Traditionally, in first grade, I've taught animal classification and the human body for our state science standards.  But with the introduction of the Next Gen Science Standards, life science has shifted to organism structures and heredity.  So, I've developed a new unit to align better with these newer standards.  And I'm SUPER pumped about how we are learning our new big idea: "Organisms have tools for survival!"

Here's an overview of what's covered in our organisms unit.
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Week 1: What Are Organisms?

The first week of the unit we learn a lot of vocabulary needed for this unit.  We learn what the difference is between living and non-living things through this sort (a digital interactive version is available too!) and this fun organism song.

Then, we start charting what plants and animals can do, have, and need to survive.  We finish this week by comparing plants and animals to gain a deeper understanding of these two categories of organisms.

Week 2: How Are Offspring Like Their Parents? How Do Offspring Learn To Survive?

During the first part of the second week, we learn how babies are like their parents.  We read about and chart names for different animal babies and how they learn to survive.  And we play find your partner with baby animals and their parents.

Then, we research our own traits that we get from our parents.  We send home a family traits survey (with several options for atypical families with adopted or fostered children, etc...).

After the family traits survey homework is returned, we do a carousel activity to tally our trait data for everyone in our class by observing our inherited traits.

And during our math time, we graph our inherited traits!

Week 3: What Do Organisms Use To Survive?

This week we start off by learning about plant parts.  But our focus is to go deeper and learn their jobs for helping the plant survive.  We make a plant parts jobs flip book with this adorable craft option!

Then, we shift to animals and read about adaptations that animals have made to survive.

We set up adaptation stations around the room for kids to rotate through and explore and experience 8 different adaptations animals make.  You can read more about this in depth in this blog post (coming soon!)

One of my favorite activities during these stations is matching animal adaptations to ways humans mimic those adaptations.  It's a great way to build up that background knowledge for the upcoming STEM project later in the week!

STEM Challenge: Copy Cat

During the end of week 3, we work on our STEM challenge!  This one is called copy cat because students are mimicking an organism adaptation to build something to solve a human problem.  This challenge come straight from the Next Gen Standards.

I'm going to be honest here, ya'll.  When I first saw this engineering standard, I was like, "What the heck????"

No lie.  #realtalk

But once I got into creating this unit, I actually really, TRULY love this challenge now.  I feel like we have set up our first graders with enough background knowledge, examples, and experiences with adaptations to help them be successful with this challenge.

Want to see how this challenge works exactly?  And how to make it attainable for littles?  Read this blog post for more detail! (coming soon!)  Here's a sneak peak...

Organism Trade Book List

Want links to the trade books I use in this unit?

Find all of the affiliate links here!
What's Alive
Animal Babies
Animal Babies On the Farm
All In The Family - heredity
How Animal Babies Stay Safe
Born in the Wild
Raising Babies: What Animal Parents Do
Are You My Mother?
The Ugly Duckling
Experiment with Parts of a Plant
The Tiny Seed
What If You Had Animal Feet?
What Do You Do With A Tail Like This?

As always, snag this unit for 50% off for the first 48 hours!  Or grab this bundle of all Next Gen Science Standard Units for First Grade and save!

Number sense puzzles are one of my favorite ways to challenge my first graders' math thinking skills...especially my early finishers.  They are quick, low prep and engaging for kids.  My five year old begs to try them at home when I print them out!  Read on to see how to use number sense puzzles in the primary classroom and how I differentiate them for my highest thinkers and scaffold them so that even my 5 year old can successfully finish a puzzle on his own!

What Are Number Sense Puzzles?

Number Sense Puzzles are cut up pieces of a hundreds chart that students use to put back together using what they know about number order.

Why Should I Be Doing Number Sense Puzzles?

Number Sense Puzzles are important in the primary classroom for a lot of reasons.  At the simplest level, they are great for giving kinder babies practice identifying and matching numbers.

At the highest level, number sense puzzles force kids to think about number order and place value and compare 2 and 3-digit numbers.

They are also fantastic at quickly exposing misconceptions that kids have with counting, number order, or place value.

Who Are Number Sense Puzzles For?

Kids from kindergarten to second grade can benefit from Number Sense Puzzles.  Because these puzzles build number sense, any kiddo lacking these skills will benefit.

They are especially perfect for early finishers as a challenge, or RTI small group practice with scaffolds.  There is definitely a wide range of options and differentiation with these puzzles!

How Can I Do Number Sense Puzzles In My Classroom?

Before my Mommy leave, I made my own Number Sense Puzzles in my first grade classroom.  I simply copied a 120's chart on colored cardstock and laminated it.  Then, I cut the chart into random puzzle pieces.

BAM! Number Puzzles!  I simply put the pieces in a bag and I was ready to go!  I made multiple puzzles, each on a different color of paper to keep the puzzles separate and we used them as partner practice for math game day and in our math centers.

How Can I Differentiate Number Puzzles?

Number Sense Puzzles are one of the easiest games to differentiate and it does not take much additional prep! #winning

For my pre-made Number Sense Puzzles, I already have 2 different levels of numbers for each puzzle.  If you are making your own like I talked about earlier, you can simply just cut apart 1-50 for your lower babies...

...use the whole 120's chart for your on grade level kiddos, and cut apart a 200s chart for your higher kids.

Another way to differentiate Number Sense Puzzles is with scaffolds.  For kindergartners or RTI first or second graders, give them a completed hundreds chart to either use as a reference, or as a puzzle mat to place the pieces on top of the chart.

Just be aware that with this scaffold, students are working on recognizing and matching numbers, not number sense and number order.  This is not a scaffold I use with my first graders.  They can refer to the hundreds chart we have in our room, but I encourage them not to unless necessary to challenge and grow their math brains!

However, I do use this scaffold with my RTI math groups and lower counters and then slowly take the scaffold away as they improve.

For example, we may start with the chart as a mat to lay pieces down on...

And then move to having the reference chart beside the puzzle pieces...

And then just keep moving that chart farther and farther away from the puzzle until they don't need it anymore!

Where Can I Find Pre-Made Number Sense Puzzles?

If you're like I was in the classroom and just want the puzzles made already, then I have a year's worth of puzzles already made up for you!

There are two puzzle shapes for each month.  And each puzzle comes with two differentiated number levels for 4 total puzzles each month.  Find the bundle here which also has links to each of the 11 months that are also available individually!

Sometimes, introducing a new phonics sound can feel like getting a square peg in a round hole...amirite?

And getting first graders to apply those newly taught sounds in their writing is....yeah, the headache of Winter time in first grade!

So, anytime I can attach phonics rules to an engaging story is a win for me!  For many years, I've used stories I've heard, retold and made up to attach to phonics sounds.  It gives those letters life and helps my first graders tune in to my mini-lesson on our focus sound and remember those sounds when it comes to writing.

Recently, I started adding emojis to my sound stories with my tutoring kiddos and it's been a HUGE hit!  I've already blogged about my daily and weekly phonics routine, but today let's peek into how I introduce new phonics sounds with emoji cards!

Get It Ready

Before I started using Emoji Sound Stories, I prepped all of my materials.  Honestly, the prep is super easy and takes SO much less time than making anchor charts from scratch every year like I used to do!

The Emoji Sound Charts for students are ready to print and laminate.  I print one for each student to keep in their book boxes for independent reading time.

Then, I print the Emoji Anchor Charts and the sound stories.  I glue the sound story to the back of each anchor chart.  This makes it easy for me when I introduce the new sound--the story is right there for me to refer to as I hold up the chart for the kids to see!

I also print an extra set of sound stories to keep on a ring at my Guided Reading table.


Once I'm prepped, I'm ready to teach--and I'll never have to prep again! #hallelujahchorus

When it's time to introduce our new sound, I just pull the anchor chart from my storage box and tell the story.

This is a VERY short lesson, especially since I embed this into my Interactive Phonics Lessons.  Instead of using the youtube video link to intro the sound, we use our Emoji Sound Story.  After I read the story, we read the 3 sample words on the anchor chart with the focus sound.  Then, we brainstorm other words that have our focus sound and write them together.

Independent Practice

There is more that we do with our sounds together during our Interactive Phonics Lesson and you can read about that here.  But our Emoji Sound Stories get used again during our independent reading time.

Students warm up with the Emoji Sound Charts before reading some familiar reading in their book boxes.

If we use our Emoji Sound Charts as a warm up before Guided Reading, I like to pass out mirrors while we practice our new focus sounds so that kids can watch their mouths try to match the Emoji faces!

You can find all the materials for Emoji Sound Stories here!  And if you are interested in my Interactive Phonics Units, you can find the year long bundle here!

Do you know any preschoolers that struggle with obedience?

I'm raising two hands and two feet on that one...LOL!

Okay, okay, so maybe that's not the best question to ask!  Obedience is an important lesson for kids of all ages.  In Sunday School, we tackled the idea of Biblical obedience.  We took a look at what the Bible says about obeying and HOW the Bible teaches us to obey!
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Here's an overview of our unit with our unit Bible verse (you can read about our Bible verse routines here) and our anchor chart.  I love having unit anchor charts that are interactive for preschoolers.  It's perfect for reviewing each week because we can add and readd the color pictures each week.  Plus, since it's interactive, it keeps my 3 and 4 year olds engaged during storytime! #winning

Exploration Stations

The other thing I love about the anchor charts being interactive is that they can double as an exploration station at the beginning of our class time!  My sweeties love matching the pictures and talking about the stories!

Exploration stations our just what they sound like: A time for my preschoolers to come in before Bible Storytime and explore games and activities that reinforce our big ideas for our unit and lesson.  Here are a few of the stations we used to reinforce Biblical obedience.

Anything with velcro is a win for my guys!  Each of our Bible Story lessons were on color cards.  Each week, my sweeties had more cards to look at, remember the story and sort to tell whether the Bible character showed obedience or disobedience.

Blocks are always popular with my almost all-boy crew!  At obey and build, kids used the instruction booklet from these magnetiles (affiliate link) to practice obeying directions to build a design.

Obedience Games

Many times after our Bible lesson, we take time to play a game to review the story we learned.  This was our favorite from the unit...Who Swallowed Jonah!  I started out running the game, and then my kids starting asking to take charge!  So fun!

To prep this game, I simply cut out 3 whales and Jonah and then taped Jonah to the back of one of the whales!  Super easy and super fun!

You can find all of these activities, plus detailed lessons, masters, and tons more here!

Earlier, I blogged about my routines for Sentence Puzzles in my first grade classroom.

This week, let's talk about my favorite thing: organization.  How do we organize all those puzzles? What's the best way to prep the puzzles so that we can keep track of them (and the kids can too!)?

How Can I Easily Prep My Sentence Puzzles?

Obviously, the first thing I need to do is print the sentence puzzle masters.  I keep the masters organized so I can go back and copy again if we lose any (hello, it's gonna happen!).  I also printed out the reading level cover pages to help organize the master copies in a sentence puzzle binder.  I just keep the answer keys in the front pocket so I can get to it easily.

I printed the resource cover and the spine label to use as my notebook binder cover.

After I got my master copies organized in a binder, I copied the puzzle masters on colored cardstock.  I have the suggested color I use in the top right of each master.  I just simply sorted all of the reds together, oranges together, etc...and then copied each color together.

Once they are copied, then I cut apart each puzzle (what a great job for a parent volunteer!) and put each puzzle in its own snack size ziploc bag.

Why Do I Need To Color Code Sentence Puzzles?

Because, when I first started sentence puzzles years ago, I did all of the puzzles for one level on the same color of cardstock.  You know, so I could say, "Johnny, you and your partner will work on a blue puzzle today."  Make sense, right?

Nope.  Fail.  Major fail.  Because, guess what happened when Johnny and his partner got into the tub of blue sentence puzzles to put them together?  Yep.  They got mixed up.  Big time.  And then it took FOREVER times 300 to get them sorted back correctly.

So these puzzles are set up with the independent reading level on each word card so students can easily find their level in their labeled tubs.  But because each puzzle for a reading level is a different color, kids can easily see if a puzzle piece is in the wrong bag.

How Do I Keep the Puzzles Organized?

Once I'm done copying, laminating, cutting and bagging the puzzles, then I'm ready to go.  And seriously, if you have a good parent volunteer, all of this can be done by the volunteer in about 2-3 hours! #doit #parentvolunteersforthewin

I have two different ways I organize my sentences depending on how I am going to use them.  As we talked about in my routines post, if I'm using them for a carousel group activity or for guided reading warmups, then I keep them all in one shoe box tub.  I use index card dividers in the tub to separate each level of puzzles and then put the puzzle bags behind each level divider.

Then, I'm ready to just pull a puzzle for guided reading warmups or pull a few for our carousel activity!

If I'm going to use them for literacy stations and centers, then I get tubs for each level I will need.  (I don't put out every level, only the levels for which I have kids reading independently.)  Then, I just toss the puzzle bags into the appropriate tub!

Find the whole set of sentence puzzles here!

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