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How to Host a Book Tasting to Teach Genres

Teaching students about what types (or genres) of books they like to read, and why they like to read those genres is very important to me.  Too often I see students get stuck reading only one series over and over.  Don't get me wrong, I love Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants, but my heart bleeds when those are the only books a student is reading, and are afraid to jump into anything else.  What's even worse is when they check a book out of the library one week, return it the next, without ever actually reading it!  By learning about genres, students can use clues on the book cover, spine and back to tell them if its something they might be interested in.  This is where a book tasting comes into play.  We had already spent about a week talking about genres, and this event was my assessment piece.  Did they know why books fit a certain genre? What clues would they use? Could they justify their thinking?

I love setting up room transformation events.  The reaction from kids is priceless!  A book tasting is one of those events.  I set the room up the night before, and then put this sign over the little window in my door so students couldn't peek in.  They are used to seeing me greet them in the morning, but not with the door closed!  Intrigued before they even came in the classroom!


Once I let them enter, this is what they saw: tablecloths, place settings, candles, snacks, books, and menus.  The set up for this was really so easy and quite inexpensive too!

 Basically everything was purchased from the Dollar Store.  Each table was decorated with a centerpiece consisting of a plate, flower, glass cup, gems, and a candle.  The candles are the plastic battery operated kind.  I bought one bunch of fake flowers, and put one on each setting. 

I first sat everyone down at the carpet and played them a short video I created with iMovie.  Essentially, it told students what we were going to do, why were going to do it, and how.  They thought it was so hilarious that my voice was in a video!

I had 5 table groups set up, with 6 settings at each.  Every table showcased a particular genre, but it wasn't labeled or identified anywhere.  Students sat down at a table and took some time to examine the book in front of them.  They recorded the following:

- title
- author
- thoughts on the book based on the cover

After giving a few minutes for this, students then read for 5.  Once the 5 minutes had passed, they returned to their menu to write down:

- thoughts on the first few pages
- clues they found to the genre
- the genre of the book

They then rotated and repeated this process four more times with four different genres.  Of course, before moving on, they had a little snack at each table too!

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Celebrate Halloween in the Classroom with these 10 Healthy Snacks

They might be cute, they might be creepy, but these ten ideas for halloween snack food are easy and healthy!

Save the candy for Trick-or-Treating.  This Halloween celebrate with these spooky snacks that are actually healthy!  

This vegetable skeleton is adorable and a fun way to get in those veggies!

For a frozen treat, try these "Boo"nana pops!

Looking for a reaction?  This pumpkin puking spinach dip will get you one for sure.

Fruit, pudding, cereal... Cute Food for Kids has a ton of adorable monster cup ideas!

Bananas, pretzels and raisins make some spooky spider snacks!

These super simple gauze wrapped mummy apples.

Practice your cackle while eating these cheddar witch's fingers.

These goulish strawberry ghosts will get gobbled up in an instant.

Kids will laugh as they chomp on these hilarious apple teeth snacks.

Graham crackers, cream cheese and jam make for some disgusting, but healthy, bloody band-aids.

Inspired by this post? Pin it using the image below!

They might be cute, they might be creepy, but these ten ideas for halloween snack food are easy and healthy!

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Mystery Investigation: A Kickoff Activity to Personal Inquiry

A kickoff activity for personal inquiry

This year I am going to do some personal inquiry projects with my students.  You've heard all the names.... Genius Hour, Passion Project.... I'm calling it what it is, and that's personal inquiry.  Personalized learning is really at the heart of the new BC curriculum and I'm doing my best to dive right in.

My bestie teaches across the hall from me and we're planning on team teaching personal inquiry to better meet the needs of our students.  I can assist with inquiries I know more about, and vice versa.  If we have students with similar inquiries, we can pair them for collaboration and feedback.  We want to make sure that when we begin, students will have some understanding of what it means to inquire.  Sadly, many students aren't provided many experiences to be curious and investigate. We wanted to give them that experience to connect back to once we begin.

We decided to go with this:

Humpty Dumpty - Did he fall or was he pushed?

We had so much fun setting this up!  We decided to go full force and even dressed the part.  We each wore blazers, dress shirts, and ties.  Crystal had the hat and glasses and I had a huge magnifying glass.  From before school even started we had kids talking, wondering, whispering about what was going on.  We were the buzz all around the school!
An outfit goes a long way in setting the stage to engage!

The Setup

This activity was set up in the multi-purpose room so we could keep it secret until we were ready for it.  We created a brick wall using a cardboard box.  We wrapped it in brown bulletin board paper and just drew the brick lines on with a Sharpie.  Humpty Dumpty's chalk outline is drawn on the floor with a chalk pen.  Turns out our floor is not level as the egg was running away!  We dammed it up with the egg shells after I took this photo.  Oops!

We marked the area off with tables from the room and then cones and Caution tape.  The tape is from the Halloween section of the Dollar Store, so it's got a spooky font, but it worked.  Only one student commented on that.

Did Humpty fall or was he pushed?

The clues were...
1) Humpty Dumpty's remains
2) A banana peel
3) Vasoline
4) A whisk
5) Boot prints (we painted the bottom of a boot with brown acrylic paint and stamped it on the floor)
6) A shield, sword and toy horses (for all the kings horses and all the kings men)
7) A chef's hat
8) A princess dress

Clue two: a banana peelClue 6: All the kings horses and all the kings men

The Investigation

The story we told is that as two broke teachers we rent the multipurpose room out on the weekends for some extra cash.  This weekend, something bad happened and the police needed our assistance to solve a mystery.  We set everyone up with a clipboard and paper before entering.  We told them ahead of time that they needed to be quiet at first, so they didn't influence anyone else with their opinions.  They were just to observe and take notes.

Analyzing and inferring from clues

Students used words and pictures to assess the scene.  We asked them, "What do you see? What do you wonder? What do you think?" and after about 15 minutes of investigating we began to discuss.  We made a t-chart that read "intentional" on one side and "accidental" on the other and students gave us their evidence to support both ways of thinking.  We set them loose to observe again with their new thinking.

Analyzing and inferring from clues

At the end, they had to form an opinion of what really happened.  There were many detailed descriptions with lots of evidence, but I especially enjoy this one.

Before wrapping up, we asked the students if they were to continue the investigation what next steps they would need to take.  They told us things like comparing the boot prints to those of students to see if they were suspects, sending the egg to a lab for DNA testing (haha), talking to specialists, and checking to see if the school had security cameras that could give us more information.

Next week, when we begin to talk about the inquiry cycle, students will now have something to link back to.  We plan on making an anchor chart with "Traits of an Investigator".  We can remind them of how they were curious, and how they investigated further.  We can link back to the fact that they had questions and took steps to investigate those questions.  Although personal inquiry is not a murder mystery, there are many similar steps. 

It took less than an hour to set up and we investigated for about an hour as well.  Take down was super easy and was completed over recess. 

Wanting to start up or spark up personal inquiry in your classroom? I'm sharing 11 anchor chart posters to help guide the inquiry process. Follow the image or button below to grab your copy.  

Send me the posters!

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A kickoff activity to personal inquiry
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More Back to School Bulletin Boards

Bulletin boards are my favourite part of back to school setup!  Here's three more boards gracing the hallways of my school this year:

This one was so easy to complete.  The letters are printed off the computer and cut out.  The background is just bulletin board paper cut and layered.  Staple, staple, staple, and done!

Anything goes when it comes to bulletin boards.  The bodies on the sheet are bathmats!  Again, the letters are printed and cut out.  The puffs are made from crepe paper that was hanging out in the art room.

We made these emoji's out of paper plates.  Super easy and quick.  It seems we were all about printing and cutting letters this year, as here they are again!   These were definitely the most tedious ones to cut out.

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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Bonus Sale and a Giveaway!

Are you back in the classroom yet? Setting up? Or still in denial mode?  I'm itching to get back in my classroom and in the meantime I'm in full curriculum mode.  I've been spending my summer creating all sorts of resources and wishlisting some from others on TpT.  Here are just two of my new resources:


Have you downloaded the Canadian Back to School eBook yet?  It's loaded full of great tips, freebies and resources from Canadian TpT sellers.  It's amazing no matter what grade you teach or where in the world you are from!


So why am I telling you all this?  Because Teachers Pay Teachers is having a bonus sale, one day only, tomorrow!  All resources in my store, and many others sellers too, will be 20% off.  And, if you enter the promo code "oneday" at checkout you'll get another discount, for a total of 28% off!  But, don't run off just yet!  I've one more thing to share with you. Keep reading.


Finally,  a giveaway!  My friend Christina from Hanging Around in Primary is celebrating her two year blogiversary with four $20 TpT gift cards.  The contest ends in just a few hours.  Head over to enter and maybe you'll have a little extra cash for the sale tomorrow!


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How to Host a Successful Curriculum Night


With the new curriculum upon us in British Columbia, my school will be hosting a Curriculum Night in September.  Are you thinking of hosting one as well?  I've compiled a list of 10 ideas you can use to host your own successful Curriculum Night.  Sounds great, right?

1. Curriculum FAQ

I think that no matter what you do, a portion of the evening has to be an information session where parents can hear some info from admin or teachers and ask their questions.  This list of FAQ from the curriculum website is a great place to start.

2. Use QR Codes

The new curriculum is all about embracing our fast changing world and using technology to do so.  The Daring Librarian has lots of great ways to use QR codes for a parent night.  I love the idea of having parents scan to get teacher info or to direct them to the school website or Facebook page.

3. STEM Challenge

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  STEM Challenges involve hands-on learning and inquiry.  Completely at the heart of the new curriculum.  The pin below will send you to 28 great options, but there are literally hundreds out there.

4. FreshGrade

If your teachers are using it this is a great time to share the benefits of embracing FreshGrade with parents.  If you aren't familiar,  read all about it here.

5. Math Carnival

Literacy and math skills are still front and centre in the new curriculum.  The use of carnival games will make the evening upbeat, fun and engaging.

6. Donation Station

With the new curriculum comes the need for lots of additional maker-type items.  Maybe you send a wish list of items on the invitation and parents could drop off during the event?

7. Enjoy-mints

Who doesn't love a treat?  This sign and saying are oh-so-cute too.

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Have Your Best School Year Ever!

It's that time of year again; TPT is holding their annual Back To School Sale.   That means teachers all over the world are gearing up to head back in their classrooms.  Thankfully, I still have a month of summer vacation left, but of course that doesn't stop me from thinking about school!  

For the third year, a group of Canadian teachers have got together to create a Back to School ebook for you all.  It's filled with tips, tricks and freebies perfect for heading back in the classroom!  This book is great for teachers of all grade levels, and you certainly don't have to be Canadian to find something that will work for you in it.  

Don't worry, it is a forever freebie so if you "missed" this product before going back to school this year it will still be available for you to download.

If you're reading this post on August 1 or 2, don't forget about the sale happening at TpT right now!  Click the image or follow this link to head on over and stock up!


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FreshGrade Tips Made Easy

Have you heard of FreshGrade?  It's a set of personalized learning apps to help build communication between teachers, students, and parents.  Videos, audio, pictures and text can all be captured and communicated.

Full disclosure: I am part of the FreshGrade Champion program, meaning I am an advocate for them, however this post is full of 100% honest thoughts and opinions.

I've been using FreshGrade for a full school year.  This year was really all about testing it out and getting familiar with all that they have to offer.   To start off, you'll want to send home a permission slip.  My admin and I felt that this went a little beyond the usual FOIPA paperwork we send home.  Also, because parents haven't heard of the app before, I wanted to provide them with some information of what they were signing up for.  Click here (or on the image) to get your own editable copy of the permission slip.  Click here to get the info from FreshGrade I copied on the backside.



There are three apps, depending on your role with FreshGrade.  I love how they are colour coded.  There are some things I prefer to use the app for, like in the moment artifacts of pictures and videos.  It's also great for quick parent communication as it notifies me when they add something to a profile.  I prefer to use my computer for the gradebook, daily parent communication (I did this with a few students), and adding announcements.

This is what the main menu looks like on my cell phone.  The "Activity Feed" shows any new notifications you might have.


At my school, we switch kids for math based on ability.  So, I had to set up two classes.  This was really simple.  I took a photo of each child for their profile.  Then, it was basically data entry of student name, parent name and email.  It didn't take very long at all.  To switch between classes, you simply use the tabs shown below.


From this point, you're ready to start using FreshGrade!  So, what can you do?  Get comfy, come closer, and let me show you.

I write a weekly letter and love how FreshGrade has streamlined that for me.  Using the "Announcements" section I can see how many people have read the weekly letter, and exactly who those people are.  When you click on it, names show up in red if unread and green if read.


I used FreshGrade 100% for my gradebook this year.  I like the colour coding system they use.  It helps to see students progress really quickly.  You can add your outcomes, which isn't a piece I used often, but do like that it is available.  The little coloured dots you see are labels.  I used labels such as "term 1", "science", or "fractions".  You can sort your gradebook by those labels, which comes in really handy at report card time.

I got a lot of comments from parents about the gradebook additions to their child's portfolio.  For example, if I gave someone a 2/10 they would respond immediately with a "can they take this home to finish?".  I could respond with "I offered this, but your child declined".  The accountability for those students increased dramatically over the year.  Also, I'd get comments of "Wow! So proud of you honey." on a 10/10.  It might be a small assignment, that wouldn't necessarily make it home until the end of the year.  Parents can celebrate the small successes in the moment.


I am continuing FreshGrade next year.  The feedback I received from parents was all positive, and overwhelmingly so.  They loved being able to see a short video of their child at swimming lessons, or a photo of them working away on their math.  For those who needed daily communication with home, this was a surefire way for parents to receive that communication.

Next year, I want to go deeper.  I love the parent communication I had, but other than one or two students, they didn't really embrace using it.  I want them to reflect weekly on their learning and see the communication I'm having with their parents.  This year I tried using the 6 iPads I have in my classroom for this, but it didn't really work.  We couldn't do it all at the same time.  Logging out was forgotten which meant the next student saw your account.  I'm thinking next year that when we go to Library we'll make a stop at the computer lab next door and all students can sign in and check out their portfolios. 
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