Sunday, February 16, 2020

Cookie Arrays

Arrays aren't always an exciting topic to teach, but cookie arrays will hook your kids for sure!

In this array lesson,  kids were engaged, the practice was differentiated and it was a great way to end a week of learning about arrays.

For this lesson, I used:
  • aluminum foil to use as baking trays
  • cookie clipart- )These aren't the ones I used but you can find black and white chocolate chip cookies here)
  • scissors
  • glue sticks
  • index card

Lesson Prep
  • tearing off aluminum foil sheets
  • cut out blocks of cookies in different array numbers (I used 4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 15, 20, 25 and 30)
How To
  • Reviewed vocabulary- row, column, equation, repeated addition
  • Each student got a cookie tray and sheet of cookies to cut out (This is how I differentiated!  Each student got a different amount of cookies to form into an array based on need.)
  • Students cut the cookies out and arranged them on a tray.
  • After students got their cookie arrangement approved, they glued the cookies and colored them.
  • After gluing the cookies, students wrote a repeated addition equation to show how many cookies they had.
Other Thoughts
  • I used Christmas cookies, but you could use regular cookies or cookies for any holiday!
  • How fun would it be to actually bake cookies?  That sounds like a great homeschool lesson!
I loved this lesson for a couple of reasons!

For one thing, the differentiation was so easy.  Students who were struggling received a small number of cookies (4, 6, 8, 9).  Students who had a fair grasp received a middle amount (12, 15, 20) and my students ready for a challenge received a large number of cookies (25 or 30).

I also loved this lesson because the kids LOVED this activity!  They were happy and engaged while they worked!  (Also, admin did a walk through and THEY loved this lesson!)

What is your favorite activity when teaching arrays? Drop me a note a let me know!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Powerful Goal Setting in the Classroom with 5 Easy Steps

January is a popular time for setting goals and making resolutions. I always feel fresh and ready to take on the world at the start of the new year!

January can be a good time to help students create some goals for their learning too. Setting a goal to work towards is one-way students can take ownership of their learning.
Here are 5 ways to help students set goals and work towards them.
#1- Keep it simple, attainable and measurable.
When I set goals with my students, we start with everyone having the same type of goal. I usually start with reading level growth because it is huge in my state. (I want to be clear here! I felt very much like this was a necessary evil! I strongly disliked setting reading level goals!) I met with every child one on one and we talked about where they wanted to grow and how many levels they thought they could grow. Then we split it into blocks for the 9 year and set mini-goals for each nine weeks. For example, if a student thought they could grow 4 levels, we would set a goal for one level growth per 9 weeks.
#2- Create an action plan or specific steps students can take to work towards the goal.
After setting each student's goal, we worked together as a class to brainstorm a list of things students could do to help them meet their goal. In the above example, we would list the following steps- read for at least 30 minutes a day at home, complete my comprehension journal homework every week, pay attention and work hard in small groups, listen to my book buddy when they read to me, ask someone to read me a story, etc
#3- Look at, discuss or read the goal regularly- possibly daily.
Each students goal was written down in their data notebook. We looked at the anchor chart with the brainstormed list of steps students could take. Any time they were assessed (🙄) we would conference about where they were in terms of meeting their goal. Every week, I would ask students to pick ONE of the action steps to focus on. In the beginning, I did a lot of leading but after a few weeks, students were able to pick one step for themselves.
#4- Track progress.
Students had a sheet in their data notebook where they tracked their progress. For reading levels, my students had a page that looked like a bookshelf. I wrote letters on each book to represent their reading levels. When students passed a level, they would color in the book on their shelf.
#5- Celebrate progress!
Since I really, strongly disliked that students even had to worry about reading levels, we celebrated ALL.THE.THINGS! My favorite ways to celebrate are with impromptu dance parties, reward tags given out during morning meeting and phone calls home to share the good news.
Are you looking for something to help you get started goal setting? Take a look at this Kindergarten Goal Setting resource in my store.

I created this when I was teaching Kindergarten, but I used the open pages with my Second Graders too!
My favorite part of this resource is the reflection sheet. When I taught Kindergarten students, they would color the face and I would help them write their next step. Most of my Second Grade students could complete the reflection sheet with little help.
The goal-setting pages are available in a guided format and an open format and with a variety of themes.
There is even a tracking sheet available!

If this looks like something that could help you in your classroom, click here or on any of the pictures!
Do you set goals with your students? I would love to hear how it goes for you! Drop me a note and let me know!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Circus Classroom Ideas and Supplies

Welcome to the Big Top of Classroom Decoration!  These fun and whimsical circus decoration ideas will make your circus themed classroom pop.

This resource will make it easy to theme your classroom circus!  It includes name plates, calendar pieces, word wall headers/alphabet cards, classroom job cards, and labels.

I think this door display would bring the WOW to you Open House and/or First Day of School!

This is another eye-catching door decoration!

This bulletin board border will work for any theme but I think it would be great in a circus!

It looks like this is in a Media Center, but it could be anywhere in the school!

What a fun way to display sight words your students need to know!

Let your classroom clock be the Ringmaster!

These seats were actually created for a movie theme, but I think they would work well with a circus theme too!

Not really a DIY kinda person?  You can find these things already made or amazon!  (The links that follow are Amazon affiliate links.  This means, I may receive a small commission, from Amazon-not you, if you purchase any of these materials. I cross my teacher heart that I ONLY recommend products I know, love and use!)

Your classroom would be the main event if you passed these red noses out!
I think this would make an AMAZING Book Nook or Reading Corner!
You could use these to make a photo booth!

Pin this for later here!
Do you have any ideas for a Circus Themed Classroom?  I would love to hear about them!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Scoot: Increase Fun and Engagement in the Classroom

Are your students sitting around with droopy eyes, barely holding their heads above their desks?  Are you tired of hearing yourself talk?  Are you looking for a way to work more movement into your lessons?

Scoot is the activity you are looking for!

Scoot is a great game to play in the classroom.  What is Scoot you ask?  Scoot is a game that can be played with any subject or standard.  The basic routine is simply to teach and you can use ANY content you want.  You set up the game by picking a subject or standard and making (or buying) task cards to use.

OMG, I was amazed at how much my kids loved it when we played earlier this year.  They were so engaged and so focused!  I'm guessing the movement part is really helping them focus.

I am going to use my Spring Short Vowel Word Sort to show you how to play Scoot.  I have played this game with multiple grade levels in various situations and each group has loved it!

Here is the set so SCOOT on over and get it!

To play Scoot, you place a card at each spot.  Each card has a problem to be solved, a word to write or a task to complete.  Students rotate around the places, recording their answers on the recording sheet. Students start at their seats and answer the question, solve the problem or follow the direction at their seats.  On your signal, students stand and move to the next seat.  They look at the card at that seat and answer the question, solve the problem or follow the direction.  I like to use the commands "Start (Followed by work time), Stop, Stand, SCOOT (students move to the right), Sit" and repeat. 

We all end up giggling with my one-word commands!

For my Kindergartners, we mostly play around their tables and sometimes they go to another table and rotate around that one! My Second Graders loved when I put the cards up on the wall around the classroom

For this Short Vowel Word Sort, I created real and nonsense CVC words and put them on eggs.  Students were given a sheet with 2 columns, one for real words and one for nonsense words.  Students rotated around their table.  They read each word on the egg, decided if it was a real word or a nonsense word, and wrote it in the correct column.

Each table has 5 or 6 seats.  Students rotated around 3 tables this day, so they all practiced reading 15-18 CVC words!  I had some kids who are still struggling readers, so my assistant and I stuck near them and helped them sound out the words.
When you first introduce the game, it is important to practice the movement from seat to seat.  First I showed one table how to move with my directions (sit... start... stop... stand... scoot) and then they practiced and modeled for the whole class.  Then the whole class practiced moving around their table.  It took a few rotations for all the kids to get it.  Typical mistakes from students were moving in the wrong direction and moving too many seats.  Students generally got it after a complete rotation around their table.

I also have a FREEBIE for you.  This Scoot: A How to Play Guide will help you get your kids moving in the right direction.  It includes directions and arrow cards to show your students which direction to move.

The game I used in these images is great for Kindergarten in the Spring.  These resources from my store will work just as well.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Are Nonsense Words more Than Just Nonsense?

I'm going to be honest here, I'm not 100% sure I have a definitive answer to that question.  This is one of those items that I truly see both sides to the argument.

On one hand, being able to decode words according to phonics rules and to recognize chunks inside of words are both important skills.  Sometimes it's hard to tell if a student is decoding correctly when they have a high vocabulary and have a lot of sight words.

I have recently learned another reason that teaching nonsense words is important.  The words that we think of as nonsense, often become syllables within multi-syllabic words.  With that added information, I lean a little more on the side of nonsense words being important, but not so important that they need to be skilled and drilled into every child.

On the other hand, reading is all about making meaning out of the text and there just isn't any meaning in the words dop, lum and vab.

However, with my new knowledge- dop is the first syllable of dopple and lum is the first syllable of lumber.

I've discovered that nonsense words is something that people tend to feel very passionate about.

For me, the argument is moot because assessing students on nonsense words is a state mandated assessment for me.  I may not like it, but I have to do it.

Since I have to do it, I need to prepare my students for it.  That means lots of phonics instruction and teaching how to decode words and chunk parts of words.

I choose to do this through word families.  When I teach and practice word families, I use real words and nonsense words. This gives students practice decoding, practice chunking AND practice with nonsense words.

When I taught Kindergarten, I started working on word families around November or December, based on where my students were.  I created this CVC Fluency packet to use in small groups.  Every week, students would work on one word family.  We would practice blending the words and sorting them into Real Word or Nonsense Word categories.  Then we would play the board game to practice chunking the words.

As a Second Grade teacher, my needs have changed, but not completely.  I still have students who struggle with decoding CVC words.  Since they have learned, but not mastered, the concept of a closed syllable, I still use this activity.  Depending on the needs, sometimes I use multiple word families with the same middle vowel or sometimes I mix them up.  

The great news is that my Second Graders have as much fun as my Kindergarteners did!

You can find this activity at my TPT store by clicking here or on any of the pictures!

Want to save it for later?  Pin it here!

Do you have to work with nonsense words? Where do you fall on the argument? I would love to hear your thoughts!  Drop me a line and let me know!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

5 Podcasts for Teachers: Listen, Learn and Renew Your Spirit

Did you know that there is an International Podcast Day on September 30th?  Or a set of awards for podcasts?  

I did not know this information until I started doing a little research for this blog post.  All I knew, is that listening to podcasts let me enjoy learning new things while I was doing others.

image of woman with headphones


My favorite time to listen to podcasts is while I'm walking.  It keeps my brain from fighting me on the exercise!

I've listed 5 of my favorite podcasts (in no particular order) for your enjoyment!

blackboard with word Chalk Full of Life

Chalk Full of Life is a podcast produced by Kelli Alaina Wise.  Her goal is to help you find more time, more energy and more happiness.  Kelli is a former teacher turned business coach and life coach.  I listen because she really gets the #teacherstruggle.  She has extremely practical advice and is always around to help.  There is also a facebook group you can join.  Kelli's focus is all about managing yourself.

Kelli does have a paid course called The Balanced Teacher Life that you can join, but it isn't necessary.  She talks about it in her podcasts and Facebook group sometimes.

Cornerstone of a building with words Cornerstone for Teachers

The Cornerstone for Teachers podcast is produced by Angela Watson.  Angela is a former teacher and instructional coach turned publisher.  Along with the podcast, she also has published books and runs a paid course called the 40 Hour Teacher Work Week (which I have also taken.)  Where Chalf Full of Life focuses on the teacher, The Cornerstone for Teachers talks about the classroom.  I listen for the tips on classroom management, differentiation and assessment.

picture of google colors in an eye with words Google Teacher Tribe

The Google Teacher Tribe  is a podcast by Matt Miller and Kasey Bell.  Both of them are serious about shaking up your classroom and making it the place to be. Last year, my district went Google.  I've always considered myself tech savvy, but exploring ALL the parts to Google was overwhelming.  This podcast helps me organize my thinking and take it one step at a time.

picture of a clock with words 10 minute teacher

The Ten Minute Teacher  by Vicki Davis.
Let's be honest.  I rarely have a large amount of time to do much of anything.  I see people talk about listening to podcasts while they do the dishes or fix dinner, but I'm usually barking out orders to my son and guarding things from the cats!  That's why I love the Ten Minute Teacher!  I can take ten minutes to zone out and listen.  I also really enjoy the variety in her episodes.

image of 2 girls walking with the words The Early Childhood Research podcast on it

The Early Childhood Research podcast by Liz's Early Learning Spot is great for teachers of small children.  Although the episodes are infrequent, I think she takes a lot of time thinking and researching before creating and posting.  Her topics are important and range from why scribbling is important to addition strategies that matter.  I listen because her focus is on children, not teachers.

These are 5 of my favorites but it really was hard to choose just 5 because there are lots of great podcasts out there!  Do you have a favorite?  Drop me a note and tell me what it is!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Teacher Tip: How To Make Your Own Letters

I have to tell you a secret.  A deep, dark secret that will make most teacher souls clutch their pearls and gasp.

I hate bulletin boards.  For real.  Can NOT stand them.  They are a constant bane to my existence. 

At the same time, mine MUST be phenomenal! (Mostly because once it goes up it stays up all year because- I hate bulletin boards.)

The one in the hall is the one I worry about.  EVERYBODY sees it.  So it has to be amazing.  

In the past, I have cut letters out on the Ellison machine or bought pre-punched letters.  They tended to stress me out.  

The pre-punched letters always had either too many or not enough.  And what am I supposed to do with all those other letters?  I don't need more junk in my closet!  

The Ellison machine works well enough, but the largest letters we have at school are 4 inches.  Sometimes, you just need something.... bigger.  Or cuter. #fontmatters

The secret to my bulletin board happiness is making my own letters!  It is really quite easy.  I really love that I can make EXACTLY what I need without any waste.

In this example, I used KG Happy Solid.  I LOVE KG Fonts and have purchased several for my products.  One of the things that I love is that teachers are free to use them for their own personal use for free.  (Just make sure you respect her TOU and purchase a license if you want to create with it for commercial use!)

Here is a picture of my board from last year.  I think all the letters are KG Happy Solid, except for the 3.  It is KG Geronimo Blocks.  I printed most of the letters on red paper.  For the football letters, I used brown paper and then traced an outline on to white paper to back it and added the white stripes to make it look like a football.

Have you made your own letters? I would love to see pictures of how you used them!  Drop me a line below or send at email to!

Want to Pin it for later? Find it here!
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