Posts tagged teaching
Genius Hour in Elementary

Last year, I did my very first Genius Hour in my third grade classroom.  For those who have never heard of Genius Hour, it is a student-directed hour of independent projects that was based on Google's 80/20 philosophy of work.  (More on that here, plus a great video to show parents and kids!).  It gives students a chance to explore their passions and interests and allows them to develop a lifelong love for learning.  It also helps to hone research and presentation skills in a way that is 'outside of the box' and creative.

Most of the blogs I had read ahead of time seemed to use Genius Hour in the upper elementary, middle, and high school grades.  Looking back, I wonder if I was crazy to try it with eight year olds.

Maybe I was. At times, it was insanely chaotic.  I definitely 'bit off more than I could chew' and it was a lot more work than I anticipated. But it was such an overwhelming success with my students that I am set on doing it again this year, and learning from the parts that I was ill-prepared for.

Most of the work came from being under-prepared.  I hadn't fully thought through what it would take to prepare seven, eight, and nine year-olds for independent work.  

Yes,  they are capable of it... but it takes scaffolding and intentional instruction to give them the tools to succeed!  

So, learning from my mistakes, here are four tips for a smoother, well-planned Genius Hour in Elementary!

Genius Hour in Elementary Tip One:  Model Everything

One of the most valuable things I learned in leading Genius Hour in third grade was to model all pieces of the process.  Instead of telling my students to come up with a topic, I participated in Genius Hour alongside them and verbalized my thinking process out loud.

"What kinds of things am I interested in, I'll write them down!  The ocean, hockey, running, cooking.  I love to build stuff.  When I was at the ocean I saw a family flying the most amazing kites, and they were doing loops.  It was so interesting."

I didn't just say "List the things you are interested in," I demonstrated how I would come up with some topics.In future lessons, I explicitly taught how to turn my ideas into an essential question.

"I love kites and the ocean," became my Genius Hour question "How do you build a kite?"

Genius Hour is driven by an essential question that students work each week to solve through research and hands-on exploration.  (Each question cannot be solved by a simple Google search).

Eventually, I even gave a complete Genius Hour presentation.  This way, my students were not caught off-guard by what I expected from a presentation.  I built a simple kite in front of my students, and showed what I had learned on a step-by-step poster.

Genius Hour in Elementary Tip Two:  Narrow Down Presentation Options

I have found that in older grades, students are so excited by the idea that they can choose any way that they want to show what they have learned.  The world is their oyster!

However, when I tried this in Third Grade, most of my class looked at me like a group of deer caught in headlights.  They were absolutely overwhelmed by the number of possibilities.

Should I do a poster?

What about a movie too?

Is a poster better than a movie?

I don't want to do a movie.

What if I code a video game?  I don't know what that means. But maybe my brother does.

Do I have to do all of the options?

I was ready to pull my hair out.  So we had a class meeting.

In our classroom we decided that everyone would have a small poster (I bought the poster board) that showed what they learned, and then they could also have a small model or project if they wanted.

I would suggested narrowing down the options for how Genius Hour can be presented in lower elementary.  As always, allow some students to go 'above and beyond' as they are ready and feel prepared, but don't make this the standard for all students.

Genius Hour in Elementary Tip Three:  Simple Ways to Keep Students Accountable

Genius Hour is only one hour long.

It seems like a lot but it will fly by.  To keep students accountable I used a very simple Work Log where students simply answered the question "What did you do today?"  At times, all they would write down was:

I colored my poster.  And that was enough!  Don't waste valuable time filling in a work log when you could be working on Genius Hour.

Genius Hour in Elementary Tip Four: Check with Parents

This was one of the things that I learned in retrospect.  I allowed students to choose any project of their choice without checking-in at home that each project was o.k. with their families.

It didn't go well for us.

Students assumed that they had access to a computer when they didn't.  Or access to a poster board when they didn't.  Or even a ride to the public library when they didn't.

This year, when my students create their Genius Hour plan, they will also need to have a parent/guardian sign off to make sure that their plan is reasonable.  I don't want to put any undue stress on parents or families, and hope that each project is one that my students can do (mostly) independently.

This years' project plan has a parent approval and suggestion section!  Much needed after last year.  

I've taken all that I learned and created a completed guide for Genius Hour in lower elementary.

It has teaching guides, a day plan, a week-by-week timelines, student worksheets, and rubrics.  Check it out. Hopefully your Genius Hour can run smoothly right from the start!  

Have you ever done Genius Hour in your classroom?  Share your best tip below!


My Favorite Teacher Planner, Happy Planner!

Teacher planners are all the rage these days.  If you have been anywhere in the blogosphere, or on Instagram, or FaceBook... you have seen teachers raving about their favourite planners.  One of the most popular brands is the Erin Condren teacher planner. It's beautiful... but at over 100$ (including tax and shipping) to Canada, I just haven't been able to justify the purchase.

Enter... Happy Planner.  I got mine at Michaels for 39$, and then used a coupon to get another 40% off the price.  Yay, #MichaelsTeacher!  You can also find them on Amazon for $29. 

I love the idea of keeping my life organized on paper.  Sure, there are some things I like to track electronically, but there is something so cathartic about writing everything down and seeing each day/week/month organized.  It's part journalling, part organizing, all fun.

And who doesn't like stickers?! I thought I would review how the Happy Planner (Life Edition) stacks up as a teaching planner.

Happy Planner - The Pros

1. It's adorable!

Stylistically the planner is an absolute win.  There are quite a few cute covers and styles to choose from, so you won't necessarily have the same planner as every teacher in the building.  

2. Accessories Galore.

Just like other mega-planners, this one has so many things you can add on to make it your own.  Stickers, washi-tape, extra pockets (for those staff-meeting hand outs you don't want to loose), more dividers.  Each pop in easily to the plastic rings.  

3. Customizable

The happy planner is a non-standard 9-hole planner, so every day paper can't be added into it. However, at Michael's they carry the Happy Planner Hole Punch.  How easy would it be to add in extra pages to make the planner exactly what you want it to be.  (Hint, hint.. I will be adding in student class checklists, phone numbers, and a to-do list... but it'll be a breeze to print, punch, and go!)  So many sellers on TpT offer Happy Planner compatable products for teachers so making this your own is a breeze! 

4. Bright, Clean, Design

The Happy Planner isn't cluttered, so it's easy to write lesson plans in each of the three daily boxes.  I know that some teachers prefer the day to be broken up further, or have room for standards checklists... but this is perfect for my style.  Currently, I've used the boxes for Before Recess, Between Recess and Lunch, and After Lunch.  Sure, I still do detailed lesson plans, but this helps me to get a quick grasp of what my week will look like.  (See below!)  Plus, the planner itself isn't too cluttered with doodles and designs, so there's plenty of space to write. 

5. 18 months

The planner comes with 18 months of pages so there's plenty of room to plan in advance.  I love that I'm not left scribbling leftover ideas on the back page.  

Happy Planner - The Cons

1. It's not specifically a teacher-planner

If you are looking for the absolute perfect solution that can allow you to toss out your lesson planning book... this may not be it.  For me, it will suffice.  I am okay with the vague nature of the 3-block days... but this may not be your cup of tea.   Because it is not a teacher planner, it also doesn't have the teacher documents you may be looking for:  quick student checklists, conference forms, or any curriculum planning documents. 

That being said... you could add them in.  With the Paper Punch, your own add-ins are virtually endless.  I'm hoping to add my own personal class list in, so I'm never without a marking sheet or contact information.  

I have now used it for an entire year and I am totally happy. I love that it fits in my purse and can travel from home to school.  I write in my daily lessons and my after-school schedule and I am so much more organized! 

2. Accessories Galore

I know what you're thinking... wasn't this a "pro"?  Well... yes.  Quite a bit of what makes the Happy Planner incredibly useful is available as an "add on".  

Want a pack of pocket dividers? They're available separately. 

Like those cute stickers that show a birthday? They're a separate pack!  

Need some to-do lists or a page for phone numbers? Only an extra $7

How about a shiny gold band to hold the planner together?  Ditto!

The Happy Planner itself is just the base model.  Sure, you can customize it to become the teacher planner of your dreams ... but not without shelling out a lot more money!

My Suggestions:

I love my happy planner.  I bought the base model, plus the Michaels brand stickers.  (Sorry Create 365 brand people!).  They aren't the official stickers... and they work great!  Just as sticky!  I'd love to get the 'official' Happy Planner inserts, but I think I will just make my own.  Maybe the craft of making some extra pages will even be fun!

How about you?  Do you use a teacher planner?  Do you have a favourite?  I'd love to hear all about it in the comments below.  

- Rachel

Happy Planner for Teachers
End of the Year Activities

It's that time of the year again!  The birds are singing, the sun is out, and the school year is winding down.  I've found myself becoming a little bit tear-ier than usual when I think about saying goodbye to this years' batch of kids.  At times, they were a really tough group, but I've loved the adventures we have been able to have together.

There are so many ways that you can celebrate the end of the year in an elementary classroom.  I thought I'd share a few of my favourite ways to mark the end of a successful year together.

1. Now and Then Bulletin Board

On the first day of school, I always take a picture of my kiddos holding a sign that marks their first day in a new grade.  For me, it's important that this happens on the actual first day of school.  (Not the first week, etc.)  I love the nervous/shy/apprehensive smiles I get when I take their photos on Day 1.  Then, towards the end of the year (usually 2-3 weeks from the end), we take another photo.  This time I ask them to scream out "I am done grade three!"  I love seeing the difference between their beginning and end of the year photos.  They grow so much in third grade.  

2. Birthday Party for Everyone

The theme for our year end class party this year is "Birthday Party for Everyone".

I have to admit, I am not the best at celebrating birthdays in class.  I'm great at holidays, book studies, literary events, science projects... but birthdays...notsomuch.  This year, we are having an in-class birthday party for all of my students on a day that is no one's birthday.  Each student is in charge of something: planning games, making invitations, setting up colouring stations, organizing food... even washing the dishes afterward!   

A fun way to celebrate with their friends, and make sure each child feels valued during the school year. 

3. Slideshow (Class Movie)

I love ending the year off with a class movie.  I am an iPhone and camera addict (Nikon girl!)  so I am constantly snapping pics and quick movies of my kiddos. This is my chance to snip them all together into a short (ok... 10 minutes... not that short) movie to watch.  

When I first started teaching I always waited until the last day of school to show them the movie.  Last year I stopped doing that.  Why?  Because they love the movie.  They love it so much that they could watch it every day for a week.  So now I usually show it to them 2-3 days before the end of the year. It gives them a chance to see it a few times before they have to say "goodbye" to each other for the summer.  Then, if they want to talk about it, process it, or suddenly *remember* someone that they need to play with on the playground... they can! 

4. Beach Field Trip

I know that this one isn't possible for everyone.  I feel so fortunate to live in British Columbia, and only 30-45 minutes away from more than a dozen world class beaches.

Each June my grade three class heads to the beach with our grade one buddies, their siblings, and all of our families.  We celebrate the end of a successful year family-style with a beach BBQ, sandcastle building contest, and little toes in the sand!

5. 'About My Year' Project

End of Year Flipbooks by Poet Prints Teaching (K-5)


I always try to finish out the year with a project that helps students to reflect on their time in Third Grade.  It's a great way to help students to remember all of the fun you had, and think back on how much they have learned and grown!  Last year we wrote letters to future Third Grade students.  This year, I created a flipbook template that let us think about the best parts of the year! 

6. Award Ceremony

In the last week of school I always hold my annual 'Grade Three Award Ceremony'.  We set up the classroom like a mini-auditorium and each student is given an individualized award certificate.  I invite parents to come watch and try to make this a special part of the end of our year.  This is such a chance to honour the unique parts of each student in my classroom.  I love how students light up when they hear how they are being honoured.  Teachers Pay Teachers has many pre-made award certificates.  I use this pack from 'Teaching with a Mountain View' because it has so many different options and is a great time-saver.  (I do still have to come up with a few awards on my own - but she has an editable template as well).  

7. Maintain Routines

This one may sound odd... but stay with me.  Sometimes the end of the year in an elementary classroom can be so much fun that it gets a little chaotic.  Field trips, parties, school-wide events, parent visits and evening concerts can mean that their last few weeks in a certain grade look almost nothing like the rest of the year!

Last year, I remember one of my bright-eyed little third graders coming up to me and asking "Mrs. P, will I ever get to do read-to-self with you ever again?"  She was heartbroken at the thought that regular grade three was over.  

In the hustle and bustle of the "fun" of the end of the year, I've learned that sometimes the best gift you can give to your students is the gift of keeping things as normal as possible.  They like it.  They like you, their teacher.  They will miss so many parts of the grade they are in, so why not let them hold on for just a few more days? 

How do you and your class celebrate the end of a year of learning?  Any traditions you have carried forward from year to year?  Anything you are hoping to try out next year?

12 More Cute Things Students Have Said

From the mouths of babes...

This is the second in my series about the funny, adorable things that students say (usually without intending to get a laugh!).  If you haven't, make sure to check out PART ONE.  

Up here in BC we are almost at the finish line for the school year.  It is so close I can feel it!  In looking back on this year, there have been a lot of challenges, but there have also been so many funny moments.  Teaching little people has its own unique set of joys!

In no particular order, here are 12 more cute student sayings to get you through to the end of the year (or started on your summer break if you are so lucky!)

(10 + 2 bonus ones because I just couldn't leave any out!) 

#1 - Science > Donuts

My students were conducting the dye tied experiment and one of my first graders exclaimed, "This is awesome!  It's even better than the chocolate donut I ate on the way down here!" -  Stem to Steam Trio

#2 - Mid-Lesson Pedicure

I was in the middle of a lesson at the carpet and stopped to find one student trimming his toe nails with a pair of scissors.  NOPE! - Rianna, 3rd grade teacher

#3 - Kindergarten Swear Words

I had a kindergartener walk into my room on the day we were learning the short "e" sound and point to the word "elf" on the board.

"Does that say elf?"

"Yes! Good reading!"

"That's a bad word."

"No it's not, who told you that?"

"My mama tells us we're not allowed to say the elf-word."

The Cozy Learning Cottage

#4 - The Facts of Life

Student:  You're having a baby?

Me:  Yes, I am!

Student:  So, you're adopting a baby?

Me:  No, the baby is in my tummy. (pointing to my 7 month pregnant baby belly)

Student:  (look of horror on his face)  You adopted the baby and ate it?!

Wife, Teacher, Mommy

#5 - The Moon Walk

While learning about the moon in First Grade, I mentioned to the students that Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon.  One student says, "Wait! No!  That's not Right!!  Michael Jackson was the first person to do the moon walk!"

Then, straight face and all, he proceeds to show the whole class the moon walk, and say that this is how Michael Jackson walked on the moon.  

The Pawsitive Teacher

#6 - Kindergarten Pronunciation

I have a student who has a part in our school assembly.  He is supposed to say, "Be kind and compassionate to others," but he keeps saying, "Be kind and passionate to others."  I'm never sure whether to correct him or not! 

- Lara, kindergarten teacher

#7 - Math Fail

"Am I supposed to subtract or take away?"

(OK, this may be more depressing than cute - especially in April!)

Teacher Down the Hall

#8 - This is Not Part of a Flower

(It was close enough to the word "stamen" that I didn't have the heart to mark it wrong!)

Poet Prints

#9 - Important American History

When discussing a Social Studies unit with a 5th grader, I asked, "What's the name of that document that contains all those laws and amendments?"

My student takes a few minutes to think, before her eyes light up, and she screams... "The CONSTIPATION!!" 


#10 - Latin Roots

When asked to find a word that uses the Latin root "quint, I had a student write: "Quintuplets are five twins born from a mothers womb".  

Another student, referring to the root psych, wrote: "Robin was Batman's psychic."  

So close, yet so far!  

-Mentoring in the Middle

#11 - Where Does Our Food Come From...

I overheard two of my kindergarten students talking: "So, if hamburgers come from cows, does that mean cheese is from cat pee?" 

Home Run Teaching

#12 - Vowel Movement

From a 7th grader:  We were talking about vowels, and how they impact the pronunciation and spelling of words.

 This young man became perplexed and thoughtful, and then said: "Well, I don't understand where a vowel movement fits in."  He was confusing vowels with bowels.

There was NO WAY I couldn't crack a smile.    

It's a Teacher Thing

Finally: When I Grow Up...

Jim Hansen

*Entries may have been edited for length and clarity

See you again for the next instalment.  

In the meantime, don't forget to send in your cute student stories! 

poetprintsTPT (at) gmail (dot) com 

- Rachel

12 Funny Things Students have said
Mother's Day in the Classroom

I remember my first Mother's Day as a brand new teacher.  I was in a lower-income school and I can remember eagerly planning a super-crafty project, with glue and glitter and a beautiful card titled “Why I love my Mom” (or something of the like). 

I waltzed in before Mother’s Day, and gathered up the kids to introduce the project, expecting them to be as excited as I was.

However, instead of unbridled excitement, I was met with questions and comments like:

“What about my Stepmom, can I make something for her?”

“I only have a Foster mom, what do I do?”

“I live with my auntie.”

“I don’t have a mom, she died last year.”

What a sobering moment.

Needless to say, that was a pretty big disaster.

In my rush to prepare a “cute and fun” craft project, I had completely forgotten to plan for all of the reasons why Mother’s Day can be such a hard day for so many students.

But I let it be a “teachable moment” for myself. I learned from my mistake, and made sure to think through possible difficult situations before I planned another lesson.

This year, we are doing Mother’s Day Flip Books

(Dad’s are getting the same thing in June!)

Our easy Mother's Day Flip Books

We are drawing our Mom, writing adjectives to describe her, filling in the blanks about her favourite things (fingers crossed that it ends up being something cute or memorable!) and writing her a short letter.

But this project won’t just be for Moms.

In an effort to avoid one of my worst “flops” ever, I’ve made it specifically for Stepmom’s…

And another version that is great for any special friend.

I know that some of my little ones don’t have a Mom, but they do have a mentor, an aunt, or even a family friend who would love to receive something on Mother’s Day.

How do you make sure that you are accounting for all types of families on days like Mothers or Father’s Day?

Do you do anything special in your classroom to honour different types of men and women?

I’d love to hear your ideas!

- Rachel

Mother's Day in the Classroom
10 Cutest Things Students Have Said


If you've been around children for any period of time at all, you know that they have little (or no) filter.  For better or for worse, the things that they are thinking just come bubbling out.  As teachers, we get to be privy to some of the most hilarious spoken and written comments.  

For this weeks' post, I asked around the blogosphere for stories, photos, and quotes of teachers' favorite things students have said or written that made them laugh out loud.  I got so many great responses!  

In no particular order, here are the first 10 in my new series...

Oh Deer... What did you Just Say?? 

#1 - Underwear Issue

"Can I go to the bathroom real quick? I have a really bad wedgie and mom told me not to pick it around everyone."
-Chloe Campbell

#2 - A Lesser Known Miracle

One of Lindsey Paulson's students writes about how "Jesus Rows Again."  
Lindsey Paulsen

#3 - Dinner Table Conversations

I remember asking a kindergarten student whether he'd told his parents what I'd said to him the day before. 

His response: "It's not like we sit around the dinner table talking about you." 

Um ok, I didn't realize five-year-olds had more important things going on than their day at school!
Primary Teaching

#4 - Math Logic

Me: Your answer is right, but directions say to explain your work.

Student:  Explain my work?! The answer just flew into my head.  I can't explain the flight.

Me:  Well...try.  Tell me each step of how you solved it.

Student:  Well, first I thought about it.  And then there it was!

-Grade 5 Greatness

#5 - Oversharing

I had a student walk up and announce to me one morning: 

"Mrs. P. , my dad slept on the couch last night." 

Well, thanks for sharing, buddy.

-Poet Prints

#6 - Life is Over

I had misplaced something, as usual, and I said the words: "My life is over," and a student said to me:

"Your life isn't over until you have kids...oh, wait we are your kids." 

So true.   

-  Little Human Resources

#7 - Teachers at AA

Student: (eyes wide) I just heard some teachers talking about going to an AEA meeting!

Me:  Uhhh yeah.  Lots of teachers go to those meetings I guess.

Student: (eyes even wider)  WHAT?!?!

Me:  What do you think the Alabama Education Association is?

Long pause.

Student: Oh!!! I am thinking about AA!

Grade 5 Greatness

#8 - Thoughtful Thanksgiving Reflections

Poet Prints

#9 - More Review Necessary

I work for a public school service, but I'm in a Christian school (confusing, I know). 

The kids quickly learn to answer "God" or "Jesus" for many questions when they don't know the answer. 

I was working with a group of kindergarteners and one little cutie responded, when I asked who that was on the penny, "That's easy! That's Jesus!" I had to laugh. 

-Ashley's Brainy Centers

#10 - Kindergarten-isms

This final section comes from the lovely Daisy Designs , who sent in a hilarious collection of things that she has said while teaching kindergarten.  I dare you to not laugh out loud while reading them.  

"Get your shoe out of the water fountain."

"We don't hit our friends with apples."

"Get the graham cracker out of your pants... NO, don't eat it!!!"

"Do not use the foil to make a bra..."

"Why did you put the Q-tip in her boot?"

"Eating shoelaces is bad for you."

"I hope nobody pulls their pants down tomorrow."

"I think that it really is dog poop in your shirt."

Do you have any cute funny quotes or pieces of writing from your students? Do you want to be featured in my next "Oh Deer" blog post?  Write a comment below, or send me an e-mail to poetprintsTPT (at) gmail (dot) com .  I would love to see you in an upcoming post!

- Rachel

10 Cute Things Students Really Said
Making Time for Play

I teach third grade, and I love it!

I love how my kids are big enough to have “real” conversations about life and tougher issues, and how they are still small enough to race inside and tell me about the special leaf that they found at recess time.

At this age, there is such a great opportunity to integrate play in the classroom.

Our students are already familiar and eager to play, so why not use purposeful play activities designed to engage students in our curriculum.

Here are two of our current favourite ways to play!

Painting the Room

One of my favourite “exit ticket” type activities is Painting the Room.

Although a traditional exit-ticket takes only 3-5 minutes, this one can take 30-60 minutes.

This play based activity combines Art and any other subject you would like.

I start by taping up large banner paper around the room, and dividing students into small groups.  Then, I set goals.  Depending on our current unit of study, I may ask them to paint the answer to a guiding question (“Show me how plants grow and change.”) or show what they have learned (What promises do you have from God).  They are then free to express what they know using paints.  In this time I will go around and be assessing orally as well in casual conversations while they paint. 

Play and Talk

Play and Talk was born out of a need for my students to break out of their “cliques” and get to know other people in our classroom.

Students are divided into pairs, or groups of three, and pick a board game of their choice.

They then pick two Question Cards.

(I bought mine from another store on TpT - Bright Stars Learning) Throughout the game time, they must figure out the answer to these cards about each member of their group.

At the end of the playtime, we meet as a big group to present the new things we learned about group members.

The only rule is that you may not talk about yourself, you may only share new things you learned about someone else.

In doing this, I am easily integrating Oral Language, Social Responsibility, and Health and Careers outcomes into one fun activity.

Plus, students have started to make connections with people that they don’t usually play with on their own.

Win for both of us!

How do you play in your classroom? Do you integrate the curriculum into playtime? I would love to hear from you!

- Rachel

What to do with Task Cards

This is Part Two in my series on using task-cards in the elementary classroom.  Hop on over and check out part one ("Why I love Task Cards!)

Task Cards are the ultimate versatile resource for teaching any subject. Apart from the answer sheets, they are not consumable, so they can be used time and time again.

Consider printing them out on heavy paper, and then laminating them to make sure they last through many uses. In my classroom we use task cards for more than just small group work.  Check out all of the different ways we use these flexible-use cards!

  • Go paperless - Allow students to verbally quiz each other on the task card concepts prior to a quiz, or when they are finished an assignment.
  • Use the task cards as a whole-group activity by projecting them using a document camera
  • Set the on each desk and play a game of scoot.  Have the students stand behind their chairs so that they are ready to move. Give students 1- 2 minutes at each card to write down their answer on the Answer Sheet, and then call “Switch!”  Students then move onto the next desk and begin to solve the next question.
  • Give the cards to a parent volunteer to work with struggling students
  • Set up centers with various sets of task cards.
  • Use task card sets for early finishers. (Consider using task cards that are a challenge to the students)
  • Task card scavenger hunt - Hide the task cards around the room. Give each student an answer paper and instruct him or her to find all of the cards and solve the problems. My students love this one because they think it is hilarious when they can “beat” me and find all of the cards that I have hidden.

In my TeachersPay Teachers shop, I have a number of ready-to-go task card sets.  

How about you? Do you use task card sets in your classroom?  What works for you?  I'd love to hear in the comments below, or send me a message on Instagram (@poet.prints)! 

Happy Monday!

- Rachel



Why I Love Task Cards

I have to be honest, I had never heard of task cards before this school year.

I know, I’m way behind on this one!

I found out about task cards as a necessity, I had a student who was struggling, and I needed a way to find extra practice for him on that particular topic.

A little bit of googling led me to ... task cards!

What are task cards?

For those unfamiliar, task cards are cards (4-6 usually fit on one 8.5”x11” piece of paper) that have educational ‘tasks’ on them.

Task cards can be created for all subjects.

A set of math task cards would usually come in a pack of  about 20, and would be geared for a particular subject.

They might have questions for a student to solve, things for them to find around the room, or mental math problems for them to figure out.

The great part about task cards is that the cards themselves can be re-used for years to come!

I have to say, I am now one of the biggest advocates of these teaching tools as a method for easily differentiating learning in any classroom.

It is so simple to put together a series of cards for any subject, and then to give them out to different students, as they need to work on a subject.

In my room, we do this most often with math.

(Above: 3D Shape Task Cards easily used with our unit on geometric shapes!) 

Need some extra practice with geometric shapes?  No problem, grab those cards! 

Having difficulty multiplying with tens... no problem, grab the cards and work on that with a buddy who already understands the concept! 

I can easily divide my students into small groups and tailor the lesson for exactly what each one needs, without having to continuously photocopy worksheet after worksheet.

I love that once task cards are laminated, they are reusable and kid-friendly.

I keep mine in a colourful bucket on the carpet and my students have been known to grab a pack in their spare time just to “see if [they] can do it!”

Have you ever used task cards in your classroom? Do you have a go-to pack?

- Rachel

Check out PART TWO of this series, “What to do With Task Cards” for more ideas of how to creatively incorporate task cards into your classroom routines.

Planning for a Sub

This has been an up-and-down week for me as a teacher. I have been away for most of it... sick... ugh! Man do I miss my kiddos. I had some amazing Valentines activities planned for them, but had to leave them in the hands of a very capable substitute teacher. Thank goodness for wonderful subs, I don't know what I would do without her!

Does anyone else feel like being away sick is more work than being at school?  I know I need to take the time to rest and heal, but planning for a substitute is just so much work.  There are so many good grab-and-go sub plans out there, but sometimes I just want things to continue my way, and I know that's not always possible.

In this season of colds and flus, it never hurts to be over-prepared with sub plans!  I try to have a binder of writing assignments, math projects, and classroom routines all prepped and ready to go just in case I can't be in the next day.

Am I alone in this anxiety over leaving my class with a sub?  How do you plan for your inevitable days off?  Let me know in the comments below!

- Rachel