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## 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 my 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!)

## 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!)

## This is the thing I've settled on lately:

The Scoreboard has been my savior for the last few years!  It is my main tool for management in the classroom. The best part? It's simple to use! It's part of the Whole Brain Teaching strategies, and I absolutely love it! Basically, when the kids do something well, put a tally on the happy side. When something doesn't go well, put a tally on the sad side. If Happy beats Sad at the end of the day, the kids earn 5 minutes toward a privilege, such as extra recess, arts and crafts, or a dance party. Different teachers do different things with the scoreboard, but that's how I use it. It goes all day, every day!

See more about Whole Brain Teaching HERE (Be sure to watch the videos. That's what hooked me in!)

## Now here are a few organizational ideas:

Organizational Tip #1: Organization for base ten blocks! Aren't these caddies great? It's so easy for the kids to get the pieces they need. I used to keep them in one big tub, but all the little cubes would fall to the bottom, and it was tough for the kids to get the ones they needed! These are much easier! (Plus, these base ten blocks are made of foam... much quieter!)

If you're interested in these caddies, just explore this image!
Amazon calls them "Art Caddies", but classroom teachers know they're useful for many things other than just Art supplies!

Organizational Tip #2: Writing Folder Organization! Use 4 different colors, and have even amounts of folders for each color. There's never a question of where a folder would go, or where to put it away. After school, go through the red ones on Monday, yellow on Tuesday, green on Wednesday, and blue on Thursday. Then you get Friday off!

I use the drawers of the cart for different kinds of paper.

I put pre-stapled booklets, staplers, tape, and staple removers on an extra desk.

Organizational Tip #3: Letter guide/ number grid! I give every child one of these two-sided cards that we use ALL THE TIME! They are good tools for math as well as handwriting. (That's the Handwriting Without Tears alphabet on the back.) They are great for covering work during a test.  They make great bookmarks. They can help kids keep their place while reading. Seriously, these letter guide/ number guides are out several times a day. Plus, if you laminate them, the kids can write on them with dry-erase markers! The letter guide is copyrighted, so you'll have to get that through HWT, but you can download the color-coded number grid HERE!

## Music is magical! Music  can change our moods. Music can lift your spirits, and bring you out of your doldrums.

A few months ago I posted about Music for the classroom. I gave ideas for music to play for optimum learning, and why it is important for learning. You can read that post HERE.

Today I wanted to focus more on the happy music. You know, the music to have playing while the students arrive in the morning (see THIS post) or during an Open House.

Below you'll see several links for the kind of music I play in my classrooms when "happy music" is needed. As the children walk into the room in the morning, I want them feeling good, so I play happy music. I also play happy music during brain breaks, or any point in the day where children seem to need a "lift".

We also have an Open House coming up soon. The children come with their parents to meet their teacher for the first time. I usually have some fun things for the children to do when they get there, but you can be sure I'll have some fun music playing in the background! It gives a happy feel to the entire room!

Here are a few ideas for fun music.

Music collections designed for kids!

I find "oldies" collections are great fun for all generations.  The Big Band stuff is fantastic in the classroom, and who doesn't love the Andrews Sisters?

Here's a list of fun stuff I have on my ipad, that I play just to put myself in a good mood.  (You know, cleaning, setting up the classroom, when you need a lift!) It works for kids, too!

Most of these are "classic rock" you can't miss playing this music!