Monday, March 23, 2020

Boredom Busters for Distance Learning

We’re on week two of being out of school and we already miss our students. We sent them these ideas to keep boredom away and to help parents who might need activities. Of course, we want to share with all of you. These are tough times indeed. Sending out positive vibes and prayers for good health for everyone.




Writing ideas:
*If you do not have much paper at home, see if you might still have any old journals or the kindergarten journal from last year, or use the back of things you receive in the mail such as envelopes or letters. Use the backs of old school papers, the inside of cereal, rice, or pasta boxes, or brown grocery bags. If you run out of paper, all of these ideas can be done orally. Let your child tell their answer.

1. Make a list of the food you have in one cabinet or the pantry. Then arrange the words in ABC order. First graders should be able to alphabetize 8-10 items by the first letter. If you’re looking for a challenge, try using some words that start with the same letter.

2. Write about the night you found a bear in your bed.

3. Make a list of 15 of your favorite foods. Ask someone else in your house to tell you their favorite foods. Compare your lists.

4. Write about a cat that came to your home to be your new teacher while school is out.

5. Tell about you and your best friend who happens to be an elephant. What do you like to do together? How are you the same? How are you different?

6. Write a workout routine for yourself (and brothers and sisters if you have them.) Include sit-ups, jumping jacks, push-ups, and running in place. Don’t forget to tell how many times each exercise should be done. See if you can get someone in your house to do it with you each day.

7. Watch a TV show or movie. Write a review where you tell others how you feel about it and if you would recommend it. Tell how many stars you think it deserves.

8. Write down the name of every family member you have. Next to their name tell why you love them. Share this with your family at dinner.

Math ideas:
1. Practice patterns with cereal, M&Ms, blocks, coins, or things in nature such as sticks and pebbles. Make patterns such as AB, ABC, ABCD, ABB, ABBCD, or ABCC. Create more.

2. Write out your own addition or subtraction facts. Then set a timer and see how fast you can answer them. Ask an adult to check your answers.

3. Make addition or subtraction facts for someone else in your house such as an older brother or sister. Set a timer and make THEM write the answers as fast as they can. Then pretend you are the teacher and check their work. If they get any wrong, teach them how to do it correctly.

4. Draw your favorite shape. Walk around your house or yard and see how many places you can find your shape. Put tally marks every time you see it. How many tally marks did you have altogether?

5. Practice counting backwards. Start at an easy number such as 20. Then start at higher numbers like 67 or 93. See how fast you can go. Use different voices: baby, monster, robot, or tiger.

6. Make a schedule for yourself. Draw clocks or write the digital times to show when you will complete each task. For example, 8:00 Wake up, 8:30 Eat breakfast…

7. Make up addition and subtraction word problems about your family and friends. Don’t forget to circle or highlight the important information.

8. Count by twos while marching in place. See how high you can count. Try to get to 110 but go higher if you want! Do it a second time and march faster.


Other ideas:
1. Read anything!

2. Find two objects in your house such as, stuffed animals, shoes, or forks. Make up a conversation between the two objects. They can talk to each other about what they will have for dinner, or what they plan to do tomorrow. Perform the conversation for someone in your house.

3. Build a fort. Ask your mom or dad what blankets, pillows, towels, or coats are okay to use. After you make your fort, crawl inside and pretend you are someplace far away. Where is it? Do you speak a different language? What will you eat in your faraway place? If you don’t have anything to build a fort, crawl into an empty bathtub, a closet, or under a table.

4. Call a friend or family member who doesn’t live with you. Tell them 3 things you like about them.

5. Draw pictures or do a craft. Use old scraps, items from recycling, or even empty paper towel or toilet paper tubes.

6. Take a walk around the house. What do you see? Count how many pieces of furniture you have. Or help someone in your home clean up.

7. Write a commercial for your favorite food or toy. Perform it for your family.

8. Make up a song about how you feel today. Sing it for your family or call a friend and sing it for them.


Technology ideas:

2. Practice flexibility and mindfulness with Cosmic Kids Yoga. https://www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga

3. Review and extend math skills at www.SplashMath.com. Parents can sign up for free.

4. Learn about animals, space, the fifty states, and more at https://kids.nationalgeographic.com.

5. Listen to celebrities read some great books at https://www.storylineonline.net.

6. ABCYa has TONS of math and reading games organized by grade level. No need to sign up for anything. https://www.abcya.com

7. Highlights Kids has everything from easy-to-follow recipes to jokes to science questions. https://www.highlightskids.com

8. Do you like podcasts? Smash, Boom, Best and Brains On are two great ones! https://www.brainson.org

9. Who doesn’t like escape rooms? Can you break out? Check out some free activities from BreakoutEDU at https://www.breakoutedu.com/funathome.


Sunday, November 17, 2019

Bears Make the Best Math Buddies

We are super excited about this post! We’ve developed a Book Bite for Carmen Oliver’s BEARS MAKE THE BEST MATH BUDDIES. This adorable math book allows for more than math in the classroom so we just had to share. If you love this book, she has BEARS MAKE THE BEST READING BUDDIES and BEARS MAKE THE BEST WRITING BUDDIES coming in January. These books make great buddies for our students!

Monday, September 30, 2019

Pick a Picture Book Author

Fall is off to a great start because we have an interview with Patricia Toht, author of many irresistible picture books. Read on to find out when she started writing, why she does it, and what the future holds for her. We’ve also included a Book Bite for PICK A PUMPKIN, her latest book, which just happens to be perfect for this time of year!

1. How long have you been an author?
My path has been a long one! When I meet with students, I like to tell them that I started writing before the turn of the century, then I laugh as their mouths drop open. Shortly after I graduated from college, I had a brief go at writing for children (around 1986), but I didn’t try in earnest until 1995, when I stopped working full-time for awhile to stay at home with my four children.

2. What made you want to become an author?
I fell in love with children’s books as a bookseller first. I opened a children’s bookstore in the Chicago suburbs in 1988. Seven years later, Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Super Crown bookstores all moved in a few miles away and siphoned off enough sales to sink us. But my love of selling books eventually grew into a love of writing books.

3. Tell us about your most recent book, PICK A PUMPKIN. Where did you get this idea?
I took a poetry class with Illinois poet Heidi Roemer, which reawakened an affinity for poetry. PICK A PUMPKIN began as a shorter poem about selecting the perfect pumpkin, and it eventually grew into carving a jack-o’-lantern, too. Researching picture books about pumpkins, I couldn’t find any that focused on that process, and I hoped there was a need in the market for a book like that. I soon wrote PICK A PINE TREE, too, and submitted them as companion books.






4. Authors get rejected a lot. What do you do when you get rejected?
Believe me, I don’t always take rejection well! But I read a book by Steven Pressfield called The War of Art, and this quote has always stayed with me:
“So you’re taking a few blows. That’s the price for being in the arena and not on the sidelines. Stop complaining and be grateful.”
I try to remind myself of this. And I’ve also grown to know that writing can be a numbers game. The more you write (and submit), the greater your chance that something will resonate with an editor.

5. You’ve already written PICK A PINETREE and PICK A PUMPKIN. Will there be another PICK A ___ book in the future?
I have a few ideas, but that editor is not interested right now. She wants me to diversify my writing a bit, so I’m working on different things.

6. What’s the hardest part about writing picture books? What’s the easiest?
The easiest for me is coming up with ideas, although I throw out a lot of ideas before I find a really great one. The hardest is the first round of editing with my editor because I’ve worked so hard to make the manuscript the best (I think) it can be before I submit. I can be a crabby re-writer for a few days after my first editorial letter!

7. Can you tell us anything about what you’re working on now?
I have two more books that are in the illustration process. TAXI, GO follows a taxi through the stops and starts of its day, and will be illustrated by Maria Karipidou. TOGETHER WITH YOU is a celebration of grandparents and grandchildren, and pairs me up with Jarvis again!

8. What do you do when you’re not writing?
I’m a library associate in a big, busy middle school. I love it! But I do miss my days working at the public library where I led family storytimes. For me, there’s nothing like a room of “littles” to make my heart happy!

9. What advice would you give someone who wants to become an author? 
It’s not new advice – READ, READ, READ! Because I owned a bookstore, I read hundreds of picture books each season to discern which ones to purchase. I eventually developed an internal sense of picture book rhythm and length, and learned about certain elements like page turns and the “rule of three.” I still check out loads of picture books from my local library. Also, I know that I always have more to learn, so I read craft books, attend conferences, and work with critique partners to improve my writing. (I write for the GROG blog. To learn more about page turns, the rule of three, and how to make a “dummy” of your picture book, check out my posts.)

Bio: Patricia Toht is a poet, picture book author, and school library associate. She once owned a children's bookshop before turning a love of books into a love of writing. She is the author of four picture books - ALL ABOARD THE LONDON BUS, illustrated by Sam Usher, DRESS LIKE A GIRL, illustrated by Lorian Tu, and PICK A PINE TREE and PICK A PUMPKIN, illustrated by Jarvis. Find her online at www.patriciatoht.com, on Twitter as @PatriciaToht, and Instagram as patricia.toht. She is represented by Julia Churchill at A.M. Heath (London).

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

How Sweet it is to Be Sorted by You

I’ve got a new favorite unit. Every year when our sorting unit comes up I try to think of ways to keep it interesting with my first graders. Last year one of my coworkers jokingly mentioned that we could sort with Oreos. Because of my deep love for the cookies, I ran with the idea!

In Virginia we have to sort by size, shape, color and thickness. Luckily, Oreos can be used for all of these! I bought both chocolate and golden Oreos of the regular, mini, and thin varieties. I also snagged Oreo Thin Bites and Nabisco’s Oreo Cookie 100 calorie packs (because they’re shaped like hexagons!). I made packs for my students that contained one of each kind of cookie and then called out various ways for them to sort. (Please excuse the messy picture. I took it before I realized I'd write a post about it.)
**Update- I cannot find the 100 calorie packs anywhere this year!! I'm going to grab some chocolate teddy grahams to have a different shape instead.

We started off sorting by one trait and used this chart to keep things organized. Then the students flipped it over and we sorted by two traits. For this, we just made neat piles on the blank back of the paper.
It was a pretty sweet lesson if I do say so myself. ;)

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The One & Only Wolfgang

Happy Book Birthday to THE ONE & ONLY WOLFGANG! Steve Greig, Mary Rand Hess and Nadja Sarell have created one incredible book about one incredible family. Here are some activities you can complete after reading to extend the fun!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Alphabet Snack Sorting

Last year I taught summer school for the first time and was looking for a fun, meaningful, and delicious way to wrap up the last day with my soon to be kindergarteners. I began searching Pinterest for snack ideas because, let’s face it, everything is just more fun with food. After a few minutes of coming up empty handed I saw a picture of a snack mix that included Alpha-Bits cereal and it hit me- An alphabet sort using tasty treats!

I immediately began to think of every snack I’ve ever given my son that had letters on them. I created my shopping list and off I went. After searching through eight different stores I had to give up on the idea of Apha-Bits, but still had a good mix of salty and sweet. Here’s what I included in my snack mix:
Mini Alphabet Pretzels (from Wegmans)
Alphabet Cookies (from The Dollar Tree)
Scrabble Cheez-Its
Mini M&Ms (sorted as the letter M)
Cheerios (sorted as the letter O)

I made charts on 17x11 paper and had students get a few spoonfuls of each ingredient in our snack mix. Then they went back to their seat and sorted. I had a few who needed a bit of extra support, but most were able to match the letters to their mat independently. They had so much fun I’m planning to do this activity again with my first graders at the beginning of the year!

Happy Snacking!

Erin

Friday, June 28, 2019

Ten Things Teachers Should Do During the Summer and Ten Things You’ll Probably Do Anyway

It’s summer and we still can’t get away from the To Do List phenomenon that seems to plague teachers! We’ve decided to share ours with you. It’s broken in two parts. Choose one or both! If you think of more ideas we’ve forgotten feel free to share them in our comments section! You can download our list and use a fun pen to check off what you’ve done! Happy summer!