Monday, 12 December 2016

Teacher Time Saving Tip 6

My students loved getting involved in the class.  I taught sixth grade and they were all eager to do anything (well, most of them).

 One way I got my students involved was we set up a daily cleaning roster, where a group of students would stay behind on a certain day to do some 'cleaning'.  This involved sweeping, cleaning the boards, wiping down counters and even disinfecting desks.  It was on a volunteer basis but if a student committed for a certain day, that's when they were expected. It taught them responsibility and respect for their environment.  I graded papers and organised my planning  while they were busy. I also enjoyed the 'bonding' session between my students and myself during that time.  

I was also given a lot of files from a previous teacher.  They were fairly disorganized with numerous duplicates spread throughout a number of files.  A few of my students loved coming in and sorting the files for me.  They threw away duplicates and placed pages in plastic sleeves.  This would have taken me ages had I done it on my own.

These are just two ways in which I got my students involved.

You might be thinking that my students were in sixth grade, but you teach a lower, less responsible grade...  try placing an advert outside your door for older students.  Mention the job you would like done, the number of students needed and the date and time and see what kind of response you get.

Getting this right can free up a lot of your time!  Let me know how you got your students involved!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Teacher Time Saving Tip 5

I am one of those people... when I'm asked to volunteer for something, whether it be retyping a worksheet or heading up the English department, I can't say NO!  This is a problem for me!  Sometimes my plate was so full and I was stretched so thin that I felt I was not coping.   My inability to say NO forcefully and like I meant it, was my downfall.

I thought it was a sign of weakness, but it definitely is not!  Sometimes it is good to say no and mean it.  You don't need to be rude about it, but be firm.  "Unfortunately, I  will not be able to ..."  "No, that will not be possible."  Don't leave room for negotiations.

You also deserve down time, family time and me time.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Teacher Time Saving Tip 4

Some admin or planning tasks take far more time and effort than others (like those ones done in Tip 2).  Schedule a time for these tasks when you know you have a fair amount of time to really get into it.  

Also find a spot where distractions will be limited.  If you work best at school, find a spot where no one can find you.  If your fellow colleagues are expert hide-and-seekers, sit at your local Starbucks.  If you have had your fair share of caffeine for the day, position yourself in your living room at home (or lock yourself in the bathroom if there are kids around).  

If you are like me, I also tend to work better in the morning, rather at night.  So mornings would be my most mentally productive times.

It doesn't matter where you are, just find a space where you can focus for the given amount of time and tackle the task at hand.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Teacher Time Saving Tip 3

Have you ever arranged a parent conference, where it be in person or on the phone, and it seems as though there is no end?  It is so nice to have a good chat to parents about all kinds of things, but it is not so nice when they leave and you realize that for the past hour and a half you have been making small talk when you have a good few piles of grading that needs your attention.

Leave the chit chat to the sports' field or school events if you are on a tight time schedule!

Try to arrange conferences at time when you know time is limited.  Before school, during recess or during the parent's lunch break are all 'restricted' times.  You will get to your point and they will get to their's as both of you know the end is in sight.

Teacher Time Saving Tip 1 will also help to speed conferences along and avoid time being wasted.

Till next week - happy time saving!

Monday, 14 November 2016

Teacher Time Saving Tip 2

We all have our favorite TV shows and I'm not sure about you but once the show is over I regret wasting the time watching, instead of working.

I then realized that there were some things meant to do while watching!  I would cut, paste, laminate, staple or sort while my show was on.

Before you leave school, grab a folder of which ever 'mindless' activity you needed to complete, and plan it for that hour slot of telly time.  That way, after the hour, you can see progress and you have relaxed on the sofa!

Stay tuned for next week's #teachertimesavingtips !

Monday, 7 November 2016

Teacher Time Saving Tip 1

Teachers are known to be over worked and not have time for themselves.  For the next few weeks, I will be offering a Teacher Time Saving Tip which I hope will give you an extra few minutes in your day to do something for yourself.

So here we go...

Phone conferences can take up a lot of your time.  The trick is to put motions in place to limit the time on the phone.

Trying to explain areas of concern with a parent over the phone can take time.  If they have had an opportunity to look over the 'evidence' before the conference, they will have a background of the concern and make useful contributions.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Boom! Learning: No-Print, Interactive, Digital Task cards

We have all been exposed to the useful nature of task cards and clip cards in our classrooms.  These are fun versions of worksheets and offer students with a different option when it comes to being assessed on their understanding.

These task cards, can however, be expensive and time consuming to make.  Printing, laminating and cutting dig into teachers' pockets and personal time.

Students are also becoming reliant on digital manipulation.  They are familiar with digital resources and enjoy using them.

Boom! Learning have created an App which cover all these bases.

They offer a digital task card resource.  That's right! No more printing, no more laminating, no more cutting!

The platform allows teachers to create their own sets as well as purchase from sets available in the Boom! Learning store.

Let's look at what Boom offers teachers:

  • No more printing, laminating and cutting!  
  • A huge time and money saver for teachers.
  • Because printing costs do not need to be taken into consideration, Boom cards can be bright, colorful and appealing to the student-eye.
  • One-on-one teaching.  Each student logs in and completes task card sets on their own.
  • Boom records and grades students' responses.  A report can be accessed by the teacher for each student, outlining how they fared with the deck.  
  • Differentiated learning is easy as you can decide which sets each student needs to complete.
  • Preparation is minimal:  create/purchase your set and allocate it to your class in the app.
  • Students love using digital resources during class time and this offers a different form of reinforcement.
  • You can access Boom Learning Website via their website or download the App onto your devices (Google Play and Apple Store)

Does this sound like something that you and your students will enjoy using?  Check it out!  You can sign up initially for free and try it out before signing up for a bigger membership.

I have opened a store, should you be interested in checking out some of my decks:


Visit BOOM! Learning HERE!

Thursday, 22 September 2016

QR Code Possibilities are Endless

I loved using QR codes in my classroom and to this day, wish I had discovered it earlier.  As a result, I am going out of my way to introduce them to other teachers so that they can identify with the potential that they offer the classroom environment.

I have compiled a few 'How to..." videos for you to watch if you are nervous about taking the leap into the QR code world (believe me, once you start you too are going to wish you did it earlier).

The first video is a TedEd video.  Karen Mensing is a teacher and she gives you practical ideas on how to use QR codes and the results it had with her students.  If this doesn't get you hooked...

Right, you're hooked!  Now what?  The next video is from Instructions 101, and here you are given a variety of websites that you can use to create your QR codes for FREE.  I always use but there are others which work just as well.

Hehe, and while searching for appropriate QR code videos for you, I did come across this one... "The Problem with QR codes."  It made me giggle because I have often been in these situations, and just reminds us all to think about how we use technology.  just because we have access to it, does not mean that it is appropriate in every situation :)

I hope you found this post useful and will dive straight into QR codes when you go back to school.

You can also get some ideas here on how I used QR codes in the classroom and a FREEBIE that will make organizing group work fun!

Here are also a few QR code board games which I created.  they will add a different twist to practicing what was learned:

Saturday, 17 September 2016

This is how I encouraged students to 'Get to Know' each other.

Are you back at school?  Most, if not all, schools have reopened for the new year and days have been filled with getting to know new students, setting ground rules and tackling the task of covering all required work before the first set of assessments.

The first few weeks ( as well as the last few, and everything in between) prove to be rushed and fly by with many tasks to be accomplished.

I always found to spend time at the beginning of the year building my new class as a 'family' worked well for us for the rest of the year.  I did this by creating opportunities for my students to get to know one another.

I would spend time introducing activities to enable students to get to know each other.  Firm favorites were:

Find one person who...

This game entailed each student being given a page containing a list of characteristics.  They would then have to move around the class to find people, and record their names in the space provided, who meet the characteristics.

For example, a characteristic could be:  "Someone who has a pet bird at home."  or "Someone who enjoys watching cartoons."

Students will quickly learn about their peers and have an opportunity to speak to and interact with everyone.

You can download my version from Teachers Pay Teachers for FREE.  I have also included an editable version in this download so that you can add your own criteria and make it more applicable for your students.  I would love you to leave feedback if you find it useful.

What are your goals?

My students sat in groups so would discuss with the rest of the group what their short term and long term goals were.  They would discuss with each other possible methods for achieving these goals.  Each students would then have an opportunity to report back to the class with one of their group member's goals and possible solutions in achieving the goals.

I did this activity with my 5th -7th graders.  It helped then realize that their goals are achievable if they are prepared to follow a path and put in work to get there.

Getting to Know You Board Game

I designed this fun board game for students to play, not only at the beginning of the year, but throughout it.  I used it as an early finisher activity on occasion to help students to move away from their 'click groups' and find out about others in their class too.

Should you be interested in using this game in your class, I have listed a version in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  You can purchase it here.

Friday, 9 September 2016

CVC Fun on the Way to School

Megan is in Kindergarten and loves books.  Every night we read two stories to her and she is starting to recognize words- which is very exciting.

We have been focusing a lot on Sight Words and CVC words and it was getting to a point where she wanted to read on her own, but there would still be too many words that were unfamiliar.

It is also rather challenging having Adam around as he then comes over and wants to read too, which is problematic and my attention is diverted to him.

So, I moved her reading time to the car on the way to school.  We spend about an hour in the car waiting in traffic and I thought this would be the perfect time... Adam would be busy with whatever he brought along and Megan could focus on reading.

The problem came in with me not being right next to her, and there were too many words which were new to her and this ended up being frustrating.

This gave me an idea to create some reading strips for her with a twist!

The sentences revolve around CVC words and for each set a certain number of Sight Words have been used.  This means that she sees the Sight Words fairly regularly and gets to practice the fluency of the CVC as well as the Sight Words.

On each card, there are two sentences and a picture.  (This is where the twist comes in.) She needs to read the two sentences and decide which sentence best fits with the picture and then mark it with a white board marker (or you could use mini pegs).  This focuses not only on her fluency but her understanding as well.

We keep our cards in the car, so that when we hit the traffic, she can take them out and read!

There is no pressure, but most mornings she chooses to take them out and I love hearing how her confidence is growing.

My next mission is to find some appropriate reading books which can replace the cards once she has completed them.

I have listed these cards in my TPT store, should you be interested in them.  Click here for a direct link.  They would be the percet center activity as they can adapted to be self-corrective by placing a sticker behind the correct answer.  Or you can check the answers once the set is complete.

Happy Teaching!

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Struggling to win over your students. Try this...

As the new school year begins and you meet your new class of students, are you concerned of personality clashes?

We have all had the experience of a personality clash, whether it be with a parent, colleague or student.   It's tough... putting 25 individual students into a class with an adult and that they all have to get along.  You may have found, in the past, (or you may have even identified one already) you have a personality clash with one of your students.  It doesn't make you a bad person, or them a bad person.  Your personalities just...clash.

It is, however, your job as the adult to try every possible way to try and win this student over and make their year an enjoyable one - because we all know that a happy student results in a productive year.  (Plus, happy students = happy teachers)

This is a list of suggestions that you can use to attempt in winning that students over.

  1. Praise them for the tiniest things - you may want to read my blog post on "Be Your Student's Hero".  It focuses on finding the positive in each child and praising them for little things.
  2. Pay them a compliment - By paying them a compliment, it shows them that you notice them and find good in them.
  3. Give them a special job - This shows that you trust them and what are relationships based on?  Trust!  Make sure that the job you give will enable the student to experience success.  You don't want it to backfire and you end up nagging and complaining more than before.
  4. Write a note home to their parents about a good occurrence - There is nothing more special than if you take the time out to make a fuss to the parents.  A special call or note can go a long way.  
  5. Send them to the principal with good work.  Once again, recognition.  You are recognizing that they have achieved something.  Look at things like improving their work, an exceptionally well presented task, good group work, a well read passage (all based on their standards and not the highest achieving pupil in class's standards).  You need to vary it up so that the same children are not always going.  Find reasons for your 'unwilling' child to showcase themselves. 
  6. Use them as a good example - "Look at how tidy Tom's desk is." Let them feel proud in front of the class for something they did.
  7. Find reasons to move up on the reward charts - Often this student will not have many dots/stars/points on the reward chart as they act out 'against' you.  Find reasons to give them rewards.  Bringing me back to my past post, you need to find the positive in every child.  What self-worth does a child with no stars have in a class filled with 'chart-fillers'?  None!  
  8. Share a secret - It can be about what you did over the weekend or a fear you have.  By giving them a piece of information as a secret, you are 'letting your guard down' and opening yourself up to them.  You will then share something that no one else does.  It also once again shows that you trust them.
  9. Inquire about their likes and dislikes - show you are interested.  Once you know what they like, you can make a conscious effort to find out about it.  Maybe it's a specific football team (find out when they are playing and make mention of the scores in class), maybe it's horses or camping or fishing or reading or math...
What is important to remember, is that you want your attempt to be subtle.  Enough for the student to feel a positive emotion but not enough for the class to pick up on it and start teasing or discriminating against the child for being the 'favorite'.  Find a balance.

I hope you have found these suggestions helpful.  I am also busy with a series of identifying and handling specific behavior problems.  You may want to check it out if you think your student has a specific behavior problem.

I would love to hear what you found useful in your class and success you have experienced in willing over a child.

Let's make learning fun!

Monday, 8 August 2016

Be Your Student's Superhero!

This has been on my mind for a while now.  It is something that I think does not come naturally to everyone, and is therefore overlooked by many.  It applies to not only teachers, but parents too.

I'll be honest with you and admit that my 'light-bulb' moment only happened after my daughter, Megan, was born.  She is six now and from when she could move, talk, and even blink I realized that she had a mind of her own and would be D.E.T.E.R.M.I.N.E.D to show me who is boss (well, I had news for her...).  The more I argued, the more she dug her heels in.  The more I punished, the more she had to prove her point.  The more I explained, the more she negotiated.  It was a constant battle...until... I shifted my focus.  My role as a mother was to be her HERO.  As a teacher, we have the same role towards our students. 

So what did I do?  I focused on all the positive she was doing.  I did mention and offer an alternative for undesired behavior, but I focused on the positive.  Don't get me wrong, there were consequences for certain situations but I "picked my battles."  I focused on the good she was doing and not so much on the 'bad'.  She thrived off the positive reinforcement and therefore sought it out.  Asking for more responsibility, in order to show off her 'positive' skills.

Right, now how does this fit in with being your student's hero, you may ask?  The secret is... Focus on the Positive.

Adopt this attitude...

... and I can assure you that you will start looking at your students differently and they in turn, will look at you differently.

Find something in every child that is special, and focus on that.  No matter how naughty, rude, untidy or disruptive they are.  There WILL be something!  Focus on the positive.

Go out of your way to praise them for the tiniest things: the ability to share, tidy up, raise their hand, wait their turn, pick up papers, speak politely, hang their coat on the hook, hold the pencil correctly, creativity in the dolly corner, agility on the obstacle course, ability to balance on the beam... and so I can go on.

Make them feel like they matter!  Like you notice them!  Like they are special! Like you are truly happy to see them and have the privilege to know them!

(Am I going a bit far saying it is a privilege to know each of your students?  No.  If you find the positive in each child, you will realize that it IS a privilege to know each one of them!)

With some children you may need to dig deep to find the positive quality to praise, and you know what?  Those are the children that most often need it the most!

Be their HERO!  Make them matter!

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Oh so Fun Summer Fashion for Teachers!

Would you wear these t-shirts?  I probably would...

I found it here.

Get it here.
This one comes from here.

I found this here.
You can find it here.

Hehe, I definitely need one of these.  My non-teacher friends can't believe that I would arrange and organize other people's children in a public place...

I would love to see your Summer Teacher outfits.  Tag me in your Instagram or upload an image to my Facebook page.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

DIY Puzzles

Adam is loving puzzles at the moment!  Once he starts, he wants to build all our age appropriate puzzles and even digs into Megan's box, which is not a good idea yet as her pieces are tiny and she would not be happy if he manages to lose a piece or two.

In the past I had spotted these great paint color sample cards at my local DIY store.  They are not the normal multi-colored ones but rather a larger rectangle of the solid color.  I have always kept these in mind for projects as they come in loads of different colors and they are free!

I knew that this project would be perfect for those little cards, so I pooped down to the store to grab a few (or maybe a lot :) ) - I must admit, I felt a slight stitch of guilt selecting my color cards knowing I would not be doing any painting - oh well, it didn't last long ;)

On each card I drew a picture with my limited skill, but fortunately my children don't notice where I think my skills are lacking - aren't they wonderful!

Once the pictures had been drawn, I cut them up into various sizes and shapes.  The nice thing about this is you can make it as challenging as you wish.  I started by cutting each puzzle into four pieces, but once my son gets the hang of it, I can cut them again so that there are eight pieces.  He will then be familiar with the picture of the puzzle but it will be more challenging to put it together.

The different colors also help with color recognition and sorting.

If you can't get these paint samples in your home town, you may just want to use ordinary card stock - which can give you a bigger image if you would like.

I placed a small ball of sticky putty under each of the pieces to help to hold them in place while building the puzzles.  They tend to move around quite a bit.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Give your Preschooler the Edge...

Do you have a child who is Pre-K and you desperately want to give them the edge at school by doing some 'prep' work at home with them?  Maybe you have no idea where to start...

Adam is now nearly 3 and we spend a lot of time doing 'educational' activities such as sorting and threading and building  and running and climbing and and and...  you get the picture.

He was quite a late speaker (and I use that loosely because I know it was not that late at all) and has only just started stringing words together into little sentences and building his vocabulary fairly quickly.

I had a request to design and make a Mini Office File Folder for a customer's 2-year old son.  I know what 2-year olds are capable of and didn't want to make some thing that would be overwhelming for him and it would only get used in a year or two.  It is for this reason that I thought to make it interactive!

While designing it,  got more and more excited at the thought of using guess what...I had to make one for Adam too.

It is interactive in the sense that you can choose a focus topic for the day or week, and 'separate' that focus topic from the rest of the information in the file.  Let me show you what I mean...

Do you see those magnetic strips under the concepts?  That is where to place the focus topic.  Initially I thought to use sticky back velcro, but then they were out of stock at my local store, so it made me think more about it and this is WAY better!  Adam attaches a paper clip to the desired image (great fine motor!!!) and then sticks it to the strip.  So for example, the focus color for this week is purple:

He searched for the purple block followed by 3 purple images (he still had to find one more).  In this above image you can see the Letter A and number 5 are part of our focus.  

The additional strip under My Body will be used for pictures we cut out of magazines of a body part or 2D /3D shapes, depending on what we are focusing on.  (Once again making the magnetic strips and paper clips more versatile than the velcro).

This page of the folder shows how it can be used to practice names.  There is also a little astronaut (Adam, where has it gone??) that moves up and down the day of week and month.

Further use for when they are older:

I included an extra set of letters so that once your child has moved past the information on the board, you can encourage writing words with the letters on the magnetic strips e.g.  Write a word that starts with a c (maybe give them a picture in the beginning), they can write a simple CVC word like cat.  Or think of something that is gray and write the word, which could be bat.

If you think you could use this Mini Office Folder, you can purchase it here.

Or if you would like a Princess Theme version, get it here.

This specific one has a theme of space, but I am more than willing to adapt it to any theme you require!  Let me know by sending me  an email ( and I'll make it my priority!

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

10 Summer Fun Activities for the Kids

I love summer...the beach, the sun , the kids! I have been sifting through Pinterest to try and find some activities for my children to do during the vacation.  I have a 2-year old and a 6-year old and wanted to find activities appropriate for both of them to do together.

I have compiled this list as a go to and hope to get through the list during the vacation.  You can always check back to see how it went and how far we got.

1.  Sandy Footprints on the beach:  I found this image on Pinterest and think it will be a special keepsake activity with their little feet printed on the 'beach'.  There was no source attached to the picture so if you know who it belongs to, please let me know so that I can reference it.

2.  Make a milk jug feeder:  There is nothing better than a garden filled with singing birds.  Lure them to your garden with some home made milk jug bird feeders.  You can get an in-depth description on how to make one similar to the one below here.

3.  Play a game of Sponge Bullseye:  You can incorporate educational information as well by asking your children to add their scores(6 - year old, I'll make the numbers more applicable for her ability) or identify the color they landed on (2-year old).  See how to make one here.

4.  Do a Garden Scavenger hunt:  Children love pottering in the garden, now they have a reason to search for goodies.  Read about it here (there is also a FREE printable to go with it).

5.  Practice writing words:  This can be their name if they need practice with that or a new sight word.  can choose and then let them use what they find in the garden to create the word.  You can do a light outline for them to follow if need be.  That is what I will do with my son.

6.  What Melts in the Sun?  Do a simple science experiment with your children focusing on what melts in the sun.  Let your children predict what is going to happen.  Get some ideas on what to use here.

7.  Make a Dream catcher.  We have done this and it was a lovely fine motor activity for my son and my daughter loved the idea of it catching all the bad dreams.  Here are the instructions.

8.  Excavate the toys!  This is the perfect activity for a hot day!  freeze your children's toys in a big block of ice and they need to get them out.  I probably will not do this with my 2-year old as we might lose some fingers and/or toes but it will be such fun for my daughter when he takes a nap.   The post does show how the writer's sons got to their toys without sharp objects and it was a great problem solving activity. Check it out here.

9.  Who doesn't love blowing bubbles?  Well my dogs love it the most - well catching them that is.  Have a look here how to make giant bubbles. The perfect summer fun!

10.  Ok and the final one is a boredom jar.  I came across this one and I loved the ideas and the washi tape.  

I can't take the words... "I'm bored"  especially when I walk into the playroom and everything is gathering dust.  Maybe my children are too reliant on me to do activities with them.  Dsespite all the fun activities listed here, I think I need to squeeze in some "Keep yourself busy time" too.

I hope you enjoyed this and got some ideas for the summer break.  Let me know if you try any of them and how it went.  Pop back to see how we did with the list.
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