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Is your school year winding down? Maybe it's still so far off that you can't let yourself think about the end of the school year (well, maybe just a little bit of dreaming about summer plans, and summer - no plans!!) There are so many wonderful read aloud books to share with and inspire your students at this time of year that you just might want to start gathering up your pile of books now!

This post includes affiliate links, for which I will receive a small remuneration that will not add to your cost.

Image from Last Day Blues


Here are a few of my favorite read aloud books for the end of the year... plus some easy ideas for adding to the learning!

If you started off your year with First Day Jitters by Julie Dannenberg (maybe you even made Jitter Juice!), your students will be excited about the companion book, Last Day Blues .



  • Do a bit of knee-to-knee partner talk to build connections before you read: What might make someone feel blue on the last day of school?  
  • After you read, how about a reprise of Jitter Juice, just for fun?  Check here for the recipe and ideas on Pinterest!
  • Time to write! This book-based prompt can be adapted to just about any grade level, and is a good way to promote a positive mindset in any of your students who are dreading the last day. "I'm going to miss ________, but I can't wait for _____________!"

Are your last weeks in school filled with schedules that are splintered with concerts, field days, and special events? A collection of poems is a great way to get some read aloud time in even on the busiest days! Try this one, Lemonade Sun and Other Summer Poems, by Rebecca Kai Dotlich. Each poem can stand alone as a sweet taste of summer-to-come.






  • Before you start reading, brainstorm and chart a list of topics you'd expect to find in a book of summer poems.  For the littlest learners, this is a great opportunity for some shared writing! Assign a Class Chartmaster to check off the topics as you come to them in the book. 
  • Are there topics left on your chart after you've read the last poem? Those are your writing prompts for your students' poetry! Consider having students choose whether to work alone or with a partner. A Poetry Coffeehouse (Lemonade House?) is a fun way for the poets to present their work to the class! Keep it low key - just turn down the classroom lights and play some jazz quietly in the background. Every teacher wants SIMPLE at this time of year!



Here's another great choice for the last days!




I'll bet there's more than one student in your class who'll relate to this book! When It's the Last Day of School by Maribeth Boelts is told by a boy who struggles with behavior but really wants to "get it right". He's determined that he's going to get the gold star for good behavior on the last day of school, even if it means not talking during Silent Reading or cutting ahead in line to sharpen a pencil.

  • Talk with your class about behaviors that they've worked hard to improve this year. You might even share some of your own struggles. (Mine might have included stacking piles of papers on my desk, or carrying things home to be graded and toting them back to school ungraded, again.)  
  • Relate the improved behaviors to the character traits you've been working on throughout the year. How have honesty, perseverance, and integrity helped your students control inappropriate or impulsive behaviors? Help them make the connections!


If you're looking for a way to recognize and reward your students' character growth AND to encourage reading, you might like this set of bookmarks and award certificates from my TpT store.




Happy Teaching!


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Don't you just love a good math holiday, an event that reminds our students that math is fun? Here comes Pi Day, and yes, it's for the primary grades, too!

Of course, the math behind pi is tough stuff for our littles. but the idea of a number that goes on infinitely without repeating - well, we all know how they LOVE the idea of infinity and totally feel like big shots when they use the word!

Here are a few quick ideas to help you introduce Pi Day to your students.

  • Get that "WOW" response from your primary students by showing them this display of the first 10,000 digits of pi on your interactive board, courtesy of The University of Utah.
  • What is pi? Well, it isn't pie (although there's no doubt that plenty of pies will be floating around schools on March 14th!)  Here's a Greek alphabet to show your students.  See if they can find some similarities to the English alphabet.
  • And then there's that decimal point. After you introduce the term, show your students how to read pi as "3-point-1-4-15-9-2-6', etc. It's also a great moment for making a connection with reading amounts of money, where the decimal point of course is read as "and". 


I've put together a set of Pi Day activities for the primary grades ... and you can sample one of them free right now, for a limited time! Read on for the details!






These activities are different from most that you'll see. First of all, these are all math activities that practice math skills, like addition, subtraction, and using the 120 chart.  They are not craftivities or coloring pages. There's a color-by-number pi sign page (lower left above), but then it turns into a (drum roll....) math game!

Let's take a closer look!

Here's the color-by-number activity.




If you have lots of time or plan to do several days of pi activities, have your students color the page using the code one day and use the completed pages to play the game the next day. But if you're short on time, just print copies of the answer key and use those as your game boards, along with the set of directions that's included.

You'll also find two 120 chart games in this set, "Happy Pi Day" and "PI, Not Pie!", both for practice with skills like add/subtract one and add/subtract ten. Games with hundred charts and 120 charts are good practice for our firsties.  These are games that you'll use long beyond Pi Day!

What else is in this Pi Day set? Two easy prep addition and subtraction games  - just print and add dice!



Click here or on any of the pictures above to see this set of six activities at my store.

Now, how about that free game?

Would you like to receive the Making Pi addition game pictured above PLUS more than 20 other K-5 math freebies for March? You can get them all with no subscription - no loop - no obligation right now by clicking here!



... and since this is such a busy week coming up, you'll also appreciate these St. Patrick's Day freebies that you'll find in the same download! ☘️


Click now to collect your March freebies ... this is a limited time offer and I don't want you to miss out!

Happy Teaching!


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March is almost here! I'm very excited to share with you news you about a huge March math freebie bundle that will definitely save you time and simplify your March planning. Whatever grade you teach, K-5, when you download this free bundle, you'll be ready for Pi Day, St. Patrick's Day, and all the fun that comes with the month of March!





The teachers of The Ultimate Math Toolbox have put together a set of 20 March Math Freebies for you. Now, that's some March Madness, right? Read on for the details!


With Pi Day coming up on March 14th, it's the perfect time to bring in some FUN math games, activities, and even art projects that will add some Pi Day excitement, even in the primary grades!
Here's my Pi Day contribution to the bundle.





Here are more of the freebies for Pi Day!



The Pi Day freebies in this bundle are...
  • Simple Pi Day singalong songs
  • A Pi Day puzzle
  • A Pi Day math art project
  • Hands on math lessons about circles and pi
  • "Pi-lentine's" cards to print and give to friends - they're like Valentine's Day cards!
  • The Pi Day themed addition game you see above
  • Easy Pi Day card game

So, how about St. Patrick's Day?


Your freebies for Leprechaun Day include...
  • St. Patrick's Day counting, addition, and subtraction resources
  • St. Patrick's day number riddles {my math riddle task cards - I hope you'll LOVE them!}
  • St. Patrick's Day probability game

We've even got resources for you to use throughout the month! And, yes, they're all FREE!




The teachers of The Ultimate Math Toolbox want to help you make March a fun math experience for your students and FREE AND EASY for you!

This collection is only available until March 14th, so click here to grab your download today, before you forget!

Happy Teaching!



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Hi, Teaching Friends!

Fourth grade teachers, this one's for you! If you're always hunting for math games to give your students lots of effective practice that makes the most of their time in math rotations, you're going to love this measurement game freebie! (Slide down to the purple button to download it now!)




Why should I consider using these games for math rotations?

In addition to the math practice that games provide, there are so many good reasons to include games like these in your math plans! 
  • Games are engaging - students want to play them again and again, and of course that equals more practice! 
  • Winning a Thumbs Up game is based as much on luck as ability, so you can have partners of mixed ability work together.  I like that - it elevates the strugglers and reminds your higher students that everyone can (and should!) have opportunities to win! 
  • Need more reasons? This post talks about the advantages of starting off the school year using games, and gives even more reasons in support of making games part of your math teaching plans!


What are Thumbs Up math games? 

They're easy-prep games that are played by partners, and they're all about evaluating, comparing, and sorting numerical expressions.  Every game has 24 cards, each with a mathematical expression that your students will evaluate to decide if it's thumbs up true or thumbs down false.


How do I prepare these games?

Super easy prep! Just print two sheets, the cards and the answer key. Cut the cards apart, and you're ready to go! Your download also includes two cute sorting pages which your students will enjoy using, but the sorting can be done without them if you're in a time pinch getting your game ready.


What topics do these games address?

There are ten games in the complete Fourth Grade Thumbs Up set. Here are the topics they address: 
  • Factors of numbers through 100 
  • Comparing two fractions with different numerators and different denominators
  • Comparing decimals
  • Ordering decimals
  • Adding and subtracting whole number through 1,000,000
  • Multiplying a whole number of up to four digits by a one-digit number
  • Multiplying two two-digit numbers
  • Using place value to solve multi-digit multiplication and division
  • Express measurements in a larger unit in terms of a smaller unit >>>> this one is your freebie!
  • Characteristics of 2D and 3D shapes

Several of the games address multiple skills, like this one for geometric shapes that also brings in some addition and multiplication. Here's what I mean!




The complete set is 20% off for a short time!  Click here to see it!

Try out a Thumbs Up game with this freebie.  I'd love it if you'd let me know what you think of it!


Happy Teaching!














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This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them, I'll receive a small reimbursement 
which will not add to your price.


Here we are, back again with some ideas for using another crazy math tool that you probably already have but might not be sure how to use. This time, the tool is small plastic jars with screw tops.




If you're already the Queen (or King!) of Containers, you probably already have some small containers just sitting in your closet begging to be used.  If not, you can find this package of nine at your dollar store. They're just right size for the activities that I'm going to share!




I think the very best thing about these jars is their versatility! You can use so many things to fill them, and use them in so many ways.
  
For our youngest learners, these could be Counting Jars. Unscrew the top (small motor skill!!), spill the contents, and count. This works great as an independent activity. Alternatively, it makes a fun partner activity. Each partner takes a jar, spills, and counts. The partners decide who has more (or less), and then line them up matching them side by side to compare the amounts and prove the answer.




Anybody out there have a few (or a few hundred) mini-erasers? I thought so. They're the perfect size to fit in these jars for math activities! Here, you see them used as a way to get some hands-on practice with fact families.  Just fill each jar with erasers in two different colors. Have your students spill the erasers and create addition and subtraction equations that use all of erasers in the jar.





This would be so easy to switch out for different seasons and holidays just by using different items for counting. And as I'm sure you know, that alone would make this a brand new center in the eyes of our young students!


Take it up a notch to add counting coins to your possibilities for using jars. Use whatever combination your class is working on now ... pennies and nickels, pennies and dimes, all three, or quarters, too! As with the counting activity described above, you can make this one a partner activity, too, with students comparing their totals.




Just to make your life a bit easier, here's a link to the two printables shown in the photos, free of course!


What else could you put into the jars? Here are just a few ideas.

*  Beads (avoid the round ones ... rolling off the desk, crunching underfoot, ...)
*  Dried beans
*  Pennies
*  Laminating scraps (or just laminate a few brightly colored pages, cut into strips, and snip off   squares)
*  Treasures from the clearance section of the scrapbooking department in craft stores  (like the stars   in the photo at the top of this post)
*  Pebbles (ask your students to supply you with these!)
*  Colorful paper clips
* More traditional math manipulatives, like two-sided counters.

If your stock of math manipulatives is low or you're just looking for something to switch things up a bit, here's a collection of math tools that might help!




Happy Teaching!



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This post contains affiliate links. 

We've all been there. You bravely push your cart into Target. You vow that you won't even glance at the Dollar Spot. Suddenly the hidden electromagnet in the cart activates and you're sucked into the world of really cool stuff that you probably don't need. "I can always use this as a math tool," you think. After all, everybody needs math manipulatives for effective hands-on learning, right?

And then you take that new math tool home or to school. It's still living quietly in a drawer, smiling mockingly at you whenever the drawer slides open, hanging out with its friends from Dollar Tree.




This blog series will give you ideas for using those potential math tools in your neglected stash, along with some other inexpensive items that you may never have thought about using for math teaching and learning!


Let's kick off this series by talking about Hashtag Building Blocks from Target.  At 72 for a dollar, these could go really far at small cost. Read on for a few ideas, broken down by grade levels. Take a glance even at the ones you don't teach - you never know what might spark an idea that's perfect for your students!




PreK/Kindergarten

*   Counting: Put a bunch of hashtags in a big bowl. Partner up your students and have them take turns reaching in and pulling out a handful of hashtags. PreKs can put them in a line so the partners can count them together. For your kindergartens, use them with ten frames. Show them how to count on from ten for teen numbers.

*   Comparing Numbers:  Set up the same as for counting. This time, both students pull out a handful of hashtags on each turn. Estimate who has more. Then line them up next to each other to prove the estimate.




* Do you use sensory bins? Mix some hashtags and magnetic numerals in a bin with confetti/beans/colorful rice/whatever you use for filler. Have your students use tweezers (build those small muscles!) to pull out a numeral and then hunt for and pull the appropriate number of hashtags to match it.


First Grade  

*  Addition and Subtraction Fact Families: Have your students reach into that bowl again and pull out ten tags, using only two colors. For instance, they could pull out 4 orange and 6 green, or 8 red and 2 yellow. {Sanity Saving Hint: You may find it easier to just put two colors in the bowl and have them choose any ten. Just sayin'.} Then they'll write the addition and subtraction equations for ten that use those numbers. If they work as partners, they can check each others' work! Differentiate by using higher or lower numbers.

*  Measurement: Hashtags are great to use for non-standard measurement.  Let your students loose in your classroom with rulers they've created!


Second Grade

* Odd and Even: Back to grabbing handfuls of hashtags again! Have your students fold a paper in half and write odd on one column and even on the other. Each time they grab a handful of hashtags, they'll line them up like this and then write the number in the correct column. 




Partners/not partners is a great way to make a visual representation of odd and even numbers!

* Arrays: Get ready to multiply by building arrays.  Any manipulative would do the job, but you've got hashtags, so why not use them?



Third Grade

* Perimeter:  Your students can use hashtags to build 2D shapes. Set them up around the classroom and do a gallery walk. Your students will love moving around to see the shapes and calculate their perimeters.

As you see, there are SO many ways to use hashtags! Could you use other math tools for these activities? Well, sure, but you've got these cute little hashtags, so let's USE them!


Stay tuned {aka follow ;)} to see the next posts on offbeat math tools! In the meantime, here's another tool that I'll bet you already have, or your students probably have a few million of and would probably contribute! No, it's not Legos, but good try! These would probably hurt like heck when you step on them in the night, too. Visit the post here!


Crazy tools are great fun, but sometimes you might need something more. I've put together some info about a few more traditional math manipulatives. As is my "tradition", I've tucked two free games into it for you! Click here or on the picture below to learn more about these math tools!




How are you using hashtag building blocks in your classroom? Please share!

Happy Teaching!


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With Talk Like a Pirate Day right around the corner (September 19th this year), let's talk about some fun and easy ways to bring number activities into the mix, starting with number sorts.



Sometimes the simplest of activities can bring great results. Number sorts are a simple and effective teaching technique to help your students develop number sense. 

Here's a set of 36 cards, printed nine to a page, perfect for a pocket chart sorting activity. Two sets of headers are also included: odd/even and more than 50/less than 50.

The cards are also good to use to build a looong train of numbers on your classroom floor. So much fun for your kiddos! Have them count up to or (definitely trickier!) back down from 100. There's more than the usual challenge in doing this with this particular set, because not all numbers are included.

I love to get LOTS of use from whatever I print! You, too? Read on!

Use your pirate cards to play, "What's My Number?".  Use sentence strips to put together some quick headbands and clip a card to each one, or use a mini binder clip to attach the card to the back of your students' shirts. Pair up your students and model how to give clues for the number, aiming at whatever you're currently teaching.

→ Comparing numbers? "It's between 54 and 59."
→ Addition? "The number is two more than 56."
→ Subtraction? "It's three less than 71." 
Place value? "5 tens, 8 ones." 
Adding tens? "30 more than 28".
There's as much learning in creating the clues as there is in figuring out the answer!

Download your set of pirate number cards here!

Another Pirate Math Freebie! 

Do you read Edward and the Pirates to your students on Talk Like a Pirate day? Click here to download this set of word problems! 





If you're interested in even more Pirate Math, here's a bundled {read: save $$$} set of 19 games at my TpT store!




Happy Teaching!









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Hi, Teaching Friends!

Fluent reading is a behavior we need to expect of even our newest readers. There's one BIG reason ... fluency is essential to comprehension ... but do you know that there are a lot of other good reasons, too?




"But, wait!' you might say, "They're just getting started! Does fluency really matter when they're brand new readers? How can we possibly get them to read fast?"

Yes, getting your newest readers fluent right from the beginning definitely does matter! Here are a few reasons why:

*   Fluent reading boosts comprehension. The reader who needs to stop frequently to decode or who is still struggling with sight words can't hold the meaning of what he or she is reading. When the comprehension falters, the reader can no longer use meaning as a primary cue source.  It's a downward spiral that you don't want your readers to get caught in!

*   Fluent reading motivates students to read more.  As an adult, do you sometimes find it harder to force yourself to do something that you struggle with, or that you just plain don't want to be bothered with?  It's the same for our new readers. Children who struggle with reading tend not to want to read.  They get frustrated and so they read less. Less practice = less success ... another downward spiral! 

*   Fluent reading makes reading fun.  Think about a Piggy and Gerald book being read word-by-word, without expression or phrasing or attention to the punctuation. Boring, right? But read fluently, they're fun! When readers have fun reading, they want to read more. And we know that "the more you read, the better you read", right?

*   Reading fluently ... or not reading fluently, is a habit. We definitely want to start out all of our newest readers out with the habits of successful readers!


As important as all of this is, nobody said that it would be easy.  Let me share a story about teaching fluency.

When I taught Reading Recovery, problem solving was a part of every lesson. We constantly evaluated what each child needed to advance to the next level. I knew just what this particular child needed - she needed to read faster!  She needed expression, phrasing, pace, and smoothness. But, try as I might, I could not get this child to read faster. Along came my Teacher Leader. Now, I loved and admired this lady dearly, but she could be tough!  When she took over part of my lesson with this little girl, she tapped a long and manicured nail on the book, looked this little one dead in the eye, and said, "Read it FASTER."  It's not like I haven't tried that prompt over and over, I smugly thought to myself.

But when Eileen said it, I guess the girl believed her more than she believed me. Or maybe she scared her (heck, even I was kind of scared!). But after a moment, she read it faster. And whenever she slowed down, Eileen tapped again and gave her the look - faster! 

That technique likely won't work for every child.  Pushing a student to read faster too soon could backfire, causing him or her to guess or neglect critical decoding details.

That being said, it sure worked that time. I learned to be firmer and to have higher expectations. That little girl jumped two levels within the following week, continuing to read not just at a faster pace, but with big improvements in smoothness, expression, the whole fluency picture!

What are the takeaways for your fluency instruction?  

*    Have the expectation that your new readers can and will read books at their independent level with fluent pace, expression, and phrasing.

*    Be insistent and consistent in your fluency instruction!

*    Continue to model expression in your read-alouds.

*    Use shared reading as an opportunity to practice expression and reading the punctuation by having your students join in on refrains.

*    Provide your students with frequent opportunities to reread familiar books.

*    Consider temporarily dropping a child back a level or two to allow them to focus on fluency.

*    Use a listening center for your students to read along with online read-alouds, propelling them through the text.

*    Look for opportunities throughout the day for all readers to experience success in fluency, like the freebie below!


Here's a little autumn activity that will give your young readers a bit of fluency practice. Try it in a fall literacy center! Click the picture to download your copy.





Happy Teaching!










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Hi, Teaching Friends!

I see them on the horizon ... the fins. And I see all those cool Shark Week shows that are about to begin on the Discovery Channel.

And I see the boatloads of shark freebies!  Whether you're teaching summer school or year-round school, homeschooling or - good grief! - back in school already, or maybe you're busy planning for your new class, you know that the shark theme is pretty much unbeatable among the primary crowd. So let's take best advantage of that enthusiasm, right?

I've blogged about Shark Week for several years, and have a growing collection of shark-themed freebies old and new to share with you. So, let's dive in right now {uh-oh... shark pun!} and start scooping them up!





By the way, I've fallen in love with these adorable Surfin' Sharks from Dandy Doodles on TpT! I use these cuties again and again because they've got so much personality! You'll see them surfacing again and again in these freebies ... oh, darn, another shark pun!


Freebie #1:

Here's a game for practice with /not/ contractions. School of Sharks can be used as a board game, or just print up the 16 sets of contraction cards for a matching activity. It's a sample activity from my Oceans of Fun resource, a set of 16 cross-curricular activities which you can find here at my TpT store.





Freebie #2:

Spark some jawesome writing with this roll-and-write freebie! Just roll your die twice to come up with a character and a setting for a fun shark-y story starter.






Freebie #3:

This one might look like it's just for my for my PreK and kindergarten friends, but don't be fooled by the cover.  When you download it, you'll find not just shark-themed number cards, but ideas for eight games that need nothing else but the number cards to play. These games will take you right up through second grade! Please excuse their pun-y names! Click here to download.





Freebie #4:

Shark riddle task cards for addition and subtraction! The free download includes a dozen of these cards. Here are a few of them!





If you'd like to see more math riddle task cards like these, try Dino's Secret Numbers for adding and subtracting tens, Monkey Madness for missing addends, and Shark's Secret Sum for adding three numbers with regrouping. These task cards are an engaging way to develop mental math on a variety of math skills. There are lots more in the riddles category at my store.

Freebie #5 {here's the new one!}:

Two first grade math games!







Here are two shark-themed first grade math games for you.  Shark-in-the-Dark is a sample from Missing Addends Games, and Shark Frenzy  is from the Missing Subtrahends set.  Each of the sets includes ten one-page games.  Like your sample games, these are low-prep and easy to use, with no cards to print, cut, or lose! :)

If you like the simplicity and convenience of using single page games like these, you'll find over 300 of them when you visit the One-Page Games category at my store!



Have fun with Shark Week activities ... and I won't even be the one to tell you to stay out of the water! :)

Happy Teaching!








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