Friday, October 23, 2015

Domino War

Countdown supermarkets in NZ recently had a promotion. For every $20 spent they would give you one 'free' collectible domino. So I put the word out to friends and family. I put it in my class newsletter, on Facebook, everywhere I could think... I would trade handmade goods for dominoes. Due to the generosity of my friends and family I had a surprisingly large collection of dominoes by the end of the promotion. So now I am putting together some Math resources for my classroom that use dominoes as the main material.

I am sure that I have come across the idea of Domino War somewhere in the wilds of the internet, but when I went to print it out for my classroom, do you think I could find a source? No way Jose.

Tried and tested, this game is much loved by my year 2 students at the moment. The craze of the promotion may be contributing, but they are enjoying this relatively fast paced game. The idea is quite simple. First, turn all the dominoes so that the dots are facing down...

Then each player turns over a domino and adds the numbers together, e.g. 1 +6= 7...

The player with the highest answer is the winner of that round and keeps the dominoes. Keep on playing till all the dominoes are turned over. The overall winner is the person with the most dominoes at the end.

Here are the printable instructions that I have taped onto the outside of the bag. Please download the file from my drive (rather than use this image), as it contains the credits for the clip art etc. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Budget Alphabet Stamps

Pintrest provides so much inspiration, but I sometimes struggle to find equipment in NZ that is featured in some classroom makes. It seems that the USA etc have access to some cheaper resources in many respects, and trying to replicate some things is a bit expensive.

I have been on the hunt for some affordable alphabet stamps in NZ for a while now. I have scoped auction sites, emporiums, dollar shops, but most places seem to expect more $$$ than I am willing to pay. Particularly as I predict that stamps will go missing/ get lost very quickly.

I recently found some foam letters in a local emporium for $1.50 a set. Of course I snaffled them up- I would be silly not to! So off home I went, and my husband sighed in dismay as out came the milk bottle top collection! A spot of hot glue and some milk bottle tops, and I quickly had two sets of alphabet stamps!

Some tips/ points I thought of as I made them:

  • I used red tops for the vowels and blue for the consonants. I figure that the vowels will be used the most frequently.
  • I used a permanent marker to write each letter on the inside of the milk bottle top. This will help with searching through the pile, and for positioning the letters.
  • Make sure you glue the letters on back to front. This way the stamp will come out the right way round.
  • A large, shallow tray is better than a deep container for storage. This makes it easier to find the letters you want quickly. I used the lid from a box of photocopier paper.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Writing Jobs Part B- Boggle.

So yesterday I started telling you all about how I organize my writing program, and explained one of the independent activities that my writers go on with while I am working with a group/ conferencing.

The second independent activity is greatly loved- Boggle. I have a range of Boggle sets organised, and try to present it in a variety of formats.

We have laminated Boggle letters attached to our whiteboard with strips of magnet tape...

And we have plastic baggies pinned to our wall with letters in them...
In the plastic baggies you might find cardboard tags with the letters written on, or printed and laminated letters, or milk bottle tops with the letters, or even some plastic letters (that I found for 50 cents at an emporium one day).

I place importance on making sure the children can take the set back to their table and physically manipulate them to make as many new words as they possibly can. They then record the letters on their whiteboards.

Sometimes we have competitions to see who can come up with the most words. This is a fabulous fast finisher and was also really effective when I was relieving.

Happy writing!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Writing Jobs Part A

In my class we use Math and Reading rotation boards to manage independent work while I am working with small groups. It is an incredibly effective system, once you have got all your resources up and running etc. Writing is a little different. At the moment I have four writing groups. We start with a whole class lesson/ explicit teaching, then go back to our tables to write. My teacher aide (I get a small period of time 3 times a week) works with the 'slow starters', helping them get their ideas on paper. I work with another group on a teaching point. I then conference with the third group, and mark the last group overnight. Then it all changes the next day, enabling me to see as many students as possible. But there are always some fast finishers in our class who complete their tasks... and then what? First they are expected to edit their writing with a green pen, correcting capital letters and full stops. Some groups are beginning to use the dictionary or classroom resources to make corrections to spelling. Once that is complete, they may CHOOSE a task from the 'Writing Jobs' board. There are only four activities in our 'Writing Jobs' board, four independent activities that the students may choose from. Today I would like to share with you our "Creative Writing" task. Quite simply, this is an opportunity for the students to write an imaginary story. They could use our Story Stones (mentioned here, or the Scholastic Story Starters (a digital resource at or a Roll and Write activity board. I have laminated a series of "Roll and Write" pages and the students absolutely love them! All three options are a great way to get the children writing. I provide a choice of writing materials (scrap paper, their draft books, whiteboards) and they are loving writing away! The boards I printed are from: This is a relatively easy to set up and easy to maintain independent activity. The children are engaged and are actively practising their writing skills. Happy writing everybody!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mothers Are The Best

This mothers day we created some "I love you to pieces" photo frames to give to our mothers. In the past I have used Popsicle sticks to create the frame base. There is a previous post outlining the process.

This year I updated how we went about it. First of all, we took photos of our partner and edited them on the iPads. I then printed them and laminated them for the students. We cut them out and hot glued the puzzle pieces straight on. It was so much easier than creating the frame, which invariably never fit the photograph.

We popped a magnet strip on the back and had a lovely gift to send hom for Mother's Day.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How I Win at School Holidays

It has taken me a while to hit my stride when it comes to school holidays. There have been holidays completely wasted doing endless school work, holidays spent doing things for other people... and now I think I have worked out a formula that works for me. So, here is my list... a 'to do' list... of things that make up my school holidays. 1. Turn off the alarm and wake up naturally each day. During term time, I get up at 5.30 each morning. In the school holidays I wake naturally by 8am, and feel much better for it. I try to keep my bedtimes regular, and no more than an hour later than my school bedtime. This means I get the best out of my days, and don't struggle as much with re-setting the body clock. 2. Have at least one day in bed. I spend at least one day of my holiday in my pj's, mooching around the house. I read in bed. Eat junk food. I spend the day alone (no kids of my own). Its brilliant. And needed. Do it. 3. Revise your ward-robe. Catch up on the washing, sort through your clothes. What needs repairing or replacing? Will it be suitable for next term's weather? Fix what needs fixing, chuck what can't be saved. Donate to charity where possible. Then go clothes shopping and make sure you are ready for the new term. Dressing professionally and presenting professionally will make you FEEL professional. 4. Housework, housework, housework! Do those housework tasks that have piled up- give everything a good clean. By the last weekend of the holidays I aim to have fresh bedding on all the beds and a spotless house. It will ease some of the guilt over the coming term. You know, that teacher guilt that drags you down because you JUST... CANT... DO... EVERYTHING. Giving your home a school holiday clean up will make you feel much better. 5. Cook and freeze some bulk meals. I make soups, casseroles, curries and bolognaise for winter. In summer I roast and shred chicken, make bolognaise, etc. There will be a time in the coming term when there is just no energy left to cook a meal. Or to get take out. Having a home-cooked meal in the freezer is a life-saver. Top tip: freeze some in single-portions for those occasions when there is no food in the house to take for lunch. 6. Do something for YOU. For me, I like to read a book. A whole book. From cover to cover. It is glorious, and makes me feel glorious. 7. Exercise. Nuff said. 8. Catch up with friends and family. 9. Do enough school work that you are planned and organised for at least the first week. Give your classroom a once over, and toss/ organise what needs to be done. Then walk away. Actually, run away. 10. Work on your personal appearance. Sounds harsh, doesn't it? I mean that now is a good time to pluck those eye-brows, book that wax, get a hair cut... all those things that make you feel more professional over the coming weeks. So, that's it! My list of 'to do's for the school hols. If I can tick this list off (and there is less to it than there seems), then I go into the new term feeling under control, organised, and excited. A feeling that will last at least until the first staff meeting...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

10 Things I Wish I Knew as a Beginning Teacher

Specifically, 10 things I wish I knew about setting up a classroom as a beginning teacher. 1. It will take far longer than you think. You may have it all mapped out in your head, but you will need a large amount of time to put it into action. If you can, get into the classroom at the end of the previous school year. Map it out in your head. Take the staples out of the wall if you can, and hang backing material. Trust me, it is far cooler (and easier) in December, rather than sweating it out late January. 2. Bring a bucket of hot, soapy water and cloths. Chances are those tote trays, maths equipment and book boxes are going to need a really good wash out. They are disgusting, and if you don't want to touch them, then neither will your students. 3. Bring needle nose pliers, music and something nice to drink. There is likely to be many, many staples in the walls. Even if you hang backing fabric, you will need to take them out so they don't ruin the effect of your display. 4. Don't be afraid to search the recycling bin for containers in your classroom. I know many teachers who have spent large amounts of money on containers for their classroom. Don't feel obliged to do so. In the beginning you are likely to be incurring many costs- from new clothes through to classroom supplies. Use clean tin cans, ice cream containers, margarine containers... the world is your oyster. Try emailing your class parents out, requesting these to be sent in. 5. Shop the Back-To-School sales. Buy a few extra of each style of exercise book your class will use. They are at ridiculously reduced prices, and you will undoubtedly have at least one child for whom purchasing new stationery is an issue. Take a look at the school stationery requirements. I teach in a Year 2 class, and work on the principle that the children will need at least 3 pencils per term (sounds like a lot). I purchase extras in the sales, and pop them in my 'prize box' and my stationery cupboard. Sometimes it just isn't worth the hassle of a request form being sent home. I also recommend to my class parents that during the sales is a good time to purchase extra writing books if they are financially able... it just makes sense! 6. Those paper display borders from the teacher supply store are a god-send. They really tidy up a display. After a few years of buying patterned borders, I am now purchasing bulk packs of plain colors. It is far more cost-effective and gives your classroom a more polished look. 7. Ask a friend to come in and help. Shifting furniture and clearing stuff out requires muscles, patience and time. Two heads are often better than one for making those decisions as well. Promise your friend a pizza lunch and drag them in to help you out. 8. Ask for help. You are not going to get it if you don't ask for it. 9. Hang backing fabric with push-pins first, then staple in place. It makes it way easier to correct errors. 10. You are not going to get everything you want done. Make sure you have a welcoming environment for your students on their first day, but realise that your classroom is a work in progress and you will just stress yourself out if you are setting the bar too high.