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## There are some important number concepts that can be practiced just through our daily routine.

Here are a couple of examples:

All my students have a class number. I think it's a great way to keep things in order, plus, it plays a big role in developing counting skills!

Often, when I call on the children to line up, or to go to their next activity, I'll call the odd numbers first, then the even numbers. (Or even, then odd.)

Sometimes I'll go beyond the number of kids I have in the class so they can really hear the pattern. After a while, they anticipate the pattern I'm calling and are super ready when I get to their number.

Sometimes I'll count by 5s, then go 5s +1, then 5s +2, etc, while pointing the pattern out on our class number grid. (5, 10, 15, 20, 6, 11, 16, 21, 7, 12, etc.)

Other times I'll call a pattern like... 1, 11, 2, 12, 3, 13, and so on.  They always watch when I point these out on the number grid as I call out the numbers.

Then there are days I just call out the numbers in order, or in backward order. Sometimes I start with 1, and other times I'll just start with a child who is behaving properly (as opposed to rolling around on the floor, which second graders often see at the end of a lesson!). Then, I've been known to start with a random number off the top of my head for no reason. I like to keep them on their toes!

Another way I keep them thinking about numbers during their daily routine is by consistently writing odd numbers in red and even numbers in green. Why? Because red means stop!  Why do we stop for odd numbers? Because someone or something doesn't have a partner! Since the even/ odd concept is in the common core for second grade, I mention it often, and constantly bring up that odd numbers are odd because they can't be paired off. They know what it's like to be without a partner, and that personal connection helps them remember why even numbers are different from odd numbers!  (Brain research tells us this.)

Here's another thing I do that helps the children internalize number concepts: I change my jobs after each set of ten! Most teachers change their classroom jobs weekly. I used to do that, but I realized how changing after 10 days will help internalize that concept of ten for these kids, especially since sets of ten is huge in our number system!

## Do you have any routines that help secure number concepts?

### Seven Ideas for Reading Accurately

I've finished my DIBELS, and my kids are all over the ball park as far as their needs go. I have noticed that several students had high "Words Correct Per Minute", but their accuracy was low. These kids read loads of words, but were adding, changing, and omitting lots of words. These same kids also had trouble with punctuation, and retelling the story. They need work on accuracy!

## Here are some ideas for working on accuracy.

1.  Tell them that's what they need to work on. Yes, seriously, give them the feedback they need. That's the number one trick to improvement, knowing what you need to work at! If necessary, go back to the "finger pointing" stage to help them focus on the words that are really there.

2.  Partner reading - One partner reads, the other partner checks to make sure they're reading accurately. This works best if the children are evenly matched at their own reading level.

3. Read with an adult - Grab a spare adult somewhere to read with students! It might be a teacher assistant, a parent volunteer, or maybe even the librarian, phys. ed. teacher or music teacher! Anyone that has a few minutes can sit down with a child and listen to them read. (Make sure they are ready to give feedback!)

4. Have them read "out soft" - often!  The more they read so someone can hear, the more accurate they will become. That "sense of an audience" really makes a difference. When my students come to reading group, I have them bring a book they are working on, and they are expected to sit down and start reading it "out soft". That means: loud enough so that I can hear them across the reading table, but not loud enough to be heard from across the room. They find it a little awkward at first, but it doesn't take long for them to feel comfortable reading their book just loud enough to be heard. This trick also gives me a chance to listen to individuals, give a little extra time to some kids, and has the children warmed up and ready for reading group. I notice huge improvements in accuracy and fluency when I start doing this!

5. Readers Theater - As mentioned above, that "sense of an audience" is a big motivator! Plus, Readers Theater can be fun, which is another plus! There are plenty of sources of scripts out there. Just google it! Just beware of the danger of readers theater: after reading it a few times, they memorize the script. Then it isn't real reading anymore!

6.  Reading song lyrics - Music is very closely related to the memory. If they already know the song, they'll be able to read the lyrics. Give out song sheets and have them "finger read". As above, just make sure they are truly reading, not reciting something that they have memorized. (Nothing wrong with memorization, but that's not the skill we're trying to improve!)

7.  Practice sight words and phrases - In order to read accurately, they've got to know the words! Experts recommend that children learn sight words in context. See the freebie below for several phrases using the Dolch pre-primer list. There are plenty more of these for other levels, too!

## I love going all out for Constitution Day!

My students wear red, white, and blue, and the whole school recites the pledge together, outdoors at the flagpole.

We have 1700s USA flags for the kids to color, and copies of the school promise to sign with a quill pen. Sometimes even George Washington and Benjamin Franklin stop by the classrooms with a little skit about the signing of the Constitution.

Of course, I might read a book or two:

Here's one of my favorite Schoolhouse Rock Videos!

Here's a Constitution Trivia Boom Learning Activity:

And, of course, I have a couple of Patriotic Freebies:

Here's an explanation of 6 USA holidays, and some suggestions on how to celebrate our country.

Here's another freebie:  a variety of paper with a USA theme:

## I've got some kids that totally need practice counting by 5s!

This is a pretty important math concept, as it is needed to count money as well as tell time.  As they get older, it will help with multiplication.

Plus, it's in the Common Core State Standards for second grade:  CCSS.Math.Content 2 NBT.A.2: Count within 1000; skip count by 5s, 10s, and 100s.

Yes, that does say within 1,000!  That means they should be able to start at 825 and keep going by 5s through 1,000!
That's why I brainstormed this list of

## Five Ways to Practice Counting by Fives!

1.  Here is a YouTube Video that's great!  It combines music, rhythm, visuals, and fun!  That's a brain-based recipe for learning!

Counting by Fives Song  by Have Fun Learning

I'll bet if you googled "counting by 5s" on YouTube, you'd find plenty more!

2.  Learning Games!  I posted about this game just the other day. It's great for learning any sequence that needs to be memorized. To download the directions, explore the image for the link, or go here: How to Play Countdown.

3.  Let them see the pattern!  I like to have loads of laminated copies of number grids around the room for the kids to look at, talk about, and mark up with their wipe-off markers.  They can call out the numbers by 5s as they circle them.  It really helps those visual kids to see the patterns. (Brain research tells us ALL students benefit from visuals! You can download a color-coded number grid here: Color Coded Number Grid.(or see  the image.) Plus you can download your color-coded grid to 1,000 grid here: Numbers 0 - 1,000.

4.  Get physical - and funny!  Kids need to move, and we know that movement and exercise help bring oxygen to the brain, therefore helping the memory!  We do loads of movement while counting, such as follow the leader, brain gym exercises, jumping jacks, push-ups, and just about anything we can think of to get the counting to be automatic.  Since laughter also brings oxygen to the brain, it's fun to do the counting with a funny voice. For some reason, I often break into a southern accent while counting by 5s, and the kids giggle like crazy and join right in!  (Waving y'all to all my southern friends... feel free to break into a Boston accent with your kids!)

5.  Don't stop at 100, and leave out the "and"!  I know, this isn't actually a 5th idea, but it's a pet peeve of mine.  My second graders are learning that counting by 5s keeps going after 100!  Those first 2 rows after 100 on the hundred grid are the toughest for the kids to learn, so it's important to go at least past 120!  Did you realize the proper way to say 105 is "one hundred five" without the word and. Technically, the word "and" stands for the decimal point, so "one hundred and five" really means 100.5.  (OK, you'd really say "one hundred and five-tenths", but let's get the kids in the right habit now so the kids won't get confused when they learn decimals!)

## How do you practice counting by 5s with your students?

### Practice Makes Permanent and Games Make it Fun!

I started playing a game during Math the other day that I hadn't played in years!

We were practicing skip counting in my second grade class, and I realized a lot of these kids really need to practice skip counting a whole lot!

After all, research on brains and learning tells us that practice makes permanent. (This is good if they're practicing the skill correctly, not so good if they're practicing the skill incorrectly! I suspect we all know the pain of unlearning a bad habit!)

So in order to practice the skill of skip counting, I remembered this game:  Countdown!

The children stand in a circle. The teacher decides which numbers will be repeated for the game. To start, we counted by 5s from 5 to 35. A child was chosen to start the game by calling out "five". The children went around the circle calling out the next number in the sequence. Whoever said 35 would sit down. They repeat the sequence, eliminating the "35" person each time, until there is only one left standing, the winner!

Luckily, they enjoy the game, so they're glad to repeat it, with variations on the counting pattern! Plus, brain research tells us that adding an emotional element (fun) improves the memory!

This game works for ANY sequence that needs to be learned. Here are some examples:
• the seven continents
• the states of matter
• the seasons
• the times tables
• prime numbers

## I'll bet you can think of more!

In case you're interested, I've written these directions out so you can download and put them in your files!  Just click the image or click here: How to Play Countdown!

### Six Things to Remember on the First Day of School

Today was my 38th first day of school as a teacher. You'd think I've had enough practice at this, but I still get nervous on the first day. Here are a few things I have to remind myself about each year:
1. Don't try to do it all in a day, set priorities! I can't wait for the children to know all our procedures so we can get down to actual academics. But that takes weeks. Today, I focused on procedures during group shares.

2. Give plenty of opportunities to talk! This can be tricky since many of the children are kind of shy at first. I use "turn and talk" all the time, but it takes some warming up to be comfortable with the group. Start today, with limited expectations and lots of guidance. Today my students had to tell something they were looking forward to in second grade. I gave them several examples, which some of the shy kids used, and the more outgoing were able to go beyond the examples.

3. They haven't had to sit still or listen all summer! It's tempting (and often necessary) to do a lot of talking on the first day, but keep it short. After a few minutes of sitting still, they'll never remember what you said anyway! Want to help them remember? Have them repeat what you say, using gestures.

4.  Let them see you make a mistake or two.  Many children fear looking bad to the new teacher. It's important that they see mistakes are normal and encouraged. I definitely don't have any trouble making mistakes, but when I do, I model what I expect children to do when they make mistakes.

#### 5.  Let them see you have a sense of humor. Laughter is an important part of every day. No matter how stressful the work gets, or how many tests you have to give, or how naughty the children might be, a sense of humor puts it all in perspective. There's a lot of learning to be done this year, but it's important to make it fun. Read a funny book or tell a silly story.

6.  Make sure they want to come back! Make sure there's at least one activity that is fun enough to make them go home with a smile, tell their families how much fun your class is, and make them want to come back tomorrow.

### Look Out for the Dreaded Desk Monster!

I've never actually seen a desk monster. I don't think they're dangerous at all, but they are pests! And they're tricky, because they hide during the school day, but come out and wreak havoc when no one is around.

## Here's my evidence of their existence:

1. They've been known to eat important papers.

2. They leave footprints on the desks of students in the form of dirt, pencil markings and crayon markings.

3. If there's a bad infestation, they make nests out of children's papers by crumbling them up at the back of their desks.

## Luckily, I've found a few things that can help keep these guys at bay:

• Don't keep any stray papers in your desk. Keep any important papers in a folder.  Desk monsters can't open folders.
• Keep food away from desks. If you spill a little snack, clean up the crumbs right away.
• Keep all the books and materials in your desk in a neat and orderly manner.

That's it!  If you follow these three simple rules, the desk monsters won't be able to make nests, and will move onto another classroom. (Maybe your brother's classroom!)

### Five Team Building Activities for Back to School

As a second grade teacher, I get many students who struggle with social skills and working with others.  I like to start the beginning of the school year with plenty of activities to build those important skills.

Here are 5 ideas for Back to School Team Building Activities!

1. Musical Shoes - While sitting in a circle, have everyone take of their left shoe. As the music plays, they pass the shoe to the right while taking the shoe being passed from the left. As the shoes dance their way around the circle, stop the music randomly. Whatever shoe they are holding, they need to find the owner and make sure they know that person's name. They also have to find their own shoe, so there should be a good deal of chatter and giggles as they hobble on one shoeless foot. Teachers can choose for the kids to exchange different information such as their favorite book, number of children in their family, or their birthday month.

2.  Silly Songs - There are plenty of silly songs out there. You can find them on Youtube (like My Aunt Came Back above - guaranteed giggles and requests for repeats) or on CDs, or perhaps you know some from summer camp! Here are some I've had success with:

John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt
There's a Hole in the Bucket
On Top of Spaghetti
Going on a Bear Hunt
The More We Get Together
Found a Peanut
The Hokey Pokey
Make New Friends
I've Been Working on the Railroad

Even if you don't consider yourself a singer, the kids will always remember these songs. Plus, there are even more advantages to group singing: There have been studies that show when people sing together, their hearts start to beat to the same rhythm.

3. Introductions - Children should work in pairs to learn 3 things about each other. After some practice, they come back together to do formal introductions of each other. It might sound like this:  "This is my new friend Mary. She likes gymnastics, reading, and the color pink."

4.  Cooperative Musical Chairs - This is like the traditional Musical Chairs, but with a twist. The game starts with one less chair than children. When the music stops, they all find a chair, but when there's someone left, someone must make room for this student. Remove chairs each time, so the students will keep having to find a way to include everyone in the group. Beware: Giggles will follow!

5.  Who Am I? - Make up cards with famous names on them that the kids will be sure to know. (Book characters are fine!) Each child wears a card on their back so that others know who is Children have to ask questions of the other children to try to figure out the name of the character they're wearing.  (With my little ones, I give loads of hints, and sometimes show them all the cards ahead of time to narrow it down. We want them to be successful!)

For more ideas on Team Building, see the post HERE.

Looking for more ideas? Check out this video or see: 60 Team Building Games and Activities.

## What Team Building Activities do you use in  your classroom?

### Five Useful Tips and Tricks!

I've been teaching for 39 years. I've been teaching in my present school for 31 years. I've been teaching second grade for 17 years. You might say I've collected a few tricks up my sleeves!

The more I read about studies on how the brain works, the more I realize that most teachers have figured these things out through experience. Now we just have the evidence to back it up!

## Here are five things that I always keep in mind in the classroom:

We all know that children can't sit still for very long! Brain research backs that up. The average attention span is the child's age, plus or minus two. That means that my second graders shouldn't be expected to pay attention to anything longer than 7 minutes! They need brain breaks to break up those sessions. Plus movement aids learning (use gestures for the kids to mirror!) and helps get oxygen to the brain.

The human brain is social. Kids need to interact! Talking keeps the children engaged and helps them sort out their thinking. Check out this guest post I did on Minds in Bloom called Keep Your Students Engaged With "Turn and Talk."  for more information and ideas on getting the kids talking.

In fact, integrating all the arts will help with learning. Did you know that music boosts brain organization? It affects our moods and emotions. Playing music in the classroom really makes a difference. Different kinds of music work at different times. Playing slow, classical music helps kids focus and concentrate. Fun, upbeat music helps them find energy during those sleepy times of day (after lunch?) or just plain makes the kids feel good. Putting important information to a familiar tune helps them remember things. There is no end to the possibilities of music in the classroom.

Yes, you heard that correctly. Actually, experts tell us that false praise is actually harmful to the children. It's best NOT to tell children how smart or clever they are. However, honest feedback is essential for the children to grow. Instead of "you're so smart," tell them "You're getting better about remembering your math facts". Specific, honest praise is far more meaningful. It's ok to tell them they need to work at something. In fact, when they do work at that thing, and show improvement, that's when the self esteem builds! If you're familiar with Whole Brain Teaching, this is where the Super Improvers Wall comes in! (Sorry about the blurry picture, I'll try to get a better one when I'm done putting up this year's wall!)

I suspect you already know the importance of a sense of humor in the classroom to survive as a teacher. Well, it's important for the kids, too. Learning and memory are very much related to emotions and having fun! I try to keep the jokes as much as I can, and include many games in my teaching. Making it fun means more learning will happen. (Plus, the memory needs repetition, and games keep that repetition from becoming boring!)