Thursday, November 27, 2014

Playing with Cards

Today I am sharing a quick little math group warm up with you. I love using playing cards, and so do my students. This pack is a set from a 500 game... the numbered cards go from 2-13 and Ace becomes one. To keep them tidy and organised, I like using one of the tiniest Sistema containers I can possibly get. A little bit more expensive than other storage systems, but they seem to be practically indestructible, come in great colours and when on sale they are way more affordable:
Sitting in a semi circle, I go round the circle giving the students cards, and they need to answer as quickly as they can. The questions vary: * What is your number (you can give them two cards to make a two digit number etc) *What comes before your number *What comes after your number Once they have a set (maybe 5-ish cards)... *Put your cards in order from smallest to biggest *Put your cards in order from biggest to smallest Swap sets between the children so they have a different set to work with. Next we switch into a bit of teamwork. I take a set of 1-13 cards and give them out to the children face down. We then need to work TOGETHER to put them in order (ascending or descending) and the children just love this.
Lastly we go to work on some strategy. It is important to note that we have done ALOT of work with manipulatives by now, and are trying to count forwards and backwards in our heads to solve number problems. I write the equation symbols out in the book, and the children take turns to fill in the numbers with playing cards. Then we use our strategy to solve the problem.
Last time we did this, the group asked to take the book and cards away to "play teacher" and practise by themselves! How cute!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Icecream Everydays!

Went for a trawl through the local dollar store on the weekend and found some goooorgeous ice-cream shaped bowls so simply just HAD to buy them.I scored these ones ages ago:
from an op shop and they got an absolute thrashing. We use them with pom poms or plastic beans (JELLYbeans so I am told), and create number problems involving ice-cream sundaes with sprinkles on top. However I only had four, and this seriously limits my group sizes for using this equipment. We want the children to be engaged, and using the manipulatives themselves right? So I bought three sets of these bad boys...
...and we can now all have a go at using the bowls! Much excitement!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Social Media Giant

Time to get back into this little project of mine, and I am kicking off by creating a Facebook page. Facebook is so much a part of my life now, I think it will be easier to put little snapshots etc up there. So try searching for The Destitute Teacher on Facebook, or follow this link. Wish me luck!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Now I know it... now I don't

We have been working hard on improving our recognition of numbers on tens frames recently. It seems that sometimes we know it... and sometimes we don't! I put together some resources and activities to help to develop instant recognition. These include... * Good, old fashioned flashcards. In a group we play tens frames speed (flip a card over, first to read it correctly gets it and the winner is the person with the most at the end). Handy hint... enlarge the tens frames, laminate and attach a magnet on the back for whole class work on the whiteboard.
* Roll and Cover Tens Frames games. I made two versions of this game (apologies as I made the clipart, it could do with some refinement). One version is for a 1-6 die, the other is for a 10 sided die (if your die has a '0', use a fine permanent marker to turn it into a ten). Just click here to go to my GoogleDrive and download the PDF file. * Tens frames timed powerpoint. My children love this one. I made a powerpoint presentation with tens frames representations, one on each page. I then adjusted the transition time so there was only 3 seconds between each slide. We watch the powerpoint and record the numbers that we see on our whiteboards. We then recap and look for patterns (e.g. 5 and 1) that could help with faster recognition. *Friday I will introduce them to Tens Frame Memory. Just match the frame representation with the correct digit card. I will share this file once it is student approved. We are going a little tens frames crazy. The games will go into the pattern making box on our Math Tumble and the children will continue to re-enforce their knowledge while we move on to the next topic. Fingers crossed it works!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Border Organisation

I can't claim the credit for this post. The idea came from this pin (see more of my school based Pintrest board here). I bought my plastic containers from my local Countdown, and I think it was around $3 for five. I also discovered that margarine containers fit borders too (just), however they are not clear and make it harder to see what is inside.
If you are going to go to the expense and bother of using borders in your classroom, then I thoroughly recommend spending a little extra and protecting them while in storage.
Some might say it is a little over the top in organisation. I say its a beautiful thing.

Friday, July 18, 2014

School Holiday Tips

If you are anything like me, you have FAR to many jobs on your "To Do" list in the holidays. Six years into this teaching gig, and I still struggle with my holiday workload. For the first couple of years, the reality is that your classroom will dominate your life. You will have SO MANY things that you need to get done, and the only time to do them will be the non-contact holiday time. So here are six lessons that I have learned in my first six years of teaching: 1. Choose ONE project for the holidays that will make a difference to your life next term. Clean out a cupboard, sort some resources, source some resources.... ONE project. Too many projects will rapidly become a mess. They may end up half done, or just wear you out even more. 2. Clean your house. Seriously, it has probably been neglected during term time, and super neglected during report writing time. A spring clean will make you feel way better. 3. Freezer meals will save you come term time. I try and put a couple of pre-cooked meals into the freezer over the holidays. This works really well for me as my husband is away alot, so I cook a huge batch and freeze them in one or two portion sizes. I try and make sure that they are nutritious too, like batches of vege soup or casseroles. I also try and have a family sized curry (or similar) in the freezer for when you have un-expected guests during term time. 4. Treat yourself. If you can, stretch the budget a little. Go out for lunch, catch up with friends. Go shopping. Your soul will thank you for it. 5. Exercise. A walk along the beach, or around the neighbourhood will put you in a much better frame of mind. Trust me. Pulling out those weeds will probably give you a mini-workout and be highly satisfying too. 6. And most importantly... blob out! You are going to need to re-charge. I spend my mornings doing 'jobs' (the cooking, cleaning, grading, planning etc part of my holidays) and then flick a movie on or read a book in the afternoons. It works for me as I am routine based and holidays tend to throw me. So there you have it... six lessons, all learned the hard way.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Assessment Organisation

I LOVE to be organised. It gives me a little thrill to be able to lay my hands on what I am looking for, in a quick and efficient manner. It makes me feel like I have super powers! Managing assessment papers can be tricky. My preferred method is one of those portable concertina file-boxes. One section for each student.
Because I have 24 students and they come with around 30 pockets, I use the ones at the back to store assessment master copies/ marking guidelines and the occasional piece of assessment that is easier to be kept as a whole set. This method particularly comes into its own around reporting time. The file-box is convenient to pick up and take home to refer to if necessary. Better living, everybody!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

ANZAC Crafts

My current school recognises ANZAC Day (Remembrance Day) every year with a whole school assembly as close to the 25th of April as we can. The local RSA members come along and each class lays a 'wreath' dedicated to our fallen soldiers. The whole effect is just beautiful, and every year I am blown away by the variety of crafts each class presents. This year we worked with our buddy class to create some layered fabric poppies. I got the inspiration from this site here.
Originally I had high ambitions and wanted the children to sew layers of eco-cloth together to create the poppies. My hopes were quickly dashed, and we resorted to hot glue gunning the layers together. Nice and fast and probably more effective... most sewn efforts were a disaster.
We keep our hot glue guns on plastic plates. The plates catch the drips and when the children glue the gun to the plate, it easily peels back off again. The class then brainstormed how we wanted to present our poppies. We chose to glue them to a large cardboard heart, which the children painted red.
The poppies were glued on the front.
The class also decided to write a letter to the soldiers to go on the back. We all 'signed' the letter with a red paint fingerprint, which I then turned into poppies with the help of a couple of felt tip pens. Gorgeously effective!
I thoroughly recommend using eco-cloth. It is $4.99p/m at Spotlight. The cloth is easy to cut with children's scissors and does not fray. It comes in a wide range of great colours and is a good backdrop for wall displays. Will definitely buy this stuff again!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Recycled Love...

I don't have a teachers desk in my class. The desk I had took up far too much space and was always a mess. So it went to another classroom. Often I regret it, but mostly I rejoice at the extra space. Now I no longer tell children to 'put it on my desk' to deal with later... things get done immediately. Less mess, less stress. I need a place to keep my stickers and stamps though. I recently cut up and cleaned a couple of recycled milk bottles. I chopped off the tops and added a gorgeous little strip of fabric tape and some labels. These are now pinned on the wall next to my IWB.
You might notice that I keep my smelly stickers in ziploc bags. This keeps them smellier for longer. As I took this picture it made me think of the red spotty tin that sits at the top of the teachers workstation. I have a series of decorative tins along the top- one for felts, one for permanent markers etc. The red spotty tin is specifically for WHITEBOARD markers. That way my students are able to easily identify which marker to use when putting up team points or writing their names on the whiteboard.
Plus its super cute and super cute things make my world a smilier place.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Writing Display

I love a good display, and this one lingered in the back of my mind before becoming an actuality.
Black fabric $4.99 p/m @ Spotlight Star borders from an old display (or roughly $9.99 a pack) Clear A4 display pockets part of student stationery pack (or $3 for 10 @ KMart) Letters from an old display Laminated stars from an ex Book Fair display Paper clips Sellotape I popped a strip of sellotape along the bottom of each clear pocket and on the top corner of each back page. This stopped them from splitting and cracking when stapled to the wall. A paper clip on each pocket stops the front page from sagging. The idea is that during the year each new piece of published writing will be added to the front of the folder, creating some lovely displays. At the end of the year I will pull them down and the children will have a collection of their writing to take home. Note: absolutely in love with the crochet cushion cover I made (on the couch) to cover a cushion I purchased from the local op-shop for $2. Yumbers!

LetterLand idea

This year my school has purchased the LetterLand programme to improve our phonological knowledge and awareness. We are still at the very beginning of the programme, but I am hoping to feature a few ideas on here over the next little while, to help someone else kick start their programme if needed. This first tidbit is something that arose from our discussions before beginning the programme. We noticed that the train frieze does not have character names... and we wanted something to refer to on the walls of the classroom.
I photocopied one of the BLMS from the Teachers Book, and blew it up to A3 size then laminated it. Each name tag was then cut out, and as we introduce each character the children take turns to blu-tack the name tag to the train. A simple idea that has been really effective. They love to have the privilege of tacking up the name tag, and love being introduced to new characters. Success.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Christmas Crochet

I am slowly working my way through a massive backlog of posts that I have photographed and never done anything with.... Last year I made myself a vow that I would try and MAKE each of my students a little Christmas gift for them each at the end of the year. After much to-ing and fro-ing, I decided on CROCHET gifts, as there had been a wooly theme in the classroom. I found a super cute and super easy pattern for crochet monsters here. They work up quickly and it was a relatively painless process to make 21 of the little darlings. I started during the Term 3 holidays and gradually picked at the project.
These little monsters were packaged up with a 3B1 notebook (which I bulk buy in the stationery sales at the start of the year... 5 cents each!), a pencil, and an eraser. The kids loved receiving them almost as much as I loved making and giving them. I also put together a simple theme for the chocolate gifts I gave to teacher aides, co-workers etc.... brown paper, twine and a little crochet snowflake. You can find that pattern here. It made a simple gift a little bit more personal and they seemed to make peoples day... which in turn, made my day!
This year I am scoping out ideas for another handmade Christmas gift for my students. I am already collecting ideas on a holiday themed Pintrest board (link here)... and can't wait to start the craftiness happening again!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Kiwifruit Country

I was cleaning out some files today and found some pictures I meant to post last year. I can't even remember what we were studying at the time... but I do remember that this was a spontaneous art lesson that linked in beautifully. I think we had been looking at brush techniques and a reliever had been doing pencil sketched studies of cut kiwifruit with the class.
We roughly mixed a couple of shades of green to make a massive swirl on the page. The bigger, the better. The idea was to not load the brush up too much- otherwise it ends up a mess. We then did a second swirl of white in the centre. Brushes were flipped upside down and we dragged the end through the white paint and outwards to create the lines. Lastly, we dipped the ends in black paint and dotted seeds.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Greetings from NZ

This term our focus for Te Reo is Greetings. So I just had to share a set of basic greetings posters that I made for my classroom. There is a huge deficit of free Maori printables out there... so hopefully this is one step in the right direction! You can access the documents from my Google Drive here.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Because I'm happpeeeeeeeeeee...

So, so happy with the final results of our beginning of the year, class collaborative art projects! Clap along if you feel that this is a craft for you. Day one we began to create some class bunting. I already had crochet bunting hanging in the classroom, so we have a bit of a theme going on. I made a triangle template and traced out 24 triangles onto fabric. These were roughly cut out, so that I could name them on the outside of the triangle and be able to read it clearly. We put the traced side down on the table (so that I had clear cutting lines later) and we talked about not mixing colours, background/foreground and bright/interesting colours. The children painted self portraits in any old colours they choose. I limited their colour palettes to bright tones.
Day One we painted basic shapes- head, shoulders, background. Day Two we added detail. Day Three we added further detail if needed. I took the triangles home to cut and assemble. Each 'flag' was cut out and re-named on the bag. I ran a thin strip of hot glue across the top and attached a long piece of ribbon to make a class bunting.
The crochet bunting has been ripped down from the back wall, and this one now hangs pride of place, directly underneath our collaborative treaty.
Just gorgeous. And a nice twist on a classic self portrait. Now, to find a home for my old bunting...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Pintresting Facts

I am IN LOVE with Pintrest. Not only is it the world's best time-waster, it is the world's best source of teacher inspiration. I spend a lot of time on Pintrest and gather a lot of resources and inspiration. This is now working particularly well for me as our school administrator has allowed access to Pintrest at school, so I am finally able to print things direct from my boards! If you are interested in getting started, and want to see what I am pinning, you can find my boards here: You might want to take a packed lunch. It is truly addictive.

Golden Rules.... a Treaty of Respect

Here in NZ we tend to cover The Treaty of Waitangi each year as we work together to establish our classroom rules. Invariably, we end up coming to an agreement and each child 'signs' it to show that they will support and uphold what they have discussed. Each year, I inwardly groan at how boring my class treaty always ends up looking. That is, until I came across this .jpg on Pintrest. It got me thinking... perhaps we could create a set of 'golden' rules.... rules that are displayed around a sun... and the rays of the sun were our handprints... and our handprints were our pledge to uphold the rules. I pitched the idea to the kids and they LOVED it. Each day we painted large sheets of newsprint in a messy, Eric Carle kind of way. Just pour the paint straight on the paper and get the kids to go mad. Geez, it was fun! I have since learned a good lesson: don't use newsprint. It's too flimsy. Go for something a little thicker. With a little help I got the background and sun hung on the ugliest section of the classroom I could find. It's up high, it's ugly and it is otherwise un-useable. Win-win. We typed up the rules we decided on and added them to the mural, along with clouds and our handprints (which we signed with a sharpie). I had HEAPS of blue paper left over in a slightly different shade. So I used them to cut out the letters across the bottom. In case you can't see, it says: "We understand that in RM15...". All rules are phrased in a positive manner. I believe that this is really important. Nobody likes to hear what they CAN'T do... lets tell them what they CAN DO!
We are now working on unpacking our rules to see what they actually look like in practice. Each day we re-cap our rules and talk in depth about a new one. Each day I look up at our class mural and do a quick round of 'jazz hands'. I am in love.

Monday, February 10, 2014

In the beginning, there was.... Math

So at my current school we begin each year with a mini 'about me' unit. We look at our community, our rules etc... and usually link Math in through Stats or Measurement. This means by the time they get to me, they have already charted their heights, eye colours, fav food, etc before. Been there, done that, Miss. We want something different. Yesterday I gave each child a handful of pom poms each. You want to get a child interested in Math? Try pom poms. Totally focussed and on task, we set about sorting the pom poms into categories. Most children went for the standard- colour sorting- to begin with.
Then we began to talk about other ways to classify our pom poms; size and sparkly v.s. non-sparkly were other popular possibilities. At this point, I want to say that I needed to model the sorting on the board- identifying common attributes and sorting data was the focus of the lesson. I made a mental note to glue some pom poms onto magnets for future lessons. Today I gave them each a scoop of pom poms and we sorted them quickly in a couple of different ways. I then asked the children to sort by colour and we learned about using tally marks to record our data. They really liked the idea that the fifth tally mark 'wraps' its arms around its group to make a tidy bundle. We then recorded our own data on our own tally charts.
Tomorrow we shall revisit sorting and tally marks, with a final destination of making our own block graph (which has already been introduced through our 'favourite food' and 'number of letters in our names' graphs from last week). Annnnnnnnnnnd... once we have achieved the dizzying heights of a block graph, we will repeat it all again. This time, with buttons. Because if there is anything the children like as much as pom poms... it has to be buttons. I plan on setting this up as an independent activity in their Math tumble. I will provide a variety of objects to sort (pom poms, buttons, toy cars, little crafty wooden bits and some wooden shapes), with some blank tally charts and grids for block charts. Lofty ambitions, I know. But we all need to dream.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

And in the beginning there was...

It is the start of a brand new school year in lil ol' NZ, and for the next few posts I am going to give you the grand tour of my classroom. I am beginning the round with my new school hat storage system... it has made my life so much easier, and was quick and simple to make.
I bought two over-the-door-shoe-organizers from K-Mart for $8.00 each (just in case you are wondering, there is 16 pockets in each organizer). These were stapled to the back of my class library shelves. Top tip- use the staple gun at an angle. It makes it way easier to get the staples out later if there is a little gap at one end. I chopped off the bottom rows, as they were not needed, and ran a quick strip of patterned duct tape across the top and bottom (before running out). I then added laminated name labels (stapled on) and a sign. Quick, cheap, and easy (wink wink). I love it because I can see at a glance who doesn't have their hat at school today, and their hats are no longer scattered around my classroom. The children love it because it gives them somewhere to park their hats and they love having their own pocket. I have a running deal with them- if all hats are parked in the pockets before school, they collect 5 marbles for the jar. Most students now leave their hat at school overnight- so they are already prepared for the next day (so cute). This is definitely a system that is here to stay!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Art Exhibition

This post has been a long time coming... Last year our school had an art exhibition, where each child needed to produce an artwork to show. My class of seven year olds was eternally optimistic and wanted to produce FOUR smaller artworks, in a mixed media study of owls. We didn't quite make it to four, but gave it a good shot. Our first project was to produce a salt dough owl. Each child got a handful of dough (I think I used about 3kg of flour in total) and we followed the tutorial here
Be warned- it took two days to bake 21 A5 sized dough owls enough. And baking salt dough smells kinda funny. Once baked, we looked at the process of painting our owls. We under-coated them with white, and slowly layered our paint. I wanted to emphasise the importance of getting the maximum effect- waiting to dry between each layer meant that we didn't end up with a horrible mess of brown paint.
This process took a long time. In the end, to get it done I would have a painting table set up each morning and afternoon with a bucket of brushes and buckets of water. The children would arrive at school (or come back from lunch) to add their next layer before continuing with their tasks.
Once happy with the finished effect, the children dry brushed the owls with their choice of gold or silver paint. We did this in small groups, as limiting the paint on your brush is a foreign concept to many seven year olds.
I finished the owls with a coat of clear spray varnish. I then cut a piece of felt to fit the back of the owl, cut a small slit in it and glued the felt onto the reverse side of the owl. This meant the slit in the felt would slide over the thumbtack and allow the owls to hang on the wall for exhibition day.
Because the dough owls were a long and drawn out process, we began them first. Then, as we waited for dough to cook and paint to dry we looked at several 'how to draw cartoon owl' tutorials online. Our sketch books are chock full of owls. Many children found it hard to follow the instructions at first, and resilience and the need for careful listening were discussed by the children. One real sticking point was there was a ban on erasers... we need to learn to love and learn from our mistakes. The book "Ish" by Peter Reynolds was much loved and the children really took the story to heart.
Once we found some tutorials we liked, the children were given a nice sheet of thick artist paper (A4) to do their cartoons. Some chose to fill the page with lots of little owls and some chose to do just one owl in the middle. I was astonished with how gorgeous the results were. The pages were finished with a coat of hairspray to stop them smudging... and the children seemed to think that extra care made their artwork extra special.
By now the exhibition deadline was just 24 hours away, with only two artworks completed. We agreed in a class discussion to finish the remaining two in class for our own satisfaction rather than rush through an artwork for display. I do love them so.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A New and Profound Love

I have craft envy. I troll Pintrest and other blogs looking for sweet ideas for my own classroom, but as I do I am hit by the availability and affordability of crafting supplies in America and the UK. We often get supplies in NZ after a long delay, and it takes even longer for the supplies to become cheap. Of note I have noticed that more and more dollar shops are beginning to stock teacher specific supplies- borders, certificates etc. Have a look around as there is some pretty neat stuff out there. Spotlight has a range of affordable classroom decoratives in some stores. A hunt through Geoffs Emporium on Dominion Road in Auckland resulted in a roll of patterned duct tape for $3. Major score! Not in love with the pattern, but excited by the possibilities I chucked it in the basket and trundled home with it. I inherited some dilipdated A3 clearfiles at the end of last year... perfect beginners project! These folders needed some love, as they were scuffed and torn, but not ready to be chucked.
For some reason, I photographed the nicest folders. A quick tape up and some coloured paper taped to the front and voila... 'new' folder goodness! Yumbers!
If you can't get to Geoffs, some Warehouse Stationery stores sell patterned duct tape for around $10 a roll.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mini Books 2.0

This year's goal is to re-vamp my reading tumble activities. Last year I spent a lot of time seeking out and making resources for independent Math activities/ tubs, and poor old reading got the short stick.

One very successful tub I have had in my reading tumble is the box of 'Mini Books'. We all love mini things... mini mars bars and mini bottles of liquor that you get on a plane are personal favourites. The kids have really enjoyed having 'Mini Books' as a reading task, so over the summer holidays I have added to the resource and spent some time repairing older books.

All the books in the tub were sourced from op-shops for a minimal cost (mostly 10- 50 cents each). There is a good stock of books published by Ladybird in their small format, but also a range of books that seem to have been from Happy Meals, or given out at B.P. petrol stations. Either way, a fabulous source of engaging reading material!

I fully recommend a strip of clear packing tape along the spine, and one inside the front and back covers. Some of the smaller books have been cheaply made, and are not as robust as other books.

The plan is to have this reading tub on the tumble for a total of two terms if possible. To maintain student interest and provide some challenge, I plan on swapping the books at the beginning and middle of each term with a new batch.

One or two books were not salvageable on closer examination. I have stripped out some of their pictures to make writing prompts and to laminate for wall d├ęcor. It hurt to cut books, but they were so wrecked I would need to throw them out anyway.