How do I set up my class when I don’t have any stuff!?

Hello – 

We’ve  had lots of time in our class discussions and our own findings to have a sense of what type of routines we want to implement and how we want to teach our students……but what about the space your students are going to be in? How is that going to be organized and where are you going to put all your things so you can find them? As a new teacher you probably have a small stash of things you have randomly bought along the way but what else are you going to need? I’m going to go over a few basic ideas to help you (and me, mostly) get started and also to bring to your attention some things you may not have given thought to! 

First of all, give yourself time before the school year begins to get ready! Obviously this isn’t always possible as a new teacher but if you can get into your classroom atleast the week before you will have much less stress. This gives you a chance to look at your layout, what type of shelving or storage you have in the class and where the white boards and projectors are set up…..if you have any. Another good reason to get yourself into your new school early is to make contact with some of the other staff.

I know I always feel nervous going into a new school, but I always feel better when I’m in my hometown because I always recognize somebody I know in the staff room and that is comforting. Teachers are much better at collaborating these days and you will want to get in on that!

Once you know what type of space you are working with then you can begin to plan your bulletin boards, carpet space, and displays you will have. Make sure that you use cohesive colours and keep a theme, this keeps the classroom all in sync. Getting prepared ahead of time means you have more time to think about what you would like to display and gives you time to print and laminate different resources. Of course we all know and but do start regularly watching as many things go on sale or become free from time to time that could be useful in the future. It’s ok if your classroom is pretty empty, don’t feel that you need all the posters and displays already chosen. It’s very difficult at this stage to know what we are going to want to use on the walls. Your students will enjoy watching their walls fill up as the year progresses and they know the reason behind everything you put there! I love the idea of displaying the cover art of all the books we have read as a class on the wall, or sort them into categories. There are some many things you could do with that idea!

Other decisions you will have to make in your space are:

  • Find distinct areas around the room for your different uses. (carpet space, desk area, stations/centres, quiet reading nook etc.)
  • Where are YOU going to work? At one desk? Multiple work surfaces?
  • Where will student supplies be kept (glue, scissors, pens, paper)? How will you store these?
  • Where do you expect the students to work? Find areas in the classroom that can be used as work space.
  • Do you want different lighting in some space of the class? 
  • Where are the students personal belongings going to be?

Lastly, I think it is important to specifically talk about books. A very important aspect of a classroom is its library and how book selection for students is set up. This is an area that I do worry about because it is going to take a lot of time to build up a book collection and know which books we prefer using over others. As for where to get the books….start looking now. I have already been collecting books whenever I see a trolley of free books in a school. Its hard to know which ones to pick but I just grab a stack every time. Another good strategy is get friendly with teachers who are going to retire soon! This may sound crazy but they do not want to keep every single thing they have in their class and I have found many are thrilled to give it away knowing it is going to good use. Also, many TOC’s are teachers who no longer want to work full time or have their own class, and I have gotten totes full of stuff because they don’t need it anymore. It feels super overwhelming, but it will come together I promise you! It will be easier to know what you need if you break it up into a few different groups of book types.

  1. Reading level groups – This can be done in a few ways but the most popular is to have “Just Right” baskets with same-level books. Some teachers will make clothespin with the students names on them and clip their name onto the appropriate basket, this way they can be moved around. Benchmark books are also useful for this but not always as fun to read for the students. has some great online resources (depending on the tech access at your school) and also provides access to online reading records.
  2. Have a main library with a good assortment of fun books. These are books that students can grab at any time and read whether or not they are the right reading level or not. The purpose of this library is to inspire the love of reading. Generally, these would include popular classics and new popular books with characters that students love. Be sure to have your favourites in there as well! If you love your book collection then so will the students.
  3. This one is more optional but you could also add to your class a book shelf, or basket with theme books. This could rotate according to units, holidays and seasons. This is a different way to get students to look at books they may never have noticed before.

So now you know what I know! I suggest we all start taking notes of these little details while we are in practicum and compiling a folder of ideas…..and maybe hit a lotto garage sales looking for stuff…. 

Ms. S

Here are some great links I used for my research.

10 First Week of School Teacher Tips You Must Remember


More resources…

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Inspiring students in the classroom

Hey everyone,

my topic for my posts is based on Growth Mindset, and fostering a positive atmosphere in classrooms.

I have a grade 2/3 class, and from day 1 my sponsor teacher noted that the students may be below grade level learners.

As the first week of practicum went by, I noticed something. The students in my classroom had really low confidence. 

This really was an ‘aha’ moment for me, because I saw their bright ideas and the sparkle in their eyes when I talked with them, they just were stuck when it came to expressing them.

My focus is going to be on different techniques we’ve learned in our time at VIU, and hopefully some things that are new to some of you 🙂

We all remember the great video, The Power of Yet right? Well, that could be something you share with your kids!

But let me backtrack a bit. I fullheartedly believe that the FIRST thing we need to do as teachers is building a safe classroom community. Students who may feel nervous to share their ideas could be telling us that the classroom community isn’t as safe as it could be.

How can we build safe classroom communities? It may be tricky to do this in a practicum classroom, but know that you are backed up by your supervisors, and the professors at VIU who embody this in our learning.

Remember the set of classroom rules we came up with for Paige’s class last year? That is something you could introduce into a classroom. Ask your sponsor teacher if you might be able to try something like that in the class. Getting students to co-create the list will give the best resource for kids to refer back to. Talking about what the kids want to see in a safe classroom will help build the classroom designed by them (with our guidance, of course).

Something to take in mind is the school goal for the year. At Salmo Elementary, the school goal is literacy, but also self regulation. This will be a cool basis for me to go off of, because in building a safe classroom, my sponsor teacher, myself and the students will be able to talk about and work through challenges together.

Stay tuned-more posts coming up! next up, dissecting Growth Mindset!

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Think-Pair-Share (TPS)

Hello all,

One of the strategies that I would like to share to help classroom teachers improve instruction for ELL students today is Think-Pair-Share (TPS). I am sure a lot of you have already seen or used this strategy in your practicum class and know the benefits of it. It is a collaborative learning strategy in which students work together to solve a problem or develop a response within a given topic. As I have my own experience as an English Language Leaner, I can say that this is one of the best strategies that helped me in so many ways! It is a simple technique, yet effective, and allows ELL learners to improve their communication, comprehension and social skills.  Also, it allows sufficient time to process their thoughts as it takes more time for ELL learners as they need to think in two languages. Then, the opportunity to discuss with a partner allows them to ‘check out’ their answer with each other or hear other possible answers. At the end, the teacher can have everyone back, share ideas as a class and provide some feedback.

Keep in mind what helps ELL learners will help EVERYONE in your classroom!!

I have attached a video that shows steps of a Think-Pair-Share.

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wow critical thinking is in literacy too?!?!?!?


after all the talking in class about the critical thinking competency i thought i’d share this video that highlights some great strategies and ideas for how critical thinking supports and can be integrated into literacy activities:

and hey! here’s a link to this lesson plan, as well as even more free resources (based out of ontario)

so this is modelled off of the “balanced literacy diet” format. it’s basically “a framework that presents literacy concepts using the familiar terminology of a healthy diet”. this is really cool resource that has different “food groups” that, when combined, build a pyramid for both reading and writing skills. it does a great job of breaking down all the components and skills that make up the foundation for literacy.

Reading Pyramid extra small







Writing Pyramid extra small







the great thing about this visual is it very easily shows where to start for both skills, you can’t build a pyramid starting in the middle or the top or even favour one side over the other, it needs a strong foundation in order to be accurate and withstand the tests of time. obviously, this is a metaphor. the visuals also nicely illustrate where the skills overlap. you can notice that in order to be successful in writing, half the battle is foundational reading skills. it’s a natural progression one skill to the next, and it really helps guide our practice by giving us a starting point.

all in all? as i said in my last post, critical thinking is in everything. in the same way historical ways of thinking apply to a specific context, as do these. the only difference being that critical literacy skills are foundational in all subjects. i guess you could argue critical thinking skills ARE literacy skills…and honestly? ur probably right. i’m not gonna argue, it’s 1:30am and i can’t think about thinking anymore today.

thanks for ur time, goodnight and good luck, etc. etc. etc.


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Relating LiD to the Curriculum and LiD Assessment Strategies

Hey guys! I’m back with post #4, I will be talking about how LiD is relevant to the curriculum and some assessment tools you can use!

Personalized learning is huge part of the new BC Curriculum and we are moving toward a more inquiry-based approach at teaching and I think this program really encompasses both of those ideas and allows students to learn about something that is different from their classmates. This program really as no one subject area it belongs in, it can be used across the curriculum.
Students are given time each week to learn about and explore their topic at their own pace with the guidance of the teacher. This program can be a stand alone subject on your weekly schedule (my sponsor teacher last year had it on the schedule once a week) but it can also be woven into. As I said in my last post, the students in my class last year all had nature topics so it was very easy to weave that into their Outdoor Ed and Science. You can also have students do writing activities or drawing activities which could be Language Arts or Art Education. There are so many great ways to personalize this program to your liking and their really is no wrong way to do it. It is a very personalized form of learning for both the student and the teacher.
How do you assess LiD? I was always wondering how to know if a student has learned anything about their topic or how to know when they have learned enough about their topic. The learning about their topic is virtually endless because their are so many paths you can take when researching your topic. My sponsor teacher last year actually wrote her Master’s Thesis on LiD, it is called Student engagement: Experiencing the Joy of Learning Through Learning in Depth Research Study by Terri Zolob. It can be found on the VIU Library site or I have attached the link to the bottom of this post. At the end of her paper, she attached two assessment tools that could be used with this program.
The first one is a Student Self-Assessment form. This is used to see how the student is enjoying LiD; they can choose “No Joy,” “Small Joy,” “Normal Joy,” or “Big Joy.” Then they write some words or draw a picture that describe how they felt or what they learned during LiD that day. This is a good what to differentiate for students who may struggle to write or for students who do not like drawing, they have a choice. Click the link below to see a picture of the form.
The second one is a Teacher Check-in Form. This is used for the teacher to speak with students individually to assess how they are doing with their LiD. They can ask the students how they are doing with their LiD topic, what they have learned or found interesting, and what feelings they are experiencing while doing LiD. This is a more in-depth assessment of the students and with give teachers a better picture of how students are doing. Click the link below to see a picture of the teacher assessment form.
Lastly, I talked in my last post about a final LiD showcase the students did where they created a project and shared it with parents/guardians and their classmates. This is also a good concrete piece of assessment where you can see what they.
This is the link for the Master Thesis that she wrote (
Thanks for reading!
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How to Reduce Student Stress

Hello Friends!

For my final post sharing about “Stress in the Classroom”, I thought it would make the most sense to talk about how to help students and reduce their stress. These is a lot of ways to do it in the classroom setting, but unfortunately there are things that only the parents can do. This can be a good or bad thing because the parent may not be as involved as they should be in their child’s well-being. In the link below there is tips for teachers, parents, and students to help students relieve stress. However, because we are focusing on what we can do I am going to be sharing some things that I believe are important for us to do as teachers.

Some of the ideas that I agree with the most are:

  • “Keep kids moving- No matter how old students are they can benefit from moving around the room, working at “stations,” taking stretching breaks, etc.
  • Play music- Studies show music helps people relax and focus. Classical music is great for the classroom and can serve as a model for students when they study at home.
  • Listen- Talking about issues bothering students doesn’t have to take up a lot of instructional time. Even five minutes going over concerns, writing them on the board and addressing them later can help students put them aside.”

After that it shows three activities that teachers can facilitate to help students relieve stress:

  1. Brush It Off!
  2. Leave it at the door
  3. Me the tree

In my opinion I really like “Leave it at the door” because it gives the students a good visual of riding themselves of their stress. Even if it is just that, a visual.

I do recommend you guys read the whole article though to see what the parents could do as well as the students. To conclude, I really enjoyed learning and sharing about this topic and I hope that you all enjoyed and took something out of this you can take into your teaching profession.


Stress Management in School

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Seesaw vs. Fresh Grade

Hello fellow bloggers,

This week I decided to look into assessment and communication to parents/guardians through technology. In my investigation I discovered something I had never heard of before, which is exciting for me. I think most of us have heard about Fresh Grade in our classrooms but I had never heard of Seesaw.

Fresh Grade and Seesaw are both FREE. They are forms of assessment and communication online. They are both informative and make it easy for students to share their work and make a personalized e-portfolio.

Seesaw is another form of communication and sharing students work through the internet. It has more features than Fresh Grade and it is easier to use for younger students. It is also easy for teachers to control who is seeing what and what is shared. It can be used through Chromebook, iOS, Android, and though the web.

Fresh Grades bonus is that it has an online grade tool. It can be used to formatively assess students and share with parents online. It is a little more complicated, but still has some features, just not as much as Seesaw. It can also only be used through iOS and through the web.

I am very excited to have learned more about these two applications and I look forward to implementing them in the classroom. I am very happy with the way communication and the sharing of students work is going. I think it is very important to be in touch with parents/guardians and to be able to share the students work with them. I think that adults have a huge influence on the children and if they are kept in the loop with the students schooling the better it will be.

Here is a link of a little youtube clip comparing and contrasting Seesaw and Fresh Grade.


Here is a link of a tutorial on how to use Fresh Grade.




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Documentation in Reggio Emilia/Wrap up of inquiry

Within Reggio Emilia, there is a high focus on the environment of the classroom and allowing students to speak in their “100 languages”. While allowing students to document learning in different ways is wonderful for their learning it can be difficult if you are looking from a traditional grading perspective.  So what can be done?

One of the very important aspects of Reggio Emilia that I have found that gets passed over very often. People use many different ways to document, to me technology makes it the easiest.

The addition of iPads into the classroom has made it very easy to communicate and document learning. With students using art and the spoken word and even acting to show their learning how are we supposed to show parents the learning. With technology, we can take photos, videos, audio recordings and many other ways to document learning. You do not need to be using a Reggio approach to implement technology into documentation, but it helps a lot with a Reggio approach.

I have learned a lot about Reggio Emilia throughout this inquiry. Specifically what I want to include in my teaching pedagogy and how I can add different aspects of different approaches.

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Multi-Modal Strategies

The final post for this inquiry project will demonstrate different methods that I have seen and researched as part of the Multi-Modal inquiry project.


Peirce (1893-1910) claimed that all disciplinary meaning-making practices, including mathematics and science, can be represented by a triadic account of how signs have meaning.


Representation of sign or signifier- Verbal, visual, mathematical, embodied, word text, image, gesture, action, graph, table, symbol, diagram, use of discourse conventions

Referent in world – Physical object, experience, artefact, situation/context, process

Meaning- Sense made of sign, concept, idea, theory, explanation


This theory shows different combinations of materials that are usually effective in a science-based lesson or classroom. Many of these combinations can also be applied to other school subjects.


Russell and McGuigan

Russell and McGuigan (2001) noted that the developmental processes of student understanding involve the “re-coding of representations”, implying that conceptual change entails a process of re-representation, where learners generate and transform “representations which are stored in different modalities, with meta-cognitive ‘explication’ mediated by linguistic processes” (p. 600)

Essentially what these researchers are describing, is that multi-modal teaching is important so that students can begin to make cross-curricular connections, as well as making connections to the real world. It is also noted in their research, that both student and teachers generated various representations of the target concepts, and knowledge constructions was viewed as the process of making and transforming these different modes of representation. These constructions of knowledge scaffolded their understandings in relation to their perceptions of the real world and it’s current/historic events.

Florax and Ploetzner

These two researchers have focused on students’ construction of self-explanation diagrams of understanding concepts across multiple topics. Rather than emphasise a particular representation or one classroom strategy, thye focused on researcing the general understandings as a key to effective learning. Instead of seeking to identify or produce an exemplary representation as providing the key to effective learning and teaching, they looked at the processes the teachers and students went through in order to produce those pieces of work. Maintaining a positive attitude towards the learning was a huge part of their research, which they maintained through activities and the opportunity for inquiry.



Representations of successful learning in the past have included being able to read a text and answer some questions, or getting 100% on a quiz. The representations of learning now that carry value for teachers and students include acting out learning, PowerPoints, presentations, art and discussion.

I hope that you were able to make some connections to different theories that you may already be implementing in your class without even realizing it, or you may have discovered a new idea that would work well for your current classroom.



Stress towards Teachers


Of course I am going to talk about us. Teachers stress too and actually more than many other occupations. “Teachers are actually tied with nurses, with 46 percent of both groups reporting high daily stress. Such reports are comparable with other notoriously demanding occupations, such as physicians and business managers.” 46% of teachers say they have high daily stress. DAILY!? That is absolutely insane. In this post I am going to give some examples of what causes teachers to stress.

  1. “Teachers are expected to perform these tasks effectively”. We are assumed to be the most fantastic of teachers all the time and that our lessons should be time after time amazing.
  2. “If teachers already face high levels of occupational stress, it’s not hard to see how the recent spate of deadly school shootings”. This is terrible because it implies that teachers should maybe arm themselves or be ready for the worst.

I also like that they separate it into two groups:

  1. Threats to Teacher’s Wellness
  • Weakens immune system
  • Reduces stamina
  • Heart disease
  • Chronic fatigue
  1. Threats to Teachers Performance
  • Calling in sick
  • “High Teacher Turnover”

Finally, it talks about what can help reduce stress in teachers. The one that is most impactful is teachers taking care of themselves first, “Teachers also need to make sure they take care of themselves so that they can take care of others. Without actively caring for themselves, teachers lose the capacity to care for others.”. We need to take care of ourselves because if we are not in the right place mentally or physically the students will see that and act accordingly.


Next post I will be sharing about how to help students when they are stressed.

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