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Ten Freebies for Back to School!

Yes, you read that right, that's a full ten back to school freebies!

 
 Ten Freebies for Back to School - These include parent communication, brain breaks, Science, Social Studies, literacy, and math freebies for second grade.

These are  some of the things that will help me through those first busy of weeks of school!


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Literacy-Center-Organization-4715661?utm_source=Blog%20Post%20back%20to%20school%20freebies&utm_campaign=Literacy%20Center%20Cards 
Here's a freebie to help organize your literacy centers, including what the children do when they're not with you!


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Research-Based-Sight-Word-Task-Cards-Freebie-4697727?utm_source=Blog%20Post%20back%20to%20school%20freebies&utm_campaign=Spelling%20Fun%20Freebie 
We all know those children who struggle to learn sight words. This Research Based Freebie will help!



https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Addition-and-Subtraction-Fact-Fluency-Freebie-940781?utm_source=Blog%20Post%20back%20to%20school%20freebies&utm_campaign=add%20and%20subtract%20fluency%20freebie 

This system has helped many children master their basic math facts. This freebie is the first of 8 research based, brain friendly levels toward math fact fluency.


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Parent-Communication-Brochure-Back-to-School-OR-September-Edition-4009883?utm_source=Blog%20Post%20back%20to%20school%20freebies&utm_campaign=Parent%20Communication%20freebie 
 
Here's a great way to keep communication open with parents, and give them some information that will help their children be successful!



https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Fact-Fluency-System-Level-One-X1-Fact-Families-4407806?utm_source=Blog%20Post%20back%20to%20school%20freebies&utm_campaign=Mult%20and%20Div%20Fluency%20Freebie#show-price-update 
Have your students mastered addition and subtraction facts? Move them on to multiplication and division! As with the addition and subtraction facts above, these are research based and brain friendly. This freebie is the first of 8 levels toward multiplication and division fact fluency!
 


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/August-and-September-Science-and-Social-Studies-Freebie-1977769?utm_source=Blog%20Post%20back%20to%20school%20freebies&utm_campaign=S%20and%20SS%20august%20freebie
This freebie is a great way to start the year in Science and Social Studies.
 

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/6-Team-Building-Games-and-Activies-3873797?utm_source=Blog%20Post%20back%20to%20school%20freebies&utm_campaign=Team%20Building%20Freebie 
Looking for some fun ways to get the children comfortable with each other and learn to work together? These Team Building Games are very popular!



https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Dolch-Warm-Up-Phrases-Pre-primer-level-264900?utm_source=Blog%20Post%20back%20to%20school%20freebies&utm_campaign=Dolch%20Freebie 
 
I use these phrases to help the kiddos warm up for reading groups. These help build fluency!
 

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Dolch-Warm-Up-Phrases-Pre-primer-level-264900?utm_source=Blog%20Post%20back%20to%20school%20freebies&utm_campaign=Dolch%20Freebie 
Here's a fun way to get the kiddos thinking about their learning and how they can take charge of their learning.



https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Back-to-School-Brain-Breaks-Freebie-1343253?utm_source=Blog%20Post%20back%20to%20school%20freebies&utm_campaign=Back%20to%20School%20Brain%20Breaks



This one will help the kiddos get all those summertime wiggles out!


If you find these freebies useful, I'd love if you left some feedback!


I hope these freebies make your teaching life a bit easier!


Ten Freebies for Back to School - These include parent communication, brain breaks, Science, Social Studies, literacy, and math freebies for second grade.


My First Day of School Promise

Every year, I sit down with my brand new class and have a little chat about why we come to school. My second graders figure it out right away: we come to school to learn.
 
My First Day of School Promise: Ever since I can remember, I've made this promise to my students on the first day of school. It's a win-win!
 

That's when I make my yearly promise. 


I'm very dramatic when I make the promise. I include dramatic pauses, and I make the same gestures whenever I say it. 

I move my right hand outward as I say the first part, then I move my left hand outward as I say the second part. It goes like this:
My First Day of School Promise: Ever since I can remember, I've made this promise to my students on the first day of school. It's a win-win!

These phrases are used all year long, and I repeat the gestures each time. After a while, I don't even have to say the words, I just do the gestures, and the kiddos realize they need to put the effort into their learning.


Of course, I make a point to keep that promise!


My First Day of School Promise: Ever since I can remember, I've made this promise to my students on the first day of school. It's a win-win!


Science and Engineering Practices

After spending time studying the Next Generation Science Standards, I wanted to share the Science and Engineering Practices.
 
Science and Engineering Practices: These are part of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). This post explains what they are and how we can interpret them in relation to STEM.
 
After several years with Common Core, I'm sure you'll remember the Standards of Mathematics Practices. If you recall, these practices apply to all grade levels, and all math learning. 

The Science and Engineering Practices are straight from the Next Generation Science Standards. The whole appendix dedicated to these practices can be found HERE. As with the math practices, these Science and Engineering Practices apply to all grade levels. Here they are:
Science and Engineering Practices from the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

HERE's a nice article I found that discusses each of these practices from the science and engineering point of view, for the different levels from Kindergarten to Grade Twelve. 

As I discussed these practices with my STEM Innovation Network, we came to the same conclusion: 

These aren't just Science and Engineering Skills, they are LIFE Skills!


These are the skills we should be teaching our students.

Even if it's not on the test!

These practices can be embedded in many activities across the curriculum, can't they? 

As a second grade teacher, our priorities are building the foundation: teaching the important skills of reading, writing and math. (As they say: K-2 Learn to Read, Grades 3 and up, Read to Learn!)

Science and Engineering aren't a priority in the classroom yet, but it's a strong area of interest for the kids! These practices are something we should be sharing regularly when we can fit them into our day.

How do you embed these Science and Engineering Practices into your school day?  

Science and Engineering Practices: These are part of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). This post explains what they are and how we can interpret them in relation to STEM.

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain!

This is an awesome read for the first day of school!

 
Your Fantastic Elastic Brain! This is a great book for starting the school yea! Plus, there's a freebie to accompany the book and get to know your students at the start of the school year!

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D is appropriate for kids K-3.


If you've ever read my blog before, you'll know that I am absolutely fascinated by the brain and how it works. This book explains how the brain works in kid-friendly language! 

It tells the specific parts of the brain and the specific jobs they have, and how each brain is different, which makes us all uniquely different. 

I particularly love the part that discusses things that kids have learned, such as playing soccer, that were hard at first, but with practice, got easier! They might have even made mistakes, but the mistakes helped them learn!

If that's all it were about, this book could be used any time of year. The reason this makes a great beginning of the year book is because it tells the reader they can stretch their own brain

Who wouldn't want to stretch their brain? 


Isn't that our job as teachers? To stretch their brains?
(I refuse to believe that our job is to have the kiddos score well on tests!)

I feel it's our job as teachers to teach the children to be better learners,  and to stretch their brains as much as they can!  

That leads me to this freebie, based on this awesome book.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/I-Can-Stretch-My-Brain-1990743?utm_source=Your%20Fantastic%20Elastic%20Brain%20Blog%20Post&utm_campaign=I%20Can%20Use%20My%20Brain


It has some activities to let the children tell what's already in their brain, a chance to challenge their brains a bit more, and a few coloring pages to give them a chance to think about their brains! See the image or see HERE for the link to the freebie! Enjoy! I Can Stretch My Brain!

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain! This is a great book for starting the school yea! Plus, there's a freebie to accompany the book and get to know your students at the start of the school year!

How to Squeeze in Social Studies and Science

Teaching is harder than ever these days!


How to Squeeze in Science and Social Studies: Suggestions for primary grades to fit these important (and fun) subjects into the day with an overscheduled classroom.

I'm about to start my 39th year teaching. Honestly, it's a lot harder now than it was back in the 70s when I started! Luckily, experience has taught me a whole lot, and I have a repertoire of tricks up my sleeve.

Nowadays we have to individualize everything! We have to keep evidence folders, and post learning targets based on Common Core or College and Career Ready standards.  We have to pre-test, post test, follow a prescribed program, teach specific subjects at specific times, and somehow get these kids to learn! We need to make sure we are on the same page (literally!) as the others who teach our grade, and now somehow,we are evaluated based on the tests, no matter what kids we get or what subjects we teach! Many of us lack support from administration, parents, and the government! Phys. Ed, Music, and recess are being taken out of the day, and more kids than ever have learning problems and behavioral challenges.

Yet, believe it or not, there are many of us who still choose to teach.

I find Social Studies and Science are the toughest areas to find time to teach. Finding time to squeeze it in is difficult, and finding time to prepare materials is close to impossible. 

I'm here to make your job a tiny bit easier!

If you follow my blog, you know that I've studied brain research, and l have become very focused on how the brain learns. 

Here are some fun ways to "sneak in" those subjects that the children love, but hardly get to participate in because of the demands of the beginning of the year:

1. Morning Meeting! Squeeze in a social studies topic into Morning Meeting. "On your turn, name something you'd see in an urban community." or "Name one of the planets."

2. Lining Up! Line them up with a fact.  "Before you get into line for lunch, stop and tell a friend the 4 stages in the life cycle of a honeybee." or "Tell a friend the name of one of the oceans."

3. Brain Breaks! Take a brain break with a purpose. "You are a Coastguards man guarding our border along the Atlantic Ocean and need to check out an incoming boat. Speed your ship over and greet the visitors." or "Imagine you are a honeybee in the pupa stage, trying to get out of your cell."

4. Connect to Something Bigger! When developing the rules for your classroom: "The Constitution of the United States is a set of rules developed by citizens of the country. You are citizens of this classroom. What rules should we have for our citizens?" (Of course, when you decide on rules, you can make a copy for the class and have them sign it with a fancy pen!) or "I wonder if farmers measure their plant growth like we do."

5. Calendar Time! Mention upcoming Social Studies or Science days during calendar time. "How many days until the Autumnal Equinox?" or "On what day of the week is Constitution Day?"

6. Read Aloud! Read books about your Science and Social Studies topics (fiction and non-fiction), then stop and chat about them! "Do all spiders have an egg sack like Charlotte did?" or "In what sort of community does Noel live? What were your clues?"

7. Keep maps and globes handy! Whenever any place is mentioned in a book, video, or just in passing, I'll grab the map or globe and find it! "Your dad is on business in Singapore? Let's find it on the globe. Wow, that's on the other side of the earth! They must be sleeping now!" As the year progresses, whenever a place is mentioned, the kids will call out, "Get the globe!" (It's also a good idea to leave maps and globes available for the kids to browse. I've heard some awesome conversations about places around the world while kids are waiting for the bus at the end of the day!)

I've got a little freebie for you here, to make science and social studies a bit easier for you at the beginning of the school year! Just see the image or see HERE!

bit.ly/BackToSchoolSandSSFREE
For a more complete set, see: Science and Social Studies Activities for August and September
 
 

What are your ideas to find time for these valuable subjects?



How to Squeeze in Science and Social Studies: Suggestions for primary grades to fit these important (and fun) subjects into the day with an overscheduled classroom.

Getting Parents to Read Your Notes

I'm sure we've all been there: a note gets sent home, and it's never seen!
 
Getting Parents to Read Your Notes: Here are some hints on how to get your parents to actually READ the notes you send home about their child.
 


Parents are incredibly busy. It's a tough job. But somehow we've got to get them to read those notes!

Here are a few tricks:


Getting Parents to Read Your Notes: Here are some hints on how to get your parents to actually READ the notes you send home about their child.

I send home a newsletter once a week in my classroom. I always write a personal note to each parent on each newsletter. It goes home on Friday, and I ask them to sign them and return them on Monday.

Sound crazy? They are quick notes, and it's a definite investment in time: it pays off... it establishes a line of communication!  

How do I entice them to get in the habit of reading those weekly notes?

Getting Parents to Read Your Notes: Here are some hints on how to get your parents to actually READ the notes you send home about their child.

How to get the kids involved? 

I make sure I write a positive note about that child, and make sure the child knows about it! They'll go home and beg their parents to read it!

Here are a few examples:
Getting Parents to Read Your Notes: Here are some hints on how to get your parents to actually READ the notes you send home about their child.
Once you get the parents in the habit of checking the newsletter each week, they'll look forward to the notes. 

Of course, the notes are ALMOST always positive, but if something comes up during the week, you can be reasonably sure that note will be noticed, because you established the routine right away!

Getting Parents to Read Your Notes: Here are some hints on how to get your parents to actually READ the notes you send home about their child.

Active Students? Try Scoot!

Today I'm sharing a game that helped me through those last hectic weeks of school where the kiddos just couldn't concentrate on much of anything...Scoot!
 
Active Students? Try Scoot! The game, Scoot, can be played a number of ways for a variety of reasons. Here are the basics of the game, a few suggestions, and a freebie!
 
All you need to play scoot is a set of task cards (I know we all have plenty of those!) an answer sheet, and some desks or tables.

In the picture above, we put the desks into a big square, which is perfect for scoot, but rows, tables, or sets of desks in any arrangement can work. You just need to set a pattern for movement.

The basis of the game:
  1. There is a numbered task card on each desk. 
  2. Students do the task card at their desk, and write their answer on the answer sheet.
  3. When the teacher calls "Scoot", the children all move to the next desk in the sequence, and do that task card.
  4. Children continue to "scoot" from desk to desk until all cards have been completed.
    Active Students? Try Scoot! The game, Scoot, can be played a number of ways for a variety of reasons. Here are the basics of the game, a few suggestions, and a freebie!
After completion, I usually let the children self-correct while we go over the cards. (Self correcting with highlighters makes it more fun!)



Active Students? Try Scoot! The game, Scoot, can be played a number of ways for a variety of reasons. Here are the basics of the game, a few suggestions, and a freebie!

For added fun for squirmy kids, replace one of the task cards with a brain break. My kids LOVE brain breaks, and look forward to that part of scoot!
Active Students? Try Scoot! The game, Scoot, can be played a number of ways for a variety of reasons. Here are the basics of the game, a few suggestions, and a freebie!

If you're interested in task cards that work well with scoot, see THIS LINK.

Want to try it out with a freebie? Social Studies Review Task Cards


How do you keep your active students learning?

Active Students? Try Scoot! The game, Scoot, can be played a number of ways for a variety of reasons. Here are the basics of the game, a few suggestions, and a freebie!

Doing the Tango! (Learning about Argentina!)


We had one of our Enrichment Days today! Our theme was Around the World in One Day, and it was fabulous!

All the teachers sponsored workshops about different countries, the children got tickets to different workshops, and everyone had a blast!

My country was Argentina!
The first thing I did was show where Argentina was on the map, and discussed what we knew about it from the map:
  1. Most of Argentina is the temperate zone, so it gets all 4 seasons. 
  2. Since Argentina is in the southern hemisphere, they are coming into their winter, like we are coming into our summer.
  3. There is a good deal of coastline. Argentinians probably enjoy their beaches as well as fishing.
  4. There are mountains along the border to Chili. They probably enjoy skiing and hiking.
Then we watched this video and found out we were right!


They loved the video, and all want to visit Argentina!

Then I showed this video of the Argentinian Tango from So You Think You Can Dance.

Then I showed this "How to Tango" video for kids. It was a little dorky, but they got it!

Of course, not everyone wanted to Tango, but they had THESE adorable little Argentina booklets to color, so everyone was happy. 
Sorry I didn't get a better picture of the booklets!
But many kids wanted to Tango. So I played this You Tube video with plenty of Tango music:

Of course, I had to give them roses to carry in their teeth while they danced! (Look closely, they've got them!)


Everyone had a great time! I ended with a quick "Triva Time" to see if they remembered what they learned about Argentina, and they did! I think they'll remember the Tango most of all!

Stop by Doodle Bugs Teaching for more Five for Friday!




Still Trying to be Super Woman

Five years ago today my life changed. Five years ago today I had a stroke. Most people can't tell by looking at me, but I feel the effects of the stroke all day, every day.

When it happened, I didn't even realize it was a stroke. I didn't know what was causing the tingling on my left side. You know that tingling feeling when an arm or leg falls asleep? Yes, that's what I was feeling. At first, I noticed it in my arm.  After a while I realized it wasn't just my arm, it was my whole left side. I felt the tingling in my leg, my face and the left side of my abdomen. Some of it went away after a couple of weeks, but most of it is still there. All day. Every day.

The only other symptom I felt was tired, but I thought that was just because I'd worked another hard week and needed to rest on the holiday weekend.  I had no idea how the stroke affected my muscles. I really thought I was fine. It wasn't until a couple of weeks later when the doctor recommended physical and occupational therapy, that I realized some parts weren't really working anymore. 

I went to therapy as long as insurance allowed, and got back limited use of some of the muscles, but it's clear after 5 years that I'll never get back full use of my left side.  

My left shoulder really took the brunt of it. I can no longer lift heavy objects, or aim my left arm. (Drive through s are no longer an option!) grasping things with my left hand is possible, but painful, as it puts quite a strain on those muscles.

When people touch my left arm, it's so uncomfortable that it's tough not to scream. This is tough, since most people are right handed, and I interact with a lot of caring people. It happens all the time. Most people close to me know not to touch my left side, but people forget. When it happens, I try to be polite and not make people feel uncomfortable, but all I can really do is concentrate on not screaming.

Because I lost most of the core muscles on my left side, I have trouble with balance. Stairs are difficult. Walking across softer surfaces, like grass, are tough. Uneven surfaces can be tricky. 

This was a big focus of my physical therapy, but unfortunately there's a deficit that can't be fixed. Before the stroke, I could easily do a hundred crunches, switch positions, then do a hundred more. Right now I can do ten. That's taken 5 years of work.

The hardest part for me has been the fatigue. Before the stroke, I was heavily involved in local theatre, and would often go to a 3-4 hour rehearsal on most school nights. Now, I come home from school and look forward to bedtime. 

Sometimes I have a hard time accepting that part of my life is over.

Sometimes I get discouraged because people don't understand.

Sometimes I get discouraged because I want to do so much more, like I used to. 

THIS post (The Spoon Theory) from a website called "But You Don't Look Sick," helped me explain the fatigue to others. It's worth a read to understand what many different people go through day to day.

Why am I writing this post that has absolutely nothing to do with teaching?

For a couple of reasons:
1. I hope people will be more understanding of those "invisible illnesses" that many of us struggle with. Count your blessings every time you go down a flight of stairs without holding on. Count your blessings when you have the energy to go home and cook dinner after work. 

2. Because, despite it all, I still have plenty to be grateful for:
  • I am still able to teach. I love being a teacher. I plan to continue teaching for many years.
  • If I hadn't had more "sitting time", I wouldn't have discovered the joys of blogging.
  • There are a lot of wonderful, compassionate people out there who understand and care about my struggles... and try to help where they can!
  • I have a  beautiful daughter. 

Tricks to Remember Measurement Units


Brain research teaches us that making a connection to something familiar helps students remember.
Tricks to Remember Measurement Units: here are some ways to help the kiddos remember some measurement units, without carrying around a ruler!

My students were recently working on linear measurement. One of the important concepts is remembering the different units, and having a good "feel" for the size of the units. 

Here's one of the connections we make:

Tricks to Remember Measurement Units: here are some ways to help the kiddos remember some measurement units, without carrying around a ruler!.

My kiddos are VERY familiar with the base ten blocks. It's an important part of second grade math, so we use them frequently. 

Another trick I teach them: 
a centimeter is about the size of an M&M
They always remember that one!

Here's another connection:

Tricks to Remember Measurement Units: here are some ways to help the kiddos remember some measurement units, without carrying around a ruler!

Again, they're quite familiar with those base ten blocks, and have often lined up two of the longs, so it's easy for them to estimate something that is 20 centimeters long!

Since the metric system isn't standard in the US, here's a connection for inches:


Tricks to Remember Measurement Units: here are some ways to help the kiddos remember some measurement units, without carrying around a ruler!

This trick for a foot was taught to me by one of our former custodians. 

Tricks to Remember Measurement Units: here are some ways to help the kiddos remember some measurement units, without carrying around a ruler!

Those custodians are pretty smart! The floor tiles they used in our school are exactly a square foot each! That makes measuring our floor super easy! Of course the kids have to get out the rulers and see for themselves, but it's true! Plus it sure helps the kids remember how big a foot is. 

You know what else helps them remember a foot?A ruler!
 

How do you help your students remember measurement units?

Tricks to Remember Measurement Units: here are some ways to help the kiddos remember some measurement units, without carrying around a ruler!



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