first post of 2015 + book haul

Hello and happy 2015! I am excited to be back at the university for my sixth semester (which includes my 3 week block for pre-internship!).

To ease my disappointment that the holiday season, once again, flew past, I decided to use the bookstore gift cards I got for Christmas to buy some new treasures for my growing classroom library collection.

I highly recommend these gems to any teacher or parent. They all have great messages behind them.

1. “One” by Kathryn Otoshi

one otoshiOne of my classmates (@Cass_Hanley) showed me this wonderful book during a Health Education class, as it focuses on bullying. Written in very simple language, with vivid splashes of colour, this book is a great way to introduce students to a touchy and relevant topic.

one otoshi 2

one otoshi 3

2. “Zoom” by Robert Munsch

zoom munsch

Robert Munsch is a classic author to include in any book collection for young kids. His comical characters and situations delight readers and make his books easy to listen to over and over. I particularly like this book because the main character is a fun-loving young girl (who just happens to use a wheelchair). She goes to the store to buy a new wheelchair and cannot find one that is fast enough for her liking. This book is a fun ride!

3. “The Dot” by Peter Reynolds

dot reynolds

I found this book last semester while searching for children’s books about self esteem. This cute little story really emphasizes the fact that we are all artists. The main character, Vashti, cannot draw anything in art class until her teacher encourages her to just “make a mark and see where it takes you.” I think that this book is a great reminder for teachers to truly value their student’s artwork.

dot reynolds 2

4. “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

tango richardson

My instructor (@jmachnaik) showed me this awesome book in ECS 210 last year. I instantly fell in love with it. #1 because it is about penguins. #2 because it is a true story from the Central Park Zoo in New York. And #3 because it introduces kids to families with same sex parents. Roy and Silo are a penguin couple and do all the same things that other penguin couples do, but they have no egg to care for. Another penguin couple ends up having two eggs and cannot care for both, so the penguin caretaker gives one of the eggs to Roy and Silo to raise as their own. Such a heartwarming tale! Your insides will feel as fuzzy as little baby Tango looks.

tango richardson 2

5. “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss

lorax seuss

I fell in love with this book while taking a class on Environmental Studies, and included it in the unit I created for the class. Dr. Seuss packs in his usual whimsical language and fantastical characters, along with a powerful message of preserving the natural beauty and resources that Mother Earth has given us. A must have for a classroom!

lorax seuss 2

6. “The Book with no Pictures” by B. J. Novak

no pictures novak

I learned of this quirky and unique book during my ERDG class. I have not tried it out on students myself, but I have a feeling that it will always result in non-stop laughter. The premise of the book is that it has no pictures, but that does not mean it is boring. Quite the opposite actually, as the reader ends up saying a multitude of silly things (because the reader MUST read all of the words that are written in a book). A very clever way to show students the power of the written word and to interest them in books without illustrations. A fairly new book, but I hope it becomes a classic.

no pictures novak 2

Children’s literature holds a special place in my heart because of the wonder and lightheartedness that it sparks within us. It is so nice to see today’s authors including important social justice issues within their books’ pages.

What is your favourite piece of children’s literature? 

Until next time,


5 card flickr story

Here are the five photos I chose for my story

Here are the five photos I chose for my story

Today, a presentation in our ERDG 310 class introduced me to a new online resource that encourages writing: 5 card flickr stories. The user selects 5 pictures in chronological order and then writes a corresponding story to go with the images they selected. This would be a great activity to use with students who get writer’s block! Below is a quick example that I did. I really enjoyed this program and can see myself using it in the future with students.

Do you have any great online literacy resources to share?


when things click

I am currently in a cheery mood from a successful tutoring session today, so I thought it would be a prime opportunity to share some of the journey so far.

The past few sessions, my student has seemed underwhelmed with the activities I’d planned. I know how much a drag “summer school” is to kids, so I am trying extra hard to make the learning fun and engaging with lots of game-based and hands-on elements. I even created a lesson that was done entirely outside and incorporated physical activity (which also didn’t seem to appeal to my student).

Today, though, seemed to go over really well, and those little moments of victory are always worth it, no matter how long awaited they may be.

The thing I am struggling most with this summer is finding larger chunks of text that my student will actually enjoy reading. This calls for an exciting subject matter with skill-level-appropriate difficulty. As an avid reader, I am really passionate about getting kids to read for enjoyment, not just because their teacher/parent says they have to. I have tried some short stories the school teacher supplied me with, mad libs, books from my own collection – all to no avail. So my search for a winning story continued…

Despite previous lacklustre attempts, something just seemed to click with today’s piece of literature and the strategy my student and I used to read it. I, personally, find that if a student comes across too many difficult words in a sentence/paragraph, they will slowly ‘shut down’ and lose their momentum with a story (which, believe me, is not a good thing to happen when they are only a quarter of the way through the reading!). With this in mind, I decided to use a new strategy (that I have christened “Tap Out”) for this two paged short story, which I predicted may cause a reading slump if my student were asked to tackle it all on his own.

Tap Out is simple – one person starts reading and can continue for however long they’d like. Once they want a break, they simply tap the other person on the shoulder and it is then their turn to read until they feel they are done. The listener also has the job of place keeper, and had to point out the words for the reader as they went. This strategy can also be used with student reading pairs. It allows students to only read as much as they feel comfortable and not feel so overwhelmed when looking at a long piece of text. It also ensures that the student not reading will still be paying attention and keeping an eye on the place in the text. Strong readers may just have to be encouraged to save some story for their partner to read!

I figured that this strategy of reading a text together would help my student if he started to have a reading shut down. I could give him a chance to recharge, and still have control over the situation so I didn’t end up reading the entire story. To my delight, my student ended up reading a chunk of almost half of the story by himself with little difficulty! This is the link for the story we read. I highly recommend you check out the whole site – which is full of short stories at various skill levels that can be read on tablets, smartphones, laptops, or printed out and read on good old fashioned paper.

After reading the story (it’s called “Jacob is a Car,” by the way), we had a little chat about the things that happened in the story. I made sure to focus more on open-ended questions that relied upon imagination and critical thinking, rather than asking for specific details from the story. He seemed to enjoy this comprehension conversation much more than having to write out answers to formulated questions. As a final, wrap-up activity, we both made movie posters for the book, intended to highlight the important parts, make the story look interesting, and get other people to read the story.

Here are some example questions we discussed:

-why do you think the nickel is magic?

-what colour would you be if you turned into a car?

-what colour do you think Jacob’s dad would have been in car form? Why?

-what else do you think the magic cars could do (go underwater, have races, etc.)?

-if you had a magic nickel, what would you use it for?

-if you could transform into anything in the world, what would it be?



Let me know if they did the trick!

Until next time, keep reading and learning!


treaty education


A couple of things came up for me during Claire Kreuger’s presentation on Treaty Education today:

  • I think it is very exciting that the push for inclusion of Indigenous viewpoints is becoming more prominent in education as it is such an integral part of our country’s past
  • I feel that I don’t know a great deal about treaties myself, but I think learning something alongside your students is a great approach – if teachers include Treaty Education in their classroom, they will be educating themselves along the way as professional, lifelong learners
  • Integrating things like Environmental Education, Treaty Education, and social justice into other subjects’ curriculum goals is a necessary skill in order for teachers to accomplish everything they are required to in one year
  • These tasks may be very daunting, but they are worth it in the end
  • We, as teachers, need to be connected to as many resources as possible (ex. elders, teachers on Twitter, other professionals, etc.) if we are going to make the most of these decisions – no one person can do it alone! You will need a lot of help and should embrace that fact if you are going to succeedImage

To bridge off that last point of sharing resources and being connected, I thought I would share with you some wonderful resources that Richard Van Camp (an author from the Dogrib nation in NWT) shared with me after an in-class presentation in my English 110 class last year (I highly recommend his children’s book, “What’s the Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses?” – it has lovely illustrations!)

Primary Aboriginal Resources – This resources offers many different ways you can incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing into various subject areas. It includes a TON of stories.

Primary Storybook Favourites – This second resources has a vast array of children’s books with Aboriginal themes. And don’t worry, there are representatives from many different First Nations cultures, not just one (because after Claire’s presentation, we will all be cognizant of the fact that they are NOT all the same).


(And in case you want to get synced up with Claire:    

Twitter: @ClaireKreuger      

Classroom Blog:

Treaty Education Blog:


sound switch reading game

I was just surfing the net, collecting ideas for a tutoring lesson plan and came across this little gem… I call it “Sound Switch.”

Sound Switch game

  • Choose a simple word like ‘take’ and let child choose one sound to remove (ex. ‘k’)
  • Replace the removed sound with another to make a word (ex. ‘l’ to make tale or tail)
  • Keep going until all of the word’s sounds have been replaced
  • Good words to use: mail, fun, bump, chunk, slice, pan, gave, same, like, small

Just thought I’d share this quick little update! Tutoring is quickly coming to a close, which makes me sad because the last few sessions have been really great – probably the best yet! I have found two activities that click really well with my student.

1. We have worked on a lot of sounds over the summer, and after reflection, I realized that the last few were rushed through by me. So to really enforce the ones that hadn’t stuck as well, I made a little game. I wrote out the sounds (like ch, ow, ar, etc) on ‘flashcards’ and showed them to the student. If he verbalizes the sound correctly, he gets to keep the flashcard. If he answers incorrectly, I keep the flashcard (to review the troublesome ones later) and he has to do something for me.  I make up little tasks for him to do (like pushups, stacking chairs, walking like a seal, folding a blanket, etc. – it can be ANYTHING!). My student likes to keep his hands busy, so I have found this activity VERY helpful and beneficial for both of us – he loves the challenge and competitive-ness of getting them right (and especially loves when his stack of sounds is way larger than mine at the end of the game). This game is also really easy to mix up and make harder (for example, one time through, I gave him a 3-Mississippi time limit to come up with the answer and he enjoyed that a lot as well!).

2. I have a list of common but tricky words (where, were, their, why, who, etc…) that are written out on a piece of paper. Each day we work on them, he uses a different coloured pen (I started with red and have continued to go through the rainbow). Each time the student reads a word correctly, he underlines it in the colour of the day. This makes it really easy for not only the student, but also the instructor, to see the progress and recognize the trickiest words. I have found that this constant review of these words really helps to enforce them and he is improving every time!

I hope that these sessions will really help him when he gets back to school in a few weeks! I know it has helped me to continue to grow as a teacher! 🙂

ipads and cheerios

Just a quick little catch-up post here everyone:

1. No tutoring Tuesday or Thursday this week, BUT I have 4 sessions next week to make up for it. I am going to be a lesson planning machine this week and #1 is done! Sticking to my previous goal of adding more technology and interactive activities, I made the ENTIRE lesson with only iPad apps! I am very excited to try it out and see how it goes!

Here are the apps I am using:

Sight Words 2, Word Monsters, Dog Story, Phonics Genius

Maybe in a later post I can give my likes and dislikes about these apps and their functionality, but I am gunna take them for a real test drive first (because I don’t count my experimental playing of all these games, which I have to say, is actually a lot of fun… haha. The perks of this occupation are endless, I tell you!)

Wish me luck!

2. As an avid YouTube watcher, I spent the last day of my holiday catching up on all of the uploaded videos I had missed over the past little while. One of my favorite series is the _________ React by the Fine Brothers. There are many different groups of people who react to videos and internet sensations chosen by viewers. Teens, Elders, Kids, YouTubers all give their insight.

The newest Kids React is about an allegedly “controversial” Cheerios commercial. Why is it controversial? You’ll have to watch it and see.

I myself was waiting for something terrible to be said on the commercial. But the only reason that this commercial is turning heads is because of the mixed race parents. This seems like such a joke to me because this is an everyday, normal situation for so many people.

While the fact that Cheerios is getting heat for displaying a realistic family situation made me angry, the children’s reactions really brightened my day. THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is the reason I am ecstatic to spend my career with children. They truly give me hope for a brighter tomorrow. It reminds me a lot of my favorite quote:

See life through the eyes of a child: Everything being beautiful.

So let’s all try and adopt the view that these kids had. They didn’t see anything wrong. Because there wasn’t.

online reading resources

Here are a couple of the great sites I have found so far:

RIF Reading Planet

This site has a lot of different icons to click on its home page. I really like the Poetry Splatter game under the ‘Game Station’ icon!


Starfall is a site designed for those who are just learning to read. Under the ‘Learning to Read’ item, there are short stories that focus on many different letter sounds to reinforce a specific one!

Kindergarten Resources

This site is a hidden treasure! It is just a page FULL of links to other great games and activities! My favourite (so far – I haven’t had time to try all the links yet!) is Bembo’s Zoo. It has an animal for every letter. When you click on the letter, it says the name of the animal, and then the letters jumble up and create a picture of that animal! Very cool! It would link perfectly with a lesson idea I had for students to draw a picture with only letters (see my post ‘music as cultural integration/alphabet art’ on March 7, 2013).

ICDL (International Children’s Digital Library) 

I am IN LOVE with this site! It has thousands of books, all scanned online for you to read! The Advanced Search has helped me greatly to narrow down the vast, vast selection. It has parameters for age, language, length, even cover colour for goodness’ sake. I have no doubt that this will be a favourite of mine for a long, long time!

Eight Books to introduce Art to Preschoolers

Learning with Miss Jenny

 Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct DetailsRound Trip (Hardcover)

Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct Details

Last week we had a really fun class involving art!  I love introducing new concepts and themes to kids!  I think that it challenges them in a different way and encourages other interests.  I needed books on the topic, so here is a list of a couple that I picked up with a brief description.  I was pleasantly surprised how many books there were about art that were geared toward preschoolers!!!

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