Friday, October 21, 2016

Free Number Line Activities Your Students Will Love

I have a confession, number lines are not my favorite tools for adding and subtracting with my young learners.  I always teach how to use them, but I don't spend very much time on them.  My main issue is that, students will not always have access to a number line.  I don't want them dependent on a tool that they may or may not be able to get their hands on.
However, after doing a bit of research about some of the additional benefits of number line learning, I started to rethink my feelings about them.  Besides solving basic addition and subtraction equations, familiarity with number lines helps students as they work with all sorts of other math tools.  Graphs, thermometers, clocks, and rulers all include number lines.  
Not only can our work counting forward and backward on a number line help us to add and subtract, it can also lay the group work for upcoming mathematical concepts.

Since I had a change of heart about the importance of number lines, I decided to devote more time to them this year.  Here are a couple of quick activities I used with my students that they really enjoyed.
First up is our Life-Size Number Line.  I used this big number line for a whole group activity, but you can easily adapt it for a small group or center activity.
I created it by printing the numbers 1-20 and laminating them.  I made my line with some masking tape and then placed the numbers on top.  The line wasn't straight and the numbers were't perfectly spaced, but that didn't matter at all.
I made several slides for our interactive white board with basic addition and subtraction equations.  (A regular white board will work just as well.) 

Students came to the number line individually.  They read the equation to the class and then they solved it on the number line.  They loved it so much that I used it with them the next day to solve word problems.  (one prep and two activities #forthewin)
Not only did the kids love it, I really liked using the Life-Size Number Line because it was an easy way to make sure students understood how to correctly move the number line.

If you would like to use this activity with your students, click on the picture below for a free copy of the Life-Size Number Line .

Another number line activity I incorporated was a quick and easy number line game.  (I'm always looking for ways to use my Target Dollar Spot erasers and this activity was perfect.)  All you need are some kind of game pieces, a number line, and a spinner (if you don't have a spinner, just use a paper clip and a pencil).  This game works well with two to three players.

To play, students take turns spinning.  If a student lands on plus five, he moves his game piece forward five spaces.  If he spins minus two, he moves his piece back two spaces.  The game continues until the first player reaches the end of the number line.
This activity was wonderful practice for students counting on and counting back.  Since we've covered addition and are nearing the end of our subtraction unit, the Number Line Spinner game gave students a chance to begin mixing their facts.

I plan on adding this game to our Early Finishers menu since the rules are so simple and there are so few pieces.  
If you'd like a FREE copy of this my Number Line Spinner game, click on the picture below.

There you have it, two simple ways to add a little more variety to your number line routine.
Thank you so much for stopping by.
Happy teaching!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Teacher Week 2016

Hi busy teacher friends.
I hope you had a great week.
I can't believe it, but we just wrapped up week six of our new school year.  My sweet little class is in the groove and I'm so grateful.
This week is also Teacher Week with Bloghoppin.'  I've always wanted to participate in Teacher Week and this year they made it super easy.  Instead of a blog post each day, we were encouraged to do an Instagram post on a given topic.  (See the list below.)

I'm a fan of teacher ideas on Instagram, so this format seemed like a great idea and manageable.

Monday was meet Me Monday.
I shared that I'm involved with my church.  It is so important to me that my family has a place to learn more and grow in our spiritual walk.  My church also offers many opportunities to serve others within the church and through outreach.
I shared about my family.  I have a 9 year old daughter and and I've been married to my husband since 2000.  They are my true happiness,  I LOVE spending time with them.  Another special part of our family are our pets.  To date, we have one senior dog, one cat, two bunnies, and two birds (that are actually class pets, but my daughter claims them as part of our household as well).
I shared about some of my favorite entertainers, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.  These ladies are so smart and so funny.  Ask me any trivia question about Parks and Rec or 30 Rock and I'm pretty sure I'll know the answer.
I shared about my affinity for monograms, cardigans, and ballet flats.  On most days you will find me in one or all of these items.
I also shared one of my favorite musicians, Jack Johnson.  On the drive home, I listen to Jack Johnson.  His music is so calming and happy.
Finally, I shared about my addiction to cardio workouts.  Like most of you, I don't have a huge amount of time to workout each day.  But, I try to squeeze in (at least) a thirty minute cardio session six days a week.  I really don't like missing.  Currently my go-to cardio workout is treadmill running (while watching old episodes of Modern Family, 30 Rock, and Parks and Rec).

Tuesday was Teaching Tuesday.
On Tuesday we were supposed to post a picture of ourselves teaching a favorite lesson.
I posted a picture of a read aloud.  Read aloud is one of my favorite times of day.  Most of my students love read alouds too.
I usually start my writing lessons with a great mentor text read alouds.  In this picture I'm introducing the Rule of Three (click here to read a post about the Rule of Three).  I use the Rule of Three to help my first graders (eventually) write coherent paragraphs.
Read alouds are great jumping off points for so many lessons in a variety of subjects.

Teaching Tuesday was followed by Where I Work Wednesday.
For Where I Work Wednesday, I posted some pics from around my class.  I haven't had a chance to share pictures from this year's classroom, so below you can get a little peak.

In this post I included:
1.  a view of my class as you enter
2.  my vintage 1970's cabinets with a fresh coat of white paint and clips to display student work
3.  our word wall, student book boxes, and the class library
4.  our class pet budgies, Click and Clack
5.  my teacher desk
6.  our gathering area

Thursday was something near and dear to my heart, show your teacher style with Threads Thursday.

I enjoy clothes, shoes, and assessories.  I'm always on the lookout for comfortable and cute teacher outfits.  At my age, I'm pretty aware of colors and cuts that are flattering for me.
I wear lots of dresses when it hot out.  I like Lilly Pulitzer, J. Crew, and Boden for knit dresses.  I really like Tory Burch Miller sandals.  Not only do they hold up really well, they also come in some fabulous colors.
I almost always have a cardigan sweater with me.  I like being able to shed or add layers when needed.  I get most of my cardigans from J. Crew.
When it gets a little cooler, I do wear pants.  I have quite a few pairs of toothpick cut jeans and pants.  I get a lot of my pants/jeans through J. Crew's factory site.  They have enough stretch in them to make them super comfortable.
When it's too cold for sandals, I wear some boots and loads of ballet flats.  My favorite ballet flats are Tieks and Tory Burch Minnies.  Both brands offer great colors and patterns.

Friday's theme was Friends Friday.
When I think of friends, my mind first goes to my awesome college roommates.  We all live too far away from each other now, but when we get together it feels just like we were never apart.  I can't believe it has been over 20 years since I first met these ladies at the University of Tennessee.
I must say, it is a lot of fun to (briefly) feel like a 20 something again.  Being with these BFFs will do it.

There you have it, a rundown of my first Teacher Week.  If you would like to read more, be sure to visit Blog Hoppin'.  You can also enter #bhteacherweek16 on Instagram to view more great teacher pics.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Classroom Library Made Simple (Including FREE Library Labels and a Leveling Guide)

The primary classroom library...don't you just love seeing how other teachers organize and display books for their students?  It's so inspiring to see all the colorful totes and organized labels that make up these libraries.
This summer I did a major redo of my library.  It was not because of it's aesthetics or it's lack of organization.  It was because of it's function with my emerging readers.
Over the past few years my library has basically been grouped by topics or by author.  I use The Daily 5 with by students.  In The Daily 5, the authors really emphasize the importance of students picking "Good Fit Books."  Books that students are interested in and (here's the important part) can read.
I have found that the can read part is super tricky for young learners.  I have spent countless lessons and conferences talking about (and modeling) how to pick a Good Fit Book.  Most of my students have no problem picking a book that they are interested in.  However, picking a book that is on their reading level has been almost impossible for most of my students.
I really thought I was failing at teaching kids how to pick Good Fit Books, until I read The Reading Strategies Book:  Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers by Jennifer Serravallo.  This book breaks reading strategies down by reading level.  (It's fabulous!)
As I went through the text, I came upon the lesson about how to teach students to pick appropriate books.  Serravallo recommends teaching level J (and above) students how to pick appropriate books based on interest and readability.  A bell went off in my head.  No wonder!  No wonder I was not seeing students pick books they could read.  Most of my students are reading on a level B or C when they come to me out of Kindergarten.  Picking Good Fit Books will not be in (most of) their skill sets for a while.
With all of that being said, I knew leaving my library grouped by topic and author was not the set up that would work best for most of my students.  I knew they needed the supported of a leveled library to help them pick books they can actually read.

Having decided to scaffold my library so that my students would pick their Good Fit books from a more limited range, I took every book off the shelf and started sorting.
To sort my books by level, I used a Reading Levels Guide (like the one pictured below) and has thousands of titles that you can search.  It will tell you the grade equivalency for many of your classroom books.
To label my books with a Fountas and Pinnell guided reading levels, I had to cross reference the Reading Levels Guide.

As I went, I grouped the books by grade level.  I wrote the grade levels on a piece of paper to go with each book stack.  I also put a post-it on each book to with it's specific grade level.

After all the books were grouped.  I put leveled stickers on the back.  If there was already a sticker from my previous library system, I just put a new sticker on top on the old.
After I labeled all my class library books with the level stickers.  I began putting together my library totes.  I ordered them from Really Good Stuff for Teachers.  I chose clear totes, just in case I decide to redecorate.  I figure clear will go with anything.
I made library tote labels, laminated them, and them hot glued them to each tote.
Once all the labels were on the totes.  I filled them with the books.

I'm happy with how my new library turned out.  Yes, it was time consuming, but totally worth it.  After some beginning of the year assessments, my students know exactly what totes to pick from and exactly where to return the books when they are finished.

On a related note, the boxes on top of the shelf are individual book boxes for each student.  I ordered them from The Container Store.  I hot glued each student's name on a box.  (I also taped that same name label on the shelf.  This year my little sweeties wouldn't stop rearranging the boxes so that their box was beside their friend's box.  So the name place holder on the shelf solved that silly issue.)
Students shop for books from the class library once a week.  They can also bring a book from home.  Having individual book boxes is a great way to keep students from constantly browsing the class library instead of reading.

If you are interested in using the Reading Levels Guide or the leveled library labels, click on the picture below.  They are both included in my Free Classroom Libray Labels packet.

How you organize your library is totally up to you.  But it is a very important part of your classroom. Students should be able to understand how your library runs and take good care of it.  It should not be a messy pile of books on a shelf or (worse yet) a set of neatly shelved books that students do not get to touch.
The library is the heart of the classroom.  Your students will greatly benefit from a well organized and well stocked classroom library full of books that they can and want to read.

Thanks for stopping by.


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Make a Custom Banner for Your Classroom

I just wrapped up a huge classroom redecorating project last night (two days before our new school year started).  I'm not going to lie, there was lots of painting, reorganizing, and obsessing over various elements in the classroom.  There is a reason I do not redecorate very often, it's a lot of work.  Plus, it can be expensive.
One way I saved a little money was by making my own pennant banners.  I love the way they look and (as it turns out) are super simple to make.

Here's what to do...

First, decide what colors you want your banner.  I went with watercolor shades of rainbow colors.  I used digital paper, instead of scrapbook paper or construction paper.  (That way the computer does all your measuring for you.)
You can find digital paper online for free.  I got what I needed at teachers pay teachers.

After selecting your digital paper, insert a sheet on a power point slide.  (You can use any computer program that allows you to crop pictures into shapes).  I use power point for everything, so that's what I went with.

After placing the paper on the slide.  Crop it by selecting crop to shape and choosing the triangle (or whatever shape you want your banner to be).

After cropping the shape, it should look something like this:

You can adjust the size of your shape easily by setting the dimensions or dragging it to the size you want.

After creating all the shapes you need for your banner, print them.  Then laminate and cut them out.  After cutting all your shapes, punch two wholes for ribbon stringing purposes.

Next, string all the triangles onto a ribbon.

Once you've strung the triangles, you have an adorable custom banner for your classroom.

You can make your banner as long or short as you want.  You can make it with any colors or patterns you want.  You can even insert text to clip art.  These banners are really easy and fairly quick to make.  If you've been thinking about using this type of decoration in your classroom, you should definitely give making your own custom banner a try.
Have a great week.


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Bright Beginnings: Back to School Math and Literacy Centers

As you all know, teachers work during the summer.  We are gathering materials, revamping pacing guides, redoing classrooms, attending workshops, reading professional books, and hitting the Target dollar spot (hard).
Summer is the perfect opportunity to reflect on what worked and what didn't work.  It is a time to really think about how to implement a new strategy.
Yes, friends...teachers work during the summer.

One project I've taken on this summer is revamping many of my monthly literacy and math centers.  I've been using these centers for the past three years and loved having them as a resources.  But, now it's time for a little (and in some cases big) makeover.
I wanted to give you a peek at the progress I've made this far...
First up is my back to school math centers...

These math centers include practice with numeracy, counting, early addition, ten frames, tally marks, and more.  Below is a sampling of the updated centers in my Bright Beginnings {10 Back to School Themed Math Centers}.

The companion literacy centers, Bright Beginnings {10 Back to School Themed Literacy Centers} have been completely updated as well.

These literacy centers include practice initial consonant sounds, letter discrimination, cvc words, syllables, rhyming words, sight words, and more.

These center sets were created for my first grade class.  However, they would be great for beginning of the year second graders (that might below level) or perfect for high flying kindergartners.
If you already own these centers, be sure to download the updates.  If you are interested in adding these resources to your back to school collection, you can click here for more details.
I hope you are having a wonderful summer.  Thanks so much for stopping by.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Making the Most of Time During the Last Weeks of School: Ideas, Freebies, and Resources

It goes without saying, the end of the year is CR A Z Y.  The kids are off the chart excited (the diplomatic way of saying WILD).  There are grades and assessments to complete.  There are records and other paper work to be tended to.  There is a classroom to clean out, organize, and shutdown for the summer.  Plus, there are all those special, fun days that you put off until all the major testing is over.
Whew...I've been on summer break for about a week and I'm still breaking out in a little sweat thinking about the last few weeks of school. ;)

After 16 year is the classroom, there are a couple of tips I have for ending the school year with your sanity intact.
First, start working on all your extra stuff early.  Do not wait until the last minute to try to organize field day, put together end of the year gifts for your students, do grades, and finish permanent record cards.  Take care of as many details as you can before you hit the last couple of weeks.
My second tip is to keep your students busy, busy, busy.  You may have already covered all of your essential standards.  Your students may be struggling to fully focus.  But, you need to keep them moving ahead in their learning.  Plus, from my experience, students behave much better when they are engaged and have tasks to complete.

Here are some fun end of the year/summer inspired activities we did during the last weeks of school...
I love having student work on display.  I have a spot in the hallway where I hang student work and I also put display pieces in my classroom.  At the end of the year, it can get a little too hectic to change out student work, so I put together a simple summer writing craftivity that took little to no time to prep.
Students wrote about their plans or things they would like to do this summer.  They really got into this assignment.  In the end, we had a colorful display to remind us that summer break was just around the corner.

If you would like to use this writing craftivity with your students, it's free at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  You can click on the picture below for more details.

We also worked on some (hot off the press) literacy and math centers.  For the past couple of years, I've intended to round out my literacy and math centers with sets that are end of the year and summer inspired.  However, since the end of the year is the way it is...I have ran out of steam before I completed my project.
But, this year was different.  I stayed up late several nights and managed to finish up these long awaited resources.  To tell you the truth, it was pretty fun putting these sets together.  They served as a great review of many skills we practiced during the year.  I could really see how far my young learners have come.
Pictured below are a couple of the literacy centers students worked with during the final weeks.

These literacy centers (and nine others-there is a bonus 11th center as well) are part of my Excellent Endings {10 Literacy Centers for the End of the Year} packet.  The centers in Excellent Endings include work with adjectives, synonyms/antonyms, syllables, pronouns, verbs, sight words, vowel teams, contractions, and more.  You can click here if you'd like more details.

We also kept busy with the companion set of math centers, Excellent Endings {10 Math Centers for the End of the Year}.  Pictured below are a couple of centers from this packet.

There are a total of eleven math centers in my Excellent Endings {10 Math Centers for the End of the Year}.    (This packet also includes a bonus 11th center.)  The centers in Excellent Endings include practice with fact families, place value, geometry, time to the half hour, double digit addition/subtraction, fractions, and more.  You can click here if you'd like more details.

These end of the year literacy and math centers offered a good deal of flexibility and quality skill practice during the last weeks of school.
In addition to our center work, another end of the year project I love is my Graduation Glyph.  We've made these glyphs for the past few years and they always turn out so cute.
Like with all glyphs, students answer questions to determine details about their project.

We used our glyphs for some data collection to help complete our end of the year memory booklets.  When we finished, students autographed each others' booklets.  (They loved this part.)
If you would like more info about my Graduation Glyph {A Fun End of the Year Craftivity and Memory Booklet}, just click here.

Besides keeping my kids occupied, (like I mentioned before) there are quiet a few responsibilities that get added to teachers' plates at the end of the year.  One responsibility we have at our school is to put together a little something for our classes during Awards Day.  
This year we had the option of doing awards with our students in our own classrooms, instead of in the auditorium with the entire grade.  We opted for doing awards in our classes and I went to work making some new superlative awards for my almost second graders.
It was nice to reflect back on the year and about my students' accomplishments, personalities, and interests.  All the students loved hearing about their special awards and why they are so deserving.  We had a great time.
I created the awards in full color and in ink saver, backline.  I went back and forth on which version to use.  In the end, I decided to go with the ink saver on some bright and colorful paper.

My End of the Year Student Awards are also available at my store.  They are editable and include girl and boy versions of all of the awards.  You can click on the picture below for more information.

Student awards and end of the year gifts are definitely tasks that you can get an early start on.  For this year's gifts, I gave each student a book and personalized bookmark.  
Scholastic books is a great resource when you are trying to outfit your entire class with the same book.  I was so excited to see this Ready Freddy Second Grade Rules on sale for $1.  #score

Many of my firsties were pretty proud to be leaving for the summer with their very own chapter book.
If you would like a free (and editable) copy of the bookmarks I gave to my students, you can click here.

I hope some of these ideas and resources are a help to you as you wrap up your school year.  If you get an early start on some of your extra responsibilities and keep your students involved with meaningful activities, the end of the year will way less stressful.
Thanks for stopping by.