Student Christmas Gifts

The conversation has increased lately both online and at my school from teachers who are discussing, ‘What should I get the students in my class for Christmas?’

Now most teachers want to get their student something nice for Christmas but with 26, even 31 students per class sometimes that’s just too expensive.

So I wanted to share with you what I’ve done this year. It takes a little bit of preparation and you need to be super SUPER organised. By that, I mean getting organised in February. What?? February??? Yep February! This is how I do it.

Three words – Scholastic. Book. Club. As a child, I LOVED getting the Scholastic Book Club delivered to our classroom. I would pore over the pages for hours, circling the ones I wanted, then coming back to it a few hours later just to make sure I’d made the right choices. My Mum would let me pick 2 things and I would wait patiently for the delivery to arrive. Oh Happy Days!!! Now as a Teacher, there’s a special Teacher only catalogue! Seriously, I’m not joking – I still get really excited about the catalogues and their super specials. Any, I digress (Sorry I get so excited about books and the Scholastic Catalogues!)

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In February, the Scholastic Book Club has these amazing deals in the Teacher Bookstore catalogues. At the beginning of the year, they have these amazing packs – 20 books for $20. Now you might think that for a student to receive a book isn’t overly exciting but all my students love books as much as I do. I guess my enthusiasm rubs off! Some of my students aren’t lucky enough to have many books at home, so for me to give them a book at the end of the year that tailored perfectly for their reading wants is perfect. How do I know in February what my students reading preferences / levels are? You know what, I don’t. That’s the beauty of the Book Club pack – the variety is so huge there is always one to suit every student! To get 20 books for $20, that’s only a dollar a book, how ridiculously cheap is that? Quite often I get the books and they still have the price tag on the back of $15.99 or $18.99. You can’t beat that! And at the bargain price of 20 brand-new books, for $20, I often buy multiple packs and then the ones that I don’t designate for students for gifts go straight into my classroom library.

Once I have the books and make sure that for each student I write a personalised message on the inside first page of the book before I wrapped. That way whenever the student opens it, they know it’s from me and they know that I cared enough to go above and beyond to get them a book that I knew that they would like enjoy and read.

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When I was in Primary School, my parents always encouraged reading, and that’s probably where my increased love of books came from. However, not all kids are that lucky these days to have a steady supply of their own reading materials.  For only $1 per student, you could even add a little something extra to it if you wish.

 

Just something to put in the back of your mind ready for the new school year.

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Wrapped, boxed and ready to be given out!

 

 

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

Lest We Forget

It was interesting (and a bit sad!) to me this last week as I talked with numerous classes about the upcoming Remembrance Day this Friday (November 11th), that many students confused Remembrance Day with ANZAC Day. It then occurred to me – if students get confused, how many teachers truly understand the difference? We all know that both days are special days of reverence and importance – but do YOU know the difference? After I’d explained it to multiple classes, I had one teacher tell me that they were previously confused too. Here’s a quick explanation to help clarify any misconceptions for you and your students….

ANZAC Day – Celebrated on April 25th, it is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations (including those currently serving).

Remembrance Day – is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth Nations to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. Originally called Armistice Day to commemorate when the armistice (truce) was signed at the end of World War 1 in 1918 “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month”, it was renamed Remembrance Day after World War 2 to acknowledge those who lost their lives in all wars, not just World War 1. It is not a public holiday in Australia and is often overshadowed by ANZAC Day.

In the United States, Veterans Day is observed on 11 November, and is both a federal holiday and a state holiday in all states.

Other countries around the world celebrate their special day of memory at various times throughout the year, not necessarily on November 11th.

I have created a few free resources to compliment your studies of Remembrance Day. I hope you and your students find them useful.

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I LOVE Running Records – seriously!

Testing is one of those things that as educators we are told to do and realistically need to do, but it often brings with it stress from students (and parents!) and only shows a fraction of a student’s ability.

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Of all the testing types we are mandated to participate in during the year, the one that I genuinely enjoy doing is Running Records. Stick with me here because there are a few reasons that you just might relate to:

One on one time

While we always try so hard to have one on one time in class with ALL students during each and every day, in hindsight it’s simply not a reality. There will always be a student who needs more help than others and often the more capable ones miss out. When I announce to my class that I will be calling on them to come and read to me to do a Running Record I always get a little cheer. It’s a chance for students to have some direct and designated one to one time with me. The students know I respect them, as I know they do me; and I enjoy giving them my full attention so they know they are being heard.

Reading aloud

When was the last time you read out aloud to yourself (other than a story to the class)? I know I always read quietly to myself in my head. Students often forget what their reading voice sounds like and it’s a good chance for them to listen to themselves. They may think that they sound fine (in their head) but it is extremely important to practise read out aloud to work on infliction, expression, pausing appropriately at punctuation and pronunciation, just to name a few.

Personal feedback

One of the best things about listening to a child read is the ability to give feedback to help them understand their strengths, the areas they need to work on and them have them know that I appreciate their efforts. I always finish off a session with an individualised discussion based on what I’ve just heard. It is important for students to be in control of their own learning but also understand their strengths and areas for growth. For example, I would start the conversation off with… “I really like the way you … used expression in your voice / sounded out the words you didn’t know / went back and self-corrected when you realised you’d made a mistake” etc etc. This opens up the dialogue and lets the child know that I appreciate their efforts. Secondly I let them know what their personal goal should be and what they need to work on. For example, “Your goal to continue becoming a better reader is…… pausing when you see a full stop or comma / adding some energy into your voice / visually scanning ahead to the next part of the text to help increase the flow of your reading’ etc etc. I will then also model directly what I am suggesting they work on with a small piece of text.

I believe that by giving personalised feedback then puts the control back in the hands of the students. They are aware of what they are doing well and what their next step is to become a better reader.

Comprehension

This is the area most students struggle with – especially the inferential questioning component of the tests! By building inferencing into our daily lessons, my students are becoming increasingly stronger in being able to answer various question types. It also allows me to have a bit of a snapshot on how students are progressing in this tricky area of literacy.

For many teachers, Running Records are simply a thing that need to be done and done quite quickly for a snapshot, however I like to take my time and use it as a chance to compliment what is already being taught in the class.

I’d love to know – what do you think of testing? Is there a particular test that you enjoy doing?

Teaching students to listen – with Whisper Phones!

Literacy is so much more than reading and writing, with listening being an important component as well, as has been recognised in both the US Common Core Standards and the Australian National Curriculum.

Not surprisingly, this is one area that students really struggle with. Yes, they can often listen, but actively listen and then respond to what has been heard takes practice and is a skill that needs to be taught.

Listening also goes hand in hand with writing – The old saying of ‘if you can’t say it, then you can’t write it’ is definitely true, especially for those students who have speech impairments or issues with their verbal communication.

Often when students are reading aloud, they take for granted what they themselves sound like. To practice this valuable skill, I made some whisper phones (with the help of my handy hubby!)

These simple gadgets allow students to slow down, sit quietly and listen to themselves read.DIY whisper phones3

As the name of the item suggests, only a whisper voice is required, allowing for a whole class to read undisturbed. As students have quiet reading time, whether it be for designated ‘read to self’ time or perhaps after lunch play for relaxation, they are given the opportunity to read a text of choice to themselves and actively listen to the way their own voice sounds.

I learnt how to make them myself from this site.

While this link is US based, I found it did cost me significantly more here in Australia, with each phone costing about $4 each. I purchased all of the materials from Bunnings (60 elbows, 5 pieces of 3/4 inch PVC pipe cut into 3 1/2 inch lengths, a pot of glue and duct tape for decorating). The whisper phones however are extremely durable and will last for many years to come without needing to be replaced or repaired.

Due to the nature of the whisper phones being used close to student’s mouths, I clean them twice a year. As they are made from industrial plumbing pipe pieces, they are easy to wash in buckets of warm water and disinfectant and then left out to dry. A capful of Dettol is amazing for keeping the germs at bay. It’s also useful to have some Dettol wipes on hand just in case there’s some spit happening from excited students!

I store my whisper phones in a handy tray at the front of the room that students can easily access and then put away themselves.

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My students LOVE using the whisper phones. These are a definite fun ‘go to’ device that is simple, but extremely effective. I’ve had older classes borrow my class set for struggling students and the feedback has been amazing. Concentration has increased and focus on the read word has improved plus the students enjoy using them. Win win!

I would strongly recommend you having a go at making your own. Even a small set of 6 to 8 for small group work or a station task would be invaluable.

Integrating Technology Made Easy

Christmas Day of 1987, I’d just turned 9 and had been begging ‘Santa’ for a computer. They were extremely expensive back then and you needed to fast forward and rewind a cassette tape to load data (even pre floppy discs!). Aaah that high pitched ‘eeeeeeeee’ noise brings back memories. Well the day arrived and I was so excited! By dinner time the next night I had the back casing off it with a screwdriver I’d found in my dad’s shed and had analysed the inner workings. The look on my dad’s face was priceless when he walked into my room.

Somehow I managed to put it all back together, and got it all working perfectly again. From there my love of all things computer related began.

Over the years I have been teaching my students various computing tools and programmes to assist with their learning. 15 years ago the ‘big’ thing to use was word processing, which then progressed into creating brochures in Publisher and PowerPoints. These days the curriculum refers to sharing ideas and now in the age of interactivity, this translates into areas such as skype, coding and showing students how to create apps/programmes themselves to demonstrate their learning.

I love using QR codes. I’ve been using them for a couple of years now and have taught them from reception (5 year olds) up to year 7. The result is always the same – a sense of ownership over the task, delight at having an instant response and a sense of achievement when students create their own. From there I progress onto teaching students how to make their own and embed it into their work.

When talking to my colleagues I was surprised at how many have never heard of what a QR code is, let alone used one. Next week I am putting on an after school workshop for my school’s staff and to coincide with this, I have created a handout entitled ‘A Beginner’s Guide to QR codes’. (Click on the image below to download your own free copy!)

FREE A beginners guide to QR codes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’ve never used them either – you must download this free handout. It explains what a QR code is, what they are used for, how to make your own and ideas on how to use them in your classroom. Included is a mini lesson plan on how to introduce them to your students, along with a one-page step by step pictorial on how to create your own. It’s explained so simply that even your students could follow it to make their own.

Go on! Have a go!!!

Looking for more ideas for using QR codes? Check out our growing Pinterest board.

TTFT – Create a random picker jar

Tuesday Tip for Teachers: It’s very easy to constantly call upon the same students each time to answers questions (you know the students I mean – the ones with their hands always up ready to volunteer an answer?) Put a new twist on it and make yourself a random popstick tin / jar. Simply write the name of each student on a popstick and then paint the ends with a cheap nail polish. I place the popsticks into a tin with the colour end upwards, then when a student has been called upon I flip it over to hide the colour. This works amazingly well for choosing students to work together, selecting someone to answer a question or even choosing a group of students to participate in a certain activity first. Students understand that this is a fair system and over the years I have discovered that they genuinely do appreciate it being used.

 

 

Student Birthdays

It’s always hard during the year with seasonal celebrations such as Christmas and Easter, accommodating for individual student’s beliefs and backgrounds. Growing up, birthdays were always genuinely special days in my family. They were days of love and being consciously aware that you were valued. Because of this, I enjoy acknowledging a student’s birthday and making sure they know that they are a valued member of our class.

I wanted ‘my kids’ to receive a small token gift from me to make them smile and realise that I did indeed know it was ‘their’ day. When you have a large class, it is very easy to spend a fortune. (Ok hands up who’s made this mistake – I’ve got both up right now!). It doesn’t need to be this way. I regularly get huge smiles with a simple ‘good morning birthday boy/girl’ when students arrive, however I do like to present students with a token gift just from me.

One of my favourite things is bubbles! I love bubbles! I buy a pack of 24 mini bottles from the discount store for $5 (at approx 20c per gift that’s a bargain!), then I simply attach a little tag and I’m done!

FREE Student Gift Brithday Tags

 

 

 

 

 

If you would like a copy of the tags I use, simply click the picture above for your free download. I’ve included a variety of tags for you to choose. I’d love to hear how you recognise student birthdays in your class!

 

Welcome!

Wow! Welcome to the new look Imaginative Teacher!!!!

The original site began all the way back in 2002 when some of my colleagues approached me asking for copies of ideas and resources I had made for my own students. Having only graduated from university two years prior and having spent those years working full time across multiple grades, I was happy to share. After all, great educators do indeed share pedagogy and ideas!

After much contemplation and many frustrating hours teaching myself how to set up a site, I began the original site www.imaginativeteacher.com. Holy moly! What a learning curve that was! So as of today, we have now evolved! Today I change direction – 13 years on one path is long enough. So my original venture is growing, evolving and maturing; just like I have in my last 15 years on my teaching adventure.

Please do come on the journey with me as I look forward to sharing my new blog with you!