Sunday, September 4, 2016

Math Rotations Help Manage Centers

For a long time I thought of work after kids were finished in Math, only as Centers.  I worked long hours switching out materials and keeping those centers up-to-date, only to stay frustrated that it took so much of my time.

One day, it dawned on me to try things a different way... Math Rotations!  With Math Rotations, I still use centers, but they are just a small part of the big picture, which reduces the prep time that usually goes with setting up centers for a classroom full of kids.

With my Math Rotations, I usually have  4 math stations or rotations, because I have 4 days to teach math.  We are assigned S.T.E.M. Lab on Tuesdays this year.

  1. Math with Mrs. H.
  2. Math by Myself
  3. Computers
  4. Centers

1. Math with Mrs. H. is a opportunity when I remediate or enrich a group of students based on earlier work or prior assessments.  There are times that I need to pull individuals to assess.  For these times, I will replace the words "Math with Mrs. H" with another activity like "Counting Bags".  Doing that, gives all students something to do, and I can just pull individuals as needed.  Above is  picture of my rotational chart prior to completing the assessments that determine student placement in Fluency Folders for Math by Myself.

2. Math by Myself is a opportunity where students work on their math fluency.  I assess kids independently to see which number (1 through 10), they are fluent at,  in other words... which number combinations they know with automaticity.  For each student, I design a math fluency folder with activities based solely around their target number (5 for example).    They have a small "toolbox" with manipulatives of that same number as well (5 two-color counters, 5 red squares, 5 yellow squares, 5 beans, etc).  At the start of the year, before I have their fluency folders created, or when they complete their fluency folder but I haven't re-assessed them yet, I will use this time to give them application material from lessons in class.

3. Computers - You probably already have this one down!  I am fortunate to have 4 student desktop/laptop computers and 3 iPads in my classroom.  If you do not, maybe you have enough for students to play as partners.  I sign them three math sites they will log onto:  Ten Marks, Sum Dog and X-tra Math.  On my iPads, there are other math apps as well.

4. Centers - Now, having kids only rotate through this once each week, centers are so much more manageable!  I feel successful leveling my centers and having it stocked with activities that address the specific skills we are currently working on in the classroom.  All I really need is one activity per level.  Depending on how you plan to level your groups, that could be just two or three activities. (low and high, or low, medium and high)  Once they complete their "required" activity, they are allowed to work on the other one.  I set up colored folders in the center tubs, which are color-coded to match the students' level.

5. Counting Bags - I mentioned this activity above.  If you have 5 full days of Math, and need a fifth rotation, this would be the one I would choose.  From Oriental Trading, I purchased an assortment of little fun-shaped erasers, which we do not use as erasers.  We call them counters.  We have soccer balls, footballs, balls of every sport, puppy dogs, ice cream cones, starbursts, fish of every color, smilie faces, owls, turtles, and more.  I sorted them and put the like shapes in a baggie.  During this rotation, a student chooses a bag of counters and finds a spot on the floor to spend time counting.  As time goes on, I have them begin to record their count on a small post-it note and then verify their count using a hundreds board.  Later in the year, I have them write their prediction first, then write their count, and finally verify.  Before introducing this activity,  I model how I want them to count, which is to make ten-frame arrangements using their counters.  I have found this dramatically improves their accuracy for a number of reasons, the least being that if they get interrupted or loose their place, they can count by tens more easily, to find the number where they left off.

Here is a link to pick up your free Math Rotations Classroom Management Chart for yourself.  There are text boxes provided so you can edit names and activities.  I've used a common font found on most computers, but you can change it to whatever you have that you like.

If this is something you found helpful, I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

SUMMER FREEBIE #2: It's Shark Week!

It's a great week to add free resources to your animal or ocean unit!  Check out these great free SHARK resources, without any of the DANGER!!!

Here is my shark FREEBIE!

Every blog in the Shark Week Blog Hop features a FIN-tastic freebie for you and your students - but hurry!  Shark Week only lasts until Sunday, July 3rd.

Thanks to Jenny at Luckeyfrog's Lilypad and Matt at Digital Divide and Conquer for organizing this annual event! Head on over there and check out the rest of the FIN-tastic freebies!

No need to bare any teeth - you can take a bite out of these awesome classroom resources for free during Shark Week!

Saturday, June 25, 2016


By now, most of you are out of school for the summer! Yeah!!!  We got out before Memorial Day, but my schedule has still been busy.  We started our summer with a beach vacation, which was awesome, and very much needed!   My summer has been packed with kid camps, dental visits, kids' sports physicals, and Vacation Bible School, but all that just ended for the most part.  Now it's time for what I've truly been waiting on... the "lazy days of summer"!  I really just want to lie by the pool and read a good book for days on end!  (without guilt!!!)  How 'bout you?

This float is calling my name!

I do have a few things on my plate to accomplish "at my leisure".

1. Experiment with some new food dishes.  I love watching The Pioneer Woman and Trish Yearwood, and there are so many great dishes I want to try!  I've included the links in the names below the pics in case you want to give them a try as well.  Yum!!!

2. Clean out the playroom. (my least favorite, but most needed item)

3. Make new products for my classroom.  This is what I do when I don't want to get up an clean the house, but still I can look like I'm doing important work in the eyes of my family.  Ha. Ha.

A new item I've been working on was inspired by the movie, Finding Dory, which was great!!  If you haven't seen the movie yet, it's great for the whole family.  I am in the process of making this math center for students to match ten frames with the numerals they represent.  My kiddos will love the fish theme!  Here's a sneak peak!

If you have iPads or other such devices in your classroom, you will definitely want to check out my Back to School QR Codes!  Simply print and laminate and your kiddos will have access to 20 great back to school stories, read aloud to them.  Most have the words visible so they can read along as well.  I've used safe share so that students won't be exposed to unwanted advertisements.  You won't want to miss this.  Just think... access to 20 stories for the cost of one book!  

Summer Freebie #1

Here are some Back to School Bookmarks I've just updated, that you can pick up for FREE.  Print and laminate.  They'll make a nice welcome on the first day of school.  One set is black and white if you think your kiddos will want to color them (laminate after coloring).


I hope you have a restful summer!  Check back soon for more SUMMER FREEBIES!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

End of Year Student Gift and Party

Today was our last day of school!

To begin our day, I wanted our morning work to be a bit more fun, but something that would hold my children's interest for a while.  I got this idea from a follow teacher and quickly saw how much fun they would have, so I went with it.  I covered their group of desks with bulletin board paper, and I put out washable markers, which they almost never get to use.  When they came in I told them they would get to draw all over their area with markers, and they could draw anything they wanted.  They absolutely loved it!  Here's a picture of one of the group's handiwork.

I thought this drawing was so cute!
As the day went one, we played math games, cleaned our desks and looked through all of our folders before packing them for home.  I read stories to them and we worked on our Memory Books.  They loved playing our End of Year Scavenger Hunt.  They looked for friends who loved or were doing certain things mentioned on the scavenger hunt.  You can get your FREE copy by clicking on the name, End Of Year Scavenger Hunt.

All day long, they asked the same question over and over... "Is it time for the party to start?" Finally, it was time!

For the End-of-Year party, we made Ice Cream Sundaes, complete with all the toppings!  While we enjoyed our sweet concoctions, we watched our End-of-Year photo video, featuring all of my sweet kiddos.  After the video, I handed each kid or parent a card with the QR code and link to the End-of-Year photo video, where they can download the video to their own computer.

In addition to the End-of-Year photo video I spoke about in my last post, I like to give my students a little going away present.  I found these colorful beach pails at Dollar General for a buck each.  I used paint pens to personalize a pail for each of my students.

To go inside each pail, I made a treat bag with a few pieces of candy. 

Then I put the treat bag inside beach pail, along with a couple of pieces of sidewalk chalk.  I found a large container of 54 pieces of sidewalk chalk at Hobby Lobby for $6, and using the weekly 40% off coupon, the whole thing was less than $4.  That was about 7 cents for each piece of chalk - a real bargain.

Finally, I gave my sweet kiddos their personalized beach pails to take home and enjoy over the summer, and received in return, some of the sweetest hugs and smiles.  It was a great party to end a great year!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

End of Year Photo Video

In years past, I spent countless hours putting my End-of-Year photo video onto 20 different DVDs to give my parents.  This year, I've come up with a much better solution that saves me TONS of time, not to mention the money I used to pay for those DVDs as well.

This year, I uploaded my End-of-Year photo video to You Tube.  Then I took the url and made a QR code.  I put the QR code on a card to hand out to my parents at the End-of-Year party.  I also included  the direct You Tube link and directions on how to scan the QR code to view the End-of-Year photo video.  To make QR codes, I use the site QR Stuff.

I shared this with my mom and she was so impressed!  She's a retired teacher and my biggest fan!  She made a good point... that the parents could email the QR code to grandparents (her perspective as a grandmother herself) who can't come to the End-of-Year party and they can still see all the photos of their beloved grandchildren!

I have a Mac, so I used iMovie to make the video, buy my PC teacher friend, Michelle uses Movie Maker.  I added the song from Toy Story, You've Got a Friend in Me from my iTunes.  I looked for other "friend" themed songs, but just when I thought I had found one, I would hear something about drinking a beer or a loving a girlfriend! So I ditched the idea and just repeated the same child-appropriate "friend" song over a couple of times.

Here's  a picture of the card (with QR code) I've made to hand out to my parents after I show the video at our End-of-Year party.  I know they will be happy to know they can download the video to their own computers at home.

These are just a few of the photos in our video.  They are not all together like this in the video, just here so you can see several pages at once.  I like to arrange each slide as if I'm looking at a scrapbook page; most with one to four pics per slide.  I started by making these slides in Power Point.  Then I took a screen shot of each page so I could have image files (.jpeg or .png).  I needed image files to make the movie.

I love to hear what other teachers are doing in their classrooms.  If you have a cool end-of-year activity or idea you'd like to share, use the comment button below.  I will check back often to see what is shared.   

Saturday, March 12, 2016

What do you have planed for St. Patrick's Day?

One of the most exciting things to do on St. Patrick's Day for first graders is to have a leprechaun visit  the classroom.  It seems that some leprechauns wreak havoc on the classroom, while others leave a few scattered gold-covered, chocolate coins.  I prefer the latter because I really don't want to clean up the room any more than I already do.

To add to our independent reading this month, I made QR Codes for March read alouds for several books about St. Patrick's Day.

At our school we have B.Y.O.D. (Bring Your Own Device) day every Wednesday, and sometimes on Fridays as well.  We are fortunate to have a few iPads in our classroom as well.  I rotate the classroom iPads and students who don't have one, know they will get a turn next time.  All you need is a QR Code scanner which can be downloaded for free from the app store.

I like these QR codes because they do not show advertisements to my students at the beginning of the read alouds.  My students like them because they have the image of the book on them, and they can easily know which book they are choosing,  not to mention the wonderful stories themselves.

Easter comes in March this year, so I added Easter books in this March set of QR Codes.  I've included several of my favorite books.  Here is a list of the books included.

  • St. Patrick’s Day
  • The Night Before St. Patrick’s Day
  • The History of St. Patrick’s Day
  • That’s What Leprechauns Do
  • Jack and the Leprechaun
  • Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato
  • The Luckiest St. Patrick’s Day Ever
  • There Was and Old Lady Who Swallowed a Clover
  • The Leprechaun’s Gold
  • Fin M’Coul, The Giant of Knockmany Hill
  • The Easter Egg
  • Pete the Cat Big Easter Adventure
  • The Night Before Easter
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit
  • Marley and the Great Easter Egg Hunt
  • The Easter Bunny’s Assistant
  • Bunny Cakes
  • Happy Easter, Curious George
  • Happy Easter, Little Critter
  • Happy Easter, Mouse!
  • The Runaway Bunny

There are times I want my students to respond to a book they've read independently.  Here is a FREE copy of one of the response sheets I use in my classroom.  You can cut it in half and have students paste the sheet into their regular Reader's Notebook.  Another ides is to make a Response Journal and put in several blank copies of this page or others like it.  Then have your students fill out one response per day, or as you desire.

I hope you and your students enjoy St. Patty's Day this March 17th!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Dr. Seuss Week

Well, today was Read Across America Day, the day to celebrate the birthday of that illustrator and author, Theodore Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr Seuss.

  • On Monday, students brought their favorite Dr. Seuss book  to read during reading.  
  • Tuesday was crazy sock day and we read Fox in Socks.  
  • Of course today was Wacky Wednesday and all the children dressed in their wackiest of outfits.  
  • Tomorrow, Thursday students are to wear green for the Grinch, or their favorite Dr. Seuss shirt.  
  • On Friday, we're all wearing hats and reading The Cat in the Hat.  

I used these along with our iPads and a tub of about 10 classroom Dr. Seuss books to rotate around the students during independent reading time all week.  The kids have had a blast!

This morning our principal dressed up as the Cat in the Hat and two of her sidekicks helped out as Thing 1 and Thing 2.  Here are a few pictures as they entertained the whole first grade.


In math, we have been working so hard to learn all the combinations of numbers one to ten, so I came up with this activity to give them a bit of fun as they practiced.  I called it the Name and Number Cat Hat.  I decided to do this during math rotations so I could work with just four or five in a small group.

I wrote each student's name on a white strip that served as the rim or base of the hat.  I gave them a large sheet of black construction paper and a stack of red and white 2 in. x 6 in.  rectangles.  I took a bag of snap cubes and instructed the children to count the letters in their name, and then pull out that same number of snap cubes from a bag I showed them.

To make the number combinations, we started with all of their cubes on one side of the black paper and none on the other.  Then they recorded a number sentence on a red rectangle to begin, like 0 + 6 = 6.  Next, the students moved only one block to the other side of the paper, picked up a white rectangle and recorded that number sentence, like 1 + 5 = 6.  This continued until all the cubes were on the other side of the paper and all the number combinations were recorded.

It was a great day!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Five For Friday

On Wednesdays, our school has "B.Y.O.D. Day".  Our planned activity Wednesday was a review of time, which we recently finished.  We got these QR Codes on Time as a freebie from Teaching With Heart in Texas.  My kiddos loved that the QR codes were posted around the room so they could hunt for them!  In the beginning we were low-tech; students had to simply read the clocks and record the time shown, on their answer sheet.  After all answers were written, I exchanged their pencils for pens, to ensure no answers would be changed.  Then they moved around the room with a partner and used their devices to check their answers.  They were all so engaged and loved it!

We have been learning how to measure.  Here you can see students working in pairs to measure a length of tape on the floor.  Earlier I put down 8 different length pieces of colored tape.  I numbered them 1-8.  We folded a piece of blank paper into quarters for each student. The students wrote an answer for each length of tape in a square. They measured using traced cut-outs of their own feet.  We leaned the importance of lining each foot up so that they were touching, but avoiding overlapping and space between.  We also discussed the importance of using the same size object to measure.   Therefore, they did not share their feet cut-outs, since that would mean using different size objects to measure.  We have some "t-niney" (tiny) feet and some great BIG feet in our classroom this year!

To prepare for next week's Read Across America day, I just finished making 20 QR codes for 20 different Dr. Seuss books.  I wanted my kiddos not to just hear the words read to them, but to also see the words as well.  These videos show the words in them so the students can read as they listen.  I'm super excited to share them with my kiddos next week!  I know they'll love them.

If you want to pick up your own set, click on the title below.  
It's basically like getting 20 books for only $5.00.  
You just can't beat that!

In reading, we've been reading from Readers' Theaters.  I have several printed already and in folders for them to use with their reading partners. Each day we had a lesson that involved reading a script.  The lesson were fluency focused - noticing punctuation, reading rate, voice inflection, reading with expression, deciding on what emotion was needed for certain phrases, etc.  At the start of the week, I pulled my lowest readers to my group and we read through scripts together, giving them the needed support to decode and understand what they were reading.  My students were so engaged and on task the entire time they were reading with their partners.  They just loved these scripts!

My last event photographed was at the end of the day today.  At our school, when students are caught doing good, exhibiting the desired behavior expectations, they will often earn and Eagle Buck (our mascot is an eagle).  They put their name on their Eagle Buck and put it in the Eagle Buck Jar.  They earn many throughout the week.  On Fridays, I pull 5 names from the Eagle Buck Jar to choose a treasure from the treasure box.  They do not let me forget to pull these names!  
These were 4 of our proud treasure winners!  

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