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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The Learning Center - 100 Follower Giveaway!

Hey, do you want to win some stuff?!?

The Learning Center has reached 100 followers on TpT!  To celebrate, she is hosting 4 days of giveaways!  Starting on May 1, you can enter to win bundles of great teacher-created resources!  Each day focuses on a different grade range!

May 1 - Grades 1-3
May 2 - Pre-K - Grade 1
May 3 - Grades 4-6 (Including my Media Literacy Unit!!)
May 4 - Winner's Choice!

Good luck!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Weekly Freebie Linky

Nancy at Teaching With Nancy is hosting a weekly linky party for free products.  I just linked up my Non-Fiction Text Features Scavenger Hunt.  Click on the picture above to head over to the party and see what other products are available for FREE!

Friday, 25 April 2014

My First "Five for Friday"

 This is my first time joining Doodle Bugs Teaching's "Five for Friday" linky party!  I'm so excited!
This past weekend, I had a fantastic Easter dinner with my family at Shawnigan Lake.  There were about 28 people (Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and Grandparents) eating turkey and ham cooked at a campsite!  It rained a little, but was mostly dry for dinner itself!  I took some photos of the lake - it was gorgeous!

And this is me and my nephew, Caleb, before dinner.

My Grade 9's have been writing sonnets this week, and here's one I got today.  It's stream of consciousness within a rhyme scheme!  I love it!

Our school has been raising money for the family of one of our students who has been diagnosed with cancer.  Today, we held a run/walk-a-thon, with all proceeds going to the family.  I teach English and Social Studies to my homeroom group.  I challenged them to raise $100, and if they succeeded, we would be able to skip English and Social Studies today (2 hours this morning) and join in the walk-a-thon instead.  They surpassed their goal and ended up raising over $460!  I was so impressed with their efforts!  I even had one student empty her pockets this morning of all her change and add it to the total.  

Visit to see Zack's story and, if you are able, consider making a donation.
'Tis the season of teacher layoffs, and I was not spared this year.  I got my lay-off notice this afternoon.  It's a bummer, but it's part of the job.  In my district, all teachers below 7 or 8 years of seniority are laid off, so I'm working my way to that magic number to keep some stability.  I'll reapply and I'm pretty confident I'll get a contract somewhere next year, but I probably won't get to stay at my school :(
Ending on a happier note, I found out that my TeachersPayTeachers store is in the top 35 sellers in B.C.!  If I break into the top 20, I will have a sale and big giveaways!  To help me reach that goal, visit my store, One Teacher's Adventures, follow me, and share me with your friends!

If you aren't on TpT, let me refer you!

That's it for tonight.  I'm off to catch up on House of Cards on Netflix.  Enjoy your weekend!

Teaching the 5 W's with STORY STICKS!

Teaching the 5 W's - Who, What, Where, When, and Why - has never been my favourite subject.  And because I am not too excited about it, my students don't get too excited about it, either.  For me, it's just tedious.

Last year, I was teaching a Grade 4/5 class, and when we looked at informational writing, the 5 W's came up again.  I tried to find a fun and creative way to liven up this topic, and I remembered something I had seen on Pinterest, coming from a blog called Sarcasm 101 - story sticks!

Ruby, the original poster, used coloured popsicle sticks as elements of a story.  One colour for character, another for conflict, etc.

I decided to adapt the idea, and make each colour stick into one of the 5 W's.
I spent an hour or so coming up with a class set of sticks.  The red sticks show "WHEN," green sticks show "WHERE," yellow sticks show "WHO," and the blue sticks "WHAT." 

I told my students to pretend they were now members of a newspaper staff, and I was their editor.  I explained that on a real staff, writers don't always get to write about a story they want, a lot of the time, they are assigned to report on a specific assignment.  For this activity, I would assign each student a story at random, using the coloured sticks.  I had each student pick one stick of each colour to make up the base of his or her story (they each had to fill in the why for their story).

The sticks gave some silly and ridiculous stories for my students to report, but they absolutely loved it!  They enjoyed coming up with the links between the whos, whats, wheres, and whens!

This year, I gave a similar activity to my Grade 8's.  This year's group, however, had to write the story, and present it as a scripted newscast (along with witnesses and costumes and an "in-field" reporter)!

They enjoyed it, and came up with some really creative stories! 

I have created printable story starter cards that you can print and use today!  Click on the picture below to buy!

Check out more "Tried & True" tips by clicking on the piture below!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Sonnets (a.k.a. "Do I really have to write a love poem?")

My Grade 9's are in the midst of a poetry unit in English.  We've looked at many forms of poetry, and last week, we were studying sonnets.  

I collected samples from Shakespeare, of course, and his contemporaries, as well as selections from some more recent poets.  We looked at parodies of traditional sonnets (Check out Tony Baldwin's Sonnet 18 Parody - "Shall I compare thee to a bale of hay."  It's wonderful!).  My students read and analyzed these poems, and then it was time for them to write their own.

We had discussed the traditional rhyme scheme and meter of an English sonnet, and I asked my students to follow the rhyme scheme, stay as close to iambic pentameter as they could, include at least one simile, and include one other poetic device (from metaphor, personification, and hyperbole).  Although my more keen students jumped at this assignment, it was like pulling teeth to get some of my more reluctant poets to try.

They were struggling on content and language.  They wanted to mimic the language of Shakespeare and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and thought they could never come up with something like the sonnets we had been reading.  I told my kids that, although sonnets were traditionally about love, they could write on any topic they wanted.  A few students wanted to test the boundaries, of course (I got a sonnet about Netflix!), but once I suggested they write about something they love, I was amazed at what they came up with.

These (mostly) boys, wrote beautiful sonnets about basketball, hockey, and baseball, similes included!  

I wanted to share a couple samples with you, because I was just so proud of their hard work!

These were written by 15-year-old boys who had no interest in poetry or writing, who said "I'll never be able to write a sonnet."  When they got their sonnets handed back, they were so proud of themselves, and I was proud of them, too!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Rebus Puzzles = So Much Fun!

It's been another wet and rainy Saturday in Victoria, so I spent the morning with brainteasers!  (I know, I'm a total nerd!)  When I was in school, I used to love rebus puzzles.  

What are rebus puzzles?  They are word puzzles that illustrate a familiar phrase or saying.  I didn't know until today that they were called Rebus, but now that I know, I want to use the name as much as possible!  

I found a couple online, then I decided to make some handouts for my English classes to use as a warm up.  While I was making them, I thought to myself, "Self, this would make a great TpT item!"  I created 36 pages of these brainteasing puzzles, one for each week of a school year, and bundled them up.  They are for sale at my TpT store, One Teacher's Adventures.

If you are as nerdy as I am on a rainy Saturday, perhaps you'd like to try some out?

See if you can solve these puzzles!

For the answers, email me at 

To buy the package, click on the image below!

Happy Easter!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

TpT Sale and new FREEBIES!

Happy Easter, everyone!

As a special long weekend treat, I am having a sale at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  From Friday, April 18 until Monday, April 21, everything in my store will be 15% off!

Also, if you buy two items and provide feedback, I will send you any product you want for FREE!  Just email me with your username and the item that you want for free!

Or try out my newest FREEBIE item:  Non-Fiction Text Features Scavenger Hunt!

I have used it as an assessment after learning about text features (captions, headings, bold print, etc.).  Students pick any informational book and open to any page to identify the text features and explain how they help to extend the reader's thinking.  My students last year (Grades 4/5) LOVED going into the library on a "Hunt" for text features! 

Enjoy your long weekend, and I hope the Easter Bunny is good to you!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Liebster Award


I have been nominated for a Liebster Award by Carmen Seegmiller at Book and Bliss!

This is such an exciting surprise, given my newness to blogging.  According to the rules, to accept this nomination, I have to:

1. Link back to the blog that nominated me
2. Nominate 5-11 blogs with fewer than 200 followers
3. Answer the questions posted for me by my nominator
4. Share 11 random facts about myself
5. Contact my nominees and let them know that I nominated them

Here are my answers to my nominator's questions:
1. What is your favorite children's literature book to read aloud?
It's not easy to pick just one, but I really love The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White.  
2. How many students are in your class? What do you think would be the best class size to have?
This year, I am teaching in a middle school.  I have 7 classes (5 English, 2 Social Studies).  Most have 27 or 28, although one just has 21.  Our blocks are 70 minutes long, and I really enjoy the amount of time I get to spend with each student in my small class. In my larger blocks, it's difficult to talk with every student every day.  I'd love if all my classes were around 23-24 students.  I could move some furniture out of my classroom and have more space to spread out.
3. How do you de-stress from an exhausting day at the "office"?
I record Ellen every day, and as soon as I come home, I sit down and watch her for an hour and don't have to think about anything else.  On Friday afternoons and weekends, I de-stress by going out to movies and, on nice days, reading at the beach. 
4. If you could teach any subject all day long, what would it be?
I love teaching French and I love teaching Social Studies.  I don't think I could choose just one.
5. What is the one country you would like to visit?
I have so many on my list!  The top of my list includes Scotland, France, Italy, Croatia, and Greece.
6. What is one supply in your class you just can't get enough of?
Pencils!  They must be eating them, because there are never any pencils!
7. How long have you been teaching? Do you imagine retiring as a teacher?
I started teaching in 2010 and I can't imagine ever doing anything else!
8. What is your favorite store or website to shop for school related items?
The Dollarama!  I have found great stuff there for only a dollar!  I got a whole class set of 30 mini whiteboards and markers for only $25!
9. What is your favorite part of your classroom?
I am, unfortunately, in a portable at my school, but my favourite part of my classroom is when I can open the doors and windows and get fresh air.  I love that some students can also trickle outside and do their work in the sun, while others can stay inside.  

10. What is the best piece of advice you would offer to newbie teachers?
Make sure you are having fun!  If you aren't having fun, neither are your students.  Also, make sure to stay flexible.  Just because it's on the lesson plan, doesn't mean you have to get to it!
11. If you could meet anyone for a day, who would it be?
 Ellen DeGeneres.

Here are 11 random facts about me:
1. I love country music.
2. I don't like pink and green together.  I don't know why, but there are so many other colour combinations that work so much better.
3. I don't eat rice or pasta.  It's only because of the texture.
4. I use a lot of exclamation points when I write!
5. My sister taught me to read when I was 4 and she was 6.  She read me Lady and the Tramp over and over until I could read it, but I kept getting stuck on the word "Xmas," I couldn't sound it out.
6. This year is my high school 10-year reunion
7. I can't swallow pills
8. I have a crush on Rob Lowe and David Boreanaz (but who doesn't?)
9. I love Greek food
10. If I could have any superpower, I would want to speak every language in the world.
11. My Halloween costume from last year is still in my car (I was a peacock).

To my nominees, I ask:
1. What is your favourite subject to teach?
2. Why did you start blogging?
3. How do you de-stress after an exhausting day at school?
4. Where is your favourite place in the world?
5. What is the most useful or creative education website you've seen?
6. What is your best teaching moment?
7. Who was your most memorable teacher?  Why?
8. What is the best piece of advice you have for new teachers?
9. How long have you been teaching?
10. What is your favourite thing about teaching?
11. If you could spend the day with one person, who would it be?

My nominees are:

Kristen Dembroski


Little Room Under The Stairs

Mrs. Spangler in the Middle

Polka Dot Lesson Plans

Carmen, thanks again for the recognition!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Personal Coat Of Arms

My Grade 8's have been studying the Medieval Period in Social Studies.  As we were looking at the Magna Carta, several students asked about the Coats of Arms around the outside of the document.  They were quite interested in them, so we ended up researching the Coat of Arms of our school's namesake.  That's when I decided to have my students create one of their own.

Several students researched their own family crest and used symbols and images they found from their ancestors.  Others included pictures of things that were important to them.

For the assignment, I asked them to include at least 4 symbols that represent themselves in some way.  In addition to the Coat of Arms, they needed to include a write-up explaining the significance of each image.

I think next year I will use this activity as a beginning of the year "get to know you" activity.  It can easily be adapted to fit any grade.  Even Kindergarten students could draw pictures and talk about why they are important.  I had an International Student (from Korea) in my class during this unit, and she loved this assignment.  It let her express herself to the rest of the class, and it let me get a better understanding of who she was and what she valued.  Overall, I was really impressed by the quality of work I received from my kids!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

DocScan...Where Have You Been All My Life?

If you don't know about DocScan, I'm about to be your new best friend!  I found about about the DocScan app last week in a curriculum meeting.  I am part of a district team to develop new curriculum around Critical Thinking.  As part of our meetings, we bring samples of critical thinking that we observe in our classrooms.  We hit an issue when it came time to log our samples, with only one scanner!  One of the other teachers on the team suggested we use DocScan.

DocScan is a free app (I have an iPhone - I don't know if it is available on Android or not) that lets you take a picture of anything, and instantly convert it into a PDF document.

Once you have scanned your document, you can save it and send it (I emailed the new PDF files to myself and was good to go!).  In my curriculum meeting, it was so easy and quick to take pictures of each of my samples and send them in, rather than stand in line with a dozen other teachers for the scanner.

I've also found it wonderfully useful for my classroom activities.  I have had parents ask me to send homework pages electronically when students have been away, and it is a hassle for me to take books to the school's scanner to upload the images and send them.  With DocScan, I can take a picture of the book page in my classroom and send it to parents with a click.  I've also started putting PDF versions on my class website for students to access when they are away from school.

This app will also help to preserve notes.  I can take a photo of notes (on the chalkboard or on paper) and upload the PDF version to the class website, and keep a copy of the file for my own electronic records.

If you haven't used it, I would truly recommend DocScan!  Let me know in the comments the ways that you use DocScan in your classrooms.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Kindness Counts!

Last year, I taught grade 4/5 in a small school.  Over 1/4 of all the students in the school were in my class (30 out of 110)!  Because we were a small school, there was only one class per grade, so for most of my students, they had been with the same friends in the same classes since Kindergarten.  By the time they came to me, they were a little sick of each other.

I had a lot of fighting within friend groups in the class, several meetings with parents, desk switches almost every week, and regular visits with the counselor.  When those strategies didn't work, I decided to try something new.  I wanted my students to come up with kind things to say about one another.  We started playing team building games in gym and I was trying to recognize when students did nice things for each other.

I also wanted each student to know how special they were to the class.  I gave every student a copy of the class list and asked them to write down one nice thing about everyone.  When they finished, I asked each student to come up to the chalkboard while his and her peers wrote the nice things behind them.  I took pictures of each student with his or her positive attributes and gave the pictures to the students on the last day of school as a reminder that they were appreciated in our class.  The Grade 5's were moving on to Middle School, so it was a memento of their last year in elementary school.

Here are some of the photos:

Highlighting their kindness really worked!  When we were finished, I was ready to move on to the next lesson, but my students all stopped me and said that it wasn't fair because I didn't get a turn.  They sat me down and all swarmed around me to write their kind words for me on the chalkboard.  One of my students took the picture and I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for my class and how wonderful they were that I actually cried.

Here's my photo:

This picture is such a nice memento for me to keep to remember that class.  They were tough a lot of the time, but this picture reminds me of why I do this job.  It helps me know that I am making a difference for my students.

Collage Portraits

Some nights I have trouble sleeping.  I lay awake, staring at the ceiling.  A few months ago, I experienced one of these nights.  I couldn't sleep, so I decided to tidy and organize my craft supplies.  I found an old box of overhead transparencies.  My school has transferred over to document cameras, rendering the transparency paper pretty useless, so I thought about what I could do with stacks of clear paper. 

I used a bunch a few weeks before to make protractors and other math manipulatives for my class, but I still had several dozen.  Then I remembered an art project I had seen years before while I was student teaching: Collage Portraits.

I had nothing else to do at 1:30 in the morning, so I decided to create.  This is what I came up with:

Here's how I did it:

Step 1: Find a picture to use a template.  I don't have any artistic talent for drawing faces.  I can muster a pretty good cartoon stick man, but that's about it.  I found a magazine ad and traced the face onto the overhead paper.

 Step 2: Find and collage your backing colours.  I looked through the magazine and cut out different pieces of pictures that matched the colours I wanted.  As I put them together, I used the overhead sheet as guide for placement.

Step 3: Putting it all together.  When I had the cut outs in the right spots, I put the overhead sheet (with the outline of the face) on top, and glued it down on the edges.

Step 4: Finish it off.  I decided to make a frame out of a different colour to finish it off.  I glued the frame down, and it was complete.

After this one was finished, It was around 2:15 in the morning, and I was still wide awake, so I made a second one, using the same steps.

I was pleased with how they turned out.  I'm not teaching art this year, but the next time I do, I'm definitely going to use this activity with my kids.  It's a mixed media collage project that doesn't require a lot of artistic ability, so the students who say "I can't draw, I'm bad at art" will be able to achieve success.  This could be done using photos of their own faces for self-portraits, and more artistically inclined students could draw any face, without the use of a template photo.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Found Poems

My Grade 9's are in the middle of a poetry unit in English.  When I introduced the unit, I received more than a few disgruntled sighs.  I heard a lot of "I hate poetry," "Poetry is so boring," and "I'm so bad at poetry."  However, I have made some conversions through Found Poetry.

To create their found poems, my students were given a random piece of text (I photocopied various pages of whatever books were in the copy room), and they were asked to find words and phrases to put together to create a new poem.  Their new poem had to have a cohesive thought and a consistent theme or message.

When they had chosen their words, they were asked to illustrate their new poems to highlight the theme, mood, or tone of the poem.

I was really impressed with what they created, so I thought I'd share with you.

When they had finished illustrating their poems, they wrote reflections on why they stylized the poems the way they did and looked for poetic devices in their new poems.  I was really happy with the lesson, and my Grade 9's seemed to enjoy it as well.