Play-Doh Ideas: Morning Tubs - Number Sense, Math Facts, & More

Looking for new ideas for morning tubs?  Play-Doh has so many uses in the classroom.
At the beginning of the school year, I like to start the day with Play-doh and cookie cutters.  It is an open-ended activity that students love which means easier good-byes from mom and dad.  Students are engaged, laughing, and chatting with other students at their table which makes it easier for mom and dad to leave.  Best of all, Play-doh warms up their muscles that they will be using for schoolwork.  
Did you know that September 16th is National Play-Doh Day? Mr. McVicker invented play-doh as a wallpaper cleaner. His sister-in-law was a nursery school teacher. She was looking for a project for her class when she found the wallpaper cleaner. Watch this video to see how this teacher influenced Mr. McVicker's company in a big way!
Looking for morning tub ideas? Play-doh, ice tray, and scissors is a fun way to students work on number sense and strengthen fine-motor skills.
Practice math facts with play-doh, scissors, and a deck of cards. Students can write the math fact on a dry erase board.
Add a few odds and ends to your Play-doh tub and let your students' imagination go wild.  Let your students either take a picture of their creation or draw it.  Write words that describe it.

How do you use Play-Doh?

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How many hours a week do you spend writing, typing, printing, passing out your newsletter only to get questions from parents later? Questions that could have been answered by the newsletter.

Do you have a class website? Do your parents check your class website weekly? Is the amount of time you devote to your website the best use of your time?

This communication breakdown is not always from lack of parental interest. Unfortunately, newsletters do not always make it home. Students look at the newsletter in after-school care and forget to put it back in their backpack. The newsletter gets shoved in the back of a messy desk instead of put in the take-home folder. The list of reasons goes on and on.

Class websites are a wonderful way to showcase what is going on in your classroom. But, parents do not always remember to check websites on a regular basis.

What is the best way to communicate class-wide information?

Today's parents are busier than ever. It doesn't matter if the mother is a work-at-home mom or a work-away-from-home mom, mothers are on the go. What do busy moms have? Smartphones! A busy mom may not always have the extra time to go through a backpack daily. However, a busy mom does look at her smartphone several times a day. Look at any dentist's waiting room or kid's soccer practice and you will see moms and dads on their smartphones.
Communicate with busy parents using Facebook. You can organize it with a class Facebook page or a private Facebook group. The benefit of Facebook is parents can set your page to show up first in their newsfeed or set the group as a favorite so they won't miss your posts.

Be sure to discuss this with your administrator BEFORE you set up a class Facebook page or group. It is important to follow your district's technology policy.

Do you follow my Facebook page? Through the years, I have found a few things that made having an active Facebook page less time consuming.
Scheduling posts - There is some information that you can schedule in advance. Example:
Library Day - reminder to bring book(s)
Spelling List
Curriculum - units of study in math, science, etc.
It saves time if you have a graphic template for the posts that you will use regularly. Plus, it is easier for parents to find posts about spelling words if you use the same template each time.
Sharing children's pictures on social media can be a safety concern for some parents. A class Facebook group is an option to offer when you have parents with concerns. The only people who can see the posts - and pictures of their child - is members of the private group. The private group would consist of parents of the class, teacher, and administrator.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I had fewer parent complaints when I began taking pictures of my students on a regular basis and sharing them. I wasn't quite sure why the pictures had such a positive impact until I had a conference with one of my parents.

This mom explained that her child initially did not like school. He complained that no one wanted to play with him, no one liked him, and school was not fun. When I began sharing pictures each week, she saw pictures of her son playing, interacting with other students at centers, and smiling at school. She showed the pictures to her son and asked him to tell her what was happening in the pictures. She said the pictures helped "remind" her son of the positive things that had happened at school. The pictures also gave her a starting point for discussing his week. Even if he wasn't in the pictures, he could tell her what was happening. She felt like she had a better idea about her son's day at school.
It is helpful to share how you will communicate with parents at Back to School night. This is a good time to share your vision for how you will implement a class Facebook page or group. Ask parents to sign a social media permission slip. The sooner you get the slips, the sooner you can begin sharing pictures of your students.

Interested in seeing what this might look like?  I made examples.
Need graphics, permission slips, etc?

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Faculty Meetings Ice Breaker and Group Activity

Back to school time means time for meetings.  If you are in charge of planning these meetings, you realize the challenge you face. Teachers want to work in their classrooms so their attention is less-than-the-best. 

Through the years, I have had some interesting meetings at the beginning of the year. Here are a couple of fun things my principals did that made the meetings more enjoyable.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone:

We all love to sit by our buddies when we go to a meetings, but I challenge you to get out of your comfort zone. Why? Throughout the school year, you will work with more staff members than the ones on your team or your small group of buddies. Mixing it up with regards to where you sit, gives you the opportunity to "chit chat". Many times informal communication helps build connections (a.k.a. relationships) so you will feel more comfortable to approach a staff member when you have a question or need help. Just like the old saying about it takes a village to raise a child, I think it takes a school, all of the employees in a school, to educate a child. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten helpful insight about some of my puzzle kids from staff members who weren't a member of my comfort zone. There was the time my custodian observed my student's lack of interactions with classmates at lunch, the librarian who noticed my student has a love for dinosaur books which I used to motivate him with dinosaur stickers, the computer teacher who noticed my student is my class "tech expert", and many other helpful insights. Getting out of your comfort zone and getting to know more staff members will help you and your students.
If you are in charge of planning the meeting, you can mix up your seating chart with this fun activity. The only glitch with this activity is men. If you have men on your staff, they won't be able to do this activity, so tell them to split up and sit at different tables. Have ladies with the same lipstick style sit together.

What is Your Personal Style When Working in a Group:

When you are a teacher, you are not an island, although you may feel alone when you close your classroom door. Think about how many times a day you interact with other members of the staff - the cafeteria manager when you forgot your lunch count, the nurse when your student who is a member of your "frequent flyer" program ask to go the nurse for the fifth time in an hour, the speech pathologist who needs to reschedule due to a staffing . . . my point is teachers are not an island, we are a cog in a system. All it takes is one member of the cog to get "out of whack" and the system breaks down. This is why the compass points personal style activity is so beneficial. When you understand how members of your school work within a group, you will work better together.

Have you done an activity that you would recommend?

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Community Building: Staff Lending Library

Does your school have a lending library for the staff?  Sometimes it is located in the corner of the faculty lounge.  Other times there is a designated spot in the school's library for it.  A lending library can include books or magazines.
Reading during your lunch break is a great brain break.  Sometimes you need to take a brain break when you are feeling overwhelmed. You will be more productive after a short break.
Grab a book from the lending library and take your class outside the next time the weather is beautiful.  Students get so excited when they see their teacher reading, too!  
Do your students read for pleasure?  One important way you can encourage your students to read for pleasure is by reading a book during your students' sustained silent reading time.  Teachers of all subjects should model this. Imagine the impact a school wide D.E.A.R. (Drop-Everything-and-Read) time could have on students' reading skills.
Books are a great way to build community with staff members. It works best if you have the lending library in the teachers' lounge. Soon, staff members will be comparing notes about favorite authors and genres.

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Switching Grade Levels: Tips for a Smooth Transition at the Beginning of the Year

The beginning of a school year can be stressful enough, but when you change grade levels, it can add a whole new level of stress. Through the years I have moved from 1st to 3rd, 3rd to 1st, 1st to kindergarten and kindergarten to 1st grade. One time I moved from 3rd grade to 1st grade with half a day's notice before "meet the parents" and I had just finished setting up my classroom. With all of this experience switching grade levels, I have found a few tips to make these changes a little easier - for my students and me.

This summer I will be sharing these tips through a series of blog posts. Be sure to follow my blog and FB page so you won't miss out. These tips will be helpful to veteran and new teachers.
One of my favorite organizational hack is calendar numbers. These colorful little numbers can be used so many more things than a calendar. Assign each student a number. Use the calendar numbers to assign hooks to hang backpacks or coats. The best thing is you can use the same number year after year - big time saver when you are doing preparing your classroom for Back to School.

Numbers can also be taped to the floor to show students where to line up. If you have a theme like bugs or insects, you can use those to accent your theme.

Quick way to show students their schedule, center, or workstation. Laminate the number and add to a pocket chart along with your schedule.

Switching from first grade to kindergarten was the most challenging grade level switch that I made through the years. Even though other grade level changes involved greater age spans, students in those grades had experience in a school setting.

My first day of kindergarten was a rude awakening. I was overconfident because I had a number of years of experience and taught first grade the year before. My thinking was, "how much different can kindergarten be from first grade?" Famous last words as the saying goes. I had planned for the differences the summer before. Mistake . . . BIG mistake! I was visiting the other kindergarten teachers asking for advice after my first day - even though I was incredibly exhausted.

SURPRISE #1 My first big surprise was the number of kinder kids that not only could not write their name, but did not recognize their name either. I had spent HOURS writing their names over and over and over so everything in our room was labeled.

SURPRISE #2 Almost all of my students recognized numbers. They may not be able to recognize their name, but I could assign them a number. I added a number next to labels with their names. The small number of students that could not do this was a manageable amount so I could help them.

TEACHER TIP: Over the years, I found it was easier to use only numbers in the assigned places like cubbies, coat hooks, etc. When I wrote students names and numbers, there were always a name or two that I had to change after I met the parents and students. Some students go by their middle name or nickname. Using the numbers only saves time and hassle. Plus, I kept the numbers up year after year.
In the summer, students fine-motor skills do not get as much practice as they do during the school year.  Playdough is one of my favorite go-to ways to start the day at the beginning of a new school year.  Students love playdough which makes for an easier drop off transition with mom and dad.  Fewer tears is a plus!  Your class is engaged is an activity that is warming up their muscles and improving their handwriting so you can answer parents' questions or taking attendance.  
  • Do your parents stop by, email, or call about their child not liking school at the beginning of the school year?  
  • Do you have a student in tears after the first day or two of school?  
Many times the root of these situations is friendship.  It is very important at the beginning of the year that all of your students have someone to play with at recess.  You can do this different ways:
  • Have boy names in one bucket and 2 girls in another bucket. Draw 2 boy names out the bucket.  Those 2 will be recess buddies for the day.  Draw 2 girls out of the bucket.  They will be recess buddies for the day.  Continue until everyone has a buddy.  If you have an odd number, you will have a 3 Musketeer group.  Students can play with more than just the one buddy as long as the buddy is also included.
  • Choose one name out of the bucket and let that student choose a buddy.
  • You can choose larger groups.
  • Choose activities such as 4 square, tag, or other games - let students choose which activity they want to play at recess.
When your class comes in from recess, it is helpful to do a "check in" to see how recess went.  It may not be necessary to do it the entire year, but at least in the beginning to ensure everyone has someone to play with.

These ideas may seem time consuming when your schedule is hectic.  The amount of time you devote to your students developing healthy friendships and social skills will pay off throughout the year.

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Teaching BLENDS: Anchor Chart, Small Group Activities, Word Work, Reading Passages

Food is one of my favorite teaching tools.  I have a captive audience when I incorporate food with my lessons.  Most students love hot cocoa.  They may have drunk it at school during the Polar Express Day or with their family.
Tell your class that two of the ingredients of hot cocoa are like consonant blends.  Add cocoa powder and sugar to a bowl. For demonstration purposes, I recommend using a glass bowl.  
In another glass bowl, add two letters of consonant blends in the bowl.  Tell your class that the cocoa powder is like the letter f and the sugar is like the letter r.  Have your students make it each sound.  
Put your finger in the cocoa powder and taste it.  Then put your finger in the sugar and taste it.  Tell your students what it tastes like. The cocoa powder is not sweetened.

Now take a spoon to mix or blend the ingredients together.  Show your class what the mixture looks like now.  You can still see sugar and powder but they are very close together.  Now put your finger in the mixture and taste it again.  Tell your class what the new mixture taste like.  The ingredients are so close together that it is hard to taste the separate ingredients.

Consonant blends work much like these two ingredients.  The two letters are so close together that the two letter sounds blend together.

Check your school's food used with lesson policy before the try the above idea.  If your school allows food, you can give students their own bowl and ingredients.  Check with your school nurse for allergies before you do this.
Continue practicing blends when you meet with your small group with this blends climb activity.  Students can make real or nonsense words.
Differentiate the blends climb activity with your small group:
  • Write real or nonsense words with initial blends
  • Write words with blends in the middle of the word
  • Write words with blends in the last syllable
Make anchor charts with your class.  You can make a word bank with pictures like the one above.
If you have an advanced class, you can make an anchor chart with:
  • Write real or nonsense words with initial blends
  • Write words with blend in the middle of the word
  • Write words with blend in the last syllable
Play the boy-girl game after making the anchor chart, You could also play this with teams.  To save time, I usually played the boy-girl game.  I chose one girl and gave her a pink marker and gave one boy a blue marker.  When I said "go" the students with the marker would go to the anchor chart and circle one blend.  Then the boy would give the marker to another boy who hadn't had a turn yet.  The girl would do the same thing.  This continued until all of the blends were circled.  At the end, I counted the blue circles and pink circles.  If a student circled the wrong thing, I subtracted one. The winner was the group that found the most blends.
The activity, "Head, hips and tips of toes" is a little like song, "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" and Simon Says.  The teacher says a word with a blend.  If the blend is at beginning of the word, students touch their head.  If the blend is in the middle of the word, students put their hands on their hips. If the blend is in the last syllable of the word, students put their hands on their toes.  I recommend making a word bank ahead of time.  

"Head, hips and tips of toes" can be used for inside recess, as a wiggle break, or a warm up for a lesson.
Give students additional practice with blends themed reading passages.  Students will color the word:
  • Red: words with initial blends
  • Yellow: words with blend in the middle of the word
  • Green: words with blend in the last syllable
WORD WORK: Practice, practice, practice with word sorts.  
WRITING: The shape book is open-ended.  Students can write a story or sentences with the words from the anchor chart or the words from the blends climb activity.
Set up a literacy center with books that include the blend that you are focusing on.  To make it extra fun, add pointers that include the blend.  In the picture above is a wooden crab and crown that I found at Hobby Lobby.  I glued it to a tongue depressor.
Gather a collection of books that includes the blend you are focusing on.  Books that include a wide variety of topics and levels work best.

BLENDS - FR Books:
Froggy Rides a Bike by Jonathan London
My Friend is Sad by Mo Willems
Frozen: A Tale of Two Sisters by Melissa Lagonergro
Franklin is Bossy by Paulette Bourgeois
I'll be your Friend, Smudge by Miriam Moss * Lynne Chapman

What is your favorite way to teach blends?
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School Supplies Tip + Win Markers, Crayons, & Pencils!

How do you organize school supplies?  Ziploc containers are one of my favorite ways to organize supplies. I always pick up extra supplies during the Back to School sales.  Then I organize some of those supplies into containers like the ones in the picture.  Each container includes a box of crayons, scissors, and glue stick.  Each container and the supplies in it are assigned a number.  This keeps students accountable and ensures that the correct supplies are returned to the correct container.

These handy dandy supply boxes are perfect for:
  • When you get a new students unexpectedly.  Let your new student use one of these boxes and unpack his/her backpack later.
  • When you switch classes for special holiday events like Polar Express.  You have supplies that are ready to go and accountable with the number system.
  • Use with your small group, intervention group, or give to a volunteer who helps your students.

I am joining some of my friends with a WE LOVE SUPPLIES Giveaway. Visit each of my friends' blogs between May 1 - 5, 2017 to enter each rafflecopter.  Each of my friends will choose a winner to give much needed school supplies to lucky teachers.

We will email the winner and announce the winner on our FB page. Make sure you follow our FB pages.  Winners will have 48 hours to respond to our email.  If no response, we will choose a new winner.

You can win the following:

Pencil Tips plus Win School Supplies

Pencils can be a big headache for teachers.  Yet, how many of us were taught how to manage pencils in our undergrad classes?

Do you use community supplies with your class?  One way you can hold your students accountable is by color coding the supplies. Use a different colorful supply tub on each table or team.  Draw a mark that is the same color as the tub on each of the supplies.  If a pencil or pair of scissors falls on the floor, students will be able to see easily see which colorful tub that they should return it to.

Do you have limited supplies?  Assign each student a number.  Write or tape the students' number at the top of the pencil.

I love to keep a bag of sharpened pencils handy to use when I'm being observed or quarterly writing prompts.  It's amazing how a nice sharpened pencils will produce top quality work.

Black is the perfect color for pencils to use with your small groups.  Students rarely bring black pencils to school.  Your class will quickly figure out that a student with a black pencil at his or her desk, must have "borrowed" it from the teacher's table.

I am joining some of my friends with a WE LOVE SUPPLIES Giveaway.
  • Visit each blog and enter each rafflecopter.
  • A different winner will be chosen from each rafflecopter.
  • Enter between May 1 - 5, 2017.
  • Each of my friends will choose a winner.
  • Winners will be emailed.
  • Winners will also be announced on our FB pages.  Make sure you follow our FB pages.

PLEASE NOTE: Winners will have 48 hours to respond to our email.  If no response, we will choose a new winner.

You can win the following:

To enter my giveaway:
    • Sign up for my newsletter.
    • Tell me the email that you used to sign up for my newsletters on the rafflecopter.
    • I will email the winner using this email.

    I also have a little treat for you!

    Click HERE for your freebie.

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