Should I Purchase The Latest Classroom Decor Trend?

Every year when back to school season hits, social media is flooded with teachers sharing their ideas and purchases as they set up their classroom for the new year. And that’s great! Social media is a fantastic place to find new inspiration and bounce your own ideas off others. So what’s the problem?

Sometimes a trend will take social media by storm, and every teacher scrambles to get the latest and greatest decor item for their classroom. Milk crate chairs, bright pom pom accents, chevron carpets, even a certain color scheme can become trendy. This year the big trend seems to be lightboxes. Don’t get me wrong, many of these ideas are awesome and help to create a learning environment that both you and your students can enjoy. Classroom improvements like adaptive seating, or a new carpet for group time will always be beneficial. I only caution that sometimes these trends can become overwhelming. Back to school is stressful enough without worrying about whether your color scheme is trendy this year! Ask yourself a few questions before buying a new decor item for your classroom:

What is motivating me to make this purchase? Will it improve the learning environment for me or my students? Do I have the time and energy to impliment this in my classroom? Is the cost worth the benefit? Is there a way I could make this myself instead? Am I buying this because I need it, or just so I can take a picture for Instagram? Is this something I will throw out in a year, or does it have durability? Does this match my own design wishes for my classroom?

You can also consider these questions in a handy infographic form!

Should I Purchase The Latest Classroom Decore Trend?

These questions aren’t meant to make you feel bad for buying something that is trending, or to say that you shouldn’t buy trending items in the future. That lightbox you purchase might be the highlight of your classroom this year! It’s simply important to be clear and honest with yourself over why you are purchasing something, and to make sure its right for you and your students, so that you can save time, money, and energy this busy back to school season!

Election 2016 Resources For Teachers

Election Resources For Teachers

With all the media attention about the upcoming 2016 Election, now is the perfect time to get students engaged in critically understanding election coverage. This is a great opportunity for students to dialogue about citizenship, media, bias, and facts vs. opinions. Here are some great resources I’ve found for you to help your students understand election time this year.

Video: US Elections- How do they work?
The UK Parliament has put together a very good video explaining how US Elections work with great visuals.

Video: The Electoral College- does your vote count?
It can be difficult for students to understand why some states are constantly referred to as the ‘more important’ states. This video clearly explains the electoral college.

Website: Candidate Platforms
This website presents the platforms of each candidate in an easy to navigate way for students to compare and contrast.

Resource: Election Ballotoriginal-2656601-1
Busy Bee In Grade Three has provided a great freebie of classroom voting ballots if you would like to hold a vote in your classroom after learning about each candidate!

Resource: Analyze Political Ads In History
A through lesson plain is available here to guide students through an analysis of political ads, and specifically the use of children in political ads.

Resource: American Election Vocabulary Posters2016 Election Vocabulary Posters
While you dialogue with your students there is bound to be new vocabulary pop up. Use these half-size posters on a bulletin board to remind students of key terminology.

Website: Scholastic Election
Scholastic has created a website with many lesson plans, videos, and other information for students and teachers about the election. I especially recommend taking a look at their ‘Kid Reporter’ section.

Pinterest Board: Teaching Government     
For many more resources for not just the election, but other government topics, you might like to follow my ‘Teaching Government’ Pinterest board.


Learning About The Earth’s Layers

earth layers

Today I’d like to share a favourite Montessori-inspired activity for learning about the Earth’s layers. What better way to peel back the layers of the planet than by making one out of plasticine! Starting with a small yellow ball representing the inner core, students add layers of plasticine to represent the outer core, mantel, and crust, before adding some blue and green so that it becomes the planet we recognize. Then comes the big reveal, using a wet knife to avoid smudging the colours cut out a wedge and pull away to expose the complete layers. Have students label each layer and discuss what they know about each one.

Building the earth's layersPro tip: make sure to put down a piece of scrap paper on each table and use tin plates for display to avoid messy plasticine residue!

If you’d like to try this lesson with your students you might like my ‘Layers Of The Earth Lesson’. It includes full instructions for this activity, as well as a cut and paste note about each layer (including depth, composition, and state), and a foldable note in which students can use websites and research books to write about each layer. The note will fit easily into a small composition book, and it comes in both metric and imperial, so you get to choose what works best for you! You can download the full lesson here. 


Stop Reading “The Indian In The Cupboard”: Better Alternatives For Your Classroom

Every year teachers everywhere begin a social studies or literature unit where they discuss Indigenous history and contemporary Indigenous issues. Depending on the country or province you teach in, the requirements of this unit vary. But for many teachers, the arrival of this unit means reaching for the old standby tome “Indian In The Cupboard” by  Reid Banks.

You might have read this book in school and have thought nothing of it, but providing this book to our students is deeply problematic. What’s the issue? Though the story might initially seem innocent, it is an ethnocentric mess of misrepresentation, racism, anti-feminist undertones, and stereotype. This book is outdated and does not belong in our classrooms.

A critical read-through should be enough to realize that the representation of Indigenous peoples produced through this story is deeply problematic and unsuitable for the classroom. However, if you want to read more about why this book and others like it are so problematic you might like these articles:

Get The Indians Out Of The Cupboard  

Ethnocentrism In Indian In The Cupboard  

But what book should you pick up for your students instead? Here is a quick list of great books for a range of ages to critically engage your students in dialogue surrounding contemporary Indigenous issues and history.

Less Problematic Alternatives To Indian In The Cupboard'-2

Lower Elementary: || A River Lost- L. E. Bragg || A Coyote Columbus- Thomas King || As Long As The River Flows- Larry Loyie ||

Middle School: || The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian- Sherman Alexie || A Stranger At Home- Christy Jordan-Fenton || Lightning Rider- Jaqueline Guest ||

High School: || The Inconvenient Indian- Thomas King || Ends/Begins- David Alexander Robertson (Part of a seven book series) || Walking In The Woods: A Métis Journey- Herb Belcourt ||

Whenever we discuss big issues like this with students it is important that more than one story is read. Any book will offer only one perspective, and it is the job of educators to be willing to critically engage with students about issues in the texts they read.

It can be difficult to explore complex and often uncomfortable realities surrounding the  treatment of Indigenous peoples with students. But to reach for an outdated and racist book simply because it is more comfortable to teach or easier to avoid the ‘big issues’ is a disservice not only to Indigenous peoples, but to our students and ourselves.

For more book recommendations you might like to visit this list of books selected by BC teachers, or the lists for kids and teens at  

Back To School Celebration

Back To School Self Care

Today kicked off my back to school celebration. I asked teachers what they did to take care of themselves during the busy back to school season. Between last minute Walmart runs for supplies and setting up your classroom, it can be difficult to make time for taking care of yourself. Wether you take a nap, watch your favourite tv show while you laminate, spend time with your kids, or sit on the porch with a big bowl of ice cream, make sure you spend some quality ‘you’ time before the school year starts.

What do you do to start of the year refreshed and relaxed? I’d love to hear from you on social media, in the comments below, or at



Back To School Celebration

BTS Celebration Lifelong Learning

It’s back to school season and I think that’s a reason to celebrate! Though it can be a busy season of stress and to do lists, it’s important to focus on the positive aspects of a new school year. For the next seven days I’ll be posting dollar deals, flash freebies, and more! Keep an eye out on social media to participate! While you’re on the lookout for flash freebies you can also join the conversation- comment on the back to school themed questions and see what other educators are thinking this back to school season.

Connect with me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to participate.

Beach Themed Sensory Bin

Summer is a great season for sensory play experiences. Water tables, gardening, and playing at the beach all provide children with valuable opportunities for sensory play. But what about those stormy summer days spent inside? Create a fun beach themed sensory bin to bring the summer indoors.

Beach Sensory Bin

In this bin the sand provides a fun foundation, and with the addition of water becomes a building material. Coloured threads mimic seaweed, and rounded beach glass, driftwood and seashells provide interesting textures and colours to explore. The best part? Most of these materials can be collected on your next trip to the beach.

Wan’t to learn more about sensory bins? You might like the following posts:

Sensory Play & Sensory Bins
Calming Sensory Bin
Autumn Sensory Bin

Relaxing Into Reading: 20 Places To Read

20 places to read

A question to ponder when considering how we can help students develop a love of reading is how we can make reading more than an academic task. We want students to look at reading not as something they have to do, but something they want to do. How can we foster this perspective? I believe that  a big part of creating this reality is helping students relax into reading. When we give students the space to read for pleasure we help them see it as something other than a performative task.

So if reading is something that students often perceive as being an academic pursuit completed at at desk, why not help them see it in a new light by changing the physical location and creating a relaxed atmosphere?

Needs ideas? Here is a list of 20 places to read that break free of the academic limitations we often place on reading. Challenge your students or your family to read in as many different places as they can.

1. In the garden.

2. In a blanket fort.

3. Under a table.

4. On a road trip.

5. On a swingset.

6. In the bath.

7. In a sleeping bag.

8. By a campfire.

9. Under a tree.

10. By a pond or pool.

11. In a reading nook.

12. To the family pet.

13. At a park.

14. In a tent.

15. While eating breakfast

16. At the library.

17. In a hammock.

18. At the beach.

19. In a closet.

20. In the dark with a flashlight.


Story Sunday

(please link back by including this button in your post)

Story Sundays are about exploring the conversation surrounding how a love of reading can be fostered in children, and how this passion can be ignited in the classroom.

  • Do you have any great strategies for encouraging a love of reading in your classroom?
  • What books do you recommend for students for summer reading?
  • What books have personally inspired you as a teacher?
  • Where do you love to read in the summer?

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them when you link up during Story Sunday.

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Making The Most Of Your Local Library

Making The Most Of Your Local Library

For children to develop a love of reading they must read books that interest them. It’s not always easy to find a book your child will love! But what better place to start your search than your local library? In addition to books, libraries offer a variety of resources you can use to support your child’s love of learning and reading. Here are some tips to make the most of the resources your library offers.

Albert Einstein Library Quote

1. Free Programming

Most libraries offer a variety of free reading programming that you and your child can enjoy. Book groups and readings for young children as well as teens are a great way to connect over literacy as a group.

2. Your Librarian

The librarian at your local branch will be an expert at finding books that your child might like. They know the trends for your child’s age group, what books have won awards, and the best new releases. Use their knowledge and don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation.

3. Audiobooks

Most libraries offer a variety of audiobooks. This can be a great option for reluctant readers to follow along with the recording. You might like to read my previous Story Sunday post about using audiobooks to support readers.

4. Modeled Reading

Given the opportunity to see other readers interested and engaged in reading and learning, reluctant readers are often more willing to explore a book themselves. Spending time in the atmosphere of the library provides the perfect opportunity for the free exploration of literature.

5. Order It In

Many libraries offer an interlibrary loan service. If there is a particular topic or book you are looking to explore you can have an item from the catalogue delivered to your local branch. This is an often overlooked resource, so remember that you aren’t just limited to the resources you see on the shelves.


Story Sunday

(please link back by including this button in your post)

Story Sundays are about exploring the conversation surrounding how a love of reading can be fostered in children, and how this passion can be ignited in the classroom.

  • Do you have any great strategies for encouraging a love of reading in your classroom?
  • What books do you recommend for students for summer reading?
  • What books have personally inspired you as a teacher?
  • How do you use your local library?

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them when you link up during Story Sunday.

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6 Great Camping Books For Kids

Great Camping Books For Kids

Story Sunday is all about promoting a love of literacy. Summer is the perfect time to engage young readers with topical and interesting material. Camping has long been a main summer event for many families, so this Story Sunday I’d like to highlight my top picks for camping books your children will love.

All rained out on your camping trip? Make sure you have a backup plan. My favorite? Snacks and a great book.

1. The Kids Campfire Book

Out of activity ideas while camping, at the cottage, or in you own backyard? This book sure isn’t. The perfect cure for “I’m bored”.

2. Cooking On A Stick

Any young camper will enjoy this exploration of fun campfire cooking. Great to read, try, and eat as a family.

3. Tracks Scats and Signs

Would your eight year old rather be glued to a screen than exploring the outdoors? What better way to get them outside and exploring nature then by talking about poop? These take-along guides are the perfect companion to a camping trip or a walk in the woods. The great illustrations and well presented information in these books will make anyone a burgeoning outdoor explorer.

4. The Take-Along Guide Series

So if it isn’t evident yet, I really like this series. Here are a few other titles that you might like to explore depending on your child’s interests. They are all amazing.

5. Sleeping In A Sack

Another great book from Linda White. This is the perfect read for first time campers to participate in the planning process and get excited about an upcoming trip.

6. A Child’s Introduction To The Night Sky 

Kiss the city smog goodbye and say hello to country air. Camping is the perfect time to introduce children to the cosmos. This book is the perfect accompaniment to a night of stargazing.

What reading material do you like to bring on a camping trip? I’d love to hear in the comments below or when you link up for this Story Sunday.



(link back using this button in your post)

Story Sundays are about exploring the conversation surrounding how a love of reading can be fostered in children, and how this passion can be ignited in the classroom.

  • Do you have any great strategies for encouraging a love of reading in your classroom?
  • What books do you recommend for students for summer reading?
  • What books have personally inspired you as a teacher?
  • How do you make reading exciting for your children?

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them when you link up during Story Sunday.

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