What an absolutely beautiful summer we’ve had here in Toronto! Plenty of sunshine and heat – a much needed break from the otherwise crispy weather we are quite accustomed to. Though there is still ample of time to bask in the season’s warmth (so I’d like to believe), many of us teachers are beginning to prepare for the new school year ahead.
As we all know, the first week of school can sometimes be quite nerve-wrecking, filled with newness and a degree of uncertainty (for teachers and students alike). Establishing firm rules and consistent routines is on every teacher’s immediate agenda. To the same degree however, September is a time of pure excitement and renewed optimism as we get to know our new students and gear up for lots of learning and fun together. Admittedly, this year is especially exciting for me, as I move to teach grade 2. Though I will dearly miss my Kindergarten students, they will be just across the hall from my new room (yay to visiting them often).
Regardless of grade, I like to begin every school year by setting a communal tone in the classroom. After all, if we are to successfully work together for the next ten months, we need to respect and value each other, similarities and uniqueness all the same. With the goal of establishing a sense of togetherness, celebrating individuality and getting to know each other, while easing into a new school year together, I have prepared a few Back-to-School activities. You are more than welcome to download the resources for your personal use in the classroom by clicking the Back-to-School image on the bottom of the post.
Someone Like Me – On the first day of school, ask students fill out the sentences on the Someone Like Me template. Then invite them to walk around the room and find classmates that share the same responses. Encourage children to write their friend’s name on the space provided, but be open to allowing them to have their friend write it out for them (this will help lessen the anxiety for those kids who are not yet able to). This serves as a great ice breaker and gets the kids interacting.
My Friendship Promise Student Template – As a class, begin a discussion about the roles and responsibilities of students and teachers in creating a fun and safe classroom environment. As part of that discussion, brainstorm qualities of a good friend and invite students to reflect on why this would be especially important as we begin a new school year together (and of course, all the time). You may want to write some of these ideas down on chart paper for students to reference as they fill out a personal Friendship Promise. Following their writing responses, invite students to have fun creating a mini-me template, adding hair, arms, and legs. Join the templates together and post them around the room so they can easily be referred to during the year. I also like to have a few spare copies around, for students who join the class later in the year.
The Same But Different – As a class, brainstorm ways in which we are all the same (i.e., we all have feelings, we all have needs, all in same grade/class, etc.). Then discuss what makes us all different and unique as well (i.e., we have different thoughts/opinions, different names, likes/dislikes, etc.). As a culmination of this discussion, invite students to depict these similarities and differences, via writing and/or pictures.
Get to Know Me – Have students fill out the template Get to Know Me. Each day, invite 3-4 students to share something about themselves with the class. After each presentation, encourage students to ask questions as a way of getting to know one another better.
Alternatively, you may want to divide students into pairs and ask them to take turns sharing some things about themselves with their partner. Instruct students to learn at least one or two things about their new friend to later share with the class (i.e., This is Josh. He has a hamster for a pet and he loves cherry pies).
Classmate Word Search – Fill out the blank grid with all your students’ names and have them work in pairs (or independently) to find all their classmates names. If there is enough space, you may want to include your name, as well as other teachers that will work with your students this year. This is a a nice activity to use toward the end of the first week of school, since the class list will be more up to date by then and won’t leave anybody out.
Team-Building Challenge – Divide the class into groups of 3 to 5 students. Provide each group with a bin of random objects and have them work together to build a free standing structure. Tell students that you will be observing them and taking notes as they work together, but be somewhat vague about how you will pick the winner (shhh, it will be a surprise). Most students will likely assume that the highest structure will win the challenge, but the ultimate goal of this activity will be to see which group can work together best as a team, supporting and including one another. As a reflection, discuss things you saw and heard as you walked around the room and begin a chart on effective teamwork strategies (more ideas can be added to this chart throughout the year).
To download a free copy of the above templates, for your personal use in the classroom, click on the image below.
Books have always been my favourite way to springboard discussions and facilitate activities. There are many wonderful Back-to-School favourites among my collection of September reads. Since it would be difficult to list them all, here are some of my recent findings, among them my new title, Words. I hope you enjoy them. Feel free to let me know of gems in your own collection.
Back to School, Splat!
by Rob Scotton
How can there be homework when it’s only the first day of school? Splat must pick only one of all of his fun summer adventures to share with his classmates at show-and-tell. But in the end, Splat may find that the best part of his summer wasn’t an adventure at all.
It’s My School
by Sally Grindley
His sister’s first day of school is Tom’s last day of true independence. On her first day of kindergarten, Alice isn’t really that nervous at all. It’s her brother, Tom, who is upset — in fact, he’s downright mad It’s his school, and why should he have to share it with his annoying little sister?
For any family dealing with first day nerves, this bright and reassuring picture book will help ease the transition into school — both for new students and their older siblings.
Nobody’s Mother Is in Second Grade
by Robin Pulver, G. Brian Karas
Cassandra’s stories about second grade are so exciting that her mother wished she could be a student again. This wonderful classroom has singing, playacting, math–even a rabbit named Lopsy. But nobody’s mother is in second grade! Cassandra’s mom–who has even saved her old lunch box–to do?It is Cassandra who thinks up the perfect disguise for her mother, and she sets off for school one morning with a beautiful…plant. What do plants and mothers have in common? More than you’d think, as this wacky and endearing tale shows!
First Grade Jitters
by Robert M. Quackenbush, Yan Nascimbene (Illustrator)
Here is the story of a young boy who is about to enter first grade and doesn’t know quite what to expect. Will his friends be there? Will he have to know how to read and spell? What if he can’t understand anything his teacher says? Looks like a case of first grade jitters!
If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t!
by Elise Parsley
Note to self: If your teacher tells you to bring something from nature for show-and-tell, she does not want you to bring an alligator! But nothing will stop Magnolia, who’s determined to have the best show-and-tell of all–until her reptilian rapscallion starts getting her into some major trouble. Now it’s up to Magnolia to find a way to send this troublemaker home–but what could possibly scare an alligator away?
Arr! It’s the first day of first grade, and it’s all hands on deck for a young pirate and his crew. How much trouble can they get into? What will they do at recess? And, most important, what treasure awaits them at school?
Oliver & Patch
by Claire Freedman, Kate Hindley
When Oliver finds a little lost dog he makes his first friend in the big new city. A stunning new book from Claire Freedman and Kate Hindley. Oliver is finding the big city a lonely and scary place but when he finds a little lost dog he makes his first friend in the city. The trouble is, he knows that somewhere out there someone is missing the little dog just as much as he is loving having him, So, with a heavy heart, Oliver sets about doing the right thing. A beautifully told story with a lovely, uplifting ending.
Gram helps Sam get ready for his first day at school. The story takes the child hour-by-hour through a typical first day at school, so that the child will know just what to expect on his or her own big day. There are two special sections – Things To Do and Things To Talk About.
Here’s the perfect back-to-school gift for budding artists. Like the creator’s previous picture book, My Dog Is as Smelly as Dirty Socks, this picture book encourages children to be creative and make their own object portraits. It’s a fun activity for home or for the classroom. Learn how to create a funny librarian, a colorful art teacher, or your best friend by seeing how one girl does it in this simple, playful picture book that’s comprised of portraits made of objects. Once the girl has talked about—and drawn—the key figures in her school, she ends with the pièce de résistance—a class portrait!
In this emotional and highly visual picture book, a lonely letter sets off on a journey to find meaning. As it encounters various letter combinations, it is confronted by two distinct paths and must make an important choice. Readers of all ages will be captivated by this simple, yet high concept, rich story that explores universal themes of discovery, relationships and the need to belong, with an underlying message about bullying. Both timeless and original, Words is an evocative tale about how letters become words and words create meaning – meaning which could ultimately build or destroy.
Have a wonderful week back everyone!
“Words! What power they hold. Once they have rooted in your psyche, it is difficult to escape them. Words can shape the future of a child and destroy the existence of an adult.”
Words on a Limb is proud to announce the launch of its first picture-book:
Written and Illustrated by Lora Rozler
In this emotional and
highly visual picture book,
a lonely letter sets off on a journey to find meaning.
As it encounters various letter combinations, it is confronted by two distinct paths and must make an important choice.
Readers of all ages will be captivated by this simple, yet high concept, story that explores universal themes of discovery, relationships and the need to belong, with an underlying message about bullying. Both timeless and original, Words is an evocative tale about how letters become words and words create meaning – meaning which could ultimately build or destroy.
“A compelling story-line, simple yet poignant illustrations, engaging language, a great read-aloud that offers many opportunities for reflection and discussion with children.”
“A heart-warming story with a clever, powerful message about anti-bullying. An absolute must-have
for every parent and educator.”
Available at all major online retailers including:
For a FREE Parent and Teacher Companion Kit, based on the book, Words,
click on the image below
Attention all Mini-Artists: Join our Words-Through-Art Sketch Competition
Get out your sketch pads, sharpen those pencils, it’s time for an Art Competition. Words on a Limb would like to invite readers (ages 6-10) to send in their best illustrations, capturing the essence of the picture-book, Words. The winner will receive a hardcover edition of Words and have their work featured on our site, as well as Lora Rozler’s author website.
All entries must be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by August 15, 2015. Please indicate Art Competition in the subject line and specify the artist’s age in the email. The winner will be announced on August 22, 2015. Let the sketching begin!
Father’s Day is just around the corner and what better time to get crafting.
Father’s Day is a special day to honor fathers and father-figures in our lives. In Canada, Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June, though it is also observed widely on other days in many other countries. Father figures may include step-fathers, grandfathers, brothers or other male figures that help and guide us through life’s journey.
How do we, in turn, honor these prominent male figures?
Some people give cards, chocolates, clothes, accessories or gift vouchers. Others take their father or father figure out to the movies, enjoy a meal together at a restaurant, lounge in a café, or simply enjoy a restful day in the park.
In my classroom, we are preparing for the big day by creating The Perfect Package.
envelope stamp address label
Below is a poem I wrote and plan to share with my students as we begin crafting next week. Keeping in mind that not all children may have a father in their life, I left the recipient open to include a figure that may take the place of a father, whether it be a grandfather, uncle, brother, etc.
My Hero by Lora Rozler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
To download a copy of the poem and craft kit, for your personal use in the classroom, click on the image below.
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Let the countdown and crafting begin!
Happy Father’s Day!
A very interesting math lesson stemmed from a story I read to my students about a king who got a giraffe as a birthday gift. The king challenged his townspeople, offering a reward to the first person who would be able to tell him how tall his giraffe was. The people set off to measure the giraffe in whichever way they could – none of the attempts were successful. Every failed try served as a great lesson about measurement do’s and don’t’s.
How Tall is My Giraffe?
After extracting important math concepts from this adventurous story, I introduced students to a giraffe of my own (my children’s old plush growth chart). I posed the same question to an eager-looking bunch (there was no gold incentive on my end though). With just enough direction, I let students explore solutions to this problem during Learning Centres time. Students showed remarkable interest in this challenge and began gathering all kinds of objects to use as measurement tools.
Before long, the carpet was filled with various objects: building blocks, popsicle sticks, snow pants, jackets, bottle caps, books, markers, etc. Students were so excited, they even suggested using me as a measuring tool. How could I say no to that? After a few chuckles and excited cheers, we sat down to reflect on our findings, which ultimately led to another great inquiry question? Why did we need so many cotton balls yet such few blocks? How does the size of the measuring tool affect the measurement?
Roses, cards, chocolates, cookies, breakfast in bed, you-name-it, Mother’s Day sure brings out the sweetest in us. Celebrated on the second Sunday in May each year, Mother’s Day is a time to honour our one and only – our precious Mother (or a mother figure in our life).
I am sure I speak on behalf of many moms out there when I say the most precious gift we can receive on Mother’s Day is one that is especially handcrafted for us. As a teacher I keep this in mind as we set out to cut, glue and craft a personal treasure that Mom will want to keep around for a very long time (if not forever).
Below is a poem I wrote and plan to share with my students this week. Keeping in mind that not all children may have a mother in their life, I left the recipient open to include a figure that takes the place of a dominant caregiver, whether it be a grandmother, aunt, sister, etc.
Under Your Wing by Lora Rozler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
For this year’s Mother’s Day craft, my students will be making a mobile frame, with the theme of my latest poem in mind. Here is a sample of the finished product.
Mobile frame – Back side
Front SIDE – option 1
front side – option 2
To download a copy of the poem and the craft templates, for your personal use in the classroom, click on the heart image below.
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Thank you for your support!
Let the countdown and crafting begin!
Happy Mother’s Day!
Happy Earth Day everyone! Every year at this time we are reminded of how important it is to preserve the environment for future generations. Whether it be on the radio, television, social media or in educational environments, the flood of content blends into a common message – protect the earth!
We’d like to share a short, yet compelling video clip that made us pay just a little more attention this year. It’s called Dear Future Generations: Sorry. We hope you enjoy it too, and of course … share it.
My favourite line in the video was ‘An error does not become a mistake, until you refuse to correct it’. That is a powerful statement – in all facets of life, but particularly when it comes to taking care of the earth.
After many months of collecting recyclable materials, we finally set out to transform old boxes into new ART.
We used materials from our Art Centre (containers made from recycled products) to help with this Earth Day project.
Here is a showcase of some beautiful pieces from our growing collection of Recycled Art:
Fashionable Writing Utensil Caddies
Decorative Tissue Boxes
Recycle is a poem I came across online that was written by Meish Goldish . Students enjoy the familiar rhythm, and the catchy pattern makes it a great math extension as well (don’t we teachers love that?!).
After reading many books relating to Earth Day, our class sat down to brainstorm ways in which we can protect our environment. We also reviewed some of the things we were already doing in our classroom (i.e., recycling , reducing, reusing, composting, conserving energy, using only as much water as we need, not littering, etc.). Students then all had a chance to reflect on what more they could do (at school and home) and completed a promise note reminding them to take action and contribute in whichever way they could. No contribution is ever too small – every little bit helps.
Sometimes we may feel overwhelmed and wonder how these very small acts can possibly solve such a massive problem. But if we all contribute one little building block, we can turn an error into an opportunity.
For more ways you can help, click HERE.
As always, thank you for your time!
Hello everyone. I hope you had a restful March break and are excited about the week ahead. I’d like to share a poem I wrote a little while back titled, Three Witty Goats Gruff. It is based on a variation of the original story, Three Billy Goats Gruff. I plan to revisit it with my students this week as we continue our exploration around the concept of Measurement and Size.
After reading several versions of the original story to my students, I plan to introduce my version of it via a poem. When I first introduced it (last year), students really enjoyed the chant and patterns, while I loved the teachable moments that stemmed from it.
MATH – counting backwards, detecting patterns, reinforcing concepts of measurement and size, subtraction, etc.
LITERACY – introducing new vocabulary, making predictions, using context clues to make inferences, singular/plural pronouns, synonyms, etc.
Three Witty Goats Gruff by Words On A Limb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
One of my students favourite follow-up activities was to re-enact the poem using stick puppets. It is a wonderful way for them to practise retelling the story and have fun while doing so. Some benefits of using stick puppets to teach literacy include strengthening oral vocabulary, acting in role, building comprehension, retelling a story in sequence, and recalling details.
Here are some cross-curricular extension activities, including: 1. Three Billy Goats Gruff Maze – students help the Billy Goats navigate through a maze to get to a field of fresh grass (good for refining fine motor, spatial and problem-solving skills); 2. Writing Template – students reflect on their favourite part of the story (while practising important writing skills); 3. Fill In The Blanks – students use a word bank to fill in the missing words from the poem (great for memory skills and practising high-frequency words); 4. Making Patterns Math Worksheet – students complete and create their own pattern using characters from the story (aids with visual discrimination and patterning concepts).
To download a copy of my poem, Three Witty Goats Gruff, including the Stick Puppet Templates, for your personal use in the classroom, along with the cross-curricular activities hown above, click on Billy Goat.
I hope you and your students enjoy the poem and have fun with these activities in the classroom. As always, your comments and feedback are welcome.
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Have a great week everyone.
One of my favourite ways to teach combinations of five begins with the story, Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed (bear in mind, I teach Kindergarten but this could easily be adapted to other grades as well). After reading the story, initially exploring rhymes, patterns, and chants, I like to use it as a tool for teaching math facts to five.
As I go through the story again (generally over the span of a few days), I take a moment after each verse to introduce a math fact or draw a composition of the monkeys in relation to the bed (i.e., 5 monkeys on the bed and 0 on the ground; 5 + 0 = 5). By the end of the story, we cover all the combinations of five. While we review the math facts, I draw their attention to the pattern that emerges (i.e., when the number of monkeys on the bed decreases the number of monkeys on the ground increases). For the rest of the week, I invite 5 different students each day to come up and re-enact the poem while we sing to it. We continue to review the math facts as we go along.
As an extension, and one that students really enjoy, I have students re-enact the story/song using stick puppets. They begin by colouring and cutting out a template of the bed and the 5 monkeys. Then they glue a popsicle stick to the back of each monkey and take turns re-enacting the story/song to a partner. By the end of the week, the stick puppets get sent home with a letter to parents.
Here is a class chart we made using the templates from above (photocopied on construction paper). It outlines the various ways Five can be made and serves as a great visual around the math centre.
A great way to gage students’ understanding of the concept and evaluate their learning is to have them repeat this activity with bingo dabbers (one colour representing the monkeys on the bed, and another representing the ones on the ground). Each student gets 6 bed templates and uses two colour dabbers to show the various combinations the monkeys could be arranged (i.e., 3 dabs on the bed, 2 on the ground).
Here is a card game I made to help students practice their facts to five and sharpen their memory skills while they’re at it. After introducing it as a whole class activity, I left it at the math station for students to play with during Centre time. I will be sending home a template of the game for families to assemble and enjoy during the March break as well.
To download a Teaching with Monkeys resource kit, including the poem, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, stick puppet templates (bed and monkeys), bingo dabber assessment sheets, Gimme Five card game and instruction sheets, click on the monkey.
Now for some more fun with monkeys … enjoy!
Happy teaching everyone.
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Have a fabulous March break!
Happy Monday everyone. I’d like to share a poem I wrote a couple of years ago and plan to share with my students this week, as we begin exploring the concept of measurement. The Giant and I is a charming poem about a little boy who outsmarts a fearsome giant. It opens up a great discussion about the various ways the characters could be described (big, small, tall, short, heavy, light, wide, narrow, etc.) hence setting the stage for building the appropriate vocabulary for the unit. A follow-up activity is included, integrating concepts about size and shapes.
Click on the image of the giant to download a copy of the poem and worksheet for your personal use in the classroom.
The Giant and I by Words On A Limb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Have a great week everyone!