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### Ten Easy Learning Games

I love to use games for my students to practice their skills. Games bring into play several important concepts from Brain Based Learning. (Pardon the pun!) Plus, they're fun!

FYI - Images are affiliate links to Amazon, in case you're interested!

## 1. Around the World

This is typically a game to drill basic math facts, but it really can be used in many different ways. The children sit in a circle. One person starts the game by standing behind another child. Those two children compete to be the first to answer a fact. Whoever wins, goes to stand behind the next child. The contests continue around the circle until someone moves all the way "around the world". Math facts on cards work well, but I've also used clocks, cards with money, or fraction cards. I've never tried, but I'm sure it can be played with sight words, too.

## 2. Twenty questions

This game is older than I am, but really gets the kids thinking and asking questions. It's a great time filler.  The only rule: all questions must be "yes or no" questions. After a few times through, the kids catch onto generalities such as "Is it an animal?" With my little ones, I try to limit it to general categories, and I have them write down what they've chosen for the others to guess. (Sometimes I'll even give them slips of paper to choose that are related to things we've been learning.)

## 3. Jeopardy

There are so many possibilities with Jeopardy! It does take a little planning, but the kids love it! Here's a link to make your own game!

## 4. Yahtzee

This is a great way to practice those addition skills as well as add the thinking skills! It takes some strategy to play Yahtzee! Beware, it's addicting!

## 5. Apples to Apples

My students could play this all day, and why not? It practices their reading skills as well as thinking skills such as categorizing. The best part:  you'll hear lots of giggling!

## 6. Scrabble

Combining spelling, vocabulary, adding, and strategy, it's a win-win-win-win, even if they lose!

## 7. Dominoes

Dominoes are great for practicing math facts! They add the two sides together to find the sum! The best part is when they get the fact correct, they can build with the dominoes. My kids LOVE this!

## 8. Twenty One

If we were in Vegas, they'd call it Black Jack. Yep, it's the same game, without the gambling. Students get two cards, add them together, and decide if they want another card. It's addition and strategy, and it's fun!

## 9. Dice

There are tons of games to be played with dice. I have lots of them! The children can add the sum of two dice, or they can add three (or more) if they're ready! They also can roll two dice and make a two digit number out of it, then roll a second two digit number to add (or subtract). I do these two digit number games often, where the children write the numbers on their whiteboards and add them up. Sometimes we use the base ten blocks to "act it out" as well.

## 10. Any Board Game

With a little tweaking, one can turn any board game into a learning game. Before each turn, the children have to perform some sort of task. It can be a math fact, a vocabulary word, a math challenge, task cards, or just about anything.

## Games are a big part of my classroom, as you might have guessed. This is just the beginning. I'd love to hear your ideas for classroom games, too!

### Ten Things for Students to do While You're Teaching Reading Groups

One of the toughest things about being a classroom teacher is keeping those other kids engaged and learning, so I can teach reading groups.

## Here are some of the things I have my students work on while I'm teaching groups:

This is the most important one! They do need to read daily, and it should be books at their reading level. My students browse for books from our classroom library, and keep books in book bags for independent reading time. I also let them relax with pillows. I try to make Independent Reading the best part of the day... it should be! See this post for more about my Independent Reading: Relax and Read!

This is a great time to read about other topics, like science or social studies topics! I'm sure you'll find plenty of books or resources they'll love!

## 3. Read With a Partner

This is very motivational for the children, and I sometimes use it instead of Independent Reading. They do love anything social!

## 4.  Independent Writing

We do have Writer's Workshop nearly every day, but some of the children really love some time to get some writing done during reading group time. Since writing is usually at the very end of the day, they tend to be more productive when they get a slot of time for writing in the morning. It's a win-win! Here's a fun resource that mine have always found super motivating: ABC Book.

## 5.  Word Work

This is an opportunity to work on those phonics skills! I tend to keep my word work connected to skills and patterns that we are working on in the reading program, but many of my students also need lots of review on short and long vowels, rhyming words, word families, and, of course, sight words.  There are plenty of resources out there, or make your own! My students love to use their whiteboards, letter tiles, and manipulatives for their word work. Click the images below for links to Amazon. (Affiliate links.)

# Really Good Stuff EZread Magnetic Foam Lowercase Letter Tiles - 52 Tiles, 1 3/8" SquaresFor other word work ideas, see this resource: Spelling Task Cards.

## 6.  Literacy Games and activities

Literacy games and activities can include word work, comprehension skills, grammar practice, developing vocabulary, reader's theater, or any combination of these. Again, adding that social component motivates the children. Games are such a great opportunity to practice skills, and they keep the children engaged and happy! Here are a few my students have enjoyed: Word Work Games.

Any type of task cards are perfect for this time of day, but I happen to be a big fan of Boom Learning Digital Task cards! The cards (digital or other) can practice work work, comprehension skills, grammar skills, thinking skills, or even social studies or science! You can make your own or use task card you've found. Here are some ideas: Combined Review Task Cards.

## 8. Read with a Teacher Assistant or Parent Volunteer

I do have a few little ones with very short attention spans or who just need a little more guidance. These children really benefit from reading with an adult. The adults are encouraged to stop and chat about the story and encourage understanding as well as enjoyment.

## 9. Practice Handwriting Skills

Sometimes they just have to focus on making the letters touch the lines in the right places! We are lucky enough to have Handwriting workbooks, but any paper will do! They can even practice handwriting skills on whiteboards or chalkboards. Try this self-directed Cursive Writing bundle!

## 10. STEM Activities

This is a wonderful time for children to focus on a STEM project given at another time of the day or perhaps simply explore some of their STEM materials!

### Ten Favorite Picture Books I Love to Read to My Students

Here is a list of children's books I love to read. This is just a small portion of my favorites, but they're so much fun! Each title is an affiliate link to Amazon.

## 1. Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens

I love reading this book in the spring when we're working on our plant unit. Even though it's fiction, it gives the children some information on which vegetables grow above ground, and which vegetables grow below ground. Plus, I've always found some great predicting skills happening as the bear and the rabbit continue their "deals".

## 2.  Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

I always read this book at the beginning of the school year. So many of the kids can connect to the little girl who wants to be good, but can't. I think it shows them it's OK to make a mistake.

## 3.  Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian

If you haven't seen this yet, it's adorable! Buy a copy or two, your students will love it! This book motivates children to write from different points of view!

## 4.  Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag

This was the book I wanted read to me over and over when I was a child. I think I loved the repetition. My students still chant along with me when I read it.

## 5. Jubal's Wish by Don and Audrey Wood

This is a heartwarming book about a frog with a selfless wish for his friends to be happy. His wish doesn't come true at first, but don't worry, there's a happy ending!

## 6.  Somebody Loves You Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli

This book is adorable (and perfect for Valentine's Day!) Poor Mr. Hatch lives a lonely life until he thinks someone loves him. Then his whole personality changes.

## 7.  Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

Yes, this is another book with a repetive phrase. It's also one where the whole class not only chants along, but physically becomes part of the story. A book with monkeys... gotta love it!

## 8.  The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

Robert Munsch really knows what makes kids laugh. I love all his books, but this is my favorite. It's not a typical fairy tale. It's about a smart princess!

## 9.  For the Love of Autumn by Patricia Polacco

This book will warm your heart. Autumn is an adorable kitten of a young schoolteacher. Very, very sweet.

## 10.  Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss

Seriously, this isn't just for kids. I gave this to my daughter when she graduated from high school. But the kids love it, too!

## Today's post is all about motivating students.

These are ten of the ways I motivate students:

## Pride!

Luckily, there are some students who take pride in themselves and just plain want to do well. They want to make the teacher happy. Don't you love these kids? Don't you wish there were more of these? Unfortunately, there are a lot of kids who don't have pride in themselves, or just don't have enough. (This is something we can work on!) Therefore, we need the other nine.

## Stickers!

Children love stickers. A hefty supply is necessary for most teachers of little ones. Personally, I usually only give out stickers for homework, but many teachers give out stickers for daily work. My students work pretty hard for one sticker for homework each day! On special occasions, I'll pull out the scented stickers!

## Working with a partner!

Kids are social, and the idea of working with another child is super motivating. Let them choose their own partner, and you'll be their hero! They can read with a partner, write a story with a partner, or practice math facts. There's a whole world of possibilities.

## Let them earn an extra recess!

I think this is a "win-win". We know that kids need to run and exercise and burn off steam. The promise of being able to do what they need to do is motivating for the kids to work!

## Inspire them!

I find if I say a few words about a book, the children all want to read that book. If I show them a sample of my writing, they want to try a similar piece of writing. If I make something look interesting or fun, they want to try it. I could never sell cars, but I sure can sell a book to a kid!

Let them put something cool on their desk for a while!

Personally, I use a collection of beanie babies that I've saved since my daughter was little. They can keep it on their desk for the day. If they do something quite spectacular, I let them keep a little flag on their desk for a week. They are mighty proud of these, and they can tell you what each little trophy is for!

 A few desk decorations in my classroom!

## Play a game!

There are so many possibilities for games. There are group games like Around the World, Scoot, and variations of Jeopardy, Hollywood Squares, and Family Feud. Then there are partner games, centers, and activities. Sometimes they have so much fun, they don't even realize they're learning!

## Group Projects!

When there is a product and a "performance" involved, the kids get moving! Most kids love working in small groups putting together some sort of project, then others are super motivated by the thought of standing in front of their class. They really remember these group projects for years to come.

## Have a dance party!

This works well for my group. You can work out the details, but if they reach a certain point, just stop for the moment, and turn on the music. My kids love this, as it happens to be a group that really responds to music and movement. It only takes a few minutes of the day, and they've had their exercise and burned off some steam. That makes a dance party another "win-win"! Other forms of this type of group reward can be a pizza party or a make-your-own ice cream party. (The dance party is cheaper, though!)

## Special recognition!

Single out a student for spectacular work. I often read examples of good work, or hold up examples of good effort on handwriting. I have a Super Improvers Wall, where they get stickers and work their way up the ladder when we notice they have improved at something - it can be anything from remembering to pass in homework, to improvement in behavior, to improvement in knowing math facts. One of my students said moving on the improvement board was even better than earning a flag for a week!  See HERE for more about the Super Improvers Wall!)

This is just a small sampling of the possibilities for motivating students.