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Read Alouds for Problem and Solution, Cause and Effect

Later in the fall and heading towards winter, we begin to really focus on problems and solutions and causes and effects in our stories. My students by this point have been introduced to these ideas, but now they will dive in and not only identify each of these in a story, but also take note on how important they can be to the plot.

I wanted to share some of my favorite read alouds for both skills. First up, problem and solution!

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson:
This book has a very clear problem, but the solution is the fun one here! With a twist at the end, your students will be interested to see what happens in this story to fix the problem. This book is also a wonderful character education read aloud to help students who may be having trouble with friends (or "enemies").

Crazy Hair Day by Barney Saltzberg:
In this story, Stanley accidentally celebrates crazy hair day one day early and arrives to school feeling quite embarrassed. There are many ways this problem could be solved, but his classmates choose a heartwarming way to make Stanley feel included!

A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams:
In this story a family spends a long time saving up money for a new chair. The problem presented here requires a long, dedicated solution, with many lessons to be taught to your young students along the way.

You can grab each of these books here:

Next, I teach about cause and effect using the following books:

The Rain Came Down by David Shannon:
This text highlights cause and effect very clearly. Each character does something that causes another character to react. On each page your students will be able to readily identify a cause and effect going on in the text.

Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish:
Good ole Amelia Bedelia always has my kids laughing as she constantly mistakes the meanings of words without using context clues. We always have a lively debate at the end of the story about whether or not Amelia Bedelia should've lost her job.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst:
In this classic, we talk about how the way Alexander is feeling and acting effects what happens in the story. We love to discuss ways we could've changed his day to help Alexander have a better, happier day and how those causes and effects might occur in the context of the story.

You can grab those three books here:

I have also made read aloud lessons and response sheets for ALL the above books and more that you can find by clicking the image below if you are interested:

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Using Games to Reach Your Students!

Each year a new batch of students arrives and you can see pretty quickly which students excel with little help, which students are chugging right along at grade level, and which need a little more time, a little more guidance to figure it all out.

A few years ago I had a student who really struggled in math. He would get anxious and angry when our math block would come around. Bathroom breaks were frequent during that particular hour and it wasn't uncommon for him to act out. It made me SO sad. I wanted to connect with him and let him know it's okay for things to be hard and that we are in this together.

We play a lot of math games in my first grade classroom. It works for me and my students tend to enjoy them. I like the social skills that interweave with the academic ones while we play games. My kids learn how to win gracefully and not pout when they lose. They learn to take turns and they learn that sometimes it all comes down to the luck of the dice! All the while, they are practicing academic skills. Win-win right?!

Well, my little buddy did NOT like playing games with his peers. He feared getting things wrong and letting his classmates see him struggle, so I thought this game time would be the perfect opportunity for me to get to know him.

I made it a mission of mine to play a math game with him EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.  He was my special partner and while we played our games we talked. We talked a lot. I got to know all about what he liked to do after school, what his big sisters did to bug him, and what he wanted to be when he grew up (a police officer). While we had these conversation, we reviewed our math skills. He became more confident, more comfortable with his learning. For months, him and I would play a game each day. The games would get harder and I sure wouldn't let him win, but he worked through it and we talked through it.

Now, of course, I had 23 other students I needed to attend to and help, so these games were quick, they were fun, they were different! Every few days I tried to find a new twist on a game to keep my students engaged.

As the year went on and my buddy gained more confidence, he started playing games with his peers. I could see him using the skills (both social and academic) I taught him when he would win or lose a game with a classmate. He started reaching grade level standards in math and even left me that year excelling in addition and number sense!

Since sending that student off to the next grade, I have LOVED creating games for my students to play. Every time I make a math game, I make it with that student in mind. "Would this game grab his attention? Would it help him learn to subtract from 20? Does it have a twist? Would this game bore him?" These are the questions that I ask myself in hopes that I could reach another student who may be struggling as well!

Taking that little time each day to connect with a student is what makes teaching so worth it. I found that the relationships I built with my students always made me a better teacher and a better overall person.

If you want to use some games in your classroom, I recently compiled 48 different print and play math games that cover the following topics:
Number Sense
Place Value
Telling Time

Click the image below to see the games:
The games are all in black and white and only require dice, cubes, paperclips, crayons, and pencils! I wanted them to be easy for teachers to use and easy for students to learn to play. Many of the games provide differentiation as well.

If you think you can help a struggling student with one of these games, click the image below and download the preview to download a FREE number sense game:

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2D and 3D Shape Activities!

My first grade students LOVE pattern blocks. They find them mesmerizing and I find that they calm even the rowdiest classroom at times! Teaching geometry is one of my favorite units in the classroom because the kids find it to be so much fun! 

I thought I would share a few of my favorite 2D and 3D shape activities with you today:

 Block animals:
This is an extension activity we do towards the end of our learning about 2D shapes. Students get to use their creativity to create their very own animal out of pattern blocks and write a little story about their animal as well as tally up how many of each type of pattern block they used.

  Composing Shape Object Cards:
My students use THIS free composing shape activity all the time and the activity shown above is an extension of that. It lets them put together any shapes they please to create the objects on the cards instead of having to be in the constraints of the first activity. I honestly love to use both because they both allow students to practice their spatial reasoning and shape skills.

 Defining vs. Nondefining:
One of the first grade standards is to have students identify the difference between defining attributes and nondefining attributes. Students use these sorting cards for 2D and 3D shapes to practice.

2D Make-a-Shape:
This activity has students using yarn, straws, geoboards, or whatever other material you want to have students compose 2D shapes. There are 2 differentiated spinners. The one above shows the shape so it is easy to copy it, while the other spinner has attributes listed and the student has to make a shape that matches those attributes. 

 Shape Cards:
These cards are perfect for kicking off a lesson and having students identify which 2D or 3D shape is shown with the real life object. These create discussions about what shapes we see in the real world. I also like to use these cards to play memory or go fish where students try to match the same shapes.

 Where Are They?
Understanding that shapes of all types are in our real world every day is an important thing for my first graders to learn and understand. These little charts help students identify different places they can see these shapes in the real world. 

 Guess My Shape!
This is my favorite 3D shape activity each year! After we learn the attributes of 3D shapes, I hide a different shape in each bag and students must go around silently and feel the shape without looking. They must feel around and decide what 3D figure is inside the bag. They record their guesses and then we all check and confirm at the end!

You can find all these resources and activities in my shape unit [HERE] and if you are looking for a YEAR'S WORTH of math workshop units, activities, centers, games, and detailed lessons you can find that below:

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Read Aloud Books for Making Connections

When students are able to make connections with a book they find more meaning to the story. They are able to better connect with the characters and the plot and really understand what is happening. While we must reel our young learners in (sometimes they get off track while making connections) I still believe this concept is very important for our students to learn and feel comfortable with.

I thought I would share a few of my favorite books for teaching text-to-self connections, text-to-text connections and text-to-world connections:

No, David! By David Shannon
This book is an obvious favorite for young students and they can ALL relate! As I read this story I make sure to check in with my students and their connections and ask them how their connections help them understand the story better. This book also has some great stopping points for inferring!

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
Most students can relate to a time in their life where they had a LOT of family members over their house and how it felt. As with any text-to-self connections I try to make them meaningful and bring students back to the text by asking them how their connections helped them better understate what was happening in the story.

Oliver Button is a Sissy by Tomie dePaola and Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
Both of these books have main characters that must overcome some sort of adversity and students can often relate to the struggles each character faces in these stories. We talk a bit about how Oliver Button changes through the story and after reading Amazing Grace we compare the two main characters' journeys. I love to use them when making text-to-text connections!

The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry:
I focus a lot on author's purpose when we read this book. I want my students to try and figure out WHY Lynne Cherry wrote this book and what it could be telling us about our world that we live in. My young, first graders always amaze me with their insightful thoughts on protecting the forests and the trees.

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss:
Another great read for text-to-world connections. My students are able to think of the relationship between our world and how we treat it just like in the story.

You can grab the above books here:

I have also made read aloud lessons and response sheets for ALL the above books and more that you can find by clicking the image below if you are interested:

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