Tuesday, 30 September 2014

It's Too Loud In Here: Voice Level Management

One of the very first lessons I teach each year has to do with voice levels.  This classroom management piece is so crucial to the entire year.  I am one of those teachers who prefers a quieter room.  I just can't handle 30 voices going at once.  I know it's distracting for many children too.  If you think you can relate, keep reading.  I hope I can help!

Teaching voice levels really takes 15 minutes - which is why it's so amazing it works all year!  There are many different poster sets out there you can use for reference during this lesson.  I've created three: chalkboard, tropical watercolor and brights themed.  The posters make a great year-long visual.


I place all posters from 0-4 on my whiteboard in order from lowest to highest ahead of time.  I've also got a summary piece with all the levels on one page. The levels that I use are:
0 - Silent
1 - Whisper
2 - Partner
3 - Groups
4 - Presentation

I go over each card one by one.   The first card is the easiest for kids to understand, 0 - silent.  No sound.  Things get a little bit louder from there: whisper, partners, groups.  When you get to 4, it's a bit trickier.  One voice is nice and loud (the loudest in fact) but all the rest are silent and listening.

Once I've talked about each, we practice.  I start at 0, everyone is quiet.  Then I move to 1, and the room is filled with whispers.  We work our way up and then back down to 0.  I like to them randomize the numbers.  The kids find it fun and it shows me they really understand each level.

Even as soon as the very next day, I was able to say "I would like a volume level 1 for this activity" and my class was able to get off to work with a whisper voice! 

Do you use voice levels in your room?
How do you manage volume? 

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Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Book Whisperer: Chapter 2

Everybody is a Reader

Welcome to week two of a seven week book study!  There are 6 ladies (myself included) sharing our thoughts each Monday from now until mid-November about "The Book Whisperer" by Donalyn Miller.   You can get to the other ladies posts at the end of this one.  You might even see a few freebies along the way!

You can read my Chapter 1 post by clicking here.

I love the story at the beginning of Chapter Two.  Donalyn describes the first day of school, going over rules and procedures.  A boy raises his hand and asks, "When will we be allowed to check out books?"  Startled, she answers with, "now" and they head over to the book bins.  There they sit, Donalyn giving her book recommendations, and even more powerful, students giving theirs.   What a beautiful scene it must have been.  

A sentence I love:

Miller says she has noticed three trends in reader types.  At first, I thought she was wrong - and missing some.  Surely there is more than 3 types of readers!  But, after reading her excellent descriptions and student examples, I agree.  I love that she is acknowledging reading as a continuum of learning.  She refuses to call the lower end readers as "struggling".  Rather, she refers to them as "developing".  According to her,  the types of readers are:

The fact is, every year you get a classroom full of varying readers.  They aren't going to all love it.  They aren't going to all be able to do it at the same level.  So how do you accommodate them all?

In my classroom, I don't put my entire class library out all at once.  I only put out about half at a time.  This is for a few reasons.  The first is that I like to keep it fresh.  I honestly have so many books!  It's a bit overwhelming if they are all out at once.  Also, many of my novels are too big at the beginning of grade 4.  My students are usually not ready to read a novel of that length.  I do have some longer books out, but I save many of them for later on.  I still have a huge variety of topics out there to choose from.

Finally, Donalyn gives examples of a student survey.  She is wanting to learn more about their interests, so she can make more accurate book recommendations to each child.  How great is that?

I've done a reading survey with my class before, but it's always been focused on their attitude toward reading.  Her survey has one question about books and the rest is all about other aspects of their lives.  I'm loving it.  At the back of the book, she shares a black line for a different survey, referred to as the "Reading Interest-a-Lyzer".  It's more like the traditional survey I have given before. 

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Friday, 26 September 2014

Five For Friday

Wow!  This week zoomed past.  I seriously don't know where the days went!  This was my first week back to school and despite being totally exhausted (our job is hard!) I loved every minute of it.

I did have good intentions of posting throughout the week. It didn't happen.  So, for Five for Friday here is a recap of my week.  Thanks, as always, to Doodlebugs Teaching for hosting this!

So, no classroom reveal just yet. As you may remember, my classroom was a computer lab last year.  They aren't quite done putting it all together.  Once I get my bulletin boards I can finish off my walls and then I will gladly reveal.  Until then, here is a little peek.  I snapped this picture of my first day (with my class - Monday was a short day) schedule.

On that first day with my class, I read them the story "First Day Jitters".


This story has a surprise ending which is so funny for them.  With this book, I introduced a strategy I use often called "Brain Bubbles".  You just need to photocopy a page from the story and add talking or thinking bubbles to it.  (I found a pack of talking bubble Post Its once that I use to do this.)

I picked a page with lots of characters on it.  I meant to scan some of their work to share, but I forgot.  Many of my students made really great inferences.  I was quite impressed!

I don't know what it was about Wednesday, but I fell asleep at 7:00 that night and didn't wake up until 6:00 the next morning.  Yikes!

At the beginning of the year, I always like to do a math survey with my class.  It has to do with attitudes toward math.  I didn't like the copy I had as the text was small and the language was too difficult for grade 4.  I did was I always do, and ended up making my own.

Today we did the Terry Fox Run.  It was pouring rain.  We said if Terry could do it, we could do it.  We actually had a pretty great time out there.  A soaking wet time, but a great time.  Lots of fun, for such a good cause.

That's all this week!  Have a great weekend! Make sure you head over to Doodlebugs Teaching and check out some more Friday posts.


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Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Book Whisperer: Chapter 1

There and Back Again

I'm so excited to start week one of a seven week book study!  Some blogging friends and myself will be sharing our thoughts each Monday from now until mid-November about the book "The Book Whisperer" by Donalyn Miller.  I know this is not a new book; I had heard so many great things about it from others I had to check it out.  I'm glad I did!  I'm feeling so inspired by her ideas, and can't wait to share them with you too!

Each week, we will all be posting our thoughts, chapter by chapter.  You can get to the other ladies posts at the end of this one.  You might even see a few freebies along the way!  Excited? Me too. 

Chapter 1 is called "There and Back Again".  It's about Donalyn's journey as a reader from child to teacher.  You can tell right away that she has a strong passion for reading - she shares a story of her and her husband and writes, "Books are our love letters (or apologies) passed between us, adding a layer of conversation beyond our spoken words".  All I can say is, "wow".  I think that's so romantic!!

Donalyn says she has her first wake up call in regards to reading when she shared the book "The View from Saturday" by E.L. Konigsburg with her grade 6 students.  She loves this book and was sad to see them just going through the motions - doing the work because she asked, but not loving it.  I've been there too!  I don't think to the same extent, because I think with 4th graders it's a lot easier to make them love things.  Do you know what I mean? If they love you, they tend to love everything you ask them to do.  They aren't as tough a sell as 6th graders.  However, I have definitely had a few in the past who are just doing the work so that I won't give them a hard time.  

Her solution? Make reading more personalized and open ended.  Instead of assigning a book, let them choose.  Instead of having pages of fill in the blanks type questions, discussions and personalized written entries that are meaningful to real life.  She describes her classroom as a workshop, and her students as reading apprentices under this new model.

The last tip that Donalyn gives in the chapter is to stay true to yourself as a teacher.  She warns that if you try to emulate the "master teachers" who've written books, you'll always be feeling stressed out and inadequate.  Take the ideas, and adapt them to make them work for you and your students.  Share your passion.  Such an important thing to remember in this world, reading or otherwise.

One thing I realized, was that my kids had enough time to read books, but I wasn't really giving them browsing time.  They are allowed to browse during quiet reading time, but I usually am giving them heck if they are over there for more than a few minutes.  I thought of my own book browsing in the book store.  I can spend hours in there!  Why am I harassing them to pick a book and get to reading?  One change I'm making this year is to have a specific browsing time once a week.

Check the links below for more thoughts on Chapter 1!

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Saturday, 20 September 2014


I'm linking up to Mrs. Beattie's Week of Awesome today.  I don't have an entire week - just Friday.  Here's why:

I was FINALLY able to get into my new classroom!  Awesome!

Also, I've had my share of classroom moves, and let me tell you, it's awesome not having to clear out someone's old junk.  My classroom is totally brand new!

Some before/after pictures of my Friday:



I was fortunate to have to EAs help me all day.  I got everything unpacked and all my supplies sorted out.  As you can see, I don't have my bulletin boards or my Smart board up yet.... they say Monday morning.  I can't do any of my wall decor just yet.  But everything else is coming together nicely.  Tomorrow I am going in to do some planning for the week.

I can't wait for next week so I can do a full week of awesome!

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Friday, 19 September 2014

Five for Friday

This week has been a huge blur of stress, excitement, panic and a whole mess of other emotions.  if you've been following me, you'll know about how BC Teachers have been on strike since June.  This has been a rocky time for us.  Yesterday especially was a big day - we voted on ratification of our new deal.  I spent my day in the union office manning the ballot boxes.  I am so thrilled to say that we are heading back to work!  We have kids on Monday.  Today was the only day we have to prep.... it was a bit hectic.  I will be sharing that in an upcoming post.

So, long story short, I don't have my usual 5 this week.  I really tried to focus on other things.  I just couldn't.  Instead I'm sharing 5 pins I find inspiring... not all school related.


This pin read "use glue tops to write with acrylic paint".  While I don't think I'll be writing with acrylic paint, I do really like this idea!  So many safer for kids needing to squish out just a little bit of paint.  I'll be saving glue tops from now on.

I got a hermit crab last week for my classroom.  I am in love with this crabitat setup!  Herman is going to have a sweet setup as soon as I get a few paychecks.  This pin only led to a picture, I would love to know who this belongs to!


I have not tried this yet.  But it looks so delicious!  Visalus is a protein powder.  You could use any protein power you wanted, or omit that entirely.  I usually blend it with frozen fruit.  It gets me through my morning as my 10:00 snack.  This looks like a really easy way to mix it up. 


I love Hello Kitty!  I was sad that when I clicked on this link that this bag isn't available anymore.  I would totally pack this bag to school.


This quote is so true.   In my home, there are two big furbabies who greet me at the door.  Lately, the one hasn't been running to greet me because he has been asleep on the couch, that brat.

That's all for me this week.  Have a lovely weekend!  Head to Doodlebugs and check out some more Five for Friday posts.

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Thursday, 18 September 2014

Dream Big Bulletin Board: Part 1

In my To Do post a while back I wrote about my hallway bulletin board.  If you go back to that post, you'll see that I was planning on doing a "brain" themed board.  I've since changed my mind completely.  I still have plans to do that board - but thought it would be best a bit later, after my students had some preteaching and could fully understand why I was doing it.

Therefore, the "Make a Giant Book" pin on Pinterest made an appearance.  I couldn't find a link to an original source for this pin, so if you know, I would love for you to tell me.

Unfortunately, there wasn't much to go off of; just what you see here.  So, Crystal and I did what we do best - we made it up.

My props master assisted in all the "dangerous" parts, like the use of a knife.  I'm pretty well banned from these tasks.  It could be a left-handed thing, it could be that I'm just not coordinated enough. 

We used a giant cardboard box.  It wasn't a fridge box as the pin suggested, so maybe ours is smaller than the original.  We just worked with the dimensions of what we had.  

I failed to take some photos in the middle here.... After we cut the back piece of the book, we wrapped it in shiny blue wrapping paper.  This will serve as the cover of the book.

We made the top piece narrower in height than the cover, but kept it the same length.  The reason for this was to account for the curve.  As the pin suggested, we put score marks through the cardboard to help it bend. We wrapped it in white paper.  We thought about making the paper a bit loose to help with the curve, but the score marks really did the job and we didn't need to.

From some cardboard scraps we made the top and bottom (or, the pages) of the book.  We did this by tracing the curve of the large piece, cutting out and wrapping in white also. (I really hope I'm making sense here.)

We (well, Crystal, another thing I am banned from) hot glued the top and bottom pieces to the book.  At this point it was pretty sturdy!

I just love the curve of the book!  So fun!

Next comes the challenge of attaching to the board..... Click here for part two of this post.

Are you interested in even more bulletin board ideas? Do you want to save time by finding them all in one place? Follow the image or button below to grab your copy of my free bulletin board inspiration guide. 

Take me to the guide!

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Helping to inspire,
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