not always linear process, I think it presents something that all educators and parents should keep in mind as well.

Here are a few statements to contemplate:

- Are you as a teacher willing to take chances and try something new with your students? Are you willing to push past your comfort zone of the familiar in your teaching?

- Do you recognize that it is alright to make mistakes? Teachers often feel that a mistake on their part means letting down students (something no teacher wants to feel), when in reality these mistakes can make room for new techniques and give you the opportunity to create something even better.

- Do you judge yourself for your mistakes? Teachers are often very judgmental towards themselves, but what does this reflect for students? We tell them that their grades do not define them as individuals, yet teachers often feel that their perceived successes and failures in the classroom define them.

- Do you resist mess? Yes, it can be exhausting to pursue a messy activity or project with your students. At the end of the day you can mop up the paint, brush the glitter from your hair, and wonder if it was worth it. Always remember that it likely was. Through those 'messy' interactive projects students can often learn so much more than they could through a typical lesson.

There is no right or wrong in teaching. Some days it simply won't make sense to break out the construction paper or try a whole new style of lesson. But if teachers are able to keep themselves open to the possibility of change, of mess, of making mistakes, if teachers are willing to evolve- so too will their students. There is always room for change and growth.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Beat The Back To School Blahs

Back to school is fast approaching. For teachers this means a flurry of activity as they plan their lessons, organize their classroom, and get ready for the deluge of open houses, parent questions, and staff meetings that come with the beginning of the new school year. Oftentimes the focus is on the negative aspects of going back to school, but what about all the great things there are to look forward to? I decided to ask some of my fellow bloggers…

What are you most looking forward to about the back to school season and the upcoming school year?

Terri from Terri's Teaching Treasures says "I am going to a new school so I am excited to decorate a new classroom and collaborate with some new colleagues!!".

"I'm looking forward to working with teachers across my school board in my new position as Grade 2-6 Elementary Program Consultant! I love matching teachers up with just the right resources to help them teach effectively".
- Coach's Corner

Charlene from Diamond Mom's Treasury says " I am looking forward to seeing my students from last year and hearing all about their summer adventures. We always start the first week with our classes from the previous year. The new classes are formed when the district gets the numbers of returning students to each school".

Who doesn't love fresh pencils, markers… and now, new apps that I plan to use throughout the school year! It's all exciting! I'm also really ever to try out some of the ideas I've had related to the new curriculum we have for French, and perfecting things for the inquiry-based Social Studies curriculum that I used for the first time last year".
- TeachingFSL

Beth from Thinking Of Teaching says "I'm going to a new school that is a K-5, which I've never worked in before. I'm also excited to be reunited with my principal and to be working closer to home".

Tina from Tina's Teaching Treasures says "I am looking forward to trying new things and having a fresh start. We have one of the only professions where each year ends with a nice relaxing break and starts with a blank canvas!! I love creating and establishing routines with my students and getting to create a little family with all my third graders!".

"I'm looking forward to working with all the new teachers that have joined the Primary Division at my school! New staff = new ideas. That and I really miss Tuesday Soup Club and Friday Treat Days :) ".
Bryn Even- The Primary Patch

Emily from Emmy Mac's Class says "I love decorating my classroom. Setting things up in a different way. This will be my fifth year in the same classroom so I like to mix things up".

"I am excited for my classroom change and to set it up as a clean slate. I am super excited to meet my class and to plan for new subjects I've never taught".
- 2 Peas and a Dog

Alessia from Mrs. Albanese's Kindergarten Class says "I am looking forward to continuing to learn more about inquiry and play-based learning as we move into year 2 of FDK".

"There are going to be a lot of new faces at my school this year! I look forward to working with a new principal (even though I'll miss my old principal tremendously), and with new colleagues. I look forward to the changes that will be make within the school. I'm also excited about starting with a clean slate. I look forward to trying new things with my students and to get back to a routine and schedule".
- Mrs. Mathis' Homeroom

Mrs. Beattie says "Heading into my second year in primary, I am looking forward to a fresh start and an opportunity to refine and improve my teaching. I love being able to change what I do each year, or keep the things that went well the year before!

Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to this post! 

I hope everyone has a wonderful back to school season and a great start to the new school year. What do you do to push past the back to school blahs? What are you excited for? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below, or via Facebook or email

Lifelong Learning

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Natural Playgrounds: Thinking Outside The Postage Stamp

We know that children learn through play. In a time where it seems the classroom is increasingly constraining, so too is the area relegated to break times- the playground.

Over the years it seems that more and more playgrounds have features removed for safety reasons, or are shrunken by school expansions and portables. All that remains is a postage stamp of soccer field and pavement. Students sit and use their various electronic devices with minimal physical activity, interaction, and imagination. When I was in elementary school my playground was very interactive: climbing structures, sand boxes, giant logs, climbing trees, stone boulders, and other natural features. We learned about barter through the exchange of pretty rocks and feathers, and territory- drawing up contracts to see who would get the 'big rock' this recess. We observed the decay and insect life found under an overturned log, and saw how leverage and teamwork could help us move a larger log to make a fort. All this to say that I believe given the right natural area to explore, children will invent their own opprotunities for learning. Natural playgrounds do not have to be 'dangerous', with the right amount of oversight and planning the playground can once again become a place of imagination, creativity, and learning.

Here are some of my favourite natural playground inspirations.

I've been lurking over at Teacher Tom's blog for way too long admiring their outdoor classroom.

Pinterest is another source of never-ending inspiration for natural playgrounds, I have a board where I gather images here. Check out some of my favourite ones below.

Look at this amazing water feature. Students could build damns to learn about erosion, learn how a hand pump works, how fast water flows when its volume increases etc.

Manipulative materials do not have to be dangerous. With the proper supervision students can use recyclable materials, wood, piping, and more, to create their own projects. Given the space and time to do so, through this type of creative play children will create their own learning opportunities.

Even a simple tree stump can host a multitude of imaginative learning opportunities through creative play.

What do you think about natural playgrounds? Does your school's playground have natural elements? Let me know what you think in the comments below or connect with me via Facebook or email.