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building a student centred calendar routine

I am SO excited about the calendar I've developed this summer. There has always been something I didn't like about the calendars I've used in the past... numbers too big, holiday cards blocking numbers, too distracting, too random... and not enough student ownership. In my classroom I really strive to make student work the focus of the walls and displays. I don't like to have too much commercially made things on the wall, or random decor for the sake of decor. Of course, some of it is fine, I'm just trying to limit the random distractions for some of my kiddos.

So I combined all of my thoughts together and planned a calendar that is simple, low prep, and has student work as the central focus. The way this calendar works is there are 31 day cards (that I laminated for durability, since I'll be reusing the same ones every month), month cards, and days of the week cards (both the months and days come in a black background or a white background).

There are also tons of holiday cards. The holiday cards are not as wide as the date cards, allowing you to place them on top of the date card without blocking the number. The holiday cards have simple, clear designs, so they aren't too busy or distracting.  And THEN, on top of it all, I've made student reflection cards that can go in the pocket, keeping the holiday title and date visible. You can use the included cards (with a variety of sentence starters, blank, or editable so you can write your own), or just use post-it notes. 

This is a great way to end the day. Students gathering together, reflecting on the day and then choosing one student's work to go up on the calendar and represent that day. I'm going to try to make sure that each kiddo gets a chance to have their work displayed each month.

This product is available in my TPT shop here:
Minimalist Calendar

how to: print custom pages for your happy planner

This summer I was shopping at Michaels and saw the most beautiful rose gold happy planner rings... and so I decided that this year I would use this system for my planner. :) I like the size of the classic happy planner - the big one is great because it is 8.5x11 size, but I just find it's so big and heavy. Fortunately, I found it was pretty easy to print my planner out and trim the pages to the right size.

The dimensions of the classic sized happy planner are 9.25 x 7 inches. To print, just scale the size to 81%. You can print double sized at this size as well, if your printer has that option. 

To cut it exactly to size, I then trimmed off 0.875 inches off the top and bottom (the short edges), and 0.75 inches off of the sides (the long edges). Using the ruler on the paper cutter really helped make this easy. :)

And there you have it! I love how my Seasonal, Editable, Watercolor Teacher Planner turned out in this. I can't wait to start planning for the new school year!

low prep behavioural management

I don't know about you, but I have seen so many fabulous ideas on Pinterest and TPT for reward positive student behaviour. A lot of them require a fair amount of prep work, and I'm really trying to cut down on the amount of my personal time that I devote to work. Enter WOW stickers. I had some Avery 02102 labels laying around, so I designed some motivational stickers to give to my kiddos to reinforce their positive behaviour. 

These labels are super versatile and I also use them to organize my classroom library. You can download a template from Avery's website and basically use them to organize anything you wish. :)

Note - since the labels are 3/4 inch, I'd recommend you print on the highest quality print setting to ensure the image is super clear and crisp. 

I currently have two varieties of WOW stickers available - Social Emotional and Academic. Click on the link to be directed to the product, where you can see a full preview and list of all the different stickers included.

Social Emotional WOW Stickers 
Academic WOW Stickers

Each product contains 6 varieties of sticker books (full and foldable half-page), and a sticker sheet for each individual sticker, and a full page with one of each sticker on it. 

One of the sticker book varieties has a space for you to write a little note for the student, but there are other varieties where they can stick them in themselves and set goals for how many stickers they would like to earn each month. :)

As always, if you have any feedback or would like something made a little bit more specific to your needs, email me at aminimalistteacher@gmail.com

The growing bundle is currently on sale until August 2, 2018 for $8.32. This will include downloads of all future additions to the bundle. 
WOW stickers growing bundle

minimalist classroom library labels

I've finally been able to add my Minimalist Classroom Library Labels to my TPT shop! 

This has been  a true work of love - I've had the idea in my head for years and finally (thanks to the ease of these labels mainly) found a simple way to make my plan come to life.  I had previously tried making labels for my books by cutting each one out individually and taping it on to each book. Talk about time consuming! Now all I needed to do was pop the sticker labels into my printer and print! Instant circle stickers for each book. :)

There are 100 different labels, each with a bin label and corresponding sticker labels. Each sheet of sticker labels prints 24 stickers, which has been sufficient for most of my bins. It's been nice to have a few extra on hand for when I add new books to my library. 

The labels included are: 
- Art
- Apples
- Arctic Animals
- Bugs
- Canada
- Christmas
- Community Helpers
- Princess
- Easter
- Fairy Tales
- Family
- Farm 
- Halloween
- Ocean
- Math
- Pets
- Plants
- Pumpkins
- Jungle
- School
- Space
- Sports
- St. Patrick's Day
- Summer
- Autumn
- Winter
- Spring
- Thanksgiving
- Transportation
- Trees
- Valentine's Day
- Weather
- Travel
- Food
- Puzzles
- Superhero
- Literacy
- Science
- Social Studies
- Read Along
- Class Books
- Graphic Novels
- Poetry
- Adventure
- Biography
- Historical
- Fantasy
- How-To
- Mystery
- Science Fiction
- Class Favourites 
- Fiction
- Non-Fiction
- Animal Fiction
- Animal Non-Fiction
- Guided Reading Levels AA - Z+

An editable file is included in case you want to change the wording of any of the labels. I've also included additional images in case you want to use them to create your own labels - ice cream, palm tree, flower, rainbow, cactus, penguin, fox, gift, doughnut, llama, pizza, bee, book. 

I don't know about you, but I love having a really natural, reggio-inspired look to my classroom. These labels complement that nicely I find. When things are too busy, colourful, and distracting, I find both my students and myself don't function as well. These help give my classroom library the calming look I'm going for. :)

The product is 25% off for the first week (until Sunday, May 27, 2018).

Minimalist Library Labels

Looking to try a free sample first? This includes the labels for Fiction, Non-Fiction, Animal Fiction, and Animal Non-Fiction. :)

Minimalist Library Labels FREE Sample

ZAP literacy games in the classroom

Are you looking for an engaging game that can easily be differentiated to meet all of your learners' needs? Well look no futher!

Zap games take a bit of prep to set up the first time, but after the initial set up it is super easy to swap out for new content. 

Read on to find out the two main ways that I would recommend setting up the games:

When you purchase the product on TPT, you will get two different labels - the first has a set of three that you can cut out and glue onto your own decorative wrapping paper. The second label is already printed for you on decorative paper. You also get two sheets of game cards - this set is the alphabet version. :)

You can use whichever kind of container you would like for this game, but I prefer Pringles containers. 

ASSEMBLY VERSION 1: If you want to use the decorative paper I have included in the file, simply print it out.

If you wrap it around the pringles container, you will notice it is just a smidge too small. You can either leave it like this, or first wrap a blank piece of white paper around the top of the container (see below) and then secure the decorative label on top. :)

ASSEMBLY VERSION 2: If you want to use your own wrapping paper, print out the page with the three labels and the blank background. Measure your wrap carefully, cut, and secure onto the can. Cut out the label and attach onto the wrapping paper. :)

Here is a side by side of each way to assemble. The first way is definitely easier, but I understand that teachers may have their own colour grouping/themes they may want to use, which is why I have included both versions.

Next, chop up all of the game cards! I would definitely recommend using a paper cutter to make it easier on you. Laminating them will make them last longer, but if you have gentle kiddos then cardstock will work fine too. 

Fold them up, pop them into the container, and you are all set to play!

How to play ZAP games:

Kids can play independently, or in groups. I find 3-4 work best, but you can always have larger groups if you want.

Students will take turns drawing a card from the container. This is where you can differentiate as you see fit. For example, with the alphabet set, you can have the following levels of differentiation:
Level 1- identify the name of the letter
Level 2 - identify the sound of the letter
Level 3 - identify a word that starts with that letter

If the child gets the card correct, they can keep it in their pile. If they get it incorrect, they put it back.

If you draw a ZAP card, you put all of your cards back into the container!

Game play continues for a set amount of time (I usually say 10-15 minutes) and then the kids count up their cards. Whoever has the most is the winner!

I have individual sets avaliable on my TPT shop here, and I've just released a growing bundle option with massive savings:

Any questions? Please email me at aminimalistteacher@gmail.com or leave me a comment. :)

how to save your voice as an educator

In my first few years of teaching, I would lose my voice so frequently from raising my voice to get my students' attention. I wasn't even yelling, just trying to be heard over group work chatter or in the gym. This year, I was determined to keep my voice safe, so I found a few alternatives:

The whistles I purchased from a toy store (although I can't remember which!). The jingle bells were from the target dollar spot, and the other bell is from a local bookstore in Vancouver (Banyen Books, if you are interested), although it is also avaliable on amazon. The bird whistle is from a farmers market - it is locally made. You just need a few drops of water inside and it makes beautiful bird sounds.

The way I use these tools is different - I have my students trained to leave their work where it is and immediately come to the carpet when I tap the bell three times. This is super helpful when I need to have them regroup to review expectations or clarify instructions. For the other ones, they immediately freeze and put their hands on their head when I use them. I mix it up to keep it fresh with them. :) We make it into a game at the beginning of the year, and a few weeks in they are quite good at it.

Other things that I would like to get to try for next year (all are available on amazon):

These wooden frogs are percussion instruments, but they sound so neat! When you roll the stick up or down it's back it sounds just like a frog croaking. 

When I was a practicum student, my cooperating teacher had chimes hanging from the ceiling in her room (at a height that only she could reach). I just love the sound of wooden wind chimes - I think this would be a super calming way to get kids' attention.

As a side note - once I get their attention, I never use a loud voice. I find they listen more the quieter my voice is - even when I start whispering, they are all curious to hear what it is I am trying to say. :)

What are your favourite ways to get students' attention?

making math FUN with take over games!

I don't know about you, but when I think about the math I did in elementary school it typically involved work books/text books and copying question after question. Needless to say, I didn't particularly love math growing up.  Now that I'm a teacher, I try to make math as engaging and as fun as possible - and for my kiddos that means lots of GAMES! I've created these Take Over games and my students LOVE them.

These games all involve the same skill - adding and subtracting with dice.  For my kids, I find they consistently need practice and repetition with this throughout the whole year, so I've created themed versions to take out throughout the year.

The materials you will need (besides the game!) are dice - you can use two dice or one double dice. My students find the double dice super exciting to use. You will also need some sort of counter in two colours (or more, if kids are playing in larger groups).

With Valentine's Day approching so soon, I thought I'd show you inside the Valentine's game.

10 game boards are included - 5 for addition and 5 for subtraction. They feature the numbers in different spots. The way the game works is:

Students take turns rolling two dice (or one double dice) and adding or subtracting the numbers. 
They then cover the number on the board.
If another student rolls the same number, they can take over that spot with their own colour.
If a student rolls a number they already own, they can take over a picture.

The game can go on almost indefinitely, so I set a timer (usually 10-15 minutes) and when it goes off, they count how many spaces they own. Whoever has the most is the winner! 

Other versions that I have available include:

If you have a request for a theme, let me know and I'll try my best to include it. :)

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