Book Club, Curriculum

KIAT Book Club: The Differentiated Classroom Ch. 6

Hello again, friends! I just finished chapter six in Carol Ann Tomlinson’s The Differentiated Classroom and I’m here to keep you all updated!

Last chapter discussed how teachers need to begin their planning for differentiating their classes and how important it is to remember exactly what students need to learn.

Chapter six is titled Teachers at Work Building Differentiated Classrooms and talks about how important it is for teachers to remember to differentiate what, differentiate how, and differentiate why.


Also included, which I personally found very relevant was a figure outlining the key principles of a differentiated classroom with some important points for educators to remember.


The rest of the chapter was laid out much like chapter one, which samples from real classrooms of differentiation in action.

I liked this chapter primarily for these samples as they gave me real, useable ideas for my own classroom. They were much like a jumping off point, if you will.

Thanks for reading, stay tuned for chapter seven! If you’d like more information about the book, here’s a link to it on Amazon.

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Art, Curriculum, Elementary

Make Your Own Dinosaur!

I like to try my hardest to combine Art with what we’re learning about in other subjects. It can sometimes be challenging, and other times not so much. Either way, the kids love making art, so integrating it with other subjects can really help them to remember certain important points.

This time around was one of those “not so much” times. We’re in the midst of our fossil unit and my students are loving all things dinosaur related. So, I decided I would combine Art and Social Studies and have the kids create their own dinosaurs!

First, I had them do a fill-in-the-blank write-up which described their dinosaur.

Then, the kids sketched their creations and painted them. The end results were all really great! Especially considering how difficult it can be for kids to paint.

Now we have a brand new bulletin board! I love getting to look at a brand new, super cute bulletin board!

Book Club

KIAT Book Club: Classrooms That Work Chapters 8-10

I decided to lump chapters eight through ten together because they all illustrate how a typical day would run utilizing the strategies discussed in the book. Chapter eight focuses on a kindergarten classroom, chapter nine on a primary classroom, and chapter ten on an intermediate classroom.

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Instead of simply focusing on one of these chapters, I enjoyed reading and pulling out useful information from all of them. Because my students are all very diverse in their needs and skill levels, I found these to be helpful ideas in all three chapters. For example, most of them read at a kindergarten or lower level, but they have the maturity of children much older, so some kindergarten tips are useful when targeting their needs, but not when they are too “immature” to be appropriate; there’s little children hate more than being treated “like little kids”.

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I also appreciated reading how the timeline in a classroom utilizing these tips looks. Obviously, these have to be adjusted for different classrooms, but they’re still a good read for pulling ideas from and getting an idea about how other people have implemented them into their own classrooms. One chapter left! If you’re interested in purchasing the book, here’s the link to it on Amazon.

Book Club

KIAT Book Club: Classrooms That Work Ch. 6

Hello again! We’ve made it to chapter six in Classrooms That Work! Discussed briefly in the previous chapter was incorporating subjects such as Science and Social Studies into reading. Here, our chapter is titled “Science and Social Studies Matter to Struggling Readers” and follows the path one would expect; talking about the importance of subjects other than English for struggling students.

Of course, the centrepiece for the chapter comes from the fact that children are often very interested in Science and Social. They yearn for knowledge and information and simply lack reading skills. Here, we as teachers need to be creative in our teaching strategies to reach all students. Indeed, when kids have a higher desire to access more information on topics of their choosing, they are more likely to want to read and write on the subject at hand.

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The chapter discusses having as much hands-on learning as possible, including field trips and bringing presenters into the classroom.

Additionally, informational texts, including newspaper articles, computer research, textbooks, encyclopedias, and other interesting materials should make up the base of instruction. These are texts kids are drawn to in their desire to learn more on topics of interest.

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Also an interesting suggestion is something called “integrated days”. I find this interesting as I am an advocate for doing away with rigid subjects and integrating them all. On integrated days, the book discusses dedicating the entire day to a topic of interest rather than to designated subjects. I like the idea overall and would be interested in incorporating it into the classroom.

If you’re interested in looking further into the book, here’s the link to it on Amazon. We’re nearing the close now, back again in two weeks with chapter seven!

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KIAT Book Club: Classrooms That Work Ch. 5

Guess what?! We’ve reached the inevitable phonics chapter in Classrooms That Work! We all knew it had to come; the chapter all about what the book itself has had enough of. Of course, the book has not been telling us phonics is useless in itself; it’s been telling us that the way in which so many teachers have been teaching it is flawed. Here, we’re given different (fun!) ways in which to teach kids letter and letter-group sounds.

One of the big things this chapter discusses is word walls. As you may have read in my past word wall post (link to that post here), you know I’m a fan of word walls. A fan of word walls that are built with students. I already feel as though my wall is quite strong, but Classrooms That Work has given me even more helpful ideas that will (hopefully) make it even better.

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It discusses things such as colour coding and throws in a lot of fun and helpful word wall games and activities to do with the children in order to make it an active tool in the classroom.

Another fun activity written about is a bit young for my kids to incorporate entirely but seems fun: having a student of the day at the beginning of the year to get to know all of the kids. It might not be great for phonics in grade four but it would be a fun intro activity for the first couple of weeks of school.

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Some activités are discussed which can be done during class reading or during Science, Social Studies, or other non-Language Arts courses. There are also some great activities for counting syllables and decoding words of various syllables.

I continue to not only enjoy this book but actively sing its praises to coworkers and teacher friends. I can’t wait for chapter six! If you’re interested in the book, here’s the link to it on Amazon.

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KIAT Book Club: Classrooms That Work Ch. 4

Hello again! We’re onto chapter four in Classrooms That Work and it’s another good one! This one is all about children’s writing and thinking. Like reading, it focuses on thinking while writing to improve not only students’ writing but also their reading skills.

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The chapter notes that the best thing we can do as teachers to improve students’ writing is to provide them with ample time to write, allow them access to materials that they need for writing, and to model the writing process and the importance of writing.

As with our previous chapters, we are also given a nice handful of useful tools and activities to use in the classroom to effectively teach the writing process. Some ideas presented are group and shared writing, in which kids are privy to modelled writing both by the teacher and by their peers.

Writers workshops are helpful for reluctant writers as they get to choose their own topics and are thus more likely to become passionate about writing. Also hi lighted as being particularly important in the publishing process as kids need to feel like their work is important.

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I, again, enjoyed this chapter particularly because I am always looking for new ideas to bring into the classroom and enjoy reading about the step-by-step process of utilizing them, not just the broad ideas. This book has been great for that exact purpose thus far. This chapter has proposed tons of lessons and ideas that are perfect for classrooms between K-6. I’m additionally finding it useful because of the unique make-up of my classroom; some kindergarten activities will be useful and some 6th grade activities will be useful; they just need slight modifications.

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, the link to it on Amazon is here. Stay tuned for chapter five!

Curriculum, Elementary

Teaching Roald Dahl’s “The Witches”

What’s everyone’s favourite Roald Dahl book? It’s hard, I know, because they’re all perfection on a page. I’ve spent years reading and re-reading and teaching all of his novels and short stories and have finally decided that “The Witches” is my favourite. It’s especially fun to teach and read aloud just to do the voice of the Grand High Witch!

The Witches

Teaching at a school in which none of my students are able to read at grade level and many have comprehension and memory issues, I had to be creative about teaching my favourite Dahl novel. I didn’t want to skip teaching it in favour of something simpler because I feel like it’s a disservice to students who would otherwise love the story, to not get to learn it because of their learning struggles.

Overall, all of my students enjoy and understand the story; I just need to be create about assessment and activities for the book. I decided to create an activity book to anchor my class through the novel and then add various activities throughout.

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I’ll read each chapter of the novel to my class and have them follow along in their own books (very, very few are able to follow along, but I still insist on this as they know many sight words which can help them follow along and catch other common words as well). After each chapter, I have all students draw a quick picture to help them remember what happened in the chapter, which I use as comprehension assessment later (I’ll have a mini interview with them about what has happened in the novel and they get to use the drawings from their activity book as a guide).

The book also has chapter questions, some are basic comprehension questions, but mostly I want to have the students think deeper about what we’re reading so I like to include a lot of “how would you feel if…” or “what do you think will happen next…” type of questions. I’ll also try to mix in more aspects of curriculum, such as having them think of adjectives to describe various characters or having them compare and contrast.

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I like to also include other activities outside of the activity book to get students away from basic pen and paper, in-desk activities. I’ll have them act out scenes, or play hangman games to try to stump their classmates, or make The Witches-themed art projects. As with all of my activities in all of my units in all of my subjects, the thing I most want to accomplish is student enjoyment and passion about learning; it’s just all about making sure they’re learning and that I’m finding creative ways to assess along the way!

If you’re interested in my Witches activity book, you can find it here in my Teachers Pay Teachers  store. I also have a similar Matilda activity book, which you can find here if you’re so inclined. Happy teaching!