Miss Galvin Learns

March 2, 2014
by Ms Stefanie Galvin

Storybook Sunday: Dear Greenpeace


I’ve been teaching letter writing to my Grade 1 students over the last few weeks and we had a bit of fun with a great story called Dear Greenpeace by Simon James.

Dear Greenpeace(Purchase on Amazon or Fishpond)

For those of you who have never read the story, it’s told through a series of letters between a little girl named Emily and Greenpeace. Emily discovers a whale living in her pond and writes to Greenpeace to learn about (and how to look after) her whale.

It’s a very sweet, very endearing story, with a great environmental message, too.

My kiddos just adored it.

We used it as a springboard for writing imaginative letters to each other about wild animals living in strange places (e.g.: polar bears in freezers, dogs shaving on toilets, snakes in pipes, monkeys under beds, etc).

They had SO MUCH FUN brainstorming their ideas and their letters turned out great, too.

(For the beginning of the year, my expectations included an opening statement sentence, a sentence explaining how they knew what their animal was, and something that their animal was doing in its’ strange location.)

I’ve made up a couple of template pages for you to use if you’d like. Click on the sample letter below to download the letter and two template pages!



February 23, 2014
by Ms Stefanie Galvin

Storybook Sunday


I’m linking up with Paula from Paula’s Place this week for her Storybook Sunday linky.

I’ve been meaning to link up for the last few weeks and unfortunately things have just piled up. This week, though, I do have something to share, inspired by a LOT of people in blogland and on Pinterest.

Last week I had a lot of my kiddos in Grade 1 suffering from the “S/he said s/he’s not my friend anymore!” syndrome. (I mean, we’re only 3 and bit weeks into the year and already this is an issue? *flails*)

So, after some research, I discovered the book Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. And before all of you fall out of your chair going “OMG, Stef have you been living under a rock?!!” I’ll let you in on a secret. I’ve never had so many of these friendship/hurtful word issues at the start of the year before. I just haven’t, and so anything that’s come up has been dealt with on an individual basis. But, this year… yeah, I think it’s going to be an on-going topic we need to address.

Anyway. I didn’t own a copy of the book – or know anyone who had a copy – so I bought it in iBooks and figured I’d share it on the IWB through Airplay (this caused some minor issues in attempting to find Airplay in the new iOS7, but that’s beside the point!).


For those of you who, like me, might not have heard of this story, it’s about a beautiful little mouse named Chrysanthemum who starts school and has to deal with people who don’t think her name is as beautiful as she and her parents do. (I have to say, her parents are AMAZING in this book and as an adult you’ll get a few giggles as they learn to deal with a child who’s dealing with anxiety – just check out the titles of the books her dad reads!)

Now, the activity I found on Pinterest (this one here, but unfortunately it has a broken link!) was a scrunched paper heart activity, where students took turns to scrunch up as we read the story. The instructions I gave to my students is anytime someone says something hurtful to Chrysanthemum you’re going to scrunch up the heart and pass it on. By the end of the story the heart is really and truly crushed and we all had a go at trying to smooth it out to return it to it’s former perfect state.

The kiddos discovered that they couldn’t – and some of the reactions were quite profound.

We talked about how whenever we say things that are hurtful and mean we’re scrunching up someone else’s heart and it can never be undone – even if you say sorry or you didn’t mean it.



After that we talked about ways that we came up with ways that we can try to not hurt other people’s feelings/help people who are feeling a bit sad. As each student spoke up, they put a bandaid with their name on it across the heart.

The kiddos then wrote about one way they’ll try not to hurt anyone’s heart and made their own scrunched up heart for their student portfolios.

(I won’t lie, we did have to revisit this many times last week and will have to continue to do so, but for a few of the kiddos, this was a really great demonstration of how the things they say affect others.)

Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to stop by Paula’s blog and link up!


June 15, 2013
by Ms Stefanie Galvin

Celebrating Art and Books

The Children’s Book Council of Australia host Book Week every year, here in the lovely land of Oz!

It is, hands-down, my favourite event in the school calendar.

Books are nominated, short-listed and finally selected in a range of categories, and schools are encouraged to read and celebrate these books with their classes.

In my school, we have a week-long (although, honestly, it goes on for much longer than a week!) celebration across every year level, where students read these fabulous examples of Australian literature and make beautiful art pieces to go along with them. (Along with regular book responses, of course!)

Each year has a theme, and this year the theme is Reading Across the Universe.

Here in Melbourne we have a great school art supplier, Zart Art. Every year, Zart runs workshops for Book Week, selecting up to 12 books from the Book Week shortlist to provide teachers with art ideas and inspiration. This is the second time I’ve attended (the first being in 2010, my first year of teaching) and it is nothing short of AMAZING!

(Zart Art’s Book Week art activities guide)

Picture this – 28 teachers, 5.5 hours and 8 art pieces created. Each. It is so much fun!

Here’s what we created:

1. Animal Masks (based on The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog)

2. Wire Tanglewood (based on Tanglewood)

3. An Iceberg (based on Sophie Scott Goes South) – this is really cool, it’s a model of an iceberg field on the way to Antarctica, and the tiny little orange dot is the Aurora Australis, and it’s designed to highlight the fact that we only see 1/10 of an iceberg above the water!

4. The Rocket (based on The Terrible Suitcase) – if you squint you might be able to see the tiny, pink suitcase hidden inside the rocket!

5. Aerial View Jigsaw (based on Herman and Rosie) – please excuse the poor quality of this piece; as my Dad commented upon seeing it – I’ve got NO spacial awareness! That said, this is probably my FAVOURITE story from the list so far.

6. Elephant Mobile (based on Too Many Elephants in this House) – we had to make 4 elephants, exactly the same, and trade 3 with people on our table. The red elephant is mine!

7. Lest We Forget Medal (based on A Day to Remember) – an ANZAC story, very beautiful and moving.

8. The Flying Coat (based on The Coat) – the quote reads “If we create from the heart nearly everything works, if from the head almost nothing.” (Marc Chagall) I think this is my new favourite quote!

All that art-making and we still had time for morning tea and lunch AND I went shopping for art supplies for my classroom!

My goodies: Supertac (like PVA/Elmer’s glue only thicker, so it doesn’t run and it sticks EVERYTHING!), poster colours in warm, cool and fluro colours, an assortment of tissue paper (in block colours AND animal prints!), giant crayons, paper bags with a gusset, boarder roll in silver and gold, 2 packets of Paper Magiclay (we used it for the icebergs, but it’s so handy!).

I also got 2 free pencil rolls! (Cue my happy face!)

Two really great tips from today:

  • When modelling creations for students, do your second-best work – it’s ok to be a little bit different and NOT perfect!
  • When folding a page and cutting for 2 exact images, tell the kids to hold the fold!

So that was my very exciting day.

What are your favourite book crafts? Feel free to leave links so I can visit your blog and pin ideas!

April 10, 2013
by Ms Stefanie Galvin

Classroom Library

So, my classroom library is about 95% complete. The only thing I haven’t done yet is label and catalogue my chapter books (which is next on my list) and my Levelled Readers, but I’m not too concerned about those because they’re not books I use for Guided Reading (our school has a collective collection of books which we use).

So to celebrate being almost/nearly there/getting so close to finished I’m going to give you a bit of tour of it.

Each category has a sticker code (look at me pretending to be an actual library!) on the front of the container and the back of the books that belong in each category. My theory is that it will help the students put things back in order. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

These are my ‘general fiction’ picture books that students can read (I have another small shelf of my special picture books) – there are 3 buckets, roughly sorted alphabetically by the author’s surname (A-F, G-P, Q-Z – which is just due to the collection of authors I had).

Books that come in series – There Was an Old Lady (I collect the tradition stories, Lucille Colandro’s books and P. Crumble’s Aussie versions!), Pete the Cat, Splat the Cat, Mo Willems, Mr Men, There’s a Hippopotamus on My Roof, Elmer, Hairy Maclary, Magic School Bus, Clifford, etc.

My ‘Australian’ books collection – general Aussie authors in 2 boxes, and then tubs for my all time favourite Aussie authors for whom I have a bad collection habit: Pamela Allen, Jackie French, Mem Fox and Nick Bland.

Seriously, Northern Hemisphere friends – if you need recommendations on awesome Aussie authors you cannot go wrong with these wondrous books. If you want specific book suggestions just let me know – but there are some truly magical books.

These are some of my ‘themed’ buckets – I collect Eric Carle and Dr. Seuss books like a crazy person. I’m a big Star Wars fan, so we’ve got those. My Grade 1 boys adore LEGO readers. There’s a few books that are based on movies/TV shows (Disney books, Ben 10, Pokemon etc), and a bucket for morals/feelings books (just because I have so many of them!).

A few more ‘themed’ buckets – Phonics and Words (alphabet books, Little Mates series, first words, etc), Math (counting, numbers, etc), Fairy and Folk Tales and School-themed books (starting school, 100 days of school, etc).

Yes, they’re sitting on my heater. Yes, I need to move them. I have no idea where, since I’ve literally run out of room in my classroom. I also have a little book stand that sits in front of the heater with books that fit our current them. Sigh.

More themed buckets – predominantly non-fiction, but there’s a few left-over categories that didn’t fit anywhere else. General non-fiction, weather & seasons books, space books, the empty tub will hold general science and science experiment books, and the final tub holds books on Art and How to Draw books.

Lots and lots of books on animals – general animals, dinosaurs, sea animals, insects/bugs/birds –  and puzzles (hidden pictures/mazes/look and find/etc).

And my holiday book buckets – general holidays, Easter, Halloween and Christmas. Plus my comic collection for the kids – Batman, Iron Man, Spiderman, the Avengers, DC Super Friends, etc.

Here are some examples of my sticker labels for the back of the books. I purchased some generic brand labels (65 stickers per sheet) and used the Avery’s Design and Print Online function to print out simple labels that the Little Smarties can use to return books to their correct spot.

I’ll also have containers for Book Hospital (for any books that need to be fixed) and the Lost Book Home (for books missing labels or for students who struggle to find the correct place to return books.

So… that was my massive holiday project! I’m rather pleased with how it’s turned out, especially given the hours put in to get it to this stage.

Thoughts? Opinions? Suggestions? Feel free to hit me with those!

Tomorrow I’ll have a Word Family and a Counting product to share with everyone. (I’m off to laminate the previews now!)

But, very quickly before I go, I have a reminder and a shout-out.

Don’t forget to get involved in the Super Pack for Bundy fundraiser. It’s only available until April 30th!

And the very lovely Chantelle, from Little Learners, is hosting her first giveaway! Go visit and join in – she has the cutest things in her TpT store!

July 16, 2012
by Ms Stefanie Galvin

Must Have Picturebooks

The Teacher Wife


I’ve survived my first day back for Term 3 (and by way of first days it was quite an interesting one for many reasons).

However, what better way to celebrate returning to school than to join in a Linky Party all about picture books. Anyone who knows me knows I’m NUTS about books. I have books all over my classroom (that I’m currently trying to get under control and in enough order for my kids to use).

Also, being Aussie, I’m throwing some Aussie titles into the mix and to share the love with those all over the world. So, here are 5 of my favourite picture books.

Teaching the Teacher by Janet van Loon {Buy}

Beautiful, charming and sure to worm it’s way into the heart of every teacher. The beloved Ms Cherry learns what it’s like to be little again through the imagination of one of her students.

I’ve used this every year for the last 3 years with my students. We read the book and then create a class book of all the things that my students can teach me. It’s just gorgeous.

Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French {Buy}

Meet Mothball, the irrepressibly charming wombat who moves into the backyard of an unassuming family and diligently details her daily life. She sleeps, she eats carrots and she fights major battles with flat hair creatures! This book has 2 follow-ups – Baby Wombat’s Week and Christmas Wombat.

And, I just have to share one of my favourite pages from this book – where Mothball meets a Welcome door mat for the first time!

The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland {Buy}

The very funny story of 4 animals trying to find a dry place to play on a rainy day. They stumble on the Very Cranky Bear, who’s trying to hibernate. The animals try to cheer up the bear by making him over in their image. What ensues is hilarious and will have your students in stitches. This book is followed by The Very Itchy Bear (our Bear meets Flea) and The Very Hungry Bear (where Bear meets Polar Bear).

Possum Magic by Mem Fox {Buy}

It’s impossible for me to have a list of picture books without include Possum Magic. This is the quintessential Australian picture book, complete with native animals and local delicacies. Grandma Poss turns Hush invisible to keep her safe from the natural predators in their environment. When Hush wants to turn visible again they need to travel the country in search of the reversal – and it has something to do with people food!

I grew up with this book and I have just as much love for it now as I did as a child. Plus, my class mascot is a small plush version of Hush (and she’s been home to visit each of my students, along with her beautiful story!).

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle {Buy}

What can I say – it’s a classic that will never go out of fashion. I love all of Eric Carle’s work, but The Very Hungry Caterpillar will always hold a special place in my heart. This is another book I grew up with and I share with all my students and they love it like I do!

Join in the fun and recommend your favourite books!

January 8, 2012
by Ms Stefanie Galvin

Word Cloud Art

Well, sort of.

A little while ago I saw a fantastic idea posted on a classroom blog (and I feel terrible because I forgot to save the post and I can’t remember where I saw it – point being, this is not my original idea!) that I remembered this afternoon and had to try.

This year I’m moving into a brand new classroom in brand new building. Now, I’m slightly distressed because the room is tiny and I have a LOT of stuff. I don’t even have room to hang a net in my room – which is difficult for me, because I put up student work and displays left, right, up, down, all across the classroom. This year, however, I have to be super organised and crafty with my room space.

But I am determined (I swear!) to have a cozy reading space. And this is why my borrowed idea comes in handy.

Blog-HungryUsing my (undeniable) love for word clouds, I’m making picture-book word clouds for some of my favourite children’s books using the words from the stories. I’m using Tagxedo, mostly because I love the different shape layout options, but I do also have a love for the original word clouds from Wordle.

My aim is to frame these and put them up in the reading area, and throughout the year make new ones and switch them around based on my class’ favourite stories. (Not counting the other many Literacy-rich activities that word clouds can be used for – but that’s another post all on its own!)

If anyone’s interested I’ve put together some of the word clouds I made in a .pdf featuring the following books:

  • Imagine a Place (Rob Gonsalves and Sarah L. Thomson)
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle)
  • The Very Itchy Bear (Nick Bland)
  • Possum Magic (Mem Fox)
  • The Red Tree (Shaun Tan)
  • Diary of a Wombat (Jackie French)

Download the .pdf here

I have no doubt that more classroom decorating posts will follow (I’m notorious for documenting that sort of thing) once I can actually get into my classroom! First trip in on Tuesday, to sort out the Prep Resource Room (a disaster site after our moving day in December).

However, I think more of these picture-book word clouds are also on the agenda, because frankly, they’re addictive and cute!

Which picture-books would you turn into a word cloud?

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