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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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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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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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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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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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Using Cribbage to Teach Number Sense

Crib is one of my favourite games and, sadly, it seems like many children do not know how to play it!  Here in FSJ we have many inside days during the winter.  I have often stayed in my classroom with children teaching them how to play cribbage.  It's really got a few rules and minimal cleanup - perfect for a short play time.  (Kids can also save their game and continue at lunch, which I know is a a complaint about many board games in my room.)

The game of cribbage is all about adding numbers from 1 - 10 and combining numbers to make 15.  Being able to see the relationship between numbers is crucial for kids in developing number sense.  Looking for 15s is a great way to strengthen the fact that numbers are made up of smaller numbers (or, the Whole-Part-Part relationship.) John Van de Walle says this about Whole-Part-Part relationships: “To conceptualize a number as being made up of two or more parts is the most important relationship that can be developed about numbers” (Van de Walle & Folk, Elementary and Middle School Mathematics, Can. Ed., 2005, p.98).

Practicing this skill can change the way that student's look at numbers.  When they are given an addition or subtraction problem with larger numbers, they will be more likely to look for strategies to problem solve if they've spent time pulling apart smaller numbers.  Not to mention that the ability to quickly add basic numbers will help greatly as they progress through larger problems.

I believe you can teach cribbage to children as young as grade two.  For them, you might want to simplify the rules or introduce them bit by bit:
1st game: look for 15's only
2nd game: look for 15's & pairs
3rd game: 15's, pairs, runs
4th game: 15's, pair, runs, nobs
5th game: demo entire game and let them play independently!

Crib boards are often sold at the thrift store for a dollar or two.  You can also buy little, travel size ones at the Dollar Store.  I'm sure if you made a request parents would donate a few boards as well.

Have you used cribbage in your classroom?  Tell me how it works for you!

If you want more ideas for strengthening basic math basics, check out my Pinterest board.
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Calm, Alert and Learning: Introduction

The staff at my new school decided at the end of last year to do a book study this year.  The book they've chosen is "Calm, Alert and Learning" by Stuart Shanker.  Shanker is a self-regulation expert.  I've read this book before, but it's been a while.  I'm hoping that this book study helps me become a bit more focused and I can take more away from it the second time around.  We will be meeting to discuss each chapter, but lets face it, I can't remember what I ate for dinner last night.  I'm recording my thoughts here and I hope they can benefit you as well.  Today I'm talking about the Introduction.

This quote grabbed me right away.  It's literally in the second sentence!  I agree completely with this statement.  In my experience, students who are able to self-regulate consistently do better than those who can not.  It makes sense - if you can not regulate your body, you aren't focusing on the learning.  Clearly then, this is something we hope to be able to improve in all students.

Stuart states that there are five domains that link together in regard to self-regulation.  Each domain gets its own chapter, but a brief run-down of each is given in the introduction.

1. The Biological Domain

This domain has to do with energy level in the nervous system.  Shanker says that energy level can be a factor in how children respond to stimuli in their environment.  

The example that I connected with most was that of students unable to sit for long periods of time in the hard classroom chairs.  I hate those darn things!!  I try to allow kids to work around the room: standing, sitting, even laying down.  I have a class set of clipboards which means there is no need for a desk.  Though unfortunately, for some with self-regulation issues, this opens up a whole new set of distractions....

The other point I need to be conscious of is that those who are clicking a pen, jiggling their feet or doodling are self-regulating.  These actions are helping them remain calm and alert.  I guess the trick here is to find something for them to fidget with that isn't so annoying to the rest of us!  I'm hoping to find more about this in Chapter 1.

2. The Emotional Domain

This one is pretty self explanatory - he's talking about emotions whether negative or positive. Strong emotions can make it challenging for students to even begin to try and self-regulate.

3. The Cognitive Domain

This one might be most important to teachers as it's the domain relating to attention, problem solving and memory!  This immediately made me think of basic fact recall in math.  Again, looking forward to some strategies for this.

4. The Social Domain

So many students have such trouble here!  Shanker talks about social intelligence and the importance of teaching children social cues. I think I do a lot of this in the beginning of the year as I build my classroom community, but need to integrate more throughout the year.

5. The Prosocial Domain

This relates to friendship, acceptance and empathy.  I will be paying close attention to this chapter.  I'm thinking back to a student I had in the past with zero empathy.  He was possibly my most difficult student to help with regulation.  I can see a lack of empathy affecting the other domains.  If you are unable to help others (or see a need to do so), you probably don't put much value on self-regulation at all.  

Lastly, I'll leave you with a quick graphic of the Six Critical Elements to Optimal Self-Regulation.  Shanker argues that these span all 5 domains and will help you help your students achieve optimal self-regulation.  It doesn't look like he refers to them in any major way elsewhere (no chapter dedicated to this at least).

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I {heart} Reddit Gifts!

A while back, I saw that RedditGifts had an exchange just for teachers.  You signed up, asked for something specific for your classroom and some caring stranger would get it for you.  I asked for art supplies.  I love doing art with my class, but always feel like it could be better.  The reason for that is because they are using the supplies a school can afford which are, lets face it, the lowest quality.  I do buy the occasional "real artist" supply for my class, but it gets expensive pretty quickly.
So, imagine my enjoyment when I saw a huge package on my doorstep.  When I opened it up, this is what was inside:

- 3 packages of paint brushes (49 total) with a variety of widths and tips
- 18 tubes of water colour paint
- an acrylic paint set
- woodless pencil crayons
- water colour paper
- acrylic paint paper

I was a bit overwhelmed with the kindness of Nadine in Ontario let me tell you.  She doesn't know me, she doesn't benefit from this gift in any way.  It's such a selfless act.  Thank you, thank you!

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Class Pet: Hermit Crab


I got a new pet this week - Herman the Hermit Crab.  Herman will be joining me in my classroom when I return to school.  To educate my students, I made this huge unit on hermit crabs and their care:

♥ Teacher Info - why hermit crabs make a great pet
♥ Setting Up a Crabitat - all the information you need to set up a crabby home
♥ Introducing Your Crab(s) - 3 informational posters (most with black and white/color versions)
♥ Non-Fiction Readers - 4 readers with comprehension questions
♥ Graphic Organizers - 8 different organizers, some with interlined options (answer keys for all)
♥ Vocabulary Cards - 12 terms and their definitions (black and white/color versions)
♥ Scoot - 24 cards, recording sheet and answer key
♥ Test - 4 pages with answer key
♥ Checklist - Daily and Weekly (black and white/color versions)

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Wordless Wednesday

Happy Hump Day everyone!

I'm sharing a picture for Wordless Wednesday today...  It isn't the best picture.  It was taken with a cell phone through a pane of glass.  

I got a hermit crab!  He is going to be my class pet when we finally get back into school.  I thought it would be a good idea to get him now and make sure I can keep him alive before I introduce him to children!  It's been 5 days and so far we are doing good.  

It's interesting learning the behaviour of different types of animals.  Herman (what else would you name a hermit crab) is nocturnal.  He spends his days buried and crawls about all night exploring.

I've created a Hermit Crab Class Pet unit which will be on TpT soon.  I'm going to make a leopard gecko one next as that's another animal I have.

Do you have a class pet?  Tell me about it in the comments!

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Monday Made It


I'm linking up to 4th Grade Frolics Monday Made It today!  I always read and admire these posts from others, I just haven't done one.  I am not sure why, because I am always making things!  Here is what I've been up to lately.

My first Made It is my door vinyl.  I haven't used this Cricut transfer paper before, so hopefully it is easy to just go in and stick it up.  I do have a backwards "a" to fix in "than" before I stick it up.  And for some reason the "A" in "SMARTER" ended up smaller..... I do not know how that happened!  Anyhow, I can't wait to get into school and get this up.

My next Made It is really a Finished It.  Last May I taught Speech Writing to my class.  I finally put everything together in a way that was workable for others.  You can find this on TpT if you are interested.  

You will get:
♥ What makes a good speech?
♥ Speech topic ideas
♥ Parts of a speech
♥ Introduction
♥ Body
♥ Conclusion
♥ Steps to writing a speech
♥ Judging Sheet
♥ Brainstorming sheet 


That's all for today!  Have a great week everyone!
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Slant Box Review

http://lessonswithcoffee.blogspot.ca/p/the-slant-box.htmlI signed up for the August SLANT Box, hosted by Jameson from Lessons with Coffee.  I have seen posts on others' blogs or Instagram feed about SLANT Boxes, but hadn't participated myself.  This months theme was "Hometown Pride".  I stumbled across the signup page and figured "why not?"  I'm so glad that I filled out the form!  Through this process I have connected with two wonderful ladies and know we will keep in contact afterward.  How great is that?
Julie, from Laughing and Little Learners, is the person who I was matched with to send to.  
Laughing and Little Learners
Julie teaches grade 2/3 to intensive need students.  Here's a look at what I sent her:

- A Fort St. John Visitor Guide (where I live)
- 2 packs of Canada pencils for her and her students
- A Fort St. John game (it's one of those puzzles you mix up and try to put back together by sliding the pieces, I don't know what you call them)
- A Powell River magnet (my childhood town)
 - A Fort St. John pen with a moose head on top
- A Canada cup
- Sour Patch Kids (because she loves them)
- 2 postcards (one from Fort St. John, one from Powell River)
The rules state you need to send a handmade item as well.  When I asked Julie about her classroom decor she said "owls and bold colours".  But, she also said she had a lot of hand-me-down stuff from teacher friends.  I decided that wouldn't do and made her a huge pack of decor items: desk plates, mini tags, student numbers, calendar numbers, days of the week, months, schedule cards, behaviour management system, table numbers.... so much more.  I don't know if she'll use it all, and that's okay.  I wanted to give her some pretty options.  I used the same background and clipart that's on her blog, so I'm pretty sure she'll like the colour scheme anyhow.

And now, on to my match to send to me,  Sarah, from Juice Boxes and Glitter!  Sarah teaches preschool students, and I honestly don't know how she does it.

juice boxes and glitter

This girl seriously spoiled me!  I'm not kidding, it's too much.  Here is what she sent me!

The first thing I saw in the box was her lovely handwritten card and every item wrapped up in tissue paper.

When I removed that layer, I saw that every item had a little note on it.  So cute!

Jammed into that shipping box were all of these items:
- a Florida counting book
- her card
- treats for my dogs
- a beautiful candle with an owl on it (I held this up to the wall in my mudroom, it's the exact colour match - how did you know!?!?)
- some tea (I really loved the raspberry earl grey!)
- a mug (thanks for picking a girlie one so Ryan won't steal it like my others!)
- trail mix
- tennis balls for the pups
- some yummy coconut patties (which certainly are all gone by now!)
- marmalade (made with Florida oranges!)
- a toy for the dogs (which Steve will not put down)
- a note pad

I told you she spoiled me!  I am so moved by her thoughtfulness and kindness in this package.  I know I've made a connection with someone that will last past the match up!

I had such a positive experience with SLANT, that I know I will be signing up again.  I didn't sign up for September, I figured I would wait a while.  Maybe December?  I bet that will be a fun one!

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