Sunday, August 30, 2015

Reading Comprehension Passages and iPad Apps by Guided Reading Level

Hi,  Thanks so much for stopping by!  For the past three years, I’ve been creating a series of Leveled Reading Comprehension Passages with text-based questions.  These passages are currently available for Guided Reading Levels C - N.   

If you'd like to see teachers' feedback on the reading comprehension passages (paper version), click here. 
My son, Keith, has been studying Computer Science and is now an iOS app developer.  He took an interest in these materials and has been creating iPad apps based on these passages.

We currently have apps listed for Guided Reading Levels C, D, E, F, G/H and I/J.  These are also offered in a First Grade Reading Comprehension Bundle.

Students can read the passages on their own, or can click a speaker button to hear sections of text read with voice to print highlighting.  Instant feedback is provided as students answer the multiple choice questions.

If you’d like to see these apps in the app store, click here or on either of the images above.  For each Guided Reading Level, there is a free trial version with one passage and questions.  

Keith and I were thrilled when Binghamton University recently shared an article about our work.  
Feature Image

If you have any questions about these apps, please feel free to contact me. My email address is and I'd love to hear from you! 

:) Anne Gardner (NBCT, Literacy)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Clothespin Shapes ~ How fun!

Ever notice how satisfying it is to work with wood? My kids love anything that uses clothespins. I stopped by the Dollar Tree last night and they had lots of bags for $1. Irresistible!

I made these little clothespin shapes and wanted to share them.   

My son and I had fun building shapes.    

But, it seemed like something was missing. So, I created these simple shape cards that students can build around. (The file is not in color. These are printed on colored cardstock.)

To download a copy of these shape cards, just click here or on any of the pictures. If you have any trouble getting the file to download, email me at and I'll be happy to send the file right out to you. 

** Getting the last clothespin into a shape is a little like closing the last side of a box . . .   

Thanks for stopping by!

:) Anne

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Have you seen this video? I think kids are going to love it!

I just discovered this video, "What Do the Letters Say?"  It gets kids singing letter names and repeating letter sounds.  It's upbeat and just makes me smile!  Have Fun Teaching even thought to introduce consonants and vowels as they created this video!  I'm so excited that I just have to share a few ideas for using it in the classroom.  (Click on the picture to view the video.) 


1) Give each child an alphabet chart and a special pointer.  Have kids point at each letter as they sing and say the sound. 

2) Use an alphabet chart and a set of magnetic letters.  Challenge kids to match the letters as they sing along.  (Pause as needed to give kids a chance to catch up.)

3) Duplicate an alphabet tracing sheet.  Have kids trace each letter as they sing. 

4) To line up for lunch or recess, randomly give kids a letter card.  Have them come line up as the class sings their letter. 

5) Use this song as a BrainBreak.  Kids can hop up whenever they hear a letter that's in their name. 

Looking for an interesting link for your next newsletter?  Send the link to this free YouTube video home so kids can enjoy it at home with their families. 

Thanks for stopping by!  I'd love to hear your ideas for using this video.

:) Anne

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Which pencil is best? 
All of these contraptions have been highly recommended for various reasons over the years.  

Personally, I am blessed with horrific fine motor skills.  For many years, I thought this was a curse. (I started teaching back in the days when teachers were expected to write on a chalkboard on a regular basis . . . )

Technology has been my friend.  It's so much easier being able to project work onto a screen!   

I have grown to appreciate my tendency toward weak fine motor skills as this has helped me understand the plight of students who really struggle with handwriting. This often starts with basic letter formation - but continues throughout school as students are expected to write compositions of increasing length. 

So, here's my answer to the age-old question ~ Which pencil is best?

The one the writer is most comfortable using!
Giving students the opportunity to experiment with and choose between a variety of writing tools can really help enhance their ability to stay focused on writing tasks (for a variety of reasons).  Just for fun, here are some thoughts on some of the contraptions shown above: 

Recently, there's been lots of discussion about how small pencils (such as golf pencils) are better suited to little hands.  I've found it true that using small pencils deters students from using a "fist grip."  There just isn't enough to hold onto . . .  They are the pencil of choice for some students. I have also found that some students are more comfortable with a large pencil, particularly when a triangular grip is added.  

Other students prefer the use of a weighted pencil.  For kids who also need a fidget tool, I love the wingnut pencil.  Kids can earn washers, spacers and wingnuts as prizes. To collect hardware, I searched through our garage. You can also go to a hardware store with a pencil in hand. (You may end up with some small pencil shavings the first time the wingnuts are used.)

The second pencil down in this picture has a pipe cleaner (or stem) wrapped around it.  It can be kept in place using a rubber band above and/or below as needed.  Many kids love this texture - and it's also a comfortable pencil grip for some. This one happens to be wrapped around a mechanical pencil. 

The 4th picture from the top was a fidget pencil I purchased many years ago for a couple dollars.  It is visually appealing, but the wingnut moves so easily that I find kids wildly spinning it instead of truly using up extra (fidgety) energy. 

The bottom pencil is one of my favorites.  It's a golf whiffle ball on a regular size pencil.  (I had to use the file from my fingernail clippers to slightly enlarge the holes.)  If I have to write for hours, this is my tool of choice.  A number of students, over the years, have found that their hands do not tire as easily using this "contraption." 

Thanks so much for stopping by!  If you have a favorite writing tool, I'd love to hear about it!

:) Anne

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Celery Roses ~ A Simple but Elegant Project for Mother's Day (or any special occasion)

Mother's Day and Grandparent's Day are quickly approaching.  In school, I was always the kid who struggled to make an art project look the way I wanted it to.  ~As a teacher, I continue to struggle with displays and lovely little touches. 

So, I was very excited when I saw a celery rose on Pinterst.  My inspiration came from Laureen Cracknell.  She had a lovely, intricate project including some roses printed from celery.  (Click here to see her blog post.)  I wanted to simplify this idea for busy teachers, so I am providing a template for a vase and flower stems.  
This project required one stalk of celery.  Just cut the celery into short pieces and use a rubber band to hold them together. 

Print the page with the vase and stem.  Kids can color the stems and decorate the vase as they'd like.  Then, they can stamp away to create a bouquet of roses for their mother or any important person in their life. 

For the inside of the card, I'm including a couple templates that kids can use to write a special note. 

To download the pages shown, click here or on any of the pictures. 

** Bonus: Now I'm motivated to eat the rest of the celery . . . 

Thanks so much for stopping by!   :) Anne Gardner 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Free Math Activities for Interactive Whiteboards ~ Awesome!

I just found an amazing site featuring math activities for Interactive Whiteboards.  What I really love is . . . It's all set up by grade level and includes demonstrations of all my favorite hands-on math tools. 

Here are a few activities that caught my eye. . . 

Interactive ten frame activities ~ Ready to play!

Students count groups of tens and ones ~ Handy!

Help kids visualize whether equations are true or false. 
These activities are great for whole group lessons and math talks.  They are also fabulous for use as math centers.  They are narrated, so kids experience success using them independently.  There's so much to explore!  

If you get a chance to check this site out, I'd love to hear what you think.  Thanks so much for stopping by!

:) Anne 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Beaded Number Rods

Yesterday, I went to the dollar store and spent $2 on a pack of beads and some stems.  (I'm giving away my age, but we used to call these pipe cleaners when I was in school. This set is shorter than the ones I remember from long ago.) 

This morning, I had time to just play with these. Here are some of the ideas I came up with:

Simply creating number sticks was fun.  What a great way for kids to learn to compare numbers. After building a staircase with number rods, I'd also have them build a staircase with unifix and talk about how the two sets are similar. 

Once kids have had time to explore the materials, it's time to add in symbols.  I made this set of number toppers and taped them onto the beaded rods.   

I'm thinking of having kids sequence these. They would also work well for a number of games.  Here are some that came to my mind right away:

1) Remove the beads.  Have kids put the beads back onto the number rods. (When you want the beads to stay on easily, just fold the bottom of the stem over.) 

2) Partners work together to put the number rods in order.  One partner closes his/her eyes while the other removes a number rod.  The partner has to see how quickly he/she can figure out which rod is missing. (A slight variation - Instead of taking a rod away, the first child switches the order of two rods. The second child has to quickly put them back in order.)

3) Take one rod at a time. Flip it, so there is just a blank white card as the child sees the back of the number topper. He/she says, as quickly as possible, how many beads are on the rod. Flip the card back over for a self-checking activity. 

I love any material that helps kids really visualize and understand addition and subtraction.  So - I got out some flashcards and started playing with these beaded number rods.  

For addition, I answered the problem mentally and then took the number stick that matched my answer.  I really liked "proving it" using the number stick - and I'm thinking kids will too. 

These worked really well for subtraction.  I just took the stick showing the total and subtracted by sliding the beads down the rod.  I found this quick, easy and visually appealing.

I find that many kids really struggle with the concept of numbers in the teens.  So - I started playing with these to see how they'd work with numbers through 20. 

First, I just added another stem and created rods for numbers in the teens.  It didn't seem like that would help kids visual these numbers.  

Then, I tried folding between the group of ten and the additional ones.  I started to feel like this would be a way kids could visual numbers in the teens.

Just for fun, I made some larger toppers.  This struck me as a visual that would really help kids understand numbers in the teens! 

Some ideas for working with these would be:

1) Have kids sequence numbers 10 - 19. 
2) Teach kids to verbalize, "I see 18.  18 is one ten and eight more ones. 

Rekenreks are all the rage!  I messed around a bit with making a rekenrek that kids could build for themselves.  Here's what I came up with:
Just attaching two number rods to q-tips was a quick and simple way to create a rekenrek.  I really like that the beads stay in place when I pick them up. (With many of the commercial rekenreks, the beads slide as soon as the rekenrek is tilted.) The q-tips worked well because the stems did not easily slide over the ends and they are something I usually have on hand. But, I didn't really like the look. So, I went digging through my kids' old toys. 

I found a bin of building toys - and there were plenty of stems that gave these a nice sturdy feel. 

If you'd like to print out the number toppers I used, you can download them by clicking here

I have the flashcards pictured here available for free at my Teachers pay Teachers shop.  Click here for addition cards and here for subtraction cards. 

It's been fun playing with beads and stems today. I hope that someone else will find some inspiration in these ideas. If so, I'd love to hear about it!

Thanks for stopping by,  :) Anne