Nate the Great Book Series

If your first and second graders are ready to dive into the mystery genre, you need to check out the Nate the Great series written by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. These books are a little shorter than the typical chapter book (most are around 50 pages in length) and they include many illustrations that will keep your students turning the pages. Some of the books have been broken down into chapters, while others read as a short story.

So now that you've grabbed some Nate the Great books, keep reading to find three ways to use these books with students.

 My students have always loved flip books, so it only made sense to create one for this book series. The flip book has seven pages:

Students can complete the pages during or after reading a text. They will focus on the setting, problem & solution, how Nate's friends help provide clues and information to solve the case, a summary of the story, identifying their favorite part, and giving a book review.

Here's a closer look at the page, A Friendly Investigation, where students identify how the other characters in the text help Nate solve the mystery. Rosamond, Annie, and Fang make an appearance in most of the books, but the third character who helps Nate often changes. For the books where Rosamond and Annie don't help Nate as much, there is another option where all three character spots are left blank. 

Another way to engage your Nate the Great readers is to create a detective's case file, which doubles as a reading response booklet.

There are pre-made reading response templates that match the flip book shown above. There are also open-ended pages (lined, blank, and a picture/writing combination page). These open-ended pages work great for vocabulary, making connections, asking questions, visualizations, and more! You can even combine the two options:

If you're planning to use the Nate the Great books with your guided reading group or with your book club, creating a reading response journal is a great way to keep all of the student materials in one place. These book companions contain comprehension questions to guide your readers, vocabulary words, and a handful of graphic organizers.

You can find all of these Nate the Great resources here.
You can also find two free downloads from Random House here and here.

Happy Reading!

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Using Tickets in Math Class

Raffle tickets are a great way to practice math skills in the classroom, but did you know they can be a great management tool, too? Today I want to share with you how I have used math tickets in my 2nd and 3rd grade classroom.

Spring was always an interesting time of the school year for me. The students were growing by leaps and bounds, but they also became a little too comfortable in the classroom which meant stopping to review procedures and practice routines more often. This combination was one of the reasons I loved using tickets during my math block for both skill practice AND management.

Raffle tickets were a great choice because they could be found in many stores or even online. I always bought the double-roll tickets so that I had the matching ticket to every ticket I handed out. My raffle tickets always lasted a long time because they came in large quantities. This meant I didn't have to spend a ton of money on them. The tickets also came in a wide variety of numbers and colors so I could easily differentiate for my students.

In order to practice math skills, my students needed to have tickets. So on the day I introduced math tickets, I gave each student several so we could start using them right away. As students earned tickets, they would write their name on the back. One ticket went in their bag and the other went in my bucket. I did this for two reasons: It discouraged ticket thieves and when a ticket was found on the floor, students could return it to the rightful owner.


There are so many math skills you can practice with tickets. Tickets also make it easy to differentiate because you can teach your students to cross out part of the numbers to match their particular skill level. Here are just some of the skills we practiced with our math tickets:

Reading Numbers
I would randomly draw a ticket from my bucket and read the number aloud.
Who has 4,526?
Students had to read the numbers on their tickets to see if they had a match. When a student did have a match, he would read the number back to me out loud.

Place Value
I would randomly draw a ticket and read it like a place value riddle.
My ticket has a 6 in the tens place. It has a 3 in the hundreds place. I see a 4 in the ones place. What is my number?

Comparing Numbers Using >, <, or =
I would partner my students for this activity and set a timer for 3-5 minutes. Both students would draw one ticket out of their bag. They compared the numbers using >, <, or = and then placed the tickets back into their bag. They repeated this process until the time was up.

Ordering Numbers
I would ask my students to pull three tickets out of their bags and put their tickets in order from smallest to largest or largest to smallest on their desk. Then they would turn and read their numbers to a neighbor.

Adding and Subtracting
Second and third graders always needed practice adding and subtracting. I would ask my students to draw two tickets out of their bag and either add or subtract them using their whiteboards. Some students worked with 2-digit numbers, while others were ready for 3-digit numbers (or higher).

For older students, tickets could easily be used for fractions and probability. Students could also add decimal points to the numbers on their tickets.

Now that I've shared a little bit about how I used tickets to practice math skills, let me tell you how I used them as a classroom management tool.

At the end of math class each day I would plan to draw three tickets. The number of tickets drawn would increase or decrease based upon student behavior during class.

When a ticket was drawn, I would first check the name on the back. I did this for two reasons. First, if the student was absent, I would put the ticket back in the bucket and draw again.  Second, it told me who to keep my eye on as the students checked their tickets. After looking at the name, I would read the number out loud, repeating, as needed. This helped model the correct reading of the number before a student repeated the number back to me. Once a ticket was claimed, both copies of the ticket were ripped and recycled. The student then earned a new ticket and a reward. In my classroom this meant $1 of classroom money. If a ticket was not claimed, it went into the recycling bin.

Once I began using tickets, I found that students wanted to earn more tickets....A LOT of tickets! They realized that the more tickets they had, the better their chances were to have a ticket drawn. They also noticed that the numbers on the tickets were getting bigger and students LOVED having large numbers at their fingertips. I used this to my advantage.

I would walk around with a stack of tickets and pass them out when I saw students making good choices (staying on task, cleaning up math games carefully, using the right voice level when working with a partner, etc). This really motivated my students, but sometimes that wasn't enough. That's when I tried something a co-worker shared with me.

When my students were having a really hard time making good choices, I would make a really big deal of picking up the ticket bucket in front of the whole class. I would reach in and blindly grab a ticket (or two). Then I would rip it into tiny pieces. I never announced which ticket number it was, but the students realized it could have been theirs and it quickly turned things around.

So, if you have a stack or roll of tickets lying around, grab them and put them to use!

Happy Teaching!

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Ready, Freddy Chapter Book Series

Are you looking for a new chapter book series your first and second graders will enjoy? Take a look at the Ready, Freddy series by Abby Klein. Today I want to share a few ways I use these chapter books with my students.

I find that my students love reading about Freddy Thresher and his classmates because Abby Klein has used her own classroom teaching experience to develop characters that bring real-life humor and problems to each of her stories that my students can relate to. Freddy begins the series as a first grader and eventually the series follows him to second grade. To learn more about Freddy and the series, you can grab this helpful guide from Scholastic.

Like many teachers, I use a variety of texts during guided reading, including chapter books. From time to time, I will also do Book Buddies. This is where I take my small group of students and divide them into pairs. They might all be reading different books, but all of the books will be from the same reading series so there are obvious comparisons to be made during group discussion. The Ready, Freddy books are perfect for Book Buddies, especially with the help of these flip books:

As the students read, they can record what they learn about Freddy. By discussing the character traits and evidence during group time, students begin to see the similarities of Freddy throughout the series. 

Freddy faces a new problem in each story so I do have students identify the problem and solution.  As we discuss the problem and solution in each story, students begin to see similarities in how Freddy approaches a problem and eventually finds a solution.

If your students have brothers or sisters, they will certainly relate to the relationship between Freddy and his older sister, Suzie. In each story, Freddy finds himself in trouble and Suzie always manages to help him....for a price. I love to call this "Let's Make a Deal" and the students can't wait to find out what Suzie will make Freddy do!

Another thing your students will quickly learn is that Freddy Thresher loves sharks! Not only will your students find shark facts at the end of each story, but each illustration has the word FIN hidden inside. Fin Finder is a great way to engage your students with the illustrations!

Now, because Freddy Thresher loves sharks, a shark booklet can be a lot of fun! I have actually created two different styles of shark craft booklets for this series.

The first shark craft booklet can be used just like the flip book because it has ready-made response templates. It also has a blank page, a lined writing page, and a picture/writing combination page if you want to add your own types of reading responses along the way.

The second booklet offers a different style of shark. This booklet is a completely open-ended response booklet. There is a blank page, a lined writing page, and a picture/writing combination page.  I use these shark craft booklets for vocabulary words, questions, making connections, character comparisons, and more!

If you are fortunate enough to have multiple copies of a book from the Ready, Freddy series, I also have book companions with specific chapter-by-chapter comprehension checks. You can find those book companions here.

Do you have a favorite Ready, Freddy chapter book? I'd love to hear which book your students enjoy the most.

Happy Reading!

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Updated Spelling Resources (with a Free Sample)

Students need time to practice their spelling words in class. By having a large number of activities to offer, you can avoid falling into the spelling rut! My spelling packs have recently been updated with new activities and I wanted to share those with you today.

Graph Your Words - students count the number of letters in each spelling word and create a bar graph of the data. You can either type the spelling list onto the paper before printing, or have the students add their spelling words prior to graphing.

Hidden Words - students write their spelling words in white crayon. A partner uses colored pencils or markers to reveal the hidden words.

Growing Words - another twist on the three times each practice. Students write their words a little bigger each time. There is also a version called Shrinking Words where the spelling words get a little smaller each time.

Super Spelling Sentences - this activity encourages students to combine a mixture of spelling words into one sentence. After writing the sentence, students will illustrate and circle the number of spelling words used in each sentence.

 All Mixed Up - students will write their spelling words into the circles so the letters are all mixed up. A partner must work to unscramble the spelling word and write it below the circle.

3 Different Colors - this puts a fun spin on the traditional three times each spelling practice. 
You can read more about how I organize spelling activities in my classroom and how I have used spelling folders here.

Not only have my spelling packs received new activities, but there is now a pack for 16 spelling words for my friends that use Journeys. You can find all of my spelling packs here. You can even grab a FREE sample that includes Graph Your Words and Super Spelling Sentences!

Happy Teaching!

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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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