More about Names!

Here’s a follow up activity in connection to my previous post about ‘Name Jar’. This activity simply helps students get to know their peers and you, the teacher, through an acrostic poem describing who we are and what our name means! As an extension to the activity, you can either have the students present to the class or in small groups/partners. You can even design a set of questions for students to ask their peers when presenting their poems! Again, this is just a great activity to begin the year with. What better way to begin the year then getting to know each other by name and the story behind our name!




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!


Disclosure: This post contains an Amazon Associate link

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!

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!

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!

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