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Hands On Fraction Activities

Fractions in the first grade classroom can be a CHALLENGE for sure, but I like to use a lot of hands on manipulatives and real life situations for students to see the parts and the whole of each fraction.

While CCSS only requires first graders to identify 1/2 and 1/4 of shapes, I like to teach this unit for 2 weeks and dive into fractions of a set as well. I teach fractions towards the end of the year so my students already have a solid number sense before we dive into topics like measurement, geometry, and fractions!

Before we get into the definition of a fraction, I teach about equal and not-equal parts. This is a pretty easy to understand concept for first graders if you put it into real-world terms.... like sharing a cookie.
You can bet that students want to be sure their part is equal when they are sharing something as scrumptious as this chocolate chip cookie! I pass out a bunch of these cookie cards with lines drawn on them and students have to work together to decide if the pieces are equal or not equal and sort them. If my students are struggling to see if the pieces are equal or not, I let them cut the cookies on the lines for extra visual help!

As we move into fractions of a set, we play a simple game called "Pick 'Em!" All students need for this game is a brown paper bag and a bunch of cubes of 2 different colors. Before they begin, we will choose the color fraction we want to know - for instance, above, we picked red. Every time we pick cubes, I want to know what fraction of the cubes are red. Students close their eyes, pick out 8 cubes, write their fraction, and repeat! 

While in the previous activity, students are identifying the fraction shown, here they are actually making the fraction themselves. In this activity, Students can show me the fraction of a set (as shown above) or they can choose to show me that fraction of a shape and draw that on the recording sheet!

Those are a few easy-to-implement games for fractions that I hope you can use in your classroom!

I have plenty more games, printables, and ideas in my fraction unit you can find [HERE] and if you are looking for a YEAR'S WORTH of math workshop units, activities, centers, games, and detailed lessons you can find that below:

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Books to Teach Nonfiction Text Features

I love teaching nonfiction to my students. My students LOVE to learn all about animals, space, nature, etc. It is real and attainable to them and they just seem to seek that knowledge on their own. 

I like to let my students know that with nonfiction they know what they're in for. If they want to learn about a topic, they can go and grab a nonfiction book, pick it up, and learn! With fiction we often don't know where the story is headed with its twists and turns along the way. Nonfiction gives us that knowledge right at our fingertips!

I wanted to share some of my favorite books for modeling nonfiction text features and how I use them. I generally teach nonfiction text features to my first graders in the month of January.

Butterflies and Moths by Nic Bishop:
I use this book to teach all about the use of photographs in nonfiction texts. This book has big, beautiful photos which really help show the similarities and difference between butterflies and moths. My students get really excited to see these creepy crawly bugs up close and personal. I also like to emphasize how the photograph can give us information that may not be in the text (just like the illustration often does the same in a fiction book).

Ladybugs by Gail Gibbons:
I love Gail Gibbons for nonfiction - her units are jam packed with information and nonfiction text features to explore with your students. This book, in particular, I like to use to highlight labels and captions in nonfiction texts. As we walk through the book, I point out different places Gail Gibbons used text other than in the main area.

Martin Luther King Jr. (National Geographic for Kids):
I use this book about MLK Jr. to show students a biography. As we read this biography, I teach all about the table of contents and the headings. I find this book provides great discussion around why the authors might choose the headings of different sections of the text. I like to have my students brainstorm different headings for those sections after we have read them.

Frogs by Gail Gibbons:
Another classic by Gail Gibbons! After highlighting the nonfiction text features above, I like to review them by using this book and also introduce, the diagram. There is a big, clear diagram in this text that I use to model this feature. My students and I like to discuss the importance of a diagram and why some information is better shared through a diagram than just a paragraph of writing. I generally like to use this book as my example when I am teaching my students how to write nonfiction books as well.

Sharks! by Sally Morgan:
I use this photograph-filled nonfiction text to highlight bold print words, a glossary, and an index. I like to model exactly how to use an index and we make note that many of our words in bold can also appear in the glossary for further explanation. I also point out the way a glossary and an index are organized and how that may help the reader.

Pierre the Penguin by Jean Marzollo:
This text is a favorite of mine and I use it to explain that there are different types of nonfiction texts. This story has almost none of the typical nonfiction text features I just mentioned in the above books, so it's a great twist and makes students really think about the definition of nonfiction and if this story fits the bill. Pierre the Penguin is a true story with a main character who has a problem and solution! It is great to compare and contrast this text with other fiction stories you have read.

You can find all of the above books here:

I have also made read aloud lessons and response sheets for ALL the above books and more that you can find by clicking the image below if you are interested:

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Read Alouds for Problem and Solution, Cause and Effect

Later in the fall and heading towards winter, we begin to really focus on problems and solutions and causes and effects in our stories. My students by this point have been introduced to these ideas, but now they will dive in and not only identify each of these in a story, but also take note on how important they can be to the plot.

I wanted to share some of my favorite read alouds for both skills. First up, problem and solution!

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson:
This book has a very clear problem, but the solution is the fun one here! With a twist at the end, your students will be interested to see what happens in this story to fix the problem. This book is also a wonderful character education read aloud to help students who may be having trouble with friends (or "enemies").

Crazy Hair Day by Barney Saltzberg:
In this story, Stanley accidentally celebrates crazy hair day one day early and arrives to school feeling quite embarrassed. There are many ways this problem could be solved, but his classmates choose a heartwarming way to make Stanley feel included!

A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams:
In this story a family spends a long time saving up money for a new chair. The problem presented here requires a long, dedicated solution, with many lessons to be taught to your young students along the way.

You can grab each of these books here:

Next, I teach about cause and effect using the following books:

The Rain Came Down by David Shannon:
This text highlights cause and effect very clearly. Each character does something that causes another character to react. On each page your students will be able to readily identify a cause and effect going on in the text.

Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish:
Good ole Amelia Bedelia always has my kids laughing as she constantly mistakes the meanings of words without using context clues. We always have a lively debate at the end of the story about whether or not Amelia Bedelia should've lost her job.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst:
In this classic, we talk about how the way Alexander is feeling and acting effects what happens in the story. We love to discuss ways we could've changed his day to help Alexander have a better, happier day and how those causes and effects might occur in the context of the story.

You can grab those three books here:

I have also made read aloud lessons and response sheets for ALL the above books and more that you can find by clicking the image below if you are interested:

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Using Games to Reach Your Students!

Each year a new batch of students arrives and you can see pretty quickly which students excel with little help, which students are chugging right along at grade level, and which need a little more time, a little more guidance to figure it all out.

A few years ago I had a student who really struggled in math. He would get anxious and angry when our math block would come around. Bathroom breaks were frequent during that particular hour and it wasn't uncommon for him to act out. It made me SO sad. I wanted to connect with him and let him know it's okay for things to be hard and that we are in this together.

We play a lot of math games in my first grade classroom. It works for me and my students tend to enjoy them. I like the social skills that interweave with the academic ones while we play games. My kids learn how to win gracefully and not pout when they lose. They learn to take turns and they learn that sometimes it all comes down to the luck of the dice! All the while, they are practicing academic skills. Win-win right?!

Well, my little buddy did NOT like playing games with his peers. He feared getting things wrong and letting his classmates see him struggle, so I thought this game time would be the perfect opportunity for me to get to know him.

I made it a mission of mine to play a math game with him EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.  He was my special partner and while we played our games we talked. We talked a lot. I got to know all about what he liked to do after school, what his big sisters did to bug him, and what he wanted to be when he grew up (a police officer). While we had these conversation, we reviewed our math skills. He became more confident, more comfortable with his learning. For months, him and I would play a game each day. The games would get harder and I sure wouldn't let him win, but he worked through it and we talked through it.

Now, of course, I had 23 other students I needed to attend to and help, so these games were quick, they were fun, they were different! Every few days I tried to find a new twist on a game to keep my students engaged.

As the year went on and my buddy gained more confidence, he started playing games with his peers. I could see him using the skills (both social and academic) I taught him when he would win or lose a game with a classmate. He started reaching grade level standards in math and even left me that year excelling in addition and number sense!

Since sending that student off to the next grade, I have LOVED creating games for my students to play. Every time I make a math game, I make it with that student in mind. "Would this game grab his attention? Would it help him learn to subtract from 20? Does it have a twist? Would this game bore him?" These are the questions that I ask myself in hopes that I could reach another student who may be struggling as well!

Taking that little time each day to connect with a student is what makes teaching so worth it. I found that the relationships I built with my students always made me a better teacher and a better overall person.

If you want to use some games in your classroom, I recently compiled 48 different print and play math games that cover the following topics:
Number Sense
Place Value
Telling Time

Click the image below to see the games:
The games are all in black and white and only require dice, cubes, paperclips, crayons, and pencils! I wanted them to be easy for teachers to use and easy for students to learn to play. Many of the games provide differentiation as well.

If you think you can help a struggling student with one of these games, click the image below and download the preview to download a FREE number sense game:

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Want to try 3 FREE games for your classroom? Just sign up for my newsletter and they will be delivered right to your inbox! Click the image below:

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