3 Ways Students Can Use Folding Resources to Explore Characters

You probably know how much I love interactive notebook resources! So far I’ve written two blog posts exploring how to use them to explore vocabulary and how to make comparisons. But as someone who adores book studies, I couldn’t resist sharing some ways you can use interactive notebook resources to explore character. (Don’t miss the free resources as well!)

 
3 Ways Students Can Use Folding Resources to Explore Characters. An exploration of interactive notebook resources for book studies and more. A Galarious Goods Blog Post
 
 
 

These folding resources use a picture of the character’s face (or the whole character) to combine creativity and understanding of the character in one resource.

Students are provided with a ‘cover’ image of the character with a side or top tab. They cut around the outside, then fold the tab on the dotted line. The tab is pasted into their notebook or onto paper and the cover is lifted so students can write about the character under the cover.

This is a really adaptable resource because students can use a template or create their own character images. As long as they include a side or top tab, it works as a folding resource.

Take it further

  • Students can use it to explore a character they’re writing about

  • Students can work in pairs or small groups to explore all the main characters of a book. These can be put together to create a display

  • Students can recreate a ‘scene’ from a book with the lifting character resources.

2. Circular Character Folding Resource

 
 

A circular folding resource is a great way for students to explore particular characteristics of a character.

Students cut out the circle and between the tabs, fold up the tabs, then paste the middle into their notebooks or into paper. The top of the tabs include different aspects of the character for students to explore - they write the answers to these under the tabs.

Take it further

  • Students can create multiple folding resources to make a display.

  • Students can use this in their own creative writing to assess the characters they’re writing

3. Character Booklet Folding Resource

 
 

This is a great way for students to take a really in-depth look at a character. Students can use a folding booklet to explore questions like what kind of character they are, why they behave the way they do and their relationships with others in on compact resource.

Students cut out the folding resource on the solid lines and fold in the sides on the dotted lines. They answer the questions on the inside, then add details or decorate the outside.

Take it further

  • Students can leave off the name of the character and challenge others to work out who the character is

  • Students can use these as part of a ‘book talk’ or ‘book promotion’ for a character

  • Students can create these as assessment for a particular book

 
 
 
 

3 Ways Students Can Use Folding Resources to Make Comparisons

I love folding resources and interactive notebook resources. They’re a great tool students can use to understand, remember and share content and ideas. I’ve previously shown three ways you can use folding resources to explore vocabulary. Today, here’s three ways students can use folding resources and interactive notebook resources to make comparisons.

 
3 Ways Students Can Use Folding Resources to Make Comparisons. Explore these three different types of interactive notebook folding resources perfect for students to create comparisons on different topics. A Galarious Goods Blog Post
 
 
 

This resource uses a background and flaps to compare different characters, people in history, events and more. Students attach flaps or tabs to the sides or the middle of the background sheet, with a heading or headings on the outside of the resource and the similarities and differences or characteristics under the flaps.

This is particularly good when looking at the similarities and differences of characters. Students can write the character names on the front of the resource and lift one flap to share the similarities and the other to share the differences. You can also extend the resource to 4 or 6 characters and write some of the qualities of each character under the tabs.

Because this organiser just uses straight lines, students can easily make their own. Or you can download the free resource to get a printed copy.

2. Sliding Resource

 
 

This resource uses a folded ‘sleeve’ and an insert card to make comparisons. When it’s completed, the students can slide the insert card back and forward to see the comparisons. These can go into notebooks or be used to create classroom displays - especially for complex topics or novel studies.

Students make the sleeve by folding the two side sections backwards and fastening them behind the middle section. The card - which has a dividing line in the middle - then slides through.

This would be particularly good when exploring government or civics topics. Students could compare different levels of government, the roles of different people involved in government or even different types of government.

3. Turning Card Resource

 
 

This resource includes a pocket and an insert. The insert is created by folding a piece in half and fastening it together. Students can write about one thing on one side and one on the other (or similarities on one side and differences on the other. These can also be used to make a wall display.

The tabs on the pocket are folded back so they are tucked behind the main part of the pocket. These tabs are then fastened to the page or display board. The prepared insert goes inside the pocket and can be taken out and ‘flipped’ as required.

As well as characters or events, this can be used to compare settings of books, famous historical figures, things from a long time ago and things from now, different books - even different animals!

 
 
 
 

Exploring Australian Picture Books About Weather

Australia is well known for its wild range of weather - the drought and flooding rains. Already in 2019 the country has experienced floods, fires, an ongoing drought and the threat of a cyclone. One way to explore this weather in the classroom is through a range of picture books which highlight different weather conditions - using these picture books to help us to get a deeper understanding of this weather and its impact on Australians.

 
Exploring Australian Picture Books about Weather. A look at a range of Australian picture books which bring the diverse weather of Australia to life. Plus how these books can be used by students and teachers in the classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Flood, Fire, Cyclone and Drought by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley

These are probably the best known picture books about extreme weather in Australia. Starting with Flood - a story of the 2011 Queensland Floods - these creators have built a powerful collection of text and illustrations which bring the events and the impacts of natural disasters in Australia to life.

Although these books are part of a series, there are little individual differences which are interesting to discuss as students compare and contrast the books. Two of the books are very clearly linked to specific events - the 2011 Queensland Floods in Flood and Cyclone Tracy (which hit Darwin in 1974) in Cyclone. Fire and Drought are more general - a look at natural events which can impact large areas of the country year after year.

One of the ‘must-do’ activities with these books is to explore the author and illustrator notes to look at the intentions of the creators as they come into the work. For both of the creators, there are personal elements or feelings to these creations and they have strived to create their work to show not just the events and impact of the disaster - but the way people come together to help and rebuild during and after the disaster.

Another great way to look at these books is to look at what is happening ‘before’, ‘during’ and ‘after’ - to explore the heavy stillness of the air in the heat before of fire or the endless days of rain before the waters being to rise in flood.

 
 

The House on the Mountain by Ella Holcombe and David Cox

This beautiful book - probably best for middle primary and upper primary - takes us through a story of a bushfire which rages into the mountain home of the narrator and destroys her family house. It looks at the race to escape the fire and the fight to rebuild life afterwards - including looking at the emotional impacts of the fire.

The author includes a powerful author’s note about her own experiences with the Black Saturday bushfires, where she lost her home and her parents. This may or may not be something you wish to share with your students (depending on their age), but for older students it might be interesting to explore the author’s focus on regrowth after a fire. This is an interesting aspect of extreme weather which can sometimes be forgotten as journalists and other story tellers begin to move away from natural disasters in search of the next story.

A House on the Mountain would also allow for an excellent timeline activity, tracing the events of the story - and how the narrator feels - through from before the fire to the rebuilding after the fire.

All I Want for Christmas is Rain by Cory Brooke and Megan Forward

This Christmas book is also an excellent look at drought for younger readers. Jane lives on a farm and wants rain for Christmas to break the drought. Jane believes that Santa is the perfect solution to the drought. This book highlights the difficulties of drought, the impact of a lack of rain on the environment and the people who work in it. It’s a particularly good introduction to drought for younger students.

There are a number of different activities which you can do with this book, including looking at what happens when there is a drought. Students can list some of the things which Jane highlights as issues, combining it with some videos of drought to enhance their understanding of drought.

 
Exploring Australian Picture Books about Weather. A look at a range of Australian picture books which bring the diverse weather of Australia to life. Plus how these books can be used by students and teachers in the classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Two Summers by John Heffernan and Freya Blackwood

This is a really gentle look at the impacts of drought - comparing a visit from a friend from one summer to another. As you progress through the book there are little mentions of how things are different, how things are harder.

This is a great book to use for looking at inference. There’s many places where the narrator just gives a little bit of the story, without fully telling the reader about the worry and concern they are experiencing. Even hearing that his friend will travel for seven hours gives the reader a little clue about the difference - the divide - between their life and the life of his friend.

The comparisons between one year and another is another things which students can use when talking about weather in the classroom. What is it like before a weather event? What is it like after a weather event? This could apply to floods and cyclones as well as drought.

Big Rain Coming by Katrina Germein and Bronwyn Bancroft

Big rain is coming . . . but when? This lovely book, best suited for younger students, explores the anticipation of waiting for rain when it’s really, really hot. My favourite part is when the clouds gather, but it still doesn’t rain.

This is a great book for working on prediction, with its easy, repeating structure. Students can also use it as an example of what it’s like to wait for something - whether it’s rain or something else in their lives.

Big Rain Coming is also good for exploring what happens before it rains - whether it’s clouds gathering, a wind picking up, or even the sound of rain moving towards you. The beautiful illustrations also offer room for exploration, especially looking at how colour and lines are used to create a beautiful world. Students might like to compare this with some of Bronwyn Bancroft’s other illustration work as well.

 
Exploring Australian Picture Books about Weather. A look at a range of Australian picture books which bring the diverse weather of Australia to life. Plus how these books can be used by students and teachers in the classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Mrs White and the Red Desert by Josie Boyle and Maggie Prewett

The children of Mrs White and the Red Desert are working hard to clean their house so they can entertain their teacher. They want to show her why their homework is grubby, but as she arrives a red dust storm also comes along, giving them the perfect demonstration.

As well as the dust storm at the centre of this book, there’s some lovely other exploration of weather. We hear about hot desert winds and the pitter-patter of rain. We see that the weather is a daily part of life, that is races around (and through) the house and soothes the children to sleep. And that it has an impact on the lives of the children when they are away from home.

This is another great book for inference - we don’t see what happens at school before the teacher comes to visit, but we can infer it. We infer how the dust storm destroys the dinner.

We also see what the impacts of a dust storm can be. Students can explore pictures of dust storms - both in the cities and away from the cities and discuss what the impacts of dust storms are during and after the storm. They may also like to explore the weather conditions which make dust storms more or less likely.

Mustara by Rosanne Hawke and Robert Ingpen

This is another book about a dust storm, but in this storm two children are caught in the middle of it, without warning, with a camel to protect them. Mustara is a historical fiction, giving a few glimpses into a different world of explorers and the use of camels in exploring inland Australia.

The historical fiction aspect of the book gives students another area to explore - what other weather events impacted people in the past? What other stories do we know of big weather events? Students might like to compare accounts of weather from the past with more recent accounts of weather and talk about how people deal with weather the same or differently.

 
 

10 Books for Classrooms Exploring Boy Overboard

Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman is a great book to explore in your classroom. But what other books are connected to this important story? What books can you make available for your students to read? What books can you explore together?

Today I’m proud to present 10 books related to Boy Overboard, perfect for the classroom. From picture book memoirs, to wordless books to well known novels, this is the list every teacher needs when they’re teaching Boy Overboard!

 
10 Books for Classrooms Exploring Boy Overboard. A curated list of books related to Boy Overboard and how teachers can use them in the classroom as teaching resources. Perfect for classes learning Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman. A Galarious Goods blog post.
 

Girl Underground (and other Morris Gleitzman novels)

Girl Underground is a must have for students who are reading Boy Overboard. The companion to Boy Overboard it follows the story of Bridget and Menzies who team up to help Jamal and Bibi who are now living in a refugee camp in the Australian desert.

In the author notes for this book, Morris Gleitzman says he was struck by the range of responses from the public to those in need of help - like refugees. He sought to explore that in Girl Underground and it makes for a great discussion which you can explore with your class.

It’s well worth making other Morris Gleitzman novels available for your students to read as well. He’s got a huge collection of novels covering a wide range of topics - there’s something for everyone!

Mahtab’s Story and Parvana

Mahtab’s Story by Libby Gleeson and Parvana by Deborah Ellis (published as The Breadwinner outside Australia) both look at the harsh life under the Taliban in Afghanistan - the same regime that Jamal and Bibi were living under at the beginning of Boy Overboard.

Mahtab’s Story is also similar to Boy Overboard because it traces the difficult journey out of Afghanistan to Australia. We’re taken through the long - and sometimes tedious - journey Mahtab and her family take as they move from one place to another - sometimes in danger, sometimes just waiting for something to happen. The writing is beautiful and this would make for a great text if you are looking at description.

Parvana is a little different because it focuses more on the life under the Taliban. Parvana is a young girl who is forced to pretend she is a girl when her father is taken away. Girls and women in Afghanistan aren’t allowed to be in public without a male family member, so Parvana’s disguise is an essential part of their survival as she starts working to support the family.

Refugee

Refugee by Alan Gratz reminds us that stories of refugees aren’t new and that they will probably continue into the future. By presenting three different stories from different time periods, students are invited to look at the similar and different aspects of people fleeing from dangerous situations and to look at where else in the world this might apply.

 
 

The Arrival

The Arrival by Shaun Tan is a large, wordless book which follows the journey of a man fleeing danger and hoping to be reunited with his family and the kindness of the people he meets in the strange land. It connects with the journey made by Jamal and their family and the strange things Jamal comes across from one place to another.

This is a stunning book, well worth taking an in-depth look at if you have the time. It can be accompanied with a wide range of texts and can definitely become the focus of an extended book study. Students can explore how illustrations can tell such vivid stories and where else they can find powerful illustrations, or they can explore other wordless books or graphic novels.

I’m Australian Too

Much of I’m Australian Too by Mem Fox focuses on different groups of people who live in Australia and how their families came here. However, at the end of the book we are introduced to a refugee in a camp, still waiting to come to Australia.

This powerful end to the book, contrasted with all the other children leading fulfilling lives within Australia can raise a number of discussion points with students. They can compare this story with Jamal and Bibi’s story, reflect on why people leave one country for another and whether it reflects Australian history.

My Name is Not Refugee

My Name is Not Refugee by Kate Milner is aimed at younger children, but is a beautifully written way to explain life as a refugee to people of all ages. Throughout the book, a range of questions are asked which put the reader into the shoes of refugees.

This would be a great book to share before starting Boy Overboard, as it introduces students to the idea of refugees. Students could also read it to compare the story of the child depicted with Jamal and Bibi and their journey

 
Books for classrooms exploring Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman. A collection of books which are perfect for the classroom for teachers to explore as they teach Boy Overboard. A Galarious Goods blog post.
 

Wisp

Wisp by Zana Fraillon is more abstract than some of the other books, asking students to draw connections between the text, the illustrations and things which are happening around the world. This beautiful book draws the reader in as they go on journeys of memory and imagination with the characters.

Students can use this book to explore the notion of hope and to compare it with the hopes Jamal and his family carried with them as they journeyed away from the danger in their homeland. They can explore different ways hopes can be written about and drawn and how we may hope for a better future for everyone.

Room on Our Rock

Room on Our Rock by Kate and Jol Temple is an incredibly clever picture book which shares two messages depending on whether you read it from back to front or front to back. This reflects Morris Gleitzman’s statement about the range of opinions which exist when it comes to refugees and other people who need help.

This would be a great book to look at in terms of structure. Students can attempt to write their own forwards or backwards stories with different messages and examine how the authors have successfully managed it.

The Little Refugee

The Little Refugee by Ahn Do and Suzanne Do shares another story of a boat trip to Australia, but this time as a result of a different conflict - the Vietnam War. Students may be surprised to see that this is the picture book memoir of a popular children’s author, well known for the Weir Do and Hot Dog books, allowing them to see what life may look like for refugees as they grow from children to adults.

There are many parallels with Boy Overboard in Ahn Do’s story, which students can explore and list. They might also explore what Jamal and Bibi’s story might look like if it was turned into a picture book and how it might be illustrated.

 
Books for classrooms exploring Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman. A collection of books which are perfect for the classroom for teachers to explore as they teach Boy Overboard. A Galarious Goods blog post.
 

Whether you are able to add one or all of these books into your classroom, you will find that there are plenty of strong, thoughtful books to supplement the stories and messages of Boy Overboard in your classroom.

 
 

5 ANZAC Day Picture Books to Use in Your Classroom

ANZAC Day is an important date in the Australian calendar, but it can be a complex occasion to discuss with students. Much of ANZAC Day and its place in the Australian story is based in the actions of countries and individuals more than 100 years ago. How can we explain that to students in the often short time we have? How can we show them what it was like and how that echoes into our world today.

One way to bring ANZAC Day to our students is through some of the fabulous picture books which have been written and released to bring stories and reflections to young people. Here I look at five of them and suggest some ways they can be used in the classroom.

 
5 ANZAC Day Picture Books to Use in Your Classroom. A look at picture books and suitable activities for students in your classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

The Beach They Called Gallipoli by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley

This book, which is probably best suited to upper primary and beyond, is more of an overview of the Gallipoli campaign than a narrative. Like French and Whatley's natural disaster books, it takes us through a timeline, using highly descriptive phrases and effective images to give us a glimpse into what it would have been like. We start before the landing, seeing calmness, work through the Gallipoli campaign with short pieces of text and photos, drawings and primary source ephemera giving us more information, then see how people came to remember the campaign 100 years later.

Exploring this book in the classroom:

  • Students can discuss the use of real images in the book. What do they tell the reader? How do we react to real images rather than drawings or paintings? How are they manipulated and what effect does that have?

  • -Students can examine the descriptive words and phrases used and what feeling they add to the book.

ANZAC Biscuits by Phil Cummings and Owen Swan

This book is suitable for younger and older students. It tells two parallel stories - the story of a young girl and her mother making ANZAC biscuits for her father, and the story of the father - away from home at the war front. It's a story of love and family, but also a story of the fear and harsh conditions at war. Keen readers will want to flip back and forward between pages, looking for the similarities and connections the author and illustrator have included and some of the differences between now and the world of the story (I love the wood stove which reminds me of the one my great-grandmother had). 

Exploring this book in the classroom:

  • Students can research ANZAC biscuits and how they came to be called that. If you have access to a kitchen, this could be a good time to bake ANZAC biscuits and look at procedure writing and reading

  • Students can create a chart of the connections, similarities and differences shown in the book

The Little Stowaway by Vicki Bennett and Tull Suwannakit

This book is suitable for younger and older students. It is a relatively simple tale of a French orphan adopted by an Australian airman who has to take significant measures to bring him home after World War One. In some ways, though, it is the details which aren't provided which allow for greater exploration. What happened to other French orphans? What were the Australian air men doing? What was it like being an air man in World War One? 

Exploring this book in the classroom:

  • Students can use this book as inspiration to brainstorm questions about World War One and what it was like for soldiers

  • Was it right to smuggle Honoré home? Students can discuss whether he should have been left in France or whether bringing him back to Australia was the right thing to do

 
5 ANZAC Day Picture Books to Use in Your Classroom. A look at picture books and suitable activities for students in your classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Lone Pine by Susie Brown and Margaret Warner (Illustrated by Sebastian Ciaffaglione)

Suited to middle primary and older, this book tells the story of the Lone Pine and how trees were grown in Australia from a pine cone sent home. As these trees - and later trees - grew, they have been planted around Australia as memorials to World War One. As well as telling the story of trees, this tells the story of a family looking for and coming to terms with losing a brother and son. A particularly strong symbolic moment comes when only two of the three saplings survive to grow into strong trees.

Exploring this book in the classroom:

  • Lone Pine uses very strong, bold lines in the illustration. Students can experiment with their own bold line artwork using paint or oil pastels

  • Students can research more about the battle of Lone Pine and why it is still remembered today

Memorial by Gary Crew and Shaun Tan

Suited to middle primary and older, this book is the story of a family who have experienced war across three generations, a World War One memorial and the tree which was planted at the first memorial service. It deals with memories and how we make sure things are remembered after we are gone and what happens when part of a memorial is removed. This is a particularly good book to read alongside Lone Pine, since both books deal with some similar themes and ideas.

Exploring this book in the classroom:

  • Students can visit a local memorial or even one of the bigger memorials in their state. They may draw it, discuss its features and talk about how we preserve those memorials and why its important to preserve them.

  • Students can discuss the rituals and symbols used at their school or local community ANZAC Day services. They might like to discuss the words which are used and the different elements which are included and how they are memorials as well.

 
 
 
 

5 Ways to Find Joy in Your Classroom and Teaching

 Teaching can be really hard. So much is expected of teachers in so little time and with so few resources. Sometimes we find ourselves facing problems which we just can’t unravel, no matter how hard we try. And there are days when we ask ourselves why we persist.

Each year I choose a word to aim to - I think about what the word means and how I can bring more of those concepts into my life. In 2018, that word is JOY. I realised that joy is one of those things which can make the classroom an easier place to be, something which can bring light, even on the dim, dark days. But how can we find joy in the classroom and in our teaching?

 
5 Ways to Find Joy in Your Classroom and Teaching from Galarious Goods
 

1. Bring things of beauty and joy with you

There are some objects which just bring a sense of joy with them. It might be their colour or their shape or the reminder of a happy moment. We can bring these things - or things inspired by them -  into the classroom with us.I have a collection of bells which bring me happiness - one was bought on a holiday with friends, another has a unique sound, the third was given to me by a student. They were perfect for my desk in the classroom and brought joy whenever I saw them or rang them. You might have a framed photo of family or friends, an image of an amazing place you’ve been or would like to go or special pens, pencils or highlighters which make you happy.

You might take it further and decorate your whole classroom to make it a happy place. You might fill it with rainbows or images of plants, you might include happy quotes or use your favourite colour  as a background on a notice board.

What if you don’t have a dedicated classroom space? Bring some joy with you! It might be a beautiful lanyard or a lovely pencil case. You might like to buy a special planner (like this one from Mrs Strawberry, these planning sheets from Green Grubs, this library planner from Little Library Learners, or this planner from Oceanview Resources); a planner cover or decor like these beautiful options for New Zealand teachers from Green Grubs or binder covers like these from Jewel's School Gems. Use beautiful pictures as your computer background or screen saver. Buy some nice folders to hold your items or add lovely labels to your cart.

2. Reframe the mundane

A lot of teaching is repetitive . . . and a little bit boring. And while we can make some of it fun, some of it has to just be what it is.

But we can make it a little more joyful by reframing what’s happening in our heads. We can look for the little pieces of joy and remind ourselves that they’re there.

Staff meetings are a perfect example of this. The workplace health and safety officer might be going through the fire drill process for the 10th time in the year - but that means all teachers will be better prepared if there is a fire. And isn’t it great that they take their job seriously - it might really save a life or prevent and injury one day.

Marking can also seem endless, but look for those moments where students have shown improvement or really taken on something you’ve taught in class. Find those little pieces of joy in their work and celebrate them.

3. Work in the Affirmative

I love using affirmations - they’ve been part of my life since I was young and my mother used them with us. I use them quite a lot, these days - as motivation, for calming, for reflecting on what I’m doing and what I’d like to be doing.

Affirmations can definitely be used to bring joy into the classroom. It might be in the form of a lovely quote or poster which you hang in your classroom, or you might like to take a few moments to write your own at the beginning of the day or week. You can keep them in your teacher diary or on your desk or use them as part of a display at home or school. 

Looking for some teaching affirmations? Download my free set of teacher affirmations here.

 
 

4. Get Dancing

Well, you don’t have to dance. You could sing. Or run. Or make yourself the nicest coffee . . . 

The idea is to treat yourself - find activities or rituals which make you really happy and make sure to build them into your weekly schedule. It might be something you can do at school - one year a group of teachers at my school organised an exercise boot camp on the school oval after school, or you could always begin your school day with a song which makes you happy. Or it might be something which you participate in outside of school - a few years ago, I participated in adult ballet classes on Wednesday nights. It made me happy and gave me exercise!

If you have something you do every day, think about how you can make it happier. Always start the day with a cup of tea? What about having a pretty tea cup or tea thermos to drink it from? Like to eat a nice salad for your lunch at school? Could you add a nice relish or dressing or some lovely herbs to make it happier? Buy a nice hat for playground duty, treat yourself to joyful sticky notes, theme your daily whiteboard reminders to your favourite children’s books - treat yourself in ways which bring joy!


5. Bring joy and passion to your subject matter

Do you enjoy what you teach? Really enjoy it?When you enjoy what you’re teaching, your students feel it. If you share that joy, the excitement level in the room often rises and you’ve got a greater chance of having one of ‘those’ lessons which you want to repeat over and over. 

But what if you’re not teaching something you love? Is it possible to get really excited about mixed fractions? (Well, I enjoy them, but I’m occasionally strange!).Can you connect them to something you enjoy? Maybe you can combine mixed fractions and a chemistry or baking exploration? Or use them in a graphing or mapping exercise? Or use them to talk about how many books your class has read?

Or, you could connect them to something your class really enjoys. Challenge them to connect mixed fractions to unboxing videos or superheroes or making slime. Feed off their excitement and see how far it will take you. 

Don’t forget to keep a record of those really great lessons. It might be a photo or a short description. You might collect some feedback from your students or make a video about it. Use photos and descriptions to make a special noticeboard of happy lessons you’ve had with your class. These records can be great for your teaching portfolio, but they can also serve as a reminder of all the happy teaching moments you’ve enjoyed.


How do you bring joy to your classroom? Let me know in the comments!

Related posts to read:

 
 

5 Great First Day of School Reads

Recently, I was fortunate to be part of the free Back to School eBook - an Australian and New Zealand Teacher Authors Collaboration. One of the things the participating teacher-authors included was a back to school tip. Mine, of course, was related to reading, so I couldn’t help but dig a little deeper and think about what books I’d love to read aloud on the first day of school. I’m thrilled to present this short list:

 
First Day of School Reads - a Back to School Blog Post from Galarious Goods
 

1. Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey

Theme I’d touch on: It’s ok to try new things out, but it’s also ok to just do you.

You could really read just about any Aaron Blabey book - they’re so funny and surprisingly detailed and really engaging. I love Thelma the Unicorn because she wants something, makes it happen (with glitter), experiences and enjoys it, then goes back to her old world. It also touches on bullying - particularly senseless bullying we often see, which allows for some good cyber safely messages.


2. The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland

Theme I’d touch on: We can help find solutions when we listen to the problem

There’s been a number of ‘bear’ books, but the original is still my favourite. Its rollicking, rhyming style is so easy to read and there’s several messages you can look at closer with your students. I love that Lion, Moose and Zebra think that being more like them is the solution, because they’re happy aren’t they? It takes sheep’s empathy to really hear Bear and realise that he’s severely sleep deprived! We can all be better listeners, and this is a message which can carry on from the beginning of the school year

 

 
5 Great Back to School Reads from Galarious Goods
 

3. Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai

Theme I’d touch on: It’s ok to be proud of school and it’s ok to work hard at school

This is a book I’d probably read in upper primary grades where we can look at the background around it. That can also be an age where it’s seen as ‘cool’ to disengage from school or school work, and those who are enthusiastic about their school lessons can be seen as ‘different’ or ‘geeky’. This book points out why education is important and how lucky many students are and opens the school year with permission to take education seriously.

4. The beginning of Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman

Theme I’d touch on: Children around the world are living lives both different and the same as us

I adore this book and I know it’s often taught in the upper years. Even if you’re not taking an in-depth look at it until later in the year, you can read a ‘teaser’ of the book and open up a discussion about the differences and similarities in the world. It can be a good challenge for students to consider the world beyond their own experiences and open the class up to a year of discovery and reflection.

 
Five Great Back to School Reads from Galarious Goods
 

 

5. The Tomorrow Book by Jackie French

Theme I’d touch on: Where are we going and how can we solve the obstacles in our way

If you’ve got a future or a STEM focus in your classroom, this gentle picture book can be a great first day of school opening. It invites questions, thoughts, brainstorms, new vocabulary and investigation - just what your need for an exciting, investigative year to come.

What books do you enjoy reading at the beginning of the school year? Which books have been most successful?

 
 
 
 

3 Ways to Engage Students with Folding Vocabulary Lessons

Over the last few months I've discovered interactive notebooks and folding resources - and I've fallen hard for them! I love the ways you can combine folding, colouring, words and ideas to create an interactive resource which helps students to explore and engage with the topic they are learning. 

One area I love using interactive notebook resources with is novel studies. I've included them in all my most recent ones, updated some old resources to include them and plan to update the remaining ones! I especially love using them with vocabulary. Which made me think - what are some different ways to explore vocabulary using folding resources?

 
3 Ways to engage students with folding vocabulary lessons. Interactive resource blog post with free downloadable resource. Includes three examples of folding vocabulary resources - a vocabulary wheel, vocabulary pocket and vocabulary expandable resource. A Galarious Goods blog post
 
 
 

This is the main way I use folding resources in vocabulary resources. Students begin with one or two 'wheels' with a number of different sections. In most of my resources they use these wheels to connect the vocabulary words and the definitions, though you could use them to connect to the roots of the words, to share some synonyms or even include an image to define the word. 

Students using one wheel cut it out and write the words (or definitions) on each of the sections. They cut between the sections and fold on the dotted lines, gluing the middle section into their notebook. Students then write the definitions (or words) under each section. (Reversing the 'standard' order - by putting the definition on top - can help students connect the definitions to the words in a different way). Students can also use both wheels and layer one on top of the other.

This is definitely an activity which you can adapt for your own vocabulary needs. Students can layer additional circles, add extra vocabulary knowledge or experiment with making their own templates with extra folding pieces or pockets for more information.

These can be reduced in size to create smaller folding vocabulary wheels for notebooks, or can be enlarged to be used as a display. Students may like to work in pairs or small groups to create these.

2. Go Deeper With a Folding Resource

 
 

This is especially good for students to take an in-depth look at a particular word. Students write the word, definition, synonyms and a sentence using the word in the different sections, then fold the resource up to keep in their notebook or a folder. This resource can reduced in size (with several copies on one page) and students can complete several smaller folding activities or it can be enlarged and displayed around the classroom - especially as part of a unit of study.

The best part of this style of folding vocabulary resource is that it’s easy for students to design and create themselves. It can be easily adapted for different students; designed to meet their individual learning needs.

3. Synonym Pocket

 
 

Collecting synonyms can be very useful when students are writing, especially when you're looking for them to move beyond words like 'good' or 'happy'. This resource gives students a place to keep those synonyms. They write the word they're finding synonyms for on the pocket and then write the synonyms on the inserts. These pockets can then be glued into notebooks or into a manilla folder for students to refer back to. They can also be used to create a display in the classroom or as part of a writing centre.

These can also be adapted to collect similar words for content areas. Students can collect words connected to different historical events or civics and citizenship concepts or vocabulary connected to mathematical concepts.

 
 
 
 

Six Great Middle Grades Books for Your Classroom

Every now and then I find myself reading a lot more than usual. Recently I found myself devouring a whole range of new-to-me middle-grades books and I thought I should share them with you here!

 
6 Great Middle School Books for Your Classroom. A look at 6 books perfect for 5th, 6th and 7th grade students. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

What does it mean to be a friend? What do we do for our friends? How do our friends influence our behaviours? How do we feel when we can't find the right friends.

These are some of the questions sitting within this autobiographical graphic novel by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham. Looking at how friendships grow and change as we do, this book raises a whole lot of possible discussion questions which would be great to explore with our students.

This would be a particularly good book to introduce at the beginning of the school year as students are building a classroom community. It would also fit beautifully into a discussion of graphic novels and whether some stories are told better in a graphic novel form.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson 

This is another graphic novel which deals with the issue of friendship and how people grow apart and change. However, Astrid is also dealing with her own growing up and how she fits into the world in this coming-of-age story. 

Astrid falls in love with roller derby after her mother takes her and her friend Nicole to a bout. However, although Astrid is excited about roller derby camp, Nicole signs up for ballet camp. And then Astrid discovers that roller derby is hard.

One of my favourite things about this graphic novel is that Astrid doesn't find roller derby easy. She feels out of place and uncoordinated among girls who have experience in the sport and she has to dig in and find perseverance to keep going. This would be a great book to include if you're promoting a growth mindset in your classroom.

Becoming Naomi León by Pam Muñoz Ryan

This novel had two of my favourite things - a cast of interesting and individual characters and a protagonist with an interesting hobby. Naomi lives with her younger brother and her great-grandmother who took them in. But when her mother returns and wants to take her away, the trio find themselves travelling to Mexico on a quest to find their father - and more about their history.

One thing which really stands out here is that Naomi carves soap - making intricate animal figurines out of bars of regular soap. It's this skill - which she knows is connected to her father - which allows her to play a pivotal role towards the end of the book.

There's a lot of scope for research with this book as well as a lot of possible discussions about what makes a family and how family can be built by the people we invite into our lives. 

 
6 Great Middle School Books for Your Classroom. A look at 6 books perfect for 5th, 6th and 7th grade students. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

As Simple as it Seems by Sarah Weeks

This is a relatively short book, but there's a fair amount in it for discussion and consideration. Verbena has recently discovered that her life isn't really what she thought it was and is feeling completely out of sorts in her own skin - especially as her best friend starts drifting towards other people.

Then Pooch comes along and has his own set of differences and difficulties. Verbena sees his arrival as an opportunity to be someone else - to sit in someone else's 'skin' for a little while - until things go completely wrong and she has to be herself again.

This is another book which examines friendship, but it also looks at identity and truth - there's a lot of ideas to explore around names and who we are in this one.

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

After Suzy's best friend drowns - despite being an excellent swimmer - Suzy finds herself retreating into a world of silence and looking for answers. She thinks she's found them in jellyfish - and she sets out to find all the answers she'll need.

Yet another book about friendship - there's definitely a theme going on in all these books! But also about how we react to external events, pressures and even medications. How people impact on our lives and how we need to accept our own responsibility in the events around us.

Like the next book, this is probably better for the slightly older (or more able to work with mature themes) middle-grades reader. This would be an ideal book for a classroom library and I could see students finding a lot to respond to in it.

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth

Although I thoroughly enjoyed all the books here, this is the book which kept me awake until after 1am so I could finish reading it. Lewis lives on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975 - living a life where he's surrounded by family and traditions which mean everything to him and a house which is falling down around his family. Additionally he's living a school life where he's the only non-white student in his class, there's a vicious bully who no one will confront and he's got a new friend who's willing to share a lot, but can't ever know about Lewis's home life - even as he makes Lewis less invisible at school.

This is a relatively complex book with a lot of strings to hold together and it's probably better for a more mature reader. There's an awful lot to get out of it though, from the nature of friendship (again!), to the idea of moving or being stuck in one place, to the strength of music and songs running throughout the book.

This would make an excellent small group book study in the classroom. In a secure and safe setting, students could get a lot of personal reflection out of it, as well as looking at how the author uses words, plot and character to create such an engaging story.

 
6 Great Middle School Books for Your Classroom. A look at 6 books perfect for 5th, 6th and 7th grade students. A Galarious Goods blog post
 
 
 

6 Exciting Books for Students Who Love The Ruins of Gorlan

The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan is a great book and I thoroughly enjoyed using it to create a comprehensive book study. Recently I updated the Ruins of Gorlan resources, adding additional material and activities and offering more options for teachers using the book study in the their classrooms. To celebrate the update, I'm pleased to present a new Ruins of Gorlan blog post offering 6 additional books (with a few sneaky extras) for students who loved the Ruins of Gorlan.
 

 
6 Exciting Books for Students Who Love The Ruins of Gorlan. A list of great books for fans of the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

The Mapmaker Chronicles by A.L. Tait

I've only read the first in this series (the second is in my to-read pile!) but I loved it as much as I love the Ranger's Apprentice books. It's similar in 'style' to The Ranger's Apprentice - a fictional setting similar to a real-life historical period - and there's some other similarities, but it's also very much its own book, with unique characters and antagonists and completely different adventures.

The king wants to know what lies in the world and he's looking for captains and map makers who can make it happen. Quinn, a 14 year old boy who would prefer a quiet farm life, is chosen as one of the map makers.

This would be a great read aloud book, as well as working as a whole class or small group novel study. It could be easily connected to the ideas of map making and explorers around the world and could definitely lead to some interesting discussions amongst students.

The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien

If you're looking for a book which combines fantasy and adventure, it's hard to go past The Hobbit. The tale of Bilbo Baggins who sets off on an unexpected adventure with a group of dwarves is a classic for a reason. Although it goes more into the fantasy side of things than The Ruins of Gorlan, it balances it nicely with adventure - making it a easier read for those students who make not have a lot of experience with the fantasy genre. 

The Hobbit is a great book as a read aloud (prepare your voice for the Gollum chapter), a small group or recommended as a reader's workshop novel. Students who finish with The Hobbit may like to go on and explore The Lord of the Rings.

 
6 Exciting Books for Students Who Love The Ruins of Gorlan. A list of great books for fans of the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

The Ruins of Gorlan is set in a time period and place which which obviously meant to reflect medieval England. For a different look at the medieval world, students may like to explore Catherine, Called Birdy, a diary style book which examines the life of the daughter of a knight. It explores the social history of medieval life and the pressures on young girls to be married.

This would make a fascinating comparison piece with The Ruins of Gorlan. Students could discuss why John Flanagan chose to be inspired by the medieval time period while making changes, especially in the way women are treated. I think this book would be especially effective in small group discussions.


Castle by David Macaulay

For a different way of looking at the medieval world, students may like to examine Castle, a picture book which combines drawings of a fictional castle (based on detailed research) with descriptions of the construction process. This would be a brilliant book to combine with STEM activities, as students explore the different elements which go into making up a castle. This additional knowledge may also provide more context for some parts of The Ruins of Gorlan or assist students in picturing events in The Ruins of Gorlan more clearly.

 
6 Exciting Books for Students Who Love The Ruins of Gorlan. A list of great books for fans of the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

The Thief tells the story of Gen, a thief who is released from prison to assist the magus - the King's scholar. It's an excellent adventure book, with a main character who demonstrates intelligence, skill and bravery, when required - much like Will in The Ruins of Gorlan. It also demonstrates influences from historical cultures - something which would be fascinating for students to explore. This would work particularly well as an option in Reader's Workshop (especially with a good book talk) or as a read aloud book for the whole class or a small group.


Other Ranger's Apprentice books and The Brotherband Series by John Flanagan

It feels a little like cheating to include these, but they are a must read for any fans of The Ruins of Gorlan. The Ranger's Apprentice is not a strictly chronological series - the books are often gathered together in twos or threes (though there are some stand alones and a collection of short stories) and they jump forward and backward around Will's life. There's a lot in them to explore and lots of students will be caught up in the adventures of Will, Halt and their friends.

Brotherband goes off to the land of Skandia - a land we meet in the second, third and fourth Ranger's Apprentice books - and continues the adventures in a slightly different way.

Both series are great to have available - either in the classroom library or the school library - for when students have finished reading The Ruins of Gorlan. Alternatively, you may like to help a small group of Ruins of Gorlan fans conduct their own book study on one or more of the Ranger's Apprentice series when they're finished with the first book.

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