Tag Archives: Community Building

A Super Fun Christmas Game

I happened upon this site the other day and plan on using it with my classes tomorrow, the last day before Christmas break. I can see the possibilities for this game, however, in terms of community building. The Christmas Tree picture could be swapped out for virtually anything — indeed, the picture could be curriculum based (I’m teaching 1984 with my grade 12’s right now and we could have attempted to draw, as a pre-unit mental teaser, a telescreen or Big Brother or his journal…)

Here is the game from Happy Home Fairy:




All you need are sturdy paper plates and pens for each player.

Tell the players to put their paper plate on their head.

Then the host will give a series of instructions for the players to draw on their paper plates (that are on their heads) without looking.

Here are the instructions:

1. Draw a line for a floor.
2. Draw a Christmas Tree.  Add decorations if you feel so inclined.
3. Draw a star on top of your tree.
4. Draw a fireplace with a mantel next to the tree.
5. Draw a stocking hanging from the mantel of your fireplace.
6. Draw a present below the tree.

After the six steps have been given, let everyone look at their masterpieces.

Get ready for a serious giggle fest.

Then have players count up how many points they received by following this rubric:

1. 2 points if the tree touches the floor.
2. 2 points if your stocking is touching your mantel.
3. 1 point if your star touches your tree.
4. 1 point if your star is above your tree.
5. 1 point for every Christmas ornament ball that is ON your tree, etc.
6. 1 point if your fireplace doesn’t touch the tree (it’s a fire hazard!). :-)
7. 1 point if you actually drew something decorative on your stocking (or something cute, like a tiny kitten peeking out).
8. 2 points if your present is under your tree.

The player with the most points should receive a really awesome prize.


First Day Slide Show

This is a PDF version of this year’s first day slide show that I will show to all of my classes:


I am attempting to, from the very first minute, create a culture in my room of the following ideas or philosophies:

  • Everyone can be successful.
  • Effort is the key determiner of success (more than ‘talent’).
  • Everyone is welcome here.
  • Learning happens in an emotionally safe environment, so this is something well work on everyday.
  • Feedback (ongoing assessment) will happen all the time in this class to increase communication to help us create the best conditions for your success.
  • Teamwork is an incredibly powerful tool for increasing the likelihood of success, so we will be working with others often.
  • What is your idea of a ‘great classroom’? What does a ‘good teacher’ do? What does a ‘good student’ do?



Clock Partners








A Clock Partners appointment clock I made with only 3 partners / appointments.

Round the Clock partners

Science Buddies / Clock Partners

Team Building Activities

Team Building Activities

Playing With a Full Deck: Team Activities Using a Deck of Cards



Playing With A Full Deck


52 Team Activities Using a Deck of Cards

Motivation: It must come from within

In her newest book “Tuned Out: Engaging the 21st Century Learner”, Karen Hume writes, “The long-term motivation needed to develop competencies in any area of life must be intrinsic — it must come from within the individual.”  This echoes the quotation I have on the front page of this blog and has been the elephant (or 800 lb gorilla) in the room for me with my teaching: I want students to be engaged in my classroom from within.

That is to say, for a variety of reasons, it is my goal to create a culture inside my classroom where students don’t hate and even enjoy coming to English class.

How am I trying to achieve that? Well, that is the question, isn’t it. I am trying to use the following:

  • Treating the students with dignity.
  • Presenting information with enthusiasm.
  • Using humour in a positive and even self-deprecatory way.
  • Employing teaching methods / strategies / structures that have been tested and vetted by educational experts (such as Robert Marzano or Spencer Kagan), and always striving to integrate these strategies and structures as much as possible, as Barrie Bennett suggests.
  • Weaving choice into the classroom wherever and whenever possible.
  • Deliberately employing team-building / community-building activities
  • Using assessment as and for learning everyday and oftentimes multiple times in a day.
  • Responding to the feedback I receive from students to either offer effective corrective teaching or to offer multiple entry points to learning via their interests, learning profiles, or their readiness.
  • Using ICT in the classroom whenever it is appropriate, including Web 2.0.

These are some of the ways I am trying to engage students in my classroom so that they actually might come to class with a mindset of wanting to learn. Plus, to be selfish, there is a job satisfaction element here as well: battling students each day is not the way I want to spend the next 15+ years of my career.


Focus On: Misunderstanding #4

This gallery contains 1 photos.

In Carol Ann Tomlinson’s book “Leading and Managing A Differentiated Classroom” , Chapter 1 opens with 4 Common Misunderstandings about differentiation on page 13. Misunderstanding #4 is described in the following way: “Misunderstanding: Differentiation is just about instruction. Reality: Although … Continue reading