Most people may not think of Thanksgiving as a holiday to teach at church, but I think it's perfect!   I love using November to talk about giving thanks to the Lord and our blessings!  Here's a look at some of the lessons in this unit!

I LOVE this turkey anchor chart that we use to keep track of all of the things we are thankful for!  The kids can put together the turkey during our exploration stations time.  And then, we add the feather we are learning about during our Bible Story Time each week!

Look how well this little guy put together our turkey this week! ;)

Week 1, we learned about the thankful leper and thanking God for healing us!  We used white felt dots to make ourselves lepers and practiced thanking God for healing us!

While the kiddos were coloring, I got their Bible verse notes ready to staple onto their coloring page and send home for parents.  I simply write in the date we will finish our unit so parents can help practice the verse at home!  You can read more about how we memorize our verses at church in this blog post.

What a great first week!  Here's a peek at what the rest of our unit will look like!

We will be using envelopes to make a church during week 3!

In week 5, we will be making turkey handprints and writing what we are thankful for.  Here is the printable (read: easier) version of that activity!

I'll be updating this post with more pictures as we go through the unit.  You can find all of the materials and plans in this unit.

On my journey to write a first grade math curriculum that reflected my own math routines in my classroom, I knew it was important to include simple and powerful math games that would build number sense and fluency.  And I've been blogging about a few of those along the way in this Primary Math Game Series.

Today, we are looking at Find the Ten.

What Is Find the Ten?

Find the Ten is a game where kids do just that--find the ten.  They take two numbers and add them by decomposing the second number to make a 10.

In this game, students cut up 18 "domino" dot cards and place them in a stack.  They draw two cards and add the dots by finding and circling the ten and counting the left overs.

This is an example of the "end goal" for notation for this game.  Will all kids be using parentheses?  Probably not.  But when I model this through number talks and share time, I am modeling notation with parentheses and I always have kids that pick this up easily in first grade!

Some kids might do the same strategy as above and just notate without the parentheses.  And that's okay for now too.  Keep modeling the parentheses and they will pick it up when they are ready.

Why parentheses?  They show how the ten was built.  So that when you just use equations to solve you can see the decomposition progression.  For example...
5 + 9 = ?
(5 + 5) + 4 = 14

Now I can see how I decomposed the nine and use the associative property to combine the 5 and 5 to make 10.

If your kids need to see that carrot notation to show how the nine was decomposed, this notation is a little "lower" than the one I just showed.  Kids may need a written visual to show how the numbers are decomposed.  Once they fluently understand that, they will drop the carrot notation and do what we looked at in the images above.

Here is a look at what an even "lower" notation might look like.  Notice, the 10 group is still circled and then they are counting from 10.  Just an equation to match the problem is okay for these babies.  And when they are ready, they can progress their notation even further!

Why Is Find the Ten a Game My Kids Need?

Find the ten is a powerful visual way for kids to practice decomposing numbers to make a ten.  It helps move kids from robotically counting on to thinking about landmark numbers when adding.  It also is a stepping stone for helping kids add incrementally using our base 10 system.

How Can I Differentiate Find the Ten?

This game is super easy to differentiate just through the notation examples that I gave earlier.  But the activity can be differentiated too!

In this version, students abstractly decompose the numbers without the dots.  Use this with your kids who are not direct modeling and are more flexible in the strategies that they use!

This game and many more can be found in my Guided Math Workshop Curriculum plans and bundle (includes all the resources needed for the curriculum!)

I love integrating STEM challenges into science units!  This pollinator STEM challenge is a great way to integrate STEM with ecosystems in second grade!

This project comes after our study of how organisms within an ecosystem depend on each other.

First, we read the problem digital slide about Farmer Dave and his need for an efficient pollinator.  Then, we brainstormed ideas for how to build a pollinator model to solve this problem.

To prep this challenge, I got the materials listed on the planning page.  (There is also a blank planning page so you can add your own materials.)

Once the plan was made, we were ready to build!  We built a simple bug from pompoms and pipe cleaners.  It kinda reminds me of an ant on a stick! :)   We also prepped the flowerbed ecosystem by using cupcake liners and coffee grounds and cornmeal.

Once the "flowerbed" was prepped we were ready to test out our model.  We practiced "pollinating" by dipping our bug into the cornmeal and then the coffee grounds.  We went back and forth a few times.

If you look closely in the cornmeal, you can see where the coffee grounds mixed in!

This was clearly a successful pollination!  Mixed pollen in both flowers and pollen all over our bug!

Finally, we wrote about our model pollinator and brainstormed ways to improve it!

You can find this STEM challenge and more activities on ecosystems and interdependence for 2nd grade in this Ecosystems Unit.

2nd grade Next Gen Science standards talk about Ecosystems.  One big concept in this unit is interdependence!  Here's a look at the book, activity and craft that I used to build understanding about interdependence within an ecosystem.
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We start by reading this awesome trade book about the cactus ecosystem in the desert.
Image result for the cactus hotel

As we read, we chart all of the biotic and abiotic parts in this ecosystem.  I also add arrows to show how some of these parts depend on each other as well as the cactus.

Then, we do a cut and paste activity to show the interconnectedness of the cactus hotel.

Next, we write about our own cactus hotel.  We brainstorm who we depend on in our lives and how we depend on them (mom for dinner, house for a warm place to stay...).  And we also talk about anyone or anything that depends on us (pets for food, bedroom for cleaning...). 

We also make this cute cactus craft to display with our writing.  

Here's how I made this 3D cactus craft!

I cut out the templates from the ecosystems unit.  I cut 3 large green ovals and two small green ovals.  Plus, I cut 3 brown pots.

I folded the large ovals in half and then glued the halves together so that it made a 3D cactus.

I used a black crayon to add the lines and ridges.

Next, I cut small lime green triangles to add a few spikes to the cactus.

Finally, I added a pink tissue paper flower to the top and stapled the brown pots around the base.

This 3D cactus will stand up or you can put a string through a top hole and hang them!  If you want to display the cactus with your cactus hotel writing, you can also make a 2D version to glue above the writing!

All of these templates, charts and activities can be found in this second grade Ecosystems Unit.

In kindergarten, students learn about force and motion through the Next Gen Science Standards.  And what better way to explore force and motion than through building rollercoasters?
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Kindergarten STEM is tricky.  We want them to build and explore, but often times they don't have enough experience to build complicated things from scratch.

So, when Cooper and I tested out this coaster challenge, I knew his Marble Run set would be the perfect way to make this challenge more accessible for my kindergartner.

I read the problem slide to him.  And then he planed out his idea.

We just orally talked about his plan.  And then he got to work building his coaster.

It was a lot of fun to watch his brain and problem solving skills work.  Sometimes, the ball stopped its motion.  So he had to redirect it or turn the slides a different way.

In this picture below, the ball kept falling to the ground after it left the orange twist.  He couldn't connect anything else to it, so he rearranged the pieces so that the green piece would just sit underneath the orange twist and "catch" the marble so it would stay in motion on the coaster!

I absolutely loved the process my guy had to go through with this project.  It was true STEM with build, test, improve, build, test, improve....but with premade materials.  That simple scaffold made the critical pieces of STEM accessible to my kinder kid while still encouraging high level critical thinking skills!

In the classroom, I might limit groups to 10 pieces to build a coaster, but at home with one kid, I was able to be more flexible.  And, of course, my kid wanted to use every. single. piece. :)  Here is his finished coaster.

And the video of how it worked!

After he finished building and testing his coaster, we wrote about his coaster using the publishing page from the unit with the sentence stems.

Finally, he drew the path of his coaster to finish publishing his project!

You can find this STEM challenge in this Kindergarten Next Gen Science Unit on Force and Motion.

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