What are your New Year’s Resolutions? 

Someone asked me: “What are your new year’s resolutions?”. I panicked for a moment, and answered: “I don’t know…be healthy, go to the gym, eat more vegetables, save money?” I’ve been setting new year’s resolutions since ’06 and for most of them, I’d forget by February (sometimes even sooner). But hey, I tried! I wrote the goals down on a piece of paper and stuck them on the door of my room. I recorded myself reciting the goals and listened to the recordings daily. They just didn’t stick in my mind! It took me so long to make new year’s resolutions and actually complete everything on the list. I’ve learned a lot from trial & error and now know to set realistic goals and finish them. How about you? As educators, accomplishing your goals can make huge improvements on the development of the young ones. It also inspires students to have innovative mindsets and improve themselves. Below are 10 great new year’s resolutions for teachers, hope they can provide you with inspiration to start off the year right! 

Goal 1: A Positive Learning Environment 

Talk about starting off the year right! Learning is an emotional process, and we feel different emotions when we’re in the classroom – excited to share our ideas, embarrassed when we’re wrong, and upset when we’re discouraged.  A positive learning environment is where students feel accepted, seen, and valued for their opinions. It motivates students to learn, explore and learn to be respectful to others. You can make the classrooms a positive place by using positive language/affirmations in your daily teachings, reinforcing positive actions by rewarding students who exhibit good behaviours, and most importantly, being a positive role model for children to follow. Remember, there is always a positive way to respond to a situation! 

Good Behaviour Buckets

Goal 2: Refresh the Classroom 

You know what they always say: “New year, new me.” Cliché? Yes, but it’s true. Renewing the classroom is necessary to make you comfortable, increase your efficiency and boost your productivity. It also keeps students excited to see the classroom cleaned and renewed. Replace any old or broken classroom tools with new ones, organize the storage unit, get rid of any excess files or papers on your desk, and get new classroom gadgets too! Alternative seating options are some great additions to the classroom: Bouncyband for Desks, which enable kids to have an outlet for excess energy while working, alleviating anxiety, hyperactivity, and boredom, and increasing focus and performance. Bouncyband Fidget Foot Roller, which includes a roller for kids to be active while sitting, silently releases excess energy, alleviates anxiety, and increases focus.    

BouncyBand Fidget Foot Roller

Goal 3: Take Risks! 

Taking risks in the classroom is exciting and thrilling at the same time, as your decision will affect the learning process of the students. However, it brings tremendous benefits. Taking risks helps educators overcome their own fears and create innovative solutions in their classrooms. Inspiring students to take risks will help them to raise their self-esteem, think more creatively and even when risk-taking fails, they learn to become more resilient.  And risk-taking doesn’t have to be something grand like building a rocket. Like most great things, it starts with small steps. Starting a project over from scratch when plans don’t work out, having students learn to trust their classmates during group activities, encouraging and appreciating students who have forward, innovative thinking are some of the small risk-taking decisions you can make in the new year. Here’s another cliché (but true!) quote: “The biggest risk of all is not taking one!” 

Goal 4: Read more books!  

The joy of reading. Need I say more? Reading gives children a deep understanding of the world and receives background knowledge. It helps them make sense of what they see, and hear, which aids their cognitive development. Reading at an early age not only allow children to have better vocabulary and learn to express themselves, but it also helps children to be more empathetic, as books usually portray various characters with different perspectives. Share with students about your reading experiences: what you’ve been reading and what you’ve learned from the books.  Set up book clubs, reading groups and encourage them to socialize around reading. Sometimes, it just takes one good book for students to fall in love with reading, so recommend them a good one to read! Inuit Stories Series, and Opposite Series are some cool examples. Check out the Books too! 

Inuit Stories Series

Goal 5: Be Present for Students’ Emotional Needs 

Today, the duties and responsibilities of teachers go beyond what is described in the job description. Not only do educators have to meet academic standards, prepare for assessments, and other administrative requirements, teachers must acknowledge and address students’ emotional needs. Many students who misbehave or act differently might have unknown problems. Daily situations like arguments or asking for help might seem simple to adults, but for young minds who are not developed, learning to deal with them can be difficult. Introduce children to social-emotional learning (SEL), which aims to foster social and emotional skills. Emotion-oes Domino Game, Social Scenario Activities are both fun and educational games for children to learn how to identify and manage their emotions. Let students know that their mental health is important, offer activities to do in class that are stress-reducing such as listening to calm music, and encourage kids to be more open and talk about their problems. Yoga is often mentioned as one of the most effective tools for stress management and mindfulness, so start implementing short yoga sessions in class could be a good idea! Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds Activity Set includes beautifully illustrated and simply written yoga cards that will develop breathing, balancing, focusing, calming, and more.  

Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds Activity Set

Goal 6: A Multicultural and Inclusive Classroom 

Diversity is becoming an increasingly important topic in current times and will continue to be the main theme in our children’s development. Understanding these topics helps the kids to admire the difference in individuals, treat everyone with respect, make the classroom more inclusive, and build the necessary skill to communicate/work with different people in the future. Teaching children about diversity can start with letting kids know/explore unfamiliar cultures. Around The World Set includes 48 beautiful pieces that replicate iconic landmarks of the world such as Leaning Tower of Pisa, Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, Statue of Liberty, Pyramids of Giza. Hello World! Floor Puzzle includes pictures of multicultural children dressing in traditional clothing and greetings from various languages in the world. 

Hello World! Floor Puzzle

Goal 7: It’s About Learning, Not Grades 

“How do I get an A?”, “When is it due?”, “Is this chapter on the test?”. As teachers, these questions can make you upset, knowing that students care about grades rather than what they learn from the lesson. Educators want the best for their students, which is giving them useful knowledge, and inspiration to learn more. Hence, emphasizing learning over grades is important because it encourages students to be more active in what they want to learn, to control their personal educational process and goal-setting. Start using a different language in the classroom that highlights the learning process of the student rather than emphasizing the grade. When talking to the parents, talk about the student’s improvement in certain areas, instead of how low/high the grade is. Provide feedback on skills like creativity, effort, collaboration and use rubrics with simple, observable skills to allow students more room to be creative! 

Goal 8: Flexible Classrooms 

A flexible classroom is a space that provides students with various choices to choose how they learn, how they apply the knowledge, and how they work with others. Flexible learning environments are becoming a priority in schools because it improves learning outcome and increases teachers’ effectiveness. You can make your classroom more flexible first by reorganizing the classroom’s furniture so that there is more space for movement. Dividing the classroom into learning zones, and including boards, or writing surfaces so students can express their ideas down. Aktivity Adjustable Marker Board Table is great for students to share their ideas, and effectively promote creativity and mental engagement. A Flexible learning environment also includes a wide variety of seating options. Innovate seating gives students the freedom to where and how they want to learn. Wiggle Stool allows students to… wiggle, with an extra-thick padded seat that allows for comfortable all-day use. ErgoErgo has a bold contemporary design, so children are active while sitting. After students sit on an ErgoErgo, they won’t go back to ordinary chairs!

  

ErgoErgo

Goal 9: Be More Active in the Classroom 

Schoolwork can be tiresome for the young ones. They want to explore, do fun stuff, and be active. Being active in the classroom improves students’ concentration, reducing behaviour such as fidgeting. Sometimes recess is not enough, not to mention in this weather, students can’t even get outside! Teachers have to get creative and give them more options to be active in the classroom. A few solutions to be active in the classroom were mentioned above – yoga, and cool seatings. Loose Parts and Arts & Crafts are great options to get the tiny hands active after hours of sitting and writing. Teachers can also make the classroom livelier by allowing more opportunities for group work and collaboration. Let students talk, and share ideas with friends.  Come up with activities to get them to move around, and encourage friendly competition with games, and quizzes. Math Marks The Spot Game, Spelligator are fun games that encourage friendly competition and keep young minds active. Don’t forget to check out the Active Play options! Spring will be coming in no time! 

Spelligator

Goal 10: Give Yourself a Medal 

Children are our future – and you are positively shaping the future by taking care of them and inspiring them to develop valuable virtues such as the love for knowledge, and kindness. You’ve worked tirelessly to create a positive learning environment, and you always go the extra mile to help students make progress. In a profession where it’s required to be continuously creative, positive, inspiring, and patient, you deserve a medal every day for going to work. Take care of yourself, drink enough water, eat healthy food, exercise, and most importantly, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. 

In Conclusion:

A good new year resolution doesn’t have to be a “great” achievement. It should be something that you enjoy doing, bring long term benefit, and of course – include a considerable amount of challenge. You should feel inspired working towards your new year resolution. Your journey to change might be rocky and full of obstacles, but like they always say, “You have to get through the rain if you’re ever going to see a rainbow”. Cliché? Yes, but it’s true! 

Hope you find your New Year’s Resolutions. 

Diversity and Equality: From the Classroom to the World 

Diversity and Equality are becoming increasingly important topics in current times and will continue to be the main theme in our children’s development. Understanding these topics helps the kids to admire the difference in individuals, treat everyone with respect, and build the necessary skill to communicate/work with different people in the future.

Diversity is the differences between humans and what make us unique. It includes physical characteristics such as ethnicity, gender identity, disability, physical or mental ability, and intangible values such as class, culture, religious beliefs, language, and many more. Teaching children to recognize and respect individual differences is the cornerstone to promote diversity.  

Equality is believing in the right of everyone to have equal treatment, and access to the same resources and opportunities. Inclusion is the practice that embraces both the concept of diversity and equality, by making sure that everyone is treated fairly and being respected regardless of their differences. An inclusive classroom is where students can feel a sense of belonging – knowing that they are loved for who they are. 

 Teaching children about diversity can start with letting kids know/explore unfamiliar cultures. Here are a few fun activities that children can both play/learn about the world around us: 

I. Holiday – Every day!  

  • Take the nice shoes out. Put on your best outfit. Because it is a holiday today! We recommend researching, choosing, and enjoying festivals that represent the cultures of the world. Examples: Chinese New Year, Diwali, and Hanukkah. Celebrating the holidays from your students’ cultures is also an effective way to make them feel involved and proud of their roots.
  • Dressing in traditional clothes of the culture chosen. Encouraging children to do the same on their holiday. Learning about the selected culture’s traditional clothing. Around the world figures are the writer’s favorite. They are chunky, soft, friendly-looking figures that are dressed in beautiful cultural outfits. They are great for creative play and are wonderful tools to let children know about the details of diverse cultural outfits. 
  • Serving food/snacks or letting children play with food set from the culture chosen. What is a party without food? Introducing kids to the foods of the world is a fantastic way for them to learn about different cultures, and food is just always a great theme. The Sushi Set (See picture below!) includes several types of sushi, and a wooden board so children can serve sushi to others. An excellent introduction to the famous dish of Japan. 
  • Making crafts of different objects that represent the chosen culture. The Tepee Craft Kit is a great tool to help educate children about the history of Indigenous people.  

II. Fun, spontaneous ideas.

  • These fun activities can be done anytime and will help children to develop empathy, and respect for other people. 
  • Play music from different countries: Select children’s songs, or famous songs with relaxing/positive messages from different countries. The songs can be played in the background while students work or have fun. Encourage them to take part in the playlist and put in their own recommendations! Introduce children to different musical instruments of the world. Multicultural Rhythm Set includes musical instrument toys from various South American countries, and we are sure that it will keep the atmosphere always festive! 
  • Arts of the world: Art is a fascinating topic and always will be. Explore dances, paintings, literature, and other forms of art around the world.  
  • Use the bulletin board: decorate the bulletin board with information about a distinct culture: images of locations, simple words of the natives, food pictures, events, and locations on the map. Change the bulletin board monthly to a different culture for more variation. Crayola Holiday Series is a great fit for these activities as they have colours that relate to symbols, and customs of the holidays around the world such as Chinese New Year, Christmas, Cinco de Mayo, Diwali, Halloween, … Let the young ones have the joy of decorating the bulletin board! 
  • Play Trivia: After learning about different countries, it is time to test students’ knowledge. The key to every trivia is fun, so make sure to hand out prizes for correct answers to increase friendly competition! Around the world paper collection is a complete set of gorgeous papers that include 48 unique patterns in African, Indigenous, Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and Australian Aboriginal cultures. A compelling prize for students who like crafting, decorating, or collecting cultural pieces. 
  • Games from around the world: Research and introduce children to international games, from board games to outdoor activities. 

III. Equality – Start from the classroom first. 

  • Teaching children about Equality from an early age is a wonderful way to help them build valuable traits such as empathy, love, understanding, and consideration for other people.
  • Pronounce & remember classmates’ names: Try to encourage students to practice saying and remembering their classmates’ names correctly. This activity will help children build relationships and make the classroom environment more inclusive. 
  • Increase awareness about other countries’ living standards: Using the Explorer Globe to teach children about world problems. Let one volunteer point to any country in the world and spend time learning about that country’s living standards. Do people have access to school? Do they have access to food, and clean water?
  • Let children know about organizations that are dedicated to bringing equal opportunities to everyone such as World Education – a non-profit organization that improves people’s lives through education, social and economic development. This is a great introduction for children to social studies – the study of people in relation to each other and to the world in which they live.
  • Depending on the ages of the children, explain to them the idea that not everyone is equal in the world, and each of us can contribute to a better society by treating everyone around us equally. 
  • Bring your culture to the classroom: Give students an assignment to bring an item/items that represent their culture to the classroom. Then have them present in front of the class about the item and why it is important to the chosen culture. If students cannot bring an item, have them make a presentation about what they are most proud of in their culture. It can be anything: arts, food, traditions, … 
  • Guest speaker: Invite people from other cultures to come to the classrooms and share their experiences. Children will be fascinated by the stories, the traditional outfits, the difference in customs, and of course, the languages. Kids will also learn about different living situations, and sometimes even the feeling of the individual when being discriminated against. It will be an unforgettable and thrilling experience for them! 

IV. Using tools/objects that promote inclusion in daily learning. 

  • Diversity and Equality do not need to be reminded of or taught daily. We recommend using products that represent different races in daily teachings to let the idea implement seamlessly. 
  • Playtime can also be both educational and fun! We have a range of dolls from different races to choose from. Female Doll, Indigenous is a good option to let children play with and let them get used to different races of people. Possible Family is also our line of products that include sets of family figures from various races that enable several types of imaginative scenario play. 
  • While teaching children about emotions and feelings, we recommend using Children’s faces from around the world puzzle. It includes award-winning photos that depict children from different races showing various emotions. It is a great tool to learn about emotions and introduce children to different faces and features of people. 
  • Introduce children to different careers using Multiethnic Career Puppets. These puppets depict multiethnic men and women in non-sexist career roles, so children can learn about jobs without prejudice and discrimination. 
  • Around The World Set includes 48 beautiful pieces that replicate iconic landmarks of the world such as Leaning Tower of Pisa, Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, Statue of Liberty, Pyramids of Giza. Let the young ones be mesmerized by some of the world’s greatest civilizations, as well as teach them that each culture has dazzling treasures to be proud of.   
  • Indigenous Peoples of Canada Book helps educate children about First Nations in Canada. This book specifically looks at the Cree, Anishinaabe (Ojibway), and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), and also includes an educator’s guide to teaching Native Studies in the classroom. 
  • Reach Across the World Rug is big, comfortable, and has drawings of 20 children dressed in cultural outfits, with the world map in the background. Not only does it look charming and delightful, but it can also be a great tool for teachers to bring the idea of diversity to children. “Many countries, many children, but only one world” is the message. 

Learning about Diversity and Equality should be a delightful and stimulating experience, as kids get to discover the beauty and uniqueness of distinct cultures and learn how to treat people fairly. Encourage students to have open conversations – about topics such as living standards, various customs of people, or simply the question of why each of us is so “different” from another. Take them on a journey to explore the beauty of cultures around the world: food, landmarks, arts, and let them know that every culture in the world is beautiful and full of pleasant surprises. Make the classroom an inclusive environment where everyone is valued by their opinions, background and teach children to treat everyone equally.

Back to school – Back to Learning!  

It’s that favourite time of year again – get ready for the freshly sharpened pencils and brand-new backpacks. Sometimes after a long summer playing in the sun, learning brains can have a hard time bouncing back. Students of all learning abilities and styles need some time – and resources – to adjust to a new learning environment. Back to school can be difficult; lots of students and teachers alike are nervous and feel uncomfortable about starting a new year. Preparing properly for a new year with the right resources, products, and information can help put your mind at ease.  

As educators, it’s important to make every student feel included and encouraged when participating in class. Inclusive education is all about how we develop and design our schools, classrooms, and programs with the right tools so that all students can learn and participate together. This can come to life when neighbourhood schools support learning and contributing to all aspects of the life of the school and all students. 

How can I help students adapt to their new learning environment?  

Using inclusive resources helps create an environment that ensures successful learning for all students and encourages students to fully participate in learning activities. Students all have unique needs when it comes to learning, so providing options for all students to achieve the best possible is a must have.  

-For young students especially, representation is important. Offering dolls with different abilities and ethnic backgrounds can help young ones feel included. The friends with diverse abilities helps teach about positive and inclusive attitudes towards those with physical challenges. 

The Down Syndrome Baby Dolls are a wonderful resource for little ones when it comes to inclusion. These anatomically correct dolls raise awareness of diversity and inclusion with differing types of people. They promote values of acceptance, equality, and integration within your class. It helps educate children and makes them aware of various abilities and disabilities while teaching them to be respectful and inclusive. 

-Students can have a hard time focusing during class, which is where bouncyband can certainly come in handy. Bouncy Bands enable kids to have an outlet for excess energy while working, alleviating anxiety, hyperactivity, and boredom, and increasing focus and performance. Extra focus can lead to higher grades and better performance! The patented design keeps the bands elevated for continuous silent use, preventing them from distracting other students. Inclusive education options like this are important to keep leaners engaged. 

a small child using an alternative seating arrangement for inclusive resources (band for bouncing legs)

Bean bag chairs are a great way to set up a safe space for relaxing and reading. Bean bag chairs are lightweight and are great for individual or social seating, and their cover features double stitched seams for durability. With many colours such as red, sky blue, sage, grey, and deep-water blue, there are so many options and sizes to choose from. You are sure to find the perfect option for your classroom! 

-The touch and match board is a fun activity to help visual perception skills and tactile awareness. Students can match the different textures in these counters with their corresponding textured surfaces on the board for a great multi-sensory experience. 

-The Classroom Cruiser is a great tool for self-regulating through movement without disrupting the class. It features an adjustable seat, backrest and handlebars, so students can maintain good posture while they pedal, a quiet drivetrain, an enclosed flywheel and a built-in display to track distance, speed, time, RPM and calories burned (batteries included). It’s light enough to move from space to space, making it the perfect addition to your class. 

a bike for riding in the classroom to aid with focus

The Adjustable Wiggle Stool is a fun seating solution that comes in six different colours. Since it is adjustable to different heights it grows with your students, so you never have to worry about sizing. They come with an extra-thick padded seat that allows for comfortable all-day use. The tamper-proof adjustable height reduces distractions and help promote a focused environment. The rubberized non-skid base is angled for improved posture and provides stability, even when over-tipped. The integrated handles allow for easy carrying, even for smaller children!  

What products are must-haves for back to school?  

You really can’t go wrong with the Create-A-Space Storage Centre. It brings an easy, convenient way to organize and present everyday materials in the classroom. This bright and cheerful set includes a circular tray with 8 colourful containers. Organization is key for starting up a great new school year! 

an organizer with craft supplies

The sorting and craft trays can help keep your arts and crafts table clean with this useful product. You can use it to contain paint, water spills, and sort and count activities. It’s also a great place to store art while its drying. 

It’s a great idea to provide lots of arts and crafts supplies. Construction paper is a great base to start, with scissors, pencils, and stamps as great tools to add on. It’s simple and fun and can keep children occupied for hours. 

The Classroom Caddies are an organization essential. Perfect for storing supplies for grab-and-go use, it features a comfort grip handle, made with stackable impact resistant plastic, and it is completely washable and dishwasher safe. It can be used to sort paint supplies, pens and pencils – it even comes in handy for carrying your snacks. 

The Time Timer is a wonderful tool for structure in the classroom. Time management is a skill that children will use for the rest of their life and setting a time limit for activities and discussions can help encourage them to get things done. Even better, Time Timers don’t have a distracting loud ticking sound! 

Looking for fun rewards for good behaviour? Look no further than the Treasure Chest Rewards.  Recognize a birthday or special achievement and be sure to bring lots of smiles! Children will enjoy choosing between 4 sticky lizards, 14 rings, 4 erasers, 4 stampers, and 2 smiling face balls to commemorate their accomplishment. 

First day at school ideas to encourage a positive environment:  

Children may be prone to first-day jitters; not only are they getting to know you, but they are also getting to know their classmates and new environment. The first day is the perfect time to use an ice breaker and ask students to share about themselves in order to help them feel more welcome and at home. 

Play some games. What better way to get students talking to each other than games! Play something light-hearted and fun, like Jenga or Bananagrams. This also helps children become more comfortable with each other. 

four children in a classroom playing a game

You can’t go wrong with first day arts and crafts projects! Help the start of the new school year go smoothly with a fun and creative art project. A simple and classic one would be creating name tags for their desks. Encourage creativity and allow them to be themselves! 

Conversation cubes can help spark discussions on the first day and beyond. They feature 36 engaging questions about student experiences and perspectives, with questions like “What are you most proud of?” and “Who is the bravest person you know?” It comes with an activity guide which makes it a great fit for breaking the ice to start off the first day of the new school year. 

Encourage children to introduce themselves to the class. It helps build emotional intelligence, build confidence and public speaking skills. Ask them to share something special such as their favourite colour, book, movie, or food. This can help bring children out of their shell – and they are usually very excited to talk about things they are interested in! 

Write a “Welcome to my Class” letter to all your new students introducing yourself. Share some interesting facts about yourself to help get the conversation started and share your personality with your new students. 

Tips for starting the new school year the best way possible: 

Plan and think ahead. An easy way to increase stress? Leave things to the last minute. In order to allow your classroom to shine, make sure things are planned before the day of. This goes for anything – lessons, class decorations… it always helps to think of a plan ahead of time and a schedule to assure that you won’t forget things. Make sure to keep an organized classroom – have a place for everything.  

Establish a classroom culture. Update (or create) classroom rules while preparing your new space. Discuss these rules with your new students and establish them into your routine. These should also be posted somewhere in the room, perhaps with visual schedules to help reinforce to remind students of this information. Make sure students know that your classroom is a safe space and a space to grow. Keep a sense of humour! Start each day with a joke or riddle to help ease students (and yourself) into the school day. 

a smiling young boy holding books and an apple on the first day of school

Set Goals.  The best way to measure success is to set and review goals. Don’t want those papers you have to mark to pile up? Set a goal to have half of them done by tomorrow, and the next half the following day. Setting goals helps to establish new behaviors, helps guide your focus and helps you continue these habits overtime. This helps motivate you and provide you with momentum to get stuff done!  

Reflect on the previous year. Whether the previous school year was the best (or worst) one you’ve ever had, use it as a learning tool. Teaching can be a lot of trial and error, so think about the things you implemented in the classroom that worked in the past, and the things that didn’t turn out as well as you thought they would. Moving forward, experience gives you some insight into how to create the best classroom experience for your new students for years to come. 

Decorate to set the tone. Children respond well to positivity, and this is no different when it comes to the aesthetic of their environment. Putting up motivating posters can help the mood and energy of the room to create a happy and productive atmosphere for learning!  

a smiling teacher on the first day of school

Connect with co-workers and parents. Your coworkers may have lots of ideas and experience when it comes to preparation for September. It never hurts to bounce and share thoughts with each other, just like it doesn’t hurt to connect with your student’s parents either. Another tip – don’t only contact them about disciplinary situations with their kids. Feel free to share the good stuff too – like how polite their child acted or how hard they’ve been working. It always feels nice to be appreciated for the things you do right, instead of only being scolded for the things you’ve done wrong. Recognize good behavior!  

Remain flexible. Sometimes, things happen that are out of our control. It’s best to stay calm and do your best to adapt to new challenges. Have backup plans just in case for things that worry you to help ease your mind. Don’t be afraid to reach out of your comfort zone and try new things – how else will you figure out what works for your students? 

four children running on the first day of school with backpacks on

Here are some words of wisdom from anonymous teachers about starting a new school year: 

“Above everything else, focus on building positive relationships with your students.” 

“After disciplining a student, don’t carry it over to the next day. Treat every new day like starting over – everybody has bad days, and no one likes to be reminded of them.”  

“Be consistent. Keeping things structured and in order helps make it easier for children to trust you.” 

“Don’t take student behaviour or parent misunderstanding personally.”  

“Remember to cultivate kindness and love at the beginning of the year. It’s the most important thing you will do all year!”  

“Build relationships with everyone – office staff, janitors, parents. You never know when you may need assistance!” 

“Make a personal and meaningful connection with each student every day. This could be as simple as greeting them at the door or giving them a high five before they leave to go home.” 

“Always make eye contact with your students and build up their confidence with compliment.” 

“Find friends in other teachers and keep them close. Veteran teachers can give some great advice and guidance.”  

“Stay positive, have fun, and keep trying!”   

two children holding hands with backpacks

Recess: Weather or Not?

When I hear the dreaded words “indoor recess” my heart falls.

I know then that my students can’t go outside to play, get fresh air or burn off some energy. They love indoor recess occasionally, but if we have an ongoing bout of bad weather, they get frustrated with the lack of outdoor play. I try to have options in the classroom such as games, Lego and drawing, but the gross motor movement is what most children seem to need.

Living in Canada means learning to live and flourish in cold conditions. We don’t call an indoor unless it is raining, or the temperature or wind chill reaches -35ᵒC (though this may be different depending on where in Canada you live). Teaching our students to embrace the cold, dress appropriately for it and have fun prepares them for life in Canada.

Families new to Canada often need help learning how to dress for Canadian winters. Suggestions on what to wear and where to buy it can be helpful for new families. Having a collection of communal collection of mitts, hats and even socks for the younger students is a good idea. Many teachers ask students to have their own spare socks, hat and mitts with them in anticipation of wet clothes.

On those days when indoor recess is inevitable, I recommend having more movement breaks built into the day. If you notice your students struggling, take a breather and have a stretch, check out a brain break and be ready to adapt a lesson, pivot and rethink quickly on your feet. Less sitting and more moving, harnessing your students’ energy for hands-on activities can make for a more productive and fun day for everyone.

Here is a list of whole class indoor recess games to help you out on the cold or rainy days:

  • GoNoodle is an option for a class that enjoys group dance. It can also be a choice option for a group while others play games if there is space in your classroom. GoNoodle does have an indoor recess section with songs and guided dances as an option and they include a good whole-body movement activity. Pushing back the tables to make space is worth the effort, to get everyone moving.
  • Simon Says is a good option to get a group or whole class moving and many children enjoy being Simon so you get to take a break or join in the fun.
  • Four Corners gets everyone moving too and, as with Simon Says, the leader can change.
  • Charades is less of a movement game, but it is engaging and students can help make the options.
  • Directed Drawing is popular in my classroom. Art Hub for Kids on Youtube is easy to follow and has a kid drawing with his dad.
  • Origami is a popular and quiet activity with only paper needed
  • It’s always good to have board games handy to keep smaller groups occupied.

Let’s hope for mild days, just perfect for playing outside and if the dreaded indoor recess is called, we are ready!

Written by Chris, a teacher in Manitoba

The Value of Hockey

A month into the school year, teachers start working out the kinks in their lesson plans for the rest of the year. We look at our students and figure out what will work best for this group. Like most teachers, Phys-ed teachers play to their strengths, highlighting sports and activities they enjoy or think have important skill sets for students to know. I personally align my basketball unit before basketball season to try to convince students it’s a great sport to participate in and try to get more numbers out for my team. Other sports, like hockey, I do not have a great wealth of knowledge in because my parents didn’t want me playing it growing up. Even though it is not my strong suit, I do see the value in hockey as a part of the bigger physical literacy puzzle.

There have been multiple articles about the negative effects of focusing children in one sport at an early age. I was reading an article on ESPN titled “These kids are ticking time bombs: The threat of youth basketball” by Baxter Holmes (2019). In this article, Dr. Neeru Jayanthi talks about athletes entering college sports saying, “kids are broken by the time they get to college.” As kids train to become the best at a particular sport, they go through a motion over and over again, breaking down the body, so that by the time they get to the college level they are very prone to a major injury. Parents put kids in a sport early and make them focus on it to get them to elite levels in hopes of them making it big. Multiple studies have shown that having children play a variety of sports throughout their youth makes them better athletes overall because they have strengthened a more diverse set of movements and don’t break down joints or muscles because of focused repetitive use.

When I think of hockey, I think of it, as a unique skill set that kids should learn to build a complete movement library. The use of the hockey stick as an implement adds to the complexity of movement, thinking and decision-making. There is finesse in handling the puck (or ball) and it is an easy to learn but difficult to master type of skill. It is not an activity that should be just focused on but should be a part of the bigger picture when it comes to building a complete athletic student. A lot of skills cross over from sport to sport and can add to each other in ways that a single sport by itself cannot. Most importantly, hockey has a unique set of movements, which if added to a larger set of skills, help prevent major injuries down the road.

One thing that I am always cautious of in hockey is the physicality that comes with it. As it is a contact sport outside of the classroom there will be those who try to bring that part of the game into the gym. Some students will try to show their strength either through using their body or trying to hit the ball as hard as they can at the goalie.  There is physicality in all sports and it is up to the teacher to create a positive and safe classroom where increased aggression is not tolerated. Hockey can be daunting for students who are not good at it because the ones who are good at it usually play it outside of school, and therefore are also more physical because it is a normal part of the sport to them. This can be said for almost any sport, however, and it shouldn’t be a deterrent for any teacher wanting to bring it into their physical education class.

Hockey is Canada’s favourite past time and many of my students love it. Well, I may not be grabbing a stick and hitting the rink any time soon, the benefits of hockey on promoting teamwork, dexterity and a well-rounded athlete are why it’s an integral part of my phys-ed curriculum each year.

Written by Brenden Kroeger, a Phys-Ed teacher in Saskatchewan

Valentine’s Love in Your Classroom

Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to discuss emotional wellness and student self-care.

Traditionally the emphasis was on card and gift giving, whereas now we often tend to promote love and kindness on Valentine’s Day. Discussing the different types of love, whether for our parents, neighbours or fellow classmates, allows students to think about the huge concept of love and what it means to them. This provides the perfect opportunity to delve into greetings, giving and gifting.

Greetings

Morning meetings in the classroom often include a greeting and this can take many forms, including a “Good Morning,” a wave or a handshake.

Often the greetings and responses need to be taught and modelled to help students understand the cues and expectations. Modelling helps students understand how to use eye contact and pressure in a handshake, voice intonation in a verbal greeting and facial expression in a wave.

Giving

Where I grew up in Northern Ireland, Valentine’s Day was not celebrated, unless in a romantic relationship. As a teenager, it was awkward and to be avoided. As an adult, it was somewhat similar. When I moved to Canada and had my first child, I discovered that Valentine’s here is about showing love to everyone, a celebration that I really enjoy participating in.

Taking time to recognize everyone in a daycare room or classroom helps children understand that although they may not be best friends with everyone, they can give everyone respect. Just as greeting everyone is a way to show respect, giving cards is a similar way to acknowledge respect.

Making Valentine’s cards is a fun part of our routine now and we try to change our designs each year. Make your own Paint Printed Valentine’s Cards with Creative Paint Rollers.

While many of our students do not make cards, the act of writing a name on a purchased card offers a wonderfully authentic writing experience.

Some students may be new to Canada or new to the experience of giving cards, so a communication home to explain our Valentine’s Day customs can help clarify expectations to parents. Another suggestion is to give students an opportunity to write/make cards in class and then everything is done in school, relieving the pressure to complete cards at home.

Gifting

Gifting can also be part of Valentine’s celebrations and we often make something with students that they can take home and gift to family or friends. This is a wonderful way to demonstrate and focus on the joy of giving.

In the past, we have made Heart Crayons from that box of old crayons you have lurking in a dark corner. As a collaborative effort, this could be achieved by a class quite easily and gifted to a friend or younger sibling.

Having a class party is another way to show love, for food, dancing and fun!

Tips as an educator

  • Be clear about expectations for giving Valentine’s cards/gifts and communicate to students and parents
  • Allow opportunities to talk about Valentine’s day and what it means to each child
  • Encourage children to make Valentine’s cards/gifts for special family members in their lives
  • Emphasize the message rather than the material focus that is often placed on Valentine’s Day
  • Have fun and celebrate love in all its forms
Written by Chris, an elementary and middle school teacher in Pembina Trails School Division.