January 2017 - Thank God It's First Grade!

Books to Teach Main Idea and Theme

Main idea and theme can be some of the most difficult topics to teach my first graders, so I thought I would share some of my favorite picture books I use to teach these skills in my classroom.


Sheila Rae, The Brave by Kevin Henkes
This story is a hit among my young learners as they decide whether or not Sheila Rae and her little sister are brave and give reasons to defend their opinions. I like to have my students figure out what Kevin Henkes may be trying to tell us as I read the story. We then figure out what lesson Sheila Rae learned and identify the details in the story to support the main idea.

Swimmy by Leo Lionni
Swimmy is a book about perseverance and being different. As my students listen to me read this book they infer all sorts of character traits about Swimmy as he handles situations in the story. These inferences lead us to the main idea of the story and provide us our details to support that main idea.

Big, Blue Whale by Nicola Davies
When teaching main idea and details, I like to bring in a nonfiction example as well. I teach my students that the main idea of a story is what the book is mostly about and the details are the parts of the story that support and relate to the main idea. In nonfiction texts it is easy for students to say the main idea is "about whales" but I ask them for a little more information regarding what the author is teaching us about whales throughout the entire book. For example, "Blue whales are the biggest creatures on earth and have many unique characteristics and habits." Then we find the details in the story that support that type of main idea.

A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon:
This classic has a clear theme about being yourself and being comfortable in your own skin, which makes this a great intro book to theme. My students love the colorful illustrations and I love watching the pure shock on their faces as Camilla's skin changes over and over.

Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens
This fun book is about a very lazy bear and a clever hare. This story provides plenty of examples for great discussions around character traits, but also teaches an important lesson about hard work that many students can relate to!

Miss Rumphius
Lastly, Miss Rumphius is such a beautiful story, I could read it time and time again. It has such a clear theme of making the world a better place as we read about Miss Rumphius' life. Throughout the story I also guide my students through some more of the difficult concepts presented such as author's purpose.

Those are some of my favorite books for teaching main idea and theme and you can grab any of them below:




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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Short Vowel (CVC) Phonics Games!

First Grade Phonics Games
Games, games, games.

My students love games! You may know this already because of the many times I talk about using games in my math block. I find that phonics is another area where partner games can help tremendously with a student's fluency. After students learn the sounds of their short vowels, they can practice their fluency by reading real and nonsense words, blending the sounds, and segmenting them.



I wanted to create a new set of Print, Play, LEARN! games like my math ones, but instead focus on phonics! My first set includes 6 different CVC games that are ready to just print and play!

Here is a sneak peek of a few of the games:
 Make it Real:
Students race to the finish in this board game and every time they land on a space they must choose which vowel (in this case, a or e) would make a real word. There are 3 different board game options and at the end each student must choose three of the words they made to record and illustrate to demonstrate that they can read and understand the word.

 Roll, Complete, and Color:
In this game students roll the die and they must figure out which word in their column will be complete with the vowel they rolled. The first student to fill in their column wins! This game has two versions. The one shown above has a picture already there (for example f_n with a fan next to it, so students would have to put an a in the middle) and another version without a picture so if a student rolled an "i" they could choose to make the word fin and draw a picture of a fin. I like that it allows for a bit of differentiation!

Spin & Find:
This game is pretty straightforward as students must spin the spinner and find a word in the grid with that matching medial vowel. Students continue until the grid is completely colored in. Whoever colors the most, wins!

There are 3 more games in the unit and I am currently working on games for long vowels (both CVCe and vowel teams), digraphs, consonant blends, and r-controlled vowels!

To see more of my print and play phonics games, check below:

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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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