Sunday, July 25, 2021

A Back to School Season Filled with QUESTIONS!

For many of you, the start of this new school year this may be like no other,  a back to school season filled with new questions not only about what each new day will bring (and each new spin of the pandemic wheel), but also about where to start your teaching. 

Exactly what did most of your new students actually learn and retain from last year?

Who was in school for face-to-face learning every day?

Who bounced back and forth from in-school to virtual?

Who got a lot of family support during Zoom lessons?

Who never logged in to even one Zoom session?

How much time can you devote to review before you plunge into this year's curriculum? What will happen if you don't give your students the time they deserve to get them closer to where you'd like them to be?

What do your students most need, in regard to confidence, community, and curriculum? How will you find the balance between all three of these?

So. Many. Tough. Questions.

I am NOT a fan of looking at this school year from a "learning loss" or "learning gap" point of view. It's been a tough time for everyone, but keeping a positive attitude is key. I think most teachers would agree that...

1.  Putting more pressure on kids to learn more quickly is one of the least effective teaching strategies imaginable. It's only fair to give them time to SUCCEED!
2.  There will be gaps ... academic, social emotional, behavioral, etc ... in pretty much every classroom.  We have a lot of experience with students coming to us at differing levels and we've always adjusted our teaching to that, and done it well.

Nonetheless, its likely to be an interesting year. It's a good thing you got so good at pivoting last year... but wait, good teachers have ALWAYS been experts at pivoting, reacting to unexpected change within the course of a year... a week... a lesson... sometimes, a sentence, right?!?

Don't panic, because you are a pro. You've got this.

What are some lessons that you can plan right now that will address your new students' academic and social-emotional needs, while also giving you a good look at their academic status?

Here are just a few easy-to-implement ideas that will help you incorporate informal assessment and review into your getting-to-know-you and building class community lessons during the first weeks of school.

* Give careful thought to the read-alouds you choose, so you can get more mileage from them! What kind of mileage? Just a few thoughts here, applicable across the grade levels.        
        * Stories that encourage stopping and listening to your students' predictions AND the thinking that             led them to the predictions. Discussions during the course of a read-aloud are a great way to see
            whether your students have the vocabulary and understanding to use a variety of grade-               appropriate comprehension strategies.

        *  Read-alouds that rhyme will give you some insight as to who's able to supply a rhyme for a               given word.  Can they do it, or will you need to work on building phonemic awareness?

        *  Books that deal with classroom behavior.  They are a great way to start discussions that will be              extra important when some of your newbies have never experiences in-class expectations.                       Think about topics like building classroom community, resolving differences, using classroom               materials responsibly, respect, and responsibility.

* Build some new twists into your usual getting-to-know-you activities. If one of your activities is to have your students complete a page where they illustrate their favorite sport, book, food, etc., try turning it into an interview activity. Pair your students and have them use the page to interview each other, write up the info, and then do a short oral presentation to introduce their new classmate to the class. It's a great way to get lots of information about your students that goes waaaay beyond their favorites!

* Play math games that are designed for the end of the previous grade level. When they're playing, take the opportunity to listen in on the conversations. You'll learn so much about your students' math and their social skills, too! A quick search here on TpT yielded over 13,000 results for end of year math review! Here's a Quick Tip: narrow the results easily by going to the left column on the TpT page and clicking on the grade level you need.


Here are a few of my resources at TpT that you might find helpful as you embark on this year's Great Adventure!

For K-2, build classroom community and review data collection and analysis with Class Graphs: Learning About Each Other with Tallying and Graphing Activities.

For second grade, have some fun practice reviewing important onset/rime skills with this Back to School "I Have... Who Has...?" game.

First grade teachers, if you're looking for a fun way to review kindergarten math and you want a resource that you can be certain that your students definitely did not use last year, you may be interested in the new set of math riddles just posted in my TpT store on 7/24/21.  Your new first graders will love the challenge of solving these riddles. Plus, there's the confidence-building bonus of using topics that are familiar to them. This year more than ever, most children may need that boost of confidence. 

Fourth grade teachers, you'll review loads of third grade math skills with these math riddles. Great for whole class review, or put them in a math center!

Happy Teaching!

Friday, June 4, 2021

Start Summer with These Free Shark Math Games

Originally posted on Teaching Blog Roundup

Ah, summer! Here it comes! We may be lucky enough to be relaxing on the beach, gathering pretty shells, eating sandwiches with real sand in them. But our kiddos?  Always in search of adventure, they're thinking about SHARKS!  So it's definitely time to take advantage of that with these free shark math games!

It's hard to ignore the fascination kids have with sharks These free shark math games for kindergarten through third grade are a great way to put that enthusiasm to good use!

Here's a sample of the games directions that you'll find in this download!

The difficulty of these games ranges from "Fin It to Win It!" (arranging cards in numerical order) to "A Shark's Place" (two-digit place value) and on up to "Everybody Out of the Water!" (shown above), which has some trickier two-step directions, strategizing, and mental math.

Just a warning...  I had some pun-ny fun coming up with names for these games! The download also includes

* Shark Sighting
* One, Two, Three, Flip!
* Treasures of the Sea
* Sharks Alive, It's All About Five!
* Belly Up

Can't say I didn't warn you! :)

Your download includes number cards for 0-9 in both color and blackline (some of your students will love to color their own cards!) as well as the directions for eight math games.

These games would be a good match for your beach theme or ocean unit. Fun learning and easy prep for the last days of school, too! Use the same cards and try a new game every day!

If you're looking for more ocean-themed activities, this bundle might be just what you need! Click now to see it!

Happy Teaching!

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Poetry Month in the Primary Grades: 3 Simple Tips

Every April, Poetry Month used to make me feel kind of guilty when I taught in the primary grades. I'd think,  "How can I teach these little ones anything about poetry beyond rhyming?" This post includes affiliate links, which will provide a small percentage of each sale to me without increasing your price.

And then one day, I realized that I already was teaching poetry! And chances are that you are, too, or you easily could be with these three easy tips!

Tip #1

Use what you already have! Incorporate poetry into the daily procedures you already have in place!

Above all, this means that Poetry Month is a great reminder to build more poetry reading into your daily read alouds. Point out to your students that a poetry anthology works kind of like a chapter book. Read some, put in a bookmark, and then return to it later.

You're probably already reading poems from Shel Silverstein and others like him to your students. But there are lots of sources for poems and songs (which are pretty much interchangeable with poems, when it comes to the little learners).

Here are a few of my favorite poetry books.


I love reading poems from a variety of authors. If you're only buying one book, an anthology is going to give you the broadest selection on a variety of topics. With more than 600 poems, the Poetry Place Anthology (at the back in the photo above) is a great collection. Click here if you'd like to take a closer look at this gem! Because this book is arranged by topics, it's easy to come up with a poem whenever you need it!

Have you tried doing a read aloud by displaying the poem on your interactive board? It's a great way to focus on the fact that poems look different than prose. Show your students that a poem has different structure (it's "look"), capitalization, and punctuation, and that when you read a poem you don't necessarily stop at the end of a line.  By second grade, you'll probably introduce the term line break, and see them start popping up in some of your students' writing.

As you're reading, stop as time allows to point out what we called the Beautiful Words - descriptive language and imagery that can make poetry so unique! 

If you make occasional reading of poetry the norm in your classroom throughout the year, you might even find that kids start asking for poetry, and when April comes, they might just be excited about celebrating Poetry Month!

Tip #2

Try writing a poem with your students as a part of shared writing, or as a mini-lesson before a writing workshop lesson.  

Don't be intimidated and think that you're not a poet!  Get your students writing poems by teaching them this super easy format - list poems

Creating a list poem with your students will be easy for you to model on chart paper at your easel or on your interactive board.  The skill will also transfer easily to independent writing. Plus, list poems are a writing form that seems to come very naturally to many children.

You and your students can turn just about any topic into a list poem... pets, playground games, kinds of vehicles, dinosaurs, colors,... you name it!

Start with a topic sentence. I like to repeat it twice, and talk about how "that's what some poets do!"  to help your students start to think of themselves as poets. We repeat the line again at the end. Want to give your kids a fun way to remember this? It's silly but we all know that silly works in the primary grades!

A list poem wears a hat on its head and shoes on its feet.

After you've tried a few list poems, it's time for your students to brainstorm some possible topics for you to write together... and then it's time to release your eager young poets to write their own list poems!

You might even want to have a little Poetry Festival (Poetry Cafe?) to give your students the opportunity to read their poems to the class.  Celebrate the fact that they are POETS! This is an easily accomplished event (even if you're teaching online!) and a great way to put a check next to some speaking and listening standards, too!

If you'd like to give your students a supportive structure when they write their own first list poems, click here or on the image above to get your copy.

#Tip 3

Choice reading, free time, reading, DEAR time, self-selected reading, ... whatever your district is currently labeling it, this is so important for our students. It's valuable for the newest readers to spend some of that time on rereading. 

And that's where those poems you've been writing will come in handy!

My students always loved reading from their personal Song and Poem Notebooks, individual collections of familiar songs and poems that had been part of our shared reading experiences.

And when you are reading a poem that you actually wrote ... well, that's Literacy Gold, in my book!

Click here or on the picture to read about how you can get Song and Poem Notebooks up and running in your classroom, plus lots of ideas for implementing them in your classroom!

So, that's the 1,2,3 of it ... read poems, write poems, reread poems.

I hope this helps make Poetry Month in the primary grades easy and exciting for you and your students!

Friday, January 29, 2021

Build Vocabulary & Active Listening Skills with Free Valentines Day Riddles!

Would you like to try a Valentines Day activity that builds vocabulary, active listening skills, and critical thinking skills? Would it be even better if you could use it face-to-face, remotely, or in your hybrid classroom? Fun and free would be the icing on that Valentines Day cupcake, wouldn't it?

Here you go!

Now, I know some of you busy teachers have already clicked to head over to Google Drive to download these riddle cards, and I totally understand that. But if you have a moment, I'd love to share some ways that classroom teachers, SLPs, and literacy intervention teachers are using content area riddle card sets like these.

But first...  

     What's a content area riddle?

A content area riddle is designed to build vocabulary around a specific teaching topic, like animals,  weather , or the ocean.  

Here are a few examples.

The examples are for social studies and science topics, but you'll also find riddles in my store for literacy (like sight words, compound words, consonant digraphs) and a math vocabulary set, too.

Most of my riddle sets for content areas have 20-24 cards.  They also include a variety of other ways to integrate the topic across your curriculum, extending your teaching power and helping your students master and retain the words through repeated exposure in different formats.

The "add-ons" vary from set to set, but include...

*  A template to guide your students in writing their own riddles. A writing lesson for your content area, with a suggestion for a speaking and listening activity, too!
One page games for vocabulary, like four in a row games.
Math activities (e.g. color by the code) that relate to the theme

The more that your students are exposed to the vocabulary of the theme that you're teaching, the more connections they'll form between isolated bits of knowledge.  And connections make it so much more likely that they'll understand and remember more about what you're teaching.

      How are teachers using content area riddles?

*  They are using riddles to introduce some or all of the vocabulary at the beginning of a new unit of study.

*  Teachers are doing a riddle card or two each day to focus on the specific topic being taught on that day.

*  They're using them as a review at the end of a unit, before a written assessment. Also as a mid-way point review, riddles (and the discussion around their solution) will give you a ton of information about topics you need to go back and give more attention to.

Speech and language teachers are finding these riddle cards to be a great variety activity for teaching listening skills and language development.

Literacy intervention teachers are finding riddles to be an effective tool for teaching comprehension skills, like identifying key details, inferring, and drawing conclusions.
* Teaching remotely? Teachers report that a riddle is the perfect way to get students focused at the beginning of your teaching session. Maybe even on time! :)

*  Use these riddles for whole class or small group activities, or put them in a center for independent practice.

Just a thought... I've read that with the teaching situation being what it is for Valentines Day 2021, many of you are searching for activities for your virtual Valentines Day Party. Why not try a few riddles?

I hope this gives you some ideas to get started with!  Enjoy your free Valentines Day riddle set!

Click the image to see more Valentines Day resources!

Friday, January 8, 2021

MORE Third Grade Math Riddles for 1 through 120!

Third grade teachers, I'm SO happy to share that the second set of number sense riddles for 1 through 120 is finally completed!

So, what are these riddles all about?

Each of the cards in this set has two to three clues that lead to a number between 1 and 120.  As your students progress through the clues, they'll narrow the options for which numbers might be the answer, until the last clue brings them down to just one number.

Here's an example.

Solving a riddle is great for daily spiral review and most definitely motivating - have you ever had a student who didn't like riddles?  But there's so much more that you can do with these cards!

Listen to some of the conversations that might happen beyond the solving if you were to use this card as the basis for a number talk. Note the great opportunitites to differentiate.

    "Can you switch out 8X11 and 100-7 to other expressions and still get the same final answer?"

    "Is there a quick way to tell if a number is odd or even?"

    "Is 5 a multiple of 10 or a factor of 10?  Explain..."

    "Can you substitute a new clue for the final clue and still get the same answer?"

    "Let's create a whole new riddle for this number."

And, of course, always, "How do you know? Explain your thinking."

See what I mean?  If you're teaching your students virtually, try giving your students the riddle of the day ahead of time, with the dual assignment of solving it AND coming up with a math talk question about the riddle.

How are teachers using these riddles?

* Using one or more each day is a great way to keep math vocabulary and concepts active in the minds of your students.

* Take a screenshot of any page and use with Seesaw or your favorite app so your students can solve these right on their devices.

* Practice comprehension skills across the curriculum by "thinking aloud" to model identifying key details, inferring, and drawing conclusions.

* In a small group or with partners, use the printable and task card activities. Great for small groups and math centers!

* Use math riddles as a sponge activity throughout the day.

* The riddle cards are a productive use of learning time for fast finishers or for enrichment.

*  Level up or down to differentiate with individual students or small groups.  See riddles for first and second grade here, and for fourth and fifth grade here.

You might be wondering what math topics these riddle cards address.  Here's a quick rundown of the topics/vocabulary in this set.
*  Addition and subtraction through 1,000
*  Multiplication and division facts
*  Products, factors, multiples
*  US coins and measurement
*  Area and perimeter
*  Attributes of 2D and 3D shapes

Are you ready to try this free set of six? Click here or on the picture below to download them now and try them with your students!

Happy Teaching!

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Making the Old New Again ... With a Winter Math Freebie!

Hi, Teaching Friend!

Everything old is new again, or so I've heard.

I've been spending a lot of time revising some of my older resources lately ... content, covers, descriptions, the whole deal, making the old new.  We all need a bit of a makeover, or at least an update, once in a while right? And some of these old gals haven't had one since (gulp) 2012!  Whoa! Where DOES time go?

I especially want to share the resource that I finished up today. If you had the original version of this winter math freebie, I think you definitely deserve the shiny new update!

Your preschool and kindergarten students will have fun matching, sorting, and sequencing these 40 cards. Each card has a representation of a number from one through ten. And, of course, every card has
those cute snowball monsters.

This set is also included in this bundle of winter math resources for PreK and K.  


Lots of hands-on learning... graphing, teen number clip cards, composing ten, names for numbers, subitizing, comparing numbers, and more.  

These are ideal activities for...

* Math centers
* Small groups
* Math intervention / RtI
* Modeling and teaching on your interactive board

But my favorite way to use these?  Morning tubs! Do you use morning tubs?  Social distancing?, Rethink these as take-it-to-your-desk centers. If you laminate the cards and boards and spray or wipe  them after use (assuming that's acceptable in your school, as it is in many), you'll get loads of use from these when you put them in rotation this winter!

Thanks for stopping by... and enjoy your math freebie!

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