Monday, January 13, 2020

Integrating Groundhog Day into Your Curriculum

Groundhog Day is a funny little celebration - not quite a holiday, but nonetheless an opportunity to learn something new and have some fun in the midst of a long winter. In view of how many other fun but time-sucking holidays are on the horizon in February, we all know that "the show must go on" - there's so much teaching and learning yet to be done! So, let's talk about integrating Groundhog Day into your curriculum to save you time and maximize learning!







Celebrated since 1887, Groundhog Day has origins in ancient religious practices (Candlemas Day) as ancient weathor lore in which various other animals like badgers and bears were said to be good predictors of weather. If you're studying or have already studied weather in science, Groundhog Day is a good time to review vocabulary using riddles about weather.

Unscientific as the day may be as a predictor of spring, Groundhog Day is also a great opportunity to talk about shadows and how they change in length over the course of the day. A word of advice:  you might not want to do what I did one year long ago.  I worked with my first graders to create charts to observe and record how the length of a shadow changes over the course of several hours. We went outside four times (4!!!) during the day, and they each worked with a partner to draw the length of their shadows on the sidewalk, using a different color chalk each time. Even though my class was very small that year, I really didn't think through how long the coats on / coats off routine was going to take each time, or how very excited this activity was going to get them.  I really think that they did learn a lot, they definitely got up and moving, and they got some extra fresh air.  Needless to say, I was exhausted at the end of that day!

Groundhog Day is also an appropriate time for a little sidetrip into talking about real vs. fantasy.  You can watch a one minute informational video of real groundhogs from The Science Museum of Virginia here to enrich your discussion.

Here's a free activity to add to your literacy centers for Groundhog Day.  Click here to see Grouchy Groundhog, a fun way to practice words that start with dr-, gr-, and tr- blends.





Here are a few math ideas for integrating Groundhog Day into your curriculum. 

I'm not sure exactly how I'd use this in the classroom, but I know that I couldn't let the fact that the date is a palindrome just slip by.  You might try just displaying 02-02-2020 and asking your students what they notice. Palindromes are just so cool, and every class seems to have at least one student who just becomes fascinated with them.

Math logic riddles are a great way to enrich your curriculum and offer alternatives for your early finishers and advanced students. Try this free set of eight elimination riddle cards for Groundhog Day by clicking here!





The last two ideas for math are both paid products in my TPT store.

The first is an extended set of riddles like those in the free set just above, but all completely different from the free ones. This set has 24 riddle cards, a board game that uses the cards, and the same riddles in printable worksheet format, handy for lesson warm-ups, exit tickets, and homework.  You can find it here.




If your students could use more practice on the very basic step of mentally finding ten more and ten less, and if they're ready to move beyond the concrete stage,  this might be just what you need! Click here for a closer look.





Happy Teaching!



Friday, December 13, 2019

Run, Run, Catch These Gingerbread Literacy Freebies {{Gr 1-5!}}!


Do you use a gingerbread theme in your classroom? Then you won't want to miss out on these gingerbread literacy freebies, a great way to carry your theme into your centers and other times in your teaching day!





Let's start out with a gingerbread literacy freebie that you can use from first grade all the way on up through fifth.  This printable comes at two levels of difficulty. Both of them require your students to use spelling and word analysis skills, so if "someone" should happen to peek his head in to see if your students are still working ... well, yes, they sure are!

Younger students will cut out the letters in "GINGERBREAD" and use them to make and write words. Making Words activities are a great way for younger students to develop a greater awareness of spelling patterns and using the onset/rime principle in both reading and writing. ("If you can write bag, then you can write rag, nag, and brag.")

For older students, making word activities further develop onset/rime understanding and are also a way to enrich vocabulary. To increase the level of difficulty, your students are not given to target word - GINGERBREAD - and are challenged to rearrange all of the letters to discover it. Consider giving your third, fourth, and fifth graders a dictionary or online dictionary site as a reference, to see if that word they just made is a real word (and to sneakily work on dictionary skills - pretty tricky, right?).

And both levels are PERFECT to include in your substitute plans if you happen to be in need of that between now and the break! ;)

Click here or on the picture below to download both levels!





The next gingerbread literacy freebie will let you check off some objectives in the standards for reading non-fiction. This original non-fiction book from my friend Jackie, a.k.a. The Template Teacher, is filled with facts about gingerbreads that your K-2 students can use to surprise and impress their families. There are printable pages also included to extend the reading of this beautiful little book! 


Click here or on the picture to download All About Gingerbreads!




Your third gingerbread literacy freebie is a reference card for opposites.




Here are a few fun ways to use this card.

*  Have two children sit side by side with copies of the chart and do some choral reading :"Tall, short ... in, out...up,down..."  Saying and hearing the words seems to cement the concept for some students. 

*  Have two students sit back to back, in chairs or on the floor, with both children having copies of the chart. One child reads any word on the chart, and the other names/reads the opposite. After the first confirms that it's correct, they reverse roles.

*  Make multiple copies and cut the word cards apart. Use them for memory and matching games. If you keep an uncut copy, children can check their own work.

To get your copy of the Gingerbread Opposites chart, click here and then download the preview of Gingerbread Opposites Activities. You'll find the chart free in the preview!


The next two resources are not free, but are definitely filled with gingerbread... just click to see them!



Happy Teaching!





Friday, November 22, 2019

Christmas Patchwork! A Creative Twist On Color by Code Math Activities

I love color by code math activities, and we all know that our students do, too. I mean, coloring, right? What more could a kid ask for?

Personally, what I don't love is the less than satisfying cookie cutter results. Plus, let's be honest, we know that some of our students are either peeking around to duplicate what everyone else's picture looks like or just coloring the picture to make it make sense. Pumpkins are orange and candy canes are red and white, right?

Well, not necessarily. Take a look at these Winter Patchwork activities. They're a creative twist on color by code math activities!




Whether it's played as a game with a partner or small group or independently, the math part is just basic fact practice: use two dice, roll and add or roll and subtract, according to the directions on the page.

So, what's the twist? Your students make their own choices of the colors they use!  A space labeled four could be colored pink, or green, or red, or any color ... and the next space labeled four could be a completely different color!  Giving choices means more confidence, more creativity, and more engagement - each work of art will be unique!

The same page can turn out completely different!





Patchwork math pages are a great opportunity to integrate art and math. Here are a few ideas for you to try.

* Take a few moments to talk about color choices before your students begin their patchwork page. Introduce art concepts like primary and secondary colors.  A color wheel (there are lots online) is a great tool for introducing complementary colors. Discuss the possibilities and encourage your students to commit to a set of colors before they start to roll and add or roll and subtract.

* Some students might like to try a page using just one color, but with a variety of shades, like lime green to pine green with everything in between!

* Of course, it's also fun to let your students create a crazy quilt of colors! Add an interesting challenge.  Can they complete the picture with no two spaces of the same color bordering each other?


Here's another twist that Patchwork math provides. It's not just a one time activity. 

*  You can laminate the finished pages to create addition and subtraction practice games for your December math centers. Put them into your centers with dice and some of those cute mini-erasers you've been collecting. Your students can play Bump, or Roll, Add/Subtract, Cover.  Student ownership means that motivation will be high!

*  Your students can cut out the shapes for a colorful display for a holiday bulletin board.  They'll also make a beautiful display on your classroom windows - they'll glow like stained glass when the sun shines through them.  The variety of colors will make your display unique and beautiful!


Would you like to try a free Christmas Patchwork page? This one will be especially fun if your students spend December looking for That Crazy Elf!  Just click to get your free download!




Happy Teaching!   




Sunday, October 20, 2019

Mix Math and Art with Integrated Curriculum for Fall

If you could do a project with your class that would mix math and art, and you'd end up with a cute fall classroom display plus a set of math center games, would you give it a try? Well, let's find out more about this integrated curriculum project!




I love using integrated curriculum, and creating it, too!  Cross-curricular resources are a great way to reach more students, since they address multiple interests and learning strengths. Integrated curriculum also offers great opportunities for review and overlearning, which many students need to be able to retain concepts and vocabulary and to apply them, too.  Sometimes, changing the context of the instruction makes all the difference in student engagement and success!

This math and art resource has your students rolling two dice and adding the numbers and then choosing any space with that number to color. They can do this independently, or play with one or two other students, each with their own pumpkin page.

But if you take it a step further - here comes the art integration!


How about demonstrating how to use colored pencils to make lighter and darker tones of the same color, and then setting your students to work on these pumpkins to test their skills?




Pull out a color wheel and discuss complementary colors, the opposites on the wheel. Challenge your students to choose any pair of complementary colors to complete their pumpkin. Here's one example using oranges and blues, but there are so many interesting variations of complementary pairs to try!




Once these works of art are complete, how will you use them in your classroom?

* Cut the edges and directions away and hang them on classroom windows for a pretty display that you can keep up all through October and November. The sun really lights them up, as you can see here on these photos of the free subtraction version of this project.

* No windows? (I've taught in a classroom like that... ugh.)  Back your pumpkins on a piece of black construction paper for a great wall display!

* Here's a fun and easy way to turn your pumpkins into autumn math center games that your students will love to play again and again.  Step One: When your students are rolling, adding, and coloring, have them color lightly (so the numbers will show through) and tell them that you have something special to do with the neatest ones. (usually a pretty good motivator!).
 
   Step Two: Cut the pumpkins around their outline, like you would for the displays above, and laminate them. Now each one is a board game! Students play by rolling, adding, and covering the sum on their board. Some fall mini-erasers from your stash will be great for this, or just use erasable markers. Two students can play by sharing one board or by each using a different board. Student motivation is HIGH when they see that their own work is being put to such a good use!  {Pssst! You can do this with almost any color-by-code activity page!}


Are you ready for your own copy of Patchwork Pumpkin Addition? Just click here to download and enjoy!


Happy Teaching!



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!



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