Ahhh, guided reading / literacy centres, I love you and I hate you. I love that I can cram a whole bunch of skills practice into my students through you, but managing you strains my limits every year.

Last summer when I started to wrap my brain around teaching grade one again (you know when you go on maternity leave your school brain, the brain that deals with lesson planning, assessments, and all the formalities of teaching falls out of your head as you are saying your last goodbyes), I discovered Daily 5. Everyone was talking about it, so I Facebooked, Googled, and Pinterested it. Wow, Daily 5 was like my knight in shining armour, galloping on his trusty stead to save me from guided reading chaos. I was amazed at how simple Daily 5 is and why the heck I didn’t think of it before! So, I read the book, made some cute posters, and began to plan some lessons to build my students’ “stamina”.

Now this is why when you go to school to become a teacher they emphasize “get to know your students BEFORE you plan”. We all think “uh, yeah, but I want to plan, I want to get things done ahead of time! Get me teaching!” As I have mentioned in a past post, my students ended up being a very challenging group. They needed a lot of maturing.

I began guided reading and literacy centres during the second week of school after Christmas holidays. I don’t think I’ll be doing Daily 5 until we build our stamina for it and I’m HOPING that will be by spring break. In the meantime, literacy centres it will be and I will be wining and dining my photocopier so that it will be nice to me and not jam in the middle of photocopying the hundreds of pages of booklets and game boards I need.

It’s a fine balance you need to go through to create literacy centres. I’m always asking myself if it is all worth it? Will my firsties really learn anything from them? Well, it depends. I’m learning that this group of kids love games and hands on activities. But, booklets, fill in the blanks to a story?… not so much. I love it when I hit a home run with a literacy centre and when my students all can’t wait until it is their turn to go through it. I also love it when they cheer when I introduce new literacy centres every week. This is what keeps me going with them; although, I have a feeling they will also love Daily 5, when the time comes.

Here are two stations that I have set up.

Snowball Alphabet

snowball game

snowball game pdf

This is so simple and occupies a group for all the time you need to get through guided reading with another group.

What you Need:

  • copies of game board
  • enough gloves or mittens for each student in the group
  • bingo dabbers (preferably blue)
  • 26 small styrofoam balls with an upper case letter of the alphabet written on each one.
  • a toque or a bag to put all the balls in

How to Play:
Each student gets their own game board and puts on a pair of gloves or mittens. Each student then takes turns to draw one ball out of the toque and dabs with the bingo dabber the lower case letter that matches what they pulled out. After dabbing, put the ball back in the toque and the next student goes. If the letter has already been dabbed on the student’s game board they return the ball to the toque without dabbing any letter. Keep playing until a set time or until the whole game board is filled.


  • Students need to know how to take turns, yes a novel concept in grade one but this is VERY important or you will have a lot of hitting, screaming and grabbing… not a good quiet environment for guided reading!
  • Students need to know that a bingo dabber is closed for a reason and that ripping the spongy part of it makes a giant mess (as my carpet at my last school can attest to, sorry to whoever is in there now).
  • Students need to know not to dab the ink onto their gloves and then proceed to rub their faces, it takes a whole lot of scrubbing to come off and you will have to walk around for the next two days looking like you have bruises all over your face (this happened to one of my kiddos last week).

And you ask, “what about those students who know their letters of the alphabet and will be bored by this game”? One, no one gets bored by this game… okay, well if it goes on and on it does get kind of boring! Two, well, here you go. Write sight words or winter words on the balls and your game board.
Both versions are ready for you to print above.

Every week I try to scramble a poem that we have learned the week before. Students cut out the words and glue them back in the right order. You can also print these out on card stock and laminate them. Students can then race to put them in order on their tables. Here is a scrambled up version of The Snowman and they Bunny by Pearl H. Watts.

chubby little snowman scrabble

Throughout the next few weeks I will share literacy centres that have worked with my firsties, maybe they will work with yours!

Happy teaching!

Snow Has Arrived in the Greater Vancouver Area!

Our Snowman

Once a year we go through this. The city may as well shut down as a result of a few centimeters of snow. It is a miracle that anything gets done when there is snow. This is especially true at school, because come on, can you concentrate on learning that “the magic ‘e’ makes the ‘a’ say it’s own name” when there is wonderful, untouched, glistening snow calling you? So, I’m not going to get too hung up if my firsties do not give themselves over 100% to guided reading, ten frames, or learning about magnetic properties. Yawn! While I’m teaching I know that what they will be thinking about is the snowball fight they are going to have (yes, the making and throwing of snowballs is banned at my school but the kids seem to not know that), how much air time they can get while sliding down our mini hill using just their pants (because no one around here owns appropriate gear for sledding), and what kind of manpower is needed to make a snowman as tall as the school.

I am not a snow person. I love having snow outside as I stay indoors to wear my snuggly (I am proud to own a snuggly, it is awesome!), watch movies and drink hot chocolate. I don’t snowboard, ski, toboggan, or build snowmen. But, now I have a 4 year old and a 1 year old. I have to get over it…. and there’s one thing that trumps my discomfort with being out in the snow, it’s the whining and whimpering from a 4 and 1 year old!

Well, I guess I can get my butt out there and enjoy the excitement that is generated when snow meet children. But, inside, you can guarantee that there will be a lot of snowmen and snowflakes being drawn and made using every craft supply readily available.

This is a darling snowman craft I do every year. It takes a lot of work and nimble fingers to tie all that string (I would suggest getting some helpers to do this), but the kids love doing it and it is a nice way to decorate your classroom. Another bonus, you can keep it up until spring!

Hanging Snowman 1 Hanging Snowman 2

If you would like to try this, here is a template for you that includes the circles for the body, arms, scarf and boots. I get the kids to make their own hats and noses and then they decorate the snowmen however they want. Some years, depending on the amount of help I have in the classroom, I have just trace this on white cardstock for every child and they just have to cut and decorate. If your students are okay with tracing on their own, you can just photocopy these on cardstock and use them as tracers for them to use on their own.

Hanging Snowman pdf

I’m also going to do this. I found it on Pinterest, originally from the Random Thoughts of a Supermom blog. I know it calls for unopened juice boxes, which is a great idea for a winter party, but we gather enough juice boxes each week to fill a trailer truck. I may as well try to use some for a craft. So cute and easy!

Snowman Juice Boxes

If you need some poems and songs related to snow, winter, and January, here are some we have gathered on CanTeach.

Happy Teaching!

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Getting Dressed for Winter (and Guided Reading)!

Winter clothes

I don’t know what it is, but I always find the first week of school after Christmas holidays filled with “WOWs!!!” For some reason, this is the time when many light bulbs go on for my firsties. The routines and expectations are now out of the way and we can finally get down to some learning. They are excited about reading and writing and are now putting together everything I tried cramming into their brains since September. I can see it in their eyes, they are getting it, “Ahhhh, this is why we are here, and I guess it’s fun!”.

We are now moving into learning about winter: signs of winter, winter clothing, and winter animals. Here is “Getting Dressed for Winter”, a reading and writing booklet for winter clothing. I apologize to my American friends, I know a toque is a hat and I could have used hat instead, but toque is better!

Getting Dressed for Winter printable

This week I will also FINALLY begin my guided reading groups. I know some teachers will be tsking, but instead of concluding that I am a totally incompetent grade one teacher, please read on there is a valid reason. I have been meaning to do it for months now, but this class just needed more time:

  • more time to learn that the carpet area is not a wrestling mat
  • more time to learn that no matter how much you try, you can not colour your picture all with one pencil crayon and call it a day
  • more time to learn that gooey lunch residue on tables will eventually come back to haunt crisp clean paper that you are about to do your work on
  • more time to learn that arguing about whose pencil is taller will not help you get your work done quicker

and last but not least

  • more time to learn that punching boys in the “meat balls” is not a good habit to get into.

I was not ready to have them in literacy centres for guided reading, I was ready to have a nervous breakdown! In September I read everything I could get my hands on about Daily 5 and my wheels started to spin. I was ready to go….

BUT these kids, these sweet smiling, exuberant, wide eyed, group of kids, who as my librarian as stated, “working with them is like trying to herd a bunch of cats”, sent me to jail without passing go, without collecting $200. The good thing is that they are very cute (and they know how to use this quality to their advantage). I love having a challenging group, they keep me on my toes, but I always need to be able to run on 110%. If anything gets in the way (ie: my own two children keeping me up at night tag teaming each other with puke and diarrhea) I need a lot of Starbucks and chocolate to make it through.

I don’t think anyone understands how MUCH I truly appreciate it when people come to my door and ask, “Is there anything I can do to help”. YES! YES! YES! These kids need a lot of one on one attention, I can not be there for them at all times. Before the holidays I had a work experience student in my class for a month, and I literally cried when she left because the class was so much easier to work with with her around and I was scared to see how it was going to be when she left. It was a bonus that she took initiative and that the kids loved her. It just reminded me how important it is to ask for and take all the help I can get. So I apologize ahead of time if you enter my classroom and ask me, “Is there anything I can to do help” and I rip your arms out of your sockets. There are always things you can do to help, even just standing around listening to little boy #1 tell you SLOWLY about the elaborate drawing he is making in his journal helps tremendously!

So, my work experience student left and January arrived. Here’s a thank you card that we made for her. If you need to make a card, this was so simple to make, and it ends up being a great keepsake. The kids each drew something to thank her for, we taped all the pieces together and I cut out hands for the front and back covers.

Thank you book Thank you book Thank you book

I’m sure I’m not alone being in the state I’m in and I’m sure that I will have more challenging groups to work with in the future. Thank freaking goodness the light bulbs are starting to go on!

Happy Teaching!

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Everyone!

Snowman picture

2011 was a year of wonderful experiences. Most of it was spent on maternity leave, I have been so thankful that I was able to spend a full 15 months at the beginning of my daughter’s life and during the preschool time of my son’s life. While I do miss being there for them, I welcomed a new school in September!

I love my job and I love my family life. These two weeks spent at home during the holidays has reminded me of that. I’m one of those teachers who looks forward to the holidays that I get, but also starts itching to be back at school as soon as the holidays start!

As I go back to enjoy my family time (we are still going through Christmas movies), I just wanted to share with you some New Year’s printables so that you have some new ideas to begin January with. I always find it a pain to find things to do related to the new year, it’s such an abstract concept for our kids to grasp. This year, I’m going to focus on goal setting at home and at school. Then, I can check off some learning outcomes!

Good luck in 2012. May this year be filled with joy and laughter at home and at work!
Happy Teaching,

P.S. If you would like to get notifications of new blog posts, you can “Like” CanTeach on Facebook (click on the link on the left). We are working on figuring out how to email people directly for future posts.

New Year’s Resolutions Booklet
New Year's Resolution Booklet

Ring in the New Year!
Ring in the New Year

… and here’s an end of the day song that we sing that I’ve modified for the new year.

Good bye good bye,
Our year is done,
We worked we played we had some fun,
So let’s be happy and safe and kind,
As we welcome another one.
Happy 2012!

… and a New Year’s resolutions poem I wrote in my head while thinking about New Year’s Eve plans and then ending up thinking about school!

New Year’s Resolutions
New Year's Resolutions Poem

Welcome to the North Pole!

It’s Christmas! Welcome to the North Pole!
Santa's workshop

I love how Christmas slowly creeps into a school during the first week of December and then, WHAM, it’s Christmas! There’s no avoiding it!

Every year I say to myself that I will begin my Christmas lessons earlier so I can do everything in my “fantastic, have to do this next year” file. I never get through that file, but everyone still has a great time and there are always smiles and plenty of glitter all around.

My school does Christmas in a big way, kicking it off with the annual tradition of Deck the Halls. The whole school decorates their halls and classrooms with decorations made by students for a whole afternoon. We play Christmas music throughout the school and Santa and Mrs. Claus visit to hand out candy canes. I had a great time walking with the VIPs and seeing the kids freak out, especially the Kindies!

Our primary wing decided to do a Santa’s workshop theme. We have so many creative teachers. Here are some photos of our Santa’s workshop hall and then some of the highlights of the rest of the school.

Decorated Primary Hall North Pole Elf Drums Elf Window Elf Balls Elf Bears Elf Presents Hall Foyer Hall Tree Hall Reindeer

I decided to have our Firsties be elf applicants. We took photos of the kids’ faces and glued them to paper elf costumes that they made. We then displayed their elf application forms as well.

Elf Display Masked Faces Elf Applications
(sorry about the masked faces, I can’t post photos of my students)

I have never done this before, and always have wanted to (yes, it was in my fantastic file!), I just love how they are all so personalized.

Here are the printable templates for you.
Elf Application pdf thumbnail Elf template pdf thumbnail

For the bodies of the elf I just folded a piece of construction paper into fours and made house shapes. For the legs, feet, and hands, I asked the kids to draw and cut them out on their own.

On the day that we worked on the elves, I had to read my favouritest favouritest Christmas book, Auntie Claus. It’s about the most important elf, Santa’s sister. I love reading it because it takes place in Manhattan and the writing is filled with the word “darling”, which, I of course have to read as “dawwwwwling” I want to be Auntie Claus when I grow up!

Auntie Claus

We also made gingerbread men and women and houses for our display.

Gingerbread men and houses Gingerbread Recipe

One of our Kindergarten teachers thought up of this idea!

Gingerbread Tinfoil Gingerbread Tinfoil 2

Display gingerbread men on a tin foil cookie sheet!

Here’s is my favourite gingerbread man, I love how this little boy just went to town with every craft material he could get his hands on!
Gingerbread man

During this time my class were ambushed by gingerbread books too! Here are my favourites.
Gingerbread baby Gingerbread girl Gingerbread man Gingerbread friends

Well, just a few more days of teaching and I will be able to rest and enjoy the holiday season with my family. I can’t wait to actually do Christmasy things with my own children.

Happy Teaching,


Squee! I love being a teacher at Christmas! Although Christmas is in full swing in my classroom, I had to pull out the brakes for this week’s blog post. Sorry, folks, I just HAVE to talk about my most favourite unit of the year –


I love teaching about owls, mostly because we have access to a speaker from a wildlife shelter who comes into classes to talk about them and… brings real breathing owls who hoot and fly and poop! This year, though, I had to be in the office for two weeks to take over the big principal job while my principal was away, so I didn’t get to really teach the unit. I did get to introduce it and see some of the presentation, though. As well, I made sure I took some pics of the wonderful work that my firsties did with the teachers on call.

I always begin my unit with a KW lesson (Know, Wonder). Here is what my class knew about owls and what my class wondered about owls.

What We Know About Owls Owl Questions

Next we pull up our sleeves and do research. Yes, research in grade one! Using our wonder questions as a guide, we work in small groups and look through nonfiction owl books for answers and other interesting facts about owls. Warning, this gets VERY noisy, but the kids get so excited and want to share everything. I make it a rule that they can share with their group mates and put their hands up for me to come to them, but their bums are to be glued to their chairs!

We then gather at the carpet to discuss what we learned. I hand out recording sheets, and the students are to draw and write four fact about owls that they discovered while they were researching.

Shoot! I don’t have a pic of what they came up with, but here’s a printable template of the recording sheet.
Owl Research pdf

The next day we cut out our facts and sort them into groups. Every year the exact categories can change, depending on the types of facts that the students decided to record, but usually I have space for facts about habitat, food, habits, characteristics, and misc.. I get the students to come up and glue their facts in the appropriate categories.

Owl Research

Hmmm… Now isn’t this how we organize research for writing an essay?! If your class can handle it, this may be a good time to write one together. Amaze all your parents and colleagues, “My student are doing research AND I just taught them how to write an essay!”

Through the unit I also cover owl body parts, the needs of owls, types of owls, and owl habits. Here are some examples and printables of all my templates:

Owls Have 1 Owls Have 2 Owls Have 3 Owls Have 4 Owls Have 5

Here is a printable of the Owls Have booklet:
Owls Have Booklet

Owls Need 1 Owls Need 2

Here is a printable of the Owls Need page:
Owls Need

Owl Types Class Book 1 Owl Types Class Book 2 Owl Types Class Book 3

Here is a printable of the Owl Types class book:
Owl Types Class Book pdf

Owl Can Do Booklet 1 Owl Can Do Booklet 2 Owl Can Do Booklet 3 Owl Can Do Booklet 4

Ha ha ha ha, owls probably can drink slurpies, but I guess they shouldn’t!
Here is a printable of What Owls Can Do booklet:
Owls Can Do booklet pdf

With the help of a wonderful SEA at my school we put together this cute owl display in the hall. We painted owlets using cosmetic pads and white paint, some of the fibres from the pads rubbed off on the paper and made the owlets look fuzzy (you could probably use cotton balls instead). For the mama owls (yes, these mama owls were the same size as the owlets, if not smaller… oops) we did a directed draw on cardstock, painted the whole thing dark brown, cut it out, used a paint brush with a lighter brown paint to paint feathers, and then cut out and glued eyes, beaks and talons out of construction paper. I think I’m going to save these for this year’s art show, the kids did such a good job!

Owls Art Display
Owls Art

Aren’t they so darn cute?!!!

Here is a printable of the poem you can use for your song and poem books:
Owls poem pdf

As the grand finale, we call in our amazing speaker and get to meet Barney the Barn Owl! I’m sure the kids will be talking about her visit the whole year, especially since we were lucky enough to see Barney poop right in the middle of our classroom floor!

If you have never taught owls before, you absolutely have to!

Here are some additional resources that can help you put together your unit. You’ll have a hoot!

Owl Songs and Poems
CanTeach Owl Links

Happy Teaching!

Here We Go!

When we started CanTeach, we had no idea what would become of it, let alone what would become of the internet!  Way back in 1998, I had jumped into my first teaching position in a remote community.  I was teaching a K/1 class and, because I was the only K and 1 teacher at the school, I decided to start a website that could connect me with other teachers.  I was surprised to see that many, from all around the world, were anxious to share their resources with me and get them published on the internet so more teachers could access them.  Because of CanTeach I have met many caring, supportive, and creative teachers.

Since 1998, a lot has changed.  Unfortunately for CanTeach, life took over, we moved 5 times,  I changed positions and taught in many different areas from  Adult Education to Kindergarten, I completed my Masters, we bought a house that needed a complete overhaul, I became a Vice Principal, and we had two children who are now 4 and 1.

Despite the lack of updates to the website, I assure you that not a week went by without one of us thinking about ways that we could make CanTeach better.  I am sorry to those dedicated CanTeach visitors who over the years emailed us to let us know about broken links and submissions.  If you didn’t hear a response back from us, now you know why.

Now we are ready.  James is staying at home now and can focus on the technical side of CanTeach (when he’s not playing house husband), just like he did when we first started. We are bursting with excitement at the future of CanTeach.  A blog that allows us to share celebrations of learning and to write about current educational issues is the first step of the many changes ahead.

We appreciate you visiting and look forward to providing you with engaging, creative, fun, and best of all, free resources that you can use to continue to be the fabulous teachers that you are!   As before, we would love to hear from you about your ideas of what you would like on the site as well as any questions you may have… and this time we promise to write back!

Thank You,
Iram and James