Monday, July 22, 2019

Make the Most of Your Classroom Theme

Hi, Teaching Friends!

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase via a link, it will not add to the cost of your purchase.

When do thoughts of your new classroom start filling your daydreams (and invading your nighttime dreams, too)? Are you a midsummer planner, or one of those (okay, this one was always me!) who starts planning the next year while the current one is still going on? Are you doing a complete classroom makeover, or tweaking what you already have in place? How are you going to make the most of your classroom theme this year?




The first question of all, of course, is whether you'll even use a theme.  In my classrooms over the years, I wasn't a theme girl.  I had trouble getting my head around how I was going to bring seasonal things into a theme like space or penguins. It just seemed easier at the time to use colors as my theme.  You can read here about how I did that here.

But do I admire people who do cohesive and cute themes well? I sure do!! There are some amazing photos on Pinterest of teachers who've used clever and attractive themes, and done them well!

So, in all this pondering that I've been doing about themes, I started wondering about ways that a classroom theme can be integrated into the curriculum throughout the year.  

Here are a few that you might like to try!

One idea is to search TpT for clipart that fits your theme. With so much there, you can probably find a reasonably priced set for whatever theme you've chosen. I'd recommend looking for a set that includes clips in both color and blackline.  Not all color clipart will show up well when printed in black and white, but that's fine, because so many artists have sets that give you that option.

How can you use the clipart you purchase?  Even if you don't make any of your own resources, I'll bet you send home a newsletter, or print up an occasional simple something like spelling lists or math sheet of your own. Just copy and paste a little cowboy, or penguin, or bear, or whatever fits your theme at the top of the page to make it a bit more interesting for your kiddos!

Another easy way to integrate your theme with your curriculum is to get a mini-mascot, like a small stuffed animal, that fits your theme. Put your mascot in your writing center and have your students...

  • Draw a picture of your mascot and label the picture.
  • Write a list of questions you'd like to ask your mascot.
  • Write a letter to your mascot to invite... or to thank... or to explain... lots of options!
Another fun activity is to turn your mini-mascot into a Take Home Pet. Put your little guy into a little tote bag, along with a notebook/journal and cute pencil. Your students will love taking him home and working with an adult to write a little about its adventures. Journal entries in my class ranged from "We watched TV" to a detailed saga of every event from the time they went out the classroom door until bedtime.

Are you wondering where you'll find a stuffed animal to be a mascot for your theme?  Put on your creative kids' thinking cap! Here are a few thoughts!  Sports: use a bobblehead, or just draw a face on a ball.  Hollywood/movies: create a movie star by putting sunglasses on a Beanie Baby. Cats: Everybody's favorite, Pete, is available as an 8 inch tall stuffed character, or you might want to take a plain old cat stuffed toy, but send him home in a special Pete tote bag!

Did you notice those cute little pups in the picture above? They're mini-erasers, from Target, of course! If you happen to pass through the Dollar Spot, be sure to look for little treasures like these to coordinate with your theme!

How can you use mini-erasers? Well, that would have to be a whole 'nother blogpost, but for starters...

  • As shown in the photo, use them for game playing pieces.
  • Use them in sensory bins. Picking up mini-erasers with tweezers is super for fine motor development!
  • If you have several kinds of erasers that fit your theme (there were four kinds of dog erasers the day that I bought these!!), mix up a bunch in a bowl or bag. Your students can grab a big handful of erasers and graph them!
  • Use them to build numbers. Two ten frames (make them quickly with tape on a desk) plus a handful of your themed erasers is great for working with teen numbers.
  • Use mini-erasers as math manipulatives for solving or creating problems.
Can't find the erasers you need at Target? Be sure to check out the mini-erasers at Oriental Trading. I'm not an affiliate, just a fan of the selection. I bought this exact set probably about 15 years ago. Hey, it's got pups in it! And fish for your ocean theme, and balls for your sports theme, and ... :)


As you can see, you don't have to be tremendously creative or spend a lot of time coming up with ways to connect your classroom theme to your curriculum. It's all about thinking of ways to keep learning fun!


If you're interested in math games that will help you make the most of your classroom theme, click here to see game collections for classroom themes like superheroes, dogs, bees, camping, space, and the beach, at both kindergarten and first grade levels. If you're interested in a set but don't see your theme, please leave a comment below and I'll put your theme on my to-do list!

Happy Teaching!



Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Books and Book Activities for the End of the School Year

Is your school year winding down? Maybe it's still so far off that you can't let yourself think about the end of the school year (well, maybe just a little bit of dreaming about summer plans, and summer - no plans!!) There are so many wonderful read aloud books to share with and inspire your students at this time of year that you just might want to start gathering up your pile of books now!

This post includes affiliate links, for which I will receive a small remuneration that will not add to your cost.

Image from Last Day Blues


Here are a few of my favorite read aloud books for the end of the year... plus some easy ideas for adding to the learning!

If you started off your year with First Day Jitters by Julie Dannenberg (maybe you even made Jitter Juice!), your students will be excited about the companion book, Last Day Blues .



  • Do a bit of knee-to-knee partner talk to build connections before you read: What might make someone feel blue on the last day of school?  
  • After you read, how about a reprise of Jitter Juice, just for fun?  Check here for the recipe and ideas on Pinterest!
  • Time to write! This book-based prompt can be adapted to just about any grade level, and is a good way to promote a positive mindset in any of your students who are dreading the last day. "I'm going to miss ________, but I can't wait for _____________!"

Are your last weeks in school filled with schedules that are splintered with concerts, field days, and special events? A collection of poems is a great way to get some read aloud time in even on the busiest days! Try this one, Lemonade Sun and Other Summer Poems, by Rebecca Kai Dotlich. Each poem can stand alone as a sweet taste of summer-to-come.






  • Before you start reading, brainstorm and chart a list of topics you'd expect to find in a book of summer poems.  For the littlest learners, this is a great opportunity for some shared writing! Assign a Class Chartmaster to check off the topics as you come to them in the book. 
  • Are there topics left on your chart after you've read the last poem? Those are your writing prompts for your students' poetry! Consider having students choose whether to work alone or with a partner. A Poetry Coffeehouse (Lemonade House?) is a fun way for the poets to present their work to the class! Keep it low key - just turn down the classroom lights and play some jazz quietly in the background. Every teacher wants SIMPLE at this time of year!



Here's another great choice for the last days!




I'll bet there's more than one student in your class who'll relate to this book! When It's the Last Day of School by Maribeth Boelts is told by a boy who struggles with behavior but really wants to "get it right". He's determined that he's going to get the gold star for good behavior on the last day of school, even if it means not talking during Silent Reading or cutting ahead in line to sharpen a pencil.

  • Talk with your class about behaviors that they've worked hard to improve this year. You might even share some of your own struggles. (Mine might have included stacking piles of papers on my desk, or carrying things home to be graded and toting them back to school ungraded, again.)  
  • Relate the improved behaviors to the character traits you've been working on throughout the year. How have honesty, perseverance, and integrity helped your students control inappropriate or impulsive behaviors? Help them make the connections!


If you're looking for a way to recognize and reward your students' character growth AND to encourage reading, you might like this set of bookmarks and award certificates from my TpT store.




Happy Teaching!



Thursday, March 21, 2019

Using Spiral Review Games for Test Prep

Many of you are in an understandably high state of panic right now about the standardized tests that are right around the corner. I get it, there's a reason why they're called high stakes tests.  But I'm willing to bet that you've already been using one of the most valuable tools to prepare your students for standardized testing: spiral review.




Spiral review, returning to topics on a regular basis throughout the school year, is a great tool for keeping the topics, skills, and vocabulary that you've already taught fresh and available for your students.

It used to be that once a chapter was finished, you could just close the book there and walk away. Do you remember learning measurement and geometry that way? Of course, we all know that kids catch on to that kind of stuff super quick. Many of them will totally abandon ship on a topic if they know there's no expectation for them to remember it and use it. Lots of math series have addressed this now with spiral review pages. (Math Boxes, anyone?)

Regardless of where you stand in the mastery teaching vs. spiral teaching debate, I think we can agree that once you move on to a new topic in math, some students seem to basically banish the old one from their mind if you don't regularly bring it forward again.

Is spiral review compatible with mastery teaching?
Absolutely! In fact, I believe that regular spiral review is even more important when your curriculum is developed on the mastery system.  Regularly planned spiral review allows you and your students to make connections between past and current learning, important for all students but critical for our strugglers. Often, spiral review will be what brings them to their "aha!" moments!

Is spiral review the same as spiral curriculum?
No, it's not. Spiral review is dipping back throughout the year into previously taught topics to keep them fresh, relevant, and connected in the minds of our students.  Spiraled curriculum moves on to the next topic based on time spent and lessons completed, whether or not your students have mastered the topic, with the expectation that the topic will be addressed and added to the next year.

Why is spiral review important?
  • It's unrealistic to assume that our young learners will be able to master and retain a concept without the opportunity to practice it again and again, in different contexts and different ways.
  • Consistent spiral review throughout the year reduces the time you'll need to spend on a huge review right before testing.
  • Spiral review is a great opportunity for you to do some informal assessment! When you spot a gap, jot down a few names and call those students for a small group lesson!
  • Research shows that spiral review increases mastery.

But what about FUN??  Pages in a math book and many worksheets are by and large ... boring.  And kids learn best when they're engaged and having fun, NOT filling in the blanks.

So, let's talk about some games and activities for effective spiral review!

Before you begin, pull together a collection of the questions you want to use. This sounds like it could be a huge job, but it doesn't have to be!  Chances are that you have a collection of task cards. Spread the sets out around your classroom, take a few from each set, and make copies. Put your originals back in their sets (easy, because you spread them out). Now you're ready to go for these review games. These games have been around forever, but remember that what's old to you may be new and exciting for your students!

  • Relay Races: form two teams, sit in two long trains facing forward. Take turns answering questions, scoring points for correct answers.
  • Basketball: play with your whole class, or break into groups of 4-6 students.  Make an extra copy of your task cards for this one, since you won't be getting them back. Each group needs a target, like an empty garbage can or plastic bin. Take turns answering questions. If the answer is correct, the student who answers crumbles the card into a ball and takes a shot at tossing it into the target. If it's winter, you can play the same game and call it Snowball.
  • Zap!:  Break into groups of 8-10 students. Add some cards to the set with the word "Zap!" on them. Put all of the cards in a bag. Sit on the floor in a circle. Pass the bag around, with your students each taking out one card, reading it aloud, and solving it. If correct, they keep the card. If they get a "Zap!" card, they return all of their cards to the bag. The player with the most cards when the bag is empty OR the first player to get a given number of cards wins the game.
  • Use commercially available games like Jenga and Operation. Answering a question correctly entitles a player to add a piece to the tower ... or pull out the appendix! 🙂



  • Use any board game the same way. When it's a player's turn, they must answer a question correctly to earn the privilege of rolling the die or spinning the spinner. try it with Candyland, Chutes & Ladders, or whatever games you already have!
  • Get your interactive board
As you see, it doesn't take much effort to turn spiral review into fun and games!



Do you need more ideas for spiral review? Try number sense math riddles for low-prep daily spiral review!

         


          


Be ready for active and engaging math all year when you get this bundle of games, lessons, and PD courses, too! It's being offered at less than 20% of its cost if offered separately, but only until March 26th. Click here to see the details!





Happy Teaching!

Linda
















Friday, March 8, 2019

Pi Day Fun in the Primary Grades


Don't you just love a good math holiday, an event that reminds our students that math is fun? Here comes Pi Day, and yes, it's for the primary grades, too!

Of course, the math behind pi is tough stuff for our littles. but the idea of a number that goes on infinitely without repeating - well, we all know how they LOVE the idea of infinity and totally feel like big shots when they use the word!

Here are a few quick ideas to help you introduce Pi Day to your students.

  • Get that "WOW" response from your primary students by showing them this display of the first 10,000 digits of pi on your interactive board, courtesy of The University of Utah.
  • What is pi? Well, it isn't pie (although there's no doubt that plenty of pies will be floating around schools on March 14th!)  Here's a Greek alphabet to show your students.  See if they can find some similarities to the English alphabet.
  • And then there's that decimal point. After you introduce the term, show your students how to read pi as "3-point-1-4-15-9-2-6', etc. It's also a great moment for making a connection with reading amounts of money, where the decimal point of course is read as "and". 


I've put together a set of Pi Day activities for the primary grades ... and you can sample one of them free right now, for a limited time! Read on for the details!






These activities are different from most that you'll see. First of all, these are all math activities that practice math skills, like addition, subtraction, and using the 120 chart.  They are not craftivities or coloring pages. There's a color-by-number pi sign page (lower left above), but then it turns into a (drum roll....) math game!

Let's take a closer look!

Here's the color-by-number activity.




If you have lots of time or plan to do several days of pi activities, have your students color the page using the code one day and use the completed pages to play the game the next day. But if you're short on time, just print copies of the answer key and use those as your game boards, along with the set of directions that's included.

You'll also find two 120 chart games in this set, "Happy Pi Day" and "PI, Not Pie!", both for practice with skills like add/subtract one and add/subtract ten. Games with hundred charts and 120 charts are good practice for our firsties.  These are games that you'll use long beyond Pi Day!

What else is in this Pi Day set? Two easy prep addition and subtraction games  - just print and add dice!



Click here or on any of the pictures above to see this set of six activities at my store.

Now, how about that free game?

Would you like to receive the Making Pi addition game pictured above PLUS more than 20 other K-5 math freebies for March? You can get them all with no subscription - no loop - no obligation right now by clicking here!



... and since this is such a busy week coming up, you'll also appreciate these St. Patrick's Day freebies that you'll find in the same download! ☘️


Click now to collect your March freebies ... this is a limited time offer and I don't want you to miss out!

Happy Teaching!



Monday, February 25, 2019

March Math Freebie Bundle!

March is almost here! I'm very excited to share with you news you about a huge March math freebie bundle that will definitely save you time and simplify your March planning. Whatever grade you teach, K-5, when you download this free bundle, you'll be ready for Pi Day, St. Patrick's Day, and all the fun that comes with the month of March!





The teachers of The Ultimate Math Toolbox have put together a set of 20 March Math Freebies for you. Now, that's some March Madness, right? Read on for the details!


With Pi Day coming up on March 14th, it's the perfect time to bring in some FUN math games, activities, and even art projects that will add some Pi Day excitement, even in the primary grades!
Here's my Pi Day contribution to the bundle.





Here are more of the freebies for Pi Day!



The Pi Day freebies in this bundle are...
  • Simple Pi Day singalong songs
  • A Pi Day puzzle
  • A Pi Day math art project
  • Hands on math lessons about circles and pi
  • "Pi-lentine's" cards to print and give to friends - they're like Valentine's Day cards!
  • The Pi Day themed addition game you see above
  • Easy Pi Day card game

So, how about St. Patrick's Day?


Your freebies for Leprechaun Day include...
  • St. Patrick's Day counting, addition, and subtraction resources
  • St. Patrick's day number riddles {my math riddle task cards - I hope you'll LOVE them!}
  • St. Patrick's Day probability game

We've even got resources for you to use throughout the month! And, yes, they're all FREE!




The teachers of The Ultimate Math Toolbox want to help you make March a fun math experience for your students and FREE AND EASY for you!

This collection is only available until March 14th, so click here to grab your download today, before you forget!

Happy Teaching!




Friday, November 30, 2018

Fourth Grade Measurement Game Freebie!

Hi, Teaching Friends!

Fourth grade teachers, this one's for you! If you're always hunting for math games to give your students lots of effective practice that makes the most of their time in math rotations, you're going to love this measurement game freebie! (Slide down to the purple button to download it now!)




Why should I consider using these games for math rotations?

In addition to the math practice that games provide, there are so many good reasons to include games like these in your math plans! 
  • Games are engaging - students want to play them again and again, and of course that equals more practice! 
  • Winning a Thumbs Up game is based as much on luck as ability, so you can have partners of mixed ability work together.  I like that - it elevates the strugglers and reminds your higher students that everyone can (and should!) have opportunities to win! 
  • Need more reasons? This post talks about the advantages of starting off the school year using games, and gives even more reasons in support of making games part of your math teaching plans!


What are Thumbs Up math games? 

They're easy-prep games that are played by partners, and they're all about evaluating, comparing, and sorting numerical expressions.  Every game has 24 cards, each with a mathematical expression that your students will evaluate to decide if it's thumbs up true or thumbs down false.


How do I prepare these games?

Super easy prep! Just print two sheets, the cards and the answer key. Cut the cards apart, and you're ready to go! Your download also includes two cute sorting pages which your students will enjoy using, but the sorting can be done without them if you're in a time pinch getting your game ready.


What topics do these games address?

There are ten games in the complete Fourth Grade Thumbs Up set. Here are the topics they address: 
  • Factors of numbers through 100 
  • Comparing two fractions with different numerators and different denominators
  • Comparing decimals
  • Ordering decimals
  • Adding and subtracting whole number through 1,000,000
  • Multiplying a whole number of up to four digits by a one-digit number
  • Multiplying two two-digit numbers
  • Using place value to solve multi-digit multiplication and division
  • Express measurements in a larger unit in terms of a smaller unit. This one is your freebie!
  • Characteristics of 2D and 3D shapes

Several of the games address multiple skills, like this one for geometric shapes that also brings in some addition and multiplication. Here's what I mean!




Click here to see the complete set!

Try out a Thumbs Up game with this freebie.  I'd love it if you'd let me know what you think of it!


Happy Teaching!














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