Narrower pond, deeper pond

I am a fan of Common Core math standards, I must say.  I feel the cringe-inducing viral pictures of parents going to town on their first grader's math homework are the perfect illustration of why we're desperately in need of improved number sense in this country.  (Did anyone else notice that the guy who wrote the check in "common core" wrote two different numbers?  I assume he was trying to make a ten frame, but he only had eight boxes on the numeral box...)  By and large, it's not the kids having a hard time with the concepts.  

One big benefit of the Common Core standards, in my opinion, is the view that grade-level math should be a narrower field that goes deeper.  I feel like it forces us as teachers to take precious fewer concepts and push our students to the limit.  Gone is the over reliance on strictly using algorithms.  The standard problem solving techniques are definitely there - they are, after all, the fastest ways to get accurate answers - but students swimming in the concept's "deep pond" gain a much better understanding of the "why" of a math concept, not just the "how."

The big question for a classroom teacher is "How DO I go deeper with this?"  I've been asking myself lately, "What constitutes challenging work?  How do I best serve my students who are already excelling at math, and need enrichment?"  I'm lucky to work in a school with a high-achieving, high-readiness population, and every year I have students who aren't the least bit fazed by grade level math.  My goal this year has been to develop high-quality enrichment activities that push grade-level math to higher-levels of thinking and practice - or at least, give students an opportunity to practice a concept in a way that isn't the same-old stuff.

My recommendations for preparing and/or seeking out enrichment materials are as follows...

  • Get wordy: Rely on reading and writing with math.  Let students read their way through interactions and/or information, to determine its importance.  Find the relevant information in the problem at hand, and determine the operation needed to solve the problem.  Have students write out explanations for how they came to their conclusions as well.  Expository writing to "prove" their process is invaluable, and a great tool for understanding your students' thought processes.
  • Incorporate other concepts into whatever you're working on.  For example, today my second graders focused on quickly recalling addition facts, as well as using expanded form to build three digit numbers.  For both concepts, we incorporated least and greatest numbers to add an additional step for students to look out for and incorporate into their finished products.
  • Rethink how the end product looks.  Take Gardner's Multiple Intelligences, for example.  Some kids will succeed by involving a process in their math that isn't strictly logical/mathematical.  Look for opportunities for kids to move around and build models.  Draw pictures.  Talk it out with a neighbor, or write the results down in a paragraph format.  If the end goal isn't necessarily a math problem, then there are many opportunities to draw a conclusion that will appeal to a variety of kids with diverse interests and strengths.

For my kids who benefit from enrichment, I usually have them start by signing a contract agreeing to their responsibilities, including but not limited to working independently, being responsible for their own materials, and being self-motivated.  I fill a file folder with additional challenges that they can work on at their own pace.  The challenge activities are related to what the class in general is concentrating on.  Enrichment students are free to work on their own, or are free to stay with the rest of the class at their choosing.  They are also free to develop their "own" materials - last year, a bunch of kids made a terrific math board game that I copied off.  The kids who made the game led groups and taught the rest of the class how to play!  I've purchased some great materials from Teachers Pay Teachers which I've used as enrichment.  Jillian Starr's Math Journal Prompts (2nd and 3rd grade) are great, because they're very open-ended and require a lot of problem solving on behalf of the user.  Digital Divide and Conquer has some great no-prep enrichment mini units.  Core Inspirations by Laura Santos has great 2nd grade math enrichment activities that are perfect when you're looking for something that isn't typical problem solving.

What about MY 2nd grade math enrichment materials?  Why, I never thought you'd ask!  Check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store!  Currently, I have challenge activities for 2 and 3 digit addition and subtraction with regrouping, place value and number sense for 2 and 3 digit numbers, and addition and subtraction facts within 20.  All of the packets have 20 no-prep, totally printable math activities for enrichment on the go!  Currently, I'm working on a money packet as well.  My goal is to have a packet for every second grade math standard within the next few months, for a year's worth of just-hit-print math challenges!  Happy enriching!

Welcome to the jungle...

...aaaand we're back.  We've been back for awhile - it's been a crazy few weeks/months here the in the meat sphere, but as it is every year, there's a fresh new crop of second graders to school.  Let's get started!

I'm determined to have bathroom/hall passes that survive a whole school year, come hell or high water.  The extra strength dog chewy toys are are proving capable so far.

I updated my emergency "sub tub" over the summer with some slightly less moldy activities.  I've had the flu twice in my life - one as a young kid, and once my first year of teaching.  I think I missed eight total days of work - and had a different sub each day.  Oy vey.  I was very fortunate that, at the time, I taught on a team with seven other grade level teachers who were able to scramble and put stuff together for me each morning so I didn't actually have to get out of bed.  For the next time, I now have a 2 Week/10 Days Emergency Sub Plans for 2nd Grade or 3rd Grade set available at my TpT store.  They're 100% no prep printables, so you can email them to whoever's manning the copy machine, take another swig of NiQuil, and go back to bed.  Each day has reading, math, writing, science, social studies, geography, spelling, grammar, art projects, as well as review homework.

I feel I have mastered the art of not bringing grading home over the past couple of years.  I now have the kids come to me so I can check their assignment as soon as they finish.  I find it helpful for a number of reasons - 

-you can give immediate feedback

-you can catch any errors right away

-it helps to keep the kids accountable

-grading in the moment = not grading later.

When the kids finish, they come up to me.  I check their work, and make marks on anything that needs fixing.  They make corrections independently and come see me again.  If I find a kid is really struggling with a concept, I pull them aside at my work table and give them some one-on-one help.  I keep an attendance sheet on my desk that I use to make quick notes about whose work I've seen and how well they did (met the standard, approaching the standard, needed intervention.)  I do this with the majority of classwork, excluding tests. 

Once I've put a star on a student's totally completed assignment, they find their "finished" hand-in folder in the bin and put their assignment inside.  I use my note sheet to fill their grade in my online grade book.  Each week, I have the students empty the contents of their finished folders into their backpacks to take home.  No time consuming paper pass-backs, no lugging around papers for me, and best of all... no grading papers at home!

Granted, I do teach second grade, so this method may not be so helpful for upper grades with longer, more complicated assignments.  I'm lucky that I'm able to know what the reading or science responses will be, since we do everything very guided and together in class, as well as being able to check the math mentally without needing to use reference materials.  

Is there anything better than log gin onto Teachers Pay Teachers and seeing your store on the front page?? I THINK NOT!! (Although admittedly, I've only seen myself twice since starting about a year and a half ago... it's still awesome, though!)

Time.... for you to get a watch

I gotta give props to someone on the TpT boards who gave me the idea of teaching reading analog clocks by color-blocking between the hours - it's an illustration of how it isn't X o'clock yet towards the end of hour Y... meaning, it's easy for a child to look at an analog clock at 3:50 and think it's 4:50, but this is a very visual way of proving that it's still 3:something.  The above clocks are from my St. Patrick's Day themed Time packet, but I also have a bare-bones freebie in my TpT store as well.

Presidents Day Fun in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th Grade!

Marlie, my friend/kindergarten-teacher extraordinaire/bride-to-be/mastermind behind Curriculum to the Core developed this great Presidents Day activity to do with mid-elementary students!  

It's a "read around the room" activity where students seek out 15 different cards with a fun fact about an unnamed president.  On the other side are three different options for who it may be.

Students get their own recording sheet to keep track of their guesses.

My students had a blast with this activity!  They're very into presidents - I have the "Who Was...?" series and the "Aliens vs. Presidents" app to thank for that - and I was impressed by how a lot of my students used logic and schema to answer some of the questions.

After the kids had time to read the room, we got together as a class and went over the answers.  A lot of cheering/groaning, depending on their success!

Interested in this President's Day activity?  Check out Marlie's TpT store to purchase your own copy!

Inventions, Inventors and Simple Machines Unit

Inquiry-based science is the thing right now, especially for the schools/states in the process of adopting the Next Generation Science Standards.  My class is in the middle of a unit on inventions, inventors and simple machines.  We're reading "Toys: Amazing Stories Behind Some Great Inventions" by Don Wulffson.  

We're studying different inventions so the students can create their own.  We're focusing on the purpose of inventions and how simple machines work.  Here's a peak at some of our recent experiments and activities:

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Some new activities for the Diocese of Salt Lake's Safe Environment/Right Relationships Program

If you teach kindergarten, 1st, 2nd or 3rd grade in the Diocese of Salt Lake (or any other diocese doing a Safe Environment/Right Relationships program) and are looking to mix it up with the activities, I uploaded 12 new activities to go with the required lessons.    Download them off my TpT page.  Feel free to share with others.

*these are my own work and ideas, not something that's been endorsed by the diocese - just throwing in a disclaimer.

A very simple and easy way to get discounts at Teachers Pay Teachers WITHOUT a promo code!

Hey, teacher!  Have you ever purchased anything off of Teachers Pay Teachers?  Have you ever wanted a discount off the site?  Here's an easy way to save money, without needing a promo or coupon code...

...leave feedback on all of your purchases, including your previous ones!


For every dollar you spend at TpT - IF you leave feedback - you'll receive one credit (all cents are rounded up to the nearest dollar) that you can apply towards a purchase.  Each credit is equivalent to 5 cents.  You spend 20 bucks, you get 20 credits, you get to take $1 off your next purchase.  (This only works on paid products - you won't get credit for feedback left on free items.)

Are you kicking yourself for not cashing in on credits with your previous purchases?  Don't!  You can still leave feedback by going to My Purchases

...and go through your old purchases to leave feedback.

You can check your credits under TPT Credit Balance

You can apply your credits at checkout:

The nice thing is that using credits doesn't force you to spend a minimum of $3.00 at checkout.  I bought a $3.00 item the other day, used credits, and charged the $2.80 remainder to my card.


This is a great feature that I don't think many TpT buyers know about.  I've sold far more times vs. feedback I've received.  Go scrounge up some credits at Teachers Pay Teachers!  Hell, go buy something and leave me some feedback at my TpT store!







The American Revolution - Activities for Grades 2, 3, 4 or 5

If you're a teacher teaching the Revolutionary Way in 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th grades, check out my American Revolution Activity Pack on TpT.  It contains many art projects games and activities, informative reading, informative writing and opinion writing.  Take a look at some of the activities included...

...Here's a summary of the entire Revolution

Here's a puzzle/map activity to introduce students to the 13 Colonies:

Here's one of my favorite lessons - an activity to demonstrate taxation without representation

If you're studying the American Flag or symbols of the United States, here's an extension activity: