Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Have you heard about NaNoWriMo?
Facebook Cover

Back when I tried dabbling with Lois and Clark Fan fiction, I was introduced to this wonderful concept. I knew right away that it would be great in an upper elementary through high school classroom. But since that's not the grade range I prefer to teach, I've never had the opportunity to use it.

What is it?

National Novel Writing Month happens every November! It's a fun, seat-of-your-pants writing event where the challenge is to complete an entire novel in just 30 days. For one month, you get to lock away your inner editor, let your imagination take over, and just create!
That means participants begin writing November 1 and must finish by midnight, November 30. The word-count goal for our adult program is 50,000 words, but the Young Writers Program (YWP) allows 17-and-under participants to set reasonable, yet challenging, individual word-count goals.
In 2011, 250,000 adults participated through our main site, and 50,000 young writers participated through the YWP.

No there's no reason to expect your 5th graders to write 50,000 words. Did you know there is a special branch of this program for kids?
NaNoWriMo Logo
As part of the teaching resources section they include free pdf workbooks with a LOT of worksheets to help your writers create.

You can order for free (suggested donation $10) their classroom kit. I really wish I was teaching so I could use these!


If you are facilitating NaNoWriMo for 10 or more students in a school, library, or community center, you may order one2012 classroom noveling kit free of charge!
The classroom kit includes:
• NaNoWriMo’s Triumphant Chart of Noveling Progress
• up to 35 sets of NaNoWriMo progress stickers
• up to 35 “Imagination Activated” buttons

The Triumphant Chart of Noveling Progress

It's too late to get their free kit before the program launches, but I would still order it if I was you, and update the chart when it arrives.

My imaginary plan, ordering late: Start Novemebr first talking abut 4 weeks of writing in class and at home, and have the class write outlines and character bios before my official kick off the first full week of November.

Good Luck!

Why do I bring this up? I'm going to try to write a novel again this year, and maybe actually finish it. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Your Weekly lol 13

We teach, we teach, we reteach, we review, we pretest and finally we test or assess and what too often happens? We go back to a subject months (or weeks) later and find at least one student has completely forgotten the answer.

There has to be an answer. I hope it will be found in Whole Brain Teaching, which is one reason I'm spending so much time reading the articles and watching the videos.

What do you think we can do?

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Christmas Song circa 2007

I'm sitting in front of my computer right now, trying to figure out what my Sunday School class should sing this year. Every year I try to write it myself using a familiar tune as the base. I wish my old laptop hadn't crashed a few years ago, because it had all my old songs on it.

Last year I posted Jesus was born on Christmas to share. It went over well with both the parents and students.

I went as far back as I could in my computer and dug out another song, and I don't remember writing it! I hadn't taught Sunday School for a few years because I was living out west, and didn't teach my first year home because I didn't know if I'd be moving before the year started.

I'm sure I did, but if it's yours, please share with me the link to where I found it, thanks!

(to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle)
Once there was a star so bright
Wisemen followed it at night
All the way across the sands
Bringing presents in their hands
Baby Jesus was the boy
Who they came to see with joy.

My class this year is mostly girls, and they have requested that our song be angels. I think they mostly just want to dress up as angels, lol. Hopefully by this time next week I have my song ready to go. Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Banned! Controversy!

Did I get your attention?

It certainly got my attention when I saw it on the news.

Does Halloween Belong in School? One District Says No

"There will be no costumes, no candy bags, no parties," District 69 Superintendent Quintin Shepherd told the Skokie Patch. 

But parents aren't pleased -- and not just because they'll be dealing with disappointed kids. Shepherd made the decision in early October without allowing parents weigh in, saying that asking the community for input would have been a waste of time.

"We knew what their response would be," he said. "We know they would feel strongly [about banning Halloween in the school district]. So, the reason we didn't go forward with the community hearings is because we knew they would be upset."

Instead, he sent out a letter saying that the decision had been made.

"District 69 has made the decision not to celebrate Halloween this year. This decision was not made lightly and many factors (including economic, social and religious) were considered. Many students cannot afford costumes and there is an economic disparity. We also have students that are unable to participate for religious or cultural reasons. In the past, these students have had to sit in another room and participate in an alternative activity. Every year the number of students that cannot participate grows. Our staff and administration feel very strongly that we never want students to feel uncomfortable while in school and this celebration makes many uncomfortable." (You can read the entire letter here.)

Shepherd said that he'd been mulling over a ban for the last three years. Some families felt uncomfortable about their kids celebrating Halloween at school because of religious and cultural issues, he explained; others felt that the parties were a financial burden.

Teachers and administrators "noticed more students were unable to participate in Halloween activities and they asked me if there was something we could do to try to address it," he added.

"This is a cultural sensitivity thing for us, also, sort of religious cultural," he told the Niles Patch. "There are some that don't allow for the celebration of Halloween as part of the background."

But angry parents have pointed out that there are plenty of ways to have an all-inclusive celebration without offending anybody. One parent launched a petition on calling on Shepherd to reconsider.

"While respecting different cultures is very important, many of our children look forward to the Costume Parade and parties," Shaun Saville wrote. "It is unfair to the majority of families who do celebrate Halloween to cancel all school festivities with no discussion or input from anyone other than those who don't celebrate it."

"I feel the decision to cancel all Halloween celebrations was an extreme solution for a small problem," Skokie resident Lynda Meyer commented. "If some children cannot afford a costume then the Halloween celebration at school may be the only way they celebrate. I would be willing to donate all of my children's costumes from previous years. Also I would be willing to donate money to invest in some red capes that could be used as costumes and perhaps also used at Super Hawk assemblies."

"Why not make it a celebration in which all can participate?" asked Saville. "There are other communities as diverse as Skokie and they find a way to respect ALL cultures."

Other districts in Skokie will still be holding their Halloween parties, but the seven-member board of District 69 backed ban after Shepherd raised concerns about his schools' test scores. Shepherd insists that the scores, and the fact that attendance seems to drop on Halloween, made the ban worthwhile.

"No, I do not think we are being too poltically correct," he said. "I think we are being responsive at the numbers we're looking at." 

What are your thoughts?

Here are mine:
*Yes, there are families who cannot afford the expensive elaborate costumes bought in retail stores, but it wasn't that long ago that kids MADE their own costumes with the help of their parents and stuff found around the house. I've been both a hippie and a gypsy using clothing belonging to people in my house. Today using what's in my and my husbands closets I could be a Superhero (thanks to my husbands tshirt collection),   a 50's housewife thanks to a round skirt and a string of white beads, a bride thanks to my wedding dress (although I wouldn't wear it to school), a lumberjack thanks to a winter toque and my husbands plaid shirts, a witch thanks to a black dress and black construction paper to make a hat (although mom still has the hat I used in high school, so that's much easier), a sleepwalker thanks to jammies slippers and a housecoat, and a music fan thanks to a band tshirt. It doesn't have to be elaborate!
You can also MAKE your own costume: use aluminum foil to make your self into a robot, a cardboard box to make a TV or computer, or a bag of trash using a garbage bag.

*As for the students left out due to cultural or religious convictions, I do understand. The last school I worked at all my students were Muslim, so we didn't celebrate a single holiday all year, at least not any Christian ones. However, in public schools, parents should expect their children to be surrounded by and learn about culture, not just the Christian one.

*Also, Halloween parties need not be a whole day affair, they certainly weren't in the schools I attended in the 80's. We changed into our costumes at lunch at home, and the very last hour of the day was our party, which was basically a costume parade and treats. Students who do not celebrate can still take part in looking at the costumes and eating the treats, or they could be dismissed an hour early depending on the parents preferences. Going to a separate room for the party puts a stigma on a student when their is only one excluded, but if there are many, they could definitely have their own "Celebration" which could be overseen by a gym, music, art or resource teacher. Perhaps they could could even spend the time preparing a special presentation for Remembrance/Veterans day?

*I have heard of a few schools that have forbidden scary costumes and requested that all students wear HAPPY costumes or even dress as characters from books. I believe a fall festival of that sort would be a better alternative for many students currently left out. Although I know for some people even dressing up is not allowed, no matter what the reason.

*There really is no way to please everyone, and I don't believe its fair to expect the Christian cultural majority to give up our holidays to appease the smaller growing non-Christian minority. Yes, we should and do respect their cultures, but they need to do the same. Their families can help the schools come up with ways to be more inclusive, maybe by helping to teach the classes/schools about a part of their beliefs which the students would find interesting.

Friday, October 26, 2012

What do you want to see?

Right now I'm saying a little prayer I get more than one entry into my 100 Followers Celebration, but in the meantime, I'm looking to see what I should write future posts about. So, I'm turning to you, what do you want to see?

I'm not teaching this year, so I can't share current classroom pictures. But I can occasionally share old pictures and of my Sunday School.

I like to share Freebies. What do you want to see more of or would be interested in? My WBT products, Superhero themed items, journal pages, calendars, Canada unit, etc?

I like Pinterest pins, do you or do they drive you batty?

I'm collecting together some of my semi-original Christmas songs to share with the other Sunday School teachers at my church, would you be interested in having a free packet?

I've written several posts about WBT, are you interested in my thoughts on other aspects of the program? I'm considering writing about other systems I've heard about as well.

Do you enjoy my weekly lol's? I love finding them and sharing.

I've written two posts about the recent school board election, would you be interested in further school board posts? What about other education news if it has further reaching appeal or consequences?

I create almost all my own graphics on my freebies, would you be interested in acquiring them? Are there additions to my superhero graphics you'd like to see before I put them on TpT?

My page name is Reading with Mrs D, would you like to see more reading activities, or is my random assortment OK with you?

I have done a few tutorials on things that I figured out and thought others would find useful, do you enjoy tutorials, and what would you like to have one for?

Please tell me honestly, when looking at my blog and ALL others, what are your favourite topics?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Freebie: Scissors Practice

I haven't posted any Freebies in a while, since I've been hoarding them for my 100 Followers celebration (Please take part, pretty please?), Sniff, sniff... I feel like none of my followers love me :(

But I thought today would be a good day to share one I posted on Monday night to teacherspayteachers.

Tell me what you think.
Do you have any suggestions or requests for additional pages? As always, let me know, and I'll add them!
Click this image to go to the file:

Here are four samples from the free package:

I figure these would be great in Preschools, in Primary/Kindergarten classrooms, and for homeschooling families just starting to learn basic skills. How will you use these?

Freebie FridaysClassroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween is coming! and a celebration.

This post is for two purposes so that I don't break the rule to only post once a day.

1. I took my daughter outside on Friday in her Halloween costume and took a few pictures. What do you think? I entered her in a Facebook Contest with Value Village.

What are you and your kids going as?
Does your school allow costumes, or do they have rules about what is acceptable?

 2. I started a contest to celebrate 100 followers. My TEN winners each get their page spotlighted on my blog, and I will share several ideas from your page here. It should bring traffic to all of our blogs, so we all win!

Click on the image below to go to the contest:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Your Weekly lol 12

As teachers we are becoming more and more accountable to parents and society for what we teach, how we teach it and why we teach it.

Do you ever wonder sometimes if accountability is going a bit TOO far?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bacon Sentences.

This little picture started floating around the internet, and I think it's funny.

But, I also think the activity the teacher assigned would be a great review activity for types and styles of sentences, and that this picture could easily be used as an example (but have the class spot the mistakes first and fix them).

Would you do this as a writing activity?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Heritage Minutes

When I was growing up in the 90's, Canadian TV had a series of historical minutes shared during commercials. Each minute shared a vital part of Canadian History. Ask any kid who grew up in the era to name even one, and they'd name at least ten. They still air I believe, but nowhere as frequently as before.

They taught us about the Halifax Explosion, Laura Secord, the Bluenose, Avro Arrow,  Jackie Robinson and so many other things.

And every single one ended by saying: "A part of our Heritage".

It's been announced that the collection is growing once again. It's hard to believe they started with 13 short films, expanded to more than 70 and now there will be even more. Most are available online.

While I now lean towards teaching Elementary school, I used to think I'd teach high school History, and I thought it would be neat to use these videos in the classroom.

Have you?
The Historica Institute (who owns and creates the films) has a series of lesson plans available for use. their lessons are labelled for either intermediate (grades 4-8) or secondary (9-12), so none would be useful to me in my ideal classroom in their current state, but there is no reason I can't be influenced by a lesson and modify it to fit the ability and expectations of a lower grade level.

I'd like to match up a few books suitable for younger grades with a few of my favourite heritage minutes.

The Bluenose:

This book tells the story of the unique bond between Captain Walters and his schooner the Bluenose. The ship is a Canadian icon and an icon of nautical competition, unbeaten between 1921 and 1939 in the races for the International Fishermans Cup. Its success galvanized a young nations national pride, and the ship remains an important symbol in Nova Scotia today. Walters skill and devotion to his ship helped the Bluenose hold off all challengers, even at the end of its illustrious career. Sailing for Glory also brings to life the danger and adventure of the life of a North Atlantic fisherman in the days of sail.

Underground Railroad:

The heroic struggles of the thousands of slaves who sought freedom through the Underground Railroad are vividly portrayed in this powerful activity book, as are the abolitionists, free blacks, and former slaves who helped them along the way. The text includes 80 compelling firsthand narratives from escaped slaves and abolitionists and 30 biographies of "passengers," "conductors," and "stationmasters," such as Harriet Tubman, William Still, and Levi and Catherine Coffin. Interactive activities that teach readers how to navigate by the North Star, write and decode a secret message, and build a simple lantern bring the period to life. A time line, reading list, glossary, and listing of web sites for further exploration complete this activity book. The Underground Railroad for Kids is an inspiring story of brave people compelled to act in the face of injustice, risking their livelihoods, their families, and their lives in the name of freedom.


Asport loved the world over and growing in popularity, basketball is fast becoming the winter alternative for soccer for many kids. No wonder: the sport brings together dynamic manoeuvres and fast-paced athletic grace. The third book in the How Sports Work series, How Basketball Works follows the award-winning How Hockey Works, and How Baseball Works. Now author Keltie Thomas and illustrator Greg Hall present a slam dunk look into the science of basketball. Whether readers are fresh on the hoops or pounding the hardwood for a pro career, How Basketball Works will inspire anyone's game. Engaging, energetic text looks at what makes a basketball the shooting, passing and slam-dunking tool it is; the parts of the court; game wear; skills such as the jump shot, passing and blocking shots; and more. The vibrant design comes with humorous illustrations featuring both boys and girls as well as striking photos of pro heroes and heroines past and present. There are "Quick Hit" factoids, "Star" highlights with stories of the pros, "Tips" for improving the player's game, fun "Try This" activities to develop skills and "Legends of the Game" pages. A "Rules and Regs" section and glossary are packed with the lingo and need-to-know information to make any reader an expert at the basics of the game. Ages 8-12.

Flanders Fields

Early on Christmas morning the guns stop firing through the ruined landscape. A young soldier peers through a periscope over the top of the trench. Way out in no man's land, he sees a small red shape moving on the barbed wire. A brightly colored robin is trapped, one wing flapping helplessly. Now in paperback, In Flanders Fields tells the story of a young homesick World War I soldier who risks his life to cross the desolate space and rescue the robin from the barbed wire that separates the opposing forces in their trenches. Brian Harrison-Lever's striking artwork and Norman Jorgensen's dramatic narrative make this an eloquent, moving counterpoint to the senselessness and inhumanity of war.

What books would you match up with any of the over 70 Heritage Minutes?


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Halloween Pin Party Starts tomorrow!

Endless Pinabilities is hosting another week-long Pin Party, this time focusing on Halloween!

My post goes live on the 21st, but please follow the page and get great ideas from a ton of awesome teachers.

I LOVE Halloween.

I didn't get to dress up last year, but the year before I was a pilgrim and my then fiance (now hubby) was Batman.

The year before (as you'll also see in my Endless Pinabilities Post), we were Red Riding Hood and the Lumberjack.

So come on over for some awesome Halloween ideas!

Friday, October 19, 2012

2012 School Board Election: Issues

Halifax Regional School Board

Today was the last day of advance online and phone voting for our municipal election. I'm voting in person on Saturday at a nearby Elementary school. I'm looking forward to the walk with my daughter, even though she'll be covered up because it's supposed to be raining.

I'm pretty sure I know who I'm voting for when it comes to the Mayor, but I have SEVEN choices for Council, and of course two for School Board.

Of the seven council choices, two have held the position before (My Municipality just reduced the number of districts as a cost saving initiative), and one goes to my church. It's a really hard choice because there are so MANY choices. SEVEN!

I've mentioned in a previous post that there are only two choices for School Board in my district, and I think I've made my decision, and it wasn't an easy choice. There's not a lot available online from the candidates or elsewhere that details their stances on all the issues.

Graham Judge doesn't have either a highlighted section of his blog or a tab which shares in one easy place his stance on the issues. You have to read through his posts to see his opinions.

Gin Yee makes it slightly easier for the voter to see his opinions because he has a tab labelled Platform. It doesn't hurt that he has held the job for the last two terms and knows what the voter wants.

There is a citizen group in Nova Scotia called Students First Nova Scotia, which aims to promote the needs of the student first in Education. They apparently sent out a questionnaire to all the candidates to see how well their beliefs matched with the groups, but they did not post the results on their website, which personally I would have found enlightening. A few candidates posted their results online, but neither of my choices did that I can find.

The questions posed to all School Board Candidates were on a scale from Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree, or No opinion. They were then given a space to leave a comment and expand on their answers.

I will not share Mr. Poole's answers, as he is not running for my district.

PART A – Statement of Principles
Better schools begin with you. To truly transform education in Nova Scotia, to create a system that puts
students’ needs first, we need parents, teachers, administrators, politicians, and citizens from across the
province to come together, recognize the problems in our system, and work together to overcome them.
We believe:
 Great teachers can make a tremendous difference for students of every background; all children
deserve great teachers.
 Students should not need luck to get a good education; every family should be able to choose an
excellent school.
 Public dollars belong where they can make the biggest difference; we must fight ineffective
programs and bureaucracy.
 Parental involvement is key to improved student outcomes, but the entire community must be
engaged in the effort to improve our schools.
I agree with 3/4 of these statements.

PART B - Core Principles
Please read each of the short statements and indicate your degree of support for each of those principles:
Education should be first and foremost about the student. No two students are the same and so our system
must be flexible and adaptive to the needs of every child.

Every family should have the information and access to choose among quality schools. No student should
be forced to attend a low-performing school or be taught by a low-performing teacher.

Great teachers make a difference for children of all backgrounds. All children deserve great teachers.

The surest road to mediocrity is lowered expectations. Standards and expectations should be at the highest
level for everyone: students, teachers, administrators, parents and the community.

Administrators should use resources efficiently to ensure sustainable spending that puts students first.
Schools should be managed through structures that ensure a focus on student results rather than adult

PART C - Opinion of Students First Nova Scotia and Its Mission
Please Check ONE:
______ I AGREE with the goals and objectives of StudentsFirstNS
______ I AM INTERESTED in learning more about StudentsFirstNS
______ I AM UNDECIDED about StudentsFirstNS
______ I AM UNABLE TO SUPPORT StudentsFirstNS

And these were just the issues of this one parent group. there are so many other issues being thrown around.
-making math and literacy a priority: We had low scores last year in the province on standardized tests.
-bottled water in schools.
-busing (lower distance, and subsidize bus passes for those not included)
-school boundaries
-school closures
-the role of technology in the classroom
-physical education in the schedule daily
-moving grade 9 from junior high into senior high.
-promotion of french immersion
-class sizes (caps)
-anti-bullying programs
-limit split classes
-designate official walking routes which all have sidewalks, safe paths.
-more crossing guards
-snow days

As with every election, it really depends on what is important to you, and what the candidate has to say about that particular issue. Since my daughter is only 8 months old, I'm not as yet that invested in the small issues, but as a teacher (albeit one without a classroom), there are issues which do effect me.

Let's see what happens on Saturday!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

100 Followers Celebration!

Okay, so I'm not there just yet, but I'm hoping to get there soon. When I do, that is when I will share my first feature, so watch for yours!

To celebrate I want to focus on fellow bloggers.

Here's how my celebration will work:
1. Share the image above on your page and link back to me.
2. Link up below.
3. Please follow me and write in the comment section that you are.

4. I will choose TEN random bloggers linked up below to feature (or more, hey, it's my celebration!)
5. I will share at least FIVE awesome ideas or resources I find on your blog and link back all ideas to the individual posts I found them in.

6. On the day after my last day of my features, I will share TEN brand new Freebies not yet on my teacherspayteachers account.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Your Weekly lol 11

Do you have students who would give anything to not be called on? Do they avert their eyes, or slouch behind their desks and books?

That's why I like the idea of names in a cup. You simply pull random Popsicle sticks from a Solo cup to be sure everyone gets called on during the day. If you're not happy with an answer or you want to give someone extra chances, the trick is to have a smaller cup inside the larger one, and place the ones you've called in the middle. If you're calling again, place in the outside ring with the uncalled sticks!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Free Science Magazine?

Hey all, another day, another web freebie.

Today I share with you a free subscription to The Scientist Magazine.

I'm not sure if it's easy enough to read in Elementary School, but it should be a great resource in a highschool class.

It appears to be free, my apologies if it is not.

Here's your clickable link:

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Free Postcards for Environment Unit

I keep finding great freebies, and since I'm not teaching this year, I want to make sure someone else can make use of my ideas!

I found these postcards you can request a pack of.

From the request form:

SEND a personal letter asking your country's leader to support effective, sustainable programs that save lives or SOW the seeds of change in your community.
By signing the petition, you have added your name to thousands of others who stand together to help reach the goals of THRIVE. Now go a step further.
Recruit and organize others:  Fill out the form below to request cool new postcards made of plant-able carrot seed paper. Then use these postcards to host a letter writing party with your friends and family to write a message to the G8 asking them to help us achieve the goals of THRIVE when they meet in May. We'll also send you instructions on how to write your very own letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

Here's the clickable image to the order form:

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