25 Freebies in One Resource!

We are so excited to be a part of this amazing TPT freebie compiled by Literary Sherri! Here's the premise:

- 25 TPT Sellers
- 25 'Meet' pages: learn a little more about the people behind these fabulous secondary stores! Find our profile on p. 14. 
- 25 'Teach' pages: peruse 25 freebie downloadable resources by those sellers that you can use in your classroom immediately! Find our freebie resource on p. 15.

As always thanks for following along and for your continued support. We hope our blank daily outline template in this resource is of great use to you and your students!

If you'd like to access our portion of the eBook directly, click here to download the freebie from our store. Included in this document is a linky page which connects to the eBook download link as well as links to all 25 sellers and their stores.

Hoping your week is off to a great start!


Lately // 1

Just wanted to jump on the blog tonight to post a quick real life update. It's about time we had one of those around here, isn't it? ;)

So September has been busy! Can I get an amen? I'm sure you're all feeling it too. Avaline is back at work on program development, teaching sessions and curriculum design which is always at its most demanding in September. Meanwhile I've been busy at work designing and laying out some of the resources we planned over the summer. Avaline's been fine tuning the material and let me tell you…it's amazing! Now I'm really digging into the design intricacies to make sure that the resources we produce are beautiful and super easy for teacher's and student's to enjoy in their classrooms. Lots on the burner for sure. We can't wait to start posting them on TPT and are working hard to do that as soon as possible. Product update post to come when they're live! 

In non-SCW news, Ryan (my husband) is out of town this week so Avaline joined Lincoln (my wiry and loveable Irish Wolfhound pictured above…her beloved doggie grandson :) and I for a sleepover. We love this time to catch up and explore our beautiful surroundings with Lincoln. He tends to have an adventuring affect on anyone he's around. And we're not complaining. Starting our days traversing river banks and breathing in the crisp fall air always seems to get our creative juices flowing! 

I'm planning on posting a few more real life updates here on the blog in the coming weeks. We'd love to let you know a bit more about each of us and our lives outside the resources we produce and our involvement in the educational community. And on that note, we'd also love to get to know you! Feel free to tell us a bit about yourself in the comment sections of these posts. We're excited for that conversation to develop! 

Happy weekend everyone! 


Conversations On Education // 8

September is so busy that I often get caught up in a work mentality and risk missing the real gems of why I'm in the teaching profession. Granted it IS busy with setting parameters, getting a strong academic start and focusing on systems to enhance expectations. Undoubtedly, a teacher needs to prepare and be working hard in September to obtain and maintain a profound start to the school year.  However, the intuitive nature of why we teach must remain pervasive and alert.

As a child, school was a safe haven for me; a place of peace. I felt comfortable enough to sleep in my grade one class. However, the comment "Avaline would be a great student if she would just wake up" indicated that the teacher was not as pleased with this level of comfort. What she didn't know was that this was a great compliment. I was afraid at home and didn't sleep soundly.

In my mid-teen years, family conflict rose to disproportionate levels and the fear was accompanied with anger, yelling and unfortunately with physical abuse. I was a good student, a strong athlete and a reasonably easy kid.  Mom said I could entertain myself with toys as a small child for hours and as I grew older saw very little use in television but preferred books and study. It may have been my subliminal way of hoping things would get better by retreating into my own thoughts. Additionally, I joined EVERY team I could. It was a way to stay at school even longer every day. 

In the end, all these coping strategies met with a final and difficult beating made my resolve strong enough to leave home without anything at the unreasonably young age of sixteen. 

I have complete forgiveness for the perpetrator but come at life with a different set of eyes because of these experiences. As a suddenly independent and reeling young girl a word, a kind gesture, a momentary smile or a thoughtful comment on a written assignment became lifelines. Teachers and other adults in my life knew this and, from scared young girl to terrified teen, I managed to survive and thrive because of the haven my school had become. The comment "they don't care how much you know until they know how much you care" has always meant a great deal to me. It rang true for me then and rings true now as I try daily to positively impact people (my students, my colleagues, student's parents, etc.) so they too can live peacefully and profoundly, regardless of what other variables they might have working against them in areas of their life I might not have any knowledge of. 

As teachers we have this opportunity daily, to pour into our student's lives and show them how much we care. Curriculum and essential outcomes are important, sure. But the care, compassion, security, and support we offer our students might just be what really makes the difference in one or many of their journeys. I hope you take encouragement from my story and remember what an important role we can all play in the lives of our students. 


Think About This! // 7


I have never enjoyed classroom set-up as it seems there is this in-built protocol for what it should look like and be. Similar to the idea that teachers are a certain "type" of person, (don't get me started… :) the classroom generally has that "classroom" look. 

With the sense of myself in those high school years and the accompanying anxiety I personally experienced in "that" classroom, I knew I had to do something different for my students once I became a teacher. As a student with nothing else to look at or engage me,  "boring teacher talk" often made me want to be anywhere but there. 

Knowing every student is in a different place mentally and emotionally from that personal experience, as a teacher I try to vary the visual dynamic in my classrooms to best facilitate engagement and active learning within the group. I've found my most recent classrooms took on more interest with a few simple touches:
  1. A video screen was always playing my newest DVD of fish swimming, a fireplace going, etc.  This was part of the mood-enhancing that my classroom was needy of and it gave the visual kids something to look at.
  2. When I stopped talking, classical music started playing.
  3. With the benefit of a bank of computers in my classroom, if the lesson was on Renaissance art each computer had a different work of art displayed so that students could move and view.
  4. The bulletin board was a giant map of the world because we were memorizing the countries of the world and all their capital cities as an extracurricular, 'just for fun' activity (not part of the curriculum but wow, were there a lot of kids sitting around the school with atlases in hand!).  Many riotous "girls vs the boys" showdowns proved a great way to get the competitive types memorizing the countries of the world. We included pins with string placed on the map from our location to whatever locations of the world we studied. You could also add whatever locations the students originally came from or had recently traveled to (colour coded). My map took up most of that wall...big was better in my mind, as this visual was a focal point for my students and I.  
  5. In my performing arts class located in a portable we created acting zones that included the hill above the playing field, which was just outside my classroom. The other students loved us taking it one step further and enacting our scenes during breaks right on that hill. This drew a crowd and the lessons were always that much more fun.
  6. Career and Technology Studies landed on my lap! How, I do not know. Instead of teaching each of the endless 25 hour units we did project proposals and project management formatting that I fashioned after a business model. The result was active learning in animal husbandry, fashion, cooking, construction, welding, design, architecture, etc. vs. students sitting through hours upon hours of my instruction on such topics. With the addition of mentors, the students developed a gymnasium 'project fair' of sorts, full of impressive completions that I am still in awe of.

These are some of my ideas…all of which served great purpose in my classrooms and offered engaging alternatives to the conventional classroom set-up. You and your class, with all of your skills and the varied personalities of the students in the room, will also create a room that is full of life and learning over the course of this year. I'm sure in many ways you already have! I think we can all agree that creating this safe haven of learning and growth is so truly worth it. 

If you have any tips or techniques you're especially fond of, please share below. We'd love to hear them. 


Think About This! // 6

Writing Portfolios - A Picture of Progress  

I've had great success implementing writing portfolios in my classrooms over the years, and I've heard from many other teachers who feel the same. Today I want to share some of the main reasons why I consider them such an important part of a student's writing journey. I hope you enjoy! 

Benefits for the Student:
  • The Writing Portfolio is a wonderful tool to display the student's writing process in a visual manner and breaks complex writing skill into tangible outcomes with maneuverable routes. 
  • In addition it provides the student with a marker of their progress, confidence from their edited (published works) and an outline of where they are going.
  • It separates their writing into the diverse categories of writing genre which further enhances their understanding of varied writing forms.  
  • The portfolio can also include an appendix of numerous wonderful writing tools that assist the student in their daily work regarding word usage, varied sentence starts and sentence structure, enhanced vocabulary, writing in the active voice, action verbs, the "dead word" list, varied genre- specific rubrics, etc etc.

Benefits for the Teacher:
  • The structure of writing will be questioned less as the students become self-sufficient as a result of the tools they have provided to them within their portfolio.
  • Pride of ownership of the student's compilation often results in a tangible change in the student's desire to write because they can mentally break writing into its many categories, work on the areas they need to improve upon and enjoy their visible successes.
  • Management becomes much easier for the teacher once they have established strong student portfolio protocols.  There will be less "lost" or "missing" work, fewer questions regarding daily tasks, fewer questions about where and how to submit work and a more manageable format for marking work.
  • When parent meetings take place at Parent-Teacher Conferences, or when the student has opportunity to display the portfolio to their parents the portfolio will give the parents strong insight into their student's growth and also to where practice is still required.

Portfolio dividers can be designed to suit the common core elements of the writing criteria whatever grade you teach. This way, the portfolio remains a significant method of filing and demonstrating the deep and layered levels of learning that the written form lends itself to. A great example of portfolio dividers I use regularly is the 'My Writing Portfolio' bundle Carli and I developed a while back and are now offering on TPT. Click the picture below if you'd like to learn more!

However you choose to organize your writing portfolio system, I strongly encourage you to incorporate this in your classroom. It has been such a help to me and my students, and I'm sure it will be to you and yours as well. If you're already experiencing great success with writing portfolios in your classroom, please share some of your top tips and insight in the comments below. We'd love to learn more about your experiences with this dynamic tool!


Think About This! // 5


There is one confidence that is self-evident for teachers during the beginning of the school year.  To be accepted or "loved" by students is secondary to the understanding that the steps taken in September set the stage for success and respect. These steps (decisions) don't necessarily garner acceptance or immediate appreciation from the student but the seasoned teacher knows they must occur.

I actually "don't care" what the students thinks of me in September. I "do care" that they are better and stronger human beings after participating in my class, receiving my instruction and deeply believe in the perspective that their character development is more important than easy passage

Here are some of my "seasoned" suggestions:

1.  Pre-create: Always know where you are going organizationally and behaviourly.
2.  Work on a finite number of TOP expectations. For example, if a peaceful, well-ordered classroom is your priority set the procedures in place to accomadate this eventuality.
3.  Choose three behaviours to target: It is unlikely that all disruptive behaviours can be stemmed but consistent targetting of specific disruptive attitudes and behaviors will reap a benefit.
4. Understand how to curb behaviors that are counter-productive. Eye contact, specific announcements of expectations and respect for the student are great starting points. I have often used the following method. First,  say the student's name, identify the behaviour and your desire to have the student stop. Second, close the physical gap by half, increase the intensity by half and repeat yourself. Finally, if necessary, close the gap by half again, make eye-contact and register your request.  No escalation in voice or energy is needed. The message is generally received very well!
5. Get parents on board: Parents are your greatest allies and workers. Set up a volunteer schedule and trust them to do the work you give them, after all they taught their children to speak English :) Not an easy task! They will be able to help streamline your work load and grow the students abilities incrementally.  It truly does take a village.


Conversations on Education // 5


Image Via

Starting the school year, the teacher, as one person in a network of people has the true possibility of being a "high impact" positive influence on students.  Beyond the layers and layers of knowledge and technique instruction teachers should look closely for simple common denominators in human experience to know how to effectively impact with one word and one action at a time.

Consider the following far reaching human priorities:

1.  No judgement; show acceptance and compassion
2.  Set clear parameters, give second chances
3.  Clarify and reward learning benchmarks, give students every opportunity to succeed
4.  Each day is brand new: it is a fresh start. Let go of mistakes and give grace instead of blame.
5.  Each word has impact for good and/or bad. Better to have few words than many.
6.  You won't know what your individual students are dealing with; be sensitive.

Helen Keller sums these ideals up beautifully in the following quote. "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart." If we, as well-trained and learned educators, listen to our hearts and follow simple yet foundational wisdom, students will undoubtedly be impacted both powerfully and positively.