Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sight Word Ideas

Sight words are a frequent focus in our classroom. Some kids come in knowing so many while others can't even remember 'the' or 'a' even after repeated practice! I'm constantly trying different things to help all my little friends learn more words each week.

One game my little readers love day after day is Oops! I think there are several different ways of playing this game, but I listed below the way we play in our room.  My friends are always super engaged during this game even when it isn't their turn to pull a card. This game brings lots of giggles to our classroom and I love it just as much as they do! Best part- it actually helps them learn their sight words. :)

Magnetic letters are another must have in any primary classroom! Whether you use an iPad for electronic magnetic letters or real ones, I highly recommend them.  I listed below a few ways that magnetic letters can be used with partners, in centers, independently and with a teacher. Nothing too fancy at all, but my kindergartners and 1st graders all love our magnet strips and the chance to make words. I hope yours do too!

Check out our blog for some more sight word ideas and freebies!

Have a great day!
Amanda & Aylin

Monday, March 30, 2015

Engaging Students with Eggs

Hello! It's Allison from Stuckey in Second

It's that time of the year where my students really need an extra boost to keep them engaged. It's also that time of year when I am starting to lose my energy on keeping them engaged! Anyone else know what I mean?

I have seen a lot of people post about using plastic Easter eggs in the past for various activities, but never tried it. I ran into The Dollar Tree a few weeks ago for something else (literally RAN in, my husband and kids were waiting in the car!).  I saw all of these adorable eggs that they had just set out on display and scooped them up without thinking. I was determined that I would find something cute to do with them! Cute patterns and adorable little yellow chicks. I also found eggs with three parts at our local grocery store Meijer (one of my very favorite stores out of Michigan and luckily we have them in Indiana, too!) Anyway, I was excited to find those three part ones too!

We are working on mastering our addition and subtraction facts in second grade, so I made a big basket of eggs for them to match up the fact with the sum or difference. The top and bottom patterns don't match, I didn't want to make it TOO easy for them! :) 


I also made two different sets of eggs with the chicks. One set is synonyms and one set is antonyms. I laid all of the egg halves out on the table and told my small group the one that made the most "matches" was the winner. They loved it! 

Finally, here are the three part eggs that I made into Nonsense Word Fluency practice. Luckily, not many of my kids still need this, but the ones that do are LOVING it! I honestly think I'm going to keep these around and use them at the beginning of the year next year. They love turning the parts of the eggs and making new words. The eggs do come apart when they are doing it sometimes, but they are easy to pop back together. Such an easy away to engage frustrated readers!


So far, we have been using these during small groups and intervention time when there are a few kids that need some extra practice.  I went to The Dollar Tree again today and got some more eggs because I'm determined to come up with some more ideas! 

Do you have any more ideas for me that I can use these eggs to engage my students?

I always love blogging here on Who's Who and Who's New! If you are looking for Spring Centers for Literacy and Math, head on over to my store for my newest product. It includes 14 centers all in color AND black/white printer friendly.

It's my favorite and best product yet!!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tips for Being a Traveling Teacher

Hey there!  It's Alison from Learning At The Primary Pond (formerly Ms. Lilypad's Primary Pond).  Today I have some tips to share with you about being a "traveling" teacher!  This may be helpful to you if you are a reading specialist (like me!), speech/language teacher, some other kind of specialist, work in several different buildings, or just don't have your own classroom to teach in.  But keep reading even if you are a classroom teacher with a room all to yourself, because a lot of the tools I use to stay organized will be helpful for all teachers!

This school year has been my first year as a reading specialist, and my first time not having my own classroom.  I do have a small area in our reading room to myself, but I share the space with 2 other reading specialists and at least 5 program assistants.

At the moment, I work only with Kindergarten.  The Kinder classrooms are at the other end of our (rather large) building.  Instead of bringing my students back to the reading room, I stay closer to their classrooms to maximize instructional time.  I was working in the hallway for a while, but thankfully have been able to move into a smaller room near their classrooms.

Not being able to teach in my own space has been challenging, but I've adapted.  Here are some things I've done that have made my life easier:

1.  I invested in a great teacher bag!  The bag in the photo below is from Amazon (click the image to check it out).  

It has 6 pockets on the outside that are perfect for storing markers, pencils, and other materials.  The inside has a flat bottom so that most things will stand up in it.  I love it!!

You could also definitely try a rolling cart if you have to move around a lot within your school or between schools.  I only have to carry my bag to my teaching spot and then back again, so it works just fine for me.

2.  I store materials in places other than my office.  I see 10 students for interventions, and I have a large plastic folder for each student.  I realized that it just didn't make sense to carry the folders back and for the very single day.  So I put them in two small plastic baskets and asked another teacher (who works in the small room where I teach) if I could store them in her space.  She didn't mind one bit!  This works out great, and whenever I want to use the folders to plan, I just go to the room, take down the baskets, and start working.

3.  I use a tabletop stand to display anchor charts and learning objectives.  This little stand has been a lifesaver!  I use it to display an alphabet chart, other anchor charts, and daily learning objectives for my kids.  Having chart paper or a pocket chart is out of the question since I travel, but I have been just as happy with this.

It's totally collapsible, inexpensive, and has protective sheets for 20 different pieces of paper!

4.  I use a simple "sticky note system" to stay organized.  One problem I found was that I would think of things that I wanted or needed to do while I was teaching...and then I'd completely forget them by the time I got back to the reading room.  It was an "out of sight, out of mind" thing.  Because I wasn't teaching in the same place where I get my materials ready, I was forgetting what I wanted and needed to do for the next day.  Fortunately, the solution to this turned out to be pretty simple.  I make sure that wherever I am teaching, I take out a pack of sticky notes and pen and have them ready to go.  When I think of something I need to do, I write it down.  When I'm ready to return to the reading room, I take the sticky note off the pad, carry it with me, and place it right into my planner (which stays in the reading room).  Then I have a ready made to-do list in a place that I know I'm going to look each day. 

5.  I bring my own cleaning supplies.  When I had a classroom, I knew that a table was clean (or not), because I was in that same room all day.  However, all bets are off when you're working in a space that multiple people (and many germy kids) use!  I keep wipes in my teacher bag and wipe down the table before I start teaching each day.  And every time I do it, I'm glad I would not believe the dirt that comes up!!

Well, that's what I've learned so far - what would you add to this list?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Play Dough is Powerful!

Hello early childhood readers! 

I'm a fan of play dough in preschool and Kindergarten. Here's why:

But play dough can be expensive. It also needs to be replaced often. My tip for you is to ask parents to make it! I've included a note you can send home that requests help and provides an easy recipe. I've been sending this same recipe home to parents for over twenty years. 

Print the black-and-white version to send home as needed. As an alternative, print the color version, laminate it and send it home. (Sometimes I send the cream of tartar and food coloring with the recipe in a ziploc bag. Most families have the other ingredients on hand.) Get the pages here.

If you like this tip or have a great play dough idea, leave a comment. I'd also be delighted if you would follow by blog!

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tips for Guided Reading in Kindergarten

Hello!  I'm Hannah from 21st Century K and this month I'm sharing a couple of pointers about guided reading groups.

Reading and writing have always been my favorites!  At the end of a school day I feel most successful when we have had focused time in flexible guided reading groups, quality core reading experiences, and productive writing sessions.  With five years as a first grade teacher and five years as a reading intervention teacher under my belt I came amply prepared to teach Kindergarten reading.  I quickly developed a daily schedule that involved guided reading groups with my assistant, skills-specific reading groups with myself, and time for word work and/or independent reading for my students.  When my students' needs necessitate it, I have also found a way to provide independent or small group book studies for my well above average readers.  Here is my daily schedule:
Group 1 
Below Average
4 students
Group 2
Low Average
4 students
Group 3
Mid Average
4 students
Group 4
High Average
7 students
Group 5
Above Average
5 students
9:00-9:15 a.m.
Independent Practice
Guided Reading w/ Assistant
Independent Practice
Skill Group w/ Teacher
Chapter Book Study Group
9:15-9:30 a.m.
Independent Reading
Skill Group w/ Teacher
Guided Reading w/ Assistant
Independent Practice
Chapter Book Study Group
9:30-9:45 a.m.
Skill Group w/ Teacher
Independent Practice
Independent Reading
Guided Reading w/ Assistant
Independent Reading
9:45-10:00 a.m.
Guided Reading w/ Assistant
Independent Reading
Skill Group w/ Teacher
Independent Reading
Accelerated Reader
I felt confident in my abilities to plan for reading instruction, but I wasn't always successful at the execution.  Groups easily ran long, ended too soon, left students with idle time, or were otherwise inappropriate causing behavior issues or wasted instructional time.It was with great anticipation that I participated in a book study over Boushay and Moser's (or the 2 Sisters') The Daily Five last summer.  I LOVE the "3 Ways to Read" concept and designed a well-coordinated poster set for my classroom and taught the concepts within the first two days of school.  For the first time I do NOT hear students say that they cannot read, because they understand there are different ways to read and they BELIEVE they CAN!   To provide my young students access to appropriately-leveled books for read-to-self times, every 2 weeks we have a "book swap" during reading groups.  I display all the books for a particular reading group and students choose which titles they would like to add to their collections.  Book selections are kept in students' chair pouches... an investment I made with school funds this year that was SO worth the money!
Additionally, I designed a PowerPoint to help my time management and organization.  Each slide shows which students participate in which activity during every rotation.  These slides are set to change with a chime after twelve minutes.  Alternating slides provide time for transition between activities and change with a drum roll after one minute.  Playing the PowerPoint on the Smart Board helps me stay on track with time without posting a timer by which students could be distracted.  It has been a wonderful addition to our daily reader's workshop!
3 Ways to Read a Book on TPT FREE
Reading Group PowerPoint on TPT FREE

If you want to know more about The Daily Five visit the 2 Sisters' website at

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Teaching The Parts of a Question

Hi there! I’m Jenny from Luckeyfrog’s Lilypad. I teach 4th grade science (and a little social studies) in Ohio, but before this I’ve taught 2nd, 3rd, and as a reading specialist doing intervention with struggling readers.

I have some kids who really struggle with finding information in text- and even though I teach science now, this is a big, important skill!

I start with teaching my kids how to analyze a question. It’s the first step!

understand question

I use my Text Detectives- Find the Text Evidence products in class all the time because so many relate to science and social studies content, and my kids love getting the chance to color the information!


These pages are perfect for teaching my kids to break down a question and really understand what it’s asking!


I know- it seems way too easy to even mention, but if a kid doesn’t know that “who” means they will be looking for a person or character… it’s gonna be tough to find the right information.

Can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a kid miss a question because they answered “when” instead of “why,” or something similar! As kids get older, academic vocabulary like “analyze” or “compare” are important to understanding what the question is really asking.


I can’t stress this enough. Kids can’t just break down the question without reading the whole thing.

That said… one of the other teachers on my team likes to have kids do this as step 1, but I like to have kids check out the question word first. Sometimes reading the rest of the words can make it a little overwhelming!


For your struggling readers, this is going to be one of the most important steps. What sorts of vocabulary words clue them in to where they might find this?

Of course, we never want a kid to just skim for key words- but at the same time, if they read the word “born”- they need to know that the question is about someone’s birth, and that in a biography, it may be near the beginning. Knowing if there’s a specific topic gives readers a way to narrow down where to look. Once they find the paragraph or section, you can work with kids on how to ensure they’re finding the right information- but by this time, they are much more ready for that step!

refer to text graphic

You can read more about how I teach my students to find text evidence at Luckeyfrog’s Lilypad… and you can try out a freebie of my Text Detectives series in my TpT store!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Organizing and Managing Classroom Centers

I use centers throughout the year. I love them. My students love them.

I use centers in the classroom because:

Students can practice math and literacy skills in an engaging way. Skills that have been taught can be reinforced and practiced.

Math and literacy skills can be integrated with social studies and science. One example is our rainforest unit. The students learn about the rainforest and rainforest animals as they practice literacy and math skills.

Children can practice skills thematically. Holiday and seasonal centers can be used throughout the year.

Students work on social skills, too. Centers make great partner activities. My students can choose to work individually or with a partner. Most of the time they choose to work with a partner. They learn to work together to solve problems and help each other to complete each center activity. They’re able to share their understandings with a partner and learn from each other.

It’s easy to prepare the centers. Initially, the centers have to be copied, cut, and laminated. Once that is completed, they can be stored and used year after year. Then, the only prep is copying the recording sheets, and they're ready to use.

Centers also make great “early finisher” activities. I find that the students will choose the center activities over other activities when they complete their assignments.

The centers are helpful during small group instruction. I assign “Centers” to one of the groups. Other students work on math or word work bins or assignments at their desks. I am then able to focus on a group of students for guided instruction.

The students love centers because:

The centers engage the students. They are usually manipulating cards, sorting, pairing, talking with a partner, etc. They are involved in hands-on activities to complete the center activities as opposed to doing a paper pencil task.  For example, a literacy center may have cards that need to be ordered on the pocket chart to make a sentence and then read using a pointer. They enjoy doing this.

The centers get them out of their seats. I have the students work on the floor on our rug area.  They’re able to spread the activities out on the floor. They put their recording sheets on clipboards for writing their answers.

I know that managing centers can be an issue. I thought I’d share how I use and manage them in my classroom.

First of all, I have tried many, many different ways to manage them in my classroom. I’m sure I'll continue to change and improve upon the way I organize and manage them, but this is what I currently do. It is working well with my students this year.

I think one of the keys is to model, model, and then model even more. I continue to model repeatedly throughout the year. I find that the students need review on procedures for taking the centers out, working with a partner, problem solving, using inside voices, putting the centers back when finished, etc. I continue to make notes as I observe the students. We discuss as a class any issues that arise.

I store the centers in large manila envelopes in a filing cabinet.

When I’m ready to use one, I take the centers out and place each individual center activity into a gallon size baggie. I place the instruction card in front. It stays in the baggie. The recording sheets are next. The cards are placed in the back of the baggie in quart or sandwich size baggies.

{front of baggies}

{back of baggies}

I place all the activities in a bin on the floor. It’s near the area where the students work on their centers. This really saves on space. I don’t have an area to have individual containers set out for each center activity. This works as an alternative.

The students take out a baggie. They put the recording sheet on a clipboard. They take the activities for completing the centers out of the gallon baggie. They are responsible for putting the activities back in the baggie, so it’s ready for the next person to use.

I put the center pictures of each card on the pocket chart. The students can see what centers are included in the container.

{pocket chart cards}

The students have center folders. I staple a Center Menu to the inside front cover of the folder. I just use folded 12” x 18” colored construction paper for folders. File folders will also work.

The students put finished recording sheets in the folder. They also keep recording sheets that they’ve started and not completed in the same folder. I correct the recording sheets and stamp or put a happy face on the centers that are completed. It’s a way for students to keep track of what centers they've completed. It also helps to keep students accountable for their time at centers.

{inside of folder - menu of center choices}

I use the menu as a choice menu. I usually assign a number of centers that I want the students to complete within a period of time.

I also like to add tools like counters, alphabet and word cards, 120 charts, and Certificates of Completion, too.

{120 charts, counters, certificates}

I will be using April Showers Math Centers in April.

It’s filled with math activities – addition facts, subtraction facts, place value, true false equations, measurement, telling time, and more - especially created for first grade.

You can click HERE to preview and purchase.

I hope the ideas help you to organize and manage your centers. Let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to help!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Mastering Math Facts

Hi there!  It's Anita from Primary "Teach"spiration, and I'm here to give some tips on helping all of your students to master their math facts.

Getting EVERY student in your class to master math facts can sometimes be a challenge!  We all know it's much easier for some than others, so we must have a plan to help every student become successful.  This can be accomplished by allowing your students to learn the facts at their own pace - Ah-ha, differentiation!  Realizing this years ago, I came up with this simple methodical format for making every individual in my class successful at memorizing addition (and subtraction) facts.  And it never failed me; in fact, it worked beautifully!  Most of you probably already do something similar, but I'm in a mood to share. So here it goes!

I've always taught at a second grade level, so my plan centers around second grade, but can easily be adapted to other grades.  At my school, there are four nine-week quarters.  So, my schedule for teaching mastery of addition and subtraction facts was divided between those four quarters as such:

1st Quarter  - Addition facts within 10
2nd Quarter -Subtraction facts within 10
3rd Quarter - Addition facts within 20
4th Quarter - Subtraction facts within 20.

I begin 1st Quarter with every student practicing in a variety of ways:

We use the flashcards to practice in different ways.  Sometimes we divide up into two teams and
play Math Baseball as shown below. Other times, we play Around the World.  Yet, other times, I pair up students to use the flashcards to quiz one another. Whichever way we practice, they love it!


One of the games the kids love to play is Math Baseball.  In this game, the class is divided into two teams.  Each team huddles together to choose a team name; then I write the team names near the top of the white board.  I stand at the front of the room with the flashcards, while the two teams line up in separate lines facing me.  We flip a coin to determine which team is "up to bat" first.  I stand in front of the first person in line of the "batting" team and lift the first flashcard.  He has 5 seconds to give the correct answer.  If he does, it is considered a hit and  he moves to first base (I have the bases posted around the room).  If he misses, it is considered a strike and he moves to the back of his line. When a students makes it around all bases to Home Plate, he puts a tally mark on the white board under the team name.   After three outs, the next team "bats" and play continues.  The kids love it when I act as the announcer with things like, "Jones is up to bat with two men on base!"  For time's sake, I often make shortcuts, such as only two outs or I leave out third base.  It all depends on the time allowed.


One of my math centers is the math facts station.  I switch it up with the group of facts that the majority of the class is working on.  The center activity varies from task cards to game boards, and more.

                                                              Pencil & Paper 

There are varying opinions about whether ordinary pencil and paper worksheets are a good thing or not.  In my personal experience, I have found that if students are required to complete just one math facts worksheet every day, consistently, the odds of them truly learning the facts are increased exponentially!  This does not negate the importance of also practicing in other fun ways.  In fact, the combination is key to mastering the facts.

I also include practice as a brief part of homework in whatever way the child and parent choose.

For the first week of addition fact practice at school, we begin with +0,+1.

Every day students will practice in the various ways, and then take a daily "mad minute" quiz to assess mastery.
I cut this sheet into four strips (20 problems).  Students are timed to complete a strip in one minute.

Those who pass the quiz 100% will also take a timed final assessment.  I require 75% to confirm mastery before they move to the next set of facts.

Once mastery is confirmed, they will continue to practice +0,+1 for the week, but will also move on to practicing +2 facts.

Those who don't pass right off will have the opportunity to do so by quizzing each day until mastery is achieved.  It usually only takes that first week for most everyone to master +0,+1, so I usually only give about a week before moving on to the first +2 quizzes (given at the same time as any +0,+1 quizzes if needed).  We practice +2 (along with +0,+1 review) for that second week, and usually another week before most everyone has mastered +2 (+2's are much harder).

Then we move on to +3 in the same way, and so on with a goal of everyone passing all levels by the end of the first quarter.  At that time, I give a cumulative timed final assessment of all the facts covered first quarter.

2nd Quarter I follow the same format with subtraction facts within 10: 1st week -0, -1,  2nd week -2, etc.  Third and fourth quarters follow suit.

Thanks for stopping by!  I hope you've enjoyed reading about how I was able to help my students be successful at mastering their math facts.  And I hope it will be helpful to you!

You can download a free copy of my directions to the Math Baseball game by clicking on the image.

If you're interested in my Math Facts Mega-Bundle, CLICK HERE.  Or you can find the individual packs and bundles at my STORE.  And please feel free to visit my BLOG any time!