First Day of School Student Gifts

I love going back to school at the beginning of each year. Meeting my new class, modifying my teaching to incorporate the new learning that I’ve done over the holidays and getting back into the swing of the classroom routine.

I always like to present my students with a small (emphasis on SMALL) token gift at home time on the first day back. Now don’t get me wrong – I’ve had many teacher friends ask why I would spend my own money out of pocket to do this when I don’t have to and it’s not expected. I do it because I want to and that’s the sort of person I am. Yep – no other reason that and realistically – do I need any other reason or need to justify the way I spend my own hard earned money? If I can bring a little smile to a student on the first day and encourage learning then I’m going to do it!

So…. here’s what I do!

I love to put together a little bag with various things inside. The bag is sealed but has a cover note on the front with a little poem that I made up to explain each item. Each item represents something whether it’s an attitude, a feeling or the knowledge that I’m there to support them. The bags are simple gift bags I purchased form the party section of Kmart.

Each gift is inexpensive and my students LOVE them! I know the parents appreciate the thoughtfulness of giving out a welcome gift each year too.

Cost breakdown for my 24 students – Each student’s pack contains the following:

A) The actual bag (pack of 8 for $2) – Total $6

B) Super bouncy balls (pack of 12 for $2) – Total $4

C) Sheet of stickers (2 different packs $1.50 each) Total $3

D) Pencils with fancy erasers (2 packs of 12 $4 each) Total $8

E) Glitter glue (pack of 8 for $3) Total $9

Grand total spent – $30

Cost per child – $1.25

I could have removed the glitter glue from the packs which would then have reduced the amount spent to only 88c per student (I however love the idea of having a ‘sparkly’ year LOL).

If you would like a copy of the copy note and the instructions, simply download it here for free.

 

Happy New School Year!

Organising Student Desk Supplies

With school about to start for the 2017 school year, teachers all around the country are crazily trying to get their classrooms sorted and organised for Day 1. I often read Facebook posts with teachers enquiring on what others use for certain purposes. The most popular discussion topic recently has been… wait for it…….. pencil pots!

Do they go on desks or in drawers/trays? Do students have shared group pots or individual pencil cases? I thought I might share with you what I did last year and it worked so well I am going to continue to use it again this year with a little refresh (more about that later).

Last year I racked my brains on what to do. I was going from a year 4/5 class where students had their own pencil cases into a year 2 class and desk pots where needed. Baskets were too flimsy, the plastic crates from cheap shops didn’t provide divided sections and the specialised ones from Education specialist stores where too darn expensive (especially when these were coming from my own pocket and I need at least 8)!

So I headed to one of my favourite stores, Kmart, to see what I could find. I found small tins and baskets but nothing really caught my eye until I headed into the garden section….. There I found this set!

Made of thick galvanised tin, 3 pots standing inside a sturdy wooden holder with each one being removable if needed (plus on special for only $5 each)! Intended for small pot plants, I knew these would be ideal –  with a few adjustments of course. Whilst being made of thick tin, there are no sharp edges. The top and base are both rolled so all edges are smooth and little fingers are in no danger of being cut.

I knew these were perfect and durable but I also knew that dropping pencils, scissors and glue sticks into the bottom of the tins would be beyond annoying with constant ‘ping’ ‘ping’ noises more than likely to occur.

Next I headed to the art and craft section and purchased myself a set of felt sheets. At only $6.00 there were 12 gorgeously bright colours included and measuring 21 cm x 30.5 cm I only needed to use half of each sheet then save the rest for this year!

I traced around the bottom of the tins 3 times onto each felt sheet.

Then I cut out the circles and sorted them into colours. 

I applied glue into the bottom of each tin and stuck inside a felt circle to cover the base.

Leave to dry for 24 hours and Voila! Awesome durable tins that look fantastic on desks and are extremely hard wearing.

 

With a chevron theme, I also attached some washi tape I found in the Kmart art and craft section for $1 around the top of each tin to tie it all in to the other classroom decorations.

A friend of mine asked me why I didn’t do multi coloured pots (ie 3 different colours per stand) however I preferred to keep the three tins the same base colour because then I could align them to a group. Ie one desk group had the red tins, another had blue tins etc. Also helped students to be accountable to top them up and replace items when needed. ‘The blue tins need some more lead pencils Miss’ You get the idea. But again – just my personal preference.

By the end of the year the felt at the bottom was dirty from pencil shavings but the tins were still in excellent condition. So I tore out the old felt and glued in fresh – remember I still had half a sheet of each colour left from the previous year!

Pencils go into one pot, textas into another and scissors, glue sticks into the third. Easy!

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.

free-animals-in-war-timefree-diy-display-series-remembrance-day    free-red-poppies-papers

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!