I'm a BIG believer in math games.  Giving kids a fun way to practice math skills is always a win in the classroom!  Roll and Record is a great game for practicing collecting data and analyzng and comparing data.

All students need to play is a die, crayons, and the recording sheet.  This game can be played in partners or alone!

Students roll the die.  Then they record which number they rolled.  They continue to roll until they have at least 20 in one of the categories.

Then, they answer questions about the data by comparing the categories and adding or subtracting 10.  There are 3 versions of this game.  The tally version seen above and horizontal and vertical bar graph versions.  In Guided Math Workshop, kids play a different version each day during their hands on time!

These graphs are included as part of my Guided Math Workshop Plans!

The first school I taught at was an IB (International Baccalaureate) School.  The primary IB program is big about asking questions to guide the students learning.  In my first grade classroom, we used an "I Wonder" Wall to ask and answer questions about the content we were learning.  This is the perfect place to help little ones understand what a question is and practice asking, writing, and answer questions. 

Here's a look at the routines for our first grade Wonder Wall.

Question Words

At the beginning of the year, we talk about our attitude words and what good learners do (Read about that here.)  When we talk about being curious, or an inquirer, we brainstorm question words.

I don't have a picture of my original anchor chart, but basically, I have a poster size question mark and I add these question word cards to the question.  There are some years that I just add the question cards around the I Wonder Wall bulletin board.

We spend some time asking questions and writing questions using these question words.  Then, the cards stay up all year on this bulletin board to help kids brainstorm questions they are wondering about our learning.

Key Concepts

In the IB curriculum, key concepts are attached to the content units you teach.  For example, when we taught weather, one of our key concepts was causation.  Many of our essential questions were causation questions.

Each of the key concepts are copied onto color card stock and put on the Wonder Wall.  Here is the original board from years ago so you can see the layout.  Ignore the "outdatedness" of it! :)

I Am An Inquirer

When we talk about being an inquirer at the beginning of the year, each kid makes a kid diecut to match them.  I add them to the Wonder Wall with a speech bubble around the bulletin board.

This is each child's space to add questions.  When they have a question about what we are learning, this is where it goes.

If we are learning the content whole group and they have an unanswered question, they can ask it and I will write it on a sticky note with the class and we will stick it on that persons bubble.

If students think of questions during other times of the day, they can write it on the sticky note themselves.  I let them do this if they finish work early, or if they go to our Big Idea station (where they are reading books about our content topic.)

Wondering Wednesday

I try to keep an eye on our questions and we look over them as we study our big idea.  Sometimes I might add a lesson or book in to answer a particular question that I think is important for the whole group.

Other times we take a "Wondering Wednesday" and google answers to our unanswered questions.  This is usually what we do with the left over questions at the end of the unit.

As questions are answered, we talk about what kind of question it is.  This is so we can sort the question under the key concept it matches.  Depending on our content topic, some key concepts will be fuller than others.  For example, in our weather unit, most of the questions will be causation questions because that just naturally goes with the topic.

We record the answer to the question together on a light bulb and a move the question and answer under the appropriate key concept.  Depending on your kids, and definitely for older kids, this is something they could research and answer on their own during a "Wondering Wednesday."

All of the materials you need for you own I Wonder Wall bulletin board can be found here.

I love giving primary kids a chance to explore science on their own!  Many of my Next Gen Science units have exploration stations built in because of this teaching core belief of mine.  Here's a look at the hands on Force exploration stations for kindergartners!


This can be as simple as using dry erase boards as ramps for cars, balls, or blocks.  Put all of these materials at this station and have students explore how the objects move the same or differently on the ramp.

My kiddo tried this angle first.  He just let the car go without pushing it.

Then, he decided to make it steeper to go farther.

But the table stopped the motion of the car because of the steep change in angles.  This was definitely not what he expected!

So then, he made the angle less steep.  And the car rolled the farthest at this angle!

Questions to explore at this station are...

How can we make the objects move down the ramp faster?


Which objects go down the ramp the fastest? Why?


Use recycled and empty water bottles and a foam ball to set up a simple bowling station.  Students will explore what causes the bottles to fall down.

Questions to explore at this station are...

What force makes the water bottles fall?

How can I make more bottles fall?


At this station, students will use (their own!) straw to try to blow cotton balls across the desk or table!

We discovered two straws were better than one! #thatface

Questions to explore at this station are...

What force makes the cotton ball move?

How can I make the cotton ball move slower?


Chair Pulleys

I love this station because when done right, it really causes kids to think!  Tie a rope around two chairs facing back to back with a bucket hanging from the rope.

Students must try to move the bucket around the chairs without actually touching the bucket!

Questions to explore...

What force is causing the bucket to move?

Why does this work without me touching it?

How can I move the bucket faster?



This is a popular one for boys!  Who knew boys were exploring force when they are role playing at their play work tables/construction zones!

Questions to explore with tools....

How can I force the nail/screws in?

How can I make them come out?

You can find these exploration stations and more force activities in this unit!
You know that math kid.  That one who draws pictures to solve his math problem.

Every. Single Day.

And no matter what you say, she keeps drawing bubbles.

Do you have that math kid in your room too?  Cause some years I've had like 10 of them!

Maybe your kids aren't counting all anymore, but you can't get them to quit counting on, or drawing tens and ones...the concept is still the same...and still as frustrating!

How do we get kids to quit direct modeling or drawing pictures, or whatever we want them to quit doing and move on to more appropriate math strategies?  Let's talk about how I use the word EFFICIENT to help kids move beyond drawing bubbles!

What Does It Mean To Be Efficient?

An efficient math strategy is the quickest way to solve a problem that I understand.  In first grade, we start off by generating strategies.

Throughout the year, we chart strategies as they are shared during math talks or during story problems.  We learn from the very beginning how to identify and name a strategy. (Note this chart is one from several years ago and we had not added strategies like tens and ones yet.)

We start the second half of the year practicing using multiple strategies.  I encourage kids to have more than one strategy ready to share during math talks.  And during our story problem time, I have them show me two ways to solve the same problem instead of showing one strategy for 4 different problems.

The next week, our focus is on picking the best strategy for each story problem and number set.  We read a digital book called Finding Bingo.  (The dog is lost and we are generating ways to find him and deciding which way is the best.)  Then, we introduce the word EFFICIENT.  We talk about what it means and chart some synonyms.

What Are Efficient Math Strategies?

Once we understand what efficient means, we go back to our "Model With Math" chart and evaluate our strategies.

Is this strategy efficient? Why or why not?

Then, we color code our strategies.  This works best if you add strategies to your "Model With Math" chart on index cards from the beginning of the year.  Then, use tape to add them to your chart.

Once you are ready to categorize them into efficient and inefficient, it will be easy to move and you won't have to rewrite them!

In first grade, at the beginning of the year, all strategies are welcome as long as it fits the story.  Any strategies you share that result in the correct answer are "green strategies."

Any strategy that doesn't fit the story, is inefficient and we call a "red strategy."  A red strategy is a strategy that will not ever result in the correct answer.  That could be doing nothing.  Or subtracting on an addition story, etc.

In upper grades, move strategies to red when students are "not allowed" to use these anymore.  And if you see a red strategy as you conference, you simply mark through it with a red crayon and have them choose another strategy.  Be careful not to move strategies to red too quickly.  We don't want to take away strategies that build understanding for kids who need them too soon!

By January (at the latest), we don't want students counting all anymore.  So, once we discuss why counting all is inefficient, we move that strategy from green to yellow.

"Yellow strategies" result in the correct answer, but are a much SLOWER way to solve.  When I am assessing story problems, these would be a "2" on my rubric or below basic.  Notice that yellow strategies include drawing and counting all AND drawing all, but counting on.

If you are in second grade, you may start out with these as yellow strategies at the beginning of the year, and move more over as your year progresses.  This is super easy to differentiate between grade levels, but keep the same language for kids throughout the school!

"Green strategies" are the ones that quickly get us the correct answer.  But they also are strategies that we understand and could teach to a friend.  For example, decomposing 10s and 1s is efficient for the kid who understands it, but for a kiddo who doesn't understand 10s and 1s, it is not an efficient strategy.

This is where it gets tricky.  Not all green strategies are appropriate for every kid.  They have to be able to find a strategy that makes sense to them, and makes sense with the problem or number set.

These strategies are posted with our Model With Math chart so that we can use them during share time.

How Can I Use This With Small Groups?

If you follow my Guided Math Workshop Curriculum, you share during your small group time.  This makes it very easy to differentiate and only add green strategies that each group is ready for.

And it makes total sense to have a different green chart for each group!

As you share your strategies, have kids color a yellow, red or green bubble next to each of their strategies to determine if it is efficient or not.

For the yellow strategies that we find, we talk as a group about how to improve the strategy to make it efficient.

What is inefficient about this? (Reference the efficient chart)
How can we make it more efficient?

Make the word efficient part of your sharing routine helps move our kids beyond those strategies we need them to "drop."

You can find this lesson and materials in my Guided Math Workshop Plans.

In kindergarten and first grade, we have poetry folders that we use for fluency practice.  A while back, I blogged about my routine for poetry folders in first grade here.

So what does fluency practice look like in second grade?  Each day's routines are quick and easy and should take less that 5-10 minutes each day once you build the routine in your classroom!  Let's chat about fluency folder routines for 2nd graders!


The fluency folder routines start on Tuesdays with my 2nd grade phonics curriculum.  On Tuesday, students get the new fluency passage for the week.

Give them 2 quiet minutes to scan the passage for sight words to circle or highlight.  Then, they will spend the rest of the 2 minutes reading the passage quietly.

With the Digital Phonics Curriculum, the sight words are on the screen for the kids to find.  But you can definitely just write the sight words for them to look for or have them just look for ones they know!

When the 2 minute timer goes off (that's the black bar across the bottom), you model read the passage expressively as they follow along.

Then, just briefly talk about the passage by asking about 3 comprehension questions about the passage.  After you have discussed the passage, students will add the passage to their fluency folders.


On Wednesdays, kids get out their fluency passage and buddy read the passage.  Set a 4 minute timer and walk around and monitor as the buddies set elbow to elbow and knee to knee to take turns reading and listening or reading together.

The goal today is to let buddy 1 read, then buddy 2 read, and then both choral read together before the 4 minute timer is up.


On Thursdays, students get their fluency passages out and read independently.  Set a 1 minute timer.  Kids will try and finish reading the passage in the 1 minute.

The passages I have are written with an appropriate amount of words for second graders to read in one minute or less.  The passages start off with only 50 words and at the end of the year have 90 words.


There is no fluency folder routine for Fridays or Mondays built into the second grade phonics curriculum.  This is just to give you some flexibility.  For example, start the routine on Monday if you have more lower readers in your class and do Thursday's routine twice to give them practice and more time to build their fluency.

Fridays can be used for assessments.  During guided reading groups, take a few minutes to pull back some kids and do running records on their fluency passage for the week.  This will be a sure way to get data on grade level texts each week!  Want to learn more about running records?  Read this blog post.

Where Can I Find the Passages?

These fluency passages can be found here.  Or you can find them in my bundle of 2nd Grade Digital Phonics Curriculum!

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