What Reading Levels ARE For and What They're NOT For

Sharing reading levels with parents has become a controversial issue.

My personal belief is that this is valuable information, as it can help parents select books their child will be most likely to experience success with.
As a parent, I always wanted access to any information that could be relevant to how I could support my child's learning!

This FREE Parent Handout clarifies what reading levels are, how they ARE meant to be used, and how they ARE NOT meant to be used.

After sharing such information with parents, I believe it's best to provide their child's reading level each time it is assessed. 

I hope you find this parent letter useful. I'd love to hear your thoughts on sharing reading levels with parents, if you'd care to comment!

Thanks, Anne Gardner (National Board Certified in Literacy)

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Ten Tiny Teaching Tips To Try Today

From the minute the kids arrive, to the time you get home at night, we've got some Tiny Teaching Tips That Can Make a BIG Difference!         

Help your kids feel seen, from the moment they enter the classroom in the morning!

1. Use Photos and Binder Clips to Make Movable Pieces! These can be used as kids sign in (attendance), or even to select their lunch choices. They are also handy to show whether someone is in the restroom or for playing pieces for board games. Another thought. . . Personalize magnets, like Kadeen does, and use them to display center rotations. The possibilities are virtually endless!       

Tips: If you don't have binder clips, send an email out to your fellow teachers to see if anyone has a box they can donate to you. There seem to be A LOT of these in school closets. Need photos? Ask parents to send one in. Then, just snap pictures of the kids who don't bring one. 

2. Project Digital Images: Many of us now have a way to project digital images. Ask parents to email you a digital copy of a couple favorite pictures to share. In the morning, have one on display! Pop another picture up after lunch or as kids get ready for the buses. Better yet, create a slide show that can run during these transition times!        

Note: Take pictures of those kids whose families don't send them in. (These may be the kids who most need help building a collection of photos!)

3. Help Kids Feel Seen in Math Class: When working with word problems, include students' names, along with their favorite topics. It can make the task so much more meaningful.
4. Have Some Pencil Top Erasers in Your Closet? I love how Karen Wasdin, from Laugh and Learn with Silly Sam, uses these for number line addition and subtraction!

From Karen: I give these little smiley erasers to my students for Addition and Subtraction Number Line Jumping practice. They stand up and stay securely on each number spot as students record their answers. I use them throughout the year as a little gift or treat. Like in a Valentine's Card! 

Karen offers tips on Number Line Addition and Subtraction, as well as FREE Number Lines to 20 here! 

5. Turn Flashcards into FUN Learning Tools! 
Flashcards sometimes get a bad wrap. But, this blog post features simple and engaging ways for students to develop fluency with math facts while actively using flash cards.  
6. Build Stamina for Writing! Working with clothespins is one of the best ways to help kids build fine motor skills and strengthen those little hands! (The Dollar Store usually has bags of 50 clothespins for $1!)     
Use clothespins for building shapes. Get the free shape cards here. 

 Want to use clothespins for an ELA center? Write letters instead of numbers so kids can build sight words!

7. Who Doesn't Love a Scavenger Hunt?  I really want my kids to "see" how word study connects to reading favorite books. Here's a simple way to help kids understand those connections.
This girl went on a scavenger hunt to find words with a long vowel/silent e. Next, she read the page she had selected, stressing the highlighted words. Want to add in a little writing? Have kids list the words they find. 
Tip: These bingo chips are helpful in SO many ways! They are like tiny little treasures. One boy was feeling intimidated on the playground and was nervous about approaching an adult (which made it worse). Bingo chips to the rescue! I gave him a red bingo chip to keep in his pocket. If he was having a problem, he could hand the bingo chip to one of the adults. Then, they'd know to step away with him, give him their full attention, and work through the issue together. Once he knew what to do, things didn't bother him so much!

8. Tattle Trash - A Tip from Kadeen:  In a friend’s classroom, I saw this little trash can. I thought it was the cutest thing ever. Instead of tattling to her about the more insignificant things throughout the day, students write the issue down on a piece of paper and throw it in the bin. 

Make sure kids write their name on their paper, so when you look it over, you'll know who it is from.

9. Try Calming Music! From Kadeen: When it’s getting a bit loud, I love to put on some calming music to get everyone’s mind relaxed and settled. It could be the sound of raindrops or soft jazz music. Sometimes this makes kids a bit sleepy, but it’s a great alternative to me continually telling the whole class we are getting louder. I use this even during small group time. It’s so soft that it doesn’t get distracting and kids have told me that it helps them focus and concentrate. (You can see more teaching tips at Kadeen's blog.)

Speaking of calming music, I love this video - and it's a great review of 3D shapes! It features images of dancing people created from 3D blocks. Kids absolutely love to watch and chorally whisper the name of each shape as it appears while the people are being composed. Click here or on the picture to start the video.
Relaxing and Delightful Music!
For a quick brain break, kids can join in the calming dance movements of their favorite character. Finally, the blocks are sorted by shape.  We quickly point at each set and name the shape once again.  So simple and relaxing.  A great combination!
10. Communication Logs: A tip from Kadeen - Use communication logs in homework folders to keep track of your communication with parents. Parents send me quick little notes. I send them back quick little notes and reminders. Place a few sheets in each child’s folder and get the communication started right away. You will have a trail of your communication with parents. You can get the log for free here  

And A Parting Thought. . . When it's finally time to put your feet up, consider one of these Movies That Will Inspire Teachers.  Pat, from Growing Grade By Grade, offers a list of 35 recommendations. 

Here are just a few to get started: 
  1. Kindergarten Cop
  2. Freedom Writers
  3. The Miracle Worker
Now that's a task I could handle at night. . . If I could just stay awake!  
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Factors to Consider in Regards to Retention & Editable Parent Information Forms and Letters

I just read a Facebook post from a teacher stating: "This is the toughest time of year for Kindergarten teachers at our school. . .We have to meet with parents of students that may be retained in Kindergarten. . ."

She was seeking feedback to the following questions. I shared my thoughts on that post and decided to also share them here.

Please Note: This post does not advocate either for or against retention. It is designed solely to help teachers and parents through the process when retention is being considered. 

 What Is A Successful Retention? 

     A successful retention is one which gives the student time to mature and/or develop the academic skills needed for future success. This sheet is designed to help parents put retention into perspective. 
     A change of plans in not necessarily a bad thing. Taking time to re-calibrate before moving forward can lead to greater success in the long-run.

     This Parent Information Sheet is offered, for FREE, at my TpT Shop. You can download it by clicking here

Do you have to begin this process, actually using the word retention, this early?
 I think it's only fair to touch base with parents early on. It gives them the opportunity to think it over and prepare, and the chance to work with their child on areas of need if they feel being promoted to the next grade level is the best option for their child. (Working with their child on areas of need is more applicable in cases where academic skills are a driving factor. If maturity/general youngness is more the issue, that is a different situation.)

How do you determine which students may be retained?
 In considering the best grade level placement for the following year, I believe it's essential to look at the whole child.  Academics are a consideration. My school kept benchmark assessment results, so we could see how each child was progressing in relation to their peers and also in relation to grade level goals.
Your observations and notes are also essential! Does the child act young in comparison to the class?Also consider health issues - and whether an issue is likely to resolve - or whether there is a need to plan for the long-run. 
Please - Don't use being physically small as a consideration. . . Some kids will be 5 feet tall or under when they graduate from high school. It's not a matter of size!

What is the average number of students retained each year in your school?
 I have seen this vary through the years. There was a time at which retention was not an option at the school in which I taught. Now, a number of states have mandated third grade retention for students who aren't reading on grade level.

This is an individual decision, and truly should be treated as such. Focusing on the best interests of that particular child is always more important than considering the current trend, or where the pendulum is within its constant swing.

How do you tell parents, especially this early on?
First of all, I hope parents have already heard some of your concerns prior to this discussion.

As for how I approach the subject, I was lucky. . . I had waited a year before sending both of my own kids to school. They are grown now, and doing very well. So - I can tell parents the reasons I waited (related to time to mature, not rushing childhood, and letting them enjoy being young and carefree).  In our family, that definitely included playing in the mud, getting out in nature, long bike rides, enjoying stories each day, and lots of unstructured time. 

For the younger kids, I often mention to parents that - if the child continues with the current class and decides to go to college - he or she may well be living in a dorm at the age of seventeen.

It's essential to stress that this decision is, in no way, related to intelligence. Many of the kids who end up at the top of their class are actually among the older.

Over the years, I worked with a number of parents who struggled to make this decision - but, years later,  were thrilled that they had given their child the "gift of time." I approached a couple of these parents, and asked if they would be willing to chat with other parents in the process of making this decision. They were - and it was immensely helpful! (I'd highly recommend considering this.)

Always keep the focus on the fact that you want to work together, as a team, to do what's best for the child in the long-run. I have been known to start many sentences with, "If this was my son, I would consider. . . "

Talking With A Child About Retention: 
     It can be very difficult for a parent to talk to their son or daughter about retention. How a student responds to the news of retention can depend, in large part, on how the topic is presented to him or her. So, helping parents prepare for this conversation is important.
     It is always best if the child can ‘buy into’ the plan, realizing that everyone has his or her best interests in mind. Even young students know when they are struggling in school. If retention is presented with sensitivity, the child may actually be relieved to have the time to learn and grow.
This Parent Information Sheet is available, for FREE, at my Teachers pay Teachers shop. You can find it by clicking here.

I started out by creating the two parent information sheets shown above. But, this project soon seemed to take on a life of its own. I have since created a larger resource including the following resources:

Twelve Factors to Consider in Regards to Retention - This is a form for teachers, parents and child-study teams to use while considering retention. Over the years, I've found that using this form helps assure that all the important factors are discussed. 

Six Templates for Parent Letters for Use Throughout the Year - These fully editable templates are set up to systematically introduce and provide documentation regarding any concerns, starting early in the year. The letters in this series gradually introduce the possibility of retention, and continue through the notification of recommendation for either retention or promotion. 

This resource is now offered as an Editable PowerPoint, and is available for purchase here.

Funny Story: Years later, when my son was entering 8th grade, he randomly said, "If you didn't wait a year to send me to school, I'd be going into high school now." With fear in my heart, I asked if he wished he was going into high school that year. His answer was a resounding no.  Whew! 

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Oh Fiddlesticks! Fun to Say, Fun to Play, and a Fabulous Learning Tool!

I was just reading about Fiddlesticks in Mary Najar's blog, Together We Are Smarter. It really caught my eye. . . Just saying Fiddlesticks is fun, and the game is so much better. I was thrilled when Mary offered to share it here. So, here's Mary. . .

Fiddlesticks Featured Photo

Fiddlesticks: A Quick and Easy Review Game for Any Subject!

Are you looking for a versatile game that can be used for review in any content area? Math, reading, science, social studies…Fiddlesticks is a game changer! I currently use it with my 1st grade and 6th grade RTI groups and they LOVE it equally!
Games are my go to activity to help students learn. I stumbled upon Fiddlesticks by chance several years ago while preparing a demo lesson for a job interview. I needed a simple, engaging game that could be played in a matter of minutes. Fiddlesticks to the rescue! I got the job and have continued to play Fiddlesticks in my classroom ever since.   

Fiddlesticks Game
Sight Word Fiddlesticks for My First Grade Response to Intervention (RtI) Group.
Ready To Play? This is the best part! You only have to explain the rules one time and your class can play all year long!
  • 30-50 popsicle craft sticks or tongue depressors
  • 1 plastic cup
  • 1 permanent marker
That’s it!
Write the content you want students to practice on the craft sticks (ex. multiplication facts, sight words, vocabulary words…). Keep reading for game ideas to use in your classroom today!
Select several craft sticks. Color the bottom half inch of the craft sticks with a permanent marker. This is the Fiddlestick. I use a ratio of 1:15, one Fiddlesticks craft stick to 15 content sticks.
*Tip – I buy a large box of colored tongue depressors. I use one color for each game but will often mix the game sets. For example, when working on multiplication, the red sticks might be for facts 0-5, green for 6-7, and blue for 8-9. I can differentiate for students who are struggling or who need an extra challenge and it is easy to put the original sets back together. 

Colored craft sticks and tongue depressors
Colored tongue depressors are larger and can be easier to add content to. Craft sticks are smaller, but work well for some content. 
How to Play
1. Place content and Fiddlestick sticks in a cup. The cup needs to be tall enough so students can’t see the bottom of the sticks in the cup.  
2. Have between two and six students sit in a circle.
3. Students take turns pulling one stick from the cup.
  • If a content stick is pulled, the student answers the question. If they answer it correctly, they get to keep the stick. If they answer it incorrectly, they must place the stick back in the cup. (If you prefer, you could modify this so they pick someone in the group to help them learn the information, then keep the stick.) 
  • If a Fiddlestick is pulled, they say, “Oh, Fiddlesticks,” and put all their sticks back into the cup (the Fiddlestick and all of the content sticks they have collected). Note: If you have students who struggle with this, you could modify the game and have them put just two sticks back in the cup.
4. At the end of the game, the person with the most sticks is the winner. There are several ways to end the game.
  • Set a timer. Play stops when the timer goes off and students count their sticks.
  • Set a number of sticks as the winner. Before play starts, determine a number of sticks that must be reached. The first person to reach that number is the winner.
  • Play until only Fiddlesticks remain in the cup. Warning – This can make for a very long game!
    Fiddlesticks sight word game
    Mixing sets together allows me to differentiate for individual learners/groups. Separating the sticks for the next group is easy when you use color-coded tongue depressors! These often come in boxes with up to six colors. If you already have a box of tongue depressors that are all one color, you can color-code them by writing with various permanent markers. 

    Ideas for Your Classroom

    Fiddlesticks is an easy review game for math and reading centers, test prep, and reviews. I even use it as an informal assessment. Play the game with a few students and it is easy to identify who has mastered the content and who needs support.

    Fiddlesticks Works Well For:

    • Basic Fact Practice: Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division (Math)
    • Identifying Multiples, Least Common Denominator, and Greatest Common Factors (Math)
    • Comparing Numbers and Fractions – Pull two sticks and student keeps both sticks if they identify the greater number (Math)
    • Letter/Sound Identification (Reading)
    • Identify Rhyming Words (Reading)
    • Sight Words (Reading)
    • Vocabulary (Reading, Science, Social Studies)
    • Prefix/Suffix/Root Words (Reading)
    • States/Capitals (Social Studies)
    I would love to hear how you use games in your classroom. Leave me a comment below and let’s connect!

    From Anne. . . I love this game for so many reasons! It's easy to set up, fun to play, and can be used throughout the year. I think that's one of the marks of a truly great learning center (or station). You can change content without missing a beat explaining the directions. For a center, I might include an answer sheet as applicable, or provide an alternative (such as a calculator or addition/multiplication chart for checking math facts.)  

    Thanks so much for generously sharing, Mary
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    Snowflake Math for Addition, Subtraction and More!

    Up here in the Great White North, the weather truly is frightful. . .

    So, I'm thrilled that Linda Nelson has been kind enough to share this collection of Snowflake Math Activities that kids just love. . .

    From Linda: Connecting snow with learning is definitely a win-win situation. When I saw these foam snowflakes at the dollar store, my brain started whirling like the snowflakes in a snow globe!

    If you don't happen to be going by a Dollar Store (that has these in stock), here's a full-page snowflake outline to download and print instead. If you have blue cardstock, it will look A LOT like the Dollar Store version. (This also works well printed on white.)

    *We've just added a template for a blank die, snowflakes with the numbers filled in, and ten frame counting dice to this download!

    The six sides of these snowflakes are perfect for lots of math games! 

    Addition and Subtraction Game: For this addition and subtraction activity, you'll need a snowflake for each player plus some dominoes to share. The game works well with two players, but if you have enough dominoes, it would be good for a small group activity, too. I used a Sharpie to label each of the points one through six, and then put a zero in the center.

    To Play: Scatter all the dominoes face down between the players. Take turns turning over one domino. Add or subtract the numbers on it to make one of the numbers on the snowflake.  If you can make one of the numbers, put the domino on that branch of your snowflake. If there's already a domino on that number, put the domino to the side and it's on to the other player's turn. The exception is zero. Whenever a player subtracts to make zero, he or she puts that domino on the zero, continuing to add to the stack whenever a sum or difference of zero is made.

    In this picture, my granddaughter, who is becoming quite a practiced hand model, has used 6-1 to cover five, 4+0 to cover four (might also have been 4-0), and 5-3 to cover two.

    There are two ways to win: Be the first player to cover all the numbers around the tips of the snowflake OR stack three dominoes on zero. I love games with two ways to win, as they open up so many more possibilities for strategic thinking!

    This game can easily be modified to meet your students' needs!

    * Developing Number Sense:  For the youngest learners (who are working on developing number sense), use dice instead of dominoes and get some quick practice in subitizing.  Just leave the zero out of the center and roll one die. When they are confident with numbers through six, use a ten sided die, change the numbers on the snowflake, and keep on playing. (A great big foam die adds extra fun to this version or you can use the die labelled 5 - 10 in the download!)

    * The Tricky Teens:  For students learning numbers 11 - 20, use the dice in this download instead of dominoes. Kids practice counting items within ten frames as they play.

    * Addition Within Five: Sort through your dominoes to turn this into an addition game. Look for dominoes that total five or less for this version. (Have your students do the sorting to fit even more math practice into this activity!)  Now they'll use addition to find sums within five.

    * Subtraction Within Five: For subtraction using dice, roll two dice and subtract. For this version, label only the tips of the snowflake, using the numbers zero through five.

    * Doubles for Addition: Working on the addition doubles strategy? Label your branches 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 (or print the one in this download). Roll one die, double the number, and cover it.

    Keep the snowy math learning going with this free set of Eight Winter Math Games for First Grade! Each game is just one page, with no cards to prepare or to lose. Click here or on the picture below to get this set free at my TpT store!

    From Anne: My good friend, Linda, truly has a gift for developing no prep math games. These offer the academic rigor teachers need, and each one features a special twist that kids just LOVE! 

    Thanks so much for sharing, Linda!
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    ✿ A Growing Bulletin Board - How fun! ✿

    Here in the Great White North, many of us have been feeling a need to see some more green.
    It sounds like there's a good reason we crave the presence of plants. Researchers at the University of Illinois have found, "One secret weapon to help prevent having to deal with the common cold or flu may not be in your medicine cabinet, but on your windowsill." It's plants to the rescue! 

    Luckily, Brenda Kovich is here to share this fabulous Growing Bulletin Board.

    Of all the plant displays I have seen, I think this is my favorite because. . .
    • Since it’s on a bulletin board, not on the window, these plants grow well even in the deep of winter. 
    • Since one seed is planted each day, kids can truly see the day to day growth of these plants.
    • If you will be teaching a plant unit later in the year, setting this bulletin board up now will assure that all your students have background knowledge when you teach your formal unit.
    • It’s inexpensive and eye-catching!

    Brenda has kindly shared the following directions.
     Materials Needed: 
         • 12-16 sandwich bags with flaps, not zippers
         • paper towels
         • dried beans* 
         1. Staple the bags to bulletin board.
         2. Fold paper towels and place inside bags.
         3. Starting in the upper left-hand corner, label the bags (Day 1, Day 2, etc.)
         4. Starting in the lower right-hand corner, moisten one paper towel per day. Add three bean seeds to the front of the towel so they can be viewed.
         5. Watch them grow!
     How to Prevent Rotting:  
         • Staple sandwich bags so the tops remain slightly open. This allows air to circulate.
         • Keep paper towel damp at all times, but do not allow water to stand in the bottom of the baggie.
         • When you see dots of mold, change to a fresh paper towel.
     How to Germinate Seeds: 
    • If seeds are not germinating (or growing), the paper towel is too dry. Add more water. 
    • If paper towel dries completely, seeds will usually continue to grow. Just add more water. 
    • To keep seeds growing on consecutive days, pack two baggies, two paper towels and six beans for the weekend. Start one set on Saturday and another on Sunday. Transfer to bulletin board on Monday.         

    *Any dried beans that are normally used for cooking will work. 
    Thanks so much for sharing, Brenda! 
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    Help Students Start the Day Strong with a Soft Landing!

    We never know how our students' days have started before they enter the classroom. A Soft Landing may be exactly what many of them need to prepare to be their best all day long!

    Hilary, from The Primary Planet, was kind enough to share a variety of options that can help get the day off to a super start, both for students and for teachers.

    Here's a whole collection of ideas from Hilary!  (They brought back some great memories that I just had to share. I added some thoughts in blue.

    From Hilary . . . 
    Ahhh...the first 20 minutes of school after you have happily greeted all of your darling cherubs... We want them to be busy, independent, productive, and calm. I want the morning to help set the tone for the day.

    I don't know how you feel,  but as a teacher, I really don't want morning work that I have to grade later. Here are some options that don't involve worksheets or a whole lot of planning!
    My kiddos have a procedure they follow when they come into the room every day. They turn in any notes for me, make sure that they have 2 sharp pencils, choose a partner, use the restroom and get a drink, then start on their morning work! Here are some things that I like to do in my classroom during the first 20 minutes of class when I am trying to sort through notes, take attendance, and get ready to start our day.
    My Favorite Morning Work Activity: Read!
    I love using that time in the morning when the kiddos come in to have them read to themselves or with a partner.  My kiddos can read out of their book boxes, choose new books, or read from our "theme" bookshelf.  They can choose a fun spot in the room to read and share books.  This is also one of my students' favorite morning work activities. 

    This reminds me of some of my favorite mornings in the classroom. I'd spread out a collection of books that kids had read in small groups over the last few months. Often, little eyes would light up as they saw some of their favorites. I loved seeing kids realize how they'd grown as readers as they flew through books that were challenging a few short months ago. 
    Sometimes I pair morning reading time with:
    Book Shopping      

    I have a few kiddos who would spend all of Reading Workshop shopping for books if that was a choice. Having the kiddos bookshop when they first come into class is an activity that my students really enjoy!  This also helps me make sure they have books to read during Reading Workshop. They love to shop with a buddy as well, which gets them talking about books!
    Book Shopping Challenges  
    I occasionally do Book Shopping Challenges as well!  Sometimes when the kiddos come in, I have a book shopping challenge on the board!  They love showing me something new that they discovered in our classroom library. . .

     My Students' Favorite Morning Work: Morning Missions
    My kiddos LOVE Morning Mini-Missions.  This does include making a few copies, but it gets your kiddos out of their seats and working together!  There are all sorts of mini-mission tasks such as: 
    • Collecting data and graphing the information
    • Finding out your friends' favorite colors
    • Writing or telling a story, with group members adding one sentence at a time
    • Brainstorming the perfect play date
    These activities have the kiddos up and interacting with one another. They are perfect for creating and keeping a sense of collaboration and classroom community among your students!  

    Story Telling and Writing Centers

    The Story Telling Center in my room is one of the kiddos' favorite spots!  They love to use all kinds of manipulatives to tell stories and their imaginations just run WILD. . .

    This is my favorite place to spend time with the kiddos if I am not pulling small groups or working with students one on one. We have so much fun telling stories! What do I have in my storytelling center? Some great plastic toy sets - a jungle animal set, an ocean animal set, and a dinosaur set. These are just plastic animals that the kiddos can move around, play with and use to tell different stories about the animals!

    I also have Story Cubes. There are all kinds of ways that these can be used to help the kiddos tell stories!

    Finger puppets are also very popular in my storytelling center. I have some very dramatic minded kiddos this year who LOVE to perform. They really enjoy making up stories for the finger puppets to act out!

    My students really enjoy writing their own scripts for the finger puppets or for each other to do their own skits and Reader's Theatre! They can write their own original script or write a script based on a favorite book.  I have a scriptwriting freebie for you!  You can download it HERE, or save it for later by pinning the image.

    When one of those little sweeties is celebrating a birthday, I love to "hold the presses" on everything else and have each of his/her classmates make a page for a Birthday Book. Kids can draw or write, expressing good wishes in whatever way works best for them. These Birthday Books often become treasured keepsakes.   

     8 Morning Works Ideas (Part 2)  for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade that don't involve worksheets! These fun morning work routines will help you set the tone for your day! You will also find ideas for morning work tubs, free activities, and even some paperless bell ringer choices!  Most ideas are little to no prep! Morning Work ideas for Reading, Writing, Math, Book Shopping, and Computers!  Don't forget to save and grab your freebies!  #morningwork #teachers #primaryplanet


    A journal could be a notebook, binder, or, just a few pages stapled together!  You could let them free write, or put a journal writing prompt on the board.  You could also have them write about a book they are reading!  I really like to use short but sweet Weekly Writing Journals with topics that are quick to write about and really fun to share!

    8 Morning Works Ideas (Part 2)  for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade that don't involve worksheets! These fun morning work routines will help you set the tone for your day! You will also find ideas for morning work tubs, free activities, and even some paperless bell ringer choices!  Most ideas are little to no prep! Morning Work ideas for Reading, Writing, Math, Book Shopping, and Computers!  Don't forget to save and grab your freebies!  #morningwork #teachers #primaryplanet

    Pick a Prompts 

    Another morning work writing idea that my students LOVE is using Pick a Prompts!  Haven't heard of Pick A Prompts? You can find a blog post that I did about them HERE! There are a myriad of ways to use Pick a Prompts, but the easiest by far is just to make a class set of copies and leave them out for your students to pick from when they come in. They choose a character, a setting, and a plot point, then write the story! I always let my students use as many items as they would like and color the ones they choose to put in their story. Short on copies? Print two per page, laminate, and keep these in your writing center. This is also a good way to provide some variety!  Want to check them out, or better yet, try them out? You can click the picture to get some for yourself for FREE!

    Talk to Your Friends!

    Sometimes the kiddos come in with a story to tell or something that they desperately want to share.  I am not a fan of Show and Tell, or Show and Share, so I try to give them time to just come in and talk to one another.  
    Sometimes I put a topic on the board (it usually goes with whatever topic we are going to talk about during morning meeting). The social-emotional impact of just talking to one another is huge!  I also love to go and join in the conversations. It is a great way to get to know my kiddos!  
    This choice is perfect for those days when you have limited time for morning work.  I also love this choice on field trip days as the kiddos are so hyped up anyway, all they want to do is talk about the field trip!  Also, parent chaperones are often in class to join in the conversations. This one is the ultimate easy morning work choice!
    When adults get to work, we often want to start the day by touching base with our people. Kids often need this too. . .

    Math Activities and More

    Why not have your kiddos practice their math skills first thing in the morning?  Any type of math game works during this time! This is a perfect time to fit in games that reinforce skills they've learned over the last few months. 

    Morning Work Tubs

     Morning work tubs are a favorite. Many of you already have a ton of centers set up, why not use some of them for morning work? Any center that the kiddos already know how to use works well as morning work. I call my center time (or academic choice time) Jedi Academy to go with my Star Wars themed classroom. If I put Jedi Academy on the board for morning work, they know that they can use any of the "centers" that we have for that time. Here are some of the favorites in my classroom:

    8 Morning Works Ideas (Part 2)  for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade that don't involve worksheets! These fun morning work routines will help you set the tone for your day! You will also find ideas for morning work tubs, free activities, and even some paperless bell ringer choices!  Most ideas are little to no prep! Morning Work ideas for Reading, Writing, Math, Book Shopping, and Computers!  Don't forget to save and grab your freebies!  #morningwork #teachers #primaryplanet

    Pattern Block Puzzles

    These are fun puzzles that the kiddos use pattern blocks to solve!  They build and record the blocks they use to make the picture.  Then, they try to make the same item with more pattern blocks and fewer pattern blocks!  They LOVE it!  Want to try it?  Click the pic to get your freebie!

    Play Dough Mats

    Students LOVE play dough!  Play dough mats for STEM/STEAM are perfect morning work activities! The kiddos just need a mat and some play dough!  The mats feature challenges your students complete to create solutions to problems using play dough!  They LOVE it!  

    Math Manipulatives 

    Kids need time to explore math manipulatives so they can focus on the lessons when using them later on. I have all mine in easy to move tubs, so I can just set them out and let the kiddos take them and find a spot in the room to use them! The kiddos LOVE Polydrons, Pattern Blocks, inch tiles, snap cubes, base ten blocks, linker cubes, tangrams, creative kids flakes, and geoboards!

    8 Morning Works Ideas (Part 2)  for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade that don't involve worksheets! These fun morning work routines will help you set the tone for your day! You will also find ideas for morning work tubs, free activities, and even some paperless bell ringer choices!  Most ideas are little to no prep! Morning Work ideas for Reading, Writing, Math, Book Shopping, and Computers!  Don't forget to save and grab your freebies!  #morningwork #teachers #primaryplanet

    Computer Time

    We are a 1:1 with devices school, so the kiddos bring their Chromebooks to school every day!  This can be both a blessing and a curse. There are numerous great learning things that the kiddos can do on their computers, but sometimes monitoring them can be a challenge. We recently as a school corporation got Go Guardian, which lets me monitor everyone's screen and history at once. I am not affiliated in any way with Go Guardian, but I am very happy with the service they provide!

    Here are some of the sites that I have my kiddos use for morning work.  

    Free Reading Sites:
    • EPIC!  (this site really is EPIC and free for educators! Tons of online books and goodies!)
    • Storyline Online (books read by celebrities)
    • Storytime from Space (Real astronauts reading stories while they are in space on the International Space Station!)
    • Just Books Read Aloud 
    • Into the Book (great for practicing reading strategies)

    Free Math Sites:
    • Prodigy (My kiddos go crazy for this fun math game.  I frequently give them Prodigy time as a reward!)
    • Cool Math Games

    If you have other sites that you LOVE for Reading, Math, or other educational pursuits, I would love to hear about them!  Drop me a comment and I will add them to my post!

    Thanks so much for stopping by and reading this post.
    Phew! That was a lot of info in one post! 

    Please pin the following image if you'd like to refer back to this post.  I appreciate your shares!

    Much like the greatest journey begins with a single step, a great day can sometimes begin with one Soft Landing. I truly love these ideas - Thanks for sharing, Hilary!

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