Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Original Snow Cones ~ Sooo Good!

Hi,  The world is covered with a blanket of clean white snow here in Upstate New York today.  

I just had my very favorite dessert ~ homemade snow cones!  Thought I'd share some pictures with you. 

Here's the view from our kitchen. 

We scooped some clean, fresh snow. 

Reached for the raspberry syrup (my favorite). 

Drizzled it on. 

And ~ Yum! ~ It's ready to eat. 
I don't even have words to say how good this is ~ but somebody sure cashed in on the snow cone idea. Trust me, there's nothing like the real thing!  

Happy Holidays and thanks for stopping by.   :) Anne

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Have you seen Literactive? Wow!

So ~ I finally found the free literacy website of my dreams! I just have to share it with you . . . . 

Literactive offers, by far, the best free collection of guided reading books that I have ever seen! I read through each book and each one made me smile. They are well-written with just a little animation added in to hold children's attention.  

Kids can choose to hear the story read to them, or can read on their own. This picture shows one page from a Level One book.  

Kids can click on a word to hear it read.  If they double click, many words are broken down phonetically for them. 

The books are written for Guided Reading Levels A - E. However, below you will see a book from the Guided Reading Level E section. With the compound words and text structures presented in this text, I am comfortable saying that these books are awesome for the entire first half of First Grade!

There's a whole section called "Learning Activities."  In this section, there are about one hundred games.  I'm still exploring and loving what I see!  The picture below shows a crossword activity that I even enjoy playing. 

There's also a section called "Road to Reading." Click on this road and you will find activities for each letter of the alphabet and nearly every early literacy skill. The picture below shows a sentence building activity. Kids hear a sentence read and then put the words in order to make the sentence.      

Registration is required to access this site.  The process was quick and easy. I received my password within one minute of registering. 

I have to give credit to "Being Inspired" on Teachers pay Teachers for pointing me to this site. I posted on the forum asking for suggestions as I was preparing to share with parents at our Curriculum Night. She pointed me to this site and I am soooo grateful!

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy exploring this site and that you stop back again soon! I'd also like to invite you to follow along with me at Common Core Connection on Pinterest  where I love sharing ideas that get kids exciting about learning.         

:) Anne

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Number Paths ~ A Fabulous Tool for Kindergarten and First Grade Math!

Number lines are common in primary classrooms - but a number path may be a better tool for many students to use as they work with addition, subtraction and comparison problems. 

A number line uses a model of length. Each number is represented by its length from zero. Number lines can be confusing for young children. Students have to count the "hops" they take between numbers instead of counting the numbers themselves. Students' fingers can land in the spaces between numbers on a number line, leaving kids unsure which number to choose (Fuson et al, 2009). 


A number path is a counting model.  Each number is represented within a rectangle and the rectangles can be clearly counted. A number path provides a more supportive model of numbers, which is important as we want models that consistently help students build confidence and accurately solve problems.
I have been using number paths for a few years and highly recommend them for use in Kindergarten and First grade. 
Most major publishers are not yet utilizing number paths. So, I wrote some word problems using number paths. Click here to download the free samples shown below.   

Students are presented with multiple ways to solve each problem. Once students are familiar with the ways these sheets support their problem solving, I often have each student choose at least 2 ways to show and check their work. This allows each student to utilize the methods that are most efficient for him/her. I love to give students time to discuss why they chose certain methods to solve a problem! 

Each sheet includes a related extension/bonus question at the bottom. These questions can be used in a variety of ways. 

These bonus questions are perfect extension activities for students to discuss and complete at home with a family member. I love to see the extension work that students return! Many parents have commented that they appreciate the challenging nature of these questions.

When these word problems are used for whole-group instruction, it is common for some students to have completed tasks while others still need support. “Early finishers” can read the bonus question, flip their paper over and work on this challenge question while the teacher provides individual and/or small group instruction as needed. In this way, these bonus questions help teachers differentiate during group lessons. 

Thanks for stopping by and taking a look.  :) Anne

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mystery Number Puzzles with Hundreds Charts

A few weeks ago, I saw a picture on Pinterest of a hundred chart that had been cut up and turned into a puzzle. I loved it!

I got to thinking, wouldn't it be great to put a twist on that and turn it into a math center?  Here's what  I came up with . . . 

I started with a few hundred charts copied onto different colors of tagboard. I like to enlarge my charts to 11 x 17 to make them easier to work with.  Just like in the pin I had seen, I cut the charts into puzzles.  

Then, I simply removed some numbers from each puzzle. 

Now, it's set up so kids can put the puzzle together and then figure out (and record) which numbers are missing.  I have kids list the missing numbers for each color.  Voila - a bit of accountability.  

I was lucky ~ I happened to have envelopes the same color as my puzzles.  But, if I didn't, I'd just use ziploc bags and color-code them with a sticker or dot. 

To differentiate, I'm thinking of letting kids who need extra support build directly on another hundred chart.

After kids are confident with this, we'll move on to puzzles using a 120 chart!

For a challenge, kids could have to explain in writing how they know which numbers are missing.  (Another challenge I am considering is having kids find puzzle pieces with one or more lines of symmetry.)   

Hope you enjoy this idea.  Let me know if you think of more twists to add.  Thanks for stopping by and taking a look!   :) Anne

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Harvest Sensory Learning!

Adding a simple sensory component to lessons can bring such joy and engagement!  Here are a few simple ideas for quickly adding a sensory component to early literacy lessons. 

I love doing letter/sound sorts with kids.  In this case, we'd talk about the /p/ sound as in pig and the /m/ sound as in mouse.   Then kids sort the objects - both magnetic letters and "tiny treasures" - onto the letter cards.  

Just hiding the objects in a bin of corn and having kids reach in and take the first thing they touch adds a whole new component!

There's something so appealing about corn.  Ever reach into a bin?   I live in rural upstate New York, where we can just stop by the feed store to pick up a bag of corn.  But, corn from the grocery store works just as well.  (It doesn't take much to fill a small plastic bin.)  

As kids work with sight words, the letters to form a few words can be hidden in the bin of corn. Here's a simple game to play:  
Provide a few word cards. 
Kids reach in, take a letter and place it on the word card.  
When they complete a word, they read it and keep the card.  
Adding a writing component is a snap ~ kids can record the words they "won" in this simple game.  

If you don't have a bag of corn, a bin of rice works just a well!

Did these pictures trigger more ideas for simple sensory experiences that support literacy lessons?   If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts.  

Thanks for stopping by and taking a look!  I'm collecting simple ideas to make learning fun for kids.  I hope you'll check out my Pinterest page and consider following along with me.  :) Anne Gardner

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Greater Than, Less Than or Equal - Free and Simple Card Game

Kids love card games- and so do I!  

Here's a simple game to work with inequalities/compare numbers.  Kids just pick two cards, write the numbers in the boxes and fill in the <, > or = sign.  Sometimes the simplest games are the most fun!

Simple variations:
Play with dice - Have kids counts the dots and write the numbers
Use a set of 1 - 100 cards for more advanced students 

Click here to download this free game from my Teachers pay Teachers shop.  

Enjoy!         :) Anne Gardner (NBCT)

My son, Keith, is a computer science major.  He just created an iPad app based on this idea.  If you'd like to check it out, click here

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I'm Loving BlogLovin

I am so excited to be on vacation and have time to find some great new blogs!  Many thanks to Laura Candler's Blog Hunt, I'm loving BlogLovin.  The format is simple and user-friendly.  I see a quick title, one photo and the opening paragraph for each blog I'm following.  BlogLovin makes it easy for me to hop right on over to the blogs that catch my eye on any given day! Take a look at a collection of great educational blogs by clicking on the "Going on a Blog Hunt" icon below.

I'd love for you to click on "Follow my Blog with BlogLovin" on the right to follow along as I share ideas for connecting instruction to the Common Core!   :)  Anne 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fun Ways to Help Young Kids Learn to Answer Multiple Choice Questions

*** Updated December 29, 2013 ***

I'm starting to think about helping my kids become confident with the format of multiple choice questions before end of year district and state assessments.  Here are some ideas and materials that I'll be using.    
Ask questions in a multiple choice format during daily routines. Here's an example of a simple calendar question. Giving each student a strip of tagboard with a clothespin to pin on their  answer is an easy way to make sure every child participates.

Kids are much more fond of multiple choice questions when they associate them with class rewards! 

Get a small group active by putting letters on the corners of the rug and having kids walk to their answer for multiple choice questions.

During group lessons, pose a multiple choice question and have kids use sign language to show their answer.  So simple!  Here's the link to download: Sign Language for Multiple Choice Questions.

I've created a set of reading comprehension passages with multiple choice questions to help kids develop the skills they will need to be successful on our end of the year assessments. These passages ~ currently available for Guided Reading Levels C, D, E, F, G/H, I/J and K/L ~ are available at my Teachers pay Teachers shop and on my Teachers Notebook shop. 

Thanks so much for stopping by.  I hope you find these ideas useful. If you have more ideas for helping kids prepare for multiple choice assessments, I'd love to hear about them!

:) Anne

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tic Tac Toe with Numbers, Letters or Sight Words

I just love Tic Tac Toe!  There can be so much to a game - the planning, the strategy and even reinforcement of academic skills.

I like to use half of a foam carton from a pack of 18 eggs.    

We select appealing objects to play with.  For some kids, that might mean Legos or Unifix cubes.  Pom Poms are always a great choice too! 

Kids play until they understand the game well.  Then it's time to add another element!

To work with letters, partners each choose a color.  Select the letters you want each child to focus on. Depending on the letters you select, this works well for kids who are learning their first few letters and also for kids who need reinforcement with a few letters they find tricky.       

This works well with numbers too! 

My favorite way to use this game is to reinforce knowledge of sight words.  Just tape the words your kids are working with onto colored tiles or unifix cubes and they're ready to go!   

To add some writing, have kids record the words they use for each game.       

I love simple, classic games that can be used in many different ways.  That makes Tic Tac Toe an all-time favorite for me!

Thanks for taking a look.  I hope you find these ideas helpful.  If you have favorite games that work throughout the year, I'd love to hear about them.  Anne  

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Don't Spill the Words

Here's a simple variation on the classic "Don't Spill the Beans" game that kids ask to play again and again. Just tape sight words onto tiles or unifix cubes and follow the directions for the original "Don't Spill the Beans" game. 

Also works well with magnetic letters!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Long Vowel Scavenger Hunt - Oh So Simple!

Scavenger Hunts within Favorite Texts

I really want my kids to "see" how word study connects to reading their favorite books.   Here's a simple activity that's been helping kids understand these connections.

After we take a close look at a word feature, we go on a "scavenger hunt" to find words with that feature.  For instance, after we studied the long vowel/ silent e pattern, kids picked their favorite guided reading books and highlighted words with this pattern. 

Kids also read the pages they had selected, stressing the long vowel/ silent e patterns.  

Next week, we're going to try a scavenger hunt looking for  -ing endings. 

If you decide to try this out, want to let me know how it goes? 
Thanks!  Anne

P.S.  I'm happy to have linked to Laura Candler's Blog Hunt.  Hope you get a chance to check it out!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Building Fact Families

Awhile back, I saw a great idea from Margaret at KinderJourney. She was using clothes pins and craft sticks to build sight words. I loved the idea because kids enjoy working with the materials and get to develop important fine motor skills while also working with academic tasks.   

My kids couldn't get enough, so we started using these materials to build addition facts and then fact families.  

To build addition facts, just write the addition sign and equals sign on the craft sticks. Provide kids with sets of clothespins with numbers you are working with.  My kids love to fill a table with facts they have built!

Kids love building fact families too! I put the craft sticks and number pins that kids will need to build one fact family in a large ziploc bag. Kids then act as detectives to figure out what fact family they can build using these components. 

To develop an understanding of missing addend problems, kids pick up a "fact" and remove one of the pins.  Their partner has to figure out what number pin they removed.    

Works for multiplication/division fact families as well. 

If you decide to try this out, I'd love to hear how it works for you! Thanks for stopping by! Anne 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Heads and Tails Games: 
Using Coins to Help Kids Develop Math Concepts

At home, most kids have coins available. Kids are highly motivated to learn about money!  So - I love to use coins in math games. 

Heads and Tails is probably my all-time favorite math game.   Here are a couple variations that kids love to play at school and then go home and teach their families.  It is so flexible - kids can learn to play as they are learning to count and keep on playing variations of the game as they learn increasingly complex math skills. 

Basic Game - Getting Started with Counting Pennies:  Kids work with partners.  To start, one partner calls heads or tails.  The other partner drops the coins (either from his/her hand or out of a cup).  The child who has heads works with all the coins that land on heads.   The child who has tails works with all the coins that land on tails.   Each student counts his/her coins and the student with the coins having the highest value wins the round. 

As our Pre-K parents come in for orientation, we suggest this as a great game to play while waiting at the doctor's office, etc. 

Addition within Ten: Kids repeatedly play with a given number of coins.  They write the addition fact for each round.  

Adding More Coins: We start with all pennies, then add additional coins as students are ready for the challenge.  (Playing with all dimes is a great way for kids to practice counting by tens!)  

Comparing Numbers: As kids learn about <, > and = , we add a whiteboard and kids write their problem. 

Working with Two Digit Addition: When we work with 2 digit addition, kids work with coins worth one dollar.  They play Heads and Tails, then add their collections to make sure they each counted accurately.  (If their total is not equal to $1.00, they re-check their work.)

I hope you find these games useful.  Thanks for stopping by!   Anne

Thursday, January 24, 2013

You Can Bulldoze a b - Clearing up b/d confusion

Here's a little trick that helps my kids distinguish b from  d.  Once kids are confident working across a line of text from left to right, they are ready to "bulldoze" from left to right.   (If they need help remembering to start at the left a green sticker, for go, at the left  and a red sticker, for stop, at the right often help.) 

As they approach a b, they will find that you can bulldoze a b.   

Many kids who have started to get frustrated by issues distinguishing b and d really enjoy this activity.    

If kids try to bulldoze a d, it just tips over . . . .

Once this activity is introduced in a small group, kids enjoy independently "bulldozing each b" during literacy center time.  
Each time they bulldoze the letter b into a new box they say, "You can bulldoze a b!"   It really sticks with them!   

MatchBox and HotWheels often have small, inexpensive bulldozers available.  This one belonged to my son and I "inherited" it when he grew a bit old for it.  

Many of my kids love this activity.   I hope you find it useful!    

 :)   Anne

P.S. -  Do you have favorite ways to help kids distinguish b and d?  I'd love to hear about them!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Addition Concentration Game 

My kids love playing math games with cards. I like these games because most kids have the materials they need at home to keep on playing and practicing. Addition Concentration is one of my favorites. 


Kids work with a partner.  They look through a deck of cards and find pairs of cards that add up to their target number.   In this picture, the target number is ten, but we play with a variety of numbers.    

For a traditional game of Addition Concentration, players place cards on the table face down.  Partners take turns flipping two cards over.   If the numbers on the cards add up to 10, the player places the cards into the addition sentence and writes the addition fact.   Their partner then reverses the order of the cards and writes the related addition fact.    (I like to use whiteboards, but using Magna Doodles or paper and pencil also works well.)  

To switch it up a bit, try "Clean Sweep" memory.  The sweeper says, "I can sweep the board with 3 pairs."   Their partner then puts 3 pairs of cards, face up, on the table and gives the sweeper a few seconds to study the pairs.  The partner then flips the cards face down and the sweeper attempts  to find all the pairs that add up to the target number.  Partners switch roles and play continues. 

I like this variation because players are not guessing where numbers may be; they study the cards and build memory skills as they try to recall the location of pairs of cards.   If a child is able to sweep the board with 3 pairs, he/she can try to sweep the board with 4 pairs during his/her next turn.   Kids take great pride in sweeping the board with an increasing number of cards.

Because cards are readily available with so many different pictures, this can easily work into a variety of themes just by changing the deck of cards.

I also love to play with ten frame cards!

I hope you find this game useful.  Do you have favorite addition card games?   
I'd love to hear about them!          Anne  

Monday, January 14, 2013

Fun with Flash Cards

I've been focusing on fun ways for students to develop fluency with math facts while actively using flash cards. Here are some of my students' favorite ways to work through a pack of flash cards. 

Kids work with a partner.  One student "builds" the addition problem while the other student answers the problem using magnetic numbers. The final step: Kids check to make sure their answers match one another. 

Here's a variation on the idea above.  Kids work with a partner. Each child "builds" the problem using unifix cubes.  Kids compare their answers to make sure they match. 

I'm lucky to have this great floor number line!  My kids love placing their flashcards on the number corresponding to the answer on the number line.  (If I didn't have this number line, I'd improvise by placing numbers on the floor for kids to work with.) 

My kids find everything a bit more fun while they are working on a Magna Doodle.  One child places the flashcards; the other writes the answers and then they trade roles. (Chalkboards or whiteboards also work well for this activity.)

Kids place their flashcards in the "parking lot" for the answer. Placing flashcards into numbered cups also works well. Click here to download the Parking Lot sheets. 

The classic game of Compare (or War) is also a favorite with my kids. Kids just split the deck and put their cards facedown in a pile. Each player puts his/her top card in the middle, and the player with the highest answer keeps both cards.  (The classic games just never go out of style.) 

The cards shown in this post are for addition and subtraction within Five.  I run them off on colored cardstock.  To download a copy of these cards, click here.

Updated 12/28/14:  I've just added free flashcards for addition and subtraction within ten to my Teachers pay Teachers shop.  You can find the addition cards by clicking here.  For the subtraction cards, click here

Do you have a favorite way of working with flashcards?  I'd love to hear about it!

Thanks for much for stopping by!
:) Anne Gardner (NBCT)