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Monday, 10 July 2017

Launching Math Workshop

Launching Math Workshop properly is one of the most important things that you can do to ensure that you will have a successful math block all year long!

During my math workshop time, I expect students to be able to work quietly and stay on task for 20 minute periods of time. This can sometimes be a lot easier said that done! However, I am here to tell you that it is absolutely possible! Every year I have students in my class with ADHD, English Language Learners, students with learning disabilities and severe behaviour needs. Every single one of these kids participated successfully in math workshop!

Tip 1: 

Establish Expectations

On our first day of Guided Math, we have a class discussion about the expectations that we need to have in place in order to be successful. I like to have students make suggestions and we add them to an anchor chart. The list of expectations below is what I try to lead my students towards developing.

Launching Math Workshop in the upper elementary classroom - with freebies

Tip 2:

Build Stamina

Just like in reading workshop, your students NEED to practice building stamina. I explain to students that in order to be able to work on math games for an extended period of time, we need to practice and build our stamina. If we were trying to become the next olympic marathon champion we wouldn't start by running a marathon on our first training day. In fact, doing so would probably make us sick! Instead, we would start by running for maybe two minutes. Then the next day, we might run for five minutes. Then eight minutes, and so forth. 

Once kids are excited to start building stamina, I start by giving students a really simple game to play with a partner. This game usually reviews something that they learned the year before. This place value shaker game is a great one to use. The kids love it and it is super simple to differentiate. Check out the game here for FREE!

I take a few moments to model the game for students under the document camera. Then, I pick two students to model how to play the game appropriately (including how to set it up and clean it up.) Next, I choose two students (usually students that I know will struggle to follow the expectations) to model how "not" to play the game. I encourage them to break as many of the expectations mentioned above as possible. The kids LOVE this part! The important thing is to ask these same kids to model how to play properly afterwards, so that they know that they are capable of participating. 

Once I feel like everyone understands the expectations, I send them off to play. 
I start a timer and explain to my students that we are trying to get started as quickly as possible, to make good use of our math time.

After all students have started playing, I record the amount of set up time and I start a new timer. Then I plop down in the corner to watch my kids play. I do not get up and walk around because I don't want them to get used to me there. As soon as one kid stops playing properly, I ask the entire class to clean up and come back to the carpet. Once again I start a timer to see how long it takes them to clean up.

Once we are all back at the carpet, we celebrate the amount of math stamina that we had and the time that it took us to clean up/ get started. Then I ask for suggestions on what we could do next time to increase our stamina and decrease our clean up/ getting started time. Lastly, we track all 3 numbers on our stamina charts. If there is still time left in the class, we try again, this time aiming to build our stamina a little bit more!

Launching Math Workshop in the upper elementary classroom - with freebies
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Launching Math Workshop in the upper elementary classroom - with freebies

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Launching Math Workshop in the upper elementary classroom - with freebies

Click HERE to get the stamina building and math expectations charts for free!

Tip 3:

Take lots of movement breaks to set kids up for success!

It can sometimes be hard for kids to focus and build stamina for long periods of time. I like to take lots of movement breaks in between periods of stamina building. We use lots of Go Noodle and YouTube videos to refresh our brains and our bodies!

Are you interested in starting math workshop in your upper elementary classroom? Check out these awesome units that include:

  • Whole Group Warm Ups
  • Small Group Teaching Ideas
  • Stations and Games
  • Assessments
  • PowerPoint Presentation to introduce the topic
  • Flip Books for student practice
Click on the images below to check out the units!
Launching Math Workshop in the upper elementary classroom - with freebies
Launching Math Workshop in the upper elementary classroom - with freebies


Be sure to pin the image below so that you can come back to this post when you are ready to start launching your Guided Math block!

Launching Math Workshop in the upper elementary classroom - with freebies



Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Reading Strategies Book Goal 3



Background Information:

In case you are new to my blog I figured I would give you a quick insight into who I am as a teacher. I teach a grade 4/5 combo class in Canada. Now you may be wondering, why is a grade 4/5 teacher wanting to dig deep into Goal 3, Supporting Print Work? The truth is, my students' reading levels range from Kindergarten to Grade 5, as I am sure many of yours do. The majority of my students are English Language Learners. Because of this, I do a lot of professional learning surrounding print work and continue to develop my proficiency in it. One thing I love about this chapter is that some of the strategies are appropriate for students of all reading levels! 

Jennifer begins the chapter by reminding us that there are three sources of information we use while reading; meaning, syntax and visual. She compares the use of all three sources of information to a juggler with three balls in the air; it takes coordination, mental effort and strategic action. It is no wonder that many students overemphasize one or two of the sources of information, which in turn affects their accuracy rate.

Reading Strategies Book Study

Cross Checking

She then continues to talk about Cross Checking. Any of my Daily 5 people out there will be familiar with Cross Checking. Essentially while kids are reading, they need to be thinking, "Does it look right? Does it sound right? Does it make sense?" The 2 Sisters have cool hand gestures to remind kids to cross check.



Goal 3 Strategies

There are 23 different strategies in this chapter. I chose 3 to focus on. 


Goal 3.6 - Try, Try, Try Again:

Reading Strategies Book Study - try again

Jennifer recommends launching this strategy by reviewing all of the reading strategies that have been taught so far. I love introducing this strategy at the beginning of the year. It sounds strange, but it actually gives me a lot of insight into the strategies that my students already have in their tool kits and the strategies that they still need. We start by listing all of the strategies that they already have in their tool kits. Jennifer uses the metaphor of a tool kit beautifully. Saying: "Just like you wouldn't use a hammer to take out a screw, you shouldn't use the "check the pictures" strategy when there aren't any pictures." I have found that my English Language Learners really benefit from actually having a little box that has visuals for each of their reading strategies in it. That way, they can take the strategies out and try them if needed. As we learn a new strategy, we add it to our tool kits.
Reading Strategies Book Study

This is the anchor chart that is suggested :)

Reading Strategies Book Study

Goal 3.7: Slow down the Zoom, Zoom, Zoom to Make Sense!



This strategy is applicable for ALL of my students. So many of my students come to grade 4/5 as "zoom, zoom" readers. I think it is super important to have them pause and slow down. I am always looking for ways to help students learn how to self monitor their reading. Do you know of any others that would work for self monitoring? 

Reading Strategies Book Study

Here is the poster that I hang in my classroom to remind students of this rule!
Reading Strategies Book Study


3.12: Group Letters That Make Sounds Together

Reading Strategies Book Study

Jennifer suggests that you launch this strategy by explaining that some letters go together to make a special sound. Show students a blends and digraphs chart. There is a great one on page 91. Then have students read a book while being detectives and hunting for blends and digraphs. I completed this activity a couple of times with my low reading group. I thought that it really helped their decoding! It is so difficult to make time for phonics in a grade 4/5 classroom where most of the students don't need it. I would love to hear in the comments if you have any ways to incorporate phonics for your low readers!



Reading Strategies Book Study

I really enjoyed this chapter! What was your number 1 take away? Feel free to discuss in the comments below :) 
Don't forget to check out the rest of the posts in this series. You can find all of the links here.

Have a sweet week!





Monday, 6 February 2017

February Faves



It's February... You know that that means! Valentine's Day!
Here are some of my favourite activities to celebrate in my Upper Elementary Classroom!

Fun Valentine's Day Activities for the Upper Elementary Classroom


This year I have a grade 4/5 class. Our focus throughout the week of Valentine's Day is going to be spreading Random Acts of Kindness!

I start by having students brainstorm all of the different things that they could do for people in the school that would be kind. Then they each pick one to write on their Random Act of Kindness Card. All of the cards go into a basket.  Click here to grab the FREE cards!

Each morning, I draw a Random Act of Kindness from their suggestions and students have until the end of the day to complete the challenge.

Here are some of the ideas that my students have come up with in the past:

  • Make a Thank You card for the custodian
  • Ask someone new to play with you at recess
  • Say "good morning" or "hello" to every teacher today
Fun Valentine's Day Activities for the Upper Elementary Classroom

Usually students end up suggesting that we do something nice for our buddy class. This is where my "Once I was a Heart" book comes in handy!
We head down to the Kindergarten room with red construction paper, scissors, glue photocopies and smiles :) 

My students then work with their buddies to help them create their "Once I was a Heart Books". The great part about these books is that once they have been assembled, they can continue to read them together for the rest of the year during reading buddies time!  

Fun Valentine's Day Activities for the Upper Elementary Classroom

Are you interested in winning a $10 TPT gift card for the big sale on Tuesday and Wednesday? 
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Looking for more fun February Favourites (and another chance to win a gift card)? Click here to visit the next blog in the hop!







Sunday, 15 January 2017

French as a Second Language - Les Parties du Corps

One of the units that I teach my 4th graders is "Les Parties du Corps". Here are some ideas for teaching this mini unit.

FSL Teaching Fench Body Parts in the upper elementary second language classroom


Cue the Music








These videos are a cute way to introduce students to different body parts. After introducing these videos to students, I like to add them to my French transition songs playlist. This playlist is made up of  French videos I like to play during transition times. This gets my students listening to French songs in a way that doesn't eat up precious time.  

These videos are also great for Brain Breaks as students can get up and dance to the song!

Use a PowerPoint Presentation!

After introducing new vocabulary terms through songs, I like to take my students through a PowerPoint presentation. You could make one yourself. I also have one available in my TPT store here. It even has an audio recording so that a substitute teacher who doesn't know French can walk your students through these terms!

FSL Teaching Fench Body Parts in the upper elementary second language classroom


Play Games

There are so many fun games that you can play to practice "Les Parties du Corps". 

Simon Dit

This game is a classic! For example: the teacher says "Simon dit toucher le pied." Any students that touch their foot get to stay standing, any that didn't have to sit down. The last student standing wins. 

Online Games and Activities

The government of Victoria has a great site full of activities that students can use to practice Les Parties du Corps. You can find it here.

Les Parties du Corps Games Set

I have created a set of 5 fun games that students can play to practice this vocabulary. The games include: Bingo, POP, Go Fish, Memory and a Board Game. You can find these games in my TPT store here. I love to use these games as stations in my classroom. The kids LOVE playing the games and I love the fact that I can assess their vocabulary knowledge, oral communication skills and group work skills just by walking around the room and observing!
FSL Teaching Fench Body Parts in the upper elementary second language classroom

Practice with Digital Interactive Notebook Activities

The last thing I like to have my students do is practice their new vocabulary with Digital Interactive Notebook Activities. I love these activities because I can assign them in Google Classroom, making them easy to push out to my students' devices. I also find that doing these activities digitally is very engaging and motivating for students. If you want to check out my Digital Interactive Notebook for Les Parties du Corps, you can find it in my TPT store, here.

FSL Teaching Fench Body Parts in the upper elementary second language classroom


Are you interested purchasing all of the Parties du Corps products featured in this post? You can check out the Bundle and purchase all of the activities at a discounted rate.

What are your favourite ways to teach students new French vocabulary terms? Let me know in the comments below.

Have a sweet week.


Saturday, 14 January 2017

Flexible Seating - Organizing Student Supplies

This is the second post in my Flexible Seating series. To get a look at the different seating options I offer my students, click here.

One of the things I was most nervous about while considering flexible seating was that I had no idea where students would put their supplies and their work. I tried a few different approaches this year and here is what worked the best for my classroom.

Unfinished Work Folders

Since students don't have desks, they need a place to put all of their unfinished work, notes to go home, etc. We use "Unfinished Work Folders" in my classroom and they work like a charm! I simply gave each student a manilla folder and some time to decorate. Anytime a student has a loose paper, they put it straight into this folder. Works like a charm :)

unfinished work folder - a solution for students organization with flexible seating in upper elementary

Student Book Bins

My students use their book bins during reading and writing workshop. 

Each student fills their bin with the following items:
  • independent reading books
  • reading response notebook
  • writing workshop notebook
  • unfinished work folder
These book bins from Really Good Stuff are awesome because students can simply pick them up and move wherever they like in the class! 

I'm going to warn you... this is a real life photo and is not Pinterest worthy but this is what my students' book bins looked like in December. A bit messy but they serve their purpose :)
book bins- a solution for students organization with flexible seating in upper elementary

Binder/ Duotang Storage

My students keep all of their duotangs in subject specific bins. For example, we have a math bin where everyone keeps their math duotang, etc. Then when we are working on that subject, I simply have the kids grab their duotang out of the bin. 

We store all of our duotang bins and binders on this bookshelf. This way students can easily access any materials that they need.

At the beginning of the year we model and practice how to carefully and responsibly take materials out and put them away. 
binder and duotang shelf- a solution for students organization with flexible seating in upper elementary

At the beginning of the year, the white bins at the top were empty. Now I store my guided reading materials in them. This makes it really easy to grab the day's lesson and go!

Community Supplies

This year I started using community supplies. We keep little caddies with school supplies on each table. At the end of the day, the kids clean the caddies out and ensure that all dull pencils and pencil crayons go in the dull container and are replaced with sharp ones. My students are completely in charge of running our school supplies system and I love how it is going so far! At the beginning of the year, I filled the caddies and then put all of the extra supplies away in a bin. Then I will take out the extras to refill the caddies in January. This will hopefully help our supplies last all year long!

community supplies - a solution for students organization with flexible seating in upper elementary

Organization is key when using flexible seating! I hope  I gave you some useful ideas for your own classroom :) Be sure to pin the image below so that you can come back to this post later!

storage solutions for flexible/ alternative seating classrooms


Have a sweet week!


Flexible Seating in the Upper Elementary Classroom - The Options!

This year I started using Flexible Seating in my grade 4/5 combined class. To say that I am in love with it would be a huge understatement! I am hooked on flexible seating and so are my students!
flexible seating in the upper elementary classroom

The Set Up:

I have several different seating options in my room. 
  • Hooki Stools
flexible seating in the upper elementary classroom

  • Stability Balls
flexible seating in the upper elementary classroom

  • Stability Disks at a Low Table 

  • Pillows
  • Tipi
flexible seating in the upper elementary classroom


  • Couch
flexible seating in the upper elementary classroom

  • Ottomans and Coffee Table
flexible seating in the upper elementary classroom

  • Normal Chairs and Desks 
    • I feel very strongly that it is still important to offer students the option of a normal chair and desk. Some kids truly prefer their own space and I always have at least two kids that choose to sit at a desk.
flexible seating in the upper elementary classroom

  • The Floor With Clipboards
  • Cafe Table and Stools
flexible seating in the upper elementary classroom


So far the most popular options are the Hooki Stools and the Cafe Table. This changes based on the activity that we are completing. For instance, during reading workshop, students gravitate towards the couch, tipi, etc. However, during writing most students choose a table.

At first I was extremely intimidated by flexible seating. However, now I love it so much that I can't imagine going back to a class full of traditional chairs and desks.  

Do you incorporate any flexible seating in your classroom? 


Monday, 9 January 2017

French as a Second Language - Teaching Colors


Teaching colours may seem very basic but it is incredibly important for students to learn! Once they know their colours, they can use this knowledge to build sentences, describe their physical traits, and play games!
FREE French colors activity perfect for the upper elementary French as a Second Language Classroom

Here are some activities I use to teach my students their colours! Remember that once the colours are introduced, it is important to review continually throughout the year.

Cue the Music!




Chart it Up!

I really believe that having a colours poster in your room is a MUST! This way, students can reference the chart whenever they need! I have a free one for you in my shop here

FREE French colors poster perfect for the upper elementary French as a Second Language Classroom

Art Attack!

I like to have my students practice their French colour words by completing a simple art assignment. 
FREE French colors activity perfect for the upper elementary French as a Second Language Classroom


I hope that you enjoy these ideas! Have a sweet week :)