Wednesday, June 27, 2012


I am so behind in both the Guided Math and Daily 5 book studies!  My husband and I are spending time in Pennsylvania with my family, and my mom doesn't have internet.  I am so addicted to technology and I feel like I am going through withdrawal!   I have to go to my brother's house to log on.  But I'm going to try to catch up over the next few days.
On our way to Pennsylvania we stopped in Tennessee/North Carolina and drove through the Smoky Mountains.  What a beautiful place!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Guided Math- Chapter 3

Math warm-up/stretches were some of my favorite activities this past year.  I actually discovered Laney's book  Math Stretches (I have the red one below; now she has them for older grades, too) before I bought Guided Math and tried several of the stretches with my class the year before last. Then last summer I went to a training that really emphasized the importance of subitizing so I did a lot of warm ups with ten frames and dot patterns to help the kids recognize sets and combinations.
Laney talks about the importance of starting the day with a brief mathematical activity.  At my school, we have our language arts block in the morning and our math time in the afternoon, but we still start our day with calendar activities.  I tried doing my calendar activities on the Smart board this year, and we absolutely loved it!  I think it kept the kids so much more engaged.  I used this time to encourage math talk instead of just going through the activities without too much thought like I had done in the past.  This year I plan on including a daily math stretch at the end of calendar time.  The kids can work on the stretch throughout the day and add their thoughts to the chart or graph.  Then we can have our math huddle in the afternoon to share our ideas.  I made some signs to go with the Hollywood/movie theme I am using in my room this year.  Click on the caption if you would like a copy.
                                                                  Math Stretch Signs

The other warm-up time I will have is before we start our math block.  We have a new schedule this year; our kids will have lunch, recess and then go straight to specials (art, music or PE.)  My teammates and I aren't real thrilled with this schedule, but it will give us a fairly long, uninterrupted time for math.  Some sort of math warm-up should help ease the transition back to academics after specials.  I bought the book Number Talks after reading about it on this blog, Oceans of First Grade Fun.  (Yolanda has some great ideas for math!)  I haven't started reading  yet, but I browsed through it, and it looks fantastic!
I agree that it is very important that children understand the links between math and their lives.  One of the math stretches is "How did my family use math last night?"  I am thinking about making this a regular assignment for my class, perhaps using something like Stixy to have them record their answers.
One other thing I am thinking about adding is a calendar or number of the day journal.  How many of you use a calendar folder or binder?  How does it work in your classroom?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Daily Five: Chapter 1

Lory's Page
 I love Daily 5!  I have been using it since I returned to first grade 2 years ago.  Previously I had used a system of center rotations very similar to what Fountas and Pinnell outlined in Guided Reading: Good First Teaching for All Children.  Although it wasn't a bad system, I did lose a lot of my group time putting out fires.  The listening center group was arguing over who was going to push the buttons, the kids at the ABC center were playing and not building words or the independent reading group was doing everything BUT reading independently.  I found myself resorting to worksheets some days just to keep them quiet.  To me, the biggest plus of the Daily 5 structure is the way you teach and practice the routines. Once those routines are established the teacher is free to focus on working with small groups or conferencing with individual readers.  I plan on using this same routine of building independence and stamina for math stations this year.
I had the opportunity to attend one of The Sisters' workshops 2 years ago.  They really are amazing!  I was particularly impressed with some of their strategies for working with what they call "barometer" children.
I am looking forward to hearing what other think about Daily 5 and sharing what I have learned!

Switching gears for a moment, I need some organizational advice!  One of my goals for this next year is to improve my teaching in small groups.  I am looking for a good way to organize word work and sight word activities for use in guided reading. How can I organize all of the wonderful games,activities and sorts that I have found on blogs and TPT so I can easily pull them out for use in small group when needed when I notice a group or individual needs practice with certain phonics patterns or other word attack strategies?  I was thinking of binders; one for short vowel patterns, one for long vowels and vowel pairs, etc.  How do you organize your guided reading materials?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Math Work Stations Part 3

Today I'm going to share the kinds of activities I put in my tubs.  At the beginning of the year my tubs looked a lot like the tubs I used when I did Math Their Way.  I had a couple of tubs with patterning activities.  One tub had pattern blocks and then pattern cards for the children to copy and extend.  I had access to a die cut for the pattern block shapes so I also put in some paper pattern blocks and black construction paper for the children to record a pattern they created.  All supplies were in the tub; glue sticks, white crayon to label the pattern and the blocks.  Another tub had small toys and junk with pattern labels like ABC or ABBC.  The students would use the objects to create these patterns.  Other tubs held counting and sorting activities.  I have a lot of different counters so I put them all together and let the kids sort them.  The math talk at this station included stating the sorting rule.  Another tub simply had objects and numeral cards.  Each person would select a numeral card and count out that many objects.  I  included counting books in this tub.  I also used some board games like Chutes and Ladders and Hi-Ho-Cherry-O for counting practice.
As we introduced new concepts in large group, I would add a station to practice that concept.  I found a lot of activities through the online book study of Math Work Stations I followed last summer.  These talented bloggers shared some fabulous activities.  Here's a link to check it out:

Included in these activities were variations of more and less games, war and counting games that were perfect for the first part of the year.  Deb Diller included a lot of simple activtiies in her book as well.

Where did I find activities for the rest of the year?  Everywhere!
  • Every Day Counts Partner Games
  • Our math textbook Texas Mathematics from McGraw-Hill.  I assume most textbooks will have activities suitable for work stations.
  • Blogs- I spend WAY to much time blog stalking!
  • Teachers Pay Teachers and Teachers Notebook
  • Marcy Cook Tile Activities- A former teammate attended one of her workshops a few years ago and was given money to purchase a ton of these cards for our team.  Love them!
  • Shari Sloane's website My kids loved the casino bottles!

  • I also discovered I liked creating games and activities.  Here's an addition practice game I made to go with our first grade "Wizard of Oz" theme for this next school year.

I have discovered that sometimes the simplest activities are best, like the casino bottles above and games like BUMP.   (Here's one I created.)  I tried to add a couple new activities every couple of weeks or whenever the kids were ready to work independently on a concept.  I would also bring back old favorites sometimes for review.  Add new activities gradually and make sure you model each one completely.  Do not make my mistake and try to put out a whole set of new activities at one time because you just bought the cutest unit on TPT!!!!
What do you have in your math stations?  Where do you get your ideas?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Guided Math-Chapter 2


There was so much in this chapter but here are several thoughts I have after reading.
  • It is important to build a sense of community.  This was lacking in my class last year.  This particular group of students had a difficult time working together and spent a lot of time trying to get each other in trouble.  I had to be very careful who I put in groups together or who I paired up for station work.  I'm not exactly sure what went wrong, but building a learning community will be priority one next year!
  • Communication is key.  Students need time to talk about their work.  I ask a lot of questions requiring the kids to really explain how they attempted a problem.  They got used to me saying "Tell me about your thinking."  I want to expand our math journals to record more of our thinking.
  • The classroom needs work space for large group discussions, small group instruction and space for independent and group work.  I use my Smart board a lot- love it!- so my large group area is going to be near the board.  I'll put my easel and tools I use for large group lessons in this area.  I have a large horseshoe table that I use for small group work. I try to put my student desks together in groups of 4 or 6 so that students can work together easily.
  • Everything needs to be organized.  This is definitely a challenge for me!  I do have my math manipulatives pretty well organized.  Chapter 2 of Diller's Math Work Stations has fabulous organizational suggestions if you need to get your stuff together.  My trouble spots are my teaching areas.  My large group area tends to get kind of cluttered so I need some organizers for the things I use there, both for math and language arts.  My teaching table is the worst spot.  I have to confess that several times last year I had to meet with guided reading groups on the floor because the table was such a mess!  If I am also going to meet with guided math groups, it has to be clear and all of my supplies have to be stored nearby.  Thank goodness for blogs and Pinterest-I have found some wonderful ideas for storage.
  • Every one who enters the room should know that math is valued in the classroom.  I have a math wall with vocabulary, a simple calendar (I use my Smart board for our daily calendar activities), and my district's problem solving model.  I want to add a space for a problem of the day or math stretch.  Anchor charts are hung around the wall.  I need to do more of these next year!  I'm also adding a number line like what Kim Sutton uses.  (Click on Kim's name to watch a video of her explaining her number line.) Manipulatives are readily available.  I have a basket of math books and I also use math books to extend some of the work stations.
I am really enjoying this book study!  I can't wait to hear what others have to say about this chapter.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Math Work Stations Part 2

Yesterday I blogged about how I organized my math stations and did my rotation board.  Today I'll share how I introduced (or how I should have introduced!) my stations and what kinds of activities I put in the tubs.

Day 1 and 2:  Back when I started teaching first grade, Math Their Way was a popular program for primary math.  One of the first things we did was to provide time for free exploration of math materials.  I  really think that this is important.   Let them get the playing with the manipulatives out of their system!  (Math Their Way still has a lot to offer. Check it out if you are not familiar with it.) So on the first day of school I put 3 or 4 different tubs out with some of the tools we would be using.  Because my class was large, I put 2 tubs out with each manipulative.  My first tubs had  unifix cubes, pattern blocks, color cubes, and a variety of counters like teddy bears, dinosaurs, etc.  Most kids were familiar with these items from kindergarten but I demonstrated how the cubes fit together and showed them the various shapes and pieces.  I set some basic guidelines: No throwing, no waving stacks of unifix cubes, stay in your own space- I use 12x18 pieces of fun foam as work mats- and use inside voices.  Then we rotated through the tubs in small groups for about 10 minutes each.  The next day I would add new manipulatives like learning links, color tiles, or attribute blocks.
What I should have done:)  This year I will introduce math work stations the same way I introduce each component of the Daily 5.  We will make anchor charts to show what stations look like and sound like and what the roles of the teacher and students are.  Then we will practice building stamina.  When it gets loud or materials are being misused, we will stop, graph our progress and reteach.
Day 3 and beyond:  Introduce one or two new activities each day using the materials the students have already explored.  As I introduced new tubs, the groups of students at each station decreased until I had one tub for every pair of students.  Again, some of the tubs had the same materials at first. This year I will be better about making "I Can" cards for each activity.  Continue to build stamina.  One of the mistakes I made last year was to introduce too many new activities at once.
Once routines are established:  I introduced a few new tubs about every other week.  Any time I was using a new manipulative, for example, tangrams, I allowed some time for free exploration.  We usually did 2 stations a day.  I tried to make sure we rotated through at least once before I changed things up.  This year I want to create some sort of chart so I can remember what stations each group has completed.   I tried to do stations at least 3 times a week but it didn't always happen.  My class this past year was very talkative and not the best at following rules and directions so I never really got to the point where I could pull small groups during stations.  But I used the time to observe and talk with the kids about what they were doing.
OK, this post turned out to be longer than I expected so I guess this will be a 3 part series!  I'll post tomorrow about some of the activities I used for stations.
Also, yesterday I shared  my tubs.  Several of my teammates used these Sterilite containers for their stations.  They liked these containers because they could stack them.  I already had the dishpans and the counter space so I went with those.  Choose whatever works for you!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Math Work Stations

Several people have asked about how I do work stations so I thought I'd share.  I'm really just getting started but they were successful for the most part.  I wish I had decided to start blogging before school ended so I would have some pictures, but I'll do my best to explain my set up.  I strongly suggest reading Deb Diller's Math Work Stations.  Most of my ideas are based on her book.
Set up:
I had 12 stations.  Each station was designed for 2 students.  Occasionally I had to have a group of 3, but 2 is the ideal number.  I kept the supplies for each station in plastic dishpans I bought at WalMart.  You do not have to have 12 different stations!  Especially at the beginning of the year, I only had 5 or 6 different activities and just had 2 tubs with the same materials.  Some of the tubs stayed the same all year.  For example, I had a tub with pattern blocks and design cards that stayed out all year.  My kids loved BUMP games so I also had a tub with several choices of game boards.  I kept the tubs on the counter in my classroom.  You can see them in the background of this picture.  (A parent just sent this to me-it's from the first day of school!)  Under the tubs are labeled plastic shoe boxes filled with most of my math manipulatives.

Rotation:  I used 2 of the little pocket charts from the Target Dollar Spot stapled together.  I made a card that matched the label of each tub and a card with each student's name.  (Note to self: make extra cards next year; I got 5 new students this year!)  Each day I would place 2 students' cards by a station card.  I tried to do 2 rotations of about 15 minutes each time, but some days we may have only done one.  After I got to know my students, I would pair them so that my higher students could work together some days and my strugglers could work with someone a little stronger.  Most of the time all my students did stations at the same time, but occasionally I would put in  "Meet with Teacher" cards so that I could work with some small groups.  My goal next year is to do this at least 3 days a week.

If you would like a copy of my station cards, click below:

Tomorrow I'll be back to share what kinds of activities I put in the tubs and what I will do differently this year!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Guided Math: Chapter 1

I had to become reacquainted with math 2 years ago when I returned to the regular classroom after years of reading intervention, and I discovered I loved it!  Last summer I followed an online book study of Deb Diller's Math Work Stations and implemented math tubs in my classroom.  The kids loved them and were always disappointed when we couldn't do them.  This year I want to really implement guided math, so this summer's book study of Guided Math by Laney Sammons is perfect!  Head over to Primary Inspired for all the details!
Chapter 1 covers the framework of math instruction including guided math.  It was reassuring to read that small group guided math does not have to occur every day.  I was worried about how to fit in all those groups, particularly if our class sizes continue to increase. (Getting to everyone enough times each week was a real challenge in guided reading this year!)  The schedule suggested is very flexible and can be easily adjusted to meet each classroom's needs.  The reflection questions at the end of the chapter asked us to think about our current practices in our classroom.  Here are my thoughts.

What worked this year:
  • Math stations:  Because I didn't have a lot of math materials, these took some time to create, but it was so worth it!
  • Organizing manipulatives:  I put all of my manipulatives in labeled plastic boxes so they were easily accessible for lessons and for students to use during independent work.
  • Calendar:  I created a calendar routine for my Smart board.  I tried to vary the activities a little bit each month and added a lot of number talk opportunities.  If we ever missed calendar time, I heard about from the kids!
  • Focus on numeracy:  As primary teachers, we all know the importance of a print rich environment, but we've never really focused on numeracy.  This year, I had a math wall and I displayed math anchor charts.  It was a small step, but I wanted the kids to know we valued math as well as literacy.
  • Math talk:  Kids were regularly given a chance to explain their thinking to others.  I need to do more, but it was a start!
My goals:
  • More small group guided math. 
  • Utilize math journals:  We used journal prompts regularly, but I want the kids to use the journals to record their thinking and learning during lessons and activities as well.
  • Use individual math toolkits:  I attended a workshop by Kim Sutton who advocates that the students build a supply of math tools to keep in their desks.  I also want to use her number line.
  • Authentic assessments and record keeping.
How does/will guided math work in your classroom?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Word Study

Attended my first staff development session of the summer this morning.  My district has decided to move completely to word study instead of weekly spelling lists.  Yea!  I love word study.   My team has already been using most of the resources that are going to be required next year.  One day will be making words from Pat Cunningham's books, one day will be word sorts and one day will be word wall work.  We have a choice of lots of different activities for days 4 and 5.
I use a folder with baseball card pockets to store my letters for making words and bought a bunch of the pocket charts from the dollar spot at Target and cut them into pieces of 2 pocket rows each. (I serged the edges so the nylon wouldn't fray.)  This system worked great for me.  Next year I  want to add a word study notebook.  I'm thinking that the kids could use these notebooks during word study lessons, during guided reading and maybe even during word work in Daily 5.
I also want to make a new word wall.  I'm thinking about using pocket charts, like this one from Fun for First.

I found this on Pinterest.  Don't you just love Pinterest?!!!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What I'm Reading This Summer: Linky

Although I read as much as I can all year, I really enjoy summer reading.  There's nothing better than sitting by the pool drinking iced coffee or sipping an adult beverage and getting lost in a good book!  Right now I have several books waiting on my Kindle- I love my Kindle Fire!  One is The Distant Hours by Kate Morton and another is a book set in Ireland called The Yellow House.  I have also preordered the sequel to A Discovery of Witches which is due out in July, I think.  And yes, I am going to read THAT book, the one that everyone is talking about! Shh, don't tell my mother.
I also have several professional books that I am planning to read or reread.  Besides rereading The Next Step in Guided Reading, Stenhouse has a new book called Guiding Readers: Making the Most of the 18-Minute Guided Reading Lesson that is currently online and looks good!  I also just received a copy of Number Talks that I can't wait to delve into.  I tried doing some number talks with my kids this year and was really excited about how it worked out.
What are you reading?  Link up to  and share what's on your stack this summer!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Fairy Tale Freebie

My first freebie!  We ended the year with a study of fairy tales.  I made a couple of math games to put in our math tubs.  The kids love BUMP games, so I created this one with the characters from the The Three Little Pigs.  Click the link below the picture to download a copy.  Clip art is from SpringHill Graphics.


I spend hours on the computer each week.  I follow dozens of teaching blogs, crafting blogs and a couple that just make me laugh!  Pinterest is my new best friend or, on the days it has caused me to be late, my worst enemy.  I have discovered so many great teaching ideas and am so grateful to everyone who shares their wonderful creations and lessons.  This summer I have decided to spend some of that computer time sharing my own ideas about teaching first grade.
I have spent the majority of my 30 year teaching career working with first graders in one capacity or another.  I love watching first graders develop into readers, writers and mathematicians.  I don't think there is another grade where the students grow and change so much during the year.
Last summer I followed an online book study of Deb Diller's Math Work Stations book and spent a lot of time reacquainting myself with math after years of concentrating on language arts.  Next year I hope to take it a step further and really get into guided math.  My goal this summer is to work on ideas for guided math and to spice up my guided reading by adding new word work and higher level thinking activities.  I'm starting out by rereading The Next Step in Guided Reading.  As I read I'll share some of my thoughts and hopefully hear how others keep guided reading fresh.