Saturday, July 19, 2014

Writing Process for Beginner Writers

Writing is always stressful for young children when they cannot read or write independently yet. Instead, it is important to get them thinking about what they would like to say and write about a particular topic rather than giving them a blank page with lines expecting them to write on their own. In the beginning stages of writing, drawing should also be a main component to give them ideas. We should not underestimate the power of drawing. 

I've created a simple 5 step writing process for beginner writers (those who cannot write independently). You can find this package with the posters and examples at my Tpt Store here.

Here is an example of this process in action. I used the topic of "apples". Always give the children a topic or ask them to think of their own. You would have to guide them to choose something they are familiar with such as familiar settings (school, home or playground), people (family, friends or teachers) or things (fruits, toys or favourite things). 

After the topic has been established, the child can draw, write or say whatever comes to mind about the topic. In this example, I used pictures to represent apple, like/love, red, delicious, happy and apple tree. 

Step 2: DRAW
Next, they are to put some of their brainstormed ideas together to draw a simple picture. In this picture, there is a boy holding an apple. 

Then, the child needs to describe what they have drawn. They can label what's in the picture lightly with a pencil so that they can erase the labels later if desired. After they label the drawing, they can think about what it represents. What can we say about a boy who is holding an apple and smiling? 

Step 4: WRITE
Perhaps, we can conclude that "The boy likes apples." Using the labels to prompt them, they can form a simple sentence such as this example. Children at this stage will most likely need an adult to help sound out what they want to write. However, if they misspelled words but they can articulate what they are writing, that is good enough for now! At least they are practicing this skill. We can only ask for so much! Through time and practice, they will progress in their writing skills. 


This is the fun part! After they finish writing, they can erase the labels. Then, they can use their imagination to tell a story by adding more details. The teacher can prompt them to generate more ideas to add to their simple drawing to add details.

Example questions: 
Teacher: Where do you think they apple came from?
Student: Apple tree (draws one) 

Teacher: Where was this apple tree? 
Student: Outside (draws grass) 

Teacher: What was the weather like outside? 
Student: Sunny! (draws a sun)


These blank templates are included for the children to complete this writing process on. 

You can teach with these examples or post them up in the classroom for reference. For more resources including this package, please visit my TpT store

How to Make Your Displays "POP"!

When I look back at my first years of teaching, I can't believe what my displays used to look like. They have definitely improved throughout the years. Like children, we should look for and be able to see progress in our own work (if not, you are not doing it right!). Everybody who knows me will not be surprised to hear that I've always found joy in making displays. There is something very peaceful and therapeutic about cutting, laminating and pasting without being disturbed by others (I'm a dork, I know!). 

During my first years of teaching, I didn't have real bulletin boards which made everything look more disorganized. I also used to buy one pack of letters and trace them with construction paper. That was until I went to London and found out about websites that provide free lettering! In this post, I will show you some displays and how to make them look more attractive. 

This is how you can make your displays "POP": 

1. Laminate Everything (or whatever you could)
I know this seems like a waste and many people cannot be bothered but it makes a huge difference in the way things look. Also, after it is laminated, it won't tear when you try to take work off the display. When you laminate everything, it only takes minutes to put up a whole display! It makes for easier application and clean up. 

2. Post Photos 
If it was a fun experiment or something photo worthy, why not post photos of it? People who view your display can really visualize what happened during the particular lesson or event that the display is about. The children who look at it are reminded of what they have learnt as well as the highlights. 

3. Create a Title
The title of your display is very important. Usually, you should try to be creative with it. Sometimes, it is better for it to be literal. It depends on what it is and how old your children are. 

4. Be Selective with the Lettering 
The lettering is very important. Choose something that would match the colour scheme of the work that will go on your display. I usually download free lettering from Instant Displays. But you can also find ones on Sparklebox, Twinkl or other sites. After you figure out your title, write it down and count the number of each letter that you will need. Then, only print the pages that you need. For Instant Displays, you can even copy the letters into a Word Document so that you don't waste paper. 

5. Provide Captions and Key Vocabulary 
You should make a few captions to explain what the display is about. Your own class knows what it's about but parents and other people might not know at first glance. 

6. Use Matching Borders
In some countries, such as South Korea, it is difficult to find a wide variety of borders at the school. Instead, there are free ones to be found on Instant Displays and other sites. I prefer to laminate these. They look good and they are totally free! 

7. Plan Ahead 
Always envision your display before you actually make it. What will you need? How will it look like? Do you have enough space? Prepare your materials such as sticky tac (works much better than tape and it doesn't ruin the work or backing), stapler, borders, etc.  

8. Make it POP
If you've laminated everything, you can now staple it at different angles and make them stick out for a 3-D effect like the examples below. I learned this trick from my school in London and loved the idea. I usually only staple once on both ends of a paper or sign. Sometimes, I choose to staple diagonally or randomly like the "even houses" in the Odd and Event Street display. 

Here are some examples: 

Odd and Even Street

This is one of my favourites! I was inspired by the idea that I found online (there are multiple versions). I decided that it wasn't fair for some children to make the even houses (boring ones) while others got to make odd ones so I let them all make odd ones while I made the even ones. For this display, I wrote some questions that would allow children to think about the learning objective here. It was also mandatory for us to post the learning objectives and key vocabulary at this school which I thought was a good idea. I still do it after leaving this school. 

Help Save Humpty

This was a display for an egg drop experiment. The photos were of the kids protecting their egg and the actual egg drop itself. The actual Humpty was really easy to make because I just drew and cut everything out including the eyebrows and everything! When cutting things out, it is important to mirror your drawings to make it symmetrical (i.e. the jacket and eyes). The blush was applied with chalk. Sometimes, there isn't room to display everyone's work so instead, I showed photos of students whose work wasn't up. Also, I keep those students in mind and make sure their work is displayed in the future. It's difficult to fit 30 pieces of paper into a small display! :P

Greetings around the World

My class was very multicultural and the kids loved looking at this display and seeing where everyone was from. The point of this display was to see all of the different languages that we speak (or our parents speak) besides English. This was a little difficult to position and it took some time to get it right! If you're not sure how much space you need, you should use sticky tac first before stapling. Putting borders on the photos is also a good idea! It looks much better than without. 

Aspirational Targets

At this school, in the beginning of the year, children are asked to make aspirational targets to state what they want to be when they grow up. This is a great way for them to assess what they want to be and see if it changes year after year. Adding small touches like photos of kids holding their kites go a long way! The kids loved seeing this and it makes a lot of sense for this display. 

Clay Art Museum 

In South Korea, I haven't located backing paper yet (obviously!). But I wanted to show this one to show examples of the laminated borders from Instant Displays mentioned above. Sometimes, when you display things in a linear manner, it can be seen as boring. Instead, you can give it a "messy" look in an organized fashion. It may appear that I just stapled everything randomly when in reality, I carefully calculated and placed everything. I also used sticky tac to label the work with their names so that I can use it again in the future.

Aspiring Authors 

This is a recent one that I made for winners of a writing competition for grades 1-4. Again, once you have a vision in mind, it is a lot easier than it looks to put something together quickly! I added some simple related clipart. It is important to make sure that the clipart matches instead of using many different ones. If I made this again, I would've changed my writing paper template. I don't really like how it looks when there's more than one page but that's okay! It's the content of the writing that matters anyway, right? Sometimes, the display looks "too busy" if you make everything "pop out". Instead, choose to leave some aspects of it flat while others pop. NOTE: If your school doesn't have bulletin boards, a quick fix would be using 5mm foam boards! This solved my problem of not having a bulletin board or backing paper! :D

Friday, July 11, 2014

Rocks & Minerals: Taking a Closer Look at Rocks

Rocks & Minerals is a lesson in our current unit called "Our Earth" in Grade 1 Science. What better way to learn about rocks than to find some to examine? My kids LOVE when they get to be little scientists so I always try to let them get the real feel of being one whenever the chance arises. They take their jobs very seriously (it's really cute)! Before this lesson, they learned about the three main types of rocks: Igneous, Sedimentary and Metamorphic. For this lesson, they are going to think of adjectives to describe their rocks and classify them into categories. They can also see how many minerals they think the rocks are made up of.  

1. First, I prepared bags (cups would work well too) for each student to take outside with them to carry their rocks in. Also, I prepared magnifying glasses for them to use when they get back inside. 

2. Next, I prepared this in advance. I drew enough rocks to allow them each to have a turn to add one adjective to the paper while giving them one example. 

3. We went outside to the park to look for rocks! They had such a great time and we were surprised at our findings. There was a wide variety of interesting rocks out there! Everybody brought their rocks back, laid them out and started examining them through a magnifying glass. While these little geologists were at work, I told them to describe the rocks to their friends and I got a lot of "I have one like that too!", "Oh wow, that's cool." and "Come look at this!" in their conversations.  

4. As they were examining the rocks closely at their tables, I got the students to add one adjective to the chart. I let them do this while they were looking at rocks instead of beforehand so that they had ideas in mind.

5. This was the final list that they came up with. After we finished this list, they all gathered their rocks and started categorizing them. They also were aware that many rocks would fit into more than one category as well. If what they want to say to describe a rock wasn't listed, they were to put it in the middle (the title). 

6. This was how they classified their rocks in the end. They had a lot of fun sharing ideas and discussing about the similarities and differences in the rocks. When we were altogether as a group, we looked closely at the minerals that made up the rocks and what type of rock they would classify them as. Some were trickier than others but they kept the characteristics in mind of each type. This is a fun activity to do with your students in the beginning of the unit to get them excited about rocks! 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

11 Effective Habits of an Effective Teacher

I really appreciate teachers who are truly passionate about teaching. The teacher who wants to be an inspiration to others. The teacher who is happy with his/her job at all times. The teacher that every other child in the school would love to have. The teacher that kids remember for the rest of their lives. Are you that teacher? Read on and learn 11 effective habits of an effective teacher.  


Teaching is meant to be a very enjoyable and rewarding career field (although demanding and exhausting at times!). You cannot expect the kids to have fun if you are not having fun with them! If you only read the instructions out of a textbook, it's ineffective. Instead, make your lessons come alive by making it as interactive and engaging as possible. Let your passion for teaching shine through each and everyday. Enjoy every teaching moment to the fullest. 

There is a saying, "With great power, comes great responsibility". As a teacher, you need to be aware and remember the great responsibility that comes with your profession. One of your goals ought to be: Make a difference in their lives. How? Make them feel special, safe and secure when they are in your classroom. Be the positive influence in their lives. Why? You never know what your students went through before entering your classroom on a particular day or what conditions they are going home to after your class. So, just in case they are not getting enough support from home, at least you will make a difference and provide that to them. 


Bring positive energy into the classroom every single day. You have a beautiful smile so don't forget to flash it as much as possible throughout the day. I know that you face battles of your own in your personal life but once you enter that classroom, you should leave all of it behind before you step foot in the door. Your students deserve more than for you to take your frustration out on them. No matter how you are feeling, how much sleep you've gotten or how frustrated you are, never let that show. Even if you are having a bad day, learn to put on a mask in front of the students and let them think of you as a superhero (it will make your day too)! Be someone who is always positive, happy and smiling. Always remember that positive energy is contagious and it is up to you to spread it. Don't let other people's negativity bring you down with them. 


This is the fun part and absolutely important for being an effective teacher! Get to know your students and their interests so that you can find ways to connect with them. Don't forget to also tell them about yours! Also, it is important to get to know their learning styles so that you can cater to each of them as an individual. In addition, make an effort to get to know their parents as well. Speaking to the parents should not be looked at as an obligation but rather, an honour. In the beginning of the school year, make it known that they can come to you about anything at anytime of the year. In addition, try to get to know your colleagues on a personal level as well. You will be much happier if you can find a strong support network in and outside of school. 

5. GIVES 100%. 

Whether you are delivering a lesson, writing report cards or offering support to a colleague - give 100%. Do your job for the love of teaching and not because you feel obligated to do it. Do it for self-growth. Do it to inspire others. Do it so that your students will get the most out of what you are teaching them. Give 100% for yourself, students, parents, school and everyone who believes in you. Never give up and try your best - that's all that you can do. (That's what I tell the kids anyway!) 


Never fall behind on the marking or filing of students' work. Try your best to be on top of it and not let the pile grow past your head! It will save you a lot of time in the long run. It is also important to keep an organized planner and plan ahead! The likelihood of last minute lesson plans being effective are slim. Lastly, keep a journal handy and jot down your ideas as soon as an inspired idea forms in your mind. Then, make a plan to put those ideas in action. 


As a teacher, there are going to be times where you will be observed formally or informally (that's also why you should give 100% at all times). You are constantly being evaluated and criticized by your boss, teachers, parents and even children. Instead of feeling bitter when somebody has something to say about your teaching, be open-minded when receiving constructive criticism and form a plan of action. Prove that you are the effective teacher that you want to be. Nobody is perfect and there is always room for improvement. Sometimes, others see what you fail to see.  


Create standards for your students and for yourself. From the beginning, make sure that they know what is acceptable versus what isn't. For example, remind the students how you would like work to be completed. Are you the teacher who wants your students to try their best and hand in their best and neatest work? Or are you the teacher who could care less? Now remember, you can only expect a lot if you give a lot. As the saying goes, "Practice what you preach"


An effective teacher is one who is creative but that doesn't mean that you have to create everything from scratch! Find inspiration from as many sources as you can. Whether it comes from books, education, Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook, blogs, TpT or what have you, keep finding it!  


In life, things don't always go according to plan. This is particularly true when it comes to teaching. Be flexible and go with the flow when change occurs. An effective teacher does not complain about changes when a new principal arrives. They do not feel the need to mention how good they had it at their last school or with their last group of students compared to their current circumstances. Instead of stressing about change, embrace it with both hands and show that you are capable of hitting every curve ball that comes your way!


An effective teacher reflects on their teaching to evolve as a teacher. Think about what went well and what you would do differently next time. You need to remember that we all have "failed" lessons from time to time. Instead of looking at it as a failure, think about it as a lesson and learn from it. As teachers, our education and learning is ongoing. There is always more to learn and know about in order to strengthen our teaching skills. Keep reflecting on your work and educating yourself on what you find are your "weaknesses" as we all have them and it is okay! The most important part is recognizing them and being able to work on them to improve your skills.  

There are, indeed, several other habits that make an effective teacher but these are the ones that I find most important. Many other character traits can be tied into these ones as well. If I could leave you with one last piece of advice, it would be: There's always something positive to be found in every situation but it is up to you to find it. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Positive Classroom Management Incentive Program: What's in Your Wallet?

Some people are against incentive programs but young children love them and they still need it to motivate them to work hard. Although I created this incentive program, I always teach the kids that we do not always do something only to get a reward in return. Instead, I always reward them with dollars when they least expect it! If someone is purposely trying to get their good behavior noticed, I do not reward them because I know that they are only in it for the money! Here is an incentive program called "What's in your Wallet?" that I've created with everything you need in this package from my TpT store (direct link to the product: What's in Your Wallet?). It is fun, ongoing and it keeps the kids engaged while practicing their math skills on a regular basis! :)

1. Use the templates provided to create wallets for your children to give them some responsibility. The kids LOVE the idea of being able to keep track of their own classroom dollars! I laminated the name labels for longevity since they will use them for the duration of the year. You can use envelopes or Ziploc bags. Explain to the students that they will earn money for good behavior or excellent work. 

2. You can either give out money immediately when someone earns it or use this recording chart to tally up their earnings for the month (or whatever time frame you prefer). I would like to suggest to post this tally chart up and allow students to give themselves a tick whenever they earn money. This will also let them practice yet another skill - tallying. One template has the denominations of $1, $5 and $10. If you choose to make different denominations, you can use the blank template provided as well. 

3. There are printable "Classroom Dollars" of $1, $5 and $10 bills or customizable ones with blank boxes that you can fill in. The choice is yours! I chose these three since they are the most common and the easiest benchmark numbers for primary students. But if you are teaching the students how to count in multiples of __, you can choose to change them!

4. Declare a specific day of the month (bi-monthly or any time frame of your choice) as "Pay Day" where you will total up their earnings of the month and present them with their "Paycheck" and the cash that goes with it! The kids get very excited about this. Who doesn't love a fat paycheck?

5. From the second "Market Day" onwards, have them complete this worksheet to keep track of their progress. They need to count the existing cash in their wallets from the last "Market Day" and add it with their newly earned money. They worked hard for that money! 
6. Buy some inexpensive prizes and separate them into four (or more) baskets based on how you feel that the kids would value the items at. For my own class, I only used $20-50 but there are templates from $10-50. There are also 5 blank templates for you to make up your own as well. I recommend you to laminate the price tags as well (you will find that I love to laminate everything!). If your school has a play cash register, this would be the best time to use it! FYI, I took this photo right after a "Market Day" which explains why it is quite empty!

7. You are finally ready to open the market to the public! Sometimes, I let them shop by random selection or lining up in a specific order such as alphabetical. If you have some students who are quick & accurate at mental math calculations like I do, you can tell one of the students to be the cashier instead of yourself. This will motivate others to practice their math skills to become the next cashier at future "Market Day" events. The cashier and customer can work together to make the correct calculations and money exchange. It is so much fun and it never gets old. 

8. Afterwards, they are free to keep the leftover money in their wallets for next time. Some children would choose to save up money to buy something from the most expensive basket. I always encouraged this to teach them a thing or two about savings while they are still young!

Happy shopping from my class to yours! 

If you are interested, please find the product here: 


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Introduction: The Success and Struggles

Welcome to my new teaching blog! I would like to take this time to tell you a little bit about my life post-grad. It's been nearly 4 years now since I was officially certified to be a teacher and I would have never imagined that I would be here at this point in my life. 

York University Covocation
June 2010

I've always known that I wanted to become a teacher since I was in 4th grade. I guess I was inspired by many of my teachers and I couldn't see myself becoming anything but one. I obtained my B.A. Hons. in Sociology and B.Ed in Primary/Junior Education in June 2010 from York University. At that time, my only hopes and dreams were to get into a school board in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). I thought my end goal was to become a Classroom Teacher and that was ALL I wanted to achieve. During my student teaching, I received excellent reports from my Mentor Teachers and other students in my graduating class always loved my teaching ideas. I am so passionate about what I do that I thought I had a high chance of getting into a board. So I applied to about 7 school boards  and crossed my fingers! 

While I waited to hear back from school boards, I decided to enroll in AQs (Additional Qualifications). I completed a qualification for Inclusive Education (another passion of mine) and ESL Part 1. I had the amazing opportunity to teach in Taipai, Taiwan for one month in July 2010 as part of the AQ course. It was my first time in Asia in my entire life aka the first time I stepped out of my "comfort zone". I had an amazing experience teaching a 7th grade class of Taiwanese children. 

I returned to Canada at the end of summer 2010 with memorable teaching moments from Taiwan although it was short-lived. But, what was next? It was very discouraging that I had so much passion to teach but I wasn't even offered a single interview from a school board in the GTA area. The demand for new teachers were extremely low. Teachers were lucky to land a supply position. During this time, I resumed my busy life which consisted of part-time jobs as a private tutor, waitress and cash supervisor while I figured out my next move. 

I decided that landing a supply position or a LTO (Long Term Occasional) was not enough for me. I deserved and wanted more than that although you have to start somewhere. I decided to look at options overseas. I was debating between South Korea or London, UK. At the time, South Korea seemed like the safer option. 

So, off I went! I started teaching at a Canadian private school (March 2011) in South Korea. I loved the Canadian curriculum and I was very thrilled to finally have a classroom to call my own. I taught a Senior Kindergarten class and had a blast! My creativity, skills and patience were truly tested this year each and everyday as a new teacher. I knew that I made the right choice by going abroad instead of sitting by the phone in Canada. 

One year later, I was transferred to another branch in Seoul where I was promoted to be the Lead Teacher (It was actually labeled "Head Teacher" but I don't like to refer to it as that since it means "Principal" in the UK). At this point, I realized that being just an ordinary teacher will never be enough for me. I wanted more and I continued to give my kids and school my all! I taught Senior Kindergarten once again but this time, my ideas evolved. I was also in charge of running school events, providing guidance and resources for teachers, etc. 

After a tough decision in February 2013, I decided to explore another part of the world. I packed up my life in Korea and started a new one in London, England. This transition was the toughest of my career. Nobody cared that I was a foreigner unlike in Korea. I was treated as a homeless and jobless citizen. I finally got a taste of what it felt like to "start from scratch" (with some savings thankfully!). I secured a supply teaching position with Engage Education and I started supply teaching in the public schools in East London immediately. I would wake up in my hotel room, set up appointments to look at flats & wait for the call for my supply gig of the day. A day in my first week consisted of getting lost in huge schools, feeling overwhelmed since I didn't know the curriculum well, getting disappointed by the studio flats that agents would show me and then, returned to my hotel room only to try again tomorrow. 

In my second week, I finally found a home that I was happy with (or will do) and was called for an interview at a school not too far from my home. I was told I had to teach as part of my interview which was nerve-wracking since I wouldn't have known the kids, etc. After the interview, the Head Teacher told me to grab a coffee in the staff room so I did what I was told without knowing what was next. So I awkwardly sat there and sipped my coffee. Then, she came back and offered me the position on the spot for a 1st grade class. I couldn't believe it! Everything was finally coming together. No more hotels and supply teaching. I ended up loving the kids and parents (I always do!) and was asked to move to 2nd grade with them. I was so glad to be able to teach them longer than expected. I learned a lot during my time there and my teaching skills continued to grow.

In January 2014, I was asked to come back to my previous school in Korea. This time, I returned as the Principal (aka Academic Director) of both of the schools I previously worked in. I've been in this position for several months now and I've been busier than ever! Managing two schools is not easy as I have to alternate schools everyday and I have to do everything twice. Although it is stressful most of the time, it is also the most rewarding position I've ever been in. Instead of only impacting one class of children, I have the chance to inspire a group of teachers and parents to make a difference in children's lives. In addition, I teach a part-time 1st grade class to stay in practice. I do, however, see myself going back into full-time teaching in the future though. I feel that my teaching career (in the classroom) was very short-lived and I still have a lot to learn. But for now, this is where my career has gotten to in under 4 years. None of this would've happened if I was hired by a school board in Canada. I realized that I LOVE to teach others how to teach just as much as I love teaching children. I am open to take on any opportunities that will allow me to do just that (and much more). I hope and strive to inspire other teachers out there just as many inspired me. Thus, I started this blog! :)

Food for thought: You cannot limit your opportunities based on your age or anything for that matter (many people are shocked and think I am "too young" for this position). Have confidence in yourself and do your best every single day for yourself instead of worrying about what others think about you. Hard work definitely gets recognized and pays off in the end. Think of the ladder as a never-ending one and don't ever stop climbing. Strive to be extraordinary...ordinary is just a fancy word for "boring" and you want to be anything but that! :)