Monthly Archives: December 2013

Organizing Toys at Home

My children Keelyn and William were very lucky this Christmas and received many new toys.  No duplicates and things that they both are genuinely interested in a lot of cross over things that they can enjoy together.  We are appreciative towards our family and friends.  It was quite a large pile of gifts though but that’s what happens when you have large families.  I decided to deal with organizing and putting away the toys right away.  It’s one of those tasks that the longer you leave it the more tedious the job seems to be.  It also helps that I was consistently motivated by two little ones that kept requesting I “open it, open it!”

The kids have their own playroom space on the second floor just outside of Wililam’s room it is not a large space but we are very grateful for it.  It’s painted a nice bright kid friendly green (not like the yellow you see in the photo).  The organization is simple.  Ikea shelves with bins, a small shelf which sections off the “house centre” as my kids say.  And a low Ikea table that actually a TV stand but we use it as a building/puzzle table because the kids can sit on it, in front of it and there’s a shelf where we store puzzles under.  Sometimes this table even acts as a stage! I organized the dress up clothes on the large shelf.  My husband removed one of the “cubes” and then I used the 3M sticky hooks so that clothes could be hung.  We also have a chest and bin of accessories.

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Looking in the playroom. It is NOT this yellow!

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I LOVE how the dress up clothes hang

Anyway the space is pretty simple and well organized so fitting in a pile of new things was going to be tricky.  I also know from my Kindergarten teaching experience that the key to keeping kids engaged with toys is to swap them out every so often. And less is more!  I’m sure you’ve had to manage the play space once every toy had been dumped not fun.  I try to swap toys the first Saturday of the month but that hasn’t been happening lately so I needed a system.  I went to the dollar store and purchased a ton of bins and baskets all toys were then opened up and placed inside a basket or a bin with a lid.  Some bins went on playroom shelves, some on a shelf we have downstairs in our family room and the rest inside the playroom closet (yes our playroom has a closet it’s amazing).  This way when it’s toy swapping day it’s literally a matter of pulling out new bins and rotating between the two spaces.  It also makes tidy up really easy especially since Keelyn and William are use to Kindergarten and Daycare toys being organized in this manner.  My next step is to make labels for each bin which will make tidy up time really easy!

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The closet games on the top so William can’t reach them down 🙂

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Just for fun our playroom rules! Wall Decal ordered from ETSY from seller LucyLews

Holiday Gift

Warning: If you are the parent of a child in our class you need to stop reading.  You may return after December 25th to read this post.

Phew, now that we’ve straightened that out I can share with you what I had my students make for their holiday gift for their families.  Please don’t roll your eyes that I’m calling it a holiday gift instead of a Christmas gift.  I’m not trying to be politically correct but the truth is not all of the children in our class celebrate Christmas and we work hard to be inclusive so holiday it is!

Anyway I needed something different than my usuals as I’ve had a few of these kids when I taught Kindergarten.  Of course I turned to good old Pinterest I wanted a gift that would be beautiful, an ornament that could be hung on a tree, door or window.  I also didn’t want to spend a lot of money but rather use the craft resources I had at school.  I came across a stained glue snowflake from Holiday Crafts and Creations and I knew it was perfect. Not only did I have all of the materials the site had easy to follow step-by-step instructions for m and the children.

It was a multi-step multi day gift and I knew it would be a challenge for some of them but I also knew that my kids are always up for a good challenge.  I’m not going to repeat the directions because you can check out the link but I will share the results.  The snowflakes were gorgeous.  The kids yet again felt really proud of their accomplishments.  I can’t wait for families to open their gifts.  Hopefully some of them give me some feedback.  

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Speaking of gifts the families were very, very generous this year for Christmas.  Basically, I was spoiled.  Thank you to my awesome 3B parents and families you rock and it’s my pleasure teaching your children.

Check out this super adorable earrings.  The card that went with them made me teary!

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Today was #geniushour Trial Day

Today was the final day before the Christmas Break.  If you work in a school or with children then you know that it’s a pretty crazy day.  The children are so excited and it’s really difficult to get them to focus on any tasks.  I’ve done the movie and popcorn on the last day, free time activities, games day.  All which are pretty special things that the students enjoy but I wanted to end our 2013 on a real high.  If you ask any of the students in the class what is their favourite thing about school they will likely tell you genius time.  So I knew I had to something big with genius time.

My initial plan was to just let them go ahead and make their projects.  But my wonderful colleague and husband Phil Young had his students engage in a genius time day and while it was a really positive learning experience for the students a few were left frustrated because they used their material to “practice” on but didn’t have successful results in the way that they wanted.  With this in mind I realized that many of my students may not have ever baked, or sewn so that’s when I came up with Genius Trial Day.  Basically I would supply the materials and group the students by similar topic.  This left me with Bakers, Sewers, Builders, Gamers.  I had a small handful of miscellaneous students but I let them join whichever group they wished.  The groups had a component of working together (some more than others) and had specific materials and a set of instructions to follow.  I expected to be really torn between the groups and frantic as I had raced between helping.  But that wasn’t the case at all.  The builders and gamers didn’t need me at all.  Once I set the bakers up with reading and following  a recipe and then how to properly fill a measuring cup and use the mixer they were good.  The sewers felt frustrated at first but once they got the technique down they didn’t need me either.  Except for the odd rethread.  Having Mr. Edwards there was a huge help too.  The room was busy, and a bit loud but not out of control loud.  The buzz was a happy classroom community of students working together and creating something that they were all very proud of!

The Bakers

Their task was to bake chocolate chip cookies.  Their recipe was easy and they organized themselves in an order to make sure they all had a fair share of the process.  When it was their recess time they all decided to stay in and help me take their cookies to the staff room to bake and wash up the dishes.  I don’t think I’ve even seen a group of 8 year olds so excited to bake.  The smell wafting from the oven was amazing and they looked great!  They tasted exactly as a chocolate chip cookie should.  Right texture, right colour they were delicious.  The smile on the Bakers faces was priceless they were so proud of themselves.  

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The Sewers

Their task was to create a mini stuffy out of a simple shape. I first had the students do practice stitches on scraps of fabric to get the hang of it.  I purposely used stripped fabric so they could follow along a strip and told them to make their stitches not larger than 1cm (use their pinky nail as a guide).  Once they had finished their practice they had to draw their shape on a newsprint, cut it out, trace it twice with a sharpie onto felt, cut out their felt and begin to sew their pieces together.  Their instructions said to leave a thumb sized hole to stuff and then stitch closed.  It was tricky for them at first and a bit of frustration but they really got the hang of it.  Some of the sewers even made a second project.  

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The Builders

They didn’t need me… at all. They split into two groups of 2 and  their task was to create a lego maze.  They had some initial planning and part of their instructions was to use kidrex (safe search engine powered by google) to search images of lego mazes.  At first I asked them to use grid paper to plan out their maze but at the last minute I told them to forget it and just build.  I’m so glad I did because they came up with really imaginative complex mazes.  One was Zombie Apocalypse maze complete with little red lego zombies.  The other had moving parts that could seal of accesses to the maze at any time.  One of my students who is usually a reluctant learner was totally focused, engaged and immersed in the task so much that he was disappointed it was recess time.  Normally he’s the first to jump up and get to the door when the bell rings.  The other students when they had the chance to see what the builders were up to were amazed.

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The Gamers

Admittedly I may have ignored the gamers but they REALLY didn’t need me.  They had such a blast and they were creating games and sharing their games with one another and laughing and talking and it was lovely.  The best part is the group consisted of three boys who are friends but don’t make great choices together and a fourth that doesn’t normally get along with the other 3.  I was secretly happy that I could ignore them because they were collaborating beautifully I kind of didn’t want to wreck their momentum.  The gamers created games using the iPad mini’s and an app called Sketch Nation. I first instructed them to use simple mode and then go onto advanced.  They rocked it.  For their actual projects I know they all want to create games and apps but I”m not 100% where to go with it but looking for suggestions for sure! 

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I for sure got my wish.  To end the first part of our 2013 grade 3 year on a high.  If you can only imagine the amount of fun AND learning that was going on on the last day of school before Christmas break you’d be totally floored.  I can’t wait to see what these guys come up with for their individual projects.  

Are the Boys Welcome in Your Room?

Another really well thought out blog entry by one of my favourite bloggers.

One thing I love about being hospitalized (the little baby is trying to make her appearance 10 weeks early) is that I get to speak to all of the incredible nurses that take care of me.  Once they find out I am a teacher the conversations always get even better and today was no different.  We discussed the topic of boys in the elementary classroom, and particularly how female teachers can create boy inviting classrooms.  As this is something near and dear to me, I thought I would offer up a few ideas of how to get boys to feel welcome in our classrooms, or any kid really.

  • Realize the damage of cute.  Angela Watson had a great post that started a huge debate on whether classrooms should be cute or not.  While I don’t mind cute at all I do try to look at classroom decor from…

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Social Studies Inquiry Day

Last week was our Social Studies Inquiry project day.  After working in our library learning commons space for 2 periods it became very clear that I needed to give the students a really big chunk of time in order to put their projects together.  So I told all the students that Wednesday would be Social Studies Inquiry Project day.  The kids were so excited I think of few of them responded with “it’s going to be like free time all day”.  I told them that I would provide all the materials they needed to put projects together but if they wanted anything special (e.g. glitter, stickers, colour pictures etc.) they would need to bring them in.  (Note: If you do not wish your classroom to look like a glitter bomb went off specify that the kids bring glitter glue not loose glitter).  Anyway when project day arrived I had the kids set straight to work.  I’m not going to lie it was madness and I was a little stressed out.  You already know about the glitter but there was paper scraps all over, plasticine mushed into the tiles, puddles of glue spilt all over, pencils, pencil crayons and erasers littered on every surface.  Pretty much chaos but organized creative chaos.  In the moment I had a hard time seeing the creative productive side.  I was caught up in the mess, the noise and the fact that every 30 seconds I was being pulled in one direction to the next, “can you print this Ms. Lewis-Young” or “My iPad isn’t working” and “I can’t find my glue stick lid” and even the good old “I don’t know what to do!”  I actually starting thinking to myself that the whole inquiry based learning was a nightmare and that I was never going to do it again.  I felt like I had failed.  We’ve spent so many hours learning how to ask good questions, seek out the big ideas, fine tune our questions, research answers and now this mass chaos?  They weren’t even taking it seriously just making a big huge disaster.  Or so I thought in the moment.  I asked them to line up at the door as we would take our projects to the room across the hall (an empty room) to store so they could dry.  Normally getting my class to line up can be like herding cats but they all lined up with the biggest smiles on their faces and projects in hands.  It was then at that moment that I really began to see what they had done.  Big beautiful posters, 3D plasticine models, sets for news reports all 100% kid thought of, created and crafted. I got a little bit teary because I was so proud of them and disappointed at myself all at the same time.  They had really come through and yes created a huge mess in the mean time but messes can always be cleaned.  The learning and experience that the students were given was worth it.  Every single student produced something.  Even students who are normally reluctant to work.  Pretty amazing!  I’m 100% bought into the Inquiry Based learning experience and will be running my Social Studies and Science programs 100% in this way.  I can’t wait to see how they share their projects now.

Sharing ideas and materials to create their posters

Sharing ideas and materials to create their posters

More collaboration going on

More collaboration going on

Finishing up their research using the iPads

Finishing up their research using the iPads

Using plasticine to create a 3D model

Using plasticine to create a 3D model

T's 3D model of a green space within an urban community

T’s 3D model of a green space within an urban community

S's has shared ideas how people can help keep their community and environment clean

S’s has shared ideas how people can help keep their community and environment clean

 

Close up of how Weather has an impact

Close up of how Weather has an impact

Back drop for A's video she is going to film on how weather affects where we live

Back drop for A’s video she is going to film on how weather affects where we live

Look at how gorgeous this poster is!

Look at how gorgeous this poster is!

Look out Ellen!  M has the jokes, confidence and skills to create a smash talk show!

Look out Ellen! M has the jokes, confidence and skills to create a smash talk show!

To Read or Not to Read: The Parenting Question

Really thought provoking blog post. Should we edit/censor what we read to our children and students?

Bound and Gagged

A friend of mine sent this article my way. It’s a parent’s reflection on another parent’s choice to censor Harry Potter as she reads it aloud to her five-year-old son.

http://bookriot.com/2013/11/11/folly-child-proofing-harry-potter/

I highly recommend checking it out because this article brings up some excellent points. First off, if you find yourself so concerned about the material in a book (or anything else) that you have to constantly edit it, don’t read it. Give it a few years. Harry Potter will still be there when the child in question is six or seven or even eight. Secondly, the article points out that this is not about the child’s discomfort, but the parent’s.

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A Mommy Keelyn Day

Today I was home from work with my sick little girl.  She was sick through the night and in the morning when I had to make the decision to send her to school or stay home with her the answer was clear.  Poor little button!  But I’m sure all of you can identify the need to be with your mama when you are feeling that way.  My 6:30am riser slept in until 9:30 and then asked to be relocated to the couch.  She tried to be up a few times but it didn’t last long as she told me she was feeling dizzy.  A few movies later (thank you Netflix) and lots of snuggles she had started to perk up and that’s when I could see the boredom creep in.  A quick Pinterest search later and I found a fast and easy salt dough recipe  ornament that had 3 simple ingredients, flour, salt, warm water.  I knew this would be perfect for my recovering 4 year old as she was doing somersaults on the couch.  She could measure, pour, mix the ingredients independently and then use her mad playdough skills to roll and cut.    She came up with the idea to make it colourful.  She said purple and pink but I convinced her that red and green would be more Christmasy.  It’s also a no-bake we just put them on parchment on the island to dry.  We made 2 batches and it made about 30 ornaments. I think I might try this out with my students too! In a few days once they are fully dry  her and her little brother William will paint them.

A simple, quick and easy gift for all of her Great Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents and a super fast boredom buster!  I think I’ll try it again sometime but show her how to roll balls and make snowman sculptures!

This was her favourite part!  My 4 year old loves to get her hands dirty!

This was her favourite part! My 4 year old loves to get her hands dirty!

It has a really nice consistency. Very soft and easy to knead for small little hands!

It has a really nice consistency. Very soft and easy to knead for small little hands!

When I asked her if I could help her answer was "No mommy I know how to do this!"

When I asked her if I could help her answer was “No mommy I know how to do this!”