Saturday, 7 January 2017

Setting Up Classroom Rules and Expectations

Setting up classroom rules and expectations is an essential part of everyone's 'Back to School' routine. A classroom environment with clear expectations will help your year run smoothly and save you a lot of headaches!

For the past two years, I have set up my expectations in an explicit way which teaches students the expected behaviours for each. I love this system because I find it's very easy to slip into the trap of throwing phrases around such as 'Please work safely', but do students really know what that means? Unless we teach students how they can demonstrate this behaviour, then we can't expect a change or expect them to demonstrate it.

Here are 3 tips for setting up your classroom expectations;

1. Positively Worded Expectations
Expectations are set up in a positive way in an affirmation format. Positively worded phrases help establish and maintain a positive classroom environment. Rule reminders are easy; "Remember, in our class we listen to each other". I have these hung up on my 'Super Students Wall' for easy reference.

Find this here

2. Explicit Teaching - Teach expected behaviours
For each expectation, I made up a social story, which explicitly explained the ways in which students can demonstrate these expectations. Here's an example from 'We listen to each other'.

Find this here.
Students are given examples of what they need to be doing in order to be listening; they need to wait until someone has finished speaking, look at the person, keep their body still and think about what is being said. While we might think these are basic skills that they should already come to school with, we cannot assume that this is true. Each student is different and comes to school with different experiences. Teach what you want to see!

Here are some examples from the other expectations;

Find the bundle, here.

When introducing these, I focus on one expectation a day. It becomes our behaviour goal and I remind students that I am looking for students who can do it. When I see students demonstrating the behaviour, I give specific feedback e.g. "I like the way you are moving safely by walking to the floor" or "I like the way you are taking turns by giving the toy to _____". Children love praise/acknowledgment and you'll find that other students will start doing the same in order to receive the praise too.

3. Ownership
Giving students ownership is important too. An activity which builds ownership is student booklets.
Students can colour and decorate to make the booklet their own. They can be kept in chair bags, tote trays or book boxes for when they need to be referred back to. Alternatively, they can be taken home to be read and discussed with parents.

I like using these books during reflection time. Ask students "What do you need to be doing?" "What can you do next time?".

These three things should help ensure your classroom runs smoothly. Remember, expectations shouldn't just be a start of the year thing. They should be referred to as often as the need arises. If you want to see something, teach it!

I hope this post has inspired you in setting up your classroom expectations.

If you are interested in the bundle, you can find it here. It includes 7 expectation booklets and 7 student booklets.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Name Activities for Beginning of the Year

I can't believe it's 2017 already! For Australian teachers, this means that there is now only 3 weeks until the start of the new school year! Where oh where did the time go?

I've been starting to prepare some new activities to start the year off. One of the essential centers in my room for the first few weeks is a name center. Some students come to school already knowing how to spell and write their names, but a majority do not.

One of the activities that I've been using for years is the typical "trace and write" which involves students tracing their names and then having a go at writing it themselves. This is done on a laminated paper with a whiteboard marker.

This activity is great for students practising the motion of writing. However, I wanted something different that would target letter recognition and spelling. So I created these activities...

Caterpillar Names

In this activity, students build their name by finding the letters on their name card and putting them in order.

Letter recognition, text direction AND spelling targeted in the one activity. Win!

You can find this activity here.

Ice Cream Names

This is the same concept as the caterpillar game. However, students are building an ice cream from top to bottom. Once they have checked that their name is spelled correctly, they can place the topping on their ice cream.

You can find this activity here.

The best part about these two activities? They focus on the same skill but because they have different pictures, your students won't get bored of them!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Teacher Planner

It's that time of the year when I should be relaxing, but instead, I'm thinking abut next year. Isn't that the case for everyone? :P

One of my "must have" products for every year is a Teacher Planner. They're better than a standard diary because of the planning pages. However, most of the time I find that there are pages that I have no use for and then the pages that I want are not included. So this year, I decided to take the leap and make my own planner and I think it worked out pretty well.

Here are 10 reasons why I love my new planner - and you will too!

1) It's bright and modern!

If I have to look at this every day for the year, I need it to be visually appealing. Also being bright means it is harder to lose on my desk ;)

2) It has a 'Year at a Glance'

I find this more useful than the yearly calendar as I can write in the important dates for each month rather than circling a date and then forgetting why I circled it later on.

3) Birthdays and Class List

You'd be surprised how many times you randomly need these pieces of information. Saves time as I can just flip open to these pages rather than going on the computer to search.

4) Professional Development Tracker

Won't be losing this log anytime soon! (well unless I lose my diary :P)

5) Award Tracker

This is the only tracking sheet I like to keep in my diary, this helps ensure that every student receives an award by the end of the year. I like to divide it up by school terms and by award type.

6) It is divided up into Australian school terms

I've always had to use sticky notes to divide up my diary, but not anymore because it's done for me! Also #igotthis because this should be everyone's mantra at the start of a new school year!

7) It has a term overview

This can be used for curriculum topics or important days throughout the term. I like to map out both. 

8) Weekly pages on a double page spread

This is pretty standard across all planners. I like seeing the week planned out as a whole. The notes part on the side is a great place to make a to-do list.

9) It can be used YEAR AFTER YEAR

I haven't put any dates or years in my diary. Instead, I can handwrite it in the spaces provided. 

10) It is EDITABLE

I can duplicate or remove pages when needed. I can also type in whatever I need.

I can't wait to print and bind it. I'm feeling super organised already :D

You can get your own copy from my TPT store by clicking the picture below.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Keeping Centers Under Control

Center work happens in my classroom every day. Together, my students and I have been working pretty hard on our routine since the beginning of the year. At this stage of the year, most of my students have grasped the concept of working independently. Though, there are still a few students who need extra guidance. I'm going to share my top 3 tips that have had results :)

#1 - Noise Meter
These have been around for a while but they are very effective!

Here are my two favourites;

These tools both work the same way, they use your computer's microphone to pick up on the noise level and the graphics on the screen move depending on how noisy the students are.

I have been using Calm Counter. Students must keep the arrow out of the red zone. This has been a major help in keeping the noise level down during center time. As it is real time, students are provided with instant feedback on how noisy they are. It also means that they can monitor the level themselves rather than have me tell them to work quietly. Win!

There are also apps for iPads and smartphones which can be Air Played but I have not used them yet.

#2 - Good Choices and Poor Choices Sort
 Setting up expected behaviour choices is a must. I created a 'Good Choices' and 'Poor Choices' sorting activity with behaviours I had seen. As a class, we sat down and sorted these behaviours. I then stuck them on a coloured card to make a chart that is now displayed at the front of the room during center time.

I refer to this chart when needed. "What choice were you making? what choice should you be making?"

Check this out at my TPT store by clicking here or clicking on the image below.

#3 - Clip Chart
I know this has become a 'controversial' issue but I still have a clip chart in my room. I use this as a motivational tool.

Before we start our centers, I remind students that I am looking for students who are working hard, making good choices, working quietly, sharing and trying their best. At the end of the session, I go through and praise students and move them up the chart. When praising, I make sure I give specific feedback e.g. "I like the way x, was turning the pages carefully at the reading table". By giving specific feedback, it shows the students that I am watching what they are up to even though it appears that I am busy with my group. At the end of the day, students at the top of the chart are rewarded with Dojo Points. I also make sure to emphasise that those students who didn't move up or moved down still have a chance to move up in the next session. Positivity is key!

You can check out my Clip Chart by clicking here, or by clicking on the image below.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Saturday, 5 March 2016

My Favourite Center Activities - Beginning of the Year

Centers are a big part of our day, they keep students occupied while I work with my guided groups. Carefully chosen centers allow students to work on skills taught in guided groups in a fun way.

Here are some of my favourite centers for the beginning of the year.

Make a Pizza
I have a numeral and alphabet versions. The can be found in my Beginning of the Year Centers pack.

In this activity, students make a pizza by matching the ingredients to the pizza base. This is a great way for students to consolidate their matching skills as well build familiarity with numerals and letters.

This is probably one of my most popular games. I even get requests for this game from my fast finishers :)

Clip A Word
Click here to find it on TPT.

In this activity, students pick a card and use pegs to 'clip' the letters that match. This helps with fine motor and letter recognition.

Number Tracing
Click here to find it on TPT.

In this activity, students trace over the numerals with a whiteboard marker. I love this activity because I feel that we spend a lot of time emphasising letter formation that we forget about numeral formation. So working on our numeral formation during guided maths groups is a great way to slip it into our daily routine.

Matching Trains

For this activity, you can use these ten frame trains and unifix cubes. Alternatively, you can use a printed ten frame or an egg carton.

Students match the unifix cubes by colour to create 'passengers' for the train.

Duplo Letters and Numbers
The number cards can be found here and letters can be found here.

These have been a huge hit with my students. They love showing me the letters/numerals that they make :)

ChickaBoom Tweeze

This awesome mat can be found here, from My Fabulous Class.

In this activity, students use tweezers to pick letters and see if it matches the letters on their board. Once again a great activity for matching, fine motor and letter recognition.

Pipe Cleaner Letters and Numbers

In this activity, students use pipe cleaners to make letter and numbers. This activity helps students develop strength in their fingers through manipulating the pipe cleaner.

Pegboard Numbers

These pegboard cards can be found here.

Students use the pins to copy the number onto the pegboard.


This is a simple activity that works with anything. All you need is a sorting tray and some tweezers. Students use tweezers to put the objects into groups. Students can sort by colour, shape, size, etc.

Hopefully you have found some inspiration on here. Got any ideas to share? Let me know through email or comment below :)

Enjoy your weekend!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Sight Word Tracking & Assessing

Keeping track of sight words has been a lot easier with my Sight Word Track & Assess tool.
Click on the picture above to check it out on TPT.

There are three different ways this can be used;

1) Track on a whole class sheet
2) Track on individual assessment sheets
3) Track on a whole class sheet and an individual sheet

I prefer doing option 3. Yes, it means more work for me, but it means that at the end of the year, I'll have a sheet which I can pass onto the next teacher so that they don't have to start again from scratch. It also means I can easily see trends on the whole class sheet to plan my guided sessions.

Here's a peek at whats included in the pack;

Whole class tracking sheet
Boxes are highlighted when students can read the word. I use a different coloured highlighter each time to show progression. I record the key at the top of the page.

I love this, as it's easy to see which words need to be taught/retaught and any common patterns.


I prefer holding flashcards up rather than having students read of the sheet. I find that some students become overwhelmed when they see a sheet full of words. Print on coloured card if you want to sort them into different levels or look a bit more exciting than plain white.

Individual Assessment Sheet

This can be used to keep a record that can be passed onto the next teacher. Hold up flashcards and highlight if the student can read the word. Once again, use a different coloured highlighter if you want to track progression.

Click on the picture below to find it on TPT.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Guided Writing

This year has been a big learning curve for me in terms of teaching. The school I'm at has had a big focus on 'guided groups', which has changed the way I teach.

I've been experimenting with Guided Writing Groups. I'm no expert on the subject but so far, I have seen a big growth in my students writing. Here's how I run guided writing in my classroom.

#1 - Plot students on the 'Aspects of Writing' section of the Literacy Continuum
In NSW, we have a Literacy Continuum. We use this to track student progress and see the 'where to next'. This helps us plan and develop activities which target specific needs.

#2 - Group students according to where they sit on the continuum.
Once students have been plotted, I form my groups based on what 'cluster' they're at.

#3 - Develop a goal
I then look at the 'where to next' and choose a point to focus on. For Kindergarten the goals for the year are;

I can leave spaces between the words (cluster 2)
I can use capital letters and full stops (cluster 3)
I can sound out words that I don't know to help me write them (cluster 3 & 4)
I can correctly spell sight words (cluster 4)
I can write more than one sentence (cluster 4)
I can add detail to my sentence by using adjectives (cluster 5)

I have these on display as a step chart. Student names are on a pencil and the pencils are moved according to what goal they are working on.

#4 - The Session - No more than 4 students
What we write about depends on what we are learning about at the time.

I use a log book to take notes and keep track of what we have covered.

The log book has a space at the top for the group goal and space for anecdotal notes on what writing behaviours each student displays. At the end of the week, once all sessions have been complete, I look back over the notes and make any necessary adjustments to groups or goals.

In the session I provide each student with targeted support. Having a small group means that I am able to provide individualised support for each student.

Once students have completed their writing, I mark their work with them. I have a rubric that relates to each goal;

I refer to this rubric when marking and giving feedback. Usually the number of ticks or stamps refers to how well they've achieved their goal ("working towards", "almost there" and "I've got it"). I've also developed a tracking sheet (right image) to use for next year to help keep my student portfolios neater.

That's pretty much it. If you're interested in the pack, you can find it by clicking here or on the picture below :)