How to choose carpets?

Carpets are an important part of an elementary and daycare classroom. With the rise in popularity of alternative seating students need a comfortable and safe space on the floor and not all classrooms are equipped. Whether it is doing group work or whole class discussion, a floor space is necessary.

I love using the carpet for whole class discussion. We have less distractions, we can hear each other better and we tend to be more focused. For whole class discussion, carpets give those students who need to move, the ability to sit on the edge of the carpet and get up and stretch when they need to, without disrupting their peers. When we do need to stand up and stretch as a whole class we can do it quickly and easily on the carpet. Fidgets can be easily distributed on the carpet too. If centers needed to be set up before hand, having a space students can come directly to and avoid their desks is also helpful. The reasons to have a carpet space are endless!

There are lots of things to consider when buying a carpet for your learning space:


If you will only be using it for small groups, a smaller carpet is more practical. For whole class discussions, more space is needed. Classroom carpets run between 4′ x 6′ to 8′ x 12′ with lots of options in between. Make sure you measure up, mark out and order the correct size for your space.


Rectangular, oval and circle are all possibilities. Is carpet time for whole class discussion in rows, sharing circles or circle time games?  Think about what you will primarily be using the carpet for then choose the size that works for you and your students.

ABC Caterpillar Rug

Where the carpet will be situated in the classroom can also impact the shape. Circles and ovals are more conducive to middle of the room class movement, while straight edges are convenient for a corner classroom location.

Student spots

Do you want a spot for each student? These are available for row seating, semi-circles or circles too.

Alphabet Seating Kids Value Plus Rug - 6' x 9'

This carpets has 25 spaces but is only 6′ by 9′ so the students need to be young.

Rainbow Seating

28 spots here organised in semi-circles.

Lots of Dots - 7'7" Round

This carpet is perfect for small sharing circles. It has twelve dots and students can be given a specific colour to sit on to make transitions easier.

Lots of Dots

This larger Lots Of Dots 7’8″ X 10’9″ Rectangular Carpet has 30 spots for the larger classes. Clear boundaries tends to make for less arguments over space.


Many carpets come with a warranty of up to 10 years. Carpets are an investment and we want them to last. We all know once a carpet starts to fray, little hands will quickly help them along!

Low VOCs

Many carpets are now Green Label Plus certified. This means you are buying the  lowest emitting carpet available in the market. Considering the amount of time we spend indoors, indoor air quality can be important.


Carpets can be pretty and educational as well.

Noteworthy Rug

Music inspired: this rug could be used for composition.


Bilingual:  includes basic French words and numbers.

Medicine Wheel/Seven Teachings Carpet

Medicine Wheel: The Seven Teachings identify the core values of truth, honesty, love, courage, respect, humility and wisdom.

Canada Carpet

Social Studies: Canada or world maps are available.

Give the Planet a Hug


Friendship: Give the Planet a Hug carpet!

There are lots of considerations and lots of options.

Happy carpet shopping!

Do you have favourites?






EAL Classroom Basics- Word Building

Our last post covered the EAL basics to have at your fingertips for Letters and Sounds to best support English as an Additional Language (EAL) learners. This post focuses on word building as the next step.


While the EAL learner may know many words in their own language, they have the added step of learning the English for these words also. Focusing on building vocabulary is important and there are many resources to help with this including:

Big Box Of Easy-To-Read Words

The Big Box Of Easy-To-Read Words is a game students can work on independently. They match the 125 word puzzle pieces and 125 photo puzzle pieces to build vocabulary.


Basic Skills charts are a great way to learn the basics necessary for the classroom and are usually found in most classrooms. Singing the days of the week and the months of the year helps students retain information.

Photographic Learning Card Set 1

Photographic Learning Cards can be used in many different ways, simply to learn vocabulary, then to develop sentence structure and story telling. Resources that grow with students and can be used in multiple ways are always a good choice.

Pre-teaching vocabulary for a new math or science concept can give EAL learners an advantage. Understanding the keys words to be introduced gives them a safe starting point and builds confidence. They are then better able to contribute to discussions and maintain the teaching and learning pace in the lesson.

CVC Words

Learning consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words is the next step after learning letter and letter sounds. Many of the resources mentioned in our last post can be used for CVC words. Here are a few more:

Big Box of Little Words

The Big Box of Little Word Puzzles has 60 CVC words to build. This activity allows students to practice their letters sounds as they decipher the words using pictures cues to support learning.

Phonics Pebbles

These phonics pebbles are great for developing letter recognition, word building and blending skills. The tactile pebbles can be combined to create more complex words and the colour coding for vowels always helps for CVC activities.

Playing with word families

Word Family Tiles

Word Family Tiles have 42 onset tiles and 35 rime tiles allowing students to make their own words and explore the families in a fun way.

Pop For Word Families

Pop For Word Families allows students to play a fun game once they understand how words are made using a family ending.

Sight words

Sight words are a challenge to teach because they often do not follow rules and need to be memorized. Luckily there are many fun ways to learn sight words.

Sight Words String-Ups

Sight Word String-Ups are a fun interactive way to introduce and practice learning sight words.

Sight Words Bingo Game

Bingo is always a hit and students enjoy the game without realizing they are learning challenging words.



Sight Word Readers K-1 Variety Pack & Classroom Pack

Sight word readers are a natural way to teach sight words in context and the more students are exposed to words the better.


Having students begin with readers at this point is a great way to help them understand why they are working so hard and also to celebrate the success they are having. Levelled readers gradually increase the difficulty of the text and help students to gain skills and confidence.

What are you doing to help your EAL students build word power?


EAL Classroom Basics- Letters and Sounds

I often get asked for a list of basics, teachers can have in their classrooms for newcomer students with limited language skills. Teachers want to help their students achieve but can be limited in time and sometimes knowledge on how to best support English as an Additional Language (EAL) learners. The term ESL is often redundant for these students as English is not merely a second language, it is a third, fourth or even fifth language! EAL support teachers are often stretched in terms of time and can only offer limited time in each classroom therefore a “go to” box of activities is an essential.

This post discusses some ideas for Letters and Sounds and posts on word and sentence structure will follow.

Beginning with letter formation and sounds helps students understand the more complex reading and writing they will be seeing in class. New students don’t have the luxury of time and want to learn English as soon as possible so combining reading, writing, speaking and listening in each lesson is more beneficial.

Learning to form our letters is a skill, especially if the alphabet is new. Arabic speakers may be familiar with their letter formation from the bottom right and teaching to start a letter from the top left can be a struggle, initially. Learning the correct letter formation is important as self teaching may result in kinaesthetic memory of alternative letter formation and slower writing as a result. Learning the letters in a larger format can be easier.

Letter Formation Sand Tray

The Letter Formation Sand Tray allows students to practice their letters in a forgiving way and on larger scale. Thinking about where the letter starts and finishes as well as directional helps.

Letters Touch and Trace Cards

It can be combined with Letters Touch and Trace Cards so students can clearly see the start (green dot), direction, (arrows) and finish (red) on each letters.

While I am an advocate for learning lower case letters first in kindergarten, new EAL students are often in older grades and learning both at the same time to better access word learning is more useful. Matching lower and upper case letters is a necessary step.

Hands-On Alphabet

The Hands-On Alphabet is a wonderful investment for learning letters sounds as well as matching lower and upper case letters. It includes 78 objects (3 for each letter), 36 sorting containers, alphabet stickers, and plastic organizing basket. Hands-On Alphabet teaching manual shows you how to get the most out of your alphabet materials. Initially it needs teacher support but as students become more familiar with the letter sounds they can work independently to sort the objects into the correct containers and name objects thus identifying initial letter sounds. Additional objects could be added later.

To give more help with the ‘sticks and circles’ we call writing, explaining how letters are mainly in the grass but some reach up to the sky and others reach down into the dirt can help.

Letter formation, sky, grass and dirt!

This post discusses how colour coding paper with sky blue, grass green and brown dirt can help identify tall letters and those with tails.

Sentence strips can be bought in many forms, even reusable wipe off versions are available now.

Alphabets & Number Stamps

To boost confidence  Alphabet Stamps are a great way to give new English learners letters writing practice. Students can do their own stamping to practice letters recognition and then follow with the writing. The act of choosing the correct letter and when ready choosing either lower or upper case letters and punctuation is great practice. My daughter Rose enjoyed using these stamps here.

These are some of the resources I have used and recommend teachers have in their classrooms for new EAL students learning letters and sounds. While nothing replaces a good teacher, there are times when we need students to be able to work independently and having the resources to help, allows this to happen. Do you have a great idea for teaching new EAL students letter formation and letter sounds?



I have a class currently who often need some help to sit quietly and listen. Sitting still for any length of time, either at desks or on the carpet can be very challenging for many in this group. As a teacher, I understand it is challenging to sit still and listen. I have gum, or snacks in meetings or sit and doodle if they are long. Do I have ADHD… who knows but I do know fidgeting helps me listen. Fidgets seemed like a good aid to introduce to help those struggling to sit still and listen.

Here are some of the fidgets we offered:

Textured Bean BagsTextured Bean Bags come in a variety of textures and a great price for a set of 12. The six pairs have fur, flannel, wool, satin, corduroy and velour textures. Great for promoting sensory skills. Machine washable and dryable. The white furry ones are my favourite.

DNA Balls

DNA Balls are filled with mini spheres in hot neon colours. The multi coloured balls form a different mosaic pattern after every squeeze. It’s visual, tactile and irresistible.

Therapy Relax Tangle

Tangle Therapy is made to maximize hand, joint and muscle motion while providing a one of a kind feel and action. The soft pliable rubber coating and distinctive raised tactile nodes give a relaxing sensation while twisting it in your hand.

Clear Sensory Balls

Clear Sensory balls with bright colourful pellets inside. They make a satisfying gentle sound when being played with.

Scoop Rocker - Set of 6

The alternative seating we implemented a few months ago is also helping students focus. Reminders about  the need to respect the seating are needed ongoing as our students change monthly and sometimes weekly or daily. I do believe giving students options and encouraging them to become aware of what works best for them, enables better choices and better learning.

Fidgets are suggested to help students with ADHD concentrate better, and considering many students in the class are already fidgety, giving them permission to fidget seemed like a good solution. The selection of fidgets were introduced with rules inspired by Mrs Parsons at The Grading Scale:

The rules were explained, translated where possible and are reinforced daily. Every student wanted a fidget initially but after a few days the novelty wore off and some students declined. Using fidgets is not always smooth as new students are unfamiliar with the expectations of how to use it without distracting others however I believe the benefits out weigh the teaching effort needed.

Yesterday we had a break through. A student was struggling to sit still during an activity where he was writing and colouring. The lead teacher gave him a fidget and said “I think you need this for a little while”. He sat down, coloured while playing with the fidget in his other hand and worked peacefully. Ten minutes later he returned the fidget to the teachers and said “thank you”. This was a huge step for us in class 2. Having a student recognize when they need help to self regulate is what we are aiming for. In this case the student identified that he no longer needed the help, the fidget had worked to calm his body and help him achieve his goal of finishing his task.

I do not know if any of my students have ADHD nor do I need to know. I only know what they bring to the classroom and that is usually apprehension, experience of trauma, excitement and a drive to learn. I hope that I can begin to help them settle into a life in Canada and prepare them for the Canadian school system in the short time they are with us at NEEDS. This is a wonderful reminder for us all as educators:

Bill of Rights for Misunderstood Kids

Bill of Rights for Children with ADD

Please teach me through my sense of touch. I need “hands-on” and body movement.

Please give me a structured environment where there is a dependable routine. Give me an advance warning if there will be changes.

Please allow me to go at my own pace. If I’m rushed, I get confused and upset.

Please offer me options for problem solving. If the road is blocked, I need to know the detours.

Please give me rich and immediate feedback on how I’m doing.

Please remind me to stop, think, and act.

Please give me short work periods with short-term goals.

Please don’t say “I already told you that.” Tell me again, in different words. Give me a signal. Draw me a symbol.

Please give me praise for partial success. Reward me for self-improvement, not just for perfection.

Please catch me doing something right and praise me for the specific positive behavior. Remind me–and yourself–about my good points when I’m having a bad day.

{Author Unknown}

(Discovered in Jan Zeiger’s article in TeachersNet.Gazette and taken from


Celebrating Fall Leaves

Yes, they are dropping…are you happy, sad, excited for snow? As adults, many of us dread winter coming whereas smaller people tend to love the approach of the cold, wet stuff. Either way, fall is a wonderful reason to celebrate the change of the seasons for a little while longer. It will be white for a while soon!

Maple Leaves Punch Outs

Maple Leaves Punch Outs are perfect for labeling lockers, using for name plates or creating games.

Nature Mobile Maker

The Nature Mobile Maker is a great base for making a colourful mobile. Students can add their own light weight collections such as shells and pine cones and attach to the already notched tree branches.

How about some Art from a nature walk? I walk through a park at the moment will yield a treasure trove of beautiful leaves, twigs and pebbles.

Exploring a fall sensory box? The options are endless with sensory boxes and the open ended nature, facilitates independent and individualized learning.

Creating fall fairies is a possibility with all the wonderful options on the ground for inspiration.

Leaf Rubbing Plates

Comparing leaf rubbings with leaf rubbing plates will help with sorting, and classifying skills.

Big Oak Tree Bulletin Board

Creating a classroom reading tree and having a student complete a leaf with each book read, encourages and celebrates reading achievement.

Fall tree painting on a window? Why not, windows make an awesome canvas!

You can find lots of inspiration on Quality Classrooms’ Pinterest board here.

Tempera Paint Sticks Review

As a big fan of paint I was not sure how to react to a mess free alternative to the paint brush and liquid paint. Tempera paint blocks or cakes, you know the ones:

Tempera Cakes

They are still popular in classrooms and centers but I find they don’t give great coverage. Sometimes students are frustrated by the wateriness of the paint. Learning to apply paint from a tempera cake, without ripping your paper with too much water can be a challenge! However they have a place and are great to pull out quickly, with minimal clean up.

Liquid tempera, you know the type:

Prang Washable Tempera Paint - 8oz

It is great for coverage but can be messy to apply and clean up!

As a fan of process rather than product, my initial reaction to Tempera Paint Sticks was hope that they would not replace the process of painting which I believe all children need to explore, learn and enjoy.

I am a huge fan of oil pastels and wondered if they would be similar.

Tempera Paint Sticks

Turns out they are even more awesome! They are smooth to apply as they glide over the paper and yet they look like a glue stick. They dry almost instantly with full coverage. Check it out:


The flowers reactions were funny. Daisy said “Oh these are cool, they are kinda like a crayon and kinda like an oil pastel.” and “they go on really easy”.


Rose said “awesome” and “can we use them later?” when I told her to get ready for the bus.


They were both engrossed in their art.

They are so easy to apply, drawing is a natural reaction to using these paint sticks, as you can see from the photos.


We applied liquid watercolour paint on top of the Tempera Paint Sticks and it stayed put. Not bad for newsprint paper!

The paint dries almost instantly so artwork can be taken home the same day.

Lets face it there are times when you want great colour impact but don’t have time to pull out the paints. These Tempera Paint Sticks give the colour impact without the mess of paint or the smudging of oil pastel. What more can I say?

At only $4.25 for 4, give them a try and I think you will be impressed.


Alternative Seating

Giving students choices on where they can sit is becoming more popular. Why? Allowing students to choose their best way to learn is believed to improve behaviour and academic success. Some students find sitting “criss-cross apple sauce” on the carpet very challenging while others detest sitting in a chair. This can result in standing, rocking unsafely and stooped posture while writing. The way students are learning has also evolved. Gone are the lessons when students would sit and listen to the teacher lecture for 20-30 minutes and then write what they have learned or complete written exercises for 60 minutes. Our teaching and learning involves more short bursts of learning and activity, catering more to the developing capabilities of our students. Teaching students to know their best way of learning in multiple skills situations is essential. This includes finding the best body position for the learning situation too.

I will be trying alternative seating in my classroom at NEEDS over the next few months and let you know how it is going. Some of the types of seating we will be trying include:

Scoop Rocker Case

Scoop Rocker, a very popular seating choice for under 50 lb.

Mini Throw Pillows


Jive Balance Stool 21"

A Balance Stool.

Spiky Tactile Cushion

Spiky Tactile Cushion.

Multi Fold Padded Seat

A Multi Fold Padded Seat.

The Scoop Rockers are a huge hit already:

What are your experiences of trying alternative seating?