Monday, August 24, 2020

Build Community with Student Names - In Class or Remotely!

There's a very real urgency about building a classroom community at back to school time. To move forward into teaching and learning, there have to be some basic bonds of mutual respect and understanding.

One very basic way that students show each other (and you!) respect is by using each others' names in speaking to each other. Have you had students who referred to classmates as "that boy" or "the girl over there"? Or a child who called you "Teacher" for... umm, way too long?

What do you do to help your students learn each others' names? And what new techniques will you try in view of the unique challenges that 2020 brings?

Here's a project that I loved doing with my first grade literacy intervention class for many years. It helped them remember each others' names and thereby build classroom community.  As they made these and using the finished products, it also...

* Gave them practice in writing their own names
* Developed letter-sound match as they wrote the name of a classmate
* Practiced letter formation as they wrote
* Practiced one-to-one matching and return sweep as they used pointers to read the finished display
* Built control of early sight words (I, here is, am, and my, etc.) with frequent rereading
* Helped them see themselves as readers and writers
* Built pride in their writing when the display was taken down and made into one of the first of our many class books.

Can you think of more benefits? I'll bet you can!

The description and download of this free resource will give you a variety of writing templates in addition to tips for doing the project with your students!

I've been thinking about so many of you who are or will be teaching your students online this year.  It may be even more of a challenge to build community via Zoom's novel, it's fun, but it's definitely harder to keep students focused! And learning lots of new names definitely takes focused attention.

Is there a way that you could adapt this project to use in distance teaching?

For ideas, I turned to my newsletter subscribers, who had some great ideas for using this project when teaching remotely. Here are two of their suggestions.

From Amy K:  "How about if you put it on a Google Slide and we could copy and paste pics we take on Google meet and make an online class book?"

Do you know that it's actually pretty easy to put any page onto a Google slide? Just use your snipping tool to create a JPEG and pop it right into the slide.  Here's what my handy little snipping tool looks like on my screen.

From Sandra C:   "I think this would work into Grade 3, too. Just add a line ... he likes to/she likes to... or we like to ...together. Or make it an interactive question and response activity - where the children have their photos set in 2s and the first person asks a question of the second person ... who will respond online remotely? Maybe allowing for space for the 2nd student to add a photo of him/her doing the activity..."

I love the interactive aspect of this idea. Maybe brainstorming a list of questions together in your Zoom meeting could help get the ball rolling on this.

Thanks for your help, Amy and Sandra!

How about you, readers?  Do you have another idea about turning this into a virtual project? Please share in the comments below!

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Building a Home - School Connection with Learning Games

Are you thinking about ways to build a connection with your class families this year?  With this crazy mix of teaching formats that schools will be using, you may need to be resourceful to develop a home-school connection with families that you might never get the chance to meet in real life. 

Just one more challenge for teachers to face... and conquer!... in this new school year!

Do you send games home for families to practice skills with their children? Games are a non-threatening enjoyable way for families to come together and support children's learning while they have fun together!

Here's a little freebie that might help you as you work on building open communication and a mutually supportive relationship with your students' families.

This resource includes tips for parents about playing games together. For your convenience, the download is provided in both Spanish and English, and has both portrait and landscape orientations in each language. 

One of the most important tips in the letter is "please let the teacher know if your child has a problem with a skill".  Without the usual ability to be constantly watching and making informed decisions, changing the course of instruction for individuals or even the whole class as needed, teachers will be depending more than ever on information from families! Open that avenue of communication!

Each letter is a separate JPEG, to make it easier to either send home digitally or post on your password-protected classroom website.

And if by chance your school is holding in-person Meet the Teacher or Back to School Night events, these make great hand-outs!

The directions are just a bit specific to my easy prep one-page games, which I have soooooo many of in my TpT store, but you can really use them with almost any game that you send home.  Click here to see my one-page games!  

Would you like to sample some free one-page games?  Here's Johnny Appleseed's Subtraction  and Pirate Addition Doubles Strategy Games, both of which are great for the upcoming September "events", Johnny Appleseed Day and Talk Like a Pirate Day.  You can simply send the link to your class families, or you can easily create a JPEG by using your snipping tool to take a "picture" of the page and send the game to them that way.

What will you be trying this year to increase communication with your students' families?


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Learning About Plants with Crosscurricular Teaching ... and Riddles!!

Are plants part of your science curriculum in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade? Are you having trouble getting all of your students to mastery, given the limited amount of time available to teach science? Here's something that might help you!

The Next Generation Science Standards call for students to describe patterns of what living things need to survive, understand how plant parts contribute to their survival, and observe plant needs, life cycles, and diversity.  Even with the language simplified as much as I did there, that's a whole lot of content!

Fortunately, most primary grade students are super interested in science. With interest so high, many of your students will bring their prior knowledge to your lessons, and of course those connections are going to help secure all that new vocabulary and information.

But what about those kids who don't have the background, or who aren't as interested? What do you do to make the path to mastery easier for them?

Have you tried riddles?  Kids love solving riddles, and I'm a big fan of using them in teaching.
I have riddles for everything from the ocean to animals, from sight words to digraphs. And math? More math riddles than I can count! Riddles get kids thinking, and help them make the kinds of connections that make new information stick!  Plus, every riddle that you solve together is another opportunity to model identifying key details, making inferences, and drawing conclusions. That's a whole lot of learning wrapped up in a package of fun!

I just finished up a set of 20 plant riddles with answers like stem, leaf, seedling, germination, cactus, greenhouse, roots, tree, shovel, sun, soil, and nine more. It also includes a small group bingo game, a riddle writing activity, and a whole class graphing activity. I love incorporating cross-curricular activities in my science riddle sets. The more times your students see and hear these words, the more quickly they'll conquer them! Besides, who doesn't want to cover multiple standards withone activity?!?

Would you like to try a free sample from the Plant Riddles set?

Your sample includes three vocabulary matching boards with 20 plants vocabulary word cards on each board. Here are some ideas for using them.

* Cut a board apart and match the cards to another board that hasn't been cut. You can adjust this according to your students' needs: words to pictures, words to pictures / words, pictures to picture / words, etc.

* Cut all three boards apart into sets of 20 cards.  Have students find all the matching sets of three cards.

* Put the word cards or the picture / word cards in your writing center to encourage writing about science.

*  Use the cards in a literacy center for alphabetizing or syllable sorts.

*  Use on a tabletop pocket chart for categorizing and other activities.

Click to download your free copy!

Happy Teaching!

p.s.  If you already own either the Science Riddle Cards Bundle or Riddle Round-Up, please download them again ... the Plant Riddles resource is now included, and is yours at no extra charge!

Friday, April 3, 2020

Spring Freebies, All in One Place!

Looking for spring freebies? Whether you're an Instant Online Teacher or an Instant Homeschooler, I hope this quick reference spot will help you link quickly and easily to some of my spring freebies.

Because I know how extremely busy everyone is right now, I've included a "pin for later" option on most of these.  Too busy to explore these now?  Just save them to one of your Pinterest boards so you'll have a visual reminder of where to find them!

                                                      See it now                   Pin it for later

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These FREE addition and subtraction games for first grade are a fun way to review basic addition and subtraction in math centers and math rotations. Each game has just one page to print - no cards to prepare! Plus, each of the games comes in both color and black line. The black line versions make great family homework - a letter is included to save you time! Great for homeschool teachers, tutors, and math intervention teachers, too! #firstgrademath #freefirstgrademathgames
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It's Bunny Time! Roll two dice, add, and color a space with that number. Everyone's picture will turn out different, making them great for a spring math display. Enjoy using this freebie! #springmathactivities

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Practice making good choices for the Earth AND for math with this free game for adding ten and subtracting ten. Easy prep, and a great cross-curricular connection for your first grade math centers and math rotations! #earthdayactivities #earthdayfirstgrade

                                                         See it now           Pin it for later

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Happy Teaching!

Monday, February 17, 2020

Freebies for Any Season!

Some blogging friends and I have joined together to share some freebies for any season, great resources that you can use anytime during the year!

                               Image may contain: text

You can grab a total of 14 freebies by hopping to each PreK-2 blog until you end up back here! Keep reading to find out how!

Do you teach grades 3-5?  We haven't forgotten you! Click here to get on board the 3-5 blog hop!

Here's my blog hop freebie for first and second grade, eight math riddle cards with a fun shark theme!


Regular visitors here and at my TPT store know that I'm a big fan of teaching with riddles. Here are some reasons why I think riddles are a great teaching tool!

*  Because you need to listen to ALL of the clues to solve a riddle, teaching with riddles builds listening skills.  You'll also see your students' attention span grow!

*  You'll be checking off the standards when you teach with riddles, because riddles are the perfect way to model identifying key details, making inferences, and drawing conclusions!

*   Solving a riddle often depends on the use of prior knowledge. Connecting the clues with schema and using prior knowledge takes lots of practice.  As you talk through the thinking process in solving a riddle, your students will learn to use connections. Ask questions like, "How can you use what you already know to help you figure this out?"

* Riddles are SO MUCH FUN!  Kids love them, and beg for more. But to have a shot at solving them correctly, your students must read (or listen) carefully, and THINK!

Click here to read about nine ways you can use riddles with your class!   Psst! You'll also find another free set of riddles when you click over to that post!

This card set also includes the same riddles in worksheet format (nice as a homework alternative!), a themed hundred chart, a recording page, and an answer key.  Click here to get your free set!

Do your students love riddles? I have LOADS of them for grades k through 5th in my TPT store. Click here to see many of them and even more math riddles here!

Are you ready for your next freebie? Get hopping over to my friend Sally's blog at Elementary Matters!


Thursday, January 30, 2020

COUNT UP to 120 with a Flipped 120 Chart

Have you heard about flipped 120 charts? You might know them as bottom up 120 charts.  Either way, they're an alternative that K-2 teachers should know more about. This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase through this link, I will receive a small commission which will not add to the amount you pay.

If you've heard yourself say...

"Can you count up to 120?"

"Fill this cup up with more water."

"We've read more books this week! Our reading graph is going up!"

"My credit card balance is less this month! It's going down!" (well, I hope you've been able to say this one!)

... then you may have also noticed the mismatch between what we say and how we show it on a traditional 100/120 chart. The language that we use usually implies that adding more to something equates to going up.  But on a traditional 100 or 120 chart, it's actually just the opposite - we move down toward the bottom of the chart.

Kind of counterintutive, right? There's lots of potential for confusion for our young learners, particulary second language learners or those who sometimes struggle with math.

Maybe it's time to consider applying the words we use in a different way, to build number sense and higher levels of math understanding.

I've read that the structure of the traditional hundred chart format matches what we teach our students about directional behavior in reading and writing ... start at the top left, move to the right, then return sweep and repeat all down the page.  That makes sense. But is it essential that the same logic be applied in math? It might confuse some, but many students will pick up the flipped chart format quickly. And it might just help to untangle math confusions that some students have!

Believe me, I've been a great proponent of the traditional top-to-bottom 120 chart. When I first started using it in the nineties, I remember thinking, "Where has this been all of my teaching life??" In fact, my store has loads of 100 and 120 chart activities.

But a recent request from a customer got me doing some thinking about the bottom up format.  Here's what she said.

I was intrigued by this request, and went off to do some research.  Here are links to some of the most informative articles and posts that I found.

From the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
* An interesting point from that article: "The idea of a bottom-up chart is not new; it was originally suggested forty-two years ago in Arithmetic Teacher (the predecessor of Teaching Children Mathematics)." The article aso suggests a few activities to get you started.

An earlier piece by Graham Fletchy, one of the authors of the NCTM article.  Such an interesting article! I also liked the comments - don't miss the one from the teacher of ELL! And the little girl's comment about chocolate milk - there's a kiddo who gets it!

Are you ready to give the flipped 120 chart a try?  If you have a 100 chart pocket chart (which I truly believe is a must-have for K-1 classrooms!), here's something to try.

Take all of the cards out. Demonstrate how to begin "a new kind of chart" by putting cards 1-10 in the bottom row, then showing how to move up to a higher number" by completing through 25 together.  When your students start clamoring to tell you what number is next, leave the unfinished chart in a math center for them to complete. Then use your chart as a part of lessons to demonstrate how to add by moving up to a greater number and subtract by moving down to less. 

If you're already using a bottom up chart and are looking for some activities to give your students some extra practice, here's something you'll like from my TPT store. Here's what this bottom up 120 chart resource includes:  


Four bottom up 120 chart one page board games for adding and subtracting one
and ten, plus three engaging printable worksheets with answer keys

Your purchase also includes ...

* 12 missing number cards to use as a Read and Write the Room activity or for a math center. Recording page and answer key included.

Four Bottom Up 120 Chart puzzles, differentiated to emphasize patterns on the number chart. (see the picture at the top of this post)

"Where’s Spot?” game board and cards. For adding and subtracting one and ten. Use all the cards or just the ones you need, according to your students’ abilities.

* A pup and kitty themed 120 chart, for additional support as needed.

Would you like to try a sample from this pack?

Click here to get your free set!

I'd love to read your comments about using a flipped 120 chart!
Happy Teaching!

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