Monday, 19 June 2017

Monday Motivation - Classroom Library Organization and Tips

Hey folks! I'm here to link up with Teacher by the Beach for her weekly Monday Motivation link up. Today is all about classroom library organization!

I am currently finishing up my mat leave so all I have for pictures is my classroom library from last year. The organization itself will stay the same, but I am moving into a new, bigger classroom (it used to be a kindergarten classroom) and getting some new furniture, so the look will be a bit different. Once I get it all set up in August I will share some new pictures!

My principal has given me permission to buy three shelving units for my new classroom, so I'll be getting these three IKEA Kallax shelves to hold most of my library. (I might end up getting another one or two of the smaller ones to fit all my book bins.)

Here's what my classroom library area looked like last year. Cozy carpet with pillows, small table with stools, basket of holiday/theme books. My organization system came from Ladybug's Teacher Files. I found her blog when I first started teaching first grade. I loved her organization and colour-coding. It was just amazing. I used her idea of numbering the baskets of books. (She mentions that she heard about that idea from the Daily 5 book.)

My books are organized by topics, series, and authors. I have about 50 different baskets of books. I used the Sterilite Ultra Medium Baskets. I got them from Canadian Tire, but you can find them on Amazon too. I've had them for six years now and they are still going strong. They are super durable and a perfect size.

Each of my labels has a title, a picture, and a number. The title tells what series/author/topic is in the basket, the picture corresponds to it, and the number just orders my baskets. Each book has a matching sticker with the number of the basket and the picture that matches the basket. So if students have an Elephant & Piggie book like the one below, they can look for the basket with the matching pigeon image or they can look in order for the number 32. The numbers help, plus it builds a bit of number sense too while they are putting their books away! "This is 32... it's not at the beginning and it's before 50... it's sort of in the middle!" 

The labels actually wrap around the spine of the book and the back of the labels have my class, my name, and the reading level. (Half my books still have my maiden name on it. lol. Oh well! That's what I get for changing my name. But Ross is soooooo much easier to spell and say. Haha!) The reading level is more just info for me--I don't make the students choose based on their levels. They have free range in choosing the books they wish to read. Interest + Choice = Engagement. 

I do have a leveled section that I use for home reading. Students take a book home from here each night (I tell them what letter to choose from), they read it and record it in a log, and then change the book the next day. This is not my favourite system--I dislike students knowing their "level" and having to choose from there, but I haven't quite figured another way to handle that yet... Any thoughts on home reading?

Each student has a book box where they keep their poetry folder, sight word practice, and independent reading books. I let them keep five books from the classroom library in here. They may exchange them at any time. I don't do "shopping days". Some kids will keep a book forever, others may change their books ten times a day. As long as they are reading, it doesn't bother me in the least.

I have a large collection of character stuffies (even more that aren't on display here...). Last year they were on a high shelf (I was in an old Science lab), but next year I will display them on top of the tall IKEA shelf.

I have always wanted a couch in my classroom library area and ever since I saw Schoolgirl Style's room I knew I wanted the IKEA Klippan. It's the perfect shape and I love how low it is. Perfect for firsties. Plus bonus the cover is removable so I can just throw it in the wash anytime I need. I kept my eyes open on Kijiji and found one for a decent price. My awesome parents even picked it up for me and delivered it to my house. So now it is just sitting in my garage until I can move it to school in a few weeks! Woo hoo!

Then I found this Poang Children's Chair in the clearance section for 30% off in great condition, so I got it for my reading corner too. (Yes, my classroom is like 90% IKEA. So what? lol)

As much as I don't want my time at home to be over, I am soooo excited to go and set up my new classroom! :) Don't forget to stop by Teacher by the Beach for more library organization ideas!

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Breakout EDU... What Is It??

Hey folks! I'm back again to share with you an AMAZING new activity I learned about this past year. Have you ever heard of Escape Rooms? You essentially get locked in a room and need to solve puzzles and riddles in order to escape the room in the time limit. There's usually a story to go with it like you are trying to escape death row or break into the bank. They are soooo much fun and are popping up all over the place! Love them!

Anywho, Breakout EDU takes the idea of an escape room and applies it to the classroom. Instead of escaping a room though, they need to "break into" a locked box. Basically there is a large box that is locked by a few different types of locks and they need to solve puzzles in order to open the different locks. These games are amazing for working on critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and communication. They can also be used with any grade level or subject area. There are puzzles already created for grades Pre-K to Adult level and in every subject area.

Check out the website by clicking here or the logo below. If you "Register for Access", you will get a password and access to TONS of ideas and games. Check it out!

Here's an introduction video of what Breakout EDU is all about:

To start with, you need a Breakout Kit. You can buy them from the site for $125US each. In the kit you will get the following: a large Breakout Box, a small Breakout Box, a hasp, hint cards and reflection cards, a 5-arrow directional lock, a 5-letter word lock, a UV marker and flashlight, a USB drive, a key and lock, a 3-digit lock, and a 4-digit lock. Click here or the picture below to check them out:

If you want to make your own kit, you can check out Walmart, Home Depot, Dollar Tree, Canadian Tire, and Amazon to find all of your Breakout kit needs! You basically need a large toolbox or other container that a lock or hasp can be put on and another smaller lockable box or pouch. Then you need a variety of different locks, a UV marker, and a blacklight flashlight,. If you click here or the images below, you can find the doc with links to Amazon to purchase these materials.

You can have one kit for the entire group (there are many different explanations on how to run a game with one kit, ie. the "ticket system") or a few kits to do your breakouts in small groups. I have four kits.

Here is a game that I designed and ran with some second and first grade classes. It was based on the book "The Mitten" by Jan Brett. Each Breakout starts with a story, so mine was the animals found Nikki's mitten and did not want to give it back, so they locked it up in a box. Nikki needs to break into the box and get the mitten before he has to get home to Baba.

I divided the class into four groups. So each group had a table with the large locked toolbox (the hasp allows for six locks to be used on one box--we only used four with this game), the small locked pouch, two hint cards (to give to me if they were really stuck), a code recording sheet (to write down the codes they figured out), and a lock parking lot to place the opened locks (to prevent locks from getting broken, reset, or mixed up). I colour-coded my four groups, but that's not necessary. I just like things to be colour-coded. lol

Around the room were other clues and puzzles for them to use and solve.

There was a timer for 45 minutes on the projector. You can find different timers on YouTube here. My favourite is the Breakout Timer with Suspenseful Music.

They had to find a key to get into the smaller pouch which had more clues and puzzle pieces to help them get into the big box.

They had to work together and really think critically to solve the problems.

When they got all the locks off the box, inside was the white mitten, Breakout stickers, and a sign. No prizes, no candy, no treats. Just the satisfaction of completing the puzzles and getting into the box. Actually the stickers were a big hit, but every group was super proud of their accomplishments.

And just like in the tradition of escape rooms, you get to take a group photo with some "We did it!" signs. (I do have signs for groups that don't breakout... but they're still positive and fun like "We almost broke out!" and "So close!") Even if groups don't succeed, they are still amazed by how much they accomplished and can't wait to do another one!

My cute, laminated, hot glued labels did not last a full-day with ones and twos, so I pulled out the Cricut and cut out some cute vinyl labels for my boxes. Love them!!

If you want to check out more about "The Mitten" Breakout, you can watch my set up video here and download all the documents here. I've submitted the game to be reviewed, so hopefully it makes it to the official site! Until then, go register and take a look at all the amazing games out there! I did the "Elf" Christmas game with my family over the holidays and then used the game "The Faculty Meeting" when I presented to staff in my division about Breakout EDU.

Also, if you want more resources or ideas join the Facebook groups: Breakout EDU (General Discussion) and Breakout EDU Elementary Teachers. Leave any questions you have in the comments or send me an email: And please take a few seconds to answer the questions below:

Friday, 17 February 2017

25 Picture Books for Teaching Digital Citizenship

Technology is become more and more prevalent in our schools and our daily life. It's important as teachers (and parents) that we talk to our students and children about online safety, manners, and how to regulate our technology use. Her are some good, old-fashioned picture books to help you teach some of these concepts to young children. (This post contains affiliate links to

Books for Teaching About Technology Addiction

Franklin becomes addicted to a computer game and stops hanging out with his friends or playing outside. 

When the power goes out, Charlie needs to learn how to have fun without his electronics.

Bad Kitty has to take a break from his favourite video game and finds out there are other fun things to do instead.

Webster's Bedtime by Hannah Whaley
Webster the spider learns that all his devices need to go to sleep at nighttime, just like he does!

Jasper is addicted to his video games and has to learn to enjoy them, but have balance in his life.

Lydia teaches her family about all the fun they are missing when they are stuck on all their gadgets.

Doug the robot experiences everything through downloading information from a plug. One day he decides to go outside and experience everything first hand instead!

The Bear family becomes addicted to a computer that Papa Bear brings home, so he has to figure out a solution to get the family off the computer!

A parody of Laura Numeroff's books, a mouse becomes addicted to an iPhone and doesn't realize what is going on around him.

A parody of the book "Goodnight Moon", we realize that our life s not so quiet anymore with all the buzzing and beeping electronics around us.

Books About Being a Good Digital Citizen

The school librarian helps the students learn that not everything they read on the internet is true and helps the students learn to figure out what to believe or not.

A non-fiction book that covers topics such as staying safe, showing respect, and using technology wisely. 

A non-fiction book that looks at what computers are used for, how to store information and search online, and playing games online.

Webster the spider learns that you need to use manners with technology. He learns there are appropriate times to use devices and times when you should put your devices away. 

Webster the spider learns about email etiquette and how fast an email can travel around. When he sends a silly picture of his sister, he realizes that he can't get that email back and should think carefully about the emails he sends.

Books About Online Safety

Some of the fairy tale characters learn some lessons about online safety when a laptop suddenly arrives in Fairy Tale Land.

Chicken uses the farmer's computer to do some online shopping and then goes off to meet a friend she met online. Chicken learns a lesson when she does not tell her parents where she is going and the friend is not quite what she expected...

Elephant thinks all the students at his new school are weird and not like him, so he meets a friend online that looks the same and has the same interests as him. He gets a big surprise when he finally meets his new friend.

A non-fiction book that teaches about passwords and keeping your information safe online. Also talks about mindfulness when posting things online.

Aidan teaches his puppy how to be safe online.

Another non-fiction book about online safety. Discusses smart online searching, guarding your personal information, and how to make friends online safely.

An easy reader non-fiction book about ways to be safe online.

A Rookie Read-About Safety non-fiction book about being safe on the internet.

Webster the spider learns about telling the truth online and that sometimes the people you are talking to online are not who they seem...

Books About Cyberbullying

When Billy Goat finds the farmer's cell phone, he and his friend start sending nasty messages to the troll under the bridge. They learn a valuable lesson about cyberbullying when they actually meet the troll!

I hope you enjoy some of these books and that they help you have some good conversations with your students about how to be safe and respectful digital citizens.