Sensory Bins Ideas

We are always looking for new ideas for our sensory bins to keep students engaged. 

Changing up activities keeps the interest as new activities easily change the dynamic in a classroom by calming children down as they explore the new activities.

alphabet & numbers
alphabet cereal
aquarium gravel
birdseed (nut allergy issue)
bottle caps
cloud dough
colored pasta
colored sand
construction paper scraps
decaf coffee grinds
dried beans
drinking straws and scissors
Easter grass

ice blocks
Jello crystals
kinetic sand (homemade or store bought)
Lego blocks
magnetic objects and magnets
moon sand
nuts and bolts
oatmeal (use gluten free version if allergies are an issue)
pine cones (tree allergy issue)
pine needles (tree allergy issue)
plumbers pipes, elbows and joints
pom poms
saw dust
shaving cream (potential scent allergy issue)
shredded paper (look for sight words, letter hunt)
snow with shovels
snow with paint
straw (potential allergy issue)
tissue paper
water with soap to make bubbles
water beads (dollar store)
wooden chips/mulch
wooden pallets
wooden pallets


Play Dough Recipe

I have had many parents bring in recipes of play dough. This is our best recipe that we have found to send home to our families.

Dry Ingredients

2 c flour
1 c salt
4 tsp cream of tarter

Wet Ingredients

2 c boiled water
4 Tbsp oil
food colouring


Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl.
Mix all wet ingredients together in a bowl.
Mix together.
Knead together.

Shared Reading Ideas

I love shared reading. Especially with primary students.

It is a time to have fun reading a story together.

Often the teacher will read the poem first on their own.

Then students will echo read where students repeat what the teacher has said.

Choral reading occurs when the teacher and students read together.

Fill in the blank reading. This is when the teacher will pause every once and a while and the students guess the missing words. This helps students make meaning and can help develop their understanding of rhyming words.

Integrating themes and interests, with simple sight words around the topics of shared reading helps students develop their confidence in their ability to read!

Learning activities during shared reading:

Find the hidden word
Search for the letter of the week
Search for letters in your name
Model 1-1 correlation by point to the words when reading
Model left to right and top to bottom progression
Discuss concepts of print (capitals, spaces and punctuation)
Develop a sense of a story (characters, setting beginning, middle and ending)
Develop an ability to predict and infer
Expand their vocabulary
Expand their understanding of topics, themes and styles of writing

I will be honest, I was lacking differentiated poem materials to ensure I had copies that are perfect for my high readers and and also had enough visual supports provided for my low readers or ELL students.

So I wrote some poetry. Each poem has 4-5 versions of the poem included which vary from few images cues to many for differentiated learning.

I firmly believe it is important to have fun activities which integrate math and literacy so I ensured that it is included for each of the poems in the sets.

If you're interested in checking them out, I have included the links below!


Student Gift Ideas for Busy Teachers

Affordable gifts for students are not always easy for teachers on a budget. Here are some ideas worth considering, if you choose to give your students gifts.


Check out sources like Scholastic and buy books of interest in bulk for a great sale! 
Remember to use your reward coupons for a discount.

White Boards & Markers

Check out  your local Dollar store. Whiteboards are a great gift idea to support
 printing and writing skills at home!

 Reindeer Food

Make a batch of reindeer food for your students. It sparks their love of the holidays and helps make the holiday season a bit more exciting as they anticipate Santa! Click the image above for a recipe!


Hats are awesome to support oral literacy by encouraging dramatic play! Change up a 'hat' theme over the years.  by considering fun hats like animals, community helpers, or even holiday themed hats! Perfect for inspiring dramatic play at home!


Gak is an awesome homemade recipe, similar to putty, which is excellent for hours of fun.  It is a great way to support fine motor skills in children of all ages! Find a recipe by clicking on the image above!

 Personalized Clocks

Take photos of your students throughout the school year. Buy a cheap wall clock from your 
local Dollar store and replace the numbers with small printed images of each child OR place the photos beside each number.


Every other year we have Polar Express theme in our classroom. As a gift, Santa brings a bell with ribbon tied to it as a gift for each of the children. It is quite beautiful to see them full of wonder and walk around carrying their "treasured gift" from Santa.

Play Dough

I don't know about your class, but our play dough centre is always one of the busiest centres in our classroom. Having a "gift" of several bunches of different colors would be most of my students best dream come true!

Individualized Bookmarks

If I have a large number of students I have made individualized bookmarks for each of my students with a favorite quote or something inspiring. Many students end up using it throughout the year, especially in the older grades for their self-selected reading in class.

Click on the image above to check out some growth mindset bookmarks perfect for student gifts!

I hope that you can find an idea to make your gift giving easier this year! I would love to hear about other ideas you give to your students!

11 Jobs for your Parent Volunteers

Looking for ideas for your parent volunteers? There are many ideas that they can help out with and they don't even have to enter your classroom!

Over the years I have noticed that I have had many parent volunteers who would like to help but I have not been prepared for when they come.

Check out my new list of ideas to take advantage of that help as best we can!

At School

Art Master

If you have a creative parent who is available during your art period and would like to help out with art activities you can always have them come in.

Volunteers can collect the art materials, cut out what is needed and even help supervise. They can clean up the art materials at the end of the day, after the activity or during your lunch period (when you may have other supervision duties).

Home Reading Helper

If you have a volunteer who is willing to come in daily, this is a huge support for classroom teachers. There are many ways it can be organized.

1. They supervise the primary students exchange of books, ensuring that cards are returned to the correct book and books are placed back properly into the cart.

2. They bring the cart to each class and quietly call students in small groups at a time in each class to exchange books so the cart is never overwhelmed by too many students.

3. If your volunteer can only come in weekly or once a month, have them sort through the books to make sure they have been returned to the bins properly (e.g., in the right bin, with the right card and facing forward for students to see the cover).

Homework Helper

Having someone to go through the homework bin to check off who has completed their work is a huge time saver.

If desired, they could check through the work and make a list of names of students, who still needs support in learning the concepts that were covered in the activity, in order to plan next steps and small group instruction.

Pencil Patrol

When you have young students it can be very tedious time consuming task. A volunteer could come once a week or daily to sharpen your pencils and pencil crayons quickly for you!

Portfolio Patrol

Many classes have student driven or teacher driven portfolios. Often the items inside the portfolio are contained in sleeves which need to be stuffed.

Items often need to be sorted and organized. If these items are not "graded" and thus not confidential, volunteers can help organize these!

Reading Buddy

Lots of families do not have time to support their child with reading their home reading nightly for various reasons.

Having a volunteer who is willing to come into the school and sit down with your students and read their book daily is a huge support to students and families.

At Home

Home Reading Book Repair Service

Create an Ziplock bag filled with a laminated instruction page for how to repair books.

Send a small number of books home to parents with all the tools they would need to repair the broken books once a week. Ask for them to be returned by the end of the week!

Lucky Librarian Repair Service

Just like with the home reading book repair service, send home classroom library books that need some TLC. Send the books home with the required supplies and detailed instructions for how to fix them.


Stop multitasking by asking a willing parent to come to events to use your school to capture events like class trips or special assemblies!


Know someone who would love to be read to by your students throughout the day but cannot come to school due to mobility reasons or because they live far away? As long as you have the ability to use Skype or a similar technology, children can take turns read to them live them during your language block!

Super Slideshow Maker

Know a volunteer who loves to make slideshows?

Having someone do this for assemblies, special school events, and even end of the year gifts would be appreciated by many parents in the community!


Festive Lessons To Engage Students

I am very excited to be able to share these holiday season lessons with you to help give you ideas to make this holiday season special in your class!

Several Canadian teacher-bloggers have gotten together to share some of our favourite holiday activities which we use to help to keep our students engaged.

I love how there are multiple lessons included in this link up which that can be adapted to suit the needs of various grade levels and that they are provided by a variety of teachers.

I hope you can use some of the many ideas contributed through this link up as you plan this holiday season for your students.

Festive Kindergarten Lessons

Making the months of December engaging for kindergarten students can be a challenge when they are all excited about the upcoming holidays and having a break from school.

I do many of the following activities every other year. Below is a list of ideas to use to inspire learning but it is too big to be able to do everything all in one year!

Writing Activities

Usually we read at least 3 different versions of a gingerbread book and often watch a video or listen to an audio read aloud. There are so many variations that it is easy to expand this into many areas of the curriculum.
  • Which is your favourite, video, audio or the book version? {media}
  • Write about your favourite part and draw a picture of it.
  • Who is your favourite character?
  • Write the recipe to share with your family.
  • Write a list of toppings to add to the cookies we will make.


As a class or in small groups we use our measuring skills, learn about cleanliness, different ingredients and health foods. We always end up making one huge gingerbread man.

It is fun to be bakers and learn about how they are a community helper! We put it in the oven together and he mysteriously disappears.

Gingerbread Hunt

On the stove top the gingerbread man leaves a poem for the children to try to catch him.

We visit different parts of the school each day looking for clues (cookie crumbs trail in the school from the big cookie) and students end up finding new clue each day. It is quite an adventure and the kids LOVE searching for him.

There are many different hunts that can be found online. I have made my own which we use each year.

Every year he "mysteriously" leaves for another school but is generous to our students as he leaves behind gifts of gingerbread "babies" to share in the principles office.


In all activities in our class, we try to make sure that we can hit as many different curriculum expectations as we can to get the maximum benefit for our students.

 Shared reading, choral reading and eventually independent reading are fun ways to engage students with poetry. Number sense, graphing, probability and subitizing skills practice are included. Building and writing activities are intertwined and there is even a kinesthetic bean bag activity which helps kinesthetic learners learn to read!

I alternate between the two poems from year to year. To preview click the image!


I love to incorporate fun measurement activities. Print off these simple measuring pages and have students record how many snap cubes they are! P

Its a perfect lesson for non-standard measurement!

Looking for activities in another grade?

Check out these other amazing blogs for festive lessons to engage students written by some amazing Canadian teacher-bloggers! There are lessons and ideas for a wide variety of grades included in this blog hop!

75 Quotes to Encourage Growth Mindset

Are you looking for quotes to encouraging a growth mindset? Here is a collection of 75 that you can use!

1. Change your words. Change your mindset.
2. Get ready. Get set. Learn!
3. I cannot do this yet!
4. "Mindset {noun} a set of beliefs or ways of thinking that determines one's behavior, outlook and mental attitude.
5. The power of yet...
6. All things are difficult before they are easy. {Thomas Fuller}
7. You have to get in before you can win.
8. Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.
9. Once your mindset changes, everything on the outside will change along with it {Steve Maraboli}
10. Shoot for the stars!
11. We cannot control the wind, but... we can control the sail.
12. The expert in anything was once a beginner.
13. You have not failed unless you have quit trying. {Gordon B. Hinckley}
14. Mistakes make a difference!
15. "Courage is like a muscle. We strengthen it when we use it." {Ruth Gordon}
16. Sometimes what we call "failure" is really just that necessary struggle called learning.
17. Every mistake you make is progress.
18. May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears. {Nelson Mandela}
19. A comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there.
20. "It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop." {Confucius}
21. We learn from failure not from success.
22. "If at first you don't succeed... you're normal! {Kid President}
23. Mistakes help us learn.
24. I do not fail, I succeed in finding out what does not work.
25. Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. {Winston Churchill}

26. Be the change you want to see in the world!
27. "Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything." {George Bernard Shaw}
28. Believe in yourself!
29. Mindset is everything
30. A good attitude is contagious. Pass it on!
31. Mistakes are portals to discovery.
32. Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail. {Confucius}
33. The person who does the work is the only one who learns. {Harry Wong}
34. Just because you haven't found your talent, does not mean you don't have one. {Kermit the Frog}
35. Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. {Charles Swindoll}
36. If you quit once, it becomes a habit. Don't quit! {Michael Jordan}
37. There is no failing, only feedback.
38. There is no failing, only ways to improve.
39. Be so busing improving yourself that you have no time to criticize others. {Chetan Bhagat}
40. Learn to be a risk taker because there is more to gain.
41. Never give up.
42. Practice makes perfect.
43. Just don't quit.
44. Everything you don't know is something you can learn!
45. Never stop trying!
46. Believe in yourself!
47. I can keep going until I know it's my best work!
48. Failure is not the opposite of success. It's a part of it.
49. I'm not going to tell you it's going to be easy, I'm going to tell you it's going to be worth it.

50. I learn. What's your superpower?
51. Don't give up until you are proud.
52. Don't let a failure be an ending. Make it a beginning.
53. If "plan a" does not work remember there are still 25 more letters!
54. Be better than you were yesterday.
55. "Believe you can and you are half way there." {Theodore Roosevelt}
56. The one who falls and gets up is much stronger than the one who never falls.
57. "Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think! {Albert Einstein}
58. "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity!" {Albert Einstein}
59. Failure is not the opposite of success it is a part of it!
60. Mistakes are proof that you are trying.
61. Keep trying and never give up!
62. Celebrate every victory no matter how small. All progress counts.
63. FAIL: first attempt in learning
64. Hard work outperforms talent when talent fails to work hard.
65. Mistakes are beautiful
66. Strive for progress, not perfection.
67. Bring on the challenges!
68. I am always doing what I cannot do yet. In order to learn how to do it. {Vincent Van Gogh}
69. We only get stronger when it is difficult.
70. Stop being scared of what could go wrong and start looking for what could go right!
71. Choose the challenge, not the easy way.
72. I made an error so I'm going to try again!
73. Going fast does not mean you are smarter!
74. You are capable of so much more than you can even imagine.
75. It's not about being the best. It's about being better than you were yesterday.

Want to read more about growth mindset in primary grades? Read these other blog posts by clicking here!

If you are interested in displaying the following quotes in your class, click on the images below or see the wide variety of different options now available in my growth mindset category of my store!


Mix It Up! Experimenting with Color

Parents often comment that the science experiments we do in the class are among the most memorable events that their kids talk about at home! Mixing colors is always a hit!

It is actually a really easy experiment to explore primary and secondary colors. 

You will need: 

A tray
Clear cups
Food dye (primary colors)
Strips of folded paper towels

Learning Environment

During the experiment we put out papers for the children to document their observations. 

There often is a wide variety of representation for what they see. Younger children often just show the colors and older children actually draw the cups with more detail and write about it. 

After, we sometimes use the "new" secondary colors to mix and make new colors to observe.

To extend learning, we sometimes discuss why the water might stop moving from one container to the other.

Developing Fine Motor Skills

Developing fine motor skills is something that many educators overlook, especially with students who have not attended kindergarten or in any grade after kindergarten.

Students who struggle with printing skills actually do not need rote practice of printing letters in order to help them learn. Developing their fine motor skills is a necessity in order for them to be better able to grasp and control their pencil!

The easiest and my favorite way of supporting fine motor development is through the use of silly putty.

It comes in a wide variety of densities from very pliable to very firm and hard to manipulate.

At the beginning of my teaching career I remember being curious as to how effective simple tools as putty are for students. I then had an unfortunate medical situation where I could not use my hands for a couple of months and lost most of my own fine motor muscles. I was fascinated at feeling my muscles strengthen as I played the following activities with my students. Some days it was a full workout of my hands!

Silly Putty Activities

The following activities are the routines we use in our classroom.


Hide small beads in the putty. Usually it will "fall" into the putty overnight but can be easily squeezed into the putty if needed. We typically use melting beads, as pictured above, as they are cheap and can be purchased in large quantities.

1. Pick out all the beads.
2. Roll into a ball.
3. Squish flat into a pancake. Then, add beads to make it into a chocolate chips to the pancake!
4. Roll into a "snake"      
5. Squeeze the snake by squishing it with the thumb and pointer finger to find the beads. Pick them out!

Extra Activities

6. Make a hot dog!
7. Make animals with the putty.

These activities are quite engaging for young children. They love to play with putty and ask daily to play!

We rotate daily between students and as a result there are often students who are begging to play.

Once students have developed their ability to demonstrate fine motor strength we encourage printing skills. The following is an engaging activity for learning how to print numbers!

It is great to use with a variety of writing tools (e.g., markers for lesser strength and pencil crayons for students with lots) or use manipulatives to engage students in a play based environment (e.g., using beads or gems).

What other engaging activities do you use with your students to develop their fine motor?


Tips to Encourage Kids to Write at Home

Not all kids are naturally drawn to writing. 

We know that reading and writing are developmentally intertwined. 

The physical act of writing letters and words enhances a child's ability to read. This complementary relationship continues throughout childhood. Encouraging your child to write is important!

What can parents do to help their child develop good writing skills during the elementary years?

Menu Writing

Let your kids help out or design and write a menu! 

Write difficult words for them to copy or let them look them up in a children's dictionary so that they learn how to use one! 

Make seating arrangement cards for fun!

List Writing

Items to pack for a trip
Write events on the calendar
Birthday lists


To friends or family members! Grandparents always love a note from their grandchildren!

Thank You Notes

This is always an important skill to learn! 

Everyone loves to be acknowledged and appreciated and teaching kids to do this early sets the tone for their life!

Journal Writing

Have your kids start a journal for fun. About their interests, summer, holidays or even just about their favorite part of a special event! 

Steps to Complete a Job

From simple jobs to complex, being able to sequence a job is a skill that needs to be taught. Practicing this with familiar experiences is a great way to hone this skill!

Written Requests

Get your kids to write requests for parties, sleepovers or wanting to hang out with friends.

This will improve their ability to express their thinking in writing, gives you a chance to negotiate the terms and allows you to have it printed in black and white so there is no more, "I didn't say that!" or "You heard me wrong." (no, that never happens at my house!) ;)

Name Practice

Young children need lots of support to learn to spell their name.

Click the following image for 29 fun and engaging activities to support students in learning to write their name including some fun math and art activities!

Are You Ready To Ditch the Planner?

Communicating with parents is a vital part of a teachers job especially in the primary grades.

Now with digital communication, quick communication is easier than ever.I'm going to discuss here some of the benefits of using Remind instead of a planner.

Click here to learn more about the benefits of communicating with parents using Remind!

2-Way Texting

Reminds new feature allows private 2-way communication between teachers and parents. Set "office hours" if desired to define your personal life.

Many teachers have been able to use this successfully without set office hours.

Teaching Benefits

More time can be used to teach content than having students write simple messages with primary students.

Help engage students by focusing more on activities they are actively interested in order to develop their confidence and increase their interests in writing instead of writing notes as many slow writers get frustrated with writing and copying messages.  

Spend less of your planning time and class time actually teaching instead of reading and double checking each Childs planner.

Yes, I know.

We all have students who "claim" they don't have a note!

Other Benefits:

* Be able to prepare for accommodations before school (e.g., a broken arm)

* Quick reminder of missing permission forms (e.g., copy & paste the messages!)

Planner free? Nope! It's not for me.

Not everyone embraces technology with open arms.

Not all schools have access to technology.

Not all families can afford the internet or a cell phone.

Planners still have a lot of validity.

They can help develop printing skills.

The teach help kids how to write lists and sentences.

They help students become more aware of events at school! 

To be honest, I like to do a mixture of Remind and a communication book. This allows my parents to message me if they do not have an easy access to the internet.

Do you use this app or a different one like it? I would love to hear how it is working for you and get more feedback from other teachers.

Leave a comment below!

Remembrance Day Assembly Videos

The Remembrance Day Assembly has always been one of my favourite ones throughout the whole year. It is a time to reflect, learn about our history and those who fought for us.

I am hoping that you can use this compilation of videos we have used over the years to help make your Remembrance Day assembly awesome too!

We always try to rotate videos over the years so it isn't always the same. I will be adding new videos as a I come across any new ones.

A Pittance of Time

This song/video by Terry Kelly is an emotional reminder to respect our veterans and those who have died for us.  It is one of my favorite videos to show at school.
(5 min 07 sec)

Canadian Forces Remembrance Day Video

This is a powerful video which was created by Megan Desfosses for her school. It has the song Highway to Heroes in the background, by The Trews. It is a slideshow of memorable moments in the past and current events by our military. It is poignant and would be appropriate for a wide age range of students. (3 min 50 sec)

Lest We Forget

This is a slideshow which has a solemn fall feel to it.  I like the pan flute background music. It is quite fitting! (3 min 29 sec)

Lest We Forget

This slideshow has a choir singing (with piano accompaniment) in the background the poem “In Flanders Field.” It really is put together quite nicely. (2 min 28 sec)

The Poppy Story (First Level & Up)

This video is an animated short film about the journey of the poppy. An excellent introduction to the poppy, remembrance, veterans, and Poppyscotland. (5 min 45 sec)

The Poppy Story (Early Years)

This poem is an adaption of the video above. It is more simple than the one above and more appropriate for little children. (4 min 04 sec)

In Flanders Field

I love this reading of the poem In Flanders Field. (1 min 35 sec)

“In Flanders Fields” ~ (Memorial Day, Vetrans Day, Poppy Day, Remembrance Day)

This is a very realistic/graphic video best suited to older students. The Last Post is playing in the background. The middle section is a reading of In Flanders Field. At the end, there are some historic images to help get students to think about the impact of the war. (4 min 06 sec)

In Flanders Field 

Leonard Cohan recites this poem while in the background there is stirring images from World War I. This was created for the Legion Magazine. (1 min 47 sec)

Going Home - Fallen Soldier Bagpipe Tribute

 I love this tribute to fallen soldiers. It is simple and different countries are represented. (2 min 03 sec)

Shawn Hlookoff - Soldier

This song has a really nice piano accompaniment which helps students reflect upon why soldiers fight for us. It is a slideshow of a variety of videos and images which interchange between the Shawn singing this song. It really is quite impactful and would be great for a wide age range of students. (4 min 32 sec)

Do You Know - The History of the Poppy

This is an informative video which explains the history of the poppy by Puneet Birgi. This is a very informative, child-friendly video which is in the format of a news report. (5 min 30 sec)

Remembrance Day Soldiers Cry (Soldiers Cry)

This video was produced by Global Edmonton and is a tribute for Remembrance Day. (3 min 54 sec)

Sing You Home - Remember Them At The Rooms

This video is appropriate for all age ranges. It follows a "family" who have a father who passes away due to war and how it affects them as a family. It is a very creative compilation created by "The Rooms" and The Ennis Sisters, Shallaway Youth Choir and the CBC. (6 min 17 sec)

RemembranceDay (Bryan Adams)

Public domain photos from World War I set to the song "Remembrance Day" from Bryan Adams' 1987 album "Into The Fire." (6 min 02 sec)

The Poppy's Girls: Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance Day 2013 

(7 min 27 sec)

Why We Wear a Poppy

This is a silent slideshow that tells a story of why we wear a poppy with images spaced between different slides of the story.
This emotional song is sung by children of British soldiers. (4 min 30 sec)

The Poppy Lady

This is a book trailer which was created in 2012 about Moina Belle Michael who played a significant role in establishing the poppy as a symbol of Remembrance Day for veterans. (4 min 03 sec)

Remembrance Day - Mike Knopfler

This is a slideshow with an instrumental background. The song is titled Remembrance Day. The photos in it show images of the lives of soldiers before, during and after effects of war. It is not very graphic and could easily be viewed by a wide range of school-agers. (5 min 06 sec)

Remembrance Day Video

This video would be okay for younger children if someone was reading the words scrolled through at the beginning. It has quiet piano music playing in the background. The last half of the video there is someone reading In Flanders Fields. It has a lot of Canadian flags throughout the video. (3 min 57 sec)

Lest We Forget

This is a "silent" film in that it has no words. There are two solider's running towards each other fighting. They age as time passes and then turn into old men. There is lots of symbolism in this video! FYI: I could only find this link through facebook. There was no YouTube link for it. (57 sec)

The Solider Behind 'In Flanders Fields'

This is an excellent reflection upon the history of John MacRae, by the National, and the journey of how the poem became popular. It has a lot of historical information about who he was and what he did in his life. It also has a reflection on the significance of the Poppy and the growth of it the year he penned the poem. (6 min 41 sec)

In my primary classroom, we always have a reflection activity that we do after the assembly.

I post the word wall words below in the class for kids to use in their writing to help them feel successful about their writing and give them visual cues to remember what we learned about during the assembly.

Looking for videos or poems on peace? Click here or on the image below to see my blog post on it:

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