Every name has it’s story!


Ever read ‘Name Jar’ by Yangsook Choi? Such a fantastic novel to read to your students at the beginning of the year. Hard to put a grade level to it since I did it while beginning teachers college and it was definitely a conversation starter and friendship builder in our classroom.

‘Name Jar’ is simply about a little girl who is new to America from Korea. She has a name that is unfamiliar to others and difficult to pronounce so she goes along with an ‘unknown’ name until all the other children, one specifically, started a ‘name jar’. The children placed all different names into this jar for the new girl to choose from. At the end of the book, she ended up keeping her own name and all the children accepted her. The greatest part is, the teacher does not interfere throughout the entire experience.

This is a great book to go along with my previous post where I listed beginner or first week back to school activities. It helps students understand that we each have different names, some easier to pronounce then others, but that is what makes us unique! Also, it allows students to familiarize themselves with the names of their fellow peers, and more importantly, how to pronounce them. You can even extend the activity by asking a list of questions in reflection of the book, ‘Name Jar’ and engage in a follow up activity asking the significance of each child’s name. I believe every name has it’s story – it has a lot to do with where we come from, where we are going and who we are!

Here are some other great books to use!


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A Look Ahead…



Although this school year is coming to an end, it won’t be long until the new school year begins. For this reason, it is always a great idea to start on some general ideas for the beginning of the school year so as to decrease the amount of things we need to do as the new school year begins. One of the things you can begin brainstorming about and jotting down ideas for, is possibly a few introductory activities or strategies for the first week of school.

We all know how it is beginning a new year with new students. Let’s consider how it is for our students beginning a new year in a new classroom with new friends. Here are a few things to think about and consider:

1. Classroom Arrangement – Arrange the class into small groups and rotate them over the course of the year so that each student has the opportunity to be with all the other students in the class.

2. Autograph worksheet – students sign their name and add one characteristic that describes them. You can alter this in so many different ways (helps students familiarize themselves with the names of their peers and something about them)

3. Name Game – Pass a ball from person to person, calling name before passing ball- Trick:  remembering who threw the ball to you. Extension: Play the game backwards-pass the ball to the person who passed it to you, calling out their name first

4. All About me – Fill out an ‘about me’ page, allowing students to answer questions about themselves in which they can then share with other students. Extension: complete a scrapbook and share!

5. Time Capsule – Have the students fill out a sheet, answering questions such as what they want to be when they grow up or what they want to study when they finish elementary, what they like/dislike, who their friends are, what their favorite subjects are, etc. Have them roll it up and place in a toilet paper roll, sealed at the ends and hang on the ceiling or keep in a safe place (after sharing and presenting). At the end of the year, open the rime capsule and have the students see how much they have changed. This is definitely a ‘discussion’ starter!

There are so many other activities and ideas and strategies! I am sure you all have a few of your own. Try some of these out and don’t forget to share with us! We, too, are looking for new things to do!

Start teaching through comics!

Ever heard of ‘Bitstrips’? What a fantastic ‘educational tool’ to further engage our students! Bitstrips is basically a program that allows you to create comic characters. Once your done creating your character, you can add “words, actions, emotions, add scenes and props or import pictures”  further creating an interesting and unique story line. You can also engage in hundreds of activities with your character. How does this program help your students?

  • Get students hooked on reading and writing
  • Motivate them by making homework fun
  • Spark their creativity – the possibilities for self expression are endless

Bitstrips also helps with:

-critical thinking

-visual literacy

-media literacy

– digital storytelling

-social skills

– emotion recognition


-collaboration and

-internet safety


Check it out!!! It’s such a great site that I know your students will love. I did this with both the grade 7 and 8’s last year for media literacy as an ‘end of the year’ fun activity. The students loved creating their own individual characters – adding funky hair, accessories….making it ‘unique’! From there, they chose activities and played either on their own, with a partner or as a group! Lot’s of fun!

We are all different…in our own way!

Whether you have had a student with special needs in your classroom or not, we, as teachers do understand that each student is different in their own way – from their unique learning strategies, to working at different levels and at a different pace, to having their own individual strengths, talents, as well as, weaknesses and areas of difficulty. Regardless, not only can we understand but we must also learn and know how to create a classroom in which all students can learn to the highest of THEIR learning potential. We need to educate ourselves through research, through experience and through others.

Attached is a list of just a few books that you may find helpful when teaching a student with down syndrome. From one book to the next, each share endless strategies to guide you in being the best teacher you can be for your student(s).

If you have any other resources to recommend, please let us know!


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Characteristics of Gifted Children

How many of you wondered about that student in your class?  Is he/she gifted?  How would you know?  When I was teaching grade 4, I found this list of characteristics helpful in deciding if I should nominate my students to be considered for the gifted program.  I printed this sheet out and inserted it in each student portfolio I had created and would observe to see if some of these characteristics were present.  Please note that this is not an all encompassing list and that not all of these characteristics need to be present.  I hope it helps you as it has helped me. Just click on the link below!

Characteristics of Gifted Children

The Daily 5, a complete Language Arts Program

The Daily 5 is a series of literacy tasks that a group of students complete daily while the teacher meets with small groups or confers with individuals. This book not only explains the philosophy behind the structure, but also shows us how to carefully and systematically train students to participate in each of the five components.  Explicit modeling, practice, reflecting and refining takes place during the launching phase, preparing the foundation for a year of meaningful content and instruction tailored to meet the unique needs of each child. “The Daily 5 is more than a management system or a curriculum framework – it is a structure that will help students develop the daily habits of reading, writing and working with peers that will lead to a lifetime of independent literacy.” (http://www.the2sisters.com/the_daily_5.html)

As the title expresses, it is a combination of five different tasks throughout the two-hour literacy block. Each essential task is a foundational element in literacy for the K-5 grade levels. This program allows for a change to the atmosphere in the classroom and the role for us teachers. It is a change from trying to manage students, from rushing around the room, from putting out fires, to creating routines and procedures that creates independent literacy behaviours to the point of becoming habits. Read to Self is the best way to become a better reader by practicing every day. Children are allowed to choose books that interest them at their appropriate reading level. During the implementation and training stages, children are taught how to select books at their correct reading level. Read to Someone allows for more time to practice reading strategies. This essential task helps students work on fluency, expression, to check for understanding, to hear their own voice, and to share with their partner. Work on Writing works the same way as reading, the only way students can be better writers is to write each day. Listen to Reading is a task that allows students to listen to examples of good literature and fluent reading. This task allows students to expand their vocabulary and become better readers. The last of the essential tasks is Spelling Word Work.This task allows for consistent practice in spelling which aids in fluent writing and the ability to quickly write thoughts down on paper. These tasks are to be done daily and students are given a half-hour within each task. They rotate between the tasks, but what the most important factor of this system is the choice that students have. Eventually, when all is implemented, students will have the ability to select which task they wish to start with and which one he/she goes to next (as long as all five tasks are done within the day). In order for this system to work smoothly there are six core foundations to make it successful. Trusting students is the first. This is not a blind trust but a method to build behaviors gradually through lessons and guided practice. Providing choice is the second core foundation. Choice is extremely motivating and allows the student to be in charge of his or her own learning. Third is a nurturing community. This foundation will create a sense of community thus providing members (the students) with ownership to hold others accountable for behaviors of effort, learning order and kindness. Next is the core foundation of creating a sense of urgency. This foundation will empower kids by allowing them the opportunity to understand why we teach a certain idea or concept. A purpose along with a choice will give the student the motivation to keep persevering and keep on task. The next very important core foundation is the building of stamina. This correlates to the constructivist theory. For the program to be successful, children must commence slowly, a minute at a time thus providing them with a teacher who will lay the foundation for success, support them, cheer them on, and help them succeed. Should this not be done, students will become frustrated and failure is imminent. Last but not least is that the teacher must stay out of the way. This is extremely important because the teacher must display trust and must allow students the opportunity to make their own decisions and monitor him or herself.

I feel that the concept of the Daily 5 is greatly beneficial as students are really capable and if we work with them, we can truly empower them to be active participants in their learning process. The task is a great one, and there is a lot of preparatory work. The Daily 5 does allow for more control overall, and it does dissuade behavioural issues within a classroom. The program fosters a comfortable environment where desks are the furthest requirements. A couch and lounge chairs are more appropriate. This is a complete detachment from the current state of classrooms. It is a fresh approach which requires a 2 hour block of literacy. The five essential tasks are an excellent foundation to literacy. I must stress that this is a complete change in mindset but a successful one. Some school boards have begun to adopt the Daily 5, providing teachers the support and the resources to implement the program. Should you choose to take on this system there are many websites that support your implementation. I hope you find the Daily 5 useful and the following websites to help you start.




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