home home meet the teacher classroom shop freebie library

Classroom Elf Setup Package

I heard a rumor that Santa may be sending an elf to my classroom to check on my students this year.  Santa himself sent me this file to use in my classroom when he arrives.  And, I'm sharing with you!  Clicking the picture below to get your copy.

Want to put an elf on your classroom shelf this holiday season? This package includes all you need to introduce your elf at home or at school! Multiple versions of each piece are included to provide boy/girl options as well as different skin tones. Colour and black and white versions are available for most pieces as well.

Package includes:
♥ Magic gloves tag
♥ Unwrapping instructions
♥ Letter from Santa
♥ Recovery dust label and letter
♥ Certificate of health
♥ Elf surveillance poster
♥ Writing paper (lined and interlined)
♥ Elf setup ideas
♥ Naughty or Nice graphing activity

Not sure how to an elf would work in your classroom?  Read this post and this one too.  Don't forget to read this one or this one either!

Helping to inspire,

post signature

Hidden Picture 100s Chart FREEBIE


Looking for something fun and seasonal for your kiddos to complete?  Have I got the freebie for you!


Why use 100s Charts?

A hundreds chart allows for the discovery of patterns and relationships between numbers and can be a valuable reinforcement tool for many concepts.  The main focus is to assist students to visualize the patterns in the hundreds chart, which will improve their ability to calculate mentally.  While initially students may need to see a chart, ultimately they will visualize the patterns and solve problems without reference to the chart.
Below the 100s chart are clues that tell you which colour to make each square.  For younger students, this is an excellent number recognition task.  For older students, it can strengthen skills they already know in a fun way.


Inside/Outside Day Sign *FREEBIE*

I just posted a new product on my Teachers Pay Teachers store, and, it's FREE!  Our school is trying to work out the kinks with Inside and Outside mornings.... we are going to post these signs at the doors so students can easily check where they need to be.  Let's hope they work!

You can download the file on my store, by clicking here.

Writing circle stories to teach organization

This year, I am teaching writing primarily through the 6 Traits.  As part of teaching the trait of organization, I read my class a handful of books by Laura Joffe Numeroff.  She writes books such as "If you Give a Mouse a Cookie" or "If you Give a Moose a Muffin".  These books all follow the same premise - whatever you give the animal at the beginning "chances are" it will ask for it on the very last page.

I read aloud several over a few days.  Once we had a good base to go by, we brainstormed common words/sentences in the stories.  Students then had a discussion about what they could write about.  The next step was to fold a paper into 6 spots.  This gave them essentially 6 pages to their stories.  My higher writers had up to 12 pages, because they flipped their papers over.  The goal was to make their story logical (the animal couldn't just ask for something because you ran out of boxes, it had to make sense) and use inspiration from the originals to make your own.

Once a rough draft was complete, students worked in pairs to edit each others' work.  They then published their work by typing it up and illustrating.  I am fortunate enough to have a document camera in my room so students are able to share finished work under that for all to see.  Here are a few examples of finished work:

In this last one, the moose asks for a drink of water, which reminds him of his home by the lake.  I think that's hilarious.

Using Word Problems for Deeper Thinking

The values of word problems are plentiful!  From a young age children are taught to play with objects, and when we get older that same ability is taken to a higher level by doing word problems.

Word problems teach you to accept a challenge but also to persevere and use both logic and creative ability combined. When you visualize the word problem you will be able to get to the solution quicker. Most of us enjoy a good challenge; after all, it gives spice to life doesn't it?? 

Word problems teach children to become creative thinkers. In history we have many men and woman who fall into that category, like Shakespeare for instance. This will also teach children to become independent thinkers and they will come up with concepts and designs that are new and exciting.
Word problems are a caterpillar in order to develop a good understanding. Word problems are very valuable in teaching children to solve problems in their everyday lives. They can take their real live situations and apply the same principles to get to a solution.

With that being said.... here comes an amazing place to get some real life word problems! A colleague posted on her blog several months ago about this website: Bedtime Math.  


The concept is this: give math some time regularly each day like parents often do for reading stories. So each day Laura posts a tidbit of information along with three math problems created from the numbers in the information: one for “wee ones” (targeted at pre-school children), one for “little kids” ( for children in kindergarten through grades 1 or 2) and one for “big kids” (for children in grade 2 and up). Oh, yes, the answers are posted there too, so you don’t have to sweat it out! It is not an official curriculum, just a way for parents to have fun with their kids with math.

I personally think this is a great idea. Doing math in an inquisitive, fun way helps children develop a positive disposition about mathematics.

Today, my class tried out a problem.  The big kids version read:

This sparked some amazing conversation in my kiddos!
There were debates about the most efficient strategy to use.  Many chose to grab a 100s chart to mark the days off on.  The reminder was distracting for many, as they immediately coloured off 30 days in one colour and then 31 days in another, thus their answer was 61.  I asked them to think about that logically "have 61 days passed?"  It was difficult for them to recognize that the days in September before the 24th were not relevant.  At one point, I wanted to record them the discussions were so powerful!

I recommend you check out this website.  Most of the big kids problems are a little young for grade 4, but can easily be adapted to be more suitable.

Lego Wedo

Yesterday was a Professional Development day for the entire province.   We are very lucky that we have the option of choosing to do some "self-directed" Pro-D, and that is what I did.  Myself and a colleague spent the day with our school collection of Lego robots.  We have 12 sets of Lego's Wedo collection, as well as 12 extension kits.  

I really wanted to explore these for their connections to the grade 4 curriculum.  I could see obvious values for developing visual spatial, team building, cooperation, etc.  My first thought was "these are amazing for grade 5 and simple machines outcomes!"  I needed a bit more to show me how they could be used to tie specifically into grade 4.

The introductory build...

I am happy to say I left the day with many grade 4 outcome tie ins....

Math: measure the area and perimeter, fractional parts, estimation

Language Arts: you can essentially write a story about anything, can't you?

Science: I think these will be a great "intro to science fair" and I am planning on using them to teach the scientific process.  The kits also offer many animal builds that can tie into my habitats unit.

Fine Arts: There is a few outcomes that refer to animation, leading me to....

Scratch!  This is a FREE! program developed by MIT.  It can be used on it's own, but also, is compatible with the Lego Robots.  The fish you see in this screen shot are being told to move around.  They can also speak to each other if they happen to bump, or change colours....  It can play music or your own recordings.  When a Lego Robot is connected, it can tell it what to do as well, with more options than the Wedo software.

My colleague and I challenged ourselves to build the Dancing Birds (that are in the photo above) and make them do more with the Scratch software.

Helping Students Master Basic Math Facts

Basic number sense is so important at any grade level.  The more I talk to other teachers, the more I hear about kids not having any number sense.  It seems that many have troubles memorizing basic facts, or have very inefficient strategies for solving those they don't know.  

I use the "All the .... facts you ever need to know" sheets from Trevor Calkins in my class.  There is some for subtraction, addition, multiplication and division.  Once a week, we will complete a sheet.  I give the class 6 minutes to complete, regardless of which facts they are working on.  I believe that if they are unable to finish in 6 minutes, the strategies they are using simply aren't efficient.  Everyone starts with addition and after completing the sheet with no errors twice they can move on to subtraction and so forth.  I make them get the entire sheet correct twice in a row to ensure consistency.  I also stress to the class that it's okay if you don't get it all.  Next time, your goal is to do the same or one better.
Here's some great ideas for teaching number sense I found on Pinterest:

There are so many ways to enforce number sense in the classroom.  Do you have any great strategies?  I'd love to hear about them!

Creating a Classroom Agreement

During my practicum, I was introduced to a series of three books: "Practical Ideas to Start up the Year", "Spark Up" and "Wrap Up".  There is a few grade level versions.  One thing discussed in the "Start Up" book is a class agreement.  I know a lot of classrooms have rules (as they should), but I really liked the idea of building those with the class as a set of expectations.  I do this over the first week of school.

I find that building this agreement with my students helps to increase their sense of belonging and responsibility in and to the classroom. It also helps to boost their accountability for their actions.  I'll lead you through the steps I take to build this agreement so that you can apply the strategy in your classroom as well!

More classroom setup

Setting up an intermediate classroom for the first time?  Or maybe just looking for some new ideas?  This is the post for you.

Word Wall

Word Wall in an intermediate classroom
Front view of the room before school started.
First up, is my word wall.  I didn't have one last year.  I didn't really think you needed one in grade 4.  Then I saw this joke....

 This made me think maybe sending them to a dictionary wasn't the best idea.  

That board above the white boards never really seems to get a lot of use.  Last year, I had my alphabet above it, and my number line on the board.  The number line was too high up and wasn't really functional.  So now, I brought it down low where it can be used as a giant manipulative.  
I wanted my word wall to be functional, but also, it had to look pretty if it was going to become a part of my class.  I decided (in a moment of insanity) to purchase 26 shades of fabric in rainbow colours.  A local fabric store gave me great deals once I said I was a teacher.  Thank you Sew it Yourself Shop!  I cut them and sewed them into a giant 16 foot panel.   It took forever, but it won't fade as fast as paper and I hope I can use it for several years.  I started the year with some words my last year's class ALWAYS spelled incorrectly, and we will be adding to it as the year progresses.

Class Library, VOICES and Positive Notes

This is a view of my back set of boards.  

Back wall boards, class library, and games.
I kept my cursive alphabet up above here.  In grade 4, you do learn how to handwrite.  I haven't started teaching this yet, but will be soon.   The long yellow portion was used to display "About Me" crests all year long last year.  The "Positive Notes" board now displays lots of thoughtful notes from me to students, students to me, and best of all students to other students.  The blanks live in the blue bins you see on the ledge just below.  The could write a "bucket slip", "I noticed" or "thank you".  The kids really like it when they receive one, and I love it that they are noticing the positive things we do for each other.
I am using the large blue board for a writing VOICES board.  This is 6 Traits inspired.  It now also has pieces that say "Voice", "Organization", "Ideas" etc.  We are starting with ideas so some more pieces have been added related to that as well.  My hope with this board is that it can become a giant self-assessment tool.  Students can refer to it to see if their writing fits the criteria that will grow throughout the year.
Lastly in that photo is my class library - organized and labeled of course and games for inside days.

Brain Breaks

New brain breaks idea.  Thanks 3rd Grade Thoughts!
One more thing I wanted to share is my brain breaks jar.  This is not my idea.  See the photo caption for a link to the designer, 3rd Grade Thoughts.  Last year, we had a series of favourite brain breaks on a chart paper, but it took up so much room.  This year, we have used this a handful of times and the kids are loving it.  I have let good listeners pick out a stick and everyone wants to have that responsibility!  They are eager to know which ones get pulled and love watching the reactions of the "pullers" to see if they got something fun like penguin waddle, or something more strenuous such as push ups. 

When we learn we grow!

I just wanted to share my hallway bulletin board I started the year with. Thanks to my dear friend Crystal for all your help!!

We layered dark, light, dark green paper, and then used an exacto to slice the blades of grass.   The flower centers are paper plates with cotton batting hot glued to it and then board paper wrapped around.   I cut the subjects out on my Cricut and glued them to the fronts.  The banner above reads "when we learn we grow!" (not growl as a colleague thought!!!)

Here is the inspiration for the board:

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!

Word Work!

This week, I introduced spelling groups to my new kiddos.  I have my class of 28 broken into four groups based on ability level.  We are starting with words that are a little below level for each group.  This keeps the stress level low, so they can focus on learning the word work tasks, but also, will help to boost their confidence when they do well on test day!

We do a variety of different tasks to practice our words including sorting them, writing them in alphabetical order and quizzing friends.  Tomorrow, we will type them up in the computer lab.  

Read about more word work options for the intermediate classroom here.
Today, the class had a choice between 3 activities: 
Scrabble Spelling
Place Value Spelling
What's your Word Worth?

Read on to see how these stations are used in my classroom.  Be sure to read all the way to the bottom for a freebie.
In Scrabble Spelling, you can use "scrabble tiles" I printed to build your word.  (The image below shows an older version of the file.) This works as a great center for word work with many age groups! Students will write each of their spelling words and use the chart to figure out the Scrabble value for each word.


Place Value Spelling is similar, but with base 10 blocks corresponding to each letter of the alphabet.  Each letter could be worth one, ten, one hundred, or one thousand.  This is a little bit more challenging math for some of the longer words.

If you purchase, you'll get three different versions with varying levels of difficulty:
♥ Ones and Tens
♥ Ones, Tens and Hundreds
♥ Ones, Tens, Hundreds and Thousands

What's your Word Worth? involves money.  I've created two versions: one with Canadian currency and another with American.   My students can use plastic money to help them figure out the values.

There are three American versions included:
#1: nickles, dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollars
#2: nickles, dimes, quarters and half dollars
#3: pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters

There are three Canadian versions included:
#1: nickles, dimes, quarters, loonies and toonies
#2: nickles, dimes, quarters and loonies
#3: pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters

I like these activities because of the math integration.  It's a good mix of hands on and written work.  Kids like it because they get to work around the room and with friends! 
I have at least 6 laminated sheets of each file in a folder with the recording sheets and manipulatives so it's all together.  Students know to pick the level for each that is most challenging for them.  I like that this puts some accountability on them for their learning.  If they are selecting a version of the file that is too easy for them, we can have a quick conversation about this and get them back on track.
My students do all work work in a separate notebook.  They create a T chart with the headings "word" and "value" to record their work.  However, I know a lot of people use duotangs.  I also have had some kids who have anxiety around creating their own blanklines.  With that in mind, I've created a recording sheet template.  Grab it for free here!



I've been thinking for a while about having a class blog and decided there was no time like the present!  I'm hoping that I can update often with pictures of things happening in my grade 4 class.  This year I have 28 students and there are always lots of fun things going on!