A New Year, A New Beginning!

New Year New BeginningAs we start preparing to return to our classrooms, we fully understand that in some ways this is a completely fresh start.  Once we get back to our classrooms, we need to start delineating our rules, our objectives and also our expectations.  Granted most students have not forgotten completely what our classroom expectations are but still need to be reminded by clear communication.  At the beginning of the year, we suggested that students have personal learning goals set.  Check out our TeachHub article on setting goals, we provided a lesson plan along with a strategy and student forms where students can set up and work for their goals.  If you have done this throughout the year thus far, then this would be a great time to assess what new strategies are needed to obtain that goal or identify a new one.  If you have not, then a new year can mean a new beginning.  Harness that spirit of renewal and help students focus on their goals once again.  Make time for this in your first week back as it will help students re-connect with their own learning goals and help re-focus students on their academics!

The Tuesday 12: 12 Ways to Build Classroom Community on the First Day of School (or any time really)!

In this week’s edition of The Tuesday 12, we’ll look at different ways to build classroom community on the first day of school.  Here in Ontario, school does not begin until Tuesday, September 4; however, some of you may already be back with your students!  These activities are great on the first day of school, but they can really be used any day of the year!

1. Student Scavenger Hunt

Create a handout for students to fill in with their favourite items, such as favourite sport, colour, movie, school subject, song.  Once students fill in their favourites, they are to mix and mingle around the room to find other students in the class that listed the same favourite items!

2. Class Code of Conduct

Many teachers have a class set of rules posted somewhere in their classroom for their students to follow.  What about creating the classroom rules with your students on the first day of school?  As a community, create a Class Code of Conduct by brainstorming the positive behaviors that everyone will strive for throughout the year.  Once the code is written, have everyone in the class (teacher included!) to sign their name together.  This is a very powerful activity to let all students know that we are collectively responsible for our behaviors and successes.

3. Class Quilt

Grab some leftover white fabric and cut it into squares to create a beautiful class quilt!  The size of the quilt patches is up to you, but I’ve found that an 10 inch x 10 inch piece works best.  Each student receives a patch and they use markers and pencil crayons to decorate the quilt piece to illustrate their personalities, hobbies, interests, and goals for the year.  The patches are then sewn together (or even stapled if you can’t sew!) and displayed on the classroom wall like a tapestry.  It’s a beautiful creation that can then be given to a student on the last day of school (one year we gave it to a student who was moving away, while other years we chose a name at random).

4. It’s All in the Bag!

Fill a paper bag with 5-10 items that represent who you are and share them with your students along with a brief description of why each item is important to you.  Students love to find out this kind of info about their teachers!  Have students do the same activity by bringing in a paper bag filled with their own items the next day to present to the class.

5. We All Fit Together

Similar to the classroom quilt, this activity has students decorating a puzzle piece and then all pieces are put together to create a completed classroom puzzle to show how everyone in the class is connected!  Click here for the activity!

6. Class Slogan, Name, Cheer, or Song!

Make your class stand out by coming up with a class slogan, cheer, or song that is unique to your students!

7. Read All About it!

Share a great book with your students! There are so many books to help students learn to work together, appreciate/accept their differences, and celebrate their community.  Check out Lisa’s post about “The Name Jar” for some great ideas!

8. Acrostic Poems

Here’s a great lesson plan to follow up on “The Name Jar” or to use as a stand alone activity.  Students write creative acrostic poems to represent their names and characteristics.  Have students present the poems in small groups or to the whole class.

9. Here’s Introducing….

Usually students are asked to introduce themselves to the class by talking about their summer vacations, hobbies, or favourites.  Put a twist on this activity by pairing off students and have them introduce each other!  Give students about 2 minutes to talk to their partner and learn three things about them.  Next, have each pair of students introduce their partner to the rest of the class!  I find that this helps the shy students, as they may not like to introduce themselves to the class, but may be willing to introduce a partner.

10. Group Artwork

Check out these awesome collaborative artworks!  Each student in the class receives a pre-cut paper to decorate and then all the pieces come together to form a larger work of art.  Beautiful!

Source: Art at Becker Middle School

Source: Mrs. Werner’s Art Room

11. Classroom Roles!

Students should understand that they are part of a community and each person in a community has a role to play.  Here’s Lisa’s post on creating classroom jobs for students, so that each student is accountable for keeping the classroom healthy, organized, and safe!

12. Community Circle

Have students sit around in a circle (either whole class or in small groups to break the ice) and have each person share an idea on a given topic.  For example, the teacher could ask everyone to share one goal they have for the year, something they look forward to doing this year, their favourite summer memory…the list is endless!  This Community Circle can continue throughout the year to help students share ideas, discuss important topics, and share experiences!


Good luck to everyone going back to school in the next few days!
For those of you already back in school, we hope the new school year has started out great!

Teaching the Middle Grades

As all teachers, we are constantly learning and developing our knowledge.  I have recently purchased a book I would like to share with you all. 

Day One and Beyond: Practical Matters for New Middle Level Teachers by Rick Wormeli


As the title states it is based on Middle school or Junior/Intermediate grades.  What I truly enjoyed about this book is that it does not deal with instruction per se.  It is everything around instruction that we as middle school teachers do or need to do.  This is a great foundational book about how to succeed in this grade level if you are a starting teacher, new to the grade level or in your first few years of teaching this grade level.  It provides the reader with teaching strategies in every chapter but it also helps you answer questions such as “what you are to do the first day of school, how to set up your grade book, how to discipline middle aged students and how to get their attention” (pg. 3).


I was fascinated when I first found this book as these were the questions I wanted answered.  I know many of us do professional development reading,  but this one I feel is a true book about the How and not the What of teaching! 


One of my favorite quotes from this book are : “If you have successfully eliminated from your vocabulary all words and phrases which could be construed as having anything to do with pubescent body parts or things those parts could do with each other – such as nut, ball, melon, jug, crack, hard, soft, limp, rubber, bone, French, stick, stroke, whack, poke, bang, feel, lick, insert, suck,  or blow – then you most definitely are a middle school teacher.”  (p.8)


Rick Wormeli truly catches the essence of our teaching experiences and guides us onto paths of success.  It is an all-encompassing book that helps us deal with everything from classroom set up to parents.  Click on the link to be able to purchase the book.


I hope you enjoy it as much as I have! Let us know what you have found interesting and worthwhile with this read.



The Tuesday 12: 12 Great Poems for Back to School!

In this week’s edition of The Tuesday 12, we’ll be looking at seasonal poetry…12 fantastic poems to begin the new school year!  There is a wide variety in the complexity of poems listed here, so choose the ones that would be best for your students.


1.I Love Fall (author unknown)

I love fall! Fall is exciting.
It’s apples and cider.
It’s an airborne spider.
It’s pumpkins in bins.
It’s burrs on dog’s chins.
It’s wind blowing leaves.
It’s chilly red knees.
It’s nuts on the ground.
It’s a crisp dry sound.
It’s green leaves turning
And the smell of them burning.
It’s clouds in the sky.
It’s fall. That’s why…
I love fall.

2. Lining Up (author unknown) (so many great freebies on this site for kindergarten and primary teachers!)

Every time I get in line,
I stand so straight and tall;
I keep my arms down by my side,
I do not move at all.
My head is facing forward,
My eyes look straight ahead;
My lips are closed, my eyes are open,
Listening to what is said.

3. School by Winifred C. Marshall

School bells are ringing, loud and clear;
Vacation’s over, school is here.
We hunt our pencils and our books,
And say goodbye to fields and brooks,
To carefree days of sunny hours,
To birds and butterflies and flowers.
But we are glad school has begun.
For work is always mixed with fun.
When autumn comes and the weather is cool,
Nothing can take the place of school.

4. School by anitapoems.com

School is something,
we must all embrace.
Knowledge we need,
to seek out and chase.

Subjects and teaching styles,
are plentiful and vary.
Just like the backpacks,
we all need to carry.

Sports, clubs, and activities,
at every single turn.
So much to do,
study and learn.

To get the most from school,
we should consistently attend.
Around each corner,
there’s always a friend.

Our favorite teachers,
are friendly and kind.
Their passion and job,
to expand every mind.

School is something,
we must all embrace.
Just remember to learn,
at your own pace.

5. Now by Prince Redcloud

Close the bar-b-que
Close the sun
Close the home-run-games we won
Close the picnic
Close the pool
Close the summer
Open school

6. Welcome Back to School A Funny School Poem for Kids by Kenn Nesbitt

“Dear students, the summer has ended.
The school year at last has begun.
But this year is totally different.
We’re going to only have fun.
“We won’t study any mathematics,
and recess will last all day long.
Instead of the pledge of allegiance,
we’ll belt out a rock-and-roll song.
“We’ll only play games in the classroom.
You’re welcome to bring in your toys.
It’s okay to run in the hallways.
It’s great if you make lots of noise.
“For homework, you’ll play your Nintendo.
You’ll have to watch lots of T.V.
For field trips we’ll go to the movies
and get lots of candy for free.
“The lunchroom will only serve chocolate
and triple fudge sundaes supreme.”
Yes, that’s what I heard from my teacher
before I woke up from my dream.

7.  The Man Who Thinks He Can by Walter D. Wintle (bit of controversy surrounding author)

If you think you are beaten, you are;
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you’d like to win, but think you can’t
It’s almost a cinch you won’t
If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,
For out in the world we find
Success begins with a fellow’s will;
It’s all in the state of mind.
If you think you’re outclassed, you are.
You’ve got to think high to rise.
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man;
But sooner or later the man who wins
Is the one who thinks he can.

8.  Introducing a New ME! by Kalli Dakos (so many great poems to check out!)

There’s a new ME this year,
An on-time ME,
A clean-desk ME,
A first-to-hand-in-assignments ME,
A listens-in-class-to-the-teacher ME,
A teacher’s-pet-for-the-first-time-in-my-life ME,
An-always-willing-to-be-good-and help-out ME,
A dead-serious-get-the-work-done-and-hand-it-in
Before-it’s-due ME.
The problem is
The new ME
Is not like ME
At all.

9. You Can Be Whatever You Want To Be! by Donna Levine

There is inside you
all of the potential
to be whatever you want to be,
all of the energy
to do whatever you want to do.

Imagine yourself as you would like to be,
doing what you want to do,
and each day, take one step
towards your dream.

And though at times it may seem too
difficult to continue,
hold on to your dream.

One morning you will awake to find
that you are the person you dreamed of,
doing what you wanted to do,
simply because you had the courage
to believe in your potential
and to hold on to your dream.

10. Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.

11. The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

12. What Constitutes Success by Bessie Stanley (click to read about the background of this poem)

He has achieved success who has lived well,
laughed often and loved much;
who has gained the respect of intelligent men
and the love of little children;
who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
who has left the world better than he found it,
whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
who has never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty
or failed to express it;
who has always looked for the best in others
and given them the best he had;
whose life was an inspiration;
whose memory a benediction.

Mathematics Quick Question Packs

Have you set up your packages yet?  Here are two more that you cannot do without.  One focuses on Algebraic Expressions and the other on Subtraction.  These together with the Addition and Multiples, Factors and Ratio ones, you have17 days of quick questions along with the answers!  

You could use these packs as a way to help students settle and focus during transition times, you could create math centers with these packages, you can use them as reviews for tests, or an aid to access prior knowledge.  The options are endless.   

Each page is specifically designed to take students between 2 – 5 minutes, and an answer key is also provided for you!  Pick them all up and stay tuned for more packages to come your way!

How will you use these packs?  Share your thoughts, and different uses!

We All Fit Together: A Fun Community Building Activity for Your Students!

Whether you are already back with your students or still preparing your classroom for the new school year, we have the perfect activity to help connect your students!

In this activity, each student receives a puzzle piece that they are to decorate with their names, personality traits, hobbies, favorite items, and any other symbols they’d like to add. All the student puzzle pieces then come together to form one, interconnected class puzzle that fits together beautifully! Teachers can have discussions with students regarding similarities, differences, uniqueness, community, respect, and diversity. Students can present their puzzle piece and look for commonalities among their classmates. Also included is a puzzle piece with community building words, such as “diversity,” “respect,” etc to help remind students that they are part of one classroom community. The completed puzzle is then displayed on the wall or bulletin board for all to admire.

A great first day of school activity or an awesome community building activity that’s perfect for any time of the year! An effective team-building activity for any age and any grade level!

Just click on the image below to be brought to our TPT store!