Thursday, December 15, 2011

I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day when...

I shouted at my students. (I believe it is no coincidence that I have since lost my voice!)

This week in grade two we wrote journals in the fashion of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Why? Well, because I lost my super-patient teacher-ness and used a crazy loud voice to get everyone’s attention one day. I looked up from helping a student during center time, and not one person was doing what was asked. Not an excuse and not okay, I know. I am still embarrassed! So the next day, I read the famous story and then I apologized to my class. I told them that grown-ups have bad days sometimes, just like kids, and that we make mistakes, too. As soon as I said, “I’m so sorry I shouted at you - I know I was not being a great teacher yesterday,” I could see some of my students shift in their seats, sit up a little higher and give me that very cute seven-year-old “it’s okay” face. We wrote journals to share moments in our lives that upset us, that we are sorry for, or just to rant about a day that was not good. I have since been called a “heart and soul teacher,” which is something I need to keep an eye on because I don’t want to let them get under my skin like that again!

Despite all of this, I do feel as if behaviour is improving. I'm fairly certain I will use the clip chart system from this point on in my teaching career. In fact, I can’t even remember what I was doing before to help manage my class, but I had SO MANY students on “Amazing” today that I couldn’t have been happier! AND, it was the last day before the winter break - you know, the day we all anticipate as “the crazy day.” To encourage my students, I decided that after the break I will give a little something extra to those that are consistently Amazing. Right now, when one has five days at Amazing, I glue a little sparkle jewel onto his or her clothespin. Now, when there are five jewels, that student will get a scratch card! It’s one of those ideas I picked up in the summer, stored, and forgot about.  I got this one from Jeff’s sister, Shannon, who is the Style Editor at Canadian Family. For Mother’s Day the magazine featured a really awesome (and so easy!) craft called “Mommy Scratch Lotto Tickets”, that I adapted for the classroom. (Click the link for the so-simple instructions.) I think the class will be psyched to see the first student scratch one and win the pleasure of inviting a friend from another class over for lunch or using my big, comfy computer chair for the day! These are my works in progress: 

Lastly, thank you to Grade Onderful for this great measurement printable

I used it with my students as a fun last-day activity and a mini intro to measurement, which we will begin after the break. It was lots of fun and the whole class was really into it! I think I will even use it again at a Math center in January (it will be more manageable and the students will *I hope* see the point in context to our new unit). As I walked to the staff room to laminate my gingerbread cookies, I snapped this great photo. The sun always looks so magnificent as it comes up near our school.

Off to Sri Lanka tomorrow and I couldn’t be more excited! Look out for a barrage of new photos in January!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Arabian bread, frogs and a new camera!

Every time Jeff and I walked past the teeny tiny Arabian bread shop that is in our neighbourhood, one of us would say, "Oh, that would be soooo good." There was always a long line and a man working so fast it made me dizzy. Finally, one day there was no line, and the man did not look so busy, so we stopped. It was the most inexpensive, most delicious thing I've had in Kuwait so far. And how simple! The next time we went, we waited in a long line up for about fifteen minutes until the helpful men ahead showed us the right line - the short one for people who are only ordering a few pieces of bread and not a pile for their many family members! I know this is something I will miss when we leave Kuwait. Much like pa-jeon in Korea, dhal in India, and banana chips in Belize, I will leave this country with a distinct love for Arabian bread and know I will be sad to buy packaged pita bread at the grocery store in Canada.

My dear Jeff is too good to me. Not so good to my "healthy weight," but nonetheless. As it is Christmas, he decided he needed to make the holiday favourite "Frogs." (I know these are called something else in my family, but I really can't remember frogs it is.) You know, the simple treat that's made of peanuts, chow mein noodles and chocolate? I don't know if it's the salted peanuts or the particular brand of chocolate we bought, but these frogs are SO SO good. I crave them during the school day (our school has a strict "no junk food" policy so I try to be a good role model!).

The most exciting news: We bought a fancy new camera! We went on a bit of a spending spree, but it's only because we decided that our Christmas gift to one another this year will be the camera. It is sort of a "beginner" model, which is perfect because for right now, all we really want is to take photos that look good with very little effort. We can learn more about the features later. With all of the travelling we do, it seems a good investment! I took a few shots of the interesting collection of things in my bedside table, and Jeff took a cool city scene shot.

To keep it educational, here is a set of 1-20 Numbers Puzzles I made to laminate (after cutting) for a Math centre next week. They are out of order, but I was getting annoyed. I am going to start using all of the skills the students have already learned so far this year as centre activities to reinforce what they have learned, and so that they go to grade three with a better understanding (especially considering a few of the low assessment scores I have so far). God willing, as they say!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

An apple for the teacher

Vacation is so close I can almost feel it. Before it hits, there is ordering for next year (four grade two classrooms!), Science and Math assessments, and chocolate-covered pretzels to bake for my students. This list does not include, of course, the daily "to-do's" but it makes everything seem more manageable to only mention a few! While browsing through the supplies catalogue, I looked up to find an apple neatly placed beside my computer - made me feel like a teacher! 

There's my beautiful niece, Lucy. I miss her little smile oh-so much! Also, you can see ALL my lists. I am a list person. And a post-it person. And a "print-the-homework-for-all-the-students" person (trust me, it's worth it. The parents here like to see homework to see their child's progress).

Enough about me. A couple weeks ago I focused on nouns during Language Arts to match our textbooks. After creating a chart together on the white board, we made flip books with four windows: person, place, thing, idea. Their books look so great and are very colourful! That week I also used a shared reading poem to reinforce the definition (bonus: it has music!).

In Social Studies, we finished up our Features of Communities Around the World unit. I did the ever-popular "Me On the Map" craft with my class. They turned out pretty cute, but next year I will definitely use circle templates on white paper. It's just so much easier and none of the pencil writing gets lost on a dark construction paper colour. 

As we move into our Traditions and Celebrations unit, we thought it fit to focus on birthdays around the world rather than Christmas. (Though every mall here has large Christmas displays, which I am rather enjoying!) I used scrap paper to create a birthday cake visual to use as incentive for good behaviour. I "light" the candles every time the class is working well, or is quiet, or is doing super awesome out-of-this-world work. At the end, we will have a birthday party! Sounds great, right? Not to this grade two bunch! I am shocked to find that really, they don't care about this new reward scheme. I'll play it out until we have the birthday party, because maybe they need to see how great a classroom celebration could be. I definitely need to keep thinking up motivational tactics with this group. (There actually are flames on the cake now; this is an old photo now.) One thing to note: clip chart working....okay. I feel like behaviour is SO close to good, but I just have to keep working at it!   

I'm sure there is more I wanted to add today but - I didn't put it on a list! Night, all.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fact Families and Classroom Management

First up, our last Math activity. We have been working on fact families, and I found some students struggling with the concept. I decided, with some inspiration from a turkey craft (here: and from my friend Danyell's grade one "family members" frames, to make "Fact Family Photos." This is a pic of her super cute grade one work: 

Since our school is up for accreditation this year (and the team just spent a weekend viewing the school and our curriculum implementation documents), I knew I HAD to do something about the state of my front door. It was, well, let's just say "not very welcoming." I thought of a catchy slogan ("It's a fact - we are family!") and threw the student's work up and it is just aaahhhhh - much better. Here is the final product  and a quick close-up of some student work for the fact family 10, 2 and 8. For some reason, she drew a 3-person instead of a 10-person. Ah, well! At least the number sentences are correct. (Though I see now that is hard to tell.)

Moving on.

One big thank you to the blogging world for leading me to the clip chart behaviour system at I was thinking, I don't want my students to quiver every time I reach for the white board marker because they think someone is about to get a warning. Instead, I want my students to feel responsible for any inappropriate behaviour.

After spending yet another Saturday morning at school this weekend, I did make my very own clip chart, and am VERY excited to introduce it to my class. I am tired of reserving a portion of my board for student names and check marks, and I am extra tired of this not actually working. It may work for one period, but afterwards, nuh-uh. A super colourful visual HAS GOT to be the cure for this! Right? I will see this week. Yes, there are only two weeks before vacation (I can almost feel the Sri Lankan heat! It is surprising just how cold a desert winter can be), but I figure I can get them used to it now and after the break there can be a simple reminder and then bring on the warnings. Muwah ah ah. Just kidding. But I really LOVE how this chart can be a huge focus on positive behaviour. It's one of my teaching goals - to always focus on the positive.

Woah, that picture is blurry. Everyone starts on "Ready to Learn" and can move up to "Always Listening," "Role Model," and "Amazing," or down to "Warning," "Time Out, "Recess Minutes," and "Office and/or Phone Call Home." I also made small charts that the students will colour and glue into their communication books to teach their parents about the system as homework. For those students that end the day on "Amazing," a tally chart to track amazingness and small notes to put in communication books. I am quite proud of the notes I made (OH! And I published them as PDFs so I don't have to worry about getting the IT password to have any new fonts installed on my school computer. Yay me!), but since I do not have the image rights, it is perhaps not the best idea to post these... At any rate, these are the files I made last night: Mini Clip Charts and Labels

I LOVE LOVE LOVE new fonts. I had no idea that I loved them so much. Many thanks to for all the free fonts. They're so great that even my teacher man is using them in his Art and English classes!