Top 12 of 2012

31 December 2012
Happy New Year!!!  I'm enjoying a relaxing day with the family.  We do a low-key celebrating around here - just a nice family dinner filled with love and laughter - can't think of a better way to ring in the New Year!

For my last post of 2012, I thought I'd go back through my posts from the year, and choose my favourite post from each month in 2012.  I hope you enjoy!  If you want to read more about any of them, just click on the post title or the picture to go back to the original post.


Art makes me happy.  My students are so quiet and on task when we're doing an art project, so I know art makes them happy, too.

These beautiful cardinals were the perfect winter project, and made a gorgeous art display in the classroom.  Best of all, the cardinals were quite easy to draw, so all my students experienced success with this one.


I love it when my students take a project and run with it.  And that's exactly what happened with our historical letters.  The students did a FANTASTIC job!


This was such a FUN math lesson.  Hands-on, interactive, working with partners, problem-solving, engaging ... everything a math class should be.


It was very hard to pick a favourite from April - I had a lot of posts that month and I think actually a few of them were some of my favourites from the year.  I chose this one because it contains a freebie Earth Day Report Card link as well as a great bulletin board display for Earth Day.  If you haven't grabbed this freebie, be sure you click on this post to grab it - the students had a lot of fun with it.


I chose Our Poet-Tree as my favourite post from May because it was my favourite bulletin board display of the year.  This post contains 5 different poem ideas, links to a free poetry resource, and examples of how we assessed some of our poems.  LOVE writing poetry with my students - my little poets always amaze me!


Who doesn't need more ideas for teaching fractions??  This post contains two different math journal entries from our interactive math journals - a fraction flipbook and a fraction pizza.  It also has a link to the fraction cootie catchers we use in math centers.  


This post contains the link to my guest post on Laura Candler's blog.  In this post I explain what drama circles are, how I use them in the classroom, and why they're a HUGE hit in my classroom.  It also contains a link to a free drama circle I created that I hope your students will LOVE as much as I do.  (For some reason I can't get the pic to link so be sure to click on the post this post title to check it out).

Interactive Math Journals

This was my favourite summer post as I (at last) finished my math journal resource.  It was definitely my summer work project, but I made sure I squeezed in a lot of summer fun through the process.  If you haven't started interactive journals yet, January just may be the perfect time to start.

Starting The Daily 5 and CAFE

This was the first year I had used The Daily 5 and CAFE strategies in my classroom (although I had wanted to for a while).  This post explains how I set it all up with my students (and we've kept this up through the year).  I also include some links to resources I used to set it all up.

Math Journal Sundays - Pop-Up Bar Graphs

Hands-down, this was my favourite math journal entry of the year so far.  LOVED them!  This post contains some lesson plan ideas for data management, some assessment ideas, and shows you how we made our pop-up bar graphs.

One, Two, Three - Show Me!

I made the cutest little white boards for my classroom this year.  I had wanted some for a while, but couldn't believe the cost of buying a class set.  This post shows you how to make them and also how we started using them in class.  The kids LOVE using them - especially the black side with the neon markers.  We've been using them for multiplication practice, parts of speech, and partner activities.  So much fun!

Dear Santa ... I Can Explain

Didn't get a lot of blog posts in for December - illnesses at home, holiday preparations, and many interruptions in the classroom led to a hectic month.  We had so much fun with this little activity, though.  It was a great writing and oral language activity - and a perfect fit for the holiday season!

Well, that's that - my top 12 of 2012.  Hoping you found something new that you haven't yet seen.

Wishing you the happiest and healthiest of years ahead.  I can't wait to continue to "live, laugh, love, and learn" with you in 2013.




Best and Brightest of 2012

26 December 2012
I feel like I've been a terrible blogger this month.  In the midst of all the regular holiday preparations, illness swept its way through our house ... twice.  First it was the good old cold, then stomach flu hit.  Yuck.  I would rather clean up ANY mess than stomach flu mess.  Not good times.  And then I had all these fun Christmas activities planned for my last week of school, but they were thwarted as well.  The Wednesday before break all the teachers in my school board were on strike (we've been on rotating one day strikes in Ontario) and then a HUGE winter storm hit on Thursday and all our school buses were cancelled on Thursday and Friday (buses get cancelled, but our schools are always open ... thank goodness for snow tires)..  Since the large majority of our students are bused to school, we had very few students the last two days.  On Friday I only had FOUR students.  So ... plans changed.

So, this long preamble is my way of saying when I saw Christina Bainbridge's linky for the Best and Brightest of 2012, I thought it was the perfect way to get my blog on.  ;)  Here goes ...

Best Discovery of 2012
Hands down, it would have to be Pinterest.  Thanks to Pinterest, I have found so many GREAT ideas made by so many GREAT bloggers.  I have found new bloggers to follow, and often see their ideas on Pinterest before their posts even hit my inbox.  Being such a visual person, I am IN.LOVE with pinterest.  I've used recipes for special picnics with my family, made the cutest crafts with my girls, and found the best ideas for my classroom. I am constantly in awe of the creativity of people out there.  IN.LOVE

Best Freebie I've Shared
I think I'm most proud of my two assessment freebies I've shared - Glow and Grow and Traffic Light Comprehension Dots.  Both are for quick self or peer assessments.  I use both methods all the time in my class, and students often complete them before I even ask.  I tend to use the traffic light dots most often in math, and the glow and grow for writing and reader responses.  I uploaded the pdf documents to Vistaprint this summer and had posters made that hang in my classroom.  You can read about my blog post explaining how I use the assessments HERE (the post includes links for the free posters).

Most Viewed Blog Post
My most viewed blog post of 2012 is my post on my Paper Bag Character projects.  You can read about it HERE.  This is the second year I've done this project, and it has been a BIG hit with my students (and a big HIT with me as I've been so happy with the quality of work they produced).  

Best Art Project
I love sneaking in art projects whenever I can in the classroom - and because visual arts is one of the subjects I have to assess on our report cards, I can sneak it into our curriculum without any guilt.  I love sharing our art projects on my Friday Art Feature posts - I have so many fantastic little artists in my class I feel their work deserves a little recognition.  This is a hard one to choose, but I think my favourite art project was our Mingling with Monet project.  This was one of our last art projects of the year last year, and the kids were SO proud of their masterpieces!  

Best Product and Best Addition to my Classroom
This would have to be my Interactive Math Journal - it's my best-selling product, the project I'm most proud of, and hands-down the best addition to my classroom.  When I say I worked hard on it all summer, that's a lie.  It was really a work in progress for the whole year.  I started interactive math journals in my classroom in September of 2011 and never looked back.  I couldn't believe how excited my students were to work in their math journals ... and that excitement hasn't subsided - for me or the students.  They are excited to show other students their work and ask to bring the journals home to share with their parents.  Who can ask for more than that??  I've been so overwhelmed by the response I've gotten from teachers all over the world, and I'd like to take the chance to sincerely thank every one of you who has left me feedback or commented on how they use math journals in the classroom.  It is mind-boggling to me to think that students all over the world are using these ideas.  I love sharing these ideas on my Math Journal Sunday posts, and promise to be back in January with a whole new set of ideas.

Best Bloggy Friends Forever
I saved the best for last.  The best thing about my year of blogging in 2012 has been the friends I've made.  What went from "I saw this neat idea on someone's blog ..." back at the beginning of the year, has now become, "My friend, _____________, posted about the coolest thing ...".  These people have truly become my friends.  My students have benefitted from them.  I have learned from them.  And I am a better teacher because of them.  Over a year ago, I would never have thought the people behind the blogs I read would become true friends.  But they have.  MANY of them.  And it's the absolute COOLEST thing!
Some of my favourites from my grade levels are:

Stephanie from Teaching in Room 6.  LOVE this girl.  Truly.  Maybe even to the whole stalking point ... ;)  There isn't a single thing that Stephanie has done that I haven't LOVED.  Nope, not one.

Mor from A Teacher's Treasure.  LOVE this girl.  She's my favourite foldable friend ... I wish I could fold her right up and stick her in my pocket.  (I hope that didn't sound too weird).  Mor is going to have an incredible year in 2013 and I am so happy for her.

joyin6th Homepage

Kim from Finding Joy in 6th Grade.  LOVE this girl.  Kim never fails to leave the sweetest comments on all blogs.  She just has this special way of making you feel ... special.  I wish I was one of her students ... I know without a doubt she has the ability to make each and every one of them feel special.

Kristen from Ladybug's Teacher Files.  LOVE this girl.  The first time Kristen left a comment on my blog I just about FELL OVER!  I had been following her in AWE for quite a while as one of my bloggy gods.  I wish I had an ounce of her creativity and passion for design.


Kristine from Young Teacher Love.  LOVE this girl.  I just "found" her late this summer.  I love all the ideas and pictures she shares from her classroom.

Elizabeth from Fun in Room 4B.  LOVE this girl.  And LOVE all the fun ideas she shares from her classroom.  Her students must be SO excited to come to school every day.  I can only hope I can inspire my students like she does.

Oh my goodness, I could go on and on.  I have SO many favourites.  I'm from such a small school, I'm pretty much the only teacher in my whole junior division.  I dream of being at a larger school where these FABULOUS ladies would be part of my "team".  OMG - what a team we would make!!!

So, that's about that.  I love this end of the year reflection - I make my own students reflect so much, it's only fitting I take it on, too.  If you made it all the way to the end of this very verbose post, what were some of your BEST ideas of 2012???


Merry Christmas!

25 December 2012
The last few days have been a whirlwind of family fun, children's laughter, a bit of craziness, and a whole lot of love.  Such a perfect way to spend the holidays.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from my family to you.


Dear Santa ... I Can Explain

17 December 2012
Well, we're officially winding down before Christmas holidays, but that doesn't mean we've put learning on the backburner.  Last week we had a lot of fun writing persuasive letters to Santa - from the point of view of a particular villain from a popular children's fairy tale, story, movie, etc.

Monday morning I posted this letter under the ELMO.  Students read it over and we discussed what it could mean.

On Tuesday we brainstormed a list of villains that students could choose to write from the point of view of.  They had a blast with this - and I was really impressed with their creativity.  They thought of things I totally wouldn't have, such as the "monster under the bed".  LOVE it!

On Wednesday we completed our pre-writing graphic organizer - focusing on three separate sections so all our letters would have three separate paragraphs when completed (can you tell we've been HARD at work on paragraph writing).  

The students wrote their first drafts on Thursday and published them on Friday.  I am so LOVING our class set of netbooks - what a difference it has made in being able to publish our work this year!  I taught the students to make their margins a little smaller so that their good copies would print perfectly on the stationery we had.  When students had finished their letters, I had them draw a quick picture of their villain to post alongside their letter.  The final bulletin board looks fantastic - and the students had a blast writing the letters.  There were a lot of giggles when students were writing their letters.  The adorable elves on this bulletin board are from Melonheadz Illustrating - you can see them HERE.

Today we read through half of the letters and the students voted on whether or not Santa should accept their explanation and take them off the naughty list.  (And it was a perfect way to tie in data management as we made tally charts for the votes and graphed our results).  The rest of the students will read their letters tomorrow.

We're also using these letters for our Christmas Concert / Pageant this Thursday - students voted on 5 letters to share.  We'll start off singing "You Better Watch Out", then Santa will come out in costume and explain to the audience that he has heard some characters wish to plead their innocence to him.  When the students have finished their letters, we'll finish off with a few verses of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" - short and sweet - perfect!!!

If you're interested, I posted this activity at my TPT store.  It might be too late for some of you lucky ones already on break, but it just might be the perfect activity for those of you still looking for some fun ways to keep the students learning this week.  Click on the picture to the right to preview this activity.
Happy Monday!  I have never been so happy to see a Monday morning before - I couldn't wait to get to school to spend time with my kiddos this morning.  For those of you back at school, I sincerely hope your day was filled with peace and love.


Silence for Sandy Hook Elementary

16 December 2012

There are no words ....


Friday Art Feature - Pastel Snowflakes

07 December 2012
Oh my goodness - it's been a while.  Is it just me, or is everybody feeling a bit overwhelmed right now?  (Not that I'm wishing 'overwhelmed' on any of you ... just hoping I'm not the only one).  I've got some fun things to share, so I'm hoping to get in a few more blog posts before Christmas vacation.

Today I want to share our art from this week.  I saw this idea posted on facebook and thought it would be a fun quick project to take on.

I pulled up some pictures of snowflakes on google images.  After we studied the snowflakes, the students had to draw them using white oil pastels.  When they were done they painted over the paper using a watered-down paint mixture.  Note:  the paint didn't resist as much as I had hoped over the oil pastels - I think I should have added more water to the paint.  Some of the students went back over their snowflakes with the pastels to really make them stand out.

In keeping with our "poetry tied to art theme" this year, I had the students write a haiku on their art.  Beautiful, easy, and quite timely considering the snowfall we have had lately.  

Happy Friday!!!



Pin it to Win it - WINNERS!!!

25 November 2012
Thank-you so much to all who entered my "Pin it to Win it" giveaway.  I used the random number generator to choose TWO winners for $25.00 gift certificates to TPT (and if their wishlists look anything like mine, they'll need them!)  ;)

Congratulations to Karen Hester and Sarah Reese!!!  Karen - I sent you an email through your google account, but Sarah, could you please send me a message with your email so I can get you the code?

As a special treat, I would also like to send both of you my latest product at TPT. 

I just posted these Story Elements Question Fans about an hour ago.  I have had a few requests to create these, so here you go!  These question fans cover plot, setting, character, conflict, and theme.  (And they're currently on sale!!!!)

To all of you emptying out your TPT wishlists on Monday and Tuesday, ALL my products are on sale for 20% off, and don't forget to enter the code CMT12 at the checkout for an additional 10% off.

Happy Sunday!


Pin it to WIN it!

22 November 2012
You guessed it - it's that time again ... TeacherspayTeachers' GIANT Cyber Monday (plus Tuesday) sale is right around the corner.

From Sunday, November 25th until Tuesday, November 27th, ALL my products will be on sale for 20% off.  On Monday and Tuesday, when you enter the code CMT12 at the checkout, you will receive another 10% off your order.

Pretty sweet, right?  Well, I want to sweeten it a little more for you.  On the evening of Sunday, November 25th, I will be giving away 2 - $25.00 gift certificates to TPT.  To enter, simply "pin" something from my TeacherspayTeachers store (by clicking on this link or the images in this post) to one of your boards on Pinterest.  Please leave a comment below with the link to your pin.  You can enter as many times as you want, but please pin a different product for each entry.  I will be drawing two names (using the random number generator) from the comments left below.  Happy Pinning!!!



One, Two, Three ... Show Me!

19 November 2012

About a month ago I posted on Classroom DIY about my Two-Sided Dry-Erase Boards.  These little boards were super easy to make, and my students LOVE using them.

I bought white and black bristol board to make the dry erase boards.  I cut each piece of bristol board into 6 pieces of 8.5 x 11 size.  Place a white and black sheet into a laminating pouch, and laminate.  That's it!  (Told you it was easy).  Yes, I know you've all seen many variations to make the dry erase boards, but I LOVE the black side of this one ... know why? ... we get to use the neon dry erase markers!  So cool!!!  I don't have quite enough neon dry erase markers for a full class set (I'm waiting for a sale - those things are expensive!), so I hand out the neon markers as a reward to students when using the boards (students who have finished all their homework, or showed good character, or whatever I feel like rewarding that day).

Right now we're using the dry erase boards to practice our multiplication skills - and my students CAN'T WAIT to use the boards.  Every morning they come in and BEG to use the boards ... so, of course, I make them use their best persuasive language (we're writing persuasive paragraphs in writing right now) and let them think they've convinced me.  They work with their elbow buddies for a bit on some questions I've put on the board, then we do some whole class review.  When all students are done, I call out, "One, two, three ... show me!" and the students hold their boards up for me to check.  I can quickly see who needs some extra help in a small group, and who has got it.  

At the end of last week, the students asked if we could use these boards in language, too.  I think it would be a lot of fun to use them during our Word Work this week when we're looking at parts of speech.  Do any of you fabulous teachers have any wonderful tried-and-true ideas for working with parts of speech and the dry-erase boards?  I want to go beyond the obvious listing of them and really make it engaging for my students.

Happy Monday!!