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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Beginning of the Year Name Activities

Welcoming a new year of students can be scary, even as the teacher. The first week or two are so important for not only setting class routines and procedures but also for assessing my students' abilities. Here are a few easy letter and sound activities I used last week:

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Trees

Prepare for each student:

  1. 9 x 12 piece of blue for background
  2. 9 x 6 piece of green for grass
  3. 9 x 2 brown for trunk
  4. 3 x 3 yellow for sun
  5. 3 x 3 brown for coconuts
  6. Copy of 5 leaves on green construction paper (Just draw 5 leaves on a paper and copy or grab my drawing of them here.)
  7. Assortment of alphabet stickers (we wrote our names on the trees, but you could also just have students put a miscellaneous assortment of letters on too)




Name Flip Books

These are so simple to prepare and make a great way to see who is struggling with letter/sound relationships. Use 12 x 18 white art paper. Fold it in half lengthwise. Open it up and using a paper cutter, carefully cut to the fold line. I measure my cuts to be every 2 inches for students with 6 letters or less. For anyone who has a longer name, I go down to 1 1/2 inch cuts. Students then write their name on the top with one letter on each flap. Underneath they draw something that begins with each letter.



Olivia = Octopus - Lollipop - Igloo - Vase - Ice cream - Apple
 I hope all of you have a great beginning of the year!


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Math Books That Will Change Your Teaching

I have been so excited for this blog hop!  Ever since we started planning it and all these great bloggers began to choose books, I've been adding to my list of books to read. There are 12 stops along the way with 12 great math teachers.  But beware you will need to add to your list of books to buy, unless, of course, you are lucky in raffles!
I have chosen Number Sense Routines: Building Numerical Literacy Every Day in Grades K-3 by Jessica F. Shumway.

 "With strong number sense, children become more apt to attempt problems and make sense of mathematics. It is the key to understanding all math."
Jessica Shumway, Number Sense Routines, p. 8

Each year I have students who struggle to understand numbers in a variety of ways.  So I always started the year with activities to help build numerical understanding that are appropriate for the grade. But it wasn't until I read Number Sense Routines that I adopted a series of number sense activities which are rotated on a daily basis. These simple 5 minute number sense routines worked their way into my schedule last year. They are easy to differentiate and helped me to ensure my students are continually building a stronger understanding of numbers. Last year I used most of these, but I'll be implementing more this year.


Visual Image Routines
  • Dot cards, dominoes, dice - Show a card for a few seconds and then ask students what they saw.  The learning starts with your students just being able to quickly see a number, but it can become so much more in-depth through your class discussion. The author lists some questioning strategies to help build both perceptual and conceptual understanding. This is perfect for K-1 students.

  • Ten-Frames - Depending on your grade level you can use 5-frames, 10-frames, 20-frames or 100-frames. You can focus on how many are shown, how many are needed to reach 10, 20 or 100, addition with two frames and understanding of larger numbers (i.e 14 is created from ten and four). Perfect for grades K-3.

Rekenrek (wreck-en-wreck)
  • Rekenrek - Where has this math tool been all of my teaching years? I gave it a try last year and LOVED it! It helps with grouping, using the structures of ten and five in adding, composing and decomposing 10 and 20, understanding teen numbers and part-part-whole ideas. I use my large Rekenrek for whole class discoveries, small ones made from beads and pipe cleaners in small group instruction and the Number Rack app during independent work.  The most exciting change that happened for me last year was using the Rekenrek combined with class discussions to allow students to discover and teach addition strategies to one another. No more direct instruction of the strategies. This was so much more powerful. Grades K-2, but in kindergarten I would probably only use one bar for numbers up to 10.
Number Rack is a free app developed by the Math Learning Center.

We charted the strategies after they were discovered by students. I helped the students give names to the strategies so that eventually we could quit calling it _____'s way.
Counting Routines
  • Counting Around the Circle - This took a little bit of time for my first graders to get the hang of it, but I love it because depending on the grade level you can vary how you count. In Counting Around the Circle only one student is counting at a time. The trick is getting everyone to look at the person who is counting and think of the number in their mind. With older students you can count by fractional numbers, hundreds, thousands, and skip count. You can also start and stop anywhere - don't always begin with 1. Can be used with K-3.
  • Choral Counting - Everyone counts this time. This is a great routine if the majority of your class is struggling with a counting sequence. Sometimes I use it in small groups to really target the counting sequences a few students need help with. K-3 activity.
  • Stop and Start Counting - This is much like Choral Counting except you give starting and stopping numbers such as start at 76 and stop at 165. It's a great activity to emphasis the distance between numbers. Great for K-3.
  • Organic Number Line - I haven't used this activity as it's probably more suited for grades 2-3.  I love that you are creating a number line that can be added to throughout the year, plus you can include fractions and decimals which makes for a great way to show how they go together as well as looking at the equivalent numbers.
Making Sense of Numbers and Relationships
  • Ten Wand - Leave some time for a visit from the Queen of Ten. The ten wand is a great way to focus on making tens and part-part-whole concepts. Fun for K-1.
  • Ways to Make a Number - This is an activity that I have always called Incredible Equations. Depending on your grade level you can choose a number and have your students write as many ways as they can to represent the number. For added difficulty, require the use of decimals, fractions, multiplication, use of 3-digit numbers, etc. In my first grade we use the calendar date as our number, so each month I rotate through 1 through 30 or 31. Appropriate for grades K - 3.
  • Today's Number- Choose a number and ask questions in relation to the number. How many more to get to 100? How far is this number from 24? Your number and questions can vary in difficulty for any grade level. Perfect for K-3.
  • Mental Math - Present an equation or story problem and have your students solve it with no pencils or paper. Grades K - 3.
Calendar Routines
  • Calendar - Use the actual calendar to build number sense, count days, and explore one more/less. I also use it to include patterning since it is missing from the first grade common core. Grades K-3.
  • Collecting Data Over a Long Period of Time - My class did some year-long weather graphing but if you need to take it up a notch for older students, consider measuring the temperature. Grades K-3
  • Counting the Days in School - Last year I did this in two different ways. I did a chart that we wrote the numbers from 1 - 180 and I also used ten frames that were taped together when we reached one hundred. I loved this because the students were able to see how one hundred is made from 10 tens. It made a great visual for building place value understanding. Grades K-1.
I have only given you the tip of the iceberg with this great book. The author, Jessica Shumway, adds so much to each of these number sense routines by giving questions to further your students' understanding and offering new ways to think about the routines you already have in place. This book will forever change your thinking about number sense routines and how they can benefit your young mathematicians.

Before you buy this book, you might want to enter this raffle to win a copy of Number Sense Routines. The winner will be announced on Saturday, August 30 and I will have a copy of the book sent to your doorstep.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Hop on over to the The Math Maniac for another great book.
The Math Maniac



Monday, August 11, 2014

Using Money Instead of Just Counting It

I love teaching math. I love watching my young students figure something out for the first time. Sometimes you can see the wheels spinning. But what I love the most is finding ways to teach them using real life math connections. For this, money is at the top of the list. I'm still a little baffled about why there's no money in the CCSS for first grade, but I didn't let that stop me. After a lot of practice with recognizing coins throughout the year in calendar, my students learned to count money and I couldn't think of a better way to practice counting money than by doing a little shopping.

Learning to Count Money

I set up a little store inside the classroom. I stole the cash register, baskets and food from home, but they come from Lakeshore. I made small slips of paper giving a price on each item. Since this is first grade, I kept the amounts under 15 cents each. But you can easily differentiate by pricing the items higher for second grade. The white cups are labeled pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters for the shoppers to use. You can also make it harder for second grade by using dollar bills. This is so easy to set up. I leave it up for a week and use it during math centers.

Print one cashier schedule to keep track of who has had a turn as a cashier.  For each student, print one cashier's time card and three purchase sheets.

Click on each of the images to download the printables.



 I allow two cashiers at a time and each one picks a shopper. The shoppers each choose three items to purchase, record the items, add up the cost, figure out how to pay and return to the cashier with the exact amount of money in their hand. The cashier will add the items up using the calculator on the register and count the money they are given to verify it's correct. If there is a discrepancy, both the cashier and the shopper must work together to find the error. I can quickly check their work after it is turned in by going over the shopper's record.

Each student acts as a cashier for three shoppers and each student becomes a shopper three times. The classroom store makes for lots of fun practice using money instead of just counting it!

Real Life Lessons with Money

Diggin' Into Next Year Giveaway

Are you ready?

 We could hardly wait to end our Diggin’ Series with the BEST giveaway of the season!


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Just in case you didn't hear these are our awesome prizes:




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Come and join us, as  this is our way to THANK YOU for all your support and friendship!




Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Literacy Teacher's Playbook - Final Thoughts & Reflections


This is my final post about The Literacy Teacher's Playbook. Thanks to A Teacher Mom for hosting this book study.  I'm really glad I joined in because I probably wouldn't have picked this book up on my own. Sometimes I have such a bad attitude about assessment!
I think the author makes a great case for how we can use assessment to inform instruction. Too often we don't use assessment to our advantage. The big messages that are sticking out for me include:

Use the data you already have. The best assessment is the work your students are already doing. I don't need new tests, I just need to think about using what I already have. It's right there in their desks or chair pockets.

Assess the students that puzzle you the most in multiple ways. Of course this makes sense, but I usually don't take the time to assess in more than one or two ways. I definitely favor a few of the assessments I am most comfortable with. By looking at reading engagement, fluency, decoding, comprehension, conversation, writing engagement and qualities of good writing all together, I'll get a broader picture of what the student can and cannot do. Varied assessments for me!

When making decisions about what a student needs, come up with 4 or 5 goals before choosing one. By pushing yourself to find more needs, you are pushing yourself to go beyond your comfortable teaching strategies and really find what will benefit the student the most. Sometimes we just focus right in on a few things of our choosing without realizing that the student may have greater needs.

Find a student's strengths and then chose a goal that will move him/her forward from there. Why do I always look for gaps instead of strengths? Rather than focus on what's missing, focus on what the student can do and move him ahead from there. It seems so obvious that a student will have greater success when working from a strength. Sometimes I just need someone to state the obvious!


The July/August 2014 edition of Reading Today has an article titled, "Formative Assessment: Designing and Implementing a Viable System" by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey. It fits right in with this book and my final thoughts. "The problem is that too much talk about summative assessments crowds out more useful conversations that teachers can and should be having about formative assessments." The authors go on to recommend that teachers "implement an intentional system for collecting and analyzing evidence of learning, one that signals what needs to happen next." I'm wondering if they also read Jennifer Serravallo's book?

Thanks for joining us for this book study. Now I just need to get my team to read this too. 


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Show Us What You Bought Linky


As you probably already know, today is the last day of the TpT Back to School Sale and I'm linking up with Blog Hoppin' to show what I've bought so far. Don't forget to use the extra discount code BTS14 at checkout!


I really had to contain myself and only buy one in this series of close reads. I was dying for Sharks too. But I don't do anything with ocean animals until spring and so I put it on my wish list.


I always love anything with Melonheadz art. This set also comes with the graphics, but without the parts labeled. So that you can come up with the parts as a class. So cute!


If you're looking for math graphics, you have to check out Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah. They have so many great math graphics. This purchase is for a future product I'm working on. Which brings me to my last purchase...do you use KG Fonts? Well, her commercial licenses are even on sale! I haven't picked my fonts yet, there's just too many great ones to chose from. So I purchased a few licenses and will go back and pick the fonts I want to use later. And if you are only using a font for private use, they're free.
While you're shopping take a look at my shop. Everything in my store is 28% off, including my large math bundles.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Diggin' Into Next Year - Daily Calendar Math


Welcome to week 10 of Diggin' Into Next Year. This week each post will be a topic of the blogger's choice. I am going to talk about daily calendar math review.
I know that if you have been teaching for even a year in the primary grades, you probably have some type of calendar procedure already in place, after all, math calendar activities have been around for a long time. My first model for a calendar came from Math Their Way, then I later made some changes as I began using the Box It Bag It math program. Later as I moved up in grades I began using Opening Eyes to Mathematics and my calendar become more of a conglomerate of each of these programs. (Whew, does that date me!) I was picking and choosing what I thought was the best from all of the programs. Remember this was all before the internet. (Dating my teaching, dates me! Ugh...I need to stop doing that!) I took 7 years off of teaching and during that time the internet explosion occurred and when I went back to teaching, websites like Mrs. Meacham's were there as resources. I quickly realized that her calendar binders were exactly what I was missing in my calendar time - student participation. That sounds negative because my students were participating, but unless they were called on they weren't responsible for completing anything. Mrs. Meacham's calendar binders seemed like the perfect solution. I thought they would keep my students more actively engaged and keep our calendar time more student centered. Of course, I liked all of my calendar activities and had to create my own version of her calendar binder to match my activities.

Here's a look at my calendar wall:

I know it has a lot on it, but I don't do everything everyday.  Calendar activities we do everyday in first grade include:
  • How many days have we been in school?
  • Today's date is...
  • Calendar pattern
  • Graphing of the weather and lost teeth
  • Tally marks for the month
  • Weekly graph
  • Incredible Equations

In third grade I only used how many days have we been in school, the monthly calendar pattern and incredible equations everyday.  These are so easy to differentiate. The difficulty of the calendar pattern and requiring fractions, decimals, multiplication, 3-digit numbers, etc for incredible equations make it easy to change grade levels. If you are looking for great calendar patterns for grades 2-5 look at Curiosity Bait by bby publications. They have some hard patterns that are perfect for upper grades. One of my favorites is in State Bait and the pattern requires kids to look at states that are east and west of the Mississippi River. That's hard! Plus their Curiosity Bait sets include small pieces that your students can use to keep track of the pattern. No one needs to try and draw the state outlines in little boxes to keep track of the pattern.

Now if you are like me, you are probably wondering why patterning isn't found in the CCSS and whether students need it or not. Well my husband is a papyrologist and one night at dinner with one of the leading papyrologists in the world they were lamenting over the difficulty that some of their graduate students were having in reading some ancient greek papyri. To paraphrase our guest, he said, "The students who can find patterns can succeed in translating, but those who can't will never be successful with translating papyri." I was just sitting there flabbergasted, I had never considered that my husband's entire field needed kids who could discover patterns and to top it off, I had just sat through a day of looking at the CCSS in math and had realized that patterning was missing. So bring back patterning in your calendar time, maybe they won't all be papyrologists but learning to see patterns is still important.

Off my soapbox and back to calendar activities - everything else rotates. I really want this to be a review and sometimes even a pre-teach of what's to come. That way it helps us keep all of our math skills. Now this is where you can really make calendar work for you. Think about the skills, strategies, and number sense routines that you want your students to be proficient at. Those are the daily activities you want to rotate through. In first grade I use ten frame boards, but in third grade I used 100 frames. In first grade I use up to 3 digit place value activities, but you can easily expand that for older students or how about throwing a decimal in there. Use hundreds frames for multiplication and division fact families. There are so many ways to focus on the skills your students need. And you can add those to daily pages for your students. I try to focus on one or two activities at the most each day because my calendar time needs to have quick pacing and be done within 15 minutes. But since I rotate through about 8 activities, we do each one just about every week.

I am going to start the year off with some easier pages. There's no need to do something too frustrating for students. I hate tears! This past year it was so hard for my students at the beginning of the year and then when I was watching them in May it really hit me how much they had grown. They were doing pages with ease that caused tears at the beginning of the year. That's when I realized more scaffolding would be better. So I have created some easier pages to start off the year and probably take us through the first term. Whatever your grade level, consider making your daily tasks difficult and let your students grow into them. You can always start out with easier versions and move up to the more difficult. Here are some of my easier pages for the beginning of the year:


Calendar math is just a great way to review math topics continually throughout the year. It's for helping students build number sense and keep up their skills in all areas when you are off on a new topic during your math block. I will keep my students working right along with the whole class as we complete our calendar review each day. I will also continue to use the 1/2 inch three ring bingers. My students keep their calendar binders in a crate laying on it's side - you can see one of them in the picture of the calendar. The other is off too far to the side. I wish I only had 12 students! I 'm using 3 colors so students can find their binder quickly. Each month we staple the pages we have finished together and they take them home and then we put in the next month's pages.
If you teach first grade, I have put together directions for everything on my calendar wall. My First Grade Calendar Math includes all of the activities I use, student pages for the entire year and all of the labels and masters for the wall.
My Monthly Calendar Patterns includes 12 patterns that are appropriate for first grade. They are sold as a set or individually. Each piece is formatted as a 3 1/4 inch square, but you can adjust them to fit any size calendar by changing the custom scale on the print window in Adobe.

Since this week everyone is doing a topic of their choice, you will want to head on over to Where the Magic Happens to find links to other bloggers who are also participating in the Diggin' Into Next Year linky party. I hope you have found some great tips and ideas for a great new year. Thanks for stopping by.