Matryoshka Doll Art Lesson


Aren't these dolls adorable???  I found the instructions for this cute little art activity over at Deep Space Sparkle.  Click Here to go over and check them out.    It's a great lesson for teaching line and pattern in art.

I admit that it took almost a week of lessons for us to complete these.  And I really wanted to emphasize bold and bright colours so when I found some neon paint in the back of my art cupboard the kids were overjoyed. 



Driving With Small Children

Scroll down for the freebie, but if you're interested, here's a little update on our trip to California.

We're back from our vacation.  I was a crazy lady and decided to travel to California with my 2 kids WITHOUT my hubby.  My parents are down in Palm Springs for the winter, and usually we fly down to be with them.  But due to our house flood and Brad's job of refinishing the basement, we decided that he needed to stay home and work on finishing up the suite.  (which he did and it looks fabulous!)

I bought the tickets at the last moment - (2 weeks before the trip, and the day before we were told we would be losing 3 days pay due to the strike)  I got a great deal on the tickets.  3 of us, flying to California for $550 TOTAL.  fantastic right?  BUT the flight left from Seattle.  So crazy little me decided to drive down to Seattle with the kids for the flight.  I needed to park the car down there for a week, but luckily there are tons of hotels around the airport that will give you a week of free parking if you stay one night at the hotel.  Our flight left at 7 am, so we stayed a night at the hotel before we left.  Super cheap - but a total dump of a hotel.

Anyway, so last Monday we pile in the car to go to Seattle.  As we live in Canada, first we had to drive 1 hour to get to the border crossing.  30 minutes in line, to talk to the customs officials and then off to Seattle right???

- Mommy I need to pee!!!
Bathroom break #1. 

Hop back in the car and drive for 15 minutes
- I'm hungry Mommy.
No Snacks in the car - I forgot - drat!

Stop at first fast food place I find - Burger King to the rescue.
Two Child's meals and a sandwich for Mommy later, and we're back on the road.  Bathroom break #2 part of this stop.

Hop back in the car and start driving. 
Torrential rain storm begins.  The water is literally bouncing a foot or two off the ground after it lands.  There is so much water flying off the wheels of other cars and trucks that it's like driving in the fog.

And the whining begins...

Out come the games they got in the child's meal from Burger King.
- Give it BACK!!!!  Connor stole my game!!!!!!!!!  STOP it Connor!!!!!!
Strange crazy animal sounds coming out of my son's voice a la typical 5 year old boy 'aaaarrrrrgggghhhhhhrhhrhrhrh'
'Connor - STOP that'
Evil smile from 5 year old boy.
More strange crazy animal sounds.
I turn up the stereo and continue to drive.

Evil smile on my son's face
- This is MY game
- No it's MINE!  Connor give it BACK!
Driving and trying not to run over little white bumpy things on Interstate which mean I've drifted over the line.  BBBRRUUUMMP!
Get car back in between the lines.
Turn down the stereo.

- Connor, where is Teagan's game???
- I dunno.
- Connor, where is Teagan's game????
- I dunno.
- Connor, WHERE is Teagan's game????
Let's try a different tactic here, I'm thinking, and BBBRRUUUMMMMPPP - driving over white bumpy things.  Straighten out car between lines, someone's driving on my tail, can't pull over due to large semi trailer truck beside me which is causing me to squint to see through the haze of water coming off it's tires.

- Connor, where is your game???
- Ummmm,  I dunno.
- Connor, whose game are you holding???
-  I dunno.
- Connor, do I need to pull over and get out of the car?  You know if I do that I will be pretty upset.  do you want that??
- Ummm  No!
Deep Breath Mommy
- So WHOSE game are you holding.
- silence
- um, Teagan's??
- WHAT!!!

Keep car on road Sandra (I'm thinking)  Finally past the semi-trailer, time to change lanes and let the idiot on my bumper pass by.  BBBRRUUUMMMPPPP - whew made it.

Deep breath Mommy
- Give the game back to Teagan.
- but...
Evil smile, and he throws the game at his sister.  Game hits her in the face and falls on the floor where she can't reach it.
- OOOOWWW!  Co-nnerrrrrrrrr!
and the crying starts.

Where can I pull over???  Road signs are hard to read in the haze.
Whoah - am I really driving 120 km/ hour.  These MPH signs are hard to interpret with my Canadian kilomtres spedometer.  Slow down.  No - wait, I think I'm allowed to drive 70mph, which is 120 kmph...60 is 100 right???    BBBRRRRUUUUUMMMMPPPP!
Get car back between the lines.

Crying in back seat is now wailing...
Pass tissue back to crying child.  Trying to stay in straight line on highway, slowing down to 50mph, BBBRRUUUMMPPP - oh, phew, back between the lines.  Child in back seat has tissue, Wait - I think I see a pull out for a gas station coming up...Ow, the headlights of the car behind me are really close, back up buddy, oh, I'm going 50kmph, not 50 mph.  Speed up a bit.

DRAT - missed the exit.

and on it went...

Ever have a day like that??? How about a week??

The swimming pool was the godsend.  The kids swam every day, several times a day.  They had fun, they got more confident in the water,  they got tired.  Seeing that excitement on their faces every day, made the craziness of getting down here worth it

Kinda worth it, I mean.  I got home and slept in 3 days in a row - Brad can get up early now that we're back.

So that's the start of our trip, and the end of my story for now. 


Fabulous Fluency

So I am off in the sunshine of Southern California with my family at the moment.  I am still working on my story writing packet.  It's coming soon...

In other news, I found this fabulous freebie over at What The Teacher Wants. 
Fluency is so important in reading.  Children can forget what the start of the sentence says if they go too slowly.  On the other hand, they can also go too quickly and skip over words or word endings.  Hop on over to her blog post and read about how she uses them in her own classroom.  Although I am on holiday right now, once I get back into the class I am going to try these out right away.  I like how she introduces one poster at a time.  I also like her little self-evaluation blackline.  

 Click here to go to her post, and Click here to download these adorable posters for FREE


St. Patricks Punch Art

This year, St Patricks Day falls in the middle of our Spring Break. 
And with our 3 day strike last week, I only had two teaching days so far in March.  So St Patricks Day kinda got pushed to the way side.
So I thought Id share with you a project we did last year.

I used a digital scrapbooking program to create the black and white master of the Shamrock Rainbow.  I photo copied one for each child.  Then we got to work making our punch art Leprechaun.

Here are some photos of my kids work.  Scroll down for more detailed instructions.  I think if we were to do this lesson again I would use a different technique for the sky.  Maybe paint would work better.

Anyway, these arent detailed instructions, just a breakdown of what was used.

Below are images of the finished project, and grey outlines of the punches used. 
All the punches are from Stampin Up!


Linky Party

I'm trying....

I'm really trying....

trying what???

Trying to post more frequently.  I love teaching, and I love creating materials, I just don't have as much time as I'd like because I'm a parent of 2 preschoolers  - ahhhh

Anyway, on to today's post.

I'm participating in a linky party over at "Oh Boy, Fourth Grade".  

If you go over to her  blog you will find instructions on how to fill out the form.

You may not be interested, but if you are, please read below for my explanation of my answers.

Currently listening to Lady Antebellum's new album.  DH graciously loaded it onto my phone recently and I can't stop listening to it.  Great album.

Currently loving two weeks of spring break.  It started today!!!!

Currently thinking about packing for our trip to Cali.  Tomorrow the kids and I are driving to Seattle.  Then we are flying down to Palm Springs to spend time with my parents for a week.  Hubby is staying home to work on more flood restoration in our basement.

Currently wanting an end to our contract negotiations.  Without getting into the boring details, let's just say that being out on Strike for 3 days last week was a bit hard on the finances.  We might be facing illegal job action when Spring Break is over and I'm a bit afraid of the consequences.

Currently needing Sleep and Sunshine - need I say any more?

3 words that start with the first letter in my last name - Farrell
Family - the most important thing in my life
Fun - what my friends (and students) hopefully say about me
Friendship - a huge unit I have been working on at school - I'm sure my family is tired of me talking about it to them every day.

So don't forget to hop on over to
Oh Boy Fourth Grade to join the party!


Why Teach if you get No Respect???

As I prepare myself to walk the picket line today, as teachers in British Columbia walk off the job to protest legistlation which will dramatically damage the school system, I was thinking about why Teachers are so undervalued.  Why do we teach if we get no respect?  Here's a little video to give you a boost about how important teachers really are.


Guest Bloggin'

I'm thrilled to say that I am a Guest Blogger over at Teaching in High Heels today.  Click here to hop on over and check out Gladys' fabulous blog or you can find a link to her blog on my sidebar.  Below is my guest post...

Hi Everyone

My name is Sandra Farrell and I teach Grade 2 in Vancouver, BC, Canada.  My blog is Sandra's Savvy Teaching Tips.  Click here to go and take a look.  I just love to read comments, and when I have the time, I love to comment on other blogs too!  Please tell me what you think.  I've only been a teacher blogger for a few months.  Although, I have a papercrafting blog which I've been doing for almost 4 years now.

 I have been teaching for almost 20 years (gasp!)  I started my teaching in half-day Kindergarten.  I moved on to ESL full-day Kindergarten in an enormous inner city school for 8 years.  I've been at my current school for almost 10 years and I have taught Grade 1 and 2 since I arrived here.  I love, love, love teaching Grade 2!!!

In the year 2000 I spent a year teaching in New Zealand. At that time, New Zealand was at the forefront of developing early literacy education.   If you are a young teacher, you may not realize that Reading Recovery was developed in New Zealand.   All of those little leveled books that we use now, come out of this program.  PM readers was the original New Zealand prgram, but now many other publishers have developed great programs as well.  Before that, children learned to read with Basal Readers.  But I digress...  My point is that when I was in New Zealand I leard a lot about teaching reading from some very experienced and successful teachers.   The most important thing to do when teaching reading is to make sure that your children READ EVERY DAY, and that your low readers also READ TO YOU.

 I know that all of you realize that your students need to read EVERY DAY.  What you may not realize is that each student should read TO YOU every day.  Of course, that happens only in a class of 8 students right?  And who has that these days?  Your readers who are below expectations should definitely read to you every day.  Even if it's just part of a story.

So what do you actually do when your students are sitting in front of you reading?

What I want to show you are a seet of specific strategies.  You can download these little posters for FREE at the bottom of this post.  These are presented in no particular order as each child is a unique learner.

LOOK AT THE PICTURE - Ah yes, look at the picture.  Seems obvious right?  You would be amazed at how many children need to be taught this.  Doing a picture walk is a great way to model this.  Discuss the picture and what clues the children might find from it.

LOOK AT THE FIRST LETTER   - Again, looking at the first letter seems obvious, but many children will look at the whole word, and then say what they think it says instead of sounding it out.  Focusing on the first letter draws the childrens eyes directly to the text.  Sometimes the illustrations are not very clear either and so looking at the text helps a lot.
STRETCH OUT THE WORD - this strategy helps a child find all the sounds in a word.  Also, stretching it helps them blend the sounds together and helps them with meaning.  Using a rubber band and stretching it when saying the word can help too.

SKIP AND RETURN  -  This strategy words well when building fluency.  Sometimes the meaning of the sentence comes out with the other words in the sentence.

LOOK TO THE END  -  I am always amazed at the number of children who simply drop the endings of their words.  Now I teach in a highly ESL environment, so that probably contributes, but every year I have a number of students who need to focus on the endings of their words.

FIND A CHUNK THAT YOU KNOW - or Chunking as it is commonly called.  This is where studying word families really helps.  When children learn part of a word, they can sometimes apply that when trying to work out tricky vowel combinations or silent letters.
GO BACK AND READ IT AGAIN - I was fascinated to watch this skill develop in my own son.  He is a natural reader and had beginning sight words and sounds before his fourth birthday.  (just a little Mommy braggin here)  But you know how you NEVER have the time to read with your strong readers every day, one-on-one.  This was my first opportunity to watch closely a child who was developing all these skills by himself.  And this particular skill was one that he uses EVERY TIME he finds a word he doesn't know.  He figures out the difficult word, and then goes back and reads the sentence again to get the full meaning.  You can hear in his intonation once he understands the meaning.

DOES IT SOUND RIGHT - This skill doesn't work for every child, especially your ESL learners, but I use it when it's pretty obvious that the sentence doesn't sound right.  

This is very similar to finding a chunk that you know.  When reading with some children I will use my fingers to cover part of the word and ask the children to say the sounds that they can see.  It's amazing when they suddenly 'get it'

So there you have it.  I hope you enjoy these reading strategy posters.  When I taught Grade One I taught all these strategies at the start of the year and then referred to each strategy over the year.  With Grade Twos I tend to go over them all at the start as a review, and then refer to them as I need them during the year.  It's amazing to see the little ones look up and try to decide on a strategy, or for me to point out a strategy poster in order to remind them of something they could do when they get stuck on a word.

So if you would like to download this FREEBIE

Please drop by my blog and let me know what you think of these posters!



Wow - am I behind or what???

Wow, I need to get back into regular posting.  I have so many ideas and photos from the past few months that I really want to share with you.  Sometimes life can be really crazy though.

warning - scroll down if you want to avoid the complaining and get to the teaching stuff  :)

I think I posted pictures of our house flood a few months ago.  Well, putting the basement back together has been another story in itself.  Let's just say that it's causing a lot of stress.  Part of the problem is that we hired my BIL to work on part of it, and his marriage (to my SIL) is crumbling and unfortunately he cannot separate us as his family, from us as his clients.  So let's just say we finally had to fire him and hire someone else.  Needless to say, Brad is busy trying to do a lot of the work himself.  Last weekend he tiled the basement and then I helped him grout it the next day.  We have flipped 3 other houses, but this was supposed to be our final move, and this house was not supposed to need work right away - but sometimes fate just takes these decisions right out of your hands.

The biggest stress in our house right now is financial, as I'm sure many of you have experienced lately.  Starting on Monday, the Teachers Union in British Columbia is going on strike.  My hubby is a teacher too, so it's a big financial hit.  And although we have house insurance, the flood uncovered some other major repairs that were not covered.

And to top it all off, our cat nearly died.  He ate a bird and it somehow made him very sick.  He may look like a cat, but he's actually a dog in a cat's body.  How many cats do you know that come when you whistle?  He's a really important part of our family and he's only 9 years old.  But it looks like he's pulling through so that's a relief.

OK - now it's safe - back to the teaching stuff!!

Firstly, I wanted to post up some photos of how I put together the heart pop-up card that was included in my free Valentine's Unit. 

Oh, BTW, apparently I cannot spell Valentine's properly and I've fixed up a few spelling mistakes, so now you can get the updated version. I know Valentine's Day has passed, but if you are a super organzied person, you just might want it for next year.

Now on to the pop-up card.  I apologize in advance if you find it confusing.  I took photos of several different cards so they are all different colours.

Here are the two pages from the Pop-up card  One is the blackline master (below) and the other is the instruction sheet. (on the left)

First I copied the  blackline master onto coloured paper.  The children coloured the heart as brightly as they could with a red crayon.  Then they cut it out.

Then I helped them fold the card as in the instruction sheet above.  To the right is a photo of the yellow card folded closed.  The missing corner is where the heart folds in.
Then I attached the colured paper card to a white cover.  You need to fold the larger white cover in half and then line up the folds (as with the pink card below).  I glued down one side at a time.
So when the card opens, the heart pops up!  Below you will find a few more photos to show you exactly what I mean.

You can decorate the cover any way you want.
I apologize for the photo below, but for some reason, Blogger keeps on turning this one sideways when I load it.  So if you lean to the right it's easier to see.  This is how my class decorated the cover.  We punched hearts out of tissue paper with a heart punch (which was an event in itself) and then made a colourful heart collage.  I precut the rectangle fo them to glue to, and then they trimmed off the extras when it was dry before they glued it down to the cover.  The red heart image and sentiment is a Stampin' Up! stamp.  I stamped it onto paper for each child and they cut them out and glued them on top of the collage themselves.  This way every child got a colour copy of the sentiment.

I hope you enjoyed this little tutorial.  Please leave a comment as I love to hear what you think!