Back to School IB PYP Sale

Back to school is almost upon us again! Whether you’re ready or not, get a head start on your new IB PYP classroom with the TpT Back to School Sale! Teachers Pay Teachers is having their annual Back to School Sale from August 1-2. All of my products will be 20% off and TPT is offering more when you use the promo code BTS2017.

If you’re looking for high-interest activities and units to start off the new year, I have just what you may need. I’ve been working on providing more IB PYP products and adding to my collection of Complete Units of Inquiry. Take a look in my store and see if anything fits your upcoming Programme of Inquiry.

For those of you who are new to the IB PYP, you may like my Getting Started with the PYP Kits, for big kids and also for little kids.  Or there is a MEGA  bundle of PYP tools and classroom activities found here.

Enjoy! Happy sale shopping!

Back to School Giveaway! Win!

Get back to school ready! Win a $10 gift card!

Giveaway starts Saturday, 29th July and ends at midnight (mst) on July 31st.

3 lucky winners will be notified by e mail WITH A $10 TpT GIFT CARD ATTACHED on August 1st

If you missed this giveaway follow my blog by adding your e mail address below for future giveaways.


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Good Luck!

Step back & Enjoy Student Led Conferences

Student Led Conferences are an incredibly reflective experience for all involved; teacher, student and families. This post will walk you through what I’ve found to work well over the years. Please read on, take what you like and enjoy.

Our “class” sitting at their desks, awaiting our visitors.

Form: what is it? 

The shift from a private, teacher led conference with parents to a student led conference is exactly as it states. The teacher takes a step back and is simply the facilitator of the students’ preparation prior to the conference and the child takes the lead on the day of the event, leading their family through a snap shot of what they have learned, how they learn and how they are progressing.

It is a simply amazing experience to see how children step up to the challenge. They are beaming with pride as they guide their family through their classroom and involve the parents in the process of their day to day learning. Even the most shy pull out their communication skills as they show their visitors around their classroom- a place where they feel comfortable and know.

Behind the Scenes: 

Once the family invitation letters have been sent out, along with the parent information letter, “What Are Student Led Conferences”, the preparation for Student Led Conferences can be overwhelming at first. After 8 years, I’ve found the best way to prepare is to actually set aside time in the day for at least a week before the big day. This of course may have to be adjusted based upon your class’s age and your school schedule. But a few hours a day, for a week, does it for me. This preparation can easily be incorporated into writing, speaking and listening skills with group discussions and expressive arts with role play and craft.

Over the years, I have created a selection of tools and forms that make it easier to record goals, communicate with parents and reflect upon our learning. A selection are editable to suit my changing needs with each class.      ( not to mention that I’ve switched from 3rd, 5th, 4th, 3rd and back to  5th in 5 years! Phew!) They are easy to print and go and mix and match. These can be found here in my store for free. Yup Free! 🙂 

The Portfolio:

As an IB World school, our children have a record of their learning throughout the years kept within their Student Portfolios. This portfolio plays a key part in our reflection process.  If you do not have a portfolio already created, I have a great selection of cover sheets to create your own, within my Student Led Conference Kit.

I like to have the children select  pieces of their work that show their learning within  Language, Maths, Social Studies/Science and Expressive Arts from our most recent unit of inquiry.( these are usually six week long, cross curricular units)

We focus on things that we are:

  • Proud of
  • Found challenging
  • Demonstrate our progress

This can be something that we have displayed on our walls, photocopied from their notebook or taken from their working binder. Each piece is reflected upon with either a sentence or a short paragraph, depending on the ability level of the child. I like to put everything into clear plastic pockets and insert them all into our portfolio. I found a pack of 50 poly pockets for only $5.95 on Amazon. A couple boxes of these works for the entire year.


We spend a great deal of time reflecting within an IB PYP school. I have a previous blog post here that goes into this in more depth if you wish. Also, there is an easy to use Learner Profile check list found in my store for free. It’s great to use at any time for any subject. I make a bunch of copies and file them ready to use for any subject or for the end of our units of inquiry.

IB Learner Profile: With the Learner Profile as the centre of the PYP, I spend a bit of time in advance preparing the children to share their perspective of themselves as learners. This is a fun writing and craft activity and the kids LOVE it. ( and for me, the craft is the carrot at the end of the stick for those reluctant writers..hehe)

Meet Julie. 🙂

The children will write a detailed paragraph about themselves and their own learning style, using the Learner Profile vocabulary. With scaffold sheets within my complete kit, its easy to differentiate too. The edited final copy is written or typed in a speech bubble.

The children then create their own self portrait of head and shoulders, attach the speech bubble writing and, on the day of our Conferences, we tape the whole thing to our chairs, tuck the chairs in and voila, we have a class of cute learners just waiting patiently for their guests to visit.   Parents love it! They can see where their child sits AND where their friends sit.

Involving Parents:

Providing a few activities that involves families allows the children to show their visitors how they learn within our classroom, initiates a natural collaboration amongst the adults and children and gives the family an idea of what we have been learning. 

I love inquiry based learning activities. These are set out as stations around the classroom. I usually have two or three stations of each activity. This, I determine based upon the number I have visiting throughout the conferences. You will know this from your parent feedback returned after invitations have been sent home.  I like to include writing, STEM and research tasks.

Included in my complete kit:

  • Research- webquest activity
  • STEM- identifying math with engineering activity
  • STEM- working through the scientific method designing glasses
  • Language- writing a triptych using inferring skills.
Tips n’ tools for creating a fun and effective Student Led Conference. Everything you need in one convenient packet.

My complete kit for Student Led Conferences contains these inquiry based activities and all of the forms  the task cards to implement them.  Simply copy and laminate. Easy peasy!


It is a very good idea to rehearse the whole conference procedure with your kiddos. Once I’ve gone over the scheduled routine with the class, we get into pairs and role play the conference. With my older kids I like to keep the activities a secret. Unseen adds to the authenticity of the inquiry experience. I’ve learned that it’s a good idea to let my younger kids see what’s coming, so that they can lead the activity. Some parents like to take over. And I encourage the kids to be the leader for this time.

Each child takes turns at being the leader and the guest. We then do some peer reviews and practice again with the constructive feedback.


With SLCs you will have several families visiting at one time. This can come as a surprise to some parents even though you’ve sent out the parent information letter. Keep it light-hearted and encourage them to allow their child to share. When you’re scheduling times, it’s a good idea NOT to have more than 4 families in your room at one time. It makes it more personal for the families, keeps the noise down so children’s voices can be heard and allows for better management of your inquiry stations. Try to keep visitors on schedule with a friendly ” five minutes to go” announcement. Otherwise it can become chaotic. ( been there, done that!) 

All Right on the Night: no matter how much preparation you do, you can’t control every little detail or the quirks of excited children and their parents. So, once the children have introduced you to their family, quietly sink into the background and let the students lead their parent conference. Take loads of pics and add them to your next classroom blog, newsletter or website. Parents LOVE to see it all.

Good luck, sit back and enjoy the experience.


ATTENTION! Teacher Error!

Teachers are adored as well as disliked. From the average 7 year old, the adoration exudes as they look up to us (literally) and we are their hero. By the time that 7 year old reaches age 14, then they look upon us as one may look at something nasty requiring to be scraped off a shoe. Regardless of age, we are expected NOT to make mistakes. However, we are human. And, being both a teacher and a human, I too, make mistakes. In fact, in my most recent blog post, I raved about the New Generation Science Standards when in actual fact, my raving should have been about the NEXT Generation Science Standards! Aargh!!! Apologies to the NGSS folks for messing up the plug!

How I felt after I realized my faux pas!!!

Moving On….to 4th Grade

And so it is to be, that I am to become a 4th grade teacher for the first time since 1992! Yes, I am THAT dinosaur!! 
As I expand my repertoire once more, I’m excited to delve into the 4th grade  Programme of Inquiry. Space, Animal Classification, immigration, and Government….oh yes. Watch this space- you know I’ll be an inquiry creating maniac.


ME…..AGAIN!! Feeling the heat as the day is looming towards our Exhibition!!

Meanwhile, the fun and games continues as my 5th grade and I are knee deep in our Exhibition preparation.
So far, we have had numerous specialists and experts talking to us on the “light” subjects of animal exploitation, USA health care issues, Drug and Alcohol abuse in Colorado in light of the new marijuana laws just for starters! Yes, these kids are looking at the theme of Sharing the Planet with the central idea of how patterns from the past can help us to predict the future. They picked the issues!!!!!
With only two and half weeks to go, we are in full throttle. Stay tuned!


~ Susan

New Generation Science Standards

My Inquiry Based Space Unit found in my store

Denver Museum of Nature and Science was the location for a week long teacher training on a subject I am passionate about- inquiry based learning. In particular, inquiry based science learning. Like it’s a whole new thing, the educators in ivory towers are beginning to see this as the “new” way towards building the whole learner. Hmmmm……and the International Baccalaureate has been doing it this way for how long???

Anyway, my bias aside…..the New Generation Science Standards are bringing inquiry into the classrooms and that’s what’s important in my book. 

Space -the Final Frontier

As the USA moves forward into the latest “trend” in education( I know, I’ll get off my high horse in a minute) , we moved into our next unit of inquiry. Actually, we, wasn’t actually me and my fifth graders. It was our 4th graders. I was the avid spectator since I will be teaching this grade next year and I’d been asked by a school in Puerto Rico to develop a Space unit of inquiry!!! ( wooohoooo!!!) 
The theme is How the World Works and the central idea is focusing on how space exploration throughout the years has led to our greater understanding of our place within the universe. This was a very interactive inquiry with my usual interactive notebook technique, experiments, researching and even rocket science! And, of course, all trans-disciplinary. I am truly passionate about this way of thinking and learning, to the point that I wish to share the love through my stores where I share the units I develop for the kids. It takes me about 6 weeks to complete a unit of inquiry, since I am actually using each and every activity and lesson with my kids. They are my beloved guinea pigs…..and are NOT shy with their opinions! (mostly positive, phew)

Staying on Our Science Kick…..
 You will recall our adventures with the Human Body Unit of inquiry? Oh yes, the shenanigans just continued. Not satisfied with a chorus of “anus”, we created the end result from our digestive system ( oh, yes I did!!), using bread and lemon juice, developed working lungs ( destroying a few diaphragms in the process) and delved into (literally) the lungs of a smoker and a pig. Hey, the concepts were connection and function! What’s a 5th grade PYP teacher to do BUT delve?! 

Find this 6 week unit  HERE

Find this and more hands on inquiry in my TpT Store. 

As always, my complete IB units of inquiry are interactive, engaging and rigorous.

The kids summative assessment pieces blew me away with their knowledge, creativity and CONNECTION! Love me some IB Key Concepts

Please feel free to ask any questions regarding teaching within the international Baccalaureate’s PYP . I would be happy to try to help. Also, if you ever have any questions about any of my products, let me know. 


~ Susan

Spring Break in the Rockies

Spring in Colorado is not synonymous with sunshine and gentle rain, interspersed with crocuses and daffodils. Think more along the lines of monsoons of snow! But, it is currently where we call home and so we headed to the beautiful Arkansas Valley for a weekend of snowboarding and fly-fishing. Albeit, the wind put a stop to the fly-fishing, but the snowboarding was a success. ( I am ever the optimist).


I am giving away this Easter Interactive Math Review for a limited time. Basically, it goes on sale on Monday when I return to work. My 5th graders LOVE this stuff! Its arty math….or mathy art…..either way, its a fun, engaging and rigorous review of the concepts already taught, in line with CCSS Math. Check it out and download today!

Interactive Notebooks and How They Work

This was my learning curve this year. Math is not my favourite subject, never has been, and I struggled to find ways to make it engaging for the kids whilst ensuring the concepts were sticking. Everything from incorporating giant paper chains to push ups and burpees…..I have tried it all. Then, the shining light of craftiness came dawning upon me last summer. After a hefty internet search, I stumbled upon Rundes Room on Teachers Pay Teachers and thus, my interactive notebook journey was born. I( will take the next few posts to explain to you, how I like to do these interactive notebooks.)

There was no tentatively about it. I dived right in. Learned from a pro and developed my own ideas along the way. I, and my 5th graders, are hooked.

Left-side/Right side Thinking:

It begins with a regular notebook or comprehension book. We use 2 pages at a time. On the left side page, we have our headings which include the Learning Goal, or the objective. I write this in kid friendly language and the kids write it down themselves. Then, the second heading is What I Know. This is where the students write down their background knowledge of the skills about to be introduced. Beneath that, comes the What I Learned heading, which waits until we have completed the lesson and activities. There is Proof and Reflection at the end. Under the Proof heading, the children show what they have learned using their own creative methods to emulate another example similar to our class activity. The Reflection is a simple sentence or 2 that may cover additional questions the kids have or a statement as to how they felt about the lesson, the math skill or their thinking.

Stay tuned for the Right side Thinking. Meanwhile, download that freebie and enjoy!

~ Susan 

Breckenridge:Summer Has Begun

97 Degrees vs. 75 Degrees….No Question!

With Denver at a ridiculous 97 degrees, we packed the car and headed to the mountains of Breckenridge for a week. It is a very civilised 75 degrees, with evenings requiring a sweatshirt. Much more like my cup of tea!

A Brief Summary:

There was a time, about a million years ago, when I was a city girl, living in Glasgow. Now, I much prefer to be far from the madding crowd, traffic and heat. Breckenridge is off season in the summer and so quiet. It almost resembles an old Western ghost town at this time of year. It is exactly what I needed to begin my summer with. Peace, tranquility and cool, mountain temperatures. Our week consisted of a lot of lounging by the pool, surrounded by snow-capped peaks, kayaking through incredibly beautiful mountain lakes, surrounded by snow-capped peaks and hiking up stunning snow-capped peaks. (Are you detecting a theme here?)

The Highest Town in the USA
Alma, at more than 10 000 feet above sea level, is the highest town in the Unites States. It’s not much to look at, being an old mining town, and if you blink driving by, you”ll definitely miss it. But it sure does cater to us espresso lovers and a shot of that dark elixir, with a view of the fourteen thousand foot Quandary Peak, will certainly result in that famed Rocky Mountain High.

Five Finger Summary Planners.

My newest literacy resource is for reading comprehension skills. It focuses on the skill of summarising texts: both ficition and non-fiction. The strategy taught is of using our own five fingers as a planner to recall the steps to summarising both a non-fiction article and a fictitious story. There are posters to display, graphic organizers to reinforce the skill and the strategy and text to use with activities, including fun finger puppets. You can find it in both my TpT store and Teachers Notebook.
I have found this technique to work particularly well with my third graders. Those who are challenged with reading comprehension have a solid and easy strategy right at their fingertips (!!!). 

Moving On and Up to Fifth Grade

Watch this space, as I prepare myself for moving back into the upper realms of the elementary school. I am returning to my role as a fifth grade teacher. I have mixed feelings about this. I really wasn’t given a whole lot of choice and am sad to be leaving my beloved 3rd graders. I taught 3rd grade for only three fun-filled years. However, the benefit is that I know what I am doing with the “big kids”, I will be looping with my previous 3rd graders, whom I loved then and will love all over again as big, bodacious fifth graders. Bring it on, I say!!

~ Susan