A Peek into the Classroom – Part Deux

Since I got a lot of great feedback on the last post – A Peek into My Classroom – I decided to post a part 2! I’ve learned a lot from reading other teachers’ blogs and I enjoy sharing with others too.

Keep scrolling to read about each picture:

ABOVE: Having a place value chart above your whiteboard or chalkboard is great. You can see I went over the value 427 just by writing underneath the each place value. The signs are from Math Equals Love. I also recently purchased these elementary word wall organizers. They are perfect for the first month, when I am reviewing general math for all the Grade 10s and 11s.

ABOVE: I was originally trained for Tribes right after my B.Ed. but have put off doing cooperative learning until this year. I will be using more Kagan structures each week to develop cooperative learning. We have four groups in Grade 10s. Each group is assigned an animal – moose, beaver, snake and caribou – and these milk crates are an easy way for the “equipment manager” to grab the necessary supplies for their peers. I try hard NOT to laminate unless they are for posters that will sustain years and years of use. I used binder clips and plastic sheet protectors to attach the labels to the milk crates.

ABOVE: My teacher’s desk. I don’t sit here much until the end of the day, or to enjoy a cup of Turkish tea (I have a stash of tea leaves and white sugar at school). I had to put a sticker on the edge of my desk that says, “Students are not allowed to sit at the teacher’s desk”; it’s taken me nearly 3 years to train students NOT to go into my stuff! The sense of boundaries is a bit of different up north, so I had to adjust to that when I first started. Hanging on the pin are growth mindset cards for the Encourage role in our student groups. I bought them off Kate Coners on Teachers Pay Teachers. She has amazing stuff! For a close-up of the cards, check out my photo from Instagram.

ABOVE: My backpack, which has a pocket for my laptop, and an Indigo book bag that I use to carry my lunch. I also have a Bing Bong keychain on my bag, because creativity is soooo important in life! He was definitely my favourite character from Pixar’s Inside Out. I even hunted throughout DisneyWorld (April 2016) just to get a collectible pin of him.

A Peek into the Classroom

Last year, my classroom was on the first floor. I’ve moved back upstairs, next to the science lab. The room is spacious and has a great view towards the front of the building (I can see if kids are skipping and headed home!)

I’d been planning on taking a few pictures of my new classroom, but kept forgetting. Here are a few shots and some of the changes I’d implemented this year:

ABOVE: Since we are going totally shoeless* this year, I put these foam mats in the corner of the room. It’s super cozy and a lot of kids like to just curl up with the blankets or the yoga mats. The yoga mats are for a yoga club that I’m trying to get going. So far, I’ve only had one session and one participant from Grade 7. That’s a start!


ABOVE: I plan on having students develop better group work skills, with the use of Kagan Structures. I haven’t had time to get things started yet, but the poster in the middle is for “Oopsie Points’. Students can call out mistakes that the teacher makes. Spelling errors are 1 point, while conceptual errors are 2 points each. I initially started this when my students were too afraid to correct me on the board, even if the error was glaring and obvious. I want them not to have blind trust in authority figures and to challenge them if they truly think something is wrong. Now I can’t get them to stop correcting me, ha! As additional motivation this year, the winning class gets a pizza party!

ABOVE: Ahhh my beloved handy  Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces (VNPS) a.k.a. whiteboards! Plain on one side and Cartesian plane on the other. We just finished a unit on growth mindset verus fixed mindset. One of my students drew a cartoon character from the Class Dojo videos that we’d been watching. You have to exercise your brain to make it strong … Otherwise it gets lazy! Check out episode 1 on YouTube.


ABOVE: A great poster from Sarah Hagan-Carter of Math Equals Love. I will be using this to reinforce what a good, well-rounded and complete answer looks like in both math and science.


ABOVE: A lot of students struggle with these terms. I thought I’d put them up for Term 1. Hopefully by the end of the term, I can remove them and they will be using them properly. They helped me colour the letters. I’ll probably clean them up and laminate them later on for reuse.

*Some more info on why shoesless classrooms are better.

Using Privacy Partitions

Back in September, I bought a stack of privacy partitions. I had never used them before, but when I saw them in a school supply catalog, they intrigued me. They are plain, black cardboard pieces with two flaps. They fit most school desks and are meant to help students focus on their work.

Since they arrived in the fall, I’ve been using them for test days. I don’t use them often, as the boards are meant as a environmental signal that things are getting SERIOUS!! It’s helped immensely. When they come into the classroom and see the boards set up, they stiffen up and sneak around the room quietly, making sure not to disturb anyone else who’s already arrived. Whispering and discussion between kids has now gone down to minimal and they seem to be able to focus better.

Here is a shot of y Grade 11s writing a math test.

Today, I also began collecting cellphones and electronics too. Most of my Grade 11s are fairly respectful and know how my classroom works, so no one batted an eyelash or hesitated when I produced the basket with an outstretched hand.

Definitely a great investment if it’s in your budget!

End of First Week!

Just finished my first week of teaching!

It’s true what they say, the first couple of years is always the hardest. Being in my third year now, I feel as if things are coming together. It really helps a lot that the I have been teaching most of the same students for two years and they know what my expectations are. I couldn’t have imagined a better first week with such a smooth running classroom (although once I lost misplaced the photocopies I was going to teach with).

I took some more photos of my class.

Read on!

Below: Took an old cardboard paper sorter that the admin didn’t want anymore. I snatched it up as soon as I saw it! These things are actually quite expensive, often over $50! I covered it with some colourful wrapping paper, but still need to relabel the shelves. The students pick up their daily handouts from here.

Below: The pencil case system is working quite wellI. Pencil cases #1 through 10 are on blue and the others are red. A sign on the wall explains that each case has a calculator, a red pen, a pencil and an eraser; if anything is missing, the teacher should be notified during the same period. It is the first thing students pick up when they come in and they get the pencil case with their “special ninja code”.

About 90% of the students do this on their own; I still have a few stragglers that come in and sit down empty-handed, wondering what to do … I have to gently chide them but I never, ever, EVER help them get their pencil cases.

I have reinforced these expectations with a few resentful rants that “I am not anyone’s waitress.” I really got tired of cleaning up after every period last year. In the last five days, I have had practically no issues.

BelowThe ladder of consequences, which I started today. Each student – in total, I have approximately 44 on paper – have their name written on a clothespin. If there is any misbehaviour, their clip goes on “verbal reminder #1”.

I explained to students that this is how I treat everyone fairly; everyone is given the opportunity to have a couple of warnings. Transparency and consistency reduces escalation as students can clearly see the consequences and where they stand.

Below: One of my favourite posters. I printed this a couple of years ago and found that it was still fairly intact. These posters help students with their metacognitive skills and encourage students to flip from a ‘fixed mindset’ to a ‘growth mindset’.

One of my favourite students, L., was reading this aloud from the bottom to the top and dancing as he read the last sentence! It was pretty funny.

Below: Yesterday, I made a foldable for our INB (interactive notebook) to review the place value system. While this might obvious to a lot of kids, second language learners can struggle with the terms, so it’s imperative to review the basics. This is also an opportune time to do some diagnostics and helps me figure out where each student stands.

Today, we did a lesson on rounding and I encouraged them to review using their foldable; these good habits build independence and gives them a set of tools for them to refer to, when they need it. Better than flash cards and I don’t have to run around the room answer the same question half a dozen times!

Below: A little poetry to help with our rounding lesson! This rhyme comes from Math with Mrs. D.


Below: Our secret math ninja codes on their pencil cases.

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 5.50.50 PM

2015-2016 Classroom Set Up

Spent the past week setting up my classroom. This morning, I was in the class working for another 4 hours, making photocopies and preparing for the upcoming week. It isn’t fully done yet, as I haven’t put up posters yet, but I thought I’d post a few pictures for now.

Below: Used patterned masking tape on the chalkboard. I use the blocks to write announcements or goals for each class. I have four classes this year. I also put up my backwards clock, which drives the kids a bit nuts!

Below: Haven’t fully figured out how to set up my shelves yet, but I have put numbers on all the textbooks.In my first year, I found that many students would not put their books away. Last year, each student will have a specific text assigned to him/her. This system meant that each student felt more responsible for the book and would put it back, rather than leaving them on the desks.

Below: Students in the north do not carry their own supplies. Most of them don’t even have backpacks. Therefore, having a full kit helps us get down to work right away. The number on each calculator and pencil case is the same number as the one on the textbook. I have called these numbers “secret math ninja codes.” 

Below: Math ninjas get thirsty too! A glass jug and hockey-themed plastic cup to quench the thirst. 

Below: Supplies! Gluesticks, scissors, highlighters, rulers, pencil crayons, whiteboards with Cartesian planes … all of these are staples in a hands-on math classroom. The black draws on the side hold geoboards, foam tiles for integers, spinning dials for probability and of course, giant foam dice. I also have a giant reknrek. As I’ve not taught primary grades, I still don’t really know how to use this yet …

Below: The shelf behind the teacher’s desk. I misplace my keys a lot, so I like to have a place to hang them. There is a lot of reading I have to catch up on … I haven’t finished my Jo Boaler book yet!

Below: Taylor Mali is well-known for a speech he gave in 2003 called “What Teachers Make” (YouTube). Watch it if you haven’t already. I love the gamut of emotions this sends through my body. Every. Time. I. Watch. It. Thank you, to my wonderful sister, who gifted this to me a couple of years ago. I didn’t have the chance to frame it when I was in Toronto, but wanted to make sure that this sits behind my desk for daily inspiration.

  More to come in upcoming days!