Saturday, 8 December 2012

One more from J&GP week

I found these adorable photos on my phone. I completely forgot that we had 'the Bugman' come into school during the week. He showed us all sorts of amazing insects from around the world including: Hissing cockroaches, crickets, stick insect, tarantula and millipedes.
Millipedes, milling about. They felt really weird and when they walked their legs moved in a wave-like motions.

My students bring brave and petting the tarantula. I chose to hang out with the millipedes  instead.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

James and the Giant Peach Topic

For the past two weeks our whole school has been involved in a James and the Giant Peach topic. We have included many different activities across the lessons to relate to the story, with the culmination being a 'Big Write'. Each teacher was given their own copy of the story to read to their class. We have story times for the last 15 minutes of the day, where each teacher read J&GP. I absolutely love Roald Dahl and am kinda shocked that I wasn't in to him or possibly exposed to his work as much as a child. I distinctly remember seeing Matilda at the movies, but don't really recall the books being a part of classroom life. I feel like I'm making up for lost time!
It was interesting trying to fit in topic-based acitivities but still wanting to stick to the main curriculum, especially as we have testing in the next few weeks.
One amazing activity I was able to incoporate comes courtesy of CF Classroom and involved inferencing. If you haven't seen her blog post or visited her TPT store, this item is a MUST. After humming and harring for weeks about purchasing this, my saviour came in the form of a Thanksgiving sale. Result! Basically it involved me collecting 3 items that I thought one of the characters from J&GP would have. I put them in an envelope with a letter and gave it to another teacher in the school.
I modelled this activity for the students using 3 items from a teacher in the school. We discussed each item and inferred what it must mean about the person. Midway through this activity I got a knock on the door with 'another letter'. The kids were absolutely ecstatic! As we finished my modelled activity I moved onto the new envelope. As I pulled each clue out I posted it on the wall. Each table was given post-its and asked to infer what each clue was. They then shared their ideas and put it on my bulletin board. Woohoo, instant display!

A close up of some of the clues and a student recording sheet.
After we had discussed the 3 clues and who it might be, the students drew each clue. Underneath they wrote about who it might be based on the clues.
The final clue was a letter. In the letter were some hints. The students were then able to decipher the character and wrote it down. They also wrote down which clues helped them make their final decision.

Top: Final Display, post-its with clues, Centipede and his letter
Bottom: Some of the students inference work above the board

One of my other favourite activities during the week involved the parents. A letter was sent out to all the parents in school inviting them along on Friday morning to take part in a 'Guided Reading lesson' with their child. I decided to involve the students in making a diorama. For those of you who aren't sure what this is, (which included every single person in my school, apparently not a word in England) it involves making a 3-D model. I decided to have the students create a 3-D scene from J&GP. I must say, I completely underestimated my students AWESOMENESS. I made this whole flipchart with examples of dioramas, with discussion points on using space and even printed out pictures from the book to help them. Umm...not necessary, those creative juices were flowing from the word go and the kids got down to business. It was great seeing the parents using their creativity and also letting them watch their children in class. The hour flew by and it was a great success.

Some of my favourites: Top: peach in the yard with the insects, Middle: Peach and insects escaping the sharks by being tied to the seagulls, Bottom: Peach rolling away and squashing Sponge and Spike - best bit is the students creating this even thought to attach a string to the peach so you could pull it across Sponge and Spiker!
We did do other activities, such as writing a postcard from the top of the peach, making tally charts and bar graphs of students favourite character and a variety of other things, but these two were by far my favourite.
Have you been able to successfully do cross-curricular topics? What are some of your favourite activities?


Wednesday, 31 October 2012


The best thing about teaching younger students is that any type of reward is a big deal for them. At my school we employ housepoints. These magical stickers are gold and the students treat them like currency. They are especially awesome for Year 3s because it is their first experience getting rewarded in this manner.
The lowdown on HPs (housepoints):
  • Students can get housepoints for demonstrating correct behaviour.
  • Housepoints are also given for work they do, for me it is for students that can manage to make their work legible and demonstrate an ability to apply the learning objective.
  • The gold mine of housepoints is for their reading diaries. All students are required to read 15 mins/day at least 5x a week, I give HPs for at least 5 parent signatures and more for extra reading.
The last reason has been a godsend because my class has become a classroom of readers. All my parents have commented on how eager their students are to read and how much their reading fluency has improved in 7 weeks. Win, win, win!
All staff give out HPs and students receive them from anyone throughout the day.

Attempted close up of housepoints

The reason for the housepoints (this next bit is soooo English) is for the coveted house cup.
When students arrive at school they are put in 1 of 4 houses. At our school houses are named after royal homes.
green = Buckingham
yellow = Sandringham
red = Windsor
blue = Balmoral

Housepoint charts in my class. Each house gets their own sheet and my class total is added to the other classes for each house. New sheets are put up weekly.
FYI - I'm in Sandringham. Back to my original point. So each student gets a house and their housepoints go towards their house totals. So every week some older kids go to every classroom and count the housepoints for each house. They are totalled for the school and each week the housepoint winners get the house cup (a big gold trophy). At the end of the year we have House matches and all the children compete with their houses to earn points in different sports. The sport totals are added onto the housepoint totals to make a house winner at the end of the year.
I'm pleased to say Sandringham has won the house of the year for the last 3 years and this is put onto a massive plaque.
Another long-winded blog post. I've been excited to share this because it is the one reward system that has made a huge impact at our school. What types of ideas do you have for rewards? Does your school have a rewards system?

Sunday, 7 October 2012


Wow! The last month has flown by. Year 3 has been tremendously time consuming and within three days of being in school I realised how behind I already was! I've been slowly chipping away at marking and getting the classroom routine set up. Last week was great as it was the first time my students were really able to get through the day without me constantly nagging asking them to do things. To be fair, their schedule would be daunting for any new child at a school.
Here are some of the things new students have to learn (quickly):
  • Our schedule is different everyday!
  • Students have to move between all 3 year 3 teachers throughout the day!
  • Our students have a rotating three week schedule on Monday and Tuesday afternoons because each class is getting the chance to learn African drumming (once every 3 weeks).
  • Students have also got different specialist teachers for other lessons, whose ideas of behaving my differ from mine.
One side note: there is a little boy in one of the other classes and without fail, once a day someone from his class comes into my room looking for him, as he seems to keep being in the wrong place. Bless!

Okay back to my original idea for this post. Organization, something I am not that great at (although I can fake it well). I'm always being handed pieces of paper that are important, but not necessarily at that moment. In my pigeon hole I am always finding previously mentioned papers. Days, weeks, months later when I need the papers I can never seem to find them.
I've kind of adapted an idea from my lovely friend Kaytie from Earlier this summer she organised all her lessons and resources into different notebooks. I snapped up this idea for all my files. (Such a duh! moment.)
In this handy notebook are all the documents I would need handy throughout the year. It starts with our class timetable and rotation schedule and finishes off with my admin stuff, like teacher number and observations. In between are school policies, level descriptors, care plans, etc. It sits next to my desk and has been SO helpful already. Why has it taken me 3 years to figure this out?!

Since I am teaching in England I will take a moment to explain some of our educational lingo.
SEN: Special Education Needs - Students are placed on a SEN register if they recieve some type of additional help, ie Interventions
Care Plans: are for students that have some medical need. These plans detail how to deal with the student in case of an emergency and also details their needs. It can range from food allergies, seizures, wearing splints, etc.
Level: In the UK students are not given letter grades but 'levels'. Within each level are sub-levels (think rubric system). This gives a better indicator of where a student is working. For instance a Year 3 that is working at a level 3 is a high-achieving student, whereas a Year 6 working at a level 3 would be considered working below their age group.

One other mention will be marking...the bane of any teachers life! I'm really making an effort to assess during and after lessons. For maths and english I have a notebook I carry around with me when students are working. If there is something I note during a lesson I quickly jot down the problem (or need for extension). One other thing that has helped me greatly is using traffic signal cards.
I am now able to walk round the room when students are working independently and target those who aren't confident with their work. I have also been able to spontaneously pull out small groups and work
together on new concepts. These students are also recorded in my small notebook.
When I go to mark students work:
  • they are simply given a 'V' which means I have verbally helped them with the concept.
  • Other students will get a a simple WT (working towards if they still have not quite got the new concept), check (understanding the concept, but not secure), or a double check (secure with concept).
  • A small group of students will get written feedback and possibly some problems to help them secure their knowledge or extend their knowledge.
I am trying to rotate round who gets the written feedback so all students work will be fully looked at and analysed at some point. One last note, I use the check, double check in my little notebook as well, when students are showing they are secure with ideas they were previously not able to do, this way I can move them on.
Phew....another long rambling blog post.

Friday, 7 September 2012


So my new obession at the moment is using velcro in my room. Here in England there is this stuff called Blu-Tac, which is basically like stretchy putty that you can stick to stuff and then stick anywhere you like .... supposedly. I have a love/hate relationship with the stuff. Love it because its so easy to use, hate it because  after awhile posters and papers start dropping off my wall and sometimes there is a blue residue leftover.
Cue the velcro idea! I saw some great classroom job charts on Pinterest and decided this would be perfect to keep my room immaculate this year. I had originally thought about using popsicle sticks in paper envelopes, or something along those lines. Then I though about sticking the students name under a job with blue tac ... but then ... inspiration.
I decided to use velcro strips under a job heading.
I then took each students picture and laminated them. Behind each picture was the otherside of the velcro strip. I put all the pics in a plastic sleeve and stuck that on the chart with velcro. I hated the way the sleeve hung open so decided to create a fastener for that with velcro as well. (See the obsession starting!)
I then was able to randomly select a student and stick their face under a classroom job. I thought this would also be handy if I ever had a sub because they could instantly see who was responsible for our room tasks.


Thursday, 6 September 2012

The First Day

So today was the first day of Year 3, not only for my 25 students, but for me. My school is a junior school which means that students come up to us from infant school. These poor kids have gone from being the top dogs at their school which only went to 1st grade (Kindergartern here starts at 4, so they have 3 years in infant school), to being the tiniest newbies at the big scary junior school. It was so weird having to teach the children EVERYTHING about the school, from how to line up at break time, to getting them to sit in their seats for more than a minute.
I hope I'm not the only person in the world who really doesn't love the first day of school. This is mainly because of the tediousness of the whole day. I know its about getting to know the kids but I can't wait to start having a timetable with specific lessons. Tomorrow I'm going to attempt my first planned lesson. I'll be using the book First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg. This is perfect for my new students and I'm hoping to get some great text-to-self connections.
On a totally unrelated note I have spent the WHOLE summer agonising about how I want to teach and making my displays. I love/hate Pinterest for their abundance of ideas. Now one difference I notice between teaching here and being in the states is that teachers in the states are OBSESSED with their displays and classroom themes. In saying that teachers also love spending their own money on their classroom. This is ony things I have brought over here with me, much to my fiancee's displeasure. In England teachers ... not so obsessed with their displays or classroom themes. In fact, most of the time their displays are made by the teaching assistants. I had a hard time letting the teaching assistants label my kids books. Secondly, teachers here do NOT spend their own money on their room. It's so strange to be in a school where I can copy, laminate, use paint and cardstock, without feeling extreme guilt or worrying how far away the nearest copy place is.
So back to the displays... I spend literally 4 whole days making my displays and its looks like they took ten minutes. I'm hoping for the payoff somewhere down the line. How long do you take to make your displays? Do you spend your own money for your room?


PS: A big thanks to Second Grade Shenanigans, Clutter Free ClassroomLadybug's Teacher Files for inspiring me so much this summer. I can't wait to use all the tips and resources you have suggested.

 My pride - spotty tray labels, mind you this was after a whole set of labels had already been made and laminated for me. They didn't have spots or the font I wanted so I spent ages remaking and putting them on the trays.
 Main wall with IWB. I've had to get creative with the space.
 House point area - students get house points from all adults in school for doing well with their work, being kind and a myriad of other things. They are given a house when they join the school Each week the housepoints are counted and the house with the most points for the week gets the housepoint trophy.
Red = Windsor, Green = Buckingham, Blue = Balmoral, Yellow = Sandringham
Unfortunately I made the 'objectives' circles before I knew where I was going to put them, so I've crammed them in .. kinda hard to read but was determined not to spend more time with my circle cutter. Frames idea from Pinterest (of course) - will write my maths, literacy and other subjects objectives on the glass. They will be displayed for the whole day so kids can reference what they are doing. 
 Awards area
 Flowers are all different parts of writing. In each petal is an example and the leaf has the part of writing.
 Writing Wall

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