Category Archives: Setting Up a Classroom

Paper Blogs: A Lesson in Commenting on Student Blogs

Author – Pernille Ripp Paper Blogs: A Lesson in Commenting on Student Blogs.

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We have been hard at work on our paper blog as we prepare to unveil the actual blog experience this Friday.  One of the essential things I do (and tweak) every year is the using paper blogs to get my 5th graders to think about how to comment, and more specifically how to start a conversation with their comments.  While the idea is not mine, I borrowed it from McTeach, it has developed over the years into something I love doing and find essential as we prepare to blog and converse with the world.

The whole idea is very simple.

Creating the blogs:

  • Show students samples of previous years’ paper blogs to give them a visual of what to expect.  I accidentally kept one class set a year so I have a great variety of blogs that I lay out on tables so they can see and read them.  Otherwise, I take pictures of them year and after year and have those ready as well if needed.
  • There are a few rules here:  It should showcase something the students are passionate about, it should include their name, and every paper blog should have a border.   I also ask students to write their “post” in pencil first so that I may check their spelling.  We want to emphasize spelling in their blog posts from the start.
  • Students are encouraged to be creative with their title, their layout, and what they write.  We discuss what would make a great introductory post and how they can let their readers know what their blogs will be about.  I have students choose all sorts of things they are passionate about:  The Badgers, various sports, books, ribs, their family, dogs etc.
  • I tend to give them several class periods to work on these since it is a nice break in the hectic schedule of beginning of school and it allows me to see what pace students work at.

When blogs are done:

  • When most of the blogs are done, we get to the main point of the lesson:  Commenting – this is why I do all of this.
  • Students are each given a pad of post-its and lay their paper blog out on their table.  Then armed with post-its they walk around and read each others’ blogs.  On a post-it they are asked to leave a comment and sign their name.  This is in order to teach them that comments should never be anonymous, they need to stand behind their words.
  • We have discussed what makes a great comment in previous lessons so I only ask them to remind me.
  • I give the students 15 to 20 minutes to walk around and comment.

After the walk-around

  • Once time is up students return to their blogs.  If they have comments with questions on them, they answer the question and pass the post-it back to the person who wrote it.  This symbolizes the conversation that could take place.
  • I then ask for a student volunteer who helps me act out the conversations we will have based on post-its I have grabbed from the blogs.
  • I want the students to understand the difference between a “dead end” comment and a “highway” comment.  Dead end ones end the conversations and may include the standard “I like your post” comments.  Highway comments include comments that ask questions, share experiences, and link back to their own blog (here by leaving a name).  Because we act these out, the students quickly get what makes for a better comment
  • We wrap up the whole experience by creating another reminder poster of what makes a great comment and students either bring their blogs home or I showcase them in the hallway.

My Students’ Classroom Vision (Animoto)

Author: Pernille Ripp – My Students’ Classroom Vision.

Every year I ask my students to come up with their vision for 5th grade.  This year I wanted to somehow use the song “Brave” by Sara Bareilles since it not only has an incredible message to all of us but also a very catchy beat.  Here is what my students came up with this year, I am so proud of them.”

Weekly News

I have found morning time in the classroom to be a busy, and exciting time. Many of the children have things they want to share with the teacher and the class and need time to have a chat. Sometimes children are almost bursting to tell someone their news.

Upon reflection, I believe a ‘weekly news’ setup could be a great way to ensure that those who want to share something are given the chance to be heard.

The ‘weekly news’ chart (much like a meeting agenda) would be on display for the entire week. Children have the opportunity to add one item each to the chart before midday Friday. At the end of the day on Friday, time could be allocated for ‘class news’ where each item is covered. If the classroom is equipped with an Interactive Whiteboard, an ipad could be wirelessly connected to it so that the children who are speaking are filmed and shown on the screen as they talk.

Children might like to share news (good or sad), stories, songs, performances, achievements, artwork, or learnings from the week.

My ramblings: What I plan to do on my first few days of my teaching career next year

Developing Classroom Protocols:


▪      Ch’n must bring in their own earphones/headphones in a labelled gladbag to use for the year

▪       Send out half page introduction of myself to parents/ch’n. Ask parents to secretly list 5 kind/encouraging words that describe their child and send them with their child on day 1.

▪       Create BENCH – small masking tape square on floor away from others, make BENCH explanation poster, Red warning cards ‘name’ ‘date’ ‘reason for warning’, folder for completed warning cards

▪       late pass slips, folder for ch’n late slips,

▪       ‘have-a-go’ sheets, box to store ‘have-a-go’ sheets, an in and out-tray for the sheets to be collected and checked each day

▪       ear muffs and cd player for calm corner, ‘calm corner’ book for recording who has visited, blue cards for ‘calm corner’, CD player, CD with short guided meditation

▪       Comfortable cushions for chill out zone, ‘keys’ for the chill out zone, books, ipods?, paper, pencils

▪       orange hexagon for each child’s desk stuck down with blu-tak. One side is white with their name, one side is just orange. Hexagon should always be on white side. When they are finished work early, they turn hexagon over to show orange.

▪       ‘New words we can spell’ – poster. When ch’n have had the ‘have-a-go’ slip corrected they add the new word to the back of literacy book and to this poster for class to see

▪       ‘No Whinging Workspace’ sign

▪       Setup prayer space: Copy prayer prompts from 5/6TC, prayerful music, prayer table, cross, candles, matches, idea to create class prayer cloth

▪       Class organization:

– Class jobs chart

– Class name board with spot for sign in, chill out key, blue card for ‘Calm Corner’, toilet break

– Daily timetable board

– Current state of the room board ‘untidy’ ‘sparkling

clean’ ‘messy’ ‘ok’ ‘fine’

– Noise level chart

*USSW/R (uninterrupted sustained silent reading/writing) sign

▪       This morning Mr. Collins is feeling……..display. (‘well rested’, ‘happy’, ‘excited’, ‘sad’, ‘tired’, ‘nervous’, ‘scared’, ‘angry’, ‘upset’, ‘exhausted’, ‘unwell’, ‘sorry’, ‘anxious’, ‘worried’, ‘great’, ‘well’, ‘lucky’, ‘blessed’, ‘relieved’, ‘overwhelmed’, ‘shocked’, ‘terrified’, ‘terrible’, ‘amazing’, ‘hurt’, ‘unsure’, ‘grateful’, ‘thankful’, ‘lonely’, ’embarrassed.’) Have this as a short discussion point for beginning of the day. Explore how to work through anxiety, sadness, over-excitedness through modeling these thought processes

▪       Large world map poster

▪       Pernelle Ripp’s blog – parents handout forms

Week 1:

▪       Create class prayer cloth

▪       Label school books

▪       Do Wordle activity and create ‘Guess Who’ wall display with the parent 5 words plus one of child’s choosing.

▪       Ch’n write out their hopes for year, hobbies/interests, footy team, fav food/drink and TV show, fav song and movie. Once written these are rehearsed and recorded onto iMovie. At the end of saying it they could either spin or jump etc into the future. At end of year repeat activity and they start video by jumping/spinning in and can update on how things are at end of year.

▪       How we welcome visitors/guests

▪       Appropriate classroom and school manners

▪       Appropriate technology use

▪       Inclusion (sometimes we must work in a group of three so that no one is excluded) we don’t leave classmates out. What does inclusion look like? Show pictures/videos/stories. What do we do if we feel left out? Make role-plays and have students film them. These could be put on blog as examples of inclusive behaviour.

▪       How do we respond when things go wrong (eg PE is cancelled or we can’t have free time today or we miss out on something fun?) we don’t groan/whinge. We take some quiet deep breaths if we need, and move on. Maybe do another role-play group on this, which is filmed and put onto blog for how we respond when things go wrong.

▪       Discuss ‘Chill out zone’ – sometimes we need some time to relax, chill out, and keep calm. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday 1 student is given ‘keys’ to the chill out zone and can use it for 10mins block during the day when the teacher nominates that it is open. No talking. You can read, write, draw, listen to music with headphones. These two ch’n are also responsible for keeping their chill out zone tidy.

▪       What does a tidy room look like? Explore pictures and words of a clean/tidy room. How do we clean up? (Begin at our area – desk, floor, then expand out.)

▪       The back 5 pages of each child’s literacy book are for new words they have learnt to spell – have ch’n rule these pages up. (if they don’t know how to spell a word they take a ‘have-a-go’ sheet from the box. Three attempts, circle the one they think is their best try, quietly ask a ‘good speller’ friend if they are correct, if the friend doesn’t know then place the ‘have-a-go’ sheet in the ‘have-a-go’ tray. These are checked/corrected by the teacher at the end of day and are the child’s responsibility to collect the following day. Once the ch’n have the correct spelling, they add it to the back of their literacy book and add it to the ‘new words we can spell’ poster.

▪       BENCH -(*B*e still, remember that *E*verybody makes poor choices sometimes, *N*ow take one minute or so to think about why you are on the bench, *C*ould you have made a better choice so that you didn’t have to remove yourself from the class? *H*ave 10 slow, quiet but deep breaths in and out- this helps you feel better and to calm yourself. Your teacher will let you know when you can join the class again) if you have made a poor behaviour choice in class time you will first be given a verbal warning. If behavior continues you may be asked to remove yourself from the group and sit on the BENCH facing away from the class until the teacher thinks you are ready to join the class again. Absolutely no talking or distracting others. This is time to reflect on your behaviour choice and think of a better choice you could make next time. (Bench could be masking tape square on floor). Once teacher instructs that you are to rejoin the class, you must first quickly fill out a red warning card. These red cards are in a special tub and say ‘name’ ‘date’ and ‘reason for warning.’ Completed red warning cards are to be put in the warning folder. Any red cards will be discussed with the teacher at a separate time (miss out on some lunch time to discuss).

▪       We are in a ‘No Whinging Workspace’ (e.g – I can’t draw, moaning when we are doing maths etc, if someone contributes to discussion and we put them down).

▪       Discuss breathing techniques. Have students jog on spot to get warm rate up. Discuss how they feel. Now, 10 slow, deep but quiet breaths in an out. How do they now feel? Power of breathing.

▪       morning routine (sign in, set up table, do morning job, riddle, role, class prayer)

▪       being late – sometimes it happens. When it does, this is what we do [protocol], if class prayer is on we wait at certain table until teacher invites us to join group

▪       assign class jobs (technology assistants, class tub, etc.)

▪       Explain the ‘today Mr. Collins is feeling…..’ board. Have this as a short discussion point for beginning of the day. Explore how to work through anxiety, sadness, over-excitedness through modeling these emotions and thought processes


▪   Explain to class that we begin the year with 5 classroom protocols (if, then): create role plays based on each one. Cover a new protocol each day and make role plays. As year progresses, protocols may need to be adjusted or more protocols may need to be added :

[if you are late then enter classroom quietly, take a late pass from the tub and fill it out, place it into folder, sign in on the name board, hand in any special notes to the teacher quietly, join the class.]

[if you are unsure how to spell a word then collect a ‘have-a-go’ sheet (3xtries), ask a friend if any attempts are correct, they might not know so then place it in the ‘have-a-go’ tray which is checked/corrected at the end of each day. You are responsible for collecting the sheet the next morning. You can only hand in one sheet a day so choose the word you want to learn carefully.]

[if you need to go to the toilet, then before you ask the teacher – did you take the time to go at recess or lunch? Is it urgent? If so, you may quietly ask the teacher “may I please go to the toilet?” You must go with your buddy, signing out on the name board before you leave. You must sign back in when you return.]

[if you are feeling an EXTREME emotion (extreme anger, over-excited, very sad, very nervous, very scared, alone, other) you may need a little break – you or your teacher may decide that you need to move to the ‘calm corner’ for 3 minutes. Then go to the special tub to collect a blue card. Place this blue card next to your name on the name board to show that you have chosen to take some time out to calm yourself. Here you can put on your headphones and listen to two short guided meditations or meditate in silence with the ear-muffs on for three minutes (downloaded onto CD from No one is allowed to interrupt you during this time other than your teacher. Once your time is finished, pack up, record your details in the ‘calm corner’ book, put the blue card back in the special tub, and re-join the class quietly. Your teacher will speak with you about your time in the ‘calm corner’ at another time. **If you have visited the ‘calm corner’ more than once every two weeks, your teacher might need to chat with you and the principal to discuss how we can manage these recurring EXTREME emotions together.]

[If you have finished your work early then flip the hexagon on your table over so that it shows orange. Answer these questions in your head before asking your teacher what to do – have you proofread your work to make it the best it can be? Can you complete a ‘have-a-go’ sheet for a word you aren’t sure how to spell? If you are doing maths – have you double-checked your answers. Is there any other work you haven’t finished yet which you could go on with? Is the table and floor around you spotlessly clean? If you have answered all these questions and have completed each one, only then is it OK to ask your teacher what you can do. If your teacher finds that you have not checked through each of these questions then you may need to fill out a warning card.]

Who are you playing with at lunchtime?

Recess and lunchtime can be scary,  lonely, and dreaded times for children who have no one to play with. As someone entering the teaching profession, I have found that lunchtime and recess are often the last things on my mind during the busy day. Upon reflection though, I have come to realise that my duty will not end once the children walk of out the classroom and onto the playground. How soul crushing it would feel as a child to never have anyone to play with – especially since you don’t know why or what to do about it.

I would argue that children who have happy play are happier and more connected in the classroom.

I spoke with a young teacher recently who told me something she does EVERY DAY before recess and lunch, which has almost eliminated this issue in her lower primary classroom. She asks each child: “Who are you playing with today?” And the class does not leave the room until everyone has at least one person to play with. The children might be given a minute to meet in that group to discuss what it is they will play that day.

According to her she has seen lower incidences of bullying within her classroom, and has noticed improvements in classroom cohesion since she began doing this 6  months ago.


I will begin adding this little step into our pre-recess and lunch routine this week and look forward to reflecting on the results!

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Mrs. Ripp’s Classroom Vision (Animoto Video)


Animoto turns the camera roll into beautiful, pro-quality videos. Choose  music and photos/videos to create and share videos.

Watch video here: Classroom Vision video

Created by the class at the beginning of the year to express the vision and hopes they had for the year.

Beginning The Year

Another three great posts from Pernnille Ripp! Her blog is a wealth of great info for new teachers.

  1. On Those Two First Days
  2. How To Make The New Year Easier – Year After Year
  3. Get Your Students Blogging (12 Steps)

Here are some key points which have really sparked my interest. On the first two days (article 1):

      • Morning Routine – we discuss expectations; what type of morning do the kids want?  How do we get started for the day?  We come to an agreement on how it will run best.
      • Rules discussion – I don’t set the rules, the kids do.  So how do we want our room to function, how do we want it to sound, to look like?  What will we do to maintain it.  That conversation starts on the first day.
      • Name your table.  The students will come up with a table name and then create a banner for it.  This will happen monthly as the students change tables.
      • Wordle about me – I have parents hand in 5 secret adjectives to describe their child and then we add 5 of our own and it make a really great Wordle about the kids which we hang up – the students get so surprised over the adjectives their parents use.
      • Connect the students – this is a great activity that only requires paper and sharpies.  The kids all write their name on the border of the paper and then one person makes a statement like “I play soccer.”  Anyone else who plays soccer gets to connect their name to theirs and then the next person states something and so on.  In the end you have a huge spiderweb of how connected we are in the classroom which I display even though it is super messy but it kind of looks like art.
      • Random Pictures of Mrs. Ripp – I will be sharing a slideshow of random pictures from my life to see if the kids can guess what they mean to me.  The following the kids will bring in their random pictures.
      • Flag pennent – a way for my kids to show their personality and decorate their cubbies
      • Make Animoto classroom vision – the kids figure out our vision for the room and put in into Animoto.  It really gets them thinking and helps them take ownership of the room, here is last year’s.
      • Time Capsule – we measure height and write down our favorites and dislikes.  The kids always crack up at the end of the year about what they wrote.
      • Read Dear Future Mrs. Ripp Student letters aloud.  Every year my students write a letter to the new kids sharing information about this classroom and how to get the best out of it.  This year some of those students are still with me so I am going to share their letters with the whole class when they work on projects.
      • Pencil cups – I have tables this year so no more name tags on desks.  Students will instead have a decorated pencil cup with their name on it.  They work on this while I read aloud.
      • Name sticks – I randomly pull sticks when we discuss and use them for group work.
      • Lunch/bathroom/leaving room magnets, – sign in, sign out
      • Intro to Blogging – we start to talk about blogging on the second day of school because it is a huge part of our classroom.  And then we start to discuss safety.
      • Paper blog lesson – this is a great lesson shared by @McTeach and one that I love to do with my kids.
      • Discuss classroom jobs – I have helpers every week and this year I added new jobs like Googler and Mapper.  The Goggler will google questions we have submitted on a list and the mapper will keep track of where we connect with.

Some admin items I had not considered when beginning the new year in the classroom (article 2). I particularly like the idea to use numbers/characters instead of names on the boring stuff:

      • Create skeleton sub plans.  These sub plans have all of our times and subjects on them as well as any pertinent information.  That way when I need a sub in the room all I do is plug in the specific information and presto – sub plans are done.  Here is an example.  These also come in handy in case you wake up super sick, which I have tried, at least you can email this to the school secretary.
      • Write a Dear Substitute Letter.  I have students with special needs in my room as well as kids that need extra care.  At the beginning of the year I write a brief letter to my subs explaining a little bit about my kids and their needs, without breaking confidentiality of  ourse, then I have it to give to each new sub.  Here is an example letter.
      • Use Numbers instead of Names (on the boring stuff).  My students are all assigned numbers for things like their take home envelopes, their book boxes, and files that keep on them.  That way I don’t have to print out new name stickers year after year, they simply get a number assigned to this more boring stuff.
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