Medieval Activities

From my experience, teaching a unit on Medieval Times is one of the best parts of the curriculum.    There are so many ideas, activities that can be done.  I find that organizing my ideas for the upcoming unit helps me plan out my activities and see the cross curricular aspects of my lessons.  The concept map below lists some activities/learning opportunities I have done in the past.


The 3AM Teacher:


Practice, Practice, Practice: From First Draft to Final Copy

I love teaching Language Arts, but one of the greatest challenges I face is helping students learn how to become good writers.  A great resource to help you teach students how to write effectively is “Teaching Adolescent Writers” (2006) by Kelly Gallagher.  I absolutely love this book and will be providing a resource review soon, but until then, I’ll just be going over a tiny portion of what is covered in this fantastic resource.

Gallagher recounts that when he was a basketball coach, he would take his players through a variety of defensive and offensive drills in order to be ready for the big Friday night game.  Just as coaches take their players through a variety of training practices to build up their skills, so too should teachers provide students with a variety of practice runs to help them become more effective writers.  Before producing well-written formal pieces of writing, students must be given opportunities to explore and develop their skills as writers.

When planning my Language Arts units, I have tried to incorporate as many opportunities as possible to have my students write, write, write!  One area we spend considerable time focusing on is the development of a first draft into a polished and formal final copy.  Sometimes it is very difficult to convince students that their work is only a first draft and it has to go through revisions (possibly several revisions) before it is ready to be evaluated.  A way that I have explained this to students is by using these posters to differentiate between first draft and final copy writing.  These posters are based on the First- vs. Second-Draft Comparison Chart in Gallagher’s “Teaching Adolescent Writers” (p. 51) from Mary K. Healy in Bay Area Writing Project.  I’ve changed the language a bit to make it more accessible for my students.

I’ll be posting on the following strategies to help you get your students writing, revising, and polishing their drafts soon:

  • STAR (Substitute, Take things out, Add, Rearrange) from Richard Cornwell, South Basin Writing Project
  • Surface vs. Deep Revision from Kelly Gallagher in “Teaching Adolescent Writers”
  • Hot Writing from Teresa Totten (I heard her speak at Reading for the Love of It and she was phenomenal!)

Just click on the image below for the posters!

For some other Language Arts posters, check out PEEL!

It’s all in the number!

Projects, Paper, Letters, & Tests! Oh My!

As a teacher, you know full well that we are overwhelmed with all kinds of items we collect to grade, review, hold on to and file.  Over and over, you always have students who forget, who do not complete, who do not remember.  I have found that creating a numbering system within my classroom works well to keep track of these problems and help me follow up.  At the beginning of the year, I assign a number based on my classroom list.  I do this alphabetically, therefore student 1 is assigned number 1, student 2 is assigned number 2 and so forth.  All students get a number and stay with that number for the whole year.  It facilitates the process of scanning  a stack of papers to just checking the number.  If you organize your papers in  numerical order,  then you can quickly check if there is a number missing instead of a name.   I also find it easier if you let your students know that you require the numbers to be all written in the top right corner.

I keep a class list along with their number in my teacher binder where I can reference back just in case.  Also, for my students reference, I put a list on chart paper on the wall.

With this number management system in place, I can instantaneously follow up with students and discuss where their item is or what I can do to help.

Where do I utilize this system? Here is a brief list:

1) Tests

2) Assignments

3) Notebooks

4) Permission Forms

5) Letters/Notes

6) Student Portfolios

7) Fire Drill Line Up – I call numbers out instead of names to check if all are present

8) Duo tangs

9) Textbooks

10) Workbooks

11) Classroom Library sign out sheet

Working smarter not harder is what it is all about!

Parent Communication Log

Here’s another resource for your teacher binder!  Before September, print out a copy of this parent communication log and use one for each student in your class.  When an issue arises, keep track of when you have communicated with parents/guardians and note the resolution and next steps.  These communication logs are great to use as reference when writing report cards and to be discussed during parent-teacher interviews.

Just click on the image below!


Leaving a note for the teacher

As a supply teacher for many months prior to obtaining my first LTO, I found that if you were liked by the teacher you were there for, you would be called again.  The problem was that once I was had left the school (even though I left a handwritten note), that teacher did not know who I was or never called me back.

I created this note/form to communicate with the classroom teacher I was there for, and it truly helped me generate call backs.

It’s all about promoting yourself in a professional manner.  The call backs came instantaneously.  Other teachers were also impressed.  I was well on my way!  In the 6 months of supply teaching, I missed only 12 days!

When filling in the form, ensure you date it, give concise information about the day, and don’t forget to fill in your name and number at the bottom.  Be sure that classroom teachers will keep it with their lesson plans and more importantly you in mind!  Just click on the image below!

End of the Year Classroom Inventory!

Before you walk out of your classrooms for summer vacation, think about what you’d like to walk into in September!  When I walk back into my classroom at the end of the summer, I tend to feel a bit overwhelmed about where to begin, so I always make a plan and try to think about furniture layout, bulletin board ideas, décor, and how to better organize all of our supplies.

Why is this so important?  The classroom environment is an essential component to student learning and how I teach.  The resource that I absolutely love when dealing with classroom organization and setup is Spaces & Places by Debbie Diller!

I’ve broken this down into five areas:

Themes and Colour Schemes:

I love walking into classrooms that have been decorated with a colour scheme in mind, as everything flows and works well together.  Will you decorate with shades of blue and green?  How about blue and yellow with star décor?  There are so many great ideas!  Check out Pinterest for some beautiful classrooms!

Bulletin Boards:

I like seeing engaging and meaningful content on my bulletin boards, so I’m sure my students feel the same way.  I use my bulletin boards in the following way: some are just for student work to be displayed, others are constant (e.g. math) but change depending on what we are currently learning, and others change regularly to match the theme of our unit.  Play around with bulletin board ideas, but remember to keep them bright and engaging!

Classroom Layout:

Will your student desks be arranged in rows? A U-shape? Groups?  There are many options and you don’t really know what will work best until you try it out!

Classroom Organization:

There are so many different ways to organize classroom materials and supplies! Some teachers out there have come up with some excellent ideas to help make your classroom super-organized!  A blog I really like is Clutter-Free Classroom…so many great ideas!


It’s so disappointing to be ready to prep your classroom for the new school year only to realize that you’ve run out of borders, or staples, or duotang folders!  Do a quick inventory of your supplies to make sure you don’t forget anything when you hit those end-of-summer teacher sales!

Here’s a printable to help you organize your classroom ideas for September!   Just click the image below!