Tuesday, 28 January 2014

MissMathDork giveaway

Here's a fun giveaway to enter. :)

Head over to 

for a chance to win some great prizes and help her celebrate 2K likes on Facebook AND her birthday. :)


Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Mystery Puzzles!!

I LOVE these things!!

Mystery puzzles! A great challenge activity for those "I've finished. What do I do now?" times.

I just got 4 new puzzles for our puzzle table - two Rainbow Magic stories and two Famous Five stories, straight from Scotland, courtesy of my mama.

Mystery puzzles come with a story that the kids read, then the put the puzzle together WITHOUT a picture to guide them (so it's a real challenge!) and then the puzzle is used to solve the mystery in the story.

My kids love them. We've already done two this term so I've been waiting desperately for my new ones to arrive. They're only 250 pieces but it should take them about a week to complete one - and I'll save the others for rainy weather weeks.

I can't wait to get into school tomorrow with these!!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Musings on Mentor Texts

Mentor texts are awesome!

I've always read picture books to my class - and we've always discussed them in depth and done literacy activities around them but this year I've made mentor texts part of my Language centers and it has made an amazing difference to my kiddies' comprehension skills.

We do Language centers usually once a week and I set it up so that there is a writing activity (right now we're working flat out on our Storybird stories) a spelling center, a grammar review center and a mentor text center. I monitor the mentor text and I can't believe how helpful it has been to guide my teaching!

Our centers rotate every 15 - 20 minutes so I get a small group of 4 for some focused, quality guided reading and comprehension time. It really helps me see what children need to practice which skills! I've been making up packs for each text we do and I love them.

We have "thinking about the text" activities - reading responses, visualizing, making connections, making predictions, asking questions - vocabulary activities, sequencing, character traits, story mapping and book reviews. Sometimes we look at the writer's craft - how they use onomatopoeia or different fonts. It all depends on the book. :)

These are some examples of activities:

Reading responses

Story sequencing

Making connections
Vocabulary work

What I really like about the units is that I can differentiate the packs - I can give less sheets to some children so that the work is manageable or I can give one child a visualizing activity and one a making connections activity, depending on what they most need to work on.
The packs double as morning work - everyone can do the vocabulary work independently as well as book reviews and sequencing activities.
It makes a great "what can I do?" activity for my extension children and early finishers.
The pack also provides some concrete evidence of comprehension skills for report writing and for parent conferences.
And finally - it's manageable. Our novel studies are great - and we do a lot of comprehension related to whatever text we're reading - but these longer units are sometimes overwhelming for some of my lower readers. The mentor texts are a good length for them and the kids enjoy them.

I find it takes about 4 weeks to get through a text so we've been doing a monthly Book Nook Nibble and have been enjoying it.

So far we've read "The Pumpkin Runner" and "Thunder Cake" and are about to start "Stellaluna" this week. I think we'll look at "Saturdays and Teacakes" in February and maybe an Irish folktale in March. :) We skipped the month of December because it's just too busy at that time of the year. :)


Sunday, 19 January 2014


I haven't felt like blogging recently. Probably because I think I'm mostly talking to myself and I've been reading too much lately to have time to do it.

This week I've read so many books I'm not even sure what planet I'm on. A few good books, a few childhood favorites, a few rubbishy things... but so many (15 so far, in fact!) that all my universes are confused. And I feel a little depressed because I've run out now.

Reading is a drug.

The week has been so busy at school that the minute I've got home I've grabbed something to eat and headed for the sofa with the dogs - and there I've sat till midnight. Every night. I've been alone this week so it's been ok but tomorrow... eek, my other half returns.

So... today is D-day.

The house needs to be cleaned (oh boy, does it ever!) I need to prepare my center work for the week, the laundry needs to be done - huge sigh. There's just so much to do and I sit here procrastinating furiously and talking to myself.

To make myself feel like I have actually accomplished something this week I'm posting photos of our rainforest. It looks ok, I guess. Right now I can't even work up any enthusiasm for posting photos - this is pretty sad :(

Next week we'll be "destroying" sections of the rainforest as part of our IPC Save the World unit - so that the kids can see the effect of man on the habitat. And seriously this is just another depressing thought!! Think I'll stop writing now and go do laundry...

It's starting to look a little rainforest-y. Check the monkey
backpack - that's the only stuffed toy this child has :)

These are our mind map trees. The tops of the trees are
what each student knows and then something they
want to know. They're decorating them slowly. I think I'll
"cut" a couple down next week for deforestation.

Getting ready to add animals to the layers. We had one amazingly
messy accident doing these when a tub of brown pudding-like
paint went flying. One child covered in paint, a couple splattered
and the floor a gorgeous mess. Lots of deep breaths - at least
the end result was worth it.

I feel a little better now that I've posted photos :) Journaling does help...

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

You know...

... how sometimes you just have those weeks when you don't feel like doing anything at all when you get home except mindlessly vegetating in front of the television?

Well, that's been me for the past two weeks - and I don't see foresee it changing for a while yet :(

Going back to school after the holidays is exhausting. Yes, we've done things at school - and I have to say my classroom looks pretty awesome as a rainforest - but I'm just too tired to write about it.

I expect a lot of other people feel the same way right now...

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Romans vs... well, Romans

 I was going through my camera tonight looking for some Christmas photos and I found all the pictures of our end-of-term battle! They're kind of fun so I thought I'd share.

We had a three-legion battle on the 2nd last day of term, counted the bodies left standing at the end of the war and...

the 87th legion (yes, I know that's historically inaccurate but it's what my kids chose :)) WON!!

Yes, we did! We had 12 legionnaires left alive compared to 11 and 10 from the other classes. :)

Go the 87th!! Woot, woot!!

Our tortoise on the move. Can't see too many heads which
is good! :)

The 87th - not the best attack formation but hey, it worked!

The 11th - pretty good

This legion never got around to naming themselves
but they were the best at forming a circle!

Dead bodies litter the field! Carnage abounds!!

It was a fun day! And we, the centurions, didn't have to decimate our legions. :) 
The soldiers behaved beautifully.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year

2014... here we come!

I'm absolutely useless at resolutions - but I thought that since I have a blog it might actually hold me accountable if I write down what I hope to achieve this year.

Of course, these resolutions may go the way of many, many in the past but still... it's worth a shot :)

1. I'd really, really, really like to get back to a healthier diet! It's critical. Urgent even. Because unless I do I won't fit into anything at all!! So... veggies, cut back on the bread and snackies, drink more water - you all know the drill. I. will. do. it!

2. And added to the healthy eating - yep, a little more exercise than merely climbing the stairs at school (fantastic as that is and the saving grace in my life - because it it wasn't for those stairs I would be in even worse shape than I am now!)

There is an exercise bike lurking in the basement. I loathe and detest it but perhaps I should become more acquainted with it. And walking would be good. And maybe a yoga class - I used to like yoga...

3. Try to leave school a little earlier than 6.30 every night. This is a toughie because try as I might I simply cannot get everything done by 4ish - and I love my classroom and I love preparing stuff. But I'll try.

4. Blog more. Enough said.

5. Give myself permission to be me. Have fun.

6. Talk to God more. (This should really be at the top of the list... and at the beginning, middle and end of each day and everywhere in-between :))

7. And follow this:

And may we all be a blessing to others this year. :)