Tuesday, January 11, 2022

February Math and Literacy Resource Roundup

Ahhhhh, February! So many fun holidays to celebrate in school that it's hard to know where to start your planning!  Groundhog Day, Valentines Day, 100th Day of School, and so much more... plus a new and unique math holiday this year, Twos Day, on 2/2/22 or 2/22/22.

Where to start??  Well, here's a whirlwind tour of some of the February resources that I've created for you over the past ten+ years of being a blogger and TpT teacher author. 

These are both paid and free resources, from this blog and my TpT store. If it's time for you to fill in or freshen up your collection of February resources, I hope this post will give you a place to start.

After five years of teaching Reading Recovery and then ten years teaching a literacy intervention class, I still find that I really LOVE to create math resources, like these easy-prep games for Groundhog Day and Valentines Day.

Practice adding and subtracting ten with this Groundhog Day 120 chart set. Your students solve the clue, find the empty space on the 120 chart, and write the missing number. Also available for Valentines Day, and winter.

Looking for low prep activities? Try these one page games! 

Have you tried these challenging math riddles? This Valentines Day set is for first and second grade addition, subtraction, and place value practice, and will be a great math center or morning tub activity all month.

You can try a free set of these riddles here.

Here are more Valentines Day math resources:

Number Line Addition and Subtraction    >>>> click here for a free sample of this activity!

When is your 100th Day of School? Do you plan to make it a day filled with math? Click here to see the pack you need - 15 math center games and activities!

And then there's Presidents Day.  This crazy busy month is a great time for cross-curricular activities that will save you time by addressing more than one objective simultaneously. This math and literacy pack includes eight cross-curricular activities!

Also for Presidents Day: 120 Chart Games and Worksheets

Lastly, here are eight more freebies for February! Just click on the links below the image to collect yours!

*   Grouchy Groundhog consonant blends game

*   Happy Hearts game, for practicing the /ar/ chunk ... plus a bit of a tie-in to the fact that February is Heart Health Month

*   Valentines Day Vocabulary Riddlesan engaging way to model comprehension skills like identifying key details, making inferences, and drawing conclusions.

*   Capture My Heart, a super-versatile game for K-5. Practice everything from alphabet to multiplication to states & capitals!

*   Double Trouble Hearts, an adding doubles game

*   Hearts Counting by Two's ( this one would also be good for Two's Day!)

*   Presidents Day Roll and Add

Happy Teaching!

Saturday, December 4, 2021

3 Easy Prep Ideas for Fun December Learning

Keeping your students calm and learning in December without taking the joy out of a very exciting month is a huge challenge. Holiday crafts and Christmas Around the World activities are a ton of fun, and definitely have lots of learning value. But we all know that this is definitely not the year to let the pace of teaching curriculum slip, with so much time to be made up for!

Here are three ideas for holiday learning activities that your students can do independently, so you can continue to meet with small groups, or at least try your best! :)  All three of these activities are free, low prep, repeatable (use them again and again without extra preparation), and not one of these will leave you with papers to correct! 

They're also great as ready-to-go choices to add to your sub folder!

Let's get started!

Extra practice moving up and back on the 120 chart benefits nearly every first grader, and many second graders, too! This free set includes two games...

* Add one or add two
* Add one or add ten

How can you use these 120 chart games to keep your students practicing skills while you teach small groups? 

* December math centers
* Early finishers {When you're doing holiday craft projects, all of these activities will help your fast     finishers use their time productively!}
* Morning bins
* Fun Fridays


Here's your next free math activity!  Head to your dollar store or craft store to pick up some big snowflakes, get out the dominoes that you probably already have, and you're ready to go! 

The post includes a variety of ideas to extend the use of this activity to use at different grade levels.


Last on today's list of ideas is this making words activity, great for high first graders on up through fourth grade. Check out this post to find several other free gingerbread activities that you can use right on up through the grades!

Making words might at first glance look like just another puzzle activity, but the literacy benefits are actually huge!

Younger students will 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.").  To introduce this activity, try modeling it on your interactive board with another holiday word. Think ornaments, mistletoe, celebration, etc.

* For older students, making word activities further develop onset/rime, work with prefixes and suffixes, and they're also a way to enrich vocabulary. When you click to the post, you'll see more about this.


When the glitter and pipe cleaners and more glitter are flying, I hope these ideas will help bring some calm to your classroom while also keeping the fun in learning!

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!

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