Thursday, July 11, 2019

5 Back to School Self-Care Tips for Teachers

A teacher's first day back to school is similar in a lot of ways to that of a wedding's guaranteed to go by in a blur, there will be tears, laughter, unexpected events, old friends and new faces, possibly gifts and, if you are lucky, a brief moment in your day to sit down and soak it all in.  Or at least go to the bathroom.  #teachertruth

We all know how crazy that first day back is which is why teachers need tips on how to take care of themselves, too.  Here are 5 back to school self-care tips every teacher needs to know.
Keep Your Commute Stress-Free 
You want your drive into work on your first day to be as straightforward as possible.  Leave extra early and fill up your gas tank the day before.  If you live far away from your school, this might be your first time driving there in a few days or weeks.  Be sure to check that there aren't any road closures or construction on your route that could delay you.

Stay Hydrated 
You'll need lots of fluids today so fill up that bubba with your favorite hot beverage before leaving home and carry a water bottle with you to stay hydrated throughout the day.

Download the Calm App  
There's a reason why Calm is the #1 app for sleep and's amazing.  But did you know it's FREE for teachers? Yep, that's right!  Under "The Calm Schools Initiative" the app is giving away FREE Mindfulness training tools to every teacher in the world!  That includes YOU!  Use it for yourself at home and for your students at school.  Mindfulness made easier!

Stock up on Throat Lozenges and Pain Relief
It's been a long time since you've had to get the attention of so many people and believe me, your throat is going to thank you for having some throat lozenges on hand for that first day back.  Pack up your go-to headache medicine too, just in case!

Pack a Fuss-Free Lunch
Time is going to be tight and you probably won't have the luxury of heating up last night's leftovers, let alone pop out for drive-thru.  Pack yourself easy to eat food and healthy snacks in a cooler bag that you can keep in your classroom to grab when you have a moment.
BONUS TIP: Bucket Filling
Doing a random act of kindness fills your bucket, so why not treat your teaching friends to a fun surprise?  A little thought goes a long way and I've yet to meet a teacher that doesn't love a new pen.  Buy a jumbo pack of Flair Pens the next time you see them on sale and give your staff a small token of appreciation.  You can grab this FREEBIE here.

What is your favorite self-care tip?  I'd love to know!  Please share it in the comment sections.

All the best on your first day back to school!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Top 5 Dollarama Finds Teacher Finds + Flair Pen FREEBIE

Dollarama is my go-to place for inexpensive cards, decorations and glitter.  It is the last place I would think of to purchase quality school supplies for my classroom...until now.  Check out the loot I found at my local store this August.  If you are lucky, yours might stock the same goodies!
  Here are my Top 5 Finds for Teachers that you can snag for $4 each or less, and a quick and easy back-to-school gift for your staff/teacher besties because #flairpensbringjoy ;-)
NUMBER 5: Ten Special Edition Sharpie Markers (bonus: 2 metallic ones)
COST: $4.00
I use these guys on planners, name tags, book bags, posters, folders, etc. Like the slogan says above the box, "YOU CAN DO ANYTHING WITH SHARPIE."  Teacher tip: if you want to remove Sharpie from a hard surface, use nail polish remover.
NUMBER 4: Chalkboard/Farmhouse Theme Magnetic Pencil Holder
COST: $2.50
I instantly fell in love with these and think they would be perfect to add to a chalk and/or white board.  Use them to store pencils, crayons, name tags, or white board markers where your students can (or can't!) reach them.
NUMBER 3: Googly Eyed Garbage Can Pencil Holders (with lids)
COST: $1.50
Are these the cutest things or what?  I love how they have attached lids as well.  I'm going to bring these out at the Guided Reading table and have one on hand stocked with supplies for any students that are going to work in the resource room or with a volunteer.
NUMBER 2: Emoji Erasers
COST: $1.25
Although you can't see them, there are poop erasers in this package, too. With a class full of boys this upcoming year, I'm guaranteed a few laughs as well as engagement when I pull these out.
NUMBER 1: Twelve Paper Mate Flair Pens
COST: $4.00
I spend an insane amount on Flair Pens each year at Target when I cross-border shop but now all I have to do is hop on over to Dollarama for these beauties.  They are the BEST pens EVER!  I grew up watching my Geography teaching Dad use them to mark and would often swipe them from his desk to use for myself.
Which got me thinking...if I love them so much then I bet my friends at school will as well.  And for less than $15, I can treat my entire staff to a Flair Pen as a back-to-school gift.  Every one loves finding a gift in their staff mailbox, right?
If you'd like to spread some joy and surprise your teacher BFFs, EAs, Admin or Support Staff at your school this September, grab this FREEBIE from my TPT store and get the special coloured paper out you've been saving for a special occassion.  Yep, we all do it ;-)

What's YOUR favourite Dollarama find?  I'd love to know.

Happy back-to-school time!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Blue Spruce 2017: "Sometimes I Feel Like A Fox" Multimedia Art Project and Writing FREEBIES

It's almost Spring, which means students across Canada are listening to 2017's Forest of Reading book nominees.  As teachers know, new books in the classroom equal increased student engagement.  Bonus points from teachers if the books are Canadian, eh.      I look forward to discovering the ten Blue Spruce titles each year with my second graders.  After I read each one, we fill out a reading response booklet found in my Media Literacy unit below and vote on how much we enjoyed each title on chart paper in our classroom.  Once every class has read all the books, our school votes on our favourite one in the library. When the librarian announces the results over the PA system at the end of the day, screams and gasps can be heard throughout the Primary wing.This year's Blue Spruce selection is outstanding.  My class has only read one title so far called Sometimes I Feel Like A Fox by Danielle Daniel.  You can read about it here:
"In this introduction to the Anishinaabe tradition of totem animals, young children explain why they identify with different creatures such as a deer, beaver or moose. Delightful illustrations show the children wearing masks representing their chosen animal, while the few lines of text on each page work as a series of simple poems throughout the book.  In a brief author’s note, Danielle Daniel explains the importance of totem animals in Anishinaabe culture and how they can also act as animal guides for young children seeking to understand themselves and others."
My students were mesmerized by the idea that children in the Anishinaabe culture have a totem animal and that each animal has such distinct character traits, just like them!  It didn't take my students long to figure out what animal they identified with and that is when I came up with the multimedia art project and corresponding writing activities.  Danielle Daniel's incredible art work immediately spoke to me and I wanted to think of how I could adapt her ideas to something my students could have success with.  I decided that if I took a square picture on my iPhone of each student using my white board as a background, and then uploaded the pictures and printed them, my students could add the animal that they associate with over top of their pictures.  
I spoke about the author's book dedication as well and briefly introduced my students to Residential Schools.  As some of you know, my late uncle Larry sadly experienced the horror of them.  He has written some beautiful books that I encourage you to seek out.
Although it was very hard for me to do, I managed to NOT give my opinion on which animal I thought each student was.  I did, however, try to give a lot of examples for each animal by saying things like, "If you love to spend time with your family, feel happiest when you are with them, and are very protective of your siblings at school, then you might identify as a wolf."
Without further ado, here are the instructions for the easy (but slightly time consuming) multimedia art project.  It's part Health Curriculum, part Art, part Social Studies and part Literacy all wrapped up into one.  So basically, you can't go wrong :-).  If you try this out with your class, please let me know as I would love to see your versions!

Animal Multimedia Art

Step One: Print up both activity sheets found on the publisher's website and distribute a copy for each student.  Instruct students to cut out all of the animals as well as all of the descriptions. 
Step Two: Fold a legal sized paper into 8 sections.  Cut the heading "What Totem Animal Are you?" and glue it to the top of the page.  Then, glue one animal in the left hand corner of each section.  The order isn't important but if a student glues the image in the middle and not to the far left, there won't be enough space for the corresponding description beside it.  
Step Three: Reread the story to the class and discuss which totem animal's description best fits each picture and then glue it beside.  I projected the 2nd activity sheet on my white board for this and wrote down each animal's name to help speed things up (please ignore my very messing printing)!
Step Four: Give students time to reflect and discuss with each other about what animal they identify with the most.  Once they have made their decision, ask them to decide what position they would like their picture to be taken in.  The images in the book inspired my students but I told them it was up to them to come up with a pose. Some of them really blew me away with their artistic interpretations, especially my one student that wanted to be perched on the ledge of a cliff howling at the moon.  We did that by having him kneel on a desk and look upward.  

Step Five: Set up your "studio" and invite students over for their photo shoot.  If you use this terminology, I guarantee your students will be as good as gold waiting their turn.  My studio consisted of a very clean white board, a stool, a chair and a desk.  I asked my models to show me the pose they were thinking of and then we practiced quickly.  Most students stood on the stool but some needed to stand up on the desk as they were not tall enough for me to get a good shot.  I showed my students the pictures I took and asked for feedback by saying  "Which shot do you prefer...number one or number two?" Each picture took about 3-5 minutes.    
Step Six: Print up the images and hand them out.  Instruct students to transform their picture into their totem animal using markers and crayons.
Step Seven (optional): Use an accompanying writing/poetry page and once finished, post it beside the artwork on a bulletin board.  I created acrostic poem pages for animal names that had 3-9 letters in them.  Although I was all set on doing acrostic poetry, I soon realized that my students were ready for a descriptive paragraph instead.  As you can see, the results speak for themselves.  
If you don't have access to this book, I found a link on YouTube for it:

All the best and please let me know how your projects turn out! 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Remembrance Day Ideas for Primary

Although November 11th is sombre day of reflection, even our youngest learners are able to understand its significance and participate in age appropriate ways to commemorate Remembrance Day.  I want to thank my friend Kristy from 2 Peas and a Dog for hosting this Remembrance Day linky.  I hope you come away from it with some amazing new ideas to use with your students this month!
Remembrance Day holds a dear place in my heart.  I am especially proud of the role that my great-grandfather, Percy Griffith Davies, played as a Major in the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada based in Toronto during the Great War of 1914-1918.  

The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada was a regiment headed by Sir Henry Pellatt, the multi-millionaire who built Casa Loma.  Before WWI, my great-grandfather was his Personal Secretary.  Great-Grandpa Percy took a battalion overseas and fought in the battle of Vimy Ridge in Normandy, France.  He survived and returned to Canada to bring up his young family in Toronto and lived to be 100 years old.
There are a few activities that I find myself doing year after year with my second graders because they are so tried and true.  In the days leading up to Remembrance Day, we create a wreath of poppies for the assembly with our older Learning Buddies, make paper wreaths to hang from our classroom ceiling and paint poppy masterpieces for our bulletin board.  The last two of those activities can be found in the TPT product below.
I also fill my classroom library up with as many picture books as I can get my hands on about WWI, WWII or peace before November 11th .  

Last year I came across two outstanding books that I had never seen before. BONUS: they are available ==>now<== in November 2016's Grades 2&3 Reading Club flyer.  
 Grades 2 & 3 Scholastic Reading Club, November 2016
Bunny the Brave War Horse by Elizabeth MacLeod and The Soldier's Puppy (also known under title "The Anzac Puppy") by Peter Millett and Trish Bowles are both incredibly touching stories. Although they deal with hardship and war, the books convey an underlying message of hope, love and loyalty. Your students will fall in love with the true tales of Bunny and Freda the dog. 
You can grab this FREEBIE I made for Bunny the Brave War Horse by clicking on the picture below.
What are your favourite Remembrance Day picture books?  I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.

All the best,

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Staircase Facelift using a Target Dollar Spot find and Ikea Frames

Do you have a large landing in your staircase like I do?  Are you unhappy with the wasted space?  If so, I might be able to help.  Since we've moved into our home, we've had all sorts of things hanging up in that awkward location but not one of them looked quite right...
until now.
 I have always been inspired by this project from my beloved (but now on permanent hiatus-sniff! sniff!) blog, Young House Love.  If you want to be inspired and have a good laugh, I strongly suggest you read their design blog from the beginning.  John and Sherry have a way of making you feel like you are their BFF.  Unfortunately, I just couldn't find the time or had the energy to collect as many different frames as they did. Enter everyone's standby for home decor-IKEA.
We bought 9 Virserum frames for $12.99 each and by the time they (painstakingly) made it on the wall in a perfect formation, I realized that I hadn't actually figured out what should go inside.  So I found a few odds and ends around the house that reminded me of my boys (class pictures, artwork) and put them in.  The problem was, it looked so "messy."  What would PLAN B be?  
I had no idea until April 1st.  And that's NO joke, lol.
 Shortly before 2016, I found this gorgeous calendar at Target's Dollar Spot.  I should have bought 20 of them instead of 1.  I knew it would have an important spot on my wall in my home office but as I ripped off the month of March today, I realized how perfect these pages would look framed on the wall in my staircase.  Suddenly, I had a design vision and I already owned everything I needed.  How often does that happen?
 Now I know what you are thinking, "Doesn't she know it's April already"? and yes, trust me I do.  It just so happens that there are NINE months left in the year and I have exactly nine frames to fill. #nailedit
 Now I get to look forward to the rest of 2016 multiple times a day.  And the gold shimmer seems to be glittering a little extra brightly around my #39forever birthday on the 15th.
A word of advice for all of your high traffic hanging spaces in your home-buy sticky tack!  The name  might be different, but the results will be the same.  My version is actually blue like the brand I used to buy in France. You should be able to find it at any home renovation place or most major supermarkets in the office supplies aisle.  It's about $5 and works great to keep things fixed on the wall.  I love to use it to hold paint chip samples in place and in my classroom too.  

Happy decorating!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Our Wedding Favors: Reids Chocolates, Candy Kabobs and Seasonal Soaps

I've been to enough weddings to have (gratefully) received the gambit of wedding favors...glasses, picture frames, candles, seeds, wine bottle openers, bath salts, lip chap, homemade cookies and chutneys.  In case you didn't know, I am getting married in a few days after being crazy in love with my hubby-to-be for the last decade. Our wedding is going to be intimate, during the day and very non-traditional in many ways.

I was on the fence about giving anything away to our guests unless it really meant something to me/us. We're already doing things a tad bit unconventionally so I felt like we could get away with nothing but the traditional bride-to-be in me didn't feel right about our guests walking away empty handed.

My first idea was scratch and win tickets because the tags could have said "we feel lucky you celebrated our special day with us!" but there are too many children on our guest list. #underagegambling #notcool

My second idea was to give everyone something that was local, editable, reasonably priced and had sentimental meaning to us. The fact that I could eat a million of them was irrelevant.  It didn't take long for us to come up with an assortment of our favourite chocolates from an amazing shop called Reids Chocolate, Candy & Nut located in my hometown of Cambridge, Ontario.

I have immensely enjoyed eating their chocolates, mixed nuts and other delectable treats since I was a young girl.  Everyone in Cambridge has either bought or received treats from there in the last 60 years. It is truly our hometown hero. Bob and I always make a point of popping into the store when we are in town visiting my family.  The smell alone is worth the visit. Truly, you've never smelled heaven until you've walked into Reids.

It was difficult to chose just a few to include but after the mandatory taste test, we knew what we wanted to share with our guests. Inside our clear plastic packages (available to purchase at Reids) we included one of each of the following: tortoise, truffle, sea salty, English toffee with nuts and a rosebud.

In images, taken directly from the Reids website, I present to you what our guests will sit down to once they arrive at their table.

Tortoises are the Louis Vuitton chocolate version of a Turtle.  The combination of dark chocolate, crisp pecans and homemade caramel is truly perfection.  I could eat these every day, all day.
A rich dark chocolate whipped centre, anyone?  Truffles were made to be eaten.  Look at that melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
Sea Salties are vanilla caramels sprinkled with sea salt.  A bit chewy, a bit salty, a whole lotta yummy.
Second from the top left is my second all time favourite from Reids, English toffee with nuts. Imagine a Skor bar only much tastier and that's what it is. In my opinion, it deserves its own picture, but I'm happy to show you this one mixed in with some other gems that didn't make the cut.
Last but not least is the small but delicious rosebud.  Rosebuds remind me of my late Nanny that lived just a few doors from me growing up. She loved roses and chocolates so it seemed fitting that a rosebud was included in the mix. I know she'll be smiling down on me on our wedding day...sniff, sniff!
Now, you didn't think that I would give those fancy pants chocolates to the kids too, did you?  For some reason, our son prefers candy to chocolates so we decided that each of the kids will get his favourite Candy Kabob filled with sweet and sour gummies.  It comes all wrapped up in cellophane and always looks tantalizing.  Our little guy goes nuts for these kabobs!
And finally, for the few guests that have nut allergies, I made up packages with hand soap.  It's too bad that they can't eat the chocolates but I know they will love their Bath & Body Works soaps just as much.

What did you hand out at your wedding?  Any complaints, compliments or regrets?

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Welcome to what promises to be an awesome Swap Meet Product Swap/Blog Hop and Giveaway hosted by the darling Hanging Around In Primary and Momma With A Teaching Mission.  I'm so happy you are here :-)  
I had the privilege to be matched up with Brooke Brown from Teaching Outside The Box.  I knew we'd hit it off since both of our first names start with the letter B aaaaaand my last name is switching to a B too at the end of this month #bridetobe #cantwaitfornovember28

I was a tad bit overwhelmed with how many amazing products Brooke has in her TPT store.  She was kind to direct me to some of her awesome looking STEM products.  Have you seen this one for the holidays?  The three challenges in this product are so adorable and motivating.
The only problem is...I don't teach Science.  Booooooo :-(

Instead, I decided to try out her Spooktacular Halloween Literacy Centers for 2nd and 3rd Grade.  Lemme tell students loved it!
The product includes 6 centers.  The first one we tried out was "Top Tricks and Treats" as a whole group activity.
The students brainstormed all of their favourite Halloween candies. As you can see from my chalkboard, it was a long list.  I had never heard of Airheads before...does that mean I am one? LOL
Number 1 is candy corn?  Noooooo thank you.  Funny how you either love it or hate it.
My students were so motivated to write their lists.  I also gave them a plain piece of paper to draw some of their treats in their Halloween bags.  We glued both together and created a bulletin board display.
The second activity we did with great success was "Letter to a Creepy Critter."

I introduced the activity by reading Lucille Colandro's "There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Bat!" as there are lots of creepy critters in the book.
Of course, some of my students pulled a Sarah Palin and went rogue. They asked if they could write to a favourite movie character instead of  a creepy critter.  Here's a cute letter to Joy from Inside Out.
And here's another one to the Wizard that got swallowed by the old lady.
I was really impressed with how motivated my students were to write on both occasions.  Well done, Brooke for making my job easier!

Feeling left out because you don't already own this unit? You are in luck!  Enter below to enter our Swap Meet Giveaway for your chance to win all 15 swapped products.
You'll have to know this in order to enter...
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck!