Top 5 | Jackie French Books

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Top 5 | Mem Fox Books

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Hello teacher friends!

It’s been a while since I last posted on the blog and I’ve been super-busy with a lot of things, but I had an idea (after discovering the magic of BookTube) and thought it might be fun to film a video sharing my Top 5 picture books by different authors or on different topics.

If you’re anything like me, you may have difficulty picking just five books in any category. It’s virtually impossible for me to narrow down any book category, and my first theme – books by Mem Fox – was no exception, but I did it for the sake of the video.

Mem Fox is an iconic Australian author who has written numerous books for children and they’re all wonderful. Not only beautiful stories, but wonderful characters and language that is so much fun to read aloud with kids.

So, without further ado, here are my Top 5 Mem Fox books… although I’d talk about ALL of them if given half the chance!

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(The links below are affiliate links.)

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The Magic Hat

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Shoes from Grandpa

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Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge

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Possum Magic

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Where is the Green Sheep?

What are your favourite Mem Fox books? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to know which ones are nostalgic favourites or class favourites. If you’re interested in some activities or crafts based on these books, be sure to let me know.

Also, if you’re interested in this Top 5 Books becoming a regular feature, what authors or book themes would you be interested in seeing?

I hope you’re all having a wonderful week and I’ll see you soon!

Finding Your Tribe | Melbourne Instagram Meetup

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Hello, teacher friends!

Have you found your tribe? (Or tribes, even, because there can be more than one for everyone?)

I have, and it’s amazing.

Tribes are those likeminded individuals that you find you share a lot in common with. The kind of people who you can chat to and know that they really understand and that they don’t judge you. Good days, bad days. It doesn’t matter, because your Tribe will always have your back.

I wear a lot of (metaphorical) hats, so I have a Tribes to meet those hats, and I had the amazing opportunity to visit with one of those Tribes yesterday at the Melbourne Winter Teachers Instagram Meet-Up.

You may remember a few months ago when I posted about the first Instagram Meet-Up. It was one of those moments that (as Sarah-Jane reminded me yesterday) you really tell your kids and friends not to do: go and meet random strangers whom you met online in a strange place. So many things could go wrong.

I’m happy to say, they didn’t then, and they didn’t yesterday.

The meet up was organised by Laura (from @littleapplelearning), Sarah Jane (from @thepolkadotapple) and Tess (from @misstessclassroom) and held at BangPop, a Thai restaurant in the city. It was spectacular.

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Okay, so the weather wasn’t so spectacular. Melbourne sure knows how to throw a rain party right when I want to walk around the city. But it’s all good.

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I met up with these lovely ladies: Jem (from Jem’s Bright Buttons) and Paula (from Paula’s Place). I’ve known them for years through Facebook and TPT and I love catching up with them.

We then went down to South Wharf for the meet-up.

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Yes, that is a Duplo bar. Could you think of a more perfect place for teachers to meet? Imagine all the things you could in your classroom with a Duplo wall. I’m already thinking of ways to petition for one.

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All the tables were beautifully set-up by the lovely organisers who added beautiful little details to EVERYTHING, including a wonderful swag bag of goodies that made the event seem almost like a conference. With better food, drinks and a lot more off-topic conversation.

We’re teachers, right? We know how to talk!

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The Photo Booth set-up was super fun and next time I think I just need to drag more people up to it. Of course, that involves being less shy and intimidated by all the amazing people there, but I think I’m getting better.

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The ladies did an amazing job organising sponsors to donate items for the swag bags and prizes (I didn’t win anything but it was super-fun getting a peek at what other people got!). As a way of showcasing and thanking the sponsors, I’ve recording an ‘unbagging’ of the swag bag which is below, so if you want to check it out, go for it. I apologise in advance, apparently I can ramble on!

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It was such a wonderful experience. I loved catching up with Jem and Paula and the other girls I met at the first meet-up. It was also amazing to meet so many new Instagram friends across all parts of Victoria, and even a few from NSW. Teachers are amazing at banding together – stick a group of teachers in a room and you’ll have plenty to talk about!

There’s such a great feeling of collaboration, respect and understanding that came with yesterday and I had an absolute ball.

I can’t wait to see what everyone gets up to in the upcoming term; I’ll be hanging out on your Instagram accounts for sure!

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Using an Interesting Words Journal

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No matter what year or grade level you teach, helping your students to develop a wide vocabulary is one of our most important (and fun!) jobs. Words are everywhere, and we want to our students to be curious about words and to know how they work and what they mean.

One way I like to address this with my Foundation students is with an Interesting Words Journal.

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It’s pretty much what it sounds like: a journal for interesting words.

Whenever we do a read aloud, or when we’re listening to conversations or watching a visual or video text, I encourage my students to stop and ask, “Hey, what does that word mean?” when they come across a word that’s unfamiliar or unknown to theme.

This usually prompts a lot of discussion.

And it’s wonderful.

Typically, I try and encourage the other students to explain what a word means – often they get pretty close to the meaning of a word on their own. Between them, my class – just like all of yours – brings a lot of prior knowledge. They may not know all the answers on their own, but collectively? They know a lot and they do a great job or working together to pool their knowledge to the betterment of all.

Once we’ve identified the word and explained the word we can add it to our Interesting Words Journal.

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This journal is simply a scrapbook with a front cover and a page for each letter of the alphabet. We add the words under the correct letter. It’s often a great opportunity to review the previous interesting words as you add new ones.

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We use these words a lot in oral language – we think of sentences to use them in (often the wackier the better!) and share them with our Turn and Talk Buddies. We write them down on the board. I also encourage students to use these new words in their own writing, too.

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There’s a true power in committing these new words to paper in one place. My students truly remember them.

Earlier in the week, we read a story with a lot of ‘h’ words as part of our sound focus for the week. One of the words that came up was heartbroken. We had a discussion around what it meant (the most wonderful description being “heartbroken means you’re super sad!”) and we put it in our book.

At the end of the week we were exploring emotions and looking at photos of people displaying a range of different emotions. One card was a little girl who looked very sad and one of my students put her hand up and said, “She looks heartbroken,” and then went on to explain why she thought that.

It was a wonderful moment and a true testament to the power of building vocabulary with students.

If you’ve gotten this far, thank you. I’d love to hear your stories of the power of building vocabulary with students.

You can find a purchasable version on my TeachersPayTeachers store with lined and unlined options.

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Until next time, happy teaching!

The Maths Box

A little while back I was contacted by RIC Publishing who asked me if I would be interesting in reviewing one of their new Maths Boxes. Last year I received a free sample of the Level 1 box and was eager to see more of this new series of resources that they’re releasing. As with all my reviews, my thoughts and opinions are my own. I’ve also tried to include a few ways that I plan on using this resource in my classroom.

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The Maths Box Series is an Australian Curriculum-aligned resource for Years 1-6. The boxes themselves retail for $275 per box and include two copies of 75 task cards (for a total of 150 cards), two copies of 75 answers cards and a teachers guide.

Each task card is colour-coded and numbered:

  • (Blue) Number and Algebra – Number and Place Value (26 cards)
  • (Red) Number and Algebra – Fractions and Decimals (8 cards)
  • (Green) Number and Algebra – Money and Financial Mathematics (4 cards)
  • (Purple) Number and Algebra – Patterns and Algebra (6 cards)
  • (Orange) Measurement and Geometry – Using Units of Measurement (15 cards)
  • (Dark Blue) Measurement and Geometry – Shape (3 cards)
  • (Yellow) Measurement and Geometry  – Location and Transformation (5 cards)
  • (Black) Statistics and Probability – Chance (4 cards)
  • (Brown) Statistics and Probability – Data Representation and Interpretation (4 cards)

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The front side of each card provides a stimulus material while the back of each card has questions pertaining to the stimulus material.  The cards are very graphic and colourful and include a range of illustrations and photos depending on the subject. They’re a thick, laminated card for durability.

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The Teacher’s Guide includes specific links to Australian Curriculum outcomes as well as Proficiency Strands (understanding, fluency, problem solving and reasoning) for each task card. There are explanations on how to use the cards, possible tasks, student and teacher tracking sheets, and materials required for individual tasks. There are full-colour mini posters for different topics, such as counting on, coins, shapes, etc. There are additional BLM resource sheets that can be copied to be used in conjunction with the task cards, too. There’s also a collected list of answers and a glossary for teacher use, too.

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There’s a lot to like about these task cards – they’re easy to use, easy to pull out, easy to implement. They’re bright, colourful and appealing to young students. Some of those things can also be a negative – sometimes too much colour or too many graphics can be distracting for young learners, however, these are not really tasks I would leave my students to use on their own.

That said, here’s how I plan to use them:

Idea #1: These would make great early finisher’s tasks for students who are confident readers and don’t need lots of teacher assistance – the visuals and the answer cards mean they can use them independently and check their answers.  Alternatively, you could pair students up to work on these (with a highly capable child with someone who needs a bit more assistance).

Idea #2: Assessment check-up. Depending on the skills you’re covering in the classroom, you might pull out a task that covers those areas and use those questions to check your students’ understanding during individual conferencing. With two copies of each task card, the student can have one in front of them and the teacher can have one for the questions.

Idea #3: A variation on the second idea, have a parent helper (or an older buddy) work with individual students to practise different maths skills. Again, use the two copies of each card.

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As a Foundation teacher with students who are already achieving end of Foundation benchmarks in maths, a box like this is great for extension, too, and I know some of my students will enjoy these activities.

Overall I think this is another quality resource that teachers can definitely add to their maths arsenal, and I do look forward to using it with my students in the future.

If you’re interested in checking out this resource, or any of the other great resources available, stop by the R.I.C. website!

Why I Said Goodbye to Post-It Notes

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If you’ve followed my blog for the last twelve months or so, you’ll know that I’ve been on a bit of a journey of learning how to be organised and how to manage my paper overflow. I’ve spent a lot of time teaching myself how to plan for my personal life in an actual planner, and while I’m pretty comfortable with how I lesson plan, I’ve found that some of the skills I’ve picked up from my personal planner has had am impact on how I manage my to-do list for school.

I want to preface this blog post with this: I know lots people love post-it notes and can use them really effectively. I can’t. They end up everywhere and it drives me crazy, so this post is really for those of you who are looking for an alternative to using post-it notes for keeping yourself on track!

My Journey

At my school at the beginning of the year we get a pack of post-it notes in our teacher stationery set. They’d sit on my desk and I’d write down random to-dos and things to remember on them and if I remembered, I’d stick them into my planner or onto my laptop so I wouldn’t forget them.

Invariably, I either often forgot to stick them where I would see them. Or they fell off.

Either way, I often forgot the notes that I had made which meant the entire process was ineffective and a waste of time.

Then I heard about two ideas, one which was completely new to me, and one that seemed completely obvious when I heard it: Bullet Journalling and the Master To-Do List. If you want to know more about Bullet Journalling – which is method like daily planning in a single notebook – you can check it out in more detail here. What I liked about this process was the idea of having everything in one book/place. 

The second idea was the Master To-Do List.

The Master To-Do List

The Master To-Do List is a system by which you have one single to-do list that contains everything you need to do. As you think of things, you add them to the list. As you complete them, you cross them off.

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You can have your list in a planner or notebook. You could even have it on paper and put it in a binder or on a clipboard (which makes it easier to throw it out/recycle the paper when you’re finished with everything on your list). It’s a fluid document that is a way for you to find a way to be more productive.

Daily Productivity

Having a Master To-Do List is great, but it looks overwhelming, right? A whole page filled with things to do?

As teachers we have to-do lists a mile long, but what I have learnt to do is to start prioritising things a lot better. If you don’t learn to prioritise you run the risk of being overwhelmed by all the things you need to accomplish.

So here’s my tip.

Pick your top three to-dos each day and write them down.

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Just three. Write them somewhere that will be clearly visible to you so that you can see them.

These are your priority for that day. They are the most important tasks you need to accomplish for the day.

Three tasks are an accomplishable goal and what you’ll find is that once you cross of those three tasks, you might even have time to go back to your master list and pick something else off of it. (But even if you don’t, you’ve accomplished something great.)

I know what you’re thinking: I need to do more than three things a day.

That’s true, but we’re talking big tasks that you need to tick off, not the little things we do each and every day.

They could even be the things you put off doing in favour of ‘other more important’ jobs.

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The other key is keeping these top 3 goals/jobs highly visible where you know you’ll see them. I’ve got my master to-do list on a clipboard on my desk and my daily Top 3 in my planner ready to tick them off. I check my planner every morning and night.

I honestly believe in this system and it works for me. I find I accomplish a lot more in a shorter period of time when I have attainable daily goals. (It also stops me from slumping to a Netflix hole even when I really want to!)

My challenge to use is to pick your Top 3 goals/jobs for tomorrow and put them somewhere more permanent and visible than a post-it note. 

If you’re looking for templates to get you started I have a basic pack listed in my TPT store for teachers. It’s 50% for the first 48 hours and if you’re looking for the opportunity to trial this system, it could be what you need:

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Regardless, I wish you well with your organisation journey!

If you like this post and would like future organisation posts, please let me know in the comments below.

I’d love to hear your organisation tips, too!

Five for Friday | April 8th

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#1

I am a stationery addict. I fully admit that. But I have to say that I am in love with this handmade notebooks for my traveller’s notebook that I’ve been making over the last few weeks. This is my collection as of this week – there’s small and large grid paper in some of them, as well as 100gsm plain paper. Covered in some of my favourite 12×12 papers, of course. I use these for meeting notes and PD notes for work!

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#2

For referring people to GoNoodle, I was lucky enough to receive a tote bag and some stickers and I can’t wait to share these with the kids when Term 2 starts on Monday!

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#3

There weather is cooling down here as Autumn finally starts to settle in. This week was definitely a beanie and (lots of) tea week from Wednesday onwards!

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#4

This week I also went to the Melbourne Museum and saw the Jurassic World exhibit. I loved it. I could have stayed and watched the dinosaurs all day.

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#5

This week I was fortunate enough to catch up with some old friends and make some new teacher friends with the first Melbourne Teacher Instagram meet-up! It was a fabulous afternoon full of good food, company and some of the most entertaining stories (as only teachers can tell them!). Thanks to all the lovely ladies who came out – it was so lovely to put faces to names and I can’t wait to catch up with them all again soon!

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5 Reasons to Have a Classroom Blog

I’ve been blogging with my Foundation (4-6 year old) students for the better part of the last 5+ years. It’s my absolutely favourite, go-to tool for communicating and sharing information with families, as well as using it with the students to create authentic writing examples.

Today I want to share my Top 5 Reasons for Having a Classroom Blog. These are not the only reasons to have a blog, of course, but if you’ve never had a classroom blog, this might give you a few ideas for why you should have a classroom blog. Stayed tuned for future blog posts that will include setting up your classroom blog and ways to engage your students (and families) on your blog.

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1. Communicate with parents

The primary focus of my classroom blog for the last few years has been to communicate with parents. Over the last few years I’ve had a lot of working families who haven’t been able to come into the classroom on a regular basis and hear about what we’re working on. Each weekend (usually on a Sunday) I post a weekly summary of what we will be learning in the upcoming week – including reminders, English and Math topics, special events and Question/s of the Week. This quick overview gives parents and families a great starting point for talking to their kids about what they’ve been learning during the day and also prepares the kids for the upcoming week.

2. Showcase classroom learning

Again, some families aren’t able to make it into the classroom often, so having an online space where you can share work, photos (with permission, of course) and student reflections gives those parents and families a window into the classroom. It’s also a great space to look back on at the end of each term for students so they can see all the great things they have done. I like to include photos or scanned copies of student work and artwork, photos of students working in the classroom and photos of special school events (such as excursions, incursions, guest speakers and casual/funny dress days). I also like asking students to reflect on something they have learnt or enjoyed about and record their answers on the blog.

3. Teach students about writing for an authentic audience

When teaching writing – even to very young students – we’re always encouraging them and teaching them about their ‘audience’ or who they’re writing for. A classroom blog is a very authentic platform for developing an audience. When we collaboratively create blog posts as a class we talk about who our audience is: Is it parents and families? Is it other students? Is it a global audience? Then we discuss how the way we use language changes depending on the audience. When we get comments back from families, students know that they’re writing for a real audience – not just the teacher or other students in the class.

4. Teach students about online safety

I blog with my Foundation/Kindergarten students and have for five years. It’s a really great way to teach them about online safety because it’s a ‘real’ online space that’s theirs. It’s accessible to other people around the world and as such we have to talk about what we can and can’t share on the blog. Families in our school have the choice to sign (or not sign) a blog permissions form that gives the school permission to share audio/visual work and photos. We talk about this as a class. We also discuss the kinds of information we can share – first names are okay, but never last names. We don’t include photos and names in the same post. We never share photos, names and addresses in the same post. Students learn how to leave a comment correctly (just their first name) when they’re at home.

5. Engage students and families at home

Probably my favourite reason to have a classroom blog is the feedback I receive from parents and families about student engagement at home. Even if all you post on your blog is information for parents, this still gives parents the tools to talk about the school day and activities with their kids on a much more specific level. Before I started blogging with my Foundation students, a lot of parents would come in and tell me that their kids would come home and say they’d forgotten what they’d done during the day or that they didn’t know what they’d learnt (which is very common with little ones). By giving parents the information they’ve been able to ask very specific questions like, ‘What did you learn about the sound /s/ today?’ or ‘What patterns did you make at school today?’ It makes a huge change. Because the blog is essentially a website, I can share multimedia content – like videos or interactive widgets – or links to websites that complement our learning goals that they can access at home. This is useful for families who just aren’t aware of the myriad of resources available to them.

 

Do you blog with your students? What grades do you blog with? How do you blog with them? I’d love to know, because I think every teacher approaches it a little differently. There’s no one ‘perfect design’ for blogging with your class, but taking a bit of time to think about the purpose of your blog will help guide the way you blog with your students.

Don’t forget to let me know what you think in the comments, or if you have any other questions about blogging. Follow my blog for future posts on blogging with your class!

Five for Friday | March 25th 2016

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#1

I spent Monday afternoon prepping my Easter gifts for students. No chocolates (too many allergies in my class this year) but found these fun polka-dotted plastic eggs and filled them with foam stickers and Easter-themed confetti pieces!

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#2

This was a quote that I heard this week and absolutely loved.

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#3

This week my school had their first ever House Spirit Day. There was a competition for most decorated staff member. (I didn’t win, alas.) But it’s always fun when you make a ridiculous fool of yourself for the kids!

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#4

My mum made some rainbow-coloured Easter cupcakes last night. She iced them and then I added the speckled M&Ms to the top. They taste pretty good, too.

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#5

I received my Easter-themed Goodie Box this week (see an unboxing video here) and I made these cute little bunny boxes for Easter gifts for Sunday. So cute!

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I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Speaking & Listening are crucial

Today I was watching a replay of one of Jen Jones’ periscopes and one particular quote struck me:

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Here in Australia, Speaking & Listening has been a part of our English assessment strands for as long as I’ve been teaching, so I know the importance of giving students the time to and space to present and share their learning and understandings with an audience.

When students have an authentic audience – not just the teacher – they have a reason and purpose for writing, and also presenting. Both writing and speaking and listening are the ‘output’ (compared to reading’s ‘input’) and are crucial to teach and model daily.

I think the conversation had in this Periscope was a great reminder that we shouldn’t just focus on reading skills (which are definitely important, don’t get me wrong), but also provide our students with regular opportunities to speak and share their learning daily.

With that in mind, what are your favourite ways to include speaking and listening practise during the day?