Saturday, April 30, 2016

May Round Up

Who's ready for a new monthly round up?  This teacher is!  May is always a busy month.  It's not only the last full month of school, but it's also when I start looking ahead to see how I can get a head start on the upcoming school year.



Directed drawings are awesome.  They make the students really focus, listen, and to think before they do.  Once the drawings are done, students can color them with crayon, oil pastels, or even paint them with watercolor paints.

We've done several directed drawings this year, and they have been a hit with the parents.  This got me thinking, why not have the students make a special drawing for their mom (aunt, grandma, whoever) for Mother's Day?   


To make this a little more gift worthy, we will frame the drawings using 8x10 frames from the dollar store.  If you plan to frame your drawings, just be sure to trim the paper to match the size of the frames you purchase.  I would recommend cutting your paper to size before the students do their drawing. To help cover the cost of the frames, I ask the students to send in one dollar.  Even if some students don't contribute, it helps to cover the cost when you are buying so many frames.


I like to use card stock when we do our drawings, especially if they paint them afterward.  It just holds up a lot better than regular construction paper (and it's usually cheaper than investing in watercolor paper).

To present the gifts, simply wrap the frame in colorful tissue paper and tie some yarn around it.  You could also let your students make a card. 

You can grab the free step by step directions for this drawing HERE.



May is research month in my classroom.  More specifically, we research various American symbols and put together an impressive project.  It gets sent home at the end of the month, and parents are always so impressed with the final product.


I love that this project keeps us busy, but with meaningful learning material, addresses several of our social studies standards, as well as a few writing standards.  It's high interest and the kids take a lot of pride in their work.


You can read more about this project here.  And, you can check out my Celebrating America unit here on TPT.


The end of the year is a crazy time.  The students get super distracted, challenging behaviors might become even more challenging, you're trying to teach those last few standards, and you're also likely thinking of the next school year.  Wait, that isn't just me, is it?

Ok, so let's talk next year, shall we?  This time of year, my brain goes into serious "plan for next year" mode.  I can't help it.  I just always think if there is something I can do now to save myself some time when reporting back in late August, that I might as well do it.

For example:
  • Sharpen pencils for next year and store them in a zip top bag.  I do this every year and it saves me a ton of time and hassle when I'm more worried about reconstructing my classroom that was dismantled when I checked out in June.
  • Copy any and everything you know you will use.  For example, I know that I will set out my Meet the  Teacher letter at Meet and Greet.  I also know that there are specific back to school forms I want/need parents to fill out.  If I copy them now, I don't need to worry about fighting my way to a copier at the last minute next year. 
  • Laminate your nameplates and cut them out.  This job is perfect for parent volunteers, and again, saves you precious time when you are worried about making your room presentable for meet and greet and attending various staff meetings at the same time. TIP: I laminate the nameplates now, and write the students' names on them with permanent marker in the fall.  This has worked well for me over the years.

  • Each week, choose one thing in your classroom to "spring clean." Go through things, get rid of what you don't need, consolidate what you can, and label things for easy reference next year. For example, tackle those math manipulatives in your storage closet.  When I did this recently, I noticed that I had a bucket of tangrams.  They weren't sorted into individual sets.  Why and how did this ever happen?  Who knows, but I had a parent bag them up and I found out I had enough sets for two classes and ended up sharing half of mine with another teacher. 
For even more end of year ideas and tips click here.


Also, check out my End of Year Pinterest board for some fun classroom ideas!




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Monday, April 4, 2016

Activities to Practice Counting Coins

Money is one of my favorite math topics.  Maybe it's because it lends itself so easily to hands-on learning.



In second grade, most of the money activities we do are centered around counting combinations of coins.  Rather than spend a few weeks covering this skill and then moving on, I make a point of revisiting it as often as I possibly can throughout the school year.

Here are a few of my go to activities.  Be sure to pin your favorites!

Pay the Banker
Back in the day, when people still used cameras with film, I hit up our local drugstore photo counter and asked if they could donate any empty film canisters they had.  And, they did!  I turned those little canisters into banks by cutting a slit into the lid. On the front of each individual bank, I wrote an amount of money using a silver Sharpie.



To this day, I still use these banks.  When the kids use them, they do so with a partner.  I give each pair of students several banks and a baggie of money.  The banker selects a bank and tells the other student (the customer) to pay the amount shown on the bank. Then, the banker counts the coins to make sure they got all their money. They take turns being the banker.  The kids love this simple little game, and it is the perfect filler for when we have 10-15 minutes before moving on to our next subject area.


The teacher in me loves that this activity lets the students easily work at their own level. They can use any combination of coins to pay the banker.  So, if they owe the banker 93 cents, they could pay it with 9 dimes and 3 pennies, or they could use a mix of coins if they are at that level. The teacher in me also loves how easy it is to prep: simply bag up some coins, store them in your closet, and grab them when you need them.

I haven't used a camera that uses actual film in a very long time and have no idea if they still exist.  So, in case these little canisters are now extinct, here are a few alternatives to the film canister idea:
  • bathroom sized plastic cups (I realize they don't have a lid but they would definitely work)
  • multi-purpose mini cups that are often used to hold salad dressing (you probably wouldn't want anything smaller than the 4 oz. size because you need space for the coins to be inserted into the container)

Hands-On Activities
Hands-on math is the best, and counting coins lends itself beautifully to this.  After all, using real money is a real life hands-on skill. And, hands-on learning is both fun and engaging.  What's not to love, right?

My students love this valuable words activity.  They use the key to find the value of each letter in a word, draw them, and then add up the value of the word.


Sometimes, I don't even use the word cards.  Sometimes, I write words on the recording page before I copy it.  And, sometimes, I let the kids pick their own words!


Anytime I give my students an activity that involves rolling dice, they are happy campers. So, it was no surprise when they ended up loving this activity.

They rolled their die 4 times (but you could have them roll it however many times you want).  Each time, they rolled, they drew the coins that matched the number they rolled.  Then, they added them up.  I like to give my students access to plastic coins whenever they do these sorts of activities.  Some of them prefer to interact with the coins and order them in a way that works best for them when adding up the total value. 

Scoops of coins is another great hands-on activity that my students love.  I place small bowls of coins at each table group along with some plastic spoons. The students take a scoop of coins, draw them, and count them up. 


To differentiate this activity, set up your bowls accordingly.  For students who aren't ready for quarters yet, make sure their bowls don't include any. Maybe those students start by scooping dimes, nickels, and pennies.  For students who are excelling in counting any and all combinations of coins, give them bowls with quarters, nickels, dimes, and pennies, and task them with counting up the value of two scoops of coins.

I love using cut and paste activities when I can too.  They require that the students pay attention to detail, in addition to practicing an important math skill.  Plus, they are a great way to get in a bit of cutting and gluing practice.  Whenever I put these activities out, I also put out bowls of coins for students who might need them.  Some kids like to use the plastic coins because they need that added support.




In my experience, paper clips are just as exciting as rolling dice.  My students go crazy for spinner activities.  This activity can be used a few ways, students can spin an amount and then color in the coins that add up to that amount.  But, it can also be used where the kids draw a combination of coins that adds up to the amount they spin.


All of these activities, plus many more, can be found in my Cha-Ching {Counting Coins} unit on TPT.  The activities were created to help you differentiate with ease and you can easily reuse many of the activities throughout the school year because students will likely encounter different combinations of coins every time. 

Race to a Dollar
I have loved this game for forever.  It makes an appearance every year in my classroom.  Students take turns collecting and trading coins, and the first to make one dollar is the winner!


Here's a breakdown of the game:
  • It is played in pairs. 
  • Players take turns rolling the die and collecting the number of pennies that matches the number they roll (if they roll a 3, they collect 3 pennies).  
  • Before passing the die to the other player, the first player looks to see if they can make any trades (5 pennies for a nickel, 5 pennies and a nickel for dime, two dimes and a nickel for a quarter, and so on). 
  • Players continue to take turns collecting and trading coins. 
  • The first player to get to $1.00 is the winner!  
**TIP: I have always found that the students are most successful with this game from the get go when I take the time to model it. They usually need to see the trades in action so that they can more easily follow that step when playing independently.  I like to sit on the carpet in a circle and play against another student so they can see how it works.  This always leads to a more successful experience for the students.    

You don't need a lot of materials to play this game, just some coins, a dollar bill, and a die.  I literally put a bunch of coins (no, I don't count them out) into a zip top bag, along with the dollar bill, a die, and a copy of the directions.  Keeping them bagged and ready for use makes them the perfect filler or math station activity.



Once your students get this version down, play with dollar bills!  Each time they roll the die, they collect that many one dollar bills.  The game is played the same way, but the first player to get to $100 is the winner.  My students love this version too!


You can grab directions for both versions of this game HERE.

**TIP: If you want to save paper, you could project the directions on your board for students to look at while they play the game. 

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