Thursday, 29 July 2021

Back to School - Getting Students Talking

Helping Your Students to Connect 

The first few days back to school can be a difficult time getting students talking in front of the entire class. 

Get your students talking with play doh back to school activity Terri's Teaching Treasures

I have worked at a few schools in my small district and I saw the same thing happening each year. Students tend to need some coaxing to take to the whole class. 

Maybe they are new to the school. Maybe there are new students they don't know. Maybe you are new to them. Whatever the reason, I love to hear my students share their summer adventures and I don't want these reasons to stop them.

I have no idea where I read/saw/listened to this idea but I have used it ever since discovering it and I want to share it with you. 

This is THE ONE activity that has EVERY student talking no matter how nervous or shy they are. The best part is you only need 1 supply.

OK Here it is...

Play Doh is the magic supply!!!! No I am not getting paid to write this post ( I wish I was so if you don't want to use brand name Play Doh go ahead and use whatever you have. I am not that cool teacher who makes my own dough and it certainly doesn't taste (we all know we have kids who eat the stuff) or smell as good as the homemade dough, but I stick to using my debit card to get store bought Play Doh. 

Here's how I use it

I give each student a can of Play Doh and emphasize that the color does not matter in any way. If they switch color with someone I don't draw attention to it or it will become a thing. I just look the other way. 

I tell them to build ANYTHING that has to do with their summer. I know that not all students go on elaborate family vacations or do cool things with their bajillion cousins so that is why I make a big deal about building anything that relates to their summer in any way.

If they ate 137 hot dogs they could build a hot dog. If they slept in every day they could build a bed (tons of comfy pillows are needed for this one). If they saw a snake they can make a snake. Seriously anything is a go. 
This student did a lot of camping with her family so she is creating a campsite scene.

I usually give them about 10 minutes but this can be altered if they need more or less time. I also tell them not to share their ideas as they are building. They will have time for that later. 

When they are all done, I give them a couple minutes to share with a person next to them what they built and how it relates to their summer. This is the part that I have to watch the clock carefully because they will just keep talking if I let them. 

This student was creative and used the lid from her Play Doh as a boat. She was creating a fishing scene because she did a lot of fishing with her dad.

After they have shared with their partner, we do a gallery walk.  We line up and then slowly walk around the desks admiring (and trying to silently guess) what everyone made. Remind them to look with their eyes not their hands. 

We head back to our seats and now is the time to watch all the hands shoot up. I am not kidding here. Try it and you will see.

I learned VERY quickly that this guy loves pizza. Everything he did that year had to do with pizza.

I ask if anyone wants to share what they built and how it relates to their summer. I let everyone who wants to share have a turn. You can do what you see fit for your class but I do not limit the amount of time they can talk and they get to pick 2 people to ask a question when they are done. 

This part takes the most time but I guarantee by the time you are finished everyone will have wanted to share and it sets the stage for future sharing in your classroom. 

At The End

When we are all finished with the activity, I let my students keep their can of Play Doh in their desks. I tell them that if it dries out... oh well. If they lose it... oh well. AND if I find it on the floor it goes in the garbage... uh oh. 

They are allowed to play with it while waiting for breakfast (they get breakfast served in the classroom), when they are all done everything else, or when I say it is free time. They are pretty good at sticking to the rules. 

Take Notice

One thing I always watch for while students are working is who is repeatedly starting over or who needs some more reassurance that they don't have to create a perfect masterpiece. This helps me identify who may need some extra growth mindset and positive self-talk guidance in the future. 

Have fun with your students on the first day and don't worry about academics. Academics can come once they feel like they belong to the class and are welcome.

If you want to save this post for later, here is an image to pin to Pinterest. 

Another Fun Back to School Activity

If you are looking for more activities to fill your first week of school here is a FREE word search that I have my students do with a partner or trio. There are 100 words to find!


Friday, 16 July 2021

Free 2021-2022 School Calendar

Are you starting to plan for Back to School?

The summer is the time that I start getting organized for the upcoming school year. The very first thing I do is print off a school year calendar and start planning when I will teach what, based on the school year events/holidays. 
Free Academic calendar for 2021-2022 school year

There are definitely some concepts I don't want to cover (like division or anything with regrouping) when it is a busy time in the school and my students are not completely focused. Because of this I put all known holidays/big events in the calendar and then I start planning. 

Where do I find my calendar templates?

I've got you covered! Every year I update my calendar to print off and I am giving it to you all for FREE! Yup, FREE! Check it out now. 
Free Calendar with large spaces to put all your events into.

Each page has a full month and the spaces are large enough to add lots of text! The calendars go from August 2021 to July 2022.

Each page also has a clip art image that is small enough not to use all your computer ink, but big enough to add some flair to your month.

Other ways to use the calendar:

  • Use it for yourself to take to staff  or team meetings and schedule all your events and meetings.
  • Attach it to your classroom newsletter with important events filled in.
  • Fill it out with daily homework tasks for students.
  • Students can use it to record their daily home reading.
  • Display it in the hallway as a place for parents to sign up to volunteer in the classroom.
  • Use as a student behavior chart.
Free 2020 - 2021 School Year Calendar. Image of all the included months from Terri's Teaching Treasures

This year I had a whole new use for this calendar. I won't get into too many details but here is the story.

A parent kept complaining that her daughter was being picked on at recess and lunch. I was confused because when I talked to the student, everything was fine. I am not sure why she was saying one thing to her mom and another to me (that doesn't really matter here) but something needed to change. 

During a conversation with the mom, we decided together that I would do check ins with her daughter after every break she was with other kids. So that meant first thing in the morning and after recess and lunch. 

I needed somewhere to record these check ins that would be easy for me to track and quick to see any incidents. This calendar was the place.

I divided each day into 3 sections (morning, recess, and lunch). If the student reported that everything was fine I put an X on that section. If something happened, I put a ✔ and explained on the back. 

This was great because the mom could see that things were not actually happening to her daughter at home. Both her and I noticed that the student stopped telling her mom incidents were happening when she knew we were both communicating about it. Win-Win!

There are many ways to use a calendar in a classroom. Let me know in the comments if you use them in any other way.

How do I get a copy?

Click on any picture or here to get your FREE copy. Just print them out and you are ready to go. 


Happy planning! 
Terri's Teaching Treasures Signature

Don't need it right now? Pin it to save it for later :)

Monday, 12 July 2021

Math Center Organization

I spent MANY years scrambling to get math centers ready or digging through drawers for a center I just knew I had somewhere. I don't want you to go through this so I am going to share with you how I now organize my math centers (and give you FREE labels). Now it takes me only a few minutes to completely switch out my centers. 

Math center storage ideas

I couple years ago I came across these Sterilite storage bins and I immediately knew they would be perfect for my math centers.

Third Grade math centers in storage bins

I didn't just want to label them "Math Centers" and continue having to dig through each container so I have 1-2 containers per math concept that goes with my curriculum. 

multiplication math center in storage bag
The large containers hold large Ziploc bags perfectly and depending on what supplies are included in your center, they can hold all the centers for each concept.

I store the containers in my classroom cupboards where I can quickly grab them when needed. 

math center bins stored in cupboard with free labels

When I am wanting to change my centers for students I can grab the desired concept container and go to the drawers I have for my students to access. 

math center storage in ziploc bags Terri's Teaching Treasures

A few years ago I discovered these Trofast drawers from Ikea and fell in LOVE!!! Not only do they match my classroom colors, they are super sturdy. 

Math center bins for student use Terri's Teaching Treasures


To make this easier for you to set up I have created a FREE file for you which includes labels for the Sterilite containers. 

The file includes:
  • pre-made labels for the length of the container
  • pre-made labels for the width of the container
  • customizable labels for both. 
I have created the labels for both the length and the width so there is some flexibility on how they are stored. 

Container Purchasing Tip:

I have noticed that the price on the Sterilite containers varies greatly. I have seen them mostly at around $35 Canadian but they vary in price all the way to $60 Canadian.

I put them on my wish list and watch for when they go the cheaper prices and that is when I buy them. Who wants to pay $25 more than they have to? Not me. 

Getting started with a FREE math center.

If you are just getting started with math centers or want to add to your collection, here is a free one that focuses on multiplication facts and multi-digit subtraction. 

Soccer themed multiplication and subtraction math center free Terri's Teaching Treasures
These math centers are geared towards 2nd - 4th grade.

If you want to save this post for later, here is an image to pin to Pinterest. 

Terri's Teaching Treasures signature

Sunday, 16 May 2021

Student Approved Read Alouds for 3rd & 4th Grade

Are you looking for new read aloud novels for your Grade 3 or 4 classroom?

Whether it is on Instagram, Facebook, or in the school, I am always hearing the question "What book should I read to my class next?" I decided I would let you know which novels my 3rd and 4th grade students love to listen to.
3rd and 4th grade read aloud recommendations Terri's Teaching Treasures

I read to my class EVERY DAY while they are eating their recess snack and sometimes while they are finishing up an art project.

I enjoy finding books that can transport my students to a new world and that allows them to fall in love with new characters. Over the years, I have read many books to my classes and the ones I am going to share with you are ones that are always a big hit with my students.

Just a note before I get into my list. The links below are Amazon affiliate links. This does not change the price for you, it just gives me a few cents in commission. Please do not feel pressured to click on my affiliate links. I am totally fine if you write down the titles and look for the books where ever you shop. Links to Amazon Canada will be at the bottom of the post.

OK, let's get started. The list is not in any particular order but the first two books are by far the most loved ones in my classroom. 

Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer

This is a fabulous book that is the first book in Colfer's series. Twins, Alex and Conner fall into The Land of Stories book and go on many great adventures to get the items to the wishing spell. The wishing spell is the only thing to get them back home to their mom and grandmother. On their adventures, Alex and Conner meet many Fairy Tale characters that we are all familiar with.

Just a heads up. A main story line is that the children's father has passed away and the family is dealing with his loss. This may be triggering for some of your students. 
Wild Robot Series by Peter Brown

Who doesn't love robots, especially one who is stranded on an island and is trying to make friends with the animals? Technology and wilderness collide in this heartwarming tale. This is a very engaging story that is all about not judging something by what it looks like. It has a great message of kindness and your students will be begging you to read the sequel the moment you end the first book. 

Catching Spring by Sylvia Olsen

If you live in British Columbia this book is a great way to help your students connect with a boy names Bobby, who lives on the Tsartlip First Nations reserve on Vancouver Island. Bobby wants to enter a fishing derby so that he can win a new bike. He has to get a job to earn the entry fee. Sylvia Olsen does a fabulous job at describing what Bobby's life is like and how hard work can pay off. Every time I read this book, my class is eager to learn how to play marbles just like Bobby. 

Murder, Me, and Moses by Ann Walsh

Another fantastic book that is great for integrating with your social studies about a gold rush. This book is set in Barkerville, B.C. at the time of the Cariboo Gold Rush and will have your students sitting on the edge of their seats. There are many opportunities to make predictions about who murdered the local barber's friend. A young boy, Ted and Moses (the barber) are the main characters who have to escape many close calls. This is an adventure packed story that even your most reluctant student will be drawn into before you are done reading the first chapter. 
This is a light-hearted story of Lily Quench the dragon slayer. She is called upon by her family to slay a dragon that is threatening her families kingdom. She soon finds herself befriending the dragon while continuing her adventure. This is an adorable story of bravery, friendship, and girl empowerment. It is a great starter book for introducing your students to the Lily Quench series. 

Abel's Island by William Steig

This is my personal favorite. William Steig won a Newbery Honor Award with this book so that is proof that it is a wonderful book :) A storm has stranded Abel ( a mouse) on his own island and this causes strife for him because he is forced to cope without his familiar, secure life he is use to. Steig wrote a book that is great for reinforcing the benefits of having a growth mindset. Abel provides your students with many, MANY examples of someone persevering by having a growth mindset. Abel has to find a way to cross a river, forge for food, build a shelter, and learn how to live in a new world.
I love to read this humorous book at the beginning of the year. Another story about not judging a book by it's cover. Bradley Chalkers is a 5th grade boy who causes all sorts of trouble. He gets in fights, he tells a lot of lies, and he is labeled as having serious behavior issues. Bradley reluctantly meets the school counselor who sees him as a sensitive, caring person. Bradley learns to love himself and others start changing their perspective of him. Louis Sachar does a wonderful job at giving us the opportunity to talk about perceptions and personal growth and all in a humorous way. 

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Your students will love the story of a sassy little girl who discovers that she has the power to move objects. She uses these powers to help her deal with her kid-hating parents and mean school headmistress. Everyone quickly finds themselves cheering for Matilda as she encounters many comical interactions throughout the story. If you are looking for a book that will make your students chuckle, this is the one. 

The BFG by Roald Dahl

Another Dahl masterpiece! Sophie, an orphan, goes on an adventure to stop all the bad giants. Along the way she befriends the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) who helps her get to Giant Country and Queen Victoria. This novel has a theme of bravery as both Sophie and the BFG have to learn how to be brave to make changes in their lives. 

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

The ultimate fantasy series that will have your students begging you to read more than one book in the series. The main character, Harry Potter, is summoned to attend a famous school of wizardry, Hogwarts. Harry meets Ron and Hermione who help him realize that he is not only a wizard but that he is a famous one. 

Poppy by Avi

Adorable Poppy, a field mouse, has been told about the dangers of Mr. Ocax, a great-horned owl, her whole life. When she decides to go dancing in the moonlight with her boyfriend, Ragweed, her life changes forever. Ragweed is taken by Mr. Ocax and Poppy must find her inner bravery to try and save him. Along the way she find a porcupine friend who helps her. She is a real heroine who outwits the owl to save her boyfriend and also move her family to a better location with more food. 

After I have read this book to my class, they have been keen to read the other books in the Tales of Dimwood Forest series. 

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

A truly unforgettable story of a silverback gorilla, Ivan, who is living in a mall zoo. This story is told in first person perspective, through Ivan's point of view. He fills his time watching t.v., painting pictures, and talking to his friends, Stella and Bob. A new baby elephant, Ruby, comes to the zoo and Ivan starts thinking of his home in the jungle and the life the animals are living in while at the zoo. Friendship is the main theme in this heartwarming novel. When I read this book to my class, I am always blown away by the empathy they show towards the characters in the story.

There is now a sequel to this book called The One and Only Bob. I have not read it yet but I have heard great things about it. 

A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold

Bixby Alexander Tam (Bat) is surprised when his mom, a veternarian, brings home a baby skunk that she is taking care of. He instantly falls in love with the skunk and tries to convince his mom that they should keep the skunk. He has one month to show his mom that the baby skunk makes a perfect pet. Readers begin to relate to Bat as he struggles with peer friendships and the realities having his parents divorce. Bat has autism and even though this is not the main focus of the story it does lead to some great discussion with your students about acceptance and how it is important to look at situations through someone else's point of view. I love how this book normalizes autism and diverse needs of other people. 

This is a book to read for pure silliness and fun. There is no important theme or lesson to be learned but is purely for enjoyment. The Tardy Boys (3 brothers) find out that their parents have been kidnapped by space aliens and on the same day they discover that there is a new cat living in their house. Trying to feed the kitty is very expensive because it is undernourished and eats A LOT. The boys decide to enter the kitty into a contest to win cat food for a year. Soon enough, the boys and their friends discover that cats have been sent from space to earth to control the humans and take over earth. Many humorous events take place while the boys are trying to defeat the space cats and get their parents back. 

If you have a lot of boys in your class, this is a must read. They are quickly drawn to the gross hairballs Skinny Kitty coughs up, the incredibly stinky feet of the Tardy boy's classmate, and the mind control of the space cats. 

Night of the Twisters by Ivy Ruckman

Dan and his friend, Arthur are watching Dan's baby brother when they hear tornado warning sirens. They don't think much about it because the sirens are a normal part of their life in Nebraska. To their surprise they have much less time then they thought to make it to the basement with Dan's baby brother. The tornado hits their town and Dan's house. When the tornado stops, the real adventures begin as they have to make their way out of the house and onto the streets to seek help. This book is a fictionalized retelling of the Grand Island, Nebraska tornados of June 1980. It will have your students on the edge of their seat and is a fantastic book to work into a unit on extreme weather.

Amazon Canada affiliate links:
Wild Robot Series by Peter Brown
Catching Spring by Sylvia Olsen
Abel's Island by William Steig
Matilda by Roald Dahl
The BFG by Roald Dahl
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Poppy by Avi
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold
Night of the Twisters by Ivy Ruckman

FREE Book Review Graphic Organizer

As a thank you for reading this far :) I want to give you a book review graphic organizer that your students can use with any book.
Book reviews are a great way to see what students think of each book you have read and are how I gather most of my data on which books they like the best.

Just click on the photo or right here, to get your free copy.

I would love to hear about any other books your students have enjoyed or what you think of any of these books. To share your book choices with other educators, just leave a comment below. 

Here is an image to pin if you want to save this post for later.


Sunday, 28 February 2021

St. Patrick's Day Lucky Me Art

Are you looking for an eye catching display for St. Patrick's Day?

This St. Patrick's Day art and writing project will have everyone stopping to take a look.
This project is also a great way to get your students reflecting on their life and all they have to be lucky for. 

You will need at least 2 work periods to complete the entire project. 

1.) For the first period, I read them a mentor text (see below) and we talk about the great things, people, moments they have had in their lives. This leads to the writing activity (see below for free templates)

While students are busy writing about all the things they are lucky for, I take the pictures of their hands.

Tip: When taking the pictures of their hands have them put hands on top of a white background (I use poster board) and also have a sticky note with their name on it off to the side of the picture (it will be cropped out).

Before day 2 you will have to print out your photos in black and white. See the free download for tips and templates. 

2.) This part can be done on the same day at students put together their picture, writing, and shamrock. If you have never used oil or chalk pastels before you will want to teach your students how to blend the color by doing a darker outline and then dragging the color towards the middle of the shamrock. 

I have them cut out the shamrock shape AFTER they have blended their color so they don't get any of the pastel on their desk. It will not matter if they go outside the lines because it is going to be cut out. 

Once the shamrocks are colored and cut out, bend the petals up so that it gives the shamrock some dimension and it doesn't lie flat on the hands photo.

Glue the shamrock on to the photo. 

Have students glue or staple their finished writing paper on the photo paper. I had students glue them just below the photo. 

I also trimmed all the writing papers so there were no extra lines after what they had written. 

FREE Templates and Tips:

To help you out with this project and make prep much quicker I have created a pdf file with photo taking/editing and printing tips along with templates of the writing paper and shamrocks. 

The writing paper comes with intermediate and primary lines so you can use it no matter what grade you teach!

Mentor Text Idea:

I love using picture books as mentor texts for both Writing and Art and a few years back I found the perfect one for this project. It is called Fiona's Luck by Teresa Bateman (aff. link). It is a folktale about how Fiona tries to bring the luck back to Ireland after a leprechaun king takes it away. 

I would wish you luck with this St. Patrick's Day art and writing project but I know you will rock it!


If you are looking for more St. Patrick's Day activities, check out these FREE differentiated alphabetical order worksheets. Included is a link to get a Google Slides option.  

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