2017 - Susan Jones Teaching

Friendship Day Activities!

If you read my last post about my Countdown to Summer activities then you know I have another day of FUN ready for you! My past post was all about camping activities and my second fun-filled day is all about Friendship.

All these activities are part of a fun new product I came out with for the end of the year called Countdown to Summer! This is a 5 day all-encompassing unit which includes lessons and activities for every subject area! There is MORE than enough for you to have boatloads of fun during the last days of school while still reviewing and learning!

I wanted to show you a little sneak peek of the new activities I included for Day 2, Friendship Day:

Focus skill is data collection and analysis
This activity can be down whole group or in small groups where students will survey their friends to tally the results of different graphing questions (there are 4 total). After students tally the results, they will complete the bar graph and answer questions about the data!

Focus skill is beginning consonant blends 
Students will partner up and play a phonics game to identify different beginning consonant blends! There is a mixed version (shown above) as well as a version for s-blends, l-blends, and r-blends separately. 

Focus skill is making inferences
Is there a better friendship than Elephant & Piggie?! We read this fun book by Mo Willems and make some inferences along the way about how our two favorite characters are feeling! I include an entire read-aloud sheet that has stopping points and questions to ask throughout the book!

Also, no worries if you can't get your hands on this book! I wrote a short story about friendship with response questions to focus on the same skills!

Focus skill is personal narratives
Students are challenged to remember a time when they were a good friend! There is a graphic organizer included to help students' brainstorm their ideas and details before they write their story.

Science/Social Studies:
Focus skill is being a good friend
Students sort through 12 different scenarios to see if it shows an example of being a good friend or not being a good friend. There is also a recording sheet for students to explain their thoughts on what exemplifies a good friend and how they could change those "not a good friend" situations into positive ones!


A little fine motor practice with some yarn for the craft! Students make their very own friendship bracelets to give to a friend!

"Orange you glad we are friends?!" tags with some clementines make for the perfect, healthy snack to pass out on this day!

There will be 5 days filled with lesson and activities total with the following themes:
The Beach

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Same as before, while I am still compiling and creating all these activities you can grab this unit for the early buy in price:


Countdown to Summer! End of Year Activities

How many more days? Have you counted yet? 

Here on the East Coast we wouldn't start counting down the days until May at the earliest, but I know many school teachers that get out in mid-May and have already began counting down the school days left with their students. There is so much going on at the end of the year, those last couple weeks can seem like a blur, but I always wanted to do something FUN with my students to make those last days memorable (and also keep them learning!). 

Themed days are nothing new, but the end of the year is really when I like to let loose with these activities and encourage my students' creativity! The last 5 full days of the year we would have a countdown and I would let my students know that each day was a different theme and ALL DAY we would complete activities and games that relate to that theme.

I thought I would compile some of my favorite activities I've completed in the past and add a bunch of new ones into one, easy unit! So I created The Countdown to Summer!

I wanted to make something EASY for teachers and FUN for students so I think I combined both of those aspects into this unit. I created five full days of lessons and activities that correlate to a different theme. Many of the lessons have m ore than one option for the teacher to pick and choose from!

The themes I decided on are all ones I've done in the past and have been hits in my first grade classroom! They are:
1. Camping
2. Friendship
3. Sports
4. Memories
5. The Beach

and for each day there are activities, lessons, and printables for the following:
- Reading
- Phonics
- Writing
- Math
- Social Studies/Science
and there is a fun craft and snack idea for each day as well!

Here is a rundown of the first themed day, Camping:
In math, students practice addition with a fun game called Catch 'Em where they are adding numbers and comparing their sum to their partners. 

Now before you're all like, "Ummm... I don't have time to print and laminate all these centers at the end of the year!!!" Don't fret! For every game that has a color activity, there is also a black & white "print&go" version! 

 For each day, I have a book suggestion and 2 comprehension skills to review! For camping, I went with the fun, rhyming book A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee and the skills are retelling as well as using context clues to determine the meaning of vocabulary words.
Again, no worries - if you don't have the book or don't want to find it, I created a printable passage that works on the SAME skills!

 In phonics, students practice long vowel teams with a quick and easy "Read & Illustrate" passage about a king and queen who cross their moat for a little walk. 

How to writing was the focus for camping day! I included FOUR different how-to prompts - all relating to camping! They make for some fun explanations!

There are 2 fun science activities included: a STEM activity to build your own tent using play dough, toothpicks, and a piece of paper. Or you can also take your students on a quick nature walk where they can use their senses to complete a graphic organizer on what they notice in nature.

For the craft, a handprint fire makes for a fun activity:

And for snack options I, of course, included s'mores, but I also liked the idea of choosing 50 of your own pieces to create a little trail mix to eat in class or take home!

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If you want to grab ALL 5 days worth of activities, just check out my end of the year activities below:


Creating An All About Book: A Beginning Research Project

Creating an All About book is honestly my favorite writing project of the entire year. My students just get so into it. I think it has to do with the fact that they feel like real researchers and they get to share their fun facts and findings with the rest of the class. I also love that this project has students practicing all different types of writing and while it includes the "traditional" paragraph writing pages, it also has other fun pages for students to share what they've learned about their animals.

I thought I would take a little time to share how we complete these informative research books in my first grade classroom.

Before we begin the project I head to a few local libraries and gather as many books as I can for 6-8 different animals. Some class favorites in the past have been:


I am sure to make the categories myself so I can control the amount of books I can gather for these animals so they are sufficient enough to run a research project! If I taught an older grade I may just let every student choose whatever animal they wanted, but it can be difficult to find books for my first graders to be able to read independently which is why I like to control this portion.

On the first day, my students simply complete a book walk to decide which animal they would like to research. I spread the books out all around the room, grouped by their animal and students spend 2-3 minutes at each station reading about the animals.
At the end, my students will vote for their top 3 animals they would like to research. I let my students know that they WILL get one of their top 3 animals, even if they don't get their first choice. That night, I put my students into groups based on their choices (usually 3-5 students for each animal).

Once their groups are made, we dive in! My students like to read their books and share some fascinating facts they have found about their animals.

Throughout the 3-4 week reading and writing project we dedicate time to all sorts of nonfiction text features and different types of nonfiction writing. In order to complete many of the pages, we have to research first! While I want my students to read the books, I also want them to get used to searching online databases and websites for information we need as well. 

I gathered 5 of my favorite websites for young students to research their animals and explained a bit about each one below:

You need a license for this site, but is SO kid friendly and my first graders learn a ton from the different databases. There is one for animals, science, biographies, and social studies. In the animal database they can learn all the basics about many different animals, watch videos of the animals and even hear the animals make noise.

This site has many different articles about all sorts of animals and has great photographs of the animals. Your students will definitely be intrigued by the fun comparisons. Did you know a polar bear weighs more than a piano and is shorter than a school bus?

The famous San Diego Zoo has their own website for kids to showcase the animals they have at the zoo. They include photos and facts such as where in the world each animal lives, what their habitat is, and what they like to eat.

Ranger Rick's website has plenty of facts for students to learn all about their favorite animals from amphibians to mammals to reptiles!

The Wild Kratts on PBS is a fun show about two brothers who are always trying to save an animal from something. Along the way, you learn all sorts of fun facts about those animals. On their website they have a "Creaturepedia" where students can click around and search for animals by grouping, region or habitat. 

As we work through the project, students complete their very own:
- Cover page
- Table of Contents
- Dedication Page
- Different Types Page
- Diagram
- How to Page
- Where ____________ Lives Page
- What _____________ Eats Page
- Glossary

As we complete each page, I show examples and model creating my very own page in front of the class:
click to enlarge

My students actually make each of those pages TWICE since we do rough drafts, edit, revise, and then publish our books! So every students will have a 9-10 page book by the end and many of your "fast finishers" will add more pages to tell different fun facts about their animals! I also have some of my fast finishers go back and add in some fun captions with an activity I call "caption action!"

The books come out quite amazing at the end and both students and parents are impressed! Here are a few pages from some of my students in the past (the pictures are from a camera phone like 5 years ago, so don't mind the quality!):

click to enlarge any of the above pictures!

You can grab all the lesson plans, templates, teacher tips, and more shown above in my All About Book unit! Just click on my informative writing cover below:

You can grab this unit discounted too, if you want to grab the bundle of my first grade writing units which also includes an opinion writing unit and a personal narratives unit:

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Free St. Patrick's Day Activities

St. Patrick's Day is a fun holiday in the first grade classroom! There is just enough innocence in those little students' eyes to make them really wonder if leprechauns actually exist. I have shared a few blog posts in the past about what we like to do on St. Patrick's Day in my classroom, but today I thought I would share 6 fun, FREE activities with you from bloggers all over:

I have used this directed drawing before with my first graders and they come out looking SO CUTE! In fact, I have Jennifer's whole year of directed drawings and they are always a hit.
Download it via her blog, here

This was the first close reading passage and poem I created for my holidays unit and I decided to make it a free download for teachers to try with their class! Each holiday has it's own nonfiction passage with a vocabulary and comprehension sheet. There is also a fun, fiction poem for each holiday as well. 
Download the one above via my TPT store, here.

This loopy leprechaun craft and writing activity is easy to make since Cara gives you all the templates! I love reading what my students write for when they feel the luckiest!
Download this craft via her blog, here.

Erica has a bunch of these fun banners that are perfect to decorate when you have some downtime in the classroom! Personally, I would've loved to have these after recess. A nice little coloring, calm down activity that only takes a few minutes and makes for a cute display in the classroom.
Download this banner via her TPT store, here.

Have some students still working on identifying their teen numbers?! I could always identify a few students at this time of year who could use some practice with number identification in the teens. I love how she uses gold coins to cover the shamrocks - so fun!
Download via the blog, here.

One of my favorite read alouds during St. Patrick's Day is Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato. We talk allllll about being lazy and I like to focus on cause and effect with this lesson! I typed up a ready-made, one-page lesson plan for you with talking points and the page numbers the questions are asked. There is also a reading response sheet and a writing response sheet for your students to complete after they read the story.
Download via my newsletter, here.

I hope you can use some of those lessons for the holiday coming up soon!

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Jamie O'Rourke & The Big Potato - Read Aloud Lesson

When it comes to St. Patrick's Day, Jamie O'Rourke is one of my favorite characters! Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato to focus on cause and effect.


I thought I would offer a free read aloud lesson this month to my newsletter subscribers! If you already are subscribed - check your mailbox! You should've received your monthly newsletter with this free lesson inside. If you are not a member, just click the image above and you can sign up to receive the free lesson right away!

In my read aloud lessons, I go through the entire book with a focus skill in mind. I list out terms to define to your students, a preview of the text to read aloud to your kids, and then I list out all the important questions I want to ask and the pages they are on - all on one, easy page!

Example below:

A couple years ago I created an entire year's worth of read aloud lessons that are all one page so that you can quickly print your lessons and have them ready to go! They are also great for a sub. All the hard work of thinking of the questions is done for you. Recently, I added both a reading response page and a writing response page to each text for some added practice.

If you like the FREE lesson above, you can check out more by clicking my interactive read aloud lessons unit below and download another free lesson in the preview!

Happy teaching!

Three Ways to Promote Higher Order Thinking in the Primary Grades!

What is higher order thinking?

When I am talking about my students and higher order thinking, I am talking about the ability to use critical thinking skills to transfer their knowledge in order to solve a problem.

Well that wasn't the most simple way to put it... but essentially I want my students to take all the tools I have taught them and be able to APPLY them in order to solve something! 

"Here is the problem. Here is your tool kit. Go ahead! Solve it however you see fit!"

Higher order thinking can seem like a big task when talking about teaching 5-7 year old students, but it is honestly one of my favorite ways to teach. I love to watch my students surprise themselves with what they can do! I can see it in their eyes when they are at first, taken aback by the problem, and then when they solve it, they are just so proud. It is a beautiful thing!

I believe the earlier students are exposed to higher order thinking type questions, the more they will feel prepared to solve these problems as they continue onto the higher grades and be put in more complex situations.

While these types of tasks are certainly difficult at first, they are great practice for your young learners to start thinking in different ways. The more practice and exposure they get to these types of problems, the better they become!

I wanted to share a few ways I promote higher order thinking in my first grade classroom that you can go ahead and implement right away:

Once your students have learned a skill, I like to have them apply it to many different types of real world problems. By giving your students open ended tasks to solve, it gives them the freedom to solve the problem however best fits their needs. It also lets them recall their own past experiences to help them solve a problem and bring their learning outside the school walls!

When you sit back and watch how your students solve these types of problems, you learn a lot about the way each child thinks. You see strengths and weaknesses that may not be readily assessed through simple "recall" questions.

Here are some example questions to get you started:

- You are having a big party and everyone in the class is invited! You want to bring in cupcakes but you need to know how many boxes to bring. There are 4 cupcakes in each box.
(students use addition skills)
Students will first have to count up everyone in the class and brainstorm ways to figure out how many boxes of cupcakes they will need.

-  You get to pick out some new furniture to go along the biggest wall in your room. The wall is 15 feet long and your mom/dad want you to get a chair, a dresser, and a new bed. How long should each piece of furniture be to make sure it all fits?
(students use addition and subtraction skills, ways to make 15)
Students will choose all different measurements to see if they equal 15. Then we talk about if those measurements make sense (will your chair be longer than your bed? etc.)

- Our principal said we can choose which kind of new recess equipment we can get for the playground! What should we get and how can we decide fairly?
(students use graphing and data skills)
Students will likely suggest taking a vote and will need to decide on which options to put up on the board and how to collect and analyze the data.

- Bring in a Hershey chocolate bar (or draw a rectangle on the board) and explain that you and 3 friends would like to share it equally. How can we go about doing this?
(students use knowledge about fractions and 2D shapes)
This is an easy visual and when i do this in small group I actually give my students the candy once they have divided it up equally - boy that makes them want to get it right! Students mention all the different ways to divide the rectangle shape into equal parts and we discuss whether there is a "best" way to do it or not.

- Your after-school piano lessons are an hour long and you must be home by 6pm for dinner. What time should your piano lessons start?
(students use knowledge of time and elapsed time)
This type of problem has students thinking about all sorts of real-life situations. When I use a word like "should" it puts pressure on my students to think of the best time for the lessons to start. Students will start to discuss what time school gets out and how long it might take them to get to the lessons and then back home in enough time for dinner. Of course, there are a few different answers to this depending on what time you get of school. 

- Dress Teddy:
Students look at the different clothing options to dress their teddy bear and figure out how many different outfits they can make.
(students use number sense skills)
This type of problem really shows the different ways my students think! Some students like to write down all their options, others draw pictures, others like to go through each clothing item 1-by-1 to make sure it's being used. All of these are just perfect!

I like to pose these types of questions in whole group or small group situations. My students tend to bounce ideas off one another as many of these tasks are multi-step and can take a long time to solve. Once one student gets started sharing their ideas or strategies, it starts to spark other students' ideas!

You can do this simply by purposely doing something WRONG! Now, of course, you only want to do this after you have taught something correctly and after your students have mastered the skill... and you may want to add a little theatrics to it while you are making a mistake to help your students catch the hint....

I love to do this in my classroom with "fix it" cards!

These types of tasks can be used for all subjects, but here are some examples of them being used in math:

Close up for subtraction:
Identifying the problem and fixing it requires students to completely understand the skill at hand and then analyze the situation to determine what is incorrect. Then, students can go about solving these in more than one way! For example, in number 5 shown above, I have had students "fix" a problem like that by saying "they only get to open 3 more, not 4" and I have also had a few students say "They must have had 6 gifts." Both are correct and they both show that the student understands subtraction!

You can find all sorts of examples of {math fix it cards here!}

During my math warm up time, I love to pose simple guess & solve problems to get students thinking about how they would come up with a solution. I do this in two general ways: Estimation Station and More/Less.

Estimation Station:
This can be done by putting items into a clear container or bucket and asking students to estimate how many ______ they think are in the container. We write down our guesses and possible ways to figure out how many are inside.

After repeating this with your class a few times with the same container, it is fun to hear their reasoning for their estimates. They may notice that the items are much larger than ones used previously so there is likely less in the container. Once my students grasp that idea, I start putting items in different sized containers.

Depending on the type and amount of items, we also discuss should we group the items to count them? How can we make sure we don't count the same small item twice? Etc.

We don't just estimate items in containers either. We estimate how many markers we can lay across the board, how many one-foot hops we can do in 30 seconds, and how many steps it takes us to walk from one door to the other. There are many things to estimate!

This activity is a switch up from estimation station, where I will pose the following types of statements and my students will use their reasoning to decide if my statement is correct or incorrect.

- There are MORE than 30 counting bears in this container.

- It will take me LESS than 20 steps to walk from one end of the rug to the other.

- I can do MORE than 25 sit ups in one minute.

- There are LESS than 50 books on that shelf.

These types of statements have students thinking differently. I could easily ask my students to just count how many bears are in the container to see if they are able to count accurately, but this way my students must pick a side. Do they agree or disagree? They must provide reasoning for their choice and they then will figure out the best way to prove or disprove my statement!

Those are three, easy things you can start doing right away in your primary classroom to promote higher order thinking! I hope you liked these ideas and if you are looking for more higher order thinking math tasks you can find a bunch more ideas by clicking the image below:

I also have many fun warm up, modeled lessons, and activities for first grade in my yearlong math workshop curriculum. If you are interested in embedding higher order thinking into all your daily math lessons, check out the lesson by clicking the image below:

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