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!

I often get asked how I get my preschoolers to learn their Bible verses during our Bible units.  Can 3 and 4 year olds really learn Bible verses and remember them?

YES!  Of course they can!  And it's so important that we teach them early that hiding God's word in our hearts helps us make good choices and shine our lights for Jesus!

If you follow this blog, you've already read about my schedule for preschool Sunday School.  Our Bible verse time is the last 5 minutes our our morning!  Here's a look at those 5 minutes of powerful Bible verse learning! :)

Read the Verse with Motions

Yes, I'm aware that most preschoolers cannot read.  But a few do read early.  And the majority who can't will only learn through exposure to print and words.  I set up our Bible verse white cards in our pocket chart.

I always tell my preschoolers, "Let's read our Bible verse," as I point and we read it together.  No, most aren't reading like adults would expect them to.  They are simply saying the words as I read them.  But they FEEL like readers because I've told them that we are reading!  And they are practicing tracking print with my finger and their eyes.  They are learning to read from left to right.  And they are learning what a word and sentence looks like!

These are all HUGE skills for emerging readers.  And THAT's why we "read" the verse together.

As we are reading, I have them do motions for the verse.  They don't have to do motions for every word, but I try to have at least 3 motions for every verse.  The motions help the kids attach the verse to movement which helps them remember the verse more easily!  I have suggestions for motions for each unit verse in my Bible unit curriculum!

Match the Color Word Cards

After we read the verse once, I show one color word card at a time.  We read the word and then I give the color card to a kiddo who comes to find it's word match.  They put the color card in front of the white matching card.

This helps my emergent readers attend to print and focus on the shape of the letters and words.  For my youngest readers, I cover up all but the first word on the color card and have them look for that beginning letter to add even more support.

After each kid puts a word match in, we re-read the verse with the motions.  So, not only are we working on print features, but we are repeating the verse and committing it to memory in a fun and engaging way!

TPR Reading

Once we have all of the words matched, we read with Total Physical Response (TPR).  This is my preschoolers' favorite part!  We do some motion on each of the words.  The first one we do is, "Let's clap on each word."  Then, we say the verse and clap on each word.

This is important because it helps kids hear the difference in words and syllables and words and sentences.  It's so good for building that phonemic awareness in our littlest readers.

Depending on time, we usually do about 5-7 repetitions of this with different actions each time.  The actions we've used are....
Pat Your Leg
Touch Your Nose and Whisper
Bear Claws on the Ground and Growl
Stomp Your Feet

Independent Matching

This last part of the routine is only done on the last day of the unit.  The other weeks, we just read, match, and TPR read.  The last week, we only do independent matching.

Each kid gets a color paper with the Bible Verse on it.  We "read" it together.  I say, "Show me your reading finger," and they point and read.  No, they may not all point accurately, but they are getting a chance to independently practice moving from left to write and pointing and reading word by word.

After we read it, we go through a similar routine as the word matching in other weeks, just doing it independently!  I read the first word and they find their cut out white word card.  I cut out their words for them to save time since I only have them for 45 minutes and I don't want this to take the whole time! :)  But if you have longer, cutting would be great practice for those little guys!

Once they find the matching word, they glue it down.  Then, we move to the next word.  For older kids or kindergartners, they can easily match them on their own without needing to go word by word with teacher support!

These routines are quick, easy and an engaging and effective way to help young learners hide God's Word in their hearts!  You can find all of these routines and materials in each of my Bible Units!

I love good science experiments that leave my first graders SHOCKED!  And these two oldies, but goodies never disappoint!

Light Exploration Stations

During the second week of our Next Gen Light Unit, we learn how different materials affect light.  We spend one day exploring a range of materials with light sources to describe how the materials affect the light.  My first graders are super engaged with almost anything that is set up as stations they get to rotate through!  Add some high level scientific exploration and it's a win for everyone!

I set up 8 light stations around the room.  In my light unit, I have given to response sheet options with the light stations I use or a blank template for you to use your own materials.

At each station, students use the material listed and a light source to explore what happens with the light when the material interacts with it.  I give them some guiding questions to explore like...

(1) How does the light change?
(2) What makes the light change or stay the same?
(3) What would happen to the light if I move it closer/farther?

Then they get about 2 minutes to explore!  That doesn't sound very long, but it really is once you are in the middle of it.  And you don't want to give too much time or else kids get off task... :)

Transparent, Translucent and Opaque Experiment

I love this experiment because it's super easy to do, it requires very little materials, it's super fast, and most importantly, it's super effective!

First, we use our recording sheet to write our prediction about what how much light we will see when we shine the light through the cling wrap.  Then we test our predictions.  This can easily be done whole group or in small groups as long as you can trust your groups not to test before they predict.  And I would definitely recommend doing it step by step together if you choose to do it as small groups! #learnfrommymistakes

Then, we repeat our predictions and testing for wax paper.  And with each material, we write a conclusion together where I tell give them the words transparent, translucent and opaque as describing words for materials.

Finally, we test the cardstock!

If you have older kids or just want to extend this experiment, have kids brainstorm with their table groups other materials that could be opaque, transparent or translucent as you test and write conclusions about each material.  This helps guide your kids to that application level of higher order thinking skills.  Cooper and I did that with our opaque material so you can see what the conclusions look like both ways!

Find these experiments and more in this Next Gen Light Unit!

As I was writing this Next Gen Light Unit, I knew I wanted to include some light experiments I've done in the classroom, but I also wanted to include some STEM based experiments and challenges...so the Pinhole Box Challenge was born!  This morning, I tried it out with my 5 year old and he LOVED it!  Here's an up close look at this engaging challenge!

During the first week of our light unit, we are learning about why we need light.  So for the pinhole box challenge, I placed 1 small bulldozer toy in the box. (In the classroom, I would set up one box for each table group with something different in each box.)  I used a pen to poke a hole in the side of our box.

Then, I told Cooper the problem.

"The UPS truck man needs to find out what is in this box, but we are not allowed to open it! Can you peek inside and see what is in there?"

He quickly figured out that we couldn't see anything, and when I asked him why not, he said, "It's too dark!"

So, I asked, "What can we do about that so that we can see what is in the box without opening it?"

First, he tried poking another hole on the same side.

...and shining a flashlight through one hole and looking though the same hole...and then looking through the second hole...

He poked another hole or two on that side before deciding to poke one on the top.

"Mommy, shine that light on the side and I'll look in at the top!"

But still, no good visual on the toy...So he laid the flashlight on the top hole and peeked through the side.

No luck!  Finally, he tried poking a hole on the other side and peeking through!  "I see it, Momma!! It's my bulldozer!"

Then, he drew a picture of the bulldozer and labeled it!

That was enough for my 5 year old, but in the classroom, we would rotate through each pinhole box after the groups figured out how to see the object in the box.  Then, we would observe what was in the box and draw and label our observations for each of the boxes.  This was the perfect way to discover why we need light and how light helps us!

Find this STEM project and much more in this Next Gen Light Unit!

By now you know that I'm a big fan of board games in the classroom. {If you don't know that, read this blog post.}

And we've talked about how to work in games in our already busy schedule here.

But not any old game will do.  There are some games that really fabulous and classics, but they just don't lend themselves to any sort of strategy building.  Those are not the games you will find in this blog.  Those are games like Candyland, Hi Ho Cherry-o, Chutes and Ladders and more.  While they are fun, and build people skills, they are more fit for inside recess than during instructional time.

So let's chat about strategies and skill sets we want to develop in primary kids and my favorite no-fluff board games to do just that in the primary classroom {and kids of all ages}!
{affiliate links are included in this post, which means I get a very small commission to add to my chocolate fund! Thanks for supporting me!}

Games That Build Logic

Games that build logic are games that make us think in "If...then..." statements.  Remember those logic grid puzzles?  It's the same sort of thing, but they are built into games to make it friendlier for our littles.

Guess Who
Clue Junior

Games That Build Planning Ahead

These games are ones that make us account for our opponents next step.  "I think they will do _____, so I need to do ______."  Or, "If they do ____, I'll do ____, but if not, I'll do ______."  They help us practice flexibility and adapting our plans to unexpected changes.  And they help us learn that there are multiple ways to win a game or solve a problem...or in Arkansas language: There's more than one way to skin a cat! :)

Connect 4
Chinese Checkers

Games That Build Comparing and Contrasting

These are games where we have to look at similarities and differences, and decide on important information between two objects or cards.  We also need to be able to see how things are connected in order to win the game.  Again, many of the other games also work on these skills, but these games are especially good for this.

Apples to Apples Junior

Apples to Apples Junior is more for kids who can read as they will need to be able to read the words independently.  I would suggest it for 2nd grade and maybe some first graders.

Games That Build Stamina

These games are not won in 5 minutes or less.  They take time.  They help us focus and practice building stamina.  If I can engage in a game for 20-30 minutes, then that can help me engage in other areas of learning during other parts of the day.  Focus and stamina is a learned skill that good problem solvers have.  There are plenty of the other games that are longer and build stamina, but these are the best fit for this skill!

Monopoly Junior

What are your favorite strategy games for the classroom?
I'm not gonna lie, when those Next Gen Science Standards came out and had light waves and such for first grade, my stomach turned in knots a little. Ok, a lot

Because physics is not my strong suit.  Like, for reals.

And I may have let out a sigh of relief that I'm on a short term Mommy break from the classroom.

But then, I dug my heals in and came across some great books on light, made some connections to things I was already teaching in first grade, and this Light unit, along with this list of awesome trade books, was born!
{This post contains affiliate links which means that I get a tiny bit of pocket change from each purchase to feed my chocolate addiction! :)}

All of my integrated units and Next Gen Science Units come with big ideas and essential questions.  I just don't know how to teach without guiding truths and questions--it keeps me on track, focused on the bigger picture and helps me make literacy and math connections more easily!  Here are the essential questions for this unit and the books I used as literacy connections!

Week 1: Why Do We Need Light?

During this first week, we are reading about what light is, light sources and charting our learning.  And all of that research leads us to our Pinhole Box STEM connection (read about that HERE) to learn why we need light.  Here are the books we use for this first week... Click on the covers to

Week 2: How Do Materials Affect Light?

This second week is jam packed full of academic vocabulary like opaque, translucent, refract, reflect, and more!  And the best and most engaging way to learn new concepts is through science labs.  You'll find a ton of labs in week 2 that I'll blog about later!  But I love how much literacy can be pulled in even when science labs are the primary focus.  Click the covers to find the books!

Week 3: How Can We Use Light?

The first part of week 3, we learn some real life applications for using light.  We study fireflies (and make a firefly which I've blogged about before!), lighthouses, as well as make our own connections for how we use light!  There are great fictional connections this week as well!

Week 3: What Color Is Light?

Yes, I know this is the second week 3... That's just because there are 2 essential questions in the same week!

The second half of week 3, we learn about the science of color with my favorite man Bill Nye and then do one of my favorite science experiments I've blogged about before: Catching Rainbows!

Make sure you follow my blog because I'll be blogging about some of our favorite light STEM challenges and science labs in the next couple of weeks!

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