What’s In Your Writing Center?

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The writing center has always been one of my favorite centers; probably because it has always been one of my students’ favorite centers as well! Seriously, they choose to go to the writing center during free time over computers or legos.

So what’s the key to making your writing center so engaging to your students that they choose to go there over playing? The answer is: choice!

Of course, choice doesn’t mean having a free for all at the writing center. I make sure to set high expectations for the materials at this center and I don’t put out all the choices at once. I introduce 3 at the beginning of the year and then 1-2 each quarter.

The choices then stay the same, but the vocabulary cards and the themes change to keep it fresh. I have themed writing centers that I can keep all month or change out whenever we focus on a new topic. This keeps my students excited and connects what we’re learning in other areas to our center time!

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I keep the choices in these letter trays. You could hang the vocabulary cards on hooks or on a ribbon using clothespins. I’ve done both and they both work just fine! I also keep visual directions for each activity here so students always know the expectations.

I’m going to show you some of my favorite activities to keep at my writing center below!

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This free activity is perfect for beginning writers because it exposes them to sentence structure, sight words, and vocabulary, but also scaffolds their writing by providing the sentence frame.

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In this activity, students will trace the sentence and use the vocabulary cards to finish the sentence. They will also draw a matching picture, which gives them practice drawing matching illustrations.

You could also save paper and make this reusable by sticking it in a dry erase sleeve.

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Again, you can find this activity free here.

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This is another great activity for beginning writers, but I love this activity for all year because it exposes students to vocabulary and gives them practice with longer words.

Some of my students choose to stretch out the words instead of looking at the vocabulary cards and that is perfectly fine with me! I love seeing their progress throughout the year.

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ANOTHER easy activity, but it’s also easy to differentiate! Students can write generic lists, which I usually keep out from day 1, or I can have them write lists on specific topics.

Again, this exposes them to new vocabulary and drawing pictures to match their words.

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I have two different levels of writing paper. One just has a couple lines and is perfect for emergent writers. Once my students can write multiple pages for one story, I also let them add covers to make their own books!

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I also have story starter paper, which is great for those students who take ten years to think of a writing topic. They already have the topic provided for them; they just have to write about the picture!

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This is an activity I usually introduce the second semester, because I like to take the time to teach my students the proper way to right a letter. It annoys me so much to see a page with just a heart or “hi.” written on it!

How engaging would this be if you actually had a mailbox, though?? I know they usually put small ones in the Target Dollar Spot around Valentine’s Day. You could let students “mail” their letters and have a mailman as a classroom job to deliver the letters!

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This is another activity I save either for the end of the year or for my more advanced writers. If you taught 1st or 2nd grade, though, this would be perfect for all year long!

I have so many of these research flip books, so I can keep ones out that match with what we’re learning or put out ones that match student interest. The National Geographic Kids books are perfect for research, or I let my students use Kiddle (the kid-friendly Google) on the computers!

If you want to start your own writing center, or even just change yours up, i’m offering my Themed Writing Centers for the Year for just $15 right now as I add in the themes! There are currently 10 themes included (a $30 value), and I will be adding in at least 29 more!

In each themed pack, you’ll get the visual directions posters you can display, picture vocabulary cards, multiple labeling pages, list pages, writing and story start paper, a card, and letter paper.

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Subitizing Activities for Number Sense

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We all know how important number sense is. It’s the foundation of every other math skill! That’s why I LOVE subitizing activities so much – they help students start to see numbers is new ways and to begin seeing the connections between numbers.

Especially in kindergarten, I like to make subitizing a part of our daily routine, no matter what level my students are at. These are some of my favorite activities to do whole group, in small groups, and as centers!

Quick Look Cards:

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In my class, we do number talks every day. I choose a different set of quick look cards each day. Sometimes we just work on fluency and identifying the number shown, and sometimes we talk about how they see each number, different ways to make the number, how many more is needed to make 10, etc.

Every Friday we do a longer math talk. This is when I show my students one of the subitizing cards (as the year goes on, I make the amount of time they have to look shorter) and I have them think about the number they see. Then i’ll have students talk about the different ways they saw the number – “I saw 3 dots and 4 dots and that is 7” or “I saw 2 empty spaces on the ten frame so I knew it was 8.”

These subitizing quick look cards are included in all of my math units because I think they’re that important!

 

Subitizing Games:

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In this game, students will roll a die. You can use a number die or a dot die (I prefer number dice for this, but I didn’t have one available!). Students will roll the die and cover that space with their counter.

This game is a freebie here.

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In this game, students will draw a domino card and cover the matching number with their counter. This game is also a freebie, and I have included a 0-6 and a 0-12 version.

Subitizing Strips:

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In this activity, students will match subitizing pictures to each number strip. You can focus on all numbers 1-10 or on only a few numbers at a time.

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In this activity, students will match number cards to subitizing pictures. This will require them to work with multiple numbers at a time.

You can find both of these activities here.

¬†I hope you enjoyed these fun subitizing activities and that you’ll consider building some of them in to your math class next year!

Little Readers: Whole Group Literacy for K-1 (Freebies included!)

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I’m not going to lie, i’m a little bit sentimental about the “birth” of this curriculum! It has been a LONG time coming!

Each unit contains everything you need to teach an effective and engaging whole group literacy block, including phonemic awareness, reading comprehension, writing, vocabulary, phonics, and crafts – all you need to add is the books!

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What does a typical unit look like?

Each unit contains 4 weeks worth of materials (except August/September which contains 6 weeks). Each week will focus on one text you will do a close read on as a whole class.

Why a close read? By focusing on one book a week, but reading it for different information and thinking about it in a different way, students really get to know the text and can really focus on the reading comprehension strategies they are practicing each week.

NOT every week will look the same, though! In the August/September unit, most of the weeks focus on the same comprehension skills to build a routine, but by the 6th week, the strategies change as nonfiction text is also introduced. In the October unit, students some of the comprehension skills will stay the same, but 1-2 will be different each week.

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Each week, you will have a week overview and 5 days worth of lesson plans. These lesson plans offer easy ways to differentiate for K/1 (or for your higher/lower students).

Each week generally contains 4 vocabulary words students will focus on and one day a week is generally dedicated to working with that vocabulary.

You are given two options for these vocabulary cards to make it easy for you! You may also choose to just print the picture and word card and let the students generate the definition using context clues in the text. For kindergarten, this is a skill I would introduce later on in the year.

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This is one of the fun phonemic awareness activities included for kindergarten! I can’t take credit for this idea, but I can guarantee that students LOVE this game!

 

These are an example of one of the comprehension skills covered – making predictions. You can see how the pages might be different for kindergarten or first, but the skills stay the same. If you have students at different levels in your classroom, you could also use these to differentiate their work.

 

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Each week contains one craft or extension activity. Above you can see an example of the August/September crafts, and below you can see examples of the October crafts.

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Phonics is also differentiated for K/1. In the August/September unit, kindergarten will focus on being introduce to the letters and reviewing the letters. In October, they will focus on reviewing letter sounds, working with beginning sounds, and learn medial vowel a.

 

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First grade will focus on all of the medial vowels and cvc words in August/September. In October, they will focus on word families. Their word work generally contains one paper activity or interactive board activity per day and a short assessment/check in for Fridays.

Interested but still not completely sure if this is for you?

Try the first week FREE for a limited time!

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I’m interested! Where can I find this?

Right now, August/September and October are available and they will be discounted to 50% off through Friday 6/23.

BUT you can also save a HUGE amount of money by getting the growing bundle! This bundle will be $25 (a $102 value) through Friday only as well. Right now it contains the first 2 units, but each additional unit will be added at least 2 months before the actual month.

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Interactive Anchor Charts

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If you’re a teacher, you already know the importance of anchor charts. They literally “anchor” our learning and provide a resource for students to look back to throughout the year.

But have you ever felt like you put all this time into making a cute, pinterest-worthy anchor chart and your students rarely, if ever, look at it again? It seems like it just became a part of the classroom decor? Well, most likely, the students didn’t have a connection with that anchor chart!

 

When students contribute to anchor charts and they become interactive, yes, the charts may not come out quite as cute, but they make a connection to the chart and its content and they will be much more likely to use it as a resource.

 

Here are some ideas and different types of interactive anchor charts you may want to implement in your own classroom:

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This is a type of chart that many of us are already implementing in our classrooms. As I introduce each letter of the alphabet, I have students brainstorm words they know that begin with that letter. I quickly write the word and sketch the matching picture.

 

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I add ANY word the students think of, so long as it begins with the correct letter and is school appropriate.

 

This is a great time to build connections with your ESL students as well! If they give me a word in their home language, I will add it to the chart with a picture (Google Translate is my BFF), and explain to the class why we are adding it and what it means. It means SO much to them to see words in their own language on these charts!

 

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I use charts with sound boxes all the time as we’re learning cvc words and short vowels. The cute “Aw Man O” at the top comes from Michelle Hudgeons.

 

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Of course, I could just write words that students brainstorm on the chart, but I think it means so much more to have them help me stretch out the words and use the sound boxes themselves. We will use sound boxes all year long and I want my students to become experts at stretching out words that they’re writing, so I need to make sure i’m modeling it as much as possible.

 

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Similar to sound boxes, as we begin learning more complex phonetic patterns, I begin having my students stretch out the words and label the pictures on our anchor charts.

 

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I am NOT worried about spelling here! If they forget a phonics rule we’ve already learned I may remind them, but otherwise I let them use inventive spelling to encourage taking risks in their own writing.

 

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These charts may be pre-made, but they show students how to do something step-by-step and they should match the task exactly.

 

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This chart shows students step-by-step how to solve our addition word problems.

 

I had the steps already written on the chart, but I made sure we referred to this chart constantly as we practiced solving word problems whole group. Every time we did a step, I had a student tell me what number it was and what it said. They HAD to refer to this chart so that it would be more likely they would refer to it later on when they needed help.

 

Another example is letter writing. This time I did start with a blank chart:

 

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I only had the numbers written on here so students knew how many steps there were. Then I wrote the letter in front of the class explaining what I was doing as I went.

 

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I made sure to use different colors to make the difference in each step obvious.

 

After we finished this chart and went through the steps a few more times, I put this at the writing center. Letter writing was now an option and, because they had this chart to refer to, I expected all students to follow this format.

 

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Again, these are charts that you are probably already using in your classroom! These charts are your KWL charts, your Can, Have, Are charts, and your bubble charts. These charts are meant to document student learning.

 

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Here is a very sorry looking dinosaur Can, Have, Are chart. ūüėČ We completed one column every day and wrote about that part. Students were able to use the chart as a resource and were more likely to be able to recognize the words because they contributed the information.

 

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This is a bubble chart we made after reading a book about spring. The pictures help students know what the sentence is about, which helps them recognize the words because, again, they came up with the words.

 

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This last chart type is one that is usually pre-made and they can be easy for students to forget about if you are not diligent about making sure to refer to them often.

 

We used this chart when learning about character traits, but we also had a chart with even more traits I displayed on the SmartBoard:

 

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We read “Tops and Bottoms” and then used both charts to fill out this character traits sheet:

 

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I made sure that we referred to that chart often throughout the rest of the year as we read stories together.

 

If you have any great anchor chart tips, be sure to leave them below!

 

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Teacher Appreciation Week

Teacher Appreciation Week may be coming up, but really, it’s always the perfect time to let a teacher know how much they matter! I thought i’d show some of my favorite ways to celebrate the hard work and dedication of teachers.

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I’m a little coffee obsessed, so of course my favorite way to celebrate is with coffee! I like to¬†attach these cards to K-cups and instant Starbucks coffee in the lounge for my coworkers.

For those who don’t drink coffee, I might attach these tags to tea, hot chocolate, or every teacher’s love – flair pens:

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You can get both of these notes for free here:

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I also LOVE the idea of the Staff Shout Out board from Ms. Houser! What a great idea to give staff a boost any time of the year!

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And of course, we all love personal notes from students. This free printable from Frugal Novice would be perfect to have your child give to their teacher!

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Thank you teachers for all that you do! If you’re every doubting your importance, remember:

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Beat the Teacher: A Whole Class Incentive

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We have officially reached the time of the year where this is the constant soundtrack in my head:

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Maybe it was because spring break was so early this year, but it just feels like the summer bug is hitting us hard right now! As we’re getting ready to become first graders, I knew it was time to give us a little extra motivation.

There are variations of this incentive all over the internet, but this one works well for us! My class this year thrives on friendly competition and we have a good relationship – this is important with this incentive!

When my students came in this morning, our white board looked like this:

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With this incentive, it is important that you only choose one goal to work on. We have been on the struggle bus when it comes to sitting on the carpet peacefully, so that was our goal.

Every time I  saw students showing whole body listening, raising their hand to speak, and listening when others were talking instead of shouting over them, they got a magnet in their ten frame.

Every time students rolled on the carpet, yelled out, or talked during a lesson (sometimes i’d give a warning first), I would get a magnet in my ten frame.

I got these large magnetic ten frames from Lakeshore Learning.

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Their goal was to have more magnets in their ten frame than me by the time we were done at the carpet. If they happened to fill their ten frame, I game them an “X” on the chart and the board was cleared.

If I had more magnets or we tied, they just didn’t get an X. Nothing more than that!

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Now, for this particular goal, it is a lot of work. It was a new competition every time we came to the carpet. I would clear the ten frames after every carpet session to keep the competition fresh.

I would also have to clear the ten frames mid-lesson if the class filled their ten frame. Good thing teachers are pros at multi-tasking!

I also want to mention that this is¬†not meant to be a long term incentive. I’m sure you could use it long term, but I think it would be most effective when it’s new and exciting.

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If students had more magnets than me or they filled the ten frame completely, they would get an “X” on this chart. When the chart is full, they get to choose one of these prizes:

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We’ll vote on which one we want as a class. If you download the freebie, an editable PowerPoint version is included so you can choose your own prizes.

By the end of the day we had 4 X’s, so it shouldn’t take us too long to get there!

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The little guy on the board was to remind us of how we are supposed to look at the carpet. I could just point to him as a reminder. I’m actually shocked at how much my students needed that visual!

I’ve included him just in case your class has the same goal, but you could use this incentive to target any desired behavior!

If you want to try this incentive in your classroom, you can grab it free here:

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Or pin this post for later:

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How Do Butterflies Eat? A Science Experiment

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We kicked off butterfly week today with one of my favorite experiments – discovering why butterflies only eat liquids!

Honestly, it can be hard for kindergartners to understand how a butterfly’s mouth works. If we’re going to be using the word “proboscis,” however, I want to make sure it’s not going over their heads every time I say it!

The materials are pretty simple:

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-2 cups per student

-1 straw per student (I used colored straws so students at the same table didn’t mix them up)

-Cereal too large to fit up a straw

-Juice (I used fruit punch to represent nectar)

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Every student got a cup with some fruit loops, a cup with some juice, and a straw.

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I had students stand with the straw in their mouth and their hands behind their back. They couldn’t touch anything and they had to listen for each direction.

First, students tried to suck up the cereal with the straws. Obviously, this won’t work! We got a lot of laughs as some students managed to get cereal out of the cups, but couldn’t eat it.

Then students tried to suck up the juice. Of course, this time it worked!

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We talked about how butterflies also have straws for mouths (the proboscis) and discussed which one we thought would be easier for them to eat (the liquid, of course)!

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Together, we reflected and wrote about our experiment and what we learned. And then we ate fruit loops! ūüėČ

Would your students love to learn all about butterflies? Find this experiment and much, much more in this fun Butterfly nonfiction unit:

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All About Spring!

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I LOVE spring! The days get longer, the weather gets warmer, and we get to learn about some of my favorite subjects!

I always like to talk about the season of spring the week we get back from spring break. I’m always surprised at how many of my students have no idea what a season is, but I also secretly love it because they get SO excited to learn about what makes each season unique!

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I highly, highly recommend all the seasons books in the Exploring series:

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The pages aren’t very wordy and the pictures are big and vibrant. My students always pull out so much information form these!

We put it all into a bubble chart:

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From there, I tasked my students with choosing 3 things to write about spring. They could be things we added to our chart or things they already knew.

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They then added a cover and made tissue paper flowers to complete this cute writing craft!

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You can find these in my All About Spring unit:

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From there we moved on to insects. We read about different types of insects using these pages, again from my All About Spring unit:

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Of course, insects are one of those topics that certain students will already know A LOT about. ūüėČ So I let them add their information to our discussion too.

Then students each chose 1 of the 5 insects to write about. We ended by making this cute directed drawing craft inspired by Doodlebugs Teaching:

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And, of course, we couldn’t talk about spring without talking about the changing weather! We actually are required to cover weather the entire second quarter in STEM, so we were already weather experts, but we spent some time talking about storms – a big deal this time of year in the midwest!

We started with what they already knew about storms:

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And then we added our new learning after reading a few nonfiction books:

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If you think your students would also love learning about spring, insects, plants, weather, and more, be sure to check out All About Spring and then let me know some of your favorite topics to teach in the spring!

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Number Bonds for Number Sense

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Honestly, there was a time when I hated number bonds because I didn’t understand them or how to make students understand them. Obviously, I don’t feel that way anymore!

Now I LOVE number bonds because they are such an easy way to expand students’ number sense and help them decompose numbers. This is one of those skills that I cover multiple times a year and build on as our math experience grows.

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This is the anchor chart that I used to introduce number bonds. I also have the exact same thing in a SMART board file so we can practice number bonds digitally.

I did not have the addition and subtraction problems on there the first time I introduced number bonds! Like I said, we revisit this skill multiple times throughout the year, so once I had introduced addition and subtraction, I went back and showed my students how they can turn a number bond into an addition or subtraction problem.

If you want anchor charts you can print off or display on a screen, you can grab them free by clicking on the pictures:

 

This is also when I introduced Turn-Around Facts, which I will show you later on in this post!

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When i’m introducing number bonds, I like to use different manipulatives as the parts to keep engagement high. They are also easy to move back and forth from the parts to the whole, so students can really see how the parts make up the whole.

Besides counting bears, I like to use playdough, mini-erasers, counting chips, and little toys I get from Dollar Tree. Basically anything to make it feel new and exciting!

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Having student physically swap out one manipulative for another and changing the parts is an easy, concrete way to show them that there are different ways to decompose a number.

You can get this mat as a freebie by clicking on the picture:

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Once we begin addition, we will use this mat to come up with all the different ways we can add to get a certain number:

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Another great way to practice making number bonds is with dice:

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Just roll 2 dice for the parts and count the dots for the whole. I like to have my students color-code just to reinforce that the dice are making the parts.

You can get this recording sheet as a freebie by clicking on the picture:

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I also like to use dominoes:

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These are what I use when I introduce Turn-Around Facts:

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It’s super easy to turn the domino around and show that the parts may change places, but they still make the same whole!

Do you have any great ideas for teaching number bonds? I’d love to hear about them!

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How To Make Worksheets For Your Classroom (Or TeacherPayTeachers)

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I’ve had numerous people ask me recently to teach them how to make worksheets for their classroom and products for TeachersPayTeachers. Being a visual learner myself, I decided to lay it out step-by-step in the hopes of making it as simple as possible!

Yes, there is a LOT of information included, but I tried to make it as simple as possible. There will be variations if you have a different version of PowerPoint, but it shouldn’t be too hard to modify the steps.¬†If you have any more questions, feel free to ask them below!

Step 1: Open PowerPoint and click “layout.” Select the blank layout.

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When I started creating, I used Microsoft Word. I can’t even tell you how overjoyed I was the day I learned to use PowerPoint instead! It is SO much easier to move things around where you want them!

Step 2: Select “Slide Size” (usually in the Design tab) and set a custom size to your page size.

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You can definitely set it to 8.5 x 11 or 11 x 8.5. My school’s printer doesn’t like to print all the way to the edge of the page, so I always set my size to 10.75 x 8.25 or 8.25 x 10.75.

Step 3: Add borders.

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You can find all sorts of cute borders on TpT and insert them following the clip art step below. I personally like to make my own borders by inserting a shape.

I use the rectangle to make my outline. In the Format tab (this only appears if you click on the shape), I choose the white center and black border and then click on “Shape Outline” and “Weight” to make it thicker.

I didn’t even think to add this as a picture, but you can easily make your border centered on the page too! Just go to that Format tab and click where it says “Align.” Click “Align Center” and “Align Middle” and it will be perfect!

Step 4: Insert text boxes wherever you need them.

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You can do this with the Insert tab, but if you look at the Home tab, there is a box with all the shapes and a text box. It will also keep frequently used shaped here.

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You can find all sorts of fonts on TpT! Remember: some of these are free for personal use in your classroom, but if you want to sell your work, you’ll have to buy font licenses from each seller (if the font was free).

Some of my favorite font sellers are: A Perfect Blend, Kimberly Geswein Fonts, Cara Carroll, and  Babbling Abby.

If you want to sell on TpT, you will also want to make your copyright (your name or the name of your store) very small and place it in a corner. I generally set mine to pt 8. This will make sure your work is always credited to you!

Step 5: Insert clip art.

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Again, there are a lot of options for free clip art on TpT. You want to download them and save them to your computer. Then you can open your folder, right click the image and “copy,” then paste onto your page.

Many clip artists will include both JPG and PNG images. I personally like to use PNG images. These will have a clear background instead of a white box behind them.

If you do decide to sell your work, make sure you create a credits page showing which clip artists you used! There are many great examples online, or even in TpT products you own.

 

Step 6: Insert any shapes and lines. You will use the same steps as making a border, but I will show you how to format it so it is the perfect size and in the right place.

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Format the color of your shape:

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There is nothing that bugs me more than when a shape is not perfect! This is a little trick I learned to make sure it is the right size:

Go to the Format tab. On the right, look at the sizes for the height and width. If you need a shape to be a certain size, you can change these. To make a circle perfectly round, make sure both the height and width are the same.

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Ok, you got your shapes together, but they’re not in the right spot. You don’t have to move every piece individually!

Click your mouse and hold it down as you go over and around the shape, just as if you were making a text box or square around it.

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Let go and all of those pieces will be selected together and will move together. You can click one piece with your mouse and move the whole thing. You can also use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move it, which is helpful if it’s something so small your mouse can’t click it properly.

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You can¬†duplicate the shapes by having them selected and clicking “Ctrl+D.”

If you want them perfect lined up, just move it around. These handy red guidelines appear that will show you when it is aligned to another shape!

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And now you’re done! At least with the PowerPoint section. However, there are a few more steps!

Step 7: Save as a PDF.

This will ensure that your fonts and layout will look the same, even if you are on a computer that does not have the fonts downloaded or has a different version of PowerPoint.

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At the top, click the File tab then click “Save As.” It’s not a bad idea to save your PowerPoint as a PowerPoint too just in case you need to go back and edit (I generally do this right at the beginning and save throughout¬†in case my computer suddenly shuts down!)

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Name your document and click “Save as Type.” Select “PDF.”

If you are just wanting to make worksheets for your own personal use, then you’re done! You can print and go.

¬†If you want to sell your work, then after you have added a cover, ¬†you have a few more steps to make sure your work is secure. I will show you how to secure your PDF using Adobe Acrobat Pro. This is a paid program; if you aren’t wanting to spend the money right away, I believe they do offer a free trial.

Step 8: Open your PDF and select “Protect.”

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If you don’t see this option to the right, you can go up to the top and click the Tools tab.

Step 8: Password protect your document.

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You will click “Restrict Editing” and put in your password. Make sure it is something you can remember easily but can’t be guessed easily.

Step 9: Change the security settings.

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Click “More Options” then click “Security Properties” from the drop down menu.

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When this box pops up, click “Change Settings.”

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Click “Changes Allowed” and choose “None” from the drop down menu. Then click “OK.” Make sure that you don’t change the printing option!

Step 10: Save your secure PDF. You’re ready to sell it!

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Click “Save” and when the box pops up, select the same folder you saved it in before. It will say another document has the same name and ask if you want to save it still. Click yes.

You are officially done! I hope this tutorial was helpful to you – whether you want to make worksheets for you classroom or TpT. Again, if you have any more questions or want another tutorial, just let me know!

If you do decide to start selling your work on TeachersPayTeachers and you found this tutorial helpful, please consider signing up through my referral link (this provides me with a small commission, but does not take any sales money from you):

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Signup/referral:nburszty

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