Sunday, August 14, 2016

Dots and Boxes!


Do you remember using dot paper as a kid?  It was always one of my favorite things! My grandmother used to carefully draw the dots by hand. Times sure have changed, but I find my primary students are just as enamored with activities using dot paper as I was.   

Dot paper and a die are great tools to help kids develop number sense.  A student can roll a die, draw a shape around that many dots and write the number in the shape.  (Kids can play with a partner or on their own.  A wipe-off plastic sleeve is handy for this activity.) 


   
The next step ~ Offer either a ten-sided die or two dice to roll.  When using two dice, it's easy to differentiate by deciding whether each student is best served by writing just the number or an equation inside the shape. 



My kids always love this simple counting and number writing game.  The first person circles one dot and writes the number one.  The second person draws a shape around two dots and writes the number two, . . .   The only rule is that a player may not cross a line.  


Early in the year, I like to show kids how to play the classic Dots and Boxes game. Kids take turns connecting two dots, either vertically or horizontally. Players write their initial in each box they complete.   


Later in the year, I put sight words inside the boxes. When a student completes a box, he/she reads, traces and writes the sight word. You can add your own words to dot paper. (To try a sample of this game and also download simple dot paper, click here.)  


I always felt like I was missing a piece - kids just love these games so much that there must be a way to add more . . .   

Then I met Linda Nelson of Primary Inspiration.  Linda shared her Spring into Summer math games with me.  I was AMAZED! This set includes 30 unique games and every one involves a creative twist that makes it especially engaging. These are games that students beg to play, even during inside recess. As they play, they practice essential math skills while also learning to plan ahead and use a variety of strategies. What a combination! 

Since I just love Dots and Boxes games, Linda's Fireflies game really jumped out at me! Linda had put numbers inside the dots. Brilliant! It was the exact twist I had been looking for.  


My son, Keith, was studying Computer Science in college and had just written a variation of a Dots and Boxes app. When we saw Fireflies, our eyes grew oh so big! We touched base with Linda, and she said go ahead and use the idea in an app. THANKS, LINDA!

Here's the app on iTunes.  It's called Addition and Subtraction Boxes. The following levels are included: 
  • Counting within Five (Free)
  • Counting within Ten
  • Addition within Five (Free)
  • Subtraction within Five
  • Addition within Ten 
  • Subtraction within Ten
  • Addition within Twenty
  • Adding with Three Addends
  • Subtraction within Twenty (Free)
The game can be played either with a partner or in one player mode. (In single player mode, an image is uncovered as the player completes the boxes.)




We've had fun creating this game and would love to hear your feedback if you have a chance to take a look. 

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If you're looking for fun and engaging games and activities, I highly recommend exploring Primary Inspiration by Linda Nelson. She puts such a fun twist on rock-solid content!

Here are just a few of her fabulous free games and activities: 

I played these games just for fun (repeatedly) 

as soon as I downloaded the file! 

Another fun twist on a Dots and Boxes game!

So versatile and kids love them!
                                       

Thanks so much for stopping by!  I'd love to hear about your experiences with any of these activities or other variations on dots activities.  

:)  Anne Gardner 






Monday, December 28, 2015

Pick Up Sticks with Straws ~ How fun!


I'd like to share a game my kids have always loved - Pick Up Sticks with Straws. 



To play, just pick up a box of straws. These were 99 cents at Price Chopper. Cut the straws into sections. I used a ruler and cut pieces of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 inches long. 

Then, play just like the traditional game of Pick Up Sticks. One player holds the sticks vertically in his or hand with the bottom of each straw touching the table (or floor). The straws scatter as they are released.  Players take turns trying to pick up a straw without moving any other straw.  If any other straw moves, that straw is returned to the pile. 



I love to use this game for measurement and estimation! Players can be challenged to pick a straw and then estimate its length. Either nonstandard units (such as paper clips) or standard units (such as inches can be used). If the player estimates within one unit of the actual length, he/she keeps the straw. If not, the straw is put back into the pile and play continues. Variations include playing until all straws have been picked, or playing until a player's straws can form a straight line from one end of the table to the other.  



Looking for a quicker game? One player can hold a collection of straws of a variety of lengths. Straws up to five inches long generally work best for this. The player conceals the bottom of the straws within their hands and let's the top show. The other players take turns picking a straw. Options include:
  • Pick one straw each. Player with the longest straw wins, if he/she can tell how long the straw is. 
  • Pick several straws each. Players measure their straws and add the length. Player with the greatest length wins. 
  • Pick two straws each.Player with total length closest to 5 units wins. 
  • Pick two straws each. Find the difference between the lengths of the two straws. The player with the greatest difference wins.
Kids often have so much fun with these games that they don't even realize they are practicing important math skills.  


Do you have favorite, easy to make, inexpensive math games?  If so, I'd love to hear about them!

Thanks for stopping by!   :) Anne Gardner




Sunday, August 30, 2015

Reading Comprehension Passages and iPad Apps by Guided Reading Level



Hi,  Thanks so much for stopping by!  As my sons were growing up, I started writing stories about the topics they were most interested in.  For the past three years, I’ve been turning these into 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 Annegardner4@gmail.com 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 Annegardner4@gmail.com 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.) 

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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