Sunday, 26 June 2016

Must-Read Novels: 5 books you'll want on your vacation reading list!


Hello friends! Isn't it lovely to wake up and realise that you don't have to lesson plan for the coming week? As much as I love teaching kidlets in the classroom, I sure do appreciate a few weeks of alarm-free holidays. :)  Since we're all having a break from teaching-related things (at least for a few days!) I thought I'd stop past to share 5 of my all-time favourite novels - linking up with Kacey and Five for Friday.  Whether you're relaxing by the pool on your summer vacation or snuggled under a blanket during winter break like I am, you won't be able to put these books down!

1. Three Wishes - Liane Moriarty


You might have heard Liane Moriarty's name mentioned recently - Reese Witherspoon is turning one of her recent books, Big Little Lies, into a movie.  Three Wishes is her first novel - and, in my humble opinion, her best.  It's all about the lives of Lyn, Cat and Gemma - 33 year old triplets who are just about as different as three sisters could be! Each of them are dealing with the ups and downs of their own lives, as well as the challenges that come with being part of a trio.  This story is beautifully written - it's funny and heartwarming. You feel like you know the girls so well that you must keep reading to see how the twists and turns unfold for them.

2. Tully - Paulina Simons


If you've read any Paulina Simons books, most likely it was the Alex & Tatiana trilogy (The Bronze Horseman, Tatiana & Alexander, The Summer Garden) - also three amazing books and well worth reading!  Tully has been one of my favourites since I was about 18 and I've read it probably 10 times. I'll be honest - it touches on some dark topics.  It follows the life of the main character, Natalie, through her teenage years and adulthood.  She struggles with tragedy and loss early in her life and in the years afterwards she's kind of searching for acceptance, love and closure.  

3. Plain Truth - Jodi Picoult


This was the first of Jodi Picoult's books that I read and it's by far my favourite!  It's set in an Amish community where a newborn baby has been found dead in a barn. An unmarried, teenage girl named Katie who lives on the farm is is charged with the baby's murder and is believed to be the mother.  A big-city lawyer comes to live with the family as she represents Katie during the trial and she experiences 'plain' life in a way that opens her mind and heart.  As with all Jodi Picoult books there's a great twist at the end!  (Another fabulous book by the same author is My Sister's Keeper.)

4. Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding


I know, I know! We've all seen the movie so I don't need to explain what this book is about. :) But if you haven't read the book you are seriously missing out. It is hilarious.  

5. The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton


I've only started reading Kate Morton's books in the past couple of months and I'm so glad I discovered them! She writes stories set in the English countryside and all of them stretch across generations.  The Forgotten Garden is all about a girl called Nell, and her search to find the family she believes abandoned her and her real identity.  Another page-turner that you won't be able to put down - I had to keep reading late into the night just to find out what the ending would be!

Narrowing down favourite books to just 5 is tough!  I could easily add another 10 or so to this list without too much extra thought. :) Hopefully one of my suggestions has caught your eye.  Please click on the images to go to the Amazon listing for each book to read the full blurbs because I'm sure I have done an awful job in describing the stories.  Don't forget your local library will more than likely have a copy of these books that you can borrow for free!

If you have any great novel suggestions I'd love to hear them.  


Sunday, 19 June 2016

Hands-On Ideas for Teaching 2D Shape!


If you've read my blog before you probably know all about my passion for ensuring that little learners explore concepts in a hands-on way! Today I thought I'd share some ideas for teaching 2D shape that will keep your kidlets' hands and minds busy.

For the beginning of the year I love to use this song - to the tune of 'If You're Happy and You Know It'. (I didn't come up with it - it was a gift from Pinterest many years ago!)  Before you begin, make sure each student has one each of the shapes you'd like to focus on.  Either give them blocks or pre-cut card, or have them cut around paper templates.  The song goes like this (just change the shape name each time):

Put your {square} in the air, in the air!
Put your {square} in the air in the air!
Put your {square} in the air and wave it 'round up there,
Put your {square} in the air, in the air!

This activity is perfect for the beginning of your 2D shape learning because it focuses on simple shape recognition.  At the end of each verse you can ask questions about the shape if you like or talk about the properties in a more detailed way.

During this stage of learning I also like to include some informal shape work - usually in fine motor groups first up in the morning or as a maths craft.  The photo below came from Pinterest as I don't have one of it in action in my own room.


Make up a collection of coloured paper shapes.  Laminate them if you'd like to use them long term!  Simply provide kidlets with a board/table space to design a picture using the shapes.  As they work you can ask lots of questions and talk about the shapes and how they are the same or different.  For example, "How many triangles have you used?" or "A square has 4 straight sides, do any other shapes?"  I prefer to use the laminated shapes during morning work for a while and then have the kidlets create a collage with paper and glue as a maths craft.

The biggest unexpected hit in my classroom during 2015 was this simple activity that I came up with to fill a spare 10 minutes.


I cut some shapes from old cardboard boxes we had in the room and put one at a time in the feely bag (my fancy name for an old Toms shoe bag!).  I blindfolded one kidlet and asked them to feel inside the bag and guess which shape was in there.  Of course, they need to know how many sides each shape has, whether they are straight or curved and the shape name - so this is a great activity to discover if any kidlets aren't quite getting it.  I was very surprised to see that everyone was just desperate to have a turn feeling inside the bag, so I ended up putting it and the shapes out for discovery play time.  For the few weeks afterwards I would see pairs and small groups of kidlets playing the guessing game independently. :)

For a whole class activity I love "I Have, Who Has?" This version includes colours and comes in 2 levels (one with 'trickier' shapes!). 



I have two all-time favourite 2D shape crafts!  The first is a shape ice-cream!



To make this craft just print out some shape outlines on coloured paper (I make mine in Powerpoint) and some labels on white paper.  Give each kidlet one of each and have them glue the labels on each shape before assembling their ice-cream.  (I use a second triangle for the cone).

Next up is a shape pizza!


Normally you would paint the paper plate pizza dough coloured before you complete this craft... but I must have been pushed for time the year I took this photo! :)  Cutting out the little shapes is a great job for parent helpers (they can even do them at home) - use a circle punch to make it easier though.  Kidlets go ahead and make their pizza, and then record the number of each shape they have used.  {If you're anything like me the first time you do this activity you will cut enough shapes for 6000 pizzas and use the shapes for years after!}

Now time for a couple of tasks perfect for small group rotations or centers.  2D shape learning fits perfectly with patterning concepts, as often times we ask kidlets to create patterns using colour and then shape.  I use pattern blocks all the time and love these pattern block cards - children copy and continue the patterns shown.


We also love to 'Link-it-Up'!



I hope you've found an idea or two that you can use in your classroom! Thanks for stopping by today. :)

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Rhyming Activities for Little Learners!

Phonemic awareness (listening to, isolating and changing sounds in words) is vital for both reading and writing development in little learners - and rhyme is a BIG part of this learning process.  It's sometimes a concept that kidlets find tricky to grasp - so I thought I'd stop by and share some activities that I've used successfully with my classes over the years, as well as a few new ideas that I'd love to try. :)

From the very first week of school I like to expose kidlets to rhyming words through our poem of the week.  We read it together every morning and talk about the vocabulary used - this is a really great way for little learners to start thinking about words, how they sound and what they mean.  As the year goes on you can spend time identifying letters and sounds, nouns/verbs/adjectives and rhyming words! I usually have a poster sized copy of the poem on the board and we circle and underline words as we identify rhyming pairs.  At the end of the week kidlets glue a copy into their books (I have a dedicated poetry journal) and because we've read it so often together most children can independently read it.  Here's a resource you might like to use - or you could choose any simple poems and rhymes that fit with your classroom themes!



Another oral language activity that my kidlets always LOVE is a simple one.  I have an IKEA igloo that I set up on the carpet area.  Before we start I've collected a box of random objects from around the classroom.  I ask the class to close their eyes while I hide one in the igloo and then say "What's inside the igloo? What could be in it for me? It starts with ___ and rhymes with ___. Oh what do you think it could be?" For example, if I've hidden a book in the igloo I would say "It starts with /b/ and rhymes with look."  Someone guesses the object and then gets to check inside the igloo to see if they were right! We play this game LOTS before we move on to reading and writing rhyming words.  If you don't have an igloo you can use whatever you have - e.g. "What's inside the big, blue bag?"


Of course, our Alphabet Monster helps us during this stage of learning too!  I use the flashcards that come with our phonics program but you could use any that you have.  I lay them out on the carpet and ask kidlets to feed the monster.  I might say a word and have them find the card that rhymes, I might ask them to choose 2 cards that rhyme, or perhaps I'll lay out 3 cards and ask them to feed the monster the one that doesn't rhyme.  During these activities the whole class joins in by saying each word and segmenting the sounds.


 I love to use hands-on activities, particularly in literacy centres.  Top of my list of new ones to try is this one that uses Duplo blocks. If you click on the image to the pin you can check out This Reading Mama and download the pictures used here - or you could use ones you already have!


At least one of my literacy centres is always a game - and I love to use Bingo! when teaching rhyme.  The caller says a word and the rest of the group covers a picture on their board if it rhymes with the word called.  Click on the picture below to check out a resource I created to allow for some differentiation with my kidlets - it includes boards with pictures only, pictures + words, or words only with calling cards to match. :)


As soon as we move into reading and spelling rhyming words I include the teaching of word families.  There's a tonne of great resources you can use for this concept but I love Marsha's Word Families Galore pack! It takes time to print and laminate everything but once you're done you're set for years! My favourite thing is the word wall I made using her cards - I hot glued them to coloured ribbon and it makes a gorgeous bulletin board full of rhyming words for the kidlets to reference as they work!


I also love this hands-on task that is essentially matching rhyming words just like the Duplo idea - except this one includes words for the kidlets to read when they are ready. Click on the image to see more!


Of course any rhyming fun must include lots of reading stories written by our favourite doctor! Dr. Seuss books are perfect for listening to and identifying rhyming words.  After reading 'The Cat in the Hat' I love to have my kidlets invent their own character using the same rhyming pattern.  This is a great way to see which children understand what rhyming means, who can choose 2 words that rhyme, and also who understands the spelling patterns involved. 



And who can resist this gorgeous craft that makes an awesome classroom display? ;)


Hopefully I've shared an idea or two that you might be able to use in your own classroom! I'd love to hear any awesome ideas you have that work on teaching rhyme. :)

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Five for Friday!


It seems like such a long time since I joined in with Five for Friday! Time to get back into the groove. :)


Last weekend we spent a few days camping on a lake about an hour and a half from where we live! While it was a little bit cold in the early mornings we had absolutely gorgeous weather.  Winter in Queensland is glorious. :) The photo above shows the girls fishing off the back of our boat.


If you love historical fiction you need to read Kate Morton! I read 'The Forgotten Garden' first and was hooked on her style.  The books are so well written and all of them have plot twists that you won't see coming. :)



I've been spending some time revising some of my older products that needed some TLC. At first it felt like a backward step because I wasn't spending time on new ideas... but once I looked through the finished files I was soooooooo much happier with them.  Click on the pictures to find them listed at half price for the weekend.



A couple of weekends ago we went to the Noosa Food & Wine Festival.  I've always wanted to go! We had such a beautiful weekend. Our favourite events were the fancy dinner that had famous chefs serving delicious meals made from local produce, and the Spanish fiesta in the beach tipi!  So much fun - if you even get a chance you need to go. :)


Don't you love a good teacher meme? This one made me chuckle because it's so true... although you could replace reading intervention program with so many other things and it would be equally as accurate.  It's lucky us teachers are flexible!

Happy weekend, friends! Thanks for stopping by.