A butterfly on a finger

Life Cycles in Kindergarten

For the past few weeks, we have been exploring Life Cycles in my Kindergarten classroom. First, we started off by learning about plants. I read some stories to my class including The Tiny Seed, and we discussed how a plant is created. We also discussed the different parts of a plant. This lead in nicely to some discussions about various life cycles.

As a Kindergarten team, we ordered caterpillars (from Boreal) so that we could watch the life cycle of a butterfly occur.Our caterpillars will turn into Painted Lady Butterflies. We watched some youtube video clips so students could see what it was that would be happening in our classroom during this process. We also read a lot of various books, both Fiction and Non-Fiction, about butterflies. We were able to observe our tiny caterpillars turn into bigger, fatter caterpillars, form into their chrysalis and then into butterflies. The students really enjoyed seeing this process first had, authentic learning at its best! I allowed my students to have opportunities to observe and even read to the caterpillars. We also kept a butterfly journal, where students would record daily what stage it was in.


After a few days of having living butterflies, we were able to go outside and let our butterflies free into the environment. This also helped our Eco School status. Overall, my students really enjoyed this! They loved coming in each and every morning and checking on the progress. I would highly recommend any kindergarten teacher to use this in their classrooms! It was also a wonderful tool to use at the end of the year when the students are a bit “over” being at school. I felt that by studying the life of a butterfly was able to keep their excitement and engagement right up until the end of the year.

Work on writing board

Work on Writing

One of my colleagues does The Daily 5 in her classroom. In my Board, this is an initiative that we are all currently working towards. When I used the Daily 5 in my classroom, I sometimes found it hard to constantly keep my students engaged in the Work on Writing aspect of this program. After looking around her room, I just fell in love with her Work on Writing centre. In her class, she has a separate area for her Work on Writing. Students all choose which centres to go to for that day (choice is always important).

At her writing centre, she set up one of the three-fold bulletin boards, filled with information about different types of texts, and some examples of what students could write about for each text type (i.e. letter, story, etc). This is a great idea for students as they can be immersed in their writing, and THEY can choose what to write about using whatever text type they choose. Below I have included a picture for you to observe (and perhaps steal) for your own classroom if you wish!

Preparing for the LTO List

With the new regulation coming into play for the next school year, many teacher are (or have already) been preparing themselves for their interviews to get onto the LTO List.

With this new regulation, each and every board is a little different, but with my board, anyone who has supplied for 10 consecutive months, can apply for the LTO List. Once on the list, anyone who has completed a 4 month or longer LTO can apply for contract positions.

This time of the year is typically a very busy and stressful time. With report cards, and finishing up curriculum, stress levels are very high. But when you add an “all or nothing” interview into the mix that greatly shapes your future, stress levels are at an all time high.

I had my LTO List interview 2 weeks ago. Although I have not heard any news as of yet (we find out next week), there were many things I did to help myself prepare for the interviews. Here are some tips of things that I did, that may help you when preparing for the LTO List interview (or any interview at that):

  • I read through and highlighted the Growing Success Document, as well as the Guide to Effective Instruction in Language and Math
  • I brainstormed questions that I thought may be asked, and created some answers to these questions, using as many of the “buzz words” as I could think of
  • I spent a lot of time on my school board’s website looking at various things about the board that may help me answer questions. Some things I looked at were the board’s vision, improvement plans, school improvement plans, new programs, etc.
  • Finally, I had my current administrator come in to observe a lesson of mine, and fill out a TPA-like evaluation on me. This would be used as proof that I have had a successful LTO. Having someone come in to observe you teach, and who will be a reference for you, is always an excellent idea!

Again, I have yet to hear anything, but I am very hopeful to get onto the LTO List. Yes, this is a stressful situation, but you CAN do it! Good luck to all the teachers going through this process!

Seeing Growth

As it is April, I always feel that this time of year is when you really start to see the growth/progress in our students, especially in Kindergarten. Since taking over my current Kindergarten class in February, I am really starting to see the growth in my students and their learning, Shortly after obtaining this LTO, I put up a word wall in my classroom, created an interactive popcorn word word wall, as well as incorporating the Sight Word Caterpillar in our classroom (see below).

I have worked really hard with my students about what the word wall is for, and how we can use all these resources when we are writing. Each week, my students get an opportunity to write in their Writing Journals. To differentiate for my learners, I encourage ALL students to use at least 5 different colours in their pictures to add more detail. I encourage my SK students to write the sounds/letters they hear. I encourage my SKs to stretch the words so they can hear/write all sounds they hear. We have talked a lot about the use of the Writer’s Rainbow (see my previous post about this), and have modelled for students the various stages of the Writer’s Rainbow.

This past week, some of my students have really started to use what I have taught them and have started to use the word wall, popcorn words and our sight word caterpillar to help them in their writing. All my efforts have finally paid off. There is nothing better than seeing your students use the tools you have provided for them in our classroom! Such joy!

For the Love of Literacy – The 21st Century Learner

Last weekend, I had the joy of attending Halton’s annual For the Love of Literacy Conference. This was my first time attending this conference, and I would highly recommend it! To start off the day, we got our welcome package which consisted of our name tag, the workshop information about the workshops we would be attending as well as a fabulous new teaching bag, which was provided by Scholastic.

To start off the conference, I had the absolute pleasure of listening to an hour long presentation about the 21st Century Learner from the honoured guest, Lisa Donohue (you can visit her blog located at www.lisadonohue.wordpress.com). Lisa is the author of educational books, including her latest book: 100 Minutes. In her presentation, we learned about the key traits to learning in the 21st Century:
* Collaboration (working with others)
* Communication (communicating with others, via various different forms)
* Authenticity (making learning authentic / meaningful to students’ lives)
* Engagement (making learning fun to engage our students)
* Creativity (creative teaching/giving students the opportunity to be creative in their learning)
* Choice (giving students choice is KEY to them being engaged and taking ownership in their learning).

Using digital media is extremely important with the 21st Century learner. Technology is all around us, and using it in the classroom will be engaging and authentic to our students. One quote I absolutely loved that Lisa tells her students is that when they are using social media/technology, they are “tools, not toys” and these tools should be used to “extend, not escape”. I think these are fabulous quotes to teach our students about when using technology in the classroom.

Here are some fabulous ideas of how YOU can implement social media into your classroom/assignments:
* using media literacy with higher level thinking questions (perhaps give students a higher level question, that they can respond to it on their own student blog)
* having a classroom twitter account (I have one, and post pictures/quotes of students while they are learning. My parents absolutely love this. Follow us @class_obrien).
* using Toontastic or mystorybook for storytelling/retelling
*  incorporating Blue Spruce books with technology. Give each group a book from the Blue Spruce collection, and get them to use iMovie to make a commercial advertising their book of choice. They could use many things taught in media literacy as well such as looking at their audience, what is the big idea of the book, etc
* using Edmodo for Learning Skills. Each group could have a different learning skill, and could make their own Edmodo page, which can be accessed all year long

If you can attend next years Love of Literacy Conference, I would highly suggest it. I will be there… will you?

peer-to-peer book recommendations

Reading Suggestions

I have often heard about teachers doing Peer to Peer Book Recommendations (see picture below)in their classrooms, however, I have never heard of doing Student-Teacher Book Recommendations. While reading the Guide to Effective Instruction in Literacy K-Grade 3, I read a section that touched on the idea of having book recommedations in the classroom, and I thought this was a wonderful idea!

1) Peer to Peer Book Recommendations: This is an opportunity for students to recommend books that they have read to other students in the classroom. This is a wonderful idea for many different reasons. Most students will recommend books that they have enjoyed, and that they hope another student would like based on the characters, or plot. This will help students read books that are interesting, as well as show them that the other students in the classroom truly know them if they recommend the book based on the knowledge of the students’s likes/interests; it’s a great way of showing that each student cares about one another and has paid attention to eachothers’ likes and dislikes.

2) Student to Teacher Book Recommendations: This is an opportunity for students to recommend books to teachers, which can be used for novel studies, read alouds, shared or guided reading. This is a wonderful way for teachers to ensure that they are using books in their classroom that are of interest and of relevance to their students based on their interests, culture and reading levels. Of course, teachers will have to evaluate and look at the reading levels to ensure they are appropriate for readers if using as a novel study or guided reading piece, but I think this is a wonderful idea for ensuring students are interested in the reading material which will help instill a true love of reading for all students. This can very easily be done by the teacher, but creating a suggestion-type box where students can write down their book recommendations for the teacher.

* The picture above was provided by www.scholastic.ca

Classroom setup with drawings on the wall

Adding More Wall Space

I have often run out of wall space in my classroom. There is always so much I could hang up in my classroom, however, I often run of room. I never really knew what to do about it. But now, I do! Thanks to the teachers at my school, they have helped add more wall or hanging space in my classroom. In my classroom, I have many detachable hooks on my wall with string hanging from them. I used clothes pins to hang my students’ work, which allows me the opportunity to hang more of my students’ artwork. You can get these detachable hooks from many stores, including Walmart or Canadian Tire.

Here are some pictures of how it is set up in my room, and it allows me to hang a class’s worth of papers or artwork:

Writer's rainbow bulletin board

Keeping Track of Writer’s Workshop

In my many experiences of LTO teaching in Kindergarten, all my classes have taken part in Writer’s Workshop. We have all used the Writer’s Rainbow as a form of assessment of students’ writing, as well as students using it as a form of self-assessment. I have struggled with keeping track of student writing growth, and how to assess their writing come report card time.

While working my current LTO, the teacher I am replacing has a wonderful way to easily keep track of student writing and growth. After every piece of writing, the teacher writes a little dot of the colour of the Writer’s Rainbow that the student achieved with that writing piece. I have continued to do this, and found it very easy to assess my students’ writing come SK report card writing. It was very easy to look through their writing journal and see whether the student was all over the board, or whether they were quite consistent with the colour of the Writer’s Rainbow. It was also very easy to see when students grew in their writing, by moving up a level (colour) or two. I have attached some pictures of the Writer’s Rainbow, as well as a students’ writing with the colour of the dot that corresponds to the colour they achieved. I highly reccomend doing this for any teachers, Kindergarten teachers or not, to use this as a tracking system of their student writing.


Writer's wall bulletin board

Writer’s Wall

Do you ever wonder what to do with all the wonderful pictures and cards that students create for us teachers? Do you ever guilty putting pictures in the recycling? I know I have! And I have found a solution for you…

Create a We Are All Writer’s board. On one of the bulletin boards in the classroom, I have posted student work on this wall. This is such a wonderful idea because students get to show their work off to the world, it is all in once place, and students are recognized for being writer’s no matter what they are writing/drawing. My students love to create pictures and cards for me, or for others in the classroom, and having this wall is a great idea!

Here is a picture:

List of 2013 Goals

Goal Setting…Even in Kindergarten

Upon the return to school after the Holiday Break, I thought it would be interesting to see how goal setting might look in Kindergarten. We had a little discussion as a whole class about goals, and how at this time of year many people create goals for themselves. We brainstormed some common goals some people may want to make for themselves. Then, I made it specific to school, and my students brainstormed some ideas of Classroom Goals we should have for the 2013 school year.  I have attached our goals for each Track that I teach. Some were very similar, but some were very creative and inclusive to that Track only. I was very proud of my students for coming up with such amazing goals.


I also got each student to write about what they would like to learn about for this upcoming year. Again, I was shocked and and so proud of the goals many of my students came up with!

See these goals at: https://mobile.twitter.com/class_pryde/status/289774661540147200/photo/1


Goal-setting can happen…. even in Kindergarten!