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Handprint calendars make the sweetest gift for parents to receive from their student during the holiday season! I love these because they are simple and very budget-friendly. All you will need is a set of my (FREE) Cutesy Calendars and some washable paint that is safe for finger painting.
First, have the students use their handprints or fingers to create artwork that goes along with each month. Here are a few examples for February, March and April:


**You can see more ideas for ALL 12 months included in the freebie below.

After all 12 months are completed, assemble the top half of the calendar (being the student artwork) to the bottom half of the calendar (being my free Cutesy Calendars). If your school has a spiral binding machine that works best. If you don't want to use paint, there are tons of other ideas on Pinterest for calendar crafts.

Finally, have students decorate a tag for their parents and tie it to the calendar using ribbon, yarn, or whatever else you have on hand.

You can grab your free set of Cutesy Calendars and handprint ideas HERE!

Together we can inspire a love of learning,
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OCTICORN is one of my new favorite picture books for teaching students that IT IS OKAY TO BE DIFFERENT! This cute story is about a octopus/unicorn who doesn't seem to fit in with either group.
This book provides lots of good teaching points for students, too.


This post contains affiliate links to products I personally recommend. Click here to read my full disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting Inspired Elementary. 

Octicorn experiences what it's like to be different, so this book is a great reminder for students to include others even if they look or act differently than them. I especially love this lesson at the beginning of the school year. 

After I read the book, I have students write about how they could help Octicorn feel like he belongs, even if he doesn't look the same as them. After students write, I have them share with each other in small groups so they can hear one another's ideas. 

I have put together a few different FREE writing response templates that you can choose from. 
You can have your kiddos write about their favorite part of story, or use the blank template to have them write about a time that they felt different or left out. Another fun twist is to have students do a  creative writing activity and where they come up with their own new hybrid animal (ex. bear + monkey = bearkey).
 Don't forget to grab your copy of OCTICORN!  Also, you can grab my free writing template here

If you are looking for more comprehension and book activities, be sure to check out my Reading Response Activities that can be used with any text. 

I hope you enjoy this book!
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When math is hands-on, I have found that students will engage, no matter how difficult a math concept may initially seem. I have seen this over and over during my years in the primary classroom. Building math fluency, as well as student confidence in math, is critical in the early elementary years. In order to help my students be successful, as well as build those foundational math skills and fluency, I created this student-favorite activity...



 Solve It Strips are a series of mental-math puzzles that are hands-on and fun! Students work through each set, focusing on specific math skills. These work perfectly as an early-finisher activity, or for an independent math center during guided math.

There are 15 different strips in each Solve It Strip set, and students are able to self-check their work as they go. Each student has their own Solve It Strip ring, so they can work on differentiated skills at their own pace.


Here's how the activity works:

1. Get a Solve It Strip page to work on and cut the strip in half.
2. Then, cut apart the math puzzle pieces.


3. Place the START piece in the top rectangle. Solve the equation on that strip. Find the next strip that has the solution in the solution box.
4. Place the next solution strip in the rectangle below and then solve the equation on that strip. Continue solving and placing strips below one another until you reach the FINISH strip.

**Students will know if they have completed a strip correctly or not, because if there is an error, they won't end up with the FINISH piece. Such an easy-peasy way to self-correct!


5. Glue down the Solve It Strips.
6. Color in the solution boxes.


7. Answer keys are included for double-checking.
8. Finally, color in a star on the "Stars for Strips" page to keep track of all the Solve It Strips that have been successfully completed.

When a student completes an entire set of Solve It Strips (all 15 strips), I staple them together and send them home for parents to see all of their great work!

This is a math activity in that once students are trained, they can independently do this activity all year long. I have over 20 sets of Solve It Strips available in my store, and am continuing to add more each month. Be sure to follow my store to receive updates on new sets.


Looking for a bundle? The Solve It Strips Bundle includes all 21 PRIMARY sets!

Want to try out a few for free? Here is a Solve It Strips Freebie Set! 


I hope your students love Solve It Strips!

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I wanted to share my annual calendar freebie for the 2018/2019 school year! If you follow me on Instagram, you know how much I love all things cute, so these Cutesy Calendars are ready for you to print and use.


I hope these calendars make planning classroom activities, centers, events, etc. a breeze for you this upcoming year! You can grab your set below. Also, here are five more TEACHER-FAVORITE CLASSROOM RESOURCES that you might like to check out:

1. STUDENT DICTIONARY: PERSONAL WORD WALL



2. SILENT RESPONSE CARDS:



3. LISTEN & COLOR: Weekly Listening Skills Activities



4. SIGHT WORD ACTIVITY STRIPS:


5. SOLVE IT STRIPS: Hands-On Math Puzzles

Be sure to sign-up for the newsletter so you don't miss out on other exclusive freebies! Here's your set of free Cutesy Calendars!


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The Compliment Box is another one of my favorite classroom management tools. Teaching students how to compliment one another not only promotes kindness, but it provides them with an opportunity within the school day to practice that kindness.
WHAT YOU NEED: To set up your own Compliment Box, all you need is a small box (I used a cardboard box and painted it) and some Compliment Cards printed on ASTROBRIGHTS paper. 
WHEN IT'S DONE: Students can leave compliments for each other if they finish a task early, at the beginning of recess, or right after school.

HOW IT'S DONE: Students (or teachers) take a Compliment Card and fill it in. Some students leave their names and others are anonymous. During closing time each day, pull two or three Compliment Cards and read them aloud. After reading, give the card to the student being complimented, so they can take it home and share it with their family.
Having a Compliment Box in your staff lounge is a great way to promote community and kindness among the staff at your school site, too!

I would love to see your Compliment Box in your classroom or staff lounge! You can tag me @InspiredElementary on Instagram to share your photos. are some free Compliment Cards to get you started! Here are some free Compliment Cards to get you started!

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I love Adjective Collages! They make such a special teacher gift (or a gift for parent volunteers)!
To make an Adjective Collage, I have each student choose a word to describe the teacher (or parent volunteer). Every student gives me three adjectives, that way if there is any overlap (which there always is) I have options to choose from.

Then, in Microsoft Powerpoint, I create a slide that is 8 inches x 10.5 inches. I center the teacher's name in the middle using a bold font, and then add the adjectives in all around. Near each adjective, I insert a heart and the student's name that chose that particular adjective.
After printing the collage out, I use markers to color in each heart. Then, I trim down the edges to fit it into a standard 8x10 picture frame.
If you make an Adjective Collage, I would love to see it! You can tag me on Instagram @InspiredElementary to share.
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Teaching poetry is so much fun and so easy to do when you have the necessary tools! I remember my first year teaching fourth grade, our writing curriculum had nothing for teaching poetry. Luckily, I have always loved to write, especially poems, so I developed my own Poetry Unit. It was incredible to see even my most reluctant writers get excited about sharing their poems...I was inspired! 

The following year, when I moved down to second grade, I knew my Poetry Unit was something I wanted to continue. I was amazed at the rhyme and word choice that my second graders were so cleverly able to produce. This poetry unit continues to be a student (and teacher) favorite year after year!
During our poetry unit, students are introduced to 14 different types of poems over a five week period. I use my five-week pacing guide, but this can easily be adjusted to more or less weeks, depending on how you want to pace your poems. 
Each day, during our writer's workshop poetry block, I follow the same format for every poem. First, I use my Poetry Introduction Page to introduce a new type of poem and show students an example of that type of poem.
Next, students receive the Poem Planning Sheet for the particular poem that I just introduced. This planning sheet helps to walk them through, step-by-step, in how to create their own poem. This sheet also serves as the rough draft, too. Depending on the type of poem (how involved it is) students either stop here for the day, or move onto the final steps.
After the planning sheet page (rough draft) is completed, students have a chance to edit/revise.  I allow them to partner up and read their poems aloud. This often helps them either think of new word choices, or hear any errors aloud. This is where our Student Dictionaries also come in very handy! 
Then, students get to choose from the different final copy papers I have printed out...I like giving them choices. Finally, students write their final copy of the poem and color in any graphics and/or add designs and color.  
Students turn in their rough draft planning sheet to me and place the final copy of their poem in the "On Hold" pocket of their Writer's Workshop Folder
Once our unit is complete, students assemble their own Poetry Portfolio (which is always a favorite display at Open House!). 
I also use these Poetry Portfolios for a writing grade. I have multiple rubrics to choose from for individual poems or for the entire portfolio.
If you're ready to dive right in, click here for the complete Poetry Unit.
Or, you can try out Haiku Poetry with this freebie! 

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Counting money is such a fun skill to practice. I love all the great ideas out there on Pinterest and I'm always amazed at how excited students get when real money is involved. Here are a few ideas that can easily be mixed into your math centers for some counting money fun.

I love the "Counting Coins in Cupcakes" math center! This is a re-usable center that students can change out for you over the course of the year....win-win!


This post contains affiliate links to products I personally recommend. Click here to read my full disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting Inspired Elementary. 

All you need to do is take dot stickers that you can find at your local office supply store, or dollar store, and write different coin amounts on each sticker. To easily differentiate this center, you can add more challenging amounts, including dollar and cents.
Place each dot sticker on the inside of a silicone cupcake liner (you can use paper ones, but silicone holds up longer).
Using real coins, let students count out each amount shown in the cupcake liner. They place that amount of coins in the cupcake liner and then move onto the next one. I have students use a Coin Counting Recording Sheet (grab this freebie below) to draw their coin combinations. This allows them to work independently and gives me a chance to check their understanding at a later time.
My favorite part about this center is letting students change the center out for me. Give students the dot stickers, a pen, and they can change the coin amounts on each cupcake liner.

Finally, I store this center in a small storage bin, so students can easily grab it as an early-finisher activity. It's great for review all year long!
Another student-favorite activity that is a fun and hands-on way to reinforce money skills, are Math Tiles. Students are given number tiles 0-9 and challenged to solve for the different coin amounts, using all the tiles on each tile card.
This activity allows for easy self-checking, too, because if a student gets an amount wrong, they won't be able to correctly place the remaining number tiles on the tile card.
Here's another set of Math Tiles that practices making change within $1.00:
Finally, this math center is all the rage...SOLVE IT STRIPS! Students beg for this math center. It can be done independently as an early-finisher activity, or used during guided math groups. The best part is, Solve It Strips are a self-checking activity and NO PREP for the teacher. Take a look at the Counting Coins set in action...

Each Solve It Strip set has 15 task cards. Students take a Solve It Strip and cut the math puzzle pieces apart (optional: I let students outline the coins with crayons, which helps them identify each one before they begin).
Next, they place the "START" piece in the top rectangle and solve for the coin amount shown on that strip. Then, they find that amount on another strip and place it below the START strip.

Students continue solving coin amounts and placing strips below one another.
Finally, students will get to the "FINISH" strip if they have correctly completed each strip. This allows students to self-check their work because they won't be able to finish the math puzzle if an answer is incorrect.
Students easily store these on book rings for easy access all year long. Answer keys and student progress sheets are also included and there are currently over 20 sets available in my store (more continue to be added!).
Here's a copy of the Counting Coins FREE Recording Sheet for the "cupcake" activity above. Also, if you want to try out some Solve It Strips, I have a free sample here.

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A-B-C-D-E-F-G, let's learn the alphabet, yippee oh yee! I love teaching the alphabet because the possibilities are endless for ways to introduce and review all of the letters. In fact, I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to Learning ABCs, full of hands-on games and crafts for little learners.

Over the years, I have tried out many of my ABC Pinterest finds, but I want to share with you a few of my favorite games and activities that I have successfully helped my own kiddos learn their ABCs.

First up is my favorite ABC game, "I Have Who Has?" For this game, we use our giant ABC chart. I love, love, love this chart because we use it for so many quick ABC review activities. When I first introduce letters to students, I use this chart by hanging it on my magnetic whiteboard and matching up jumbo magnetic letters onto the chart. So students are familiar with both tools when they learn the "I Have Who Has" game.

I found my chart at Lakeshore Learning Store, however there is a similar one here on Amazon. OR, if you are artistic, you could even make your own version on a large piece of poster board, or just write the ABCs on a whiteboard.
Here's how we play "I Have Who Has:" First, place the ABC poster on the whiteboard, or some type of magnetic board. Then, pass out one magnetic letter to each student (I keep the extra letters with me).

The teacher starts and says, "I have letter ___," and then places that letter on top of the matching letter on the chart. Next, the teacher finishes with, Who has the letter ___?" Whichever student has the letter the teacher asked for holds the letter up and says, "I have the letter____" and comes up to the board, places their matching letter onto the poster. Then the student finishes by saying, "Who has letter ____?" So the student is identifying their matching letter and then calling out another letter from the poster that hasn't yet been matched. This really engages all students, since they have to be paying attention for their letter to be called. The game continues until all the letters are placed on the ABC chart.
NOTE: A quick classroom management tip during this game - Once students have had their turn, I use my Flip Sticks to randomly call on students every two or three "I have who has" turns and and ask them to name a letter that has been placed on the board already, and tell me something they can think of that starts with that letter. This strategy keeps students engaged and thinking about those letter sounds during the entire game. :)

Now, if you don't have an ABC poster, or the magnetic letters, you can use a pocket chart and pocket chart ABC letter/picture cards.
I love using pocket chart cards, too, because for a more challenging version of this game, we play using letters and their sounds.

Fill up the pocket chart with the picture cards only. Then, give each student a letter card and you will have students match the letter to their sound. For example, I would say, "I have the letter that says /a/," and I would place the letter A in the pocket chart next to the apple. Then I would choose another letter and say, "Who has the letter that says /e/?" The student with letter E would hold up their E card and say, "I have the letter E that says /e/," and they would come place their E card next to the egg.
Then, that student continues the game by saying, "Who has the letter that says ____?" This continues until the whole chart is matched up.
You can also use these cards to play "I Have Who Has?" to match capital letters to their lowercase letters. Or, included in my A-Z Pocket Chart Cards are word cards, so you can play to match up the word to the letter or picture card...there are so many fun possibilities!!!

We also love to sing the alphabet song as a quick warm-up during phonics time! I made some alphabet song strips so students can tap each letter as they sing along. These are great for those visual and kinesthetic learners, too, and it really helps to reinforce letter recognition. Just print these out, laminate them for extended use and they're ready to go! If you hole punch them you can store them on a ring for easy access. Here's a free set of capital and lowercase Song Strips for you! :)
Another game we love to play with our letter poster and magnetic letters is "I Spy the Letter." This game not only practices letter recognition, it also is a great tool for introducing positional words.

Here's how we play: Pass out a magnetic letter to each student. Then, the game begins with the teacher saying, "I spy a letter that is between N and P." The student that has O would raise their letter up (raising their letter up is a quick way for you to check that the student actually has the right answer, too). The student with O would come place it on the poster. Then, I would continue the game. "I spy a letter that is to the right of letter D." The student with letter E would hold it up, come place it on the board. The game continues until all the letters are on the board.

You can use letter sounds for this game, too. For example, "I spy a letter that says /f/." The student with letter F would hold it up and come place it on the board. This game is always a hit!

Another tool that I use in small groups or one-on-on, are these Alphabet Letter/Sound Discrimination Cards. I laminate these and keep them on a ring for easy use and storage. Students look at and say the name of each picture on the letter card, and identify which word does NOT start with the given letter sound. This is a great way for students to build their vocabulary as well! These cards are part of my Big Alphabet Activity Book & Center Bundle.
After we play our alphabet games, I love to do some independent practice. So I created Alphabet Activity Books, which students can work through at their own pace. Each activity book provides practice for students recognizing the letter, identifying its sound, writing the letter, and using their fine motor skills with cutting, pasting and coloring. These books are available individually or even better, at a huge discount in the bundle! Here's a free letter A book for you to try out. :-)
Some other fun centers to incorporate ABC practice are these A-Z Sort & Glue, ABC Letter/Sound Match-Up, Dot, Graph & Write, ABC Printing Practice, and the Punch and Write center. You can grab all of these centers at a discount with the BIG Alphabet Activity Bundle (keep reading).
Finally, by popular request, I have put it all together and created the BIG Alphabet Activity Book & Center Bundle at a 50% discount!!!! This bundle includes all of my Alphabet Activity Books, all of my A-Z centers above, the A-Z Pocket Chart Cards, as well as the Letter/Sound Discrimination Cards. You can see the bundle HERE!

Thanks for reading along and I hope teaching the ABCs are as fun for you as they are for me!

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Number match-ups are one of my favorite ways to practice number recognition! We spent this afternoon working on recognizing numbers to 10, and one-to-one number correspondence. I whipped up this simple pocket chart match, that was a fun and quick review.

You can use these cards for review in a few different ways. First, display the numbers 1-10 in the pocket chart, and have students find the matching amount of cubes card. Second, you can display the cube cards and have students find the matching number card. Or third, you can put up half of the number cards and half of the cube cards and have students find the match. That's it, easy peasy and interactive!

I hope these cards will save you time and provide some fun number practice! Here's a free copy for you. :)


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