Snowman Math Races- an indoor recess solution

Have you been hit by those terrible snow storms over the past week? Are you DREADING indoor recess? You don't have to! I have a FREE solution for you and it helps your kiddos practice their math facts.

December means it's time for snowman math races! Snowman math races are a big hit in my classroom. We use addition wheels to practice our facts and turn it into a race. If you aren't familiar with them
Here's how they work:
Draw a donut shape and place numbers around the inside. Then place another number in the center. Students line up and take turn adding the number inside the donut hole with the center number. They place their answer outside the circle.
 When we race I usually have just three or four students in a line. Students are NOT allowed to whisper or call out an answer OR let another student know their answer was wrong. After a student writes down an answer they pass their expo marker to the person behind them and go to the end of the line. If a student writes down an incorrect answer someone else in the line has to fix it. They simply cross off the wrong answer and write the correct answer next to it.  As soon as all of the answers are written down, and all the answers are correct, that group wins. I don't write the same numbers in each wheel when we race because I don't want anyone sneaking a peek at the other team's answers. It's a great way to get students to practice addition facts.

Snowman math races are easy and quick and great for indoor recess, end of the day, brain break, or as a competition with other classes. (I'm just a wee bit competitive!) My students BEG to have these races! I've also used them for finding the missing addend. If you're an upper grade you could do multiplication wheels. 

Here are our snowman races in action.

*notice the wrong answer!

*If you don't have a whiteboard you can laminate some butcher paper or poster paper and cut out your wheel and use dry erase markers to write. Post-Its will work in a pinch too.

To help my kiddos understand how to do addition math wheels I use wheels from this product. Students quickly understand and your students who are still struggling with their facts get some extra practice. I usually incorporate some of these into our math stations too. My struggling students will take wheels home for homework all month. This packet also includes missing addend practice.

This pack will be on sale during the Cyber Monday sale!

To give your students a tutorial/taste of snowman math races I've created this freebie. Just click to download!

Prepping for Parent Orientation

Back to school means getting ready for parent orientation night. Last year we had some feedback from our parents that they didn't realize what a leap it was from kindergarten to first. We wanted to make sure our parents were informed and we also wanted them to know that on our team we all have the same expectations and we all teach the same curriculum....we may just teach it in a different way. I think this was our best parent orientation night EVER!

We started the night with a 25 minute presentation in our cafeteria addressing all of the parents. We have two brand new teammates so we started with a little introduction. We passed the microphone around between slides so we were all able to present as a team.

I'm so thankful I work with such an incredible group of ladies! Love them all!

We covered: 
*Schedule, pace, and the importance of showing up on time to school
*Reading expectations. We hope our students are at a DRA level 4 or above at the beginning of the year and an 18 or above at the end of the year. We took pictures of both a 4 and 18 to show parents what their child is working for. 
*Reading comprehension and its part in DRA scores. This is a big deal for us. Many parents know their children can read challenging books, but they don't realize that their child isn't able to remember what they are reading.
*Spelling- this year we have three mystery words that follow our phonics skill for the week. This way we can see which students have really mastered the skill instead of just memorizing the words.
*We discussed math facts and how to study them.
*Snacks, lunches
*BYOD- our district encourages students to bring their own devices
*Shoe tying! We asked that parents not send their children to school in shoes with laces if they can't tie them by themselves
*homework- reading every night
*sight words-Fry list

After our team presentation was over parents came to our classrooms for individual presentations. These covered a little bit about us (I revealed that I have a blog- I've never told parents that! EEK! My blog has always been just for me. If people figured out I had one I was ok with that but I never actually told anyone except my teammates), our personal behavior management, and other odds and ends.

Every year I end my presentation with this quote. I came across it when I read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. Hands down one of the best books I've ever read! If you haven't read it go put it on your wish list RIGHT NOW!
First grade is a reading grade and let's face it- all those stinkin standardized state tests are really READING tests!

My baby is due October 31st and I'm already stressing about making sure I have thorough plans and everything in place. I may have gone a little crazy with the Astrobrights paper. But I wanted to make sure my parents had plenty of information. I saw this fabulous flip book on Instagram from
 A Spoonful of Learning.  I love the end product! You can purchase your flip book here.

ugh- I see one page was stapled off center.  

*I also made two extra copies and set them aside for new students.

I found GREAT handouts on reading at home from All Students Can Shine and Fun in First.

I also needed a few other items in my room and used this SUPER cute donut themed parent donation pack from Farley! (I wanted to set mine up cuter, but swollen feet prevented me from doing much.) You can find her donut themed parent night pack right here.

At the end of the night I was exhausted but I think our first grade parents went home with lots of information and a better understanding of everything first grade entails. I {fingers crossed} hope my parents felt a little more at ease.

Hope all my teacher friends out there are off to a great school year! 

Starting off on the WRITE foot

Good morning! I survived week two of school. How about you? I have lots to share about our week, but first I have to celebrate a fellow blogger! My dear friend Ashley from

Flying High in First Grade

Flying High in First Grade is celebrating a milestone and she's having an AWESOME giveaway! You can win my September/October Poem a Week pack as well as several other kick ass prizes. Ashley just had a baby girl and who knows, maybe our girls will be besties one day! 

This week we were busy working on routines, incorporating more Whole Brain Teaching, and setting up our writing journals. We want to start out on the "write" foot! LOL! Before school started I blogged about my All the Write Moves pack and the changes I had made to it from last year. You can check out that post here.

First we glued in our tabs to separate our journals into sections. Then we started gluing in all of our Writers Can pieces. I used my new Belkin Tablet Stand document camera for the first time. It was awesome. (I'll be doing a post on that in a couple of weeks after I've figured out all the cool tools!)

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Some pieces are interactive. But my main goal with having a Writers Can section was to give examples for my student to refer back to when they are working in their journals. I'm so excited to see how their writing changes and how they challenge themselves with journals set up this way.
You can find my All the Write Moves pack on TPT. Just click on the picture above! 
Happy Saturday!

5 Must-Read Books for Back to School

It's been wonderful being back at school this week! I've missed being in the classroom and I've really missed my picture books.

My name is Jennifer and I have a picture book addiction. 

Seriously, put me in Barnes and Noble and it's like I'm in Target. I have no self-control! I know I'm not alone!

I have 5 books that I read every year and I can't imagine beginning my year without them.

1. Do Unto Otters- Absolutely the cutest book about the golden rule of do unto others. Great for manners and treating others with kindness. Every year I draw the main character and we record all the words we can think of on how to "do unto otters." There's also a VERY adorable DVD that you can find on Amazon (it includes 3 other stories By Laurie Keller). It's an animated version of the story and it's always a big hit.

2. Wemberly Worried- So many students can relate to being nervous on the first day of school. 

3. You Will Be My Friend- HILARIOUS! Peter Brown is too funny. Lucy, the cute bear on the cover, has the hardest time making a friend. She even yells "YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND!" which of course does not help her in making any new friends. The kids laugh at her ridiculous behavior and it leads to great discussion about how to make a friend.

4. Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse- Another fabulous Kevin Henkes book. When Lilly draws a nasty picture of her teacher at the end of a bad day her teacher tells her "Today was difficult, tomorrow will be better." I say that same phrase to students all year long. Students easily relate to Lilly's excitement to show and tell about her purple plastic purse, movie star sunglasses, and jingly quarters. 

5. Library Lion- the illustrations in this book are so gorgeous. If you aren't familiar with this book it's so sweet. The librarian is very adamant that everyone follow the rules- most importantly STAY QUIET. But what if there's an emergency? Is there ever a time when it's okay to break the rules?

School starts Monday & I have no furniture!

You read the title right friends. I have no furniture. 


Our district is going to be building a new elementary school and I'm one of two teachers that's piloting new furniture. I'm SUPER excited about the new furniture. It's modern and on wheels and will allow for lots of collaborative group work. This furniture was supposed to have been delivered and set up last Friday. Well, Friday came and went.....Monday too...I did finally get a teacher desk and what will replace my horseshoe table. But y'all, that's it. Desks were delivered today! However, after the custodians put one together they realized the district ordered chairs that were too small. Isn't that awesome? 


I still have my bookcases. I haven't removed my carpet or horseshoe table yet since I needed some place for paperwork for parents at Meet the Teacher Night.  And if I have not desks Monday we'll have to be sitting on the carpet a lot! I don't have anything on my walls because  I have no idea what other furniture I'll be getting besides desks. Murphy's Law: If I put things onto the wall the way I think will work out then once the furniture is there I will have to take it all down and put it up in a different spot.


If you've followed my blog for a while, or follow me on Instagram you may know I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I love putting my room together and I feel like what your room looks like is part of your first impression to parents and kids. 

School starts Monday. I'm 7 months pregnant and I'm tired. My feet hurt. I could easily have big BOO-HOO episode about the whole dang thing. But what would be the point? Crying won't solve anything. This situation is completely out of my hands!

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Tonight at Meet the Teacher as I was explaining/apologizing to a parent that my room just wasn't ready he said, "Who cares? No one is here to see furniture or posters on your wall. The kids want to see you!"
That will be true on Monday too. The kids will follow my reaction. It's the perfect opportunity to show I'm flexible and that even when things don't go as planned you can still make the most of a tough situation. We want to teach our kids that skill anyway!

This year as unexpected and unplanned things happen remember you are in charge of your reaction and attitude! Teachers are tough and resilient. We have an incredibly tough job and WE DO AMAZING THINGS!

Have a great school year! 

Wish List Blog Hop

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I'm so happy you're here! Thanks for visiting our blog hop! 
I am...

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I have two products to share with you today! The first product is a paid product.

My first graders always seem to struggle with money each year. Many kids just don't see or get to feel and play with any actual money. Most of us use our credit or debit cards almost all the time. I created this unit to move gradually through money concepts beginning with coin recognition. My students love working on money because it makes them feel so grown up! I've had so much success with this product! This product is $5 in my TPT store.

You can win my unit as well as all the paid products featured by my fellow hop hosts! Winner will be announced on Sunday!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

The second product I want to share with you is a little preview of my Moolah Unit. 

Thank you so much for stopping by!
Your next stop on the hop is

Kindergarten Craftiness

If you would like to start the hop from the beginning head to

My Silly Firsties

I hate to be a tease....

A few fabulous gals I connected with at the TPT conference in Vegas and I are doing a super fun blog hop! We were all talking about what we had on our TPT wish lists and wanted to share.....stay tuned. You won't want to miss it!

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Meanwhile it's back to school time and I'm desperately trying to set up my room. But I'm 7 months pregnant and I get tired so quickly! My printer has some issues (followed by an epic pregnant lady meltdown last night) so I haven't even been able to print anything. Hoping to have pictures of my room done by Sunday......or Monday.

All the Write Moves

Writing in first grade is so exciting! I love how much growth you see when you view their writing journal entries from the first month of school to the last month. 

I personally don't love scripted programs that tell you what to do with each lesson for writing from the first day of school on. Having taught 4th grade writing for two years I know very well that writing can feel like a chore to many students- especially those who aren't naturally strong writers. I feel like writing should be taught the way reading is. First children are exposed to writing just as they are books and reading. But when we first start "reading" we are pretending. We aren't really reading anything yet. For years we are given freedom to mimic what our parents read and how they read it before we are ever exposed to letter sounds and how to blend them into words. The first half of the school year I allow a lot of freedom in my students writing journals. Monday through Thursday students can free write in their journals. I have journal prompts and sentence starters for those students who want to use them. On Fridays we do a writing assignment together. I show students our writing prompts and we write together. I put each sentence on a sentence strip in a different color. We read and re-read what we have written to make sure it makes sense. Then students go back to their seats and do their own writing to the same prompt. Beginning in January students do much more writing that is assigned. By this time the majority of students are at a reading level that allows them to use good vocabulary and write sentences using many of our sight words. They begin to see how creative they can be and many students take several days to complete one journal piece.

Last year I created an All the Write Moves packet. I posted our writing goals in our center as well as our posters from this pack.

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But I found as the year went on that I really needed students to have mini versions of the posters inside their journals to use as a reference. I began updating my pack and edited and added several pages.  There are example pages what writers can write. I also have mini versions of writing posters in both black and white. Writing activities and examples are listed throughout the pack. I also included our writing goals.

If you have already purchased All the Write Moves be sure to download the latest version. This is the perfect product to add to your Back to School wish list! Click on either picture to view this product on TPT!


I just saw the video for the OSMO. You've seen it in FB ads all summer. I never clicked on the link until today when another blogger blogged about it. I watched the video and immediately pre-ordered. The pre-order price was too good to pass up! I can also see how this could be a perfect for a grant for your classroom.

The OSMO works with the latest iPads including iPad mini and iPad2. You attach the reflector camera to the top. It also comes with three games to start with: Tangrams, Newton, and Words. All challenge your students in different ways. Tangrams you already know. Students are given positive "dings" when they place a shape correctly. In Newton you guide falling balls into targeted zones by drawing shapes or adding objects- very cool. Words- spell out words to describe what is on the screen. Great as a small group or partner game! You can see all three games on the video above.

If you click the link below you can pre-order YOUR OSMO for 50% off! Just $45!

Chapter 4: Early Guided Reading

Chapter 4 is all about early reading for your higher level kinder kids and your first grade students. This week the host of this chapter is sweet Jill from ABC's and Polka Dots! She has a great document to add to your documentation binder for your small groups.

Here are my thoughts on this chapter:

1. What part of the reading caught your attention?
There is a list of skills children progress through in the early reading levels. 
I thought the list would be great to add to our open house presentation for parents. Parents aren't really aware of all the skills that we want students to gain mastery in. 

2. How do you already incorporate this into your guided reading routine?

A few years ago brain feelers were introduced in a blog post from Miss Knights Chronicles. I don't bring them out every week but when I do my groups are highly engaged and love picking their questions. 

One bit that really stood out for me was this quote:
 It is extremely important that children listen to themselves as they read and stop if what they say does not make sense. Self-monitoring is the foundation for comprehension. When you say, "Does that make sense?" do a child, you are teaching comprehension.

If you are new to guided reading this chapter has a great plan for your daily small group instruction.

Chapter 2: Assessment

We're on to chapter 2: Assessments in our book study!

I know what you're thinking! Ugh- I hate assessments. Ok, they aren't at the top of my list either, but they're essential to making sure our students are on track and continue making progress regardless of their level.

Again this chapter is full of primary assessments and the information you can gain from them making this book a fantastic tool. If you're switching grade levels up or down this chapter is an excellent tool for you! 

1. What part of the reading caught your attention? 

I liked the chart with average number of words correct per minute broken down by grade level. That's a great tool for me as well as for the parents I have that want to know more. This quote in particular stood out to me, "Speed and accuracy should not be the sole measures of fluency. You need to consider the student's expression, intonation, and attention to punctuation." Jan Richardson also sites this 4 point fluency scale.
Click the picture above to go to the NAEP web site
I also want to mention, as a first grade teacher, that the comprehension component of reading is so very important. We have many students come to us from kindergarten and their parents are so proud that they are reading a book that is so wordy. But we have to explain to them that being a strong reader means more than just reading the words. Oral retell is huge in first grade and it's something we work on with our partners as well as in small groups!

2.  How do you already incorporate this into your guided reading routine?

This year I started making a poetry center. (A Poem a Week- I have poems for most of the months. Working on July -October. Available in my TPT store) We added our poems to a journal. Students worked with me in small group searching for sight words in the poem and answering comprehension questions, and completed missing parts of the poem. As the year went on students started getting more confident and began practicing reading their poems. Some students even memorized them and proudly read them aloud to me and their classmates. I also read and re-read my favorite stories several times over the year and leave them out for the children to try and read as well. Great stories for expression include You Will Be My Friend by Peter Brown and Alice the Fairy by David Shannon. They're both simple, hilarious, and offer great opportunities for the students to mimic how I have read the stories with expression.

3. How do you want to make your guided reading time better? Is there something new you want to try?

This year I want to incorporate the use of rubrics for assessment on a more consistent basis.

4. What are some resources you already have that you can use to teach about what you read in this chapter?

I have some reading comprehension bookmarks for your students. I use them as a tool for my student first is small groups so that my kiddos see me model how to use them. Then as they become stronger readers they can use these bookmarks on their own and in partners. The more students use them the more they train their brain to retell and ask questions as they read these story. Just click on the link to grab your copy!

Be sure to check out the posts from other bloggers in our blog study! 

Using 3M Velcro to Set Up Your Classroom

I'm linking up with other bloggers sharing their bright ideas! This year I had a stinkin' genius idea that will help teacher in all grade levels with setting up their classroom!

Do you have to take EVERYTHING off of your walls at then end of every school year? I do. It's so frustrating to me. All that time spent placing each item exactly where I want it to go. Then I have to take it down and start from scratch the next year. 

Previous methods:
1) Blue sticky is great for temporary items. But I work in Texas and it gets really hot here. Our school district turns off the AC over the weekends to save energy and it's always disappointing to come into your room and find half of your posters on the floor because the blue sticky got too hot.

2) 3M sticky tabs. These are great because they don't fall off of the wall! BUT you have to buy all new tabs every summer to stick everything back onto the wall when it comes time to set up your classroom again. It can be very expensive.


This year as I was standing in Office Max filling my basket with 3M sticky tabs I thought, "Why not use velcro?" 
I went out to Hobby Lobby and bought foam board and glued my posters and papers to the foam board using E6000 craft glue. *My teammate tried this but hot glued her items and some of them fell off of her foam board by the end of the year.* Any posters I would group together, for example my writing goals, were glued onto a foam board.

E6000 is great to use when you are gluing things onto your foam board. It doesn't dry immediately the way hot glue does so you have a couple of minutes to adjust and straighten everything. Once it's dry it's set and you won't have any problems! I even used it on my ribbon for the poster below.
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The 3M velcro tabs are the same on both side so they don't have a write or wrong side the way traditional velcro does. I used four velcro tabs on small posters and six tabs on larger posters. At the end of the school year I simply pulled all of my posters off of the wall and stacked them in my car. It took less than five minutes and I'll be able to put them right back up in August. We were allowed to leave the velcro tabs up on our wall. However, if I had to take them down it would have been easy enough to purchase more velcro to match to the back of my tabs on my posters and re-hang them. 

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I had all of my posters ready before we were allowed access to our rooms the week before school started. It was such a relief to know most of what I wanted up on my walls was complete it just one afternoon!

If you enjoyed this bright idea please consider following me on Instagram or Facebook!

For more bright ideas from more than 100 different bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!