Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Top 10 Math Tools for Your Primary Classroom

Getting ready for a new school year?  Well, I am here to help you decide what are some of your MUSTS for math. 

Must have math tools; primary math

There are so many resources for math that it is hard to decide what you really need.  Let me help you!

1.  Dice

Dice, Game, Luck, Gambling, Cubes, Red, Violet, Lilac

A classroom must is DICE.  We use them every day.  Most math games require dice.   If you have to have dice, why not get them in pretty colors?  The second link is for dice in dice which are fabulous fun and useful for larger numbers.

2.  Unifix Cubes

My classroom could not run without unifix cubes.  We use them for addition, subtraction, building sets, place value, measurement and data.  I have hundreds of them!  My firsties love to play with them during Friday Fun, too!

3.  Number lines

math; first grade

math; first grade

Number lines are vital for addition and subtraction.  We use these to learn to count up.  I photocopy number lines onto thick cardstock and laminate them.  This way students may draw hops up or back and wash to erase.  These number lines are available for free on my TPT store.  Get them here.

I also have a class set of these number lines from Really Good Stuff.  The students love to use these!  They make math fun.

4.  Polydrons

common core; geometry

We love polydrons! They make a great math station and children must problem solve to use them.  Polydrons are my top geometry tool because they work on spatial reasoning, fine motor skills, problem solving, composing and decomposing shapes all while learning geometry.

5.  Rekenreks

number sense; math; first grade; common core

Rekenreks are essential in my math classroom.  Rekenreks show groups of five and ten.  This is so important to build number sense and work in a base ten system.  They help students learn to subitize; which is one of the most important math skills.  I have a top selling pack on Teachers Pay Teachers as well. 

I made colorful rekenrek bracelets for the beginning of the year for ten facts.  I used pipe cleaners and pony beads.  I taped the end of the pipe cleaners to stop them from fraying.  We have used these for 3 years now and they still look like new.

I use rekenreks for phonemic awareness and phonics, too.  Students slide a bead for each sound they hear in a word. 

Here are a few other alternatives for rekenreks:

6.  Ten Frames

Ten frames are another necessity in your primary math classroom. We play ten frame (and twenty frame) flash for subitizing, add and subtract on the number mats, compose and decompose numbers, partition numbers  and draw them to solve problems. 
My Math Lessons and Games pack has printable ten frames if buying them is out of the question.  You could print out a blank ten frame and use unifix cubes or some sort of marker to build on them.

Here are some of the ten frames I own:

7.  Cards

There are so many uses for playing cards that I must have lots and lots in my class.  I use regular cards and Uno Cards.

facts of ten; number sense; common core

This is one of my students favorite games.  It's so good for them because it helps them get a solid understanding of all the ways to make ten.  Use two sets of Uno cards {1-9} and shuffle them.  Students lay out the cards like they would for concentration.  They turn over to get two cards that equal ten.  When all the cards are gone, whoever has the most cards, wins.

8.  Number grids

We use these to count up and count back.  We look for patterns.  We count by tens.  Number grids are the best!  I have these free in my Caddy Pack resource.  Print them out on cardstock and laminate so students can write on them.


9.  Pattern blocks

Patterning is an important primary skill! Students not only learn how to continue patterns with pattern blocks, they can make patterns, compose figures made of pattern blocks and learn shape attributes.

10.  Geoboards

Geoboards are an excellent tool for geometry.  Children learn attributes of shapes.  They can make circles.  Students can even show equal parts and fractions of shapes on geoboards.

What do you think are must have tools for math?  I'd love to know.  Please reply with your favorites!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Chapter Books for 1st Grade

I always schedule reading right after lunch.  I love this time of the day.  The students settle in from recess and lunch and just enjoy a book.  What a great way to set the tone for the afternoon.

I read all kinds of books during read aloud.

I read favorites, like Mo Willems or Pete the Cat. 

I read books I used for teaching but now want the kids to enjoy, like Surprising Sharks by Nicola Davies, The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli, or This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen.

I read books that make us think like Oliver Button is a Sissy by Tomie de Paola orThose Shoes by Maribeth Boelts. 

I reread old favorites like Mrs. Wishy-Washy by Joy Cowley or In a Dark, Dark Wood.

I love this time because I get to do one of my favorite things -READ  and I get to share my love of reading.  There are no activities to do afterwards, just talk and share what we thought about the book, the characters, the plot, etc.

During this time, I frequently read chapter books.  I am quite picky about the chapter books I read and want to share a wide variety of books. 

Here are some of my tried and true favorites.

Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride by Kate diCamillo

My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett {I read the entire trilogy to my firsties}

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

The Chicken Squad by Doreen Cronin

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate diCamillo

Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows

Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel

Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid by Megan McDonald

Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary

Junie B, First Grader, Cheater Pants by Barbara Park

The 100 Dresses by Eleanor Estes

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

Check out some of these books this summer.  You may find a new favorite for your class! 

If you know of any other great first grade books for read aloud, please share in the comments!!
Thank you

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Writing Mid-Year and a Freebie

Writing in first grade is ever changing.  When students first enter our classrooms, the range of abilities is diverse.  We have students who cannot write their names, those who don't know all their letter sounds, to those who are really writing. 
Common Core standards are written for the end of the year so it is hard to tell if students are progressing and will meet those standards.  Over the past couple of years I have been documenting student growth so I may successfully predict whether a child will meet or exceed end of year expectations.
My colleagues and I spiral writing instruction so students will remember the three major types of writing.  We enjoy teaching how-to writing mid-year in our second round of informative writing.  Students know how to write so we can focus on introduction and closing sentences as well as transition words.
I had been using various TPT products to teach how-to writing but they did not include room for topic sentences (which in first grade is just introducing the topic) nor did they include room for a closing.  First graders need to provide some sense of closure by the end of the year.
This year we focused on engaging, hands-on activities to teach writing.
First, I modeled how to make something.  Then, I broke down each part of the writing step by step.  For the introduction, I showed students what we were making and what is needed to make it.  Students told the introduction to their elbow partner and then switched.  They show me they are done like this:

oral rehearsal

Next, I model step by step.  After each step, students orally rehearse what they will write with their elbow partners.

elbow partners; informational writing

Of course, they get to have whatever it is we made!

hands on learning
Here is my good friend, Debbie.  I had her wonderful daughter, Cayla,  in my class a long time ago.  Cayla is now in 10th grade.

Oral rehearsal is imperative in writing.  If students can say it, they can write it.  This, paired with visuals, and, in some cases, actually completing the task, ensures that all students will be successful.

When we made s'mores, I gave students all the ingredients.  They wrote their introduction.  Then, we put the chocolate on top of the graham cracker and wrote the first step.  We continued to make the s'more while writing until we were done.  Students were extremely successful with this writing.

how to blow a bubble

One of my favorite how-to's is how to blow a bubble.  The students are always SHOCKED that I actually let them chew gum in school.  It is so fun watching the firsties try to blow a bubble.  I can really see who is determined and persistent and who gives up. It's a great lesson on practice makes perfect!

bulletin board; writing
This is the bulletin board we make for How to Blow a Bubble.  I give students skin colored paper and they make their face.  We tape a blown up balloon to their mouths as if they are blowing a bubble.

how to build a snowman
How to Build a Snowman
Students actually make a paper snowman

Once students know what to do, it is time for them to be independent.  Here is a great writing activity for How to Build a Snowman.  I give students all of the paper materials they need and they write a how-to.

how to build a snowman

how to build a snowman

how to build a snowman

how to build a snowman

how to build a snowman

How to Build a Snowman is a great culminating activity that is perfect for assessing your writers.

Looks fun, right?  Why don't you test it out for yourself?  All of these items are free in my TPT store!

Get it here:


Friday, January 1, 2016

5 Tips for a Happy Classroom

Let's face it: We spend a lot of time at school.  

Some days I feel like I spend more time at school than at home. 

Many of us bring school home as well.  

When you think about school, our students, our job, do you smile? 

Are you happy with what you've created in your classroom?  

Do you look forward to going to work?  

When you talk to friends and family about your classroom, is it positive?

I can honestly say that I would answer yes to all of the above.  It hasn't always been like this.  I'd like to share with you some effective, easy tips that I employ to ensure a happy classroom.

tips, greet each child

Take the time to personally greet each child every single day.  I do this by going out to the playground 3 minutes early.  I walk down the line saying good morning to each student and telling them what a great day I have planned for them.  This also gives me time to monitor moods, reassure students, talk with parents, and spread joy.
If students are tardy, I greet them as soon as they come in. I try to quickly catch them up and reassure them that we are going to have a wonderful day.

build trusting relationships

Take the time to get to know each and every student.  Learn about their families, siblings, pets, likes, hobbies...everything.
I begin at the start of the year.  I learn about 2 kids a day (1 in the morning, 1 in the afternoon).  I take notes, too. I add to the notes all year long.  Some of the notes I take are not from personal conversations. I let students talk throughout the day at appropriate times and listen.  It is a great way to learn about the people you spend your day with.

know your students

This not only helps me remember what they've told me but provide incentives, have personal conversations, and even help them come up with ideas when writing.  Children are more invested in taking risks when they know that you truly care about them.

Students know if you really care about them and this is a simple way to invest in your students.
Trusting relationships are key when building a happy classroom.  And for those few times when things may not be totally happy, knowing students on a deeper level will help you connect, remind, and reinforce behaviors more effectively.

celebrate personal growth

Children naturally compare themselves to their classmates.  They know where they stand even if you never publicly announce it.  They know who is a super speller, amazing mathematician, voracious reader, etc.
This pecking order motivates some students but not most.  For some it makes them feel as if they are not good enough or will never be good in a certain area.
Remind kids that no one's educational journey is the same.  As long as they are working hard and putting in the effort, even small gains are glorious.
 Know where your students are academically.  Help them create small, attainable goals.  Be their cheerleader.  Celebrate when they reach those goals focusing on the effort they put in.

This year I have a little guy who wrote in circles, even his name.  At first I got a few lines of circles.  With encouragement, I began to get pages of circles.  Then, with a challenge from myself, letters started appearing in the circles.  Next, we made a goal to write in only letters.  He rose to the occasion.  He wrote beginning sounds of words.  The next goal we made was beginning and ending sounds.  No problem!  In less than a week he did it.  Currently he is writing short stories that are readable.  It takes him awhile, as writing is difficult for him, but he persists.
When making the goals with the students it is easy to focus on what the students should  be doing.  Curb that desire and try your hardest to think about the most logical next step.  Break it down so the student can attain it.  Once they do, put your heads together to come up with the next goal.
Not only will this build self-esteem but it will allow children to see when they put forth effort they can do anything.

My mantra is, "Give me a hug or a high five before you leave so I can see who you are leaving with and tell you I'll miss you".  It's just as important as greeting them in the morning.
 I started this to make sure everyone was with the people they were supposed to be with, but I continue it because I think every child wants to know that you cannot wait to see them tomorrow as well as knowing they are safe and secure.

Have fun

Who doesn't like having fun?  It makes the day go by faster and helps us learn.  If elementary school feels like all work and no play, we are doing students a disservice.  I know all the new standards, tests, mandates, teacher evaluation are trying to take the joy out of teaching and learning.
I promise students will  learn more if they are having fun.

Here are some ways we have fun:
1.  Do brain breaks together (Yes, I do it, too)
2.  Make fun of ourselves
3.  Tell jokes
4.  Do chair share during Writer's Workshop
5.  Have Friday Fun weekly.  We play with play dough, dot paints, Legos, smelly markers, dance, make jewelry, play school, etc.
6. Sing our way through the day
7. Make secret handshakes
9.  Do class cheers
10. Have group hugs
12.  Play opposite day
13. Debate
14.   Play with the kids
15. Go Noodle
The list goes on and on ...

Sneak little moments of fun into your day and you will have a happy classroom!

Here is to a ridiculously amazing 2016!

Want to read more?  Click below to find out what first grade teachers are talking about!

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Hi!  I am so excited to tell you about this Swap Meet.  Heidi Martin of Droppin' Knowledge and I chose a product to trade and review. 
I chose Heidi's Speed Read (All Year Long!) because I have a bunch of young learners who need active, fun ways to learn their sight words. 
 My class LOVES this product.  When I tell them we're going to do it, they cheer.  The best part is, they are learning their sight words.  I even sent copies home for students to play at home.  One of my little boys has learned 20 additional sight words since we've begun!  That's amazing.
There are 18 levels to this product for students to work their way through.  They get progressively more difficult so it is easy to use. 
Students can play with a partner, or by themselves.

Students roll the dice and then read all the words in that column as fluently as they can.
If students correctly read a column and are playing with a partner, I allow them to give themselves a point at the bottom of the column.

Students use two different colors to keep track of their points.

I love how quickly students can move up levels!

 This is such a fun, effective product and a great way for your little learners to read sight words!
Now, go and check out the rest of the hop!  Keep track of the letters on every other blog to spell out the secret word.
a Rafflecopter giveaway