Saturday, 14 April 2018

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd - A great book for Alberta Teachers

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd is a must have in your upper elementary classroom library! Here are some great ways that Alberta teachers can incorporate it into Science, Writing and Social Studies lessons.

Social Studies:

This is a beautiful book to use during your regions of Alberta unit! Students can infer which region of our province this book takes place in and can provide evidence.

If you teach grade 5, you could use this book when introducing the Rocky Mountain region of Canada.

English Language Learners:

Wordless picture books are an amazing resource for your English Language Learners! They generally love using them because there are no tricky words to decode and no hard vocabulary terms to decipher. They are simply able to use the words that they already know to describe the images! You could even have them write words for this book in their native tongue!


A very popular activity during reading workshop is to write the words of wordless picture books! I am all for this as it requires a huge amount of creative thinking and inferencing!


You could even use this book as an introduction to your light and shadows grade 4 science unit! It is the perfect provocation to get students questioning why we can see certain objects in the night. This leads beautifully to natural and man made sources of light (the flashlight and the moon). Plus it is a great opportunity to introduce the tricky vocabulary term “emit”.

If you would like to purchase this book, here is the link on Amazon! This is an affiliate link which means that Amazon throws a few pennies my way if you purchase through this link. This helps me to run my blog :)

I hope that you enjoy using this great book in your classroom!
best books for alberta teachers - flashlight wordless picture book

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Using Picture Books to Introduce Students to Celebrations

One of my favourite aspects of Social Studies is introducing students to celebrations of various cultural groups. One of the BEST ways to introduce students to any concept, is through picture books!

This blog post contains affiliate links which means that amazon throws a few cents my way if you purchase the books below through my links. As always, I only recommend books and resources that I truly LOVE!

Here are some of my favourite picture books which introduce students to various cultural celebrations:

Lighting Our World: A Year of Celebrations provides you with a new celebration to show your students each month! For example, in January students will learn about the Iroquois Midwinter Ceremony. Then in October they will study Diwali. Each page is filled with great information and beautiful illustrations.

Celebrations Around the World: This is a great book for your English Language Learners! The text is simple to read and students are provided with scaffolds such as a glossary and pronunciation guides.

Canadian Celebrations: This is a great book to help students dive into celebrations which are uniquely Canadian. There are 5 different chapters, each one touching on a different celebration. The celebrations include: National Aboriginal Day, Thanksgiving, Canada Day, Calgary Stampede,  and Quebec Carnival.

If you are a Grade 4 Alberta teacher, all 3 of these books are suggested for use in my Social Studies Mini Unit - Examining Tourism and Recreation in Alberta. You can check out this engaging unit by clicking on the image below.

Have a sweet week!

Monday, 5 February 2018

Valentine's Day in the Upper Elementary Classroom!

Fun Valentine's Day Activities for the Upper Elementary Classroom Digital Compliments Book

It's February... you know that that means! Valentine's Day! Here are some of my favourite activities that I hope you can use to celebrate in your upper elementary classroom!

With our big kids, it can be fun to focus on kindness throughout the week of Valentine's Day.

Fun Valentine's Day Activities for the Upper Elementary Classroom

One way to do this it to spread Random Acts of Kindness!

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, 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 suggestions that might help to get student ideas flowing:
    Fun Valentine's Day Activities for the Upper Elementary Classroom
  • 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
Hopefully your students will end up suggesting that you do something nice for your buddy class or for some younger students. This is where my "Once I was a Heart" book comes in handy!
Head down to your buddy room with red construction paper, scissors, glue, photocopies and smiles :) 

Students can 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, students can continue to read them together for the rest of the year during buddy reading time!

Fun Valentine's Day Activities for the Upper Elementary Classroom

Did you know that the movie Wonder comes out on DVD on February 13th 2018? It is a sign that we must watch it in our classrooms! The movie ties in perfectly with the idea of spreading kindness and your students will love comparing it to the book. I have created a set of critical thinking activities for students to complete both before and after watching the movie. This is a great way to incorporate some reading standards into your party! Best of all, it's only $2! Click on the image below to check out the resource. 

Wonder book and movie comparison activities! Perfect for teaching students 21st century literacy skills. Students will practice characterization, comparing and contrasting, predicting and more! Students will love watching the Wonder movie and comparing it to the original book by R.J. Palacio

After watching the movie, return to your classroom for some positive affirmations - Digital Style!

Your students will love creating digital compliment books! They will have a blast writing compliments for each other in their Google Slides Digital Books! Best of all, this product comes with a step-by-step teacher guide, perfect if you are new to using digital activities in your classroom! Click on the picture below to check it out!

Fun Valentine's Day Activities for the Upper Elementary Classroom Digital Compliments Book

How will you spend Valentine's Day with your Upper Elementary Students?

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Word Nerds - A Book Study

I am on a mission to learn more about vocabulary instruction so I picked "Word Nerds" by Overturf, Montgomery and Smith. If you are also reading this book, I would love for you to comment with your ideas and what you have learned!

Chapter 1:

The authors of this book start by explaining the difference between Tier 1, 2 and 3 words. 

Tier 1 Words: Words that students already know when they come to school (happy, play, desk).
Tier 2 Words: Words that students will likely encounter in their reading but don't know well (industrious, fortunate, absurd).
Tier 3 Words: Words that are domain specific (product, molecule).

The authors then go onto describe that Tier 1 words don't need to be taught at school as they are taught at home and Tier 3 words should be taught in content areas. That leaves us with teaching Tier 2 words during our vocabulary instruction. 

But this still begs the question...How do we teach these words?

Thankfully they start by listing some strategies that do and don't work. These weren't very surprising to me. 

1) Looking up words in the dictionary doesn't help! (Thank goodness because I find this to be a rather torturous process!)
2) Students can learn some words through the use of wide reading!
3) Students can learn new words through word play!

I am looking forward to having them fully describe the strategies that they use in more detail.

The final piece of this chapter discusses how students need a basic understanding of morphology. The authors suggest that students need to understand prefixes, suffixes, as well as greek and latin roots. 

Click HERE to check out a vocabulary lesson that you can use to reinforce the suffix "ed" with your upper elementary students or teach it to your primary students. 

Help your ell students and struggling learners understand the -ed suffix with this engaging mini lesson! Perfect for elementary classrooms! Uses the mentor text harry the dirty dog

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Benefits of Interactive Read Aloud

Interactive Read Aloud time is an important component of Reading Workshop. It is an engaging and enjoyable period of time where all students gather to listen and learn from the same text. There are so many benefits to including Interactive Read Aloud into your already busy Language Arts Schedule. Here are some of the top benefits:
One of my favourite things to do during my reading block is to incorporate Science and Social Studies concepts. There are many amazing books out there that allow all students to reach grade level content in an enjoyable manner. For example, when introducing students to Residential Schools, reading Shi-shi-etko is one of my favourite activities. I love how this book allows students to develop empathy for others and a better understanding of a very complicated concept. In Science, my favourite series to use is from the Innovative Press. “How to Survive as a Shark” and “How to Survive as a Firefly” are both hilarious and very informative books. They are a hybrid between fiction and non fiction texts. Students enjoy the humor of the books and you will enjoy all of the scientific vocabulary and research skills that you can introduce!

Oftentimes English Language Learners are able to understand higher level texts than they can decode to access themselves. Interactive read aloud provides the perfect opportunity for those students to practice their higher level comprehension skills. By including turn and talk opportunities in your interactive read aloud, you provide ELL students with crucial oral language practice. Furthermore, if you read a book that incorporates Science or Social Studies concepts, it is a great way to frontload crucial vocabulary terms.

I love that after reading a text during read aloud time, I am able to reuse it for the rest of the yearduring small group instruction. Using mentor texts during reading strategy small groups is a super powerful teaching practice. However, in a 10 minute reading group, there is NOT time to read an entire mentor text. Therefore, once you have read a book during interactive read aloud time, it becomes the perfect text to incorporate into your strategy lessons. Students have already heard and interacted with the text and are therefore able to use it again, after only rereading one or two pages.

There are so many great reading strategies that students can practice during Interactive Read Aloud Time. You can think aloud to model skills like making connections and predicting. Students can turn and talk to practice inferring and identifying the main idea. The options are truly endless.

Are you interested in incorporating Interactive Read Aloud into your upper elementary classroom?Click on the pictures below to be taken to the interactive read aloud products in my TPT store. These lessons are very thorough and easy to follow. A great way to make your teacher life much easier!

Pin the image below in order to save this post for later!

the benefits of interactive read aloud - an informational blog post for elementary and junior high teachers

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

Launching Math Workshop in the upper elementary classroom - with freebies


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!