Comparing Numbers Using >, <, or =

Are your students comparing two numbers to determine which is greater? Are they struggling to remember which way the symbol should face? Here's a little trick that worked like a charm with my 2nd and 3rd graders!

My students could verbalize which number was greater when making comparisons. However, when it came time to using the symbols for greater than and less than, they would confuse the two. They had been taught about the greater gators in K and 1st grade, but couldn't always remember which way the gator was supposed to face.

I went to a math training and learned this trick. I have used it every year since!
If they are equal, students would place an equal sign and start the process over with the next set of numbers. Since 48 and 37 are not equal, students move on to Step Two.

Since my students could already identify the greater number, they really caught on to giving the larger number more dots than the smaller number.

Then we repeated this process again. By the second or third time, students were wondering why they hadn't been taught this "magic" before! After more examples, I knew they were ready to practice with games.

Games are a great way to differentiate in the classroom. Some of my students began by practicing with 2-digit numbers.

While others went right to 3-digit numbers and worked with a partner. 

Almost all of my games are kept in sheet protectors (or laminated) so they can be played over and over again without using a ton of paper. During game time I would circulate, observe, and help make sure students were on the right track. 

The next day our math warm-up would be a quick check of the skill. 
I would use these quick checks to determine which students still needed additional practice.

I hope this math trick will work for your students, too!

Happy Teaching! 

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Spring Writing Ideas (with Freebies)

March is a great month for writing because students get to celebrate Dr. Seuss, St. Patrick's Day, and the first day of spring! Today I want to share some of my favorite writing ideas for spring.

To start the month, we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Students are allowed to choose books from any section of our classroom library during reading, but I find that the Dr. Seuss books are always the most popular this time of year.

Since we work on responding to reading all year long, I like to let my students choose any book they want and do a fun book review. Sometimes we hang these around the classroom and sometimes we make a class book so students can look for book recommendations from their peers.

Then it's time to start prepping for St. Patrick's Day! I know my students are going to be excited, so I might as well channel that energy into writing. Before starting our procedural writing, I like to read How-To Catch a Leprechaun by Adam Wallace and Lucky O'Leprechaun by Jana Dillon. We use the ideas from these stories to draw our own leprechaun traps and explain the steps for making them.
You can find these how-to freebies here.

I also like to have my students write a story about a lucky day. I pair two texts together for this: Lucky Tucker by Leslie McGuirk and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. After reading, we brainstorm as a class items that bring luck as well as lucky & unlucky events.

Then we spend time choosing our events and writing our stories. When the stories are finished, it's fun to put them inside a pot of gold craft to create a booklet. You can find these booklets here.

March also brings the beginning of spring, which is my favorite time of year for working on poetry. The changes outdoors provide a lot of inspiration. One of the easiest poems to start with is a rainbow poem. After that we work on a variety of other poetry forms, too.

Spring is also a great time to stop and review different writing genres, too. I keep writing prompts on a ring so students can easily access them and take them back to their seats during writing.
You can find these spring writing prompts here.

For more writing ideas, you can search the writing archives here or check out my Pinterest board:

Happy Teaching!

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President's Day

President's Day is just around the corner and I thought I'd share some of my favorite resources to use in the classroom.

I like to start with a short video. This one gives a brief overview (less than two minutes) of President's Day. Once we have the basics of when and why we celebrate President's Day, we're ready to dig deeper and focus on George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
You can find even more President's Day videos here and here.

When learning about Washington and Lincoln, there are so many books to choose from.  Here are my favorites that I use for both guided reading and shared reading.  You probably have them in your classroom library, too!

Since we are familiar with nonfiction text features at this point of the year, one of my favorite activities to start with is a scavenger hunt. Not only is this fun for students, but it helps them understand the way the text has been organized and gives them a preview of the information to come.

As we begin reading, students can record information learned about each president on their graphic organizers.

Reading biographies is also a great time to work on timelines. The National Geographic Kids texts have a timeline included. After studying these timelines, we use information from Abraham Lincoln: A Magic Tree House Fact Tracker to organize important events in Lincoln's life.

Even though nonfiction tends to be more straightforward than fiction, I find that many of my students struggle to comprehend as quickly as with fiction. I like to use comprehension checks to make sure we aren't moving too quickly through the texts.

 But that's not all.  I also love to combine our new learning with a craft.
You can read more about these projects in this post.

You will find most of the resources mentioned above in these book companions:

To find even more ideas for President's Day, take a peek at my Pinterest board:

Happy Teaching!

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Valentine's Day - Free Bubble Gift Tags

Valentine's Day in the classroom can be a great time for friends to show appreciation for one another. My daughter loves candy, but this year she wanted to give bubbles to her classmates. So we worked together to come up with these valentines for her classmates.

For this project we only needed a few materials:
- printable Valentine cards
- paper cutter
- glue dots
- pencil
- bubble wands (found at Target)

After printing the valentine cards and cutting them apart, it was time to get started. She used her class list to write names on each and every valentine. This step took the longest.

Once the names were done, she was ready to attach the bubble wands. She put two glue dots in the white section near the bottom and then placed the bubble wands on top.

Because these Valentine cards use the word bubble, you could also attach bubble gum to them.

You can grab a copy of these gift tags here.

For more Valentine's Day ideas, take a peek at my Pinterest board:

I hope you have a great Valentine's Day!
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The Pros and Cons of a Looping Classroom

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to loop with your students to the next grade? It can be a difficult decision to make. Before making that decision, you should weigh the pros and cons. 

Looping means a teacher remains with the same group of students for more than one school year.  I have taught multiple grades over the years and have looped four different times. Each time I discovered new things I liked (and disliked) about looping. Today I want to share those experiences with you.

I think it's safe to say that if I have looped four times in the past, I have found more positives than negatives. 

Since I already knew my students academic skills, behaviors, and work habits, I had a very quick start to the school year. After a quick refresher of rules and procedures, my students fell right back into the classroom routine. Any new students that were added to the mix seemed to jump right in. In other words, I got to skip over the honeymoon period!

Since I already knew where my students were academically, small group instruction, enrichment groups, and intervention groups began much more quickly. I also spent less time on beginning of the year assessments.

I already knew the families of my students. Parents knew my expectations and I had already established an open line of communication and trust with my families.

I also found that looping with my students pushed ME to continuously improve. I found myself pushing out of my comfort zone, thinking more creatively, and finding new ways to keep my students engaged. I couldn't just do the same old things I had always done which helped me grow as a teacher.

This all sounds great, doesn't it? But there were some drawbacks and things I didn't like about looping.

Because I kept the same group of students, I was changing grade levels. This meant I needed to spend more time researching the standards and familiarizing myself with new lessons and units.

Changing grade levels also meant finding new materials. I needed new books for read aloud and the classroom library, math games, reference posters, and more! Sometimes I was able to borrow from our library or other teachers, but I'm not going to lie - my wallet also took a hit!

In some buildings, a change in grade level also means a change in classrooms. Fortunately, I never had to change rooms just because I changed grade levels. This is just something to keep in mind if your building is organized by grade level teams.

By March of the second year, my classroom really felt like a family. This sounds great, but it also meant everyone was getting a little too comfortable with each other.  The students would begin acting more like brothers and sisters who would fight and bicker over the littlest things. I could say this happens every year, but after two years together you could really feel it!

The most difficult part of looping for me (and the one I was least prepared for) was how hard it would be to say goodbye. After two years those goodbyes can be extremely emotional. And come September, starting over with a brand new group of students can make you feel like a brand new teacher all over again!

So, you might be wondering - would I ever loop again?If the right group of students came along I probably would.

Have you ever looped with a group of students? I'd love to hear about your experience!

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Punxsutawney Phyllis (Activities and Resources)

I don't know about you, but Groundhog Day always seems to sneak up on me each year. It has something to do with arriving so early in February and competing with so many other holidays early in the year. I tend to read several stories aloud to build schema about groundhogs and the holiday, but then we focus in on one story, Punxsutawney Phyllis (also called Wake Up, Groundhog).

If you aren't familiar with the story, here's a summary:

I've included some comprehension activities that can easily be added to my student's reading response journals. These comprehension spinners are a half page each and can be used with the other groundhog books I read throughout the week. They also get the students warmed up for writing their story summaries. 

My students love to make crafts to go with their writing. If you read other groundhog stories, you can let your students create their own groundhog character and write a short story. Since Groundhog Day is on a Thursday this year, you could also track the weather all week and have students write a weather report for an informational writing option.

I know most classrooms have students predict whether the groundhog will see his shadow. I like to take that one step further and incorporate some graphing activities in the classroom that can be used as fast finisher activities. There are two spin, tally, and graph options included. The first is whether the groundhog will see his shadow (yes/no). The other is graphing the weather:
Since students will be getting different results, you can have the students write 2-3 statements or questions on the back about their data. (ex. Rain was seen more than any other weather. How many more votes for yes than no?)

You can find all of these activities and more here:

For more Groundhog ideas, take a peek at my Pinterest board:

Happy Teaching!

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Sneezy the Snowman Resources

Are you reading Sneezy the Snowman by Maureen Wright to your class this month? Today I want to share a few activities you can use with your students! 

Here's a summary in case you aren't familiar with this story:

After reading I always do a comprehension check. My favorite ways to do this are by asking questions and having students retell (or summarize) the story. Since my students already sit in groups at their desks, I like to print the questions on different colors and distribute one set to each group. By doing this, more students get an opportunity to answer questions and the pressure is off my shy students to answer in front of the whole class.

After group discussion, I will have each student choose one of the cards to glue into their reading response notebooks. 

I have also included vocabulary cards that you can have on display during reading. To take vocabulary one step further, you can use these winter word templates with the vocabulary words. Students write the word on the hat. On the snowman, students can write an original sentence, draw a picture, write synonyms, etc. These can be put on display or even made into a small classroom book after adding other vocabulary words you are learning.

For a simple written response, you can have students change up the text and make small substitutions to keep the rhythm of the author's writing style.

I also love to use craft booklets to get my students to respond to reading. This snowman template comes in three different options (lines, no lines, and lines with a picture space). After students have completed their reading responses, they can staple the pages together with the craft on top to create a snowman booklet.

In the story, Sneezy ends up eating ice cream to stay cool when he gets too warm. So I included this ice cream cone template you can use. You can stack the ice cream scoops:

or you can staple the ice cream scoops together into a booklet:

You can find all of these activities here:

Happy Reading!

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