Showing posts with label teacher talk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teacher talk. Show all posts

 For 10 years, I built a balanced literacy classroom with an emphasis on guided reading.  I worked hard to master the art of intentional small groups, knowing each of my kids levels, their strengths and weaknesses, and whipping out a new guided reading schedule in my sleep.

And after 10 years, I had it down pat for the most part.  Doing guided reading was in my blood.  I believed in it because we saw growth in students.   It was what I knew how to do...and I was good at it.

And then I went through my first science of reading training and realized the guided reading model wasn't evidence based.  The Fountas and Pinnel levelized readers were not facilitating decoding.  They were encouraging kids to use context and pictures to guess unknown words.  This was a HUGE mind blow and mental shift for me.  

But when I really sat down to reflect, I realized that while some kids were growing, others just weren't.  Many of my babies would progress to a level C and just get stuck and never move on.  

There were other problems with it too.  I would have a full group of level G kids, but half of them struggled reading the text and the other help needed comprehension work.  So, I was having to split my instructional focus because I didn't want to have to split them into two separate groups...because of TIME.

Speaking of time...  A good, guided reading group takes 20-30 minutes.  That means I could meet with 2 groups a day.  10 groups a week.  And if I met with my kids who were really struggling every day, I only had one other group a day I could meet with...without extra help from other teachers.  What about my bubble kids that really needed me every day?  What about my high kids that were bored and needed some extension? 

How could I be everything to everyone and help facilitate their growth in reading?  It was time.  It was time to say goodbye to my career-long BFF, guided reading.

It was at this point, that I started a long-term sub position in kindergarten.  The school had moved to science of reading and our whole group reading curriculum very much aligned with the science of reading.  But I couldn't NOT do any small group work.  

The guided reading teacher in me wanted to hurry up and form some reading and pre-reading groups.  But we didn't have levels for kids, because that's not best practice.  But I had to do something to give my kids small group intervention.

That's when data driven reading groups were born.  That's when I decided to use the reading data I DID have on my kids to group them and work to improve their weak areas or extend their strengths.  That's when I realized that levels didn't matter.  

Because inside of all of those levels were a variety of skills the kids needed to be able to read at that level.  And not all kids on a level G reached that level for the same reason.  For some, it was decoding.  For others, it was retelling.  For others, it was a language or vocabulary issue.  

By throwing out levels, and digging deeper, I could group kids by their gaps in skills and fill those holes to help them progress even faster.

And the best part?  Most of the time, that skill work required 5, 10, 15 minutes tops.  So, I could meet with at least 3 groups a day during 45 minutes of centers in kindergarten.  And sometimes 6 or 7 groups!

Data driven reading groups were an absolute game changer for me.  And they can be for you too?

Are you ready to make the switch?  In my next blog post, I'll be talking about the nuts and bolts of data driven reading groups and what you can do to set them up in your classroom. (HINT:  It's a bazillion and one times easier to figure out that guided reading.  Really, it is.)

Good listeners become good readers.

This summer, I'm diving into LETRS training on the Science of Reading.  If you've been around my corner of cyber space for a bit, you know I was introduced to the Science of Reading a few years ago through RISE training in my home state.  It was mind-blowing.  Like a where-has-this-been-all-of-my-life kind of PD.  And I just wanted more.  So, I'm digging into LETRS.  And it's intense.  And so, so good.

As I process it, I'll be blogging about some nuggets of wisdom I've learned along the way.

So... let's talk about talking.  What is oral language?  Why should I care about it as a primary teacher?  Isn't that the speech path's job?  What can I do to increase the listening comprehension of my kids?

What Is Oral Language?

Oral language is simply the way we communicate with each other.  In honor of the Friends Reunion I just binged, let's look closer at oral language, Friends style! :)

It includes the words we speak...

The nonverbal cues we give while we speak...

And listening as someone else talks to us.

Kids with strong oral language skills are able to speak in complete sentences and carry on a conversation with someone in a way that is easy to understand.  They are also able to listen and comprehend what someone else is saying by asking and answering questions about what was said.

Why Is Listening Comprehension Important?

So what?  Why do I need to worry about listening comprehension and oral language?  Isn't that my speech path friend's job?

Yes and no.  Yes, speech paths do help kids with deficits in language.  But, scientist tell us there is a HUGE correlation between oral language and reading comprehension.

Read that again.  If I can't hear it and understand it, I can't read it and understand it.

Ya'll.  I know that seems intuitive.  And it makes total sense.  But, the first time, I read this, I thought, 

OMG.  Why in the world did I not spend more time doing read alouds and talking about stories with my kids...especially my ELL babies.  

I mean, I did read alouds.  I love a good read aloud.  But, if I'm being honest, storytime got cut short in my first grade classroom many times because of all the things I had to make sure I was doing.  And you can bet your bottom dollar that my firsties' reading skill suffered because of it.

How Can We Increase Listening Comprehension?

So, what can we do?  If I could go back and do those 10 years in first grade over again, what would I do differently?

I'd work on listening comprehension.  I'd target kids with low language skills.  Kids learning English as a second language.  Kids who only spoke English, but who still struggled to carry on conversations.  Kids who couldn't answer simple questions about stories we read together.  Kids who couldn't answer simple Who/What/Where/When/Why/How questions.

I'd target those kids and pull them back in a small group during intervention time.  I'd have real, organic conversations with them.  I'd warm up by drawing some table talk cards to read and answer.  I'd read a short book and ask questions as we read.  Sometimes, even after each page if needed. (Think like when a Mom reads to a toddler.... "Where's the spider?"  "What is the spider doing?")  

For whole group oral language lessons, I'd tell jokes and talk about multiple meaning words or other skills you can target with jokes.  (I LOVED using these joke slides with my second grader this year!)

Another thing I started doing my first few years and then abandoned because #time and I didn't know any better is explicit tier 2 vocabulary instruction with read alouds.  After I first became familiar with the Science of Reading, I started doing more of these.  We did these once a week during 2nd grade last year and we used them in kindergarten when I did a long-term sub.  It's an easy way to practice oral language, while increasing your kids vocabulary and oral language skills. You can find the specific ones I've used here or try the freebie.

And I'd do it all without asking kids to decode.  No reading.  Just listening comprehension.  Because the Simple View of Reading tells us that language comprehension is ESSENTIAL to reading comprehension.  

It's not the only factor of a successful reader.  But it's a necessary part.  And it doesn't have to be done with word recognition.  You can work on language comprehension on its own, and feel good, knowing you are increasing your kids reading comprehension skills.  

If I could go back 15 years and tell my first-year teacher self just that, I would.  I'd tell her to give herself some grace, and not stress if every small group literacy time didn't include kids reading or writing actual words.  

Because oral language is that important to the literacy success of our students. 

Because good listeners make good readers.

Have you heard of TpT credits?  Chances are you haven't.  And that's because it's one of TpT's best kept secrets.  But don't worry, I'm about to let you in on the secret.  And it will literally pay off for you!

What are TpT Credits?

TpT credits can be used to partially or fully pay for paid resources on TpT.   You earn credits by leaving feedback on paid TpT resources. 

And while we are here... does that mean you should not leave feedback on free resources?  No!  Of course not!  While you will not get any credits for leaving feedback, it is super helpful to the seller to have the extra feedback so that he or she knows what you like or don't like.  Think of it like a thank you to the seller for giving you something for free.  Spread TpT kindness...leave feedback on freebies! :)

How do I earn TpT credits?

Leave feedback!  It's that simple!

Head to the TpT website and click "My Purchases."

Then, click FREE resources and be a kind human and leave feedback to help the seller that gave you a free resource! :) #winkwink

Next, click "Paid resources" and you should see a list of all of the resources you have paid for.  If you haven't left feedback for the resource, it will look like this.

Click on "leave a review," and you will see this screen.

If you haven't used the resource, don't leave feedback yet.  The most helpful feedback to sellers is detailed feedback that tells what you like and want you wish the resource had.  That's super hard to do before using the resource, amiright?  

After you've used the resource, click the green "Yes, I've used it" button.  It will walk you through a few short and simple questions.  As a seller, I will tell you that I LOVE getting good, useful feedback. 

Unhelpful feedback sounds like, "Thanks," or "Love it," or even ":)" believe it or not.  While these will currently earn you tpt credits too, it's just not helpful to me to read this because I don't know what is useful or not useful in a resource.  Also, when you are looking for a resource to buy and reading through reviews, thanks and the infamous :) just aren't helpful to you as a buyer either, right?

An essay isn't necessary either (although fine by me if you have that kind of time!).  Just a sentence or a few about what you love or wish we could add in a future update.  Think like what you write on the comments section of the report card that's actually useful to parents! :)

Once you've left feedback, it will look like this.

If you're like me when I first discovered the hidden gem of TpT credits, you will have quite a few resources to go through and leave feedback on.  Grab some coffee, watch some reruns of friends, and get busy!  I promise you it will literally *pay* off!

How can I check my TpT credits balance?

So you've seen a few Friends reruns, your coffee cup is empty, and you wanna know how many credits you have.  Here's how.

Head to the TpT website and click on "TpT Credit Balance."

This will take you to this page. 

You can see I have 1 credit right now.  And I have a few more things to give feedback on so, I need to find some downtime to do that!

You earn 1 credit for every dollar paid for resources.  And TpT will round up.  For example, if you paid $4.50 for the resource, you will earn 5 credits.

Each credit gets you 5 cents off of a resource.  That may not seem like a lot, but it is essentially 5% off.  And that's 5% more that you would've gotten before you realized you could earn TpT credits!

But seriously, they add up.  I've gotten paid resources completely free just by using credits to purchase them!

So, how do I use credits to get my resources for FREE?

Add the resources you want to purchase to your cart.  Then, view your cart and choose "Secure Checkout."

Underneath the Order Summary is the TpT Credits section.  In this section, it will tell you how many credits you have left.  You can type in the credits you want to use.  You can use all of them, none of them, or part of the credits.

Then, click "Apply."  And that's it!  Now you can get that resource you've been wanting at a discount when it's not on sale, at more of a discount if it is on sale, or maybe even for free! Time to start shopping and leave feedback!
You've got a great hands-on, standards aligned activity that you've planned and prepped for.

Everything's ready to go and you're so confident that it's gonna be that good that you secretly hope your admin walks in during the activity.

And as you are explaining the project to your sweeties, you realize you totally forgot to think about who their partner or group would be...

Sound familiar?  This has been me time and time again. #realtalk  I even once forgot about this during an informal observation and had to come up with partners on the fly like I knew what I was doing the whole time...

I swore I'd never do that again so I came up with a system to group my kids in multiple ways with very little prep!  Let's chat about grouping students today!

At the beginning of the year when I am finished with ALL THOSE ASSESSMENTS, I sit down and make my grouping lists.  I have 3 lists I make:  literacy skills, math skills, and behavior skills.

On each list, I order my students from most support needed to least support needed.

When it's time for an activity, I pull out my lists.  (I have them on a ring hanging on the inside of one of my cabinets.)

I find the topic I need.  When I first started this, I had a separate list for reading and writing.  You can certainly do that, but I found that it really was of no benefit to separate them out.  And it was easier to think of the kids with literacy as a whole in mind!  I added a behavior list later on as well.  I use this one for content projects that aren't necessarily literacy science experiments.

Once I have the list I need, I have a ton of options for grouping right at my fingertips!

Grouping Homogeneously (Similar Ability)

If I want kids in like ability groups, I simply think about how many I want in each group and go down the list.  For example, if we are ordering sentence words and I want to differentiate this, I'll use this grouping.  Let's say I want 3 kids in each group.  Then, numbers 1-3 will be together, 4-6, 7-9, etc....

If I want to meet with a small group of 6 to do the activity with me, then I'll call numbers 1-6 to the back table and then go down the list in groups of 3 after that.

I don't call their numbers, I call names.  In fact, the kids don't every really realize that I have a list like this.  I just simply grab the list when I'm calling groups and tell them who I want where!

Grouping Partners Heterogeneously

If I want kids to be in partners by mixed groups, I will split my list in half.  So, for example, with this list of 20 kids I would split it into 1-10 and 11-20.

Numbers 1 & 11 will be partners, 2 & 12, 3 & 13...

The reason why I do it this way is I want to make sure I'm NOT pairing the lowest kid with my highest kid.  When these kids are grouped together, the high kid does all the work and the low kid does a lot of staring off, right??

I want my lowest kid with an average kid.  That way they are strong enough to help my low kids, but not so strong that they take over.

Also, in this scenario, some of my average kids (numbers 8-10) will be with my highest kids.

Again, if I want to meet with a small group, I just take off the first 6 to meet with me and then split the remaining 14 in half and pair 1 & 8, 2 & 9, 3 & 10....

Grouping Heterogeneously

When grouping kids into mixed ability groups of 3+, I do the same thing I talked about with partners, but I split the list up more.

For example, if I want groups of 4, I would divide my list of 20 kids into fourths (1-5, 6-10, 11-15, and 16-20).  Then, I would put numbers 1, 6, 11, and 16 in a group and so on.

In this grouping, I have a solid balance of low, average and high students.

As I'm putting kids in groups, if I see partners that should be together like numbers 1 & 11 but those kids are like oil and water (you know the ones I'm talking about, right???), then 1 & 12 will be partners and 2 & 11 will be partners.  WHY? Because...ain't nobody got time for that business, LOL!  But seriously, this is a tool, NOT the use your noggin' and make it work for your kids! :)

Why Use This Grouping Strategy?

I have found this strategy to significantly help engagement in group or partner activities.  It's well thought out, it allows for small group intervention if needed, and it is so flexible that they are rarely with the same partners. (Anytime a student is absent, it changes up the grouping enough so that even if I mostly use heterogeneous partners they will be different most of the time because of absences!)

Aside from engagement, it's just plain simple.  Do the work at the beginning of the year when you assess and then you are set for any group activity.  Make new lists after you reassess if you want to keep you lists fresh!  I usually change my lists at the beginning of each quarter!

And last but not least, this strategy is SURE to impress your admins during a formal or informal evaluation.  It's well thought out, but easy to use "on the fly" too!

Want to use this tool?  Find the digital tool for FREE here!

The best thing about being a public school teacher when you send your kid to kindergarten is that you know what to expect.

The worst thing about being a public school teacher when you send your kid to kindergarten is that you know what to expect.

In light of recent public school tragedies, I'm terrified of public schools.

Based on peer pressure I know gets stronger every day, I'm terrified of public schools.

Based on the lack of play because of the pressure to perform on standardized tests, I'm terrified of public schools.

Most importantly, based on the lack of Jesus in public schools, I'm terrified of public schools.

But that lack of Jesus is one of the main reasons I'm sending my kid to public school kindergarten anyways.

We chose to keep Cooper at home for the first 5 years and 11 months of his life.  And that was intentional.  Research tells us that 80% of the brain is fully developed BEFORE entering kindergarten.  80%, ya'll.  As a teacher, I realized that meant that parents were truly the first teachers.

And as a parent, I realized that meant I had to decide how I was going to fill that 80%.  Was it academics? Play? Or something else?

In the end, the decision to keep our son home instead of sending him to formal preschool was a decision made out of conviction.

Because the fact is that I wanted to fill my son's 80% with what public school wouldn't fill the other 20% with (despite many Christian teachers who desperately wish they could do more).

I wanted to fill my son's 80% with what I felt mattered most:  Jesus.

So, from his earliest years, to the last 2 years I've been out of the classroom at home with him all day everyday, that's just what we've been doing.

We've helped Cooper form the habit of having his own personal Bible and prayer time in the mornings and family devotions at night.  And we've had the best conversations about God, eternity and the big--important--questions about life.  Questions that he'll be challenged with and asked in public schools.

We've listened to Bible songs, Christian radio, and worship songs in the car together.  We've sung hymns together at nap time.  Because we believe that "meaty" Christian songs--both old and new--are mobile theology for our child.  So, when he is playing legos in his room, and I hear him burst out in a worship song, my heart just melts.  Because, that's Biblical Truth that he can carry with him in his heart to public schools.

We've disciplined him using the Bible as our guidebook.  We've shared scriptures with him to help build a strong foundation with him as to why we discipline the way we do.  We've intentionally given him the why from God's Word because we believe it will not return void.  We believe that it's a light to his paths.  He's even asks to post some of the verses on his bathroom mirror like we do to read every day.

We've looked for hands on ways to serve others in our community.  We've trained him to use his eyes to look for needy people and then use his heart and his hands to love and serve those people.  And we've counseled him to do those things anonymously, without bragging, and with a humble spirit--so that only God gets the glory.

And while we would've done this regardless of our choice about preschool, having him home all the time has given us more time to instill Truth in him and strengthen his foundation.  It's allowed us to be 100% responsible for the 80% of brain development that is "on us" anyway.  Because my husband and I are the ones that will be held accountable for our son at the end of this life.  Not a preschool teacher.  Not a babysitter.  Not a grandparent.  But us--mom and dad.

So, why?  Why is it so important to us to build a strong foundation built on the Truth of Jesus before he starts kindergarten?

Because I'm terrified of public schools.

Yes, I realize my child could "get more Jesus" (or not...) if we sent him to private school or homeschooled.  But that's not our heart.   Because when Jesus was faced with where to go, he didn't choose people just like him to hang out with.  He didn't choose to just stay home.  He chose to go out and seek out the ones who needed him the most.

So, we've sent our baby boy into public schools terrified and excited all in one.

Terrified that he will be met with resistance for his beliefs and pressure to conform to others' morals.

But excited because we've spent the last 5 years and 11 months preparing him for this day and covering him in prayer.  We believe that his strong foundation in Jesus will continue to transform him to be the hands and feet of Jesus in public school.  To reach out and be a friend the lonely kid on the playground, to encourage the sad friend in the corner, and to pray with the hurting kids around him.

In short, we have purposefully wired 80% of his brain to be a light in the public schools mission field.  We are sending him out and have prepared him to GO.

So, GO, sweet boy.

Go and shine your light for Jesus in the darkness like we know you will!  We cannot wait to watch you shine bright for Him!

Early finishers.

The kids college didn't prepare me for.

I mean, when I wrote out my 30 minute lesson plan with 20 minutes of work time, student-teacher me fully expected all kids to be working exactly 20 minutes on my assignment, group project, whatever.

Boy, was I in for it the first time I taught a lesson.

You mean to tell me some kids will take 5 minutes to finish the assignment, some 10, some 15 minutes, some 45 minutes, and almost NO ONE will take my planned 20 minutes to finish the assignment???

THAT was a rude awakening!

10 years in the classroom later, and I learned exactly how to manage all of these different finish times.  I definitely didn't get it right the first year, but it was definitely closer by year 10.

When I Finish, I Can...

Somewhere into my first year teaching, I came up with an I can list for my early finishers.  And at first, it wasn't that great.  It basically said,

"When I finish, I a book."


But over the years, I found many more things to add to that list that I was comfortable with my early finishers doing and that would actually challenge them.

It's important to note that there are PLENTY more things that I could add to this list that would be STEM related and building challenges.  But one thing I've learned is that choices for early finishers need to be challenging and engaging, but also easy to clean up.  If it takes the early finishers three times as long to clean up a mess they got out just 5 minutes ago, it is instructional time wasted and defeats the point!

So to make it to my list for early finishers, it has to be engaging, challenging, and an easy clean up!

Let's look at 7 things to use for early finishers.

1. Unfinished Work

Okay, so this one isn't glamorous.  And it isn't necessarily engaging and challenging, but it is necessary.

In my classroom, unfinished work is always ALWAYS the first thing early finishers do.  Now, many of my early finishers don't have work that is unfinished because that's why they are early finishers.

But some of my early finisher friends are ones who...ya know... rush through writing because they don't like writing and do "just enough" in the messiest of ways to finish through.  And those kids often have work from other areas they need to finish.  And sometimes that's all the encouragement they need to actually go back and do their best work on their writing so they can actually get to the other, more "engaging" early finisher options! :) #realtalk

Each kid has a folder in his/her desk for unfinished work.  And unless that folder is empty, early finishers will camp out here.

2. Reading

Yep, you read that right.  Reading is still on my list.  Because there are plenty of kiddos out there who are engaged, challenged and on-task when their nose is in a book.  My own kid is one of those.  Give him a good book, and you won't hear from him for at least 30 minutes!

But reading isn't just about babysitting.

I always give my early finishers specific things to read for specific reasons:
  • familiar reading (like guided reading books, poetry folder, etc to practice fluency)
  • independent reading (like library books, books they've chosen on their independent reading level, etc.)
  • content reading (like books that are connected to our big idea in science or social studies)

Those content books are kept in a tub in our room for those early finishers to browse through and read.

So our early finisher chart says, "I can read to practice fluency" and "I can read to learn more about our big idea."

Adding purpose to their reading adds challenge and engagement.

3. Puzzles

The next thing I love to do is give puzzles.  This gives a choice for my math minded firsties!  I always have 100's chart puzzles on hand for kids to work on alone or with a partner.

These puzzles are easy prep, and can be changed throughout the year to add freshness, but with the same routine, so there is no need to teach how to do this over and over!

Also, when I return to the classroom, I would love to add a class puzzle!  This is an idea that came to me while I have been on mommy leave.  Our family loves having a puzzle going--especially during the winter!

I would love to have a table in our room devoted to a class puzzle with 100 pieces or more for kids to sit at and work on as they finish early.  What a great way to encourage collaboration, teamwork and logic all while engaging and challenging early finishers!  Plus, there's no need to clean it up until the puzzle is finished!

4. Handwriting

Handwriting always seems to get cut in my first grade classroom.  We have time for it the first few weeks and then once guided reading starts, handwriting goes! #realtalk

But that doesn't mean handwriting doesn't need work.  And many times, early finishers struggle the most with taking their time to write neatly. #amiright?

I actually got this idea from another teacher late in my teaching career.  We save extra handwriting practice pages from the beginning of the year and put them in a bucket.  Then, early finishers can go grab a page and they practice writing with a marker or crayon.

Because everyone knows that handwriting is way more fun with markers! :)

Later in the year, when we run out of pages, I just print some off from my handwriting packet and add to the tub as needed!

Truth Time:  Some of my early finisher friends, have this choice as a must before moving on, because they need the extra practice (and don't always want to choose to work on it!)

5. Journal Writing

This one has been on my early finishers chart from the beginning!  Sometimes, kids just finish writing from writers' workshop.

But I also have letter paper available.  Kids can write a private note to me about whatever they want (best way to get info on kids--ever!) or a note to a friend.  Notes are turned in to me and then I read them and deliver them to the other kids (after I make sure they are ok) as needed!

The notes that are written to me, I try and write a quick note back to those kiddos before I return them--which makes this choice super engaging for lots of attention seeking friends!

6. Board Games

Here's another one I plan to add when I return to the classroom: Board Games!  Over the last couple of years, I have learned how important specific board games can be in growing critical thinking skills and logic in our kids!  You can read more about that in this blog post.

Board games that encourage these important skills and are easy and quick to clean up are on my list!  For early finishers, I would prefer games that I can limit the players to 2 players only to help the noise level.  In my classroom early finishers always work alone or with one partner only just to help the management!

You can find my must have games for the classroom in this post and plenty of these are easy clean up and good for just 2 players!

7. Counting Collections

I just love counting collections.  And, yes, this is probably the one that's the most difficult to clean up quickly, but if managed correctly, can be done.

If you are unfamiliar with Counting Collections, start with this post and then meet me back here. :)

Now that we all know what Counting Collections is, we can all see how fabulous this could be for early finishers!  This is not one I had in my classroom (other than our regular CC routine), but I definitely plan to add it to my early finisher list when I return to the classroom after Mommy break!

Many counting tubs can be done quickly with an easy clean up.  Some can't.  So, you will need to be choosy about which tubs qualify for early finishers.

The best way to organize this is to have a separate shelf for early finisher Counting Collections.  I plan to have just 2-3 tubs or ziplock bags of seasonal items to count.  Things I'm thinking about that would be easy cleanup would be...

  • Seasonal Diecuts
  • Pop Cubes or other math manipulatives
  • Small Stickers - great for fine motor practice and easy to record counting

Of course, just like regular Counting Collections, students will need to record how they counted to extend their thinking!

Managing Early Finishers

From the first week of school, we have our early finishers chart posted in our room.  But it's not a complete chart.  It usually just starts out with reading only as a choice!  That's because that's one of the few things we know a routine for during the first week of school.

I'd be asking for it if I let kids play board games and puzzles the first week!

As the year progresses, we add unfinished work, handwriting, journal writing, and more "hands on" options later in the year!  For example, once our counting collections regular routine is strong and kids can handle it independently while I pull groups, then I know they are ready for it to be a choice for early finishers!

Want the early finisher chart I use?  Download it here!
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?
It's not just the students that enjoy getting new school supplies.

We teachers love a good cart full of fresh school supplies!  I love the smell of fresh crayons, the crisp corners of the crayon boxes, the sharp tips of pencils and the bright colors of cardstock and flair pens!  I don't know a single teacher that doesn't enjoy getting new supplies every year.

Here's my list of school supplies that every teacher should be shopping for before school starts!
{This post includes afflilate links}

1. Pre-Sharpened Pencils

I don't know why it took me almost 7 years to buy in to these things, but man was my teacher life better once I discovered pre-sharpened pencils.  There is nothing teachers loathe more than standing at the pencil sharpener for 28 hours a day sharpening pencils. #badmathintended

When I bought school supplies for my entire class instead of kids bringing their own, this was at the top of my list.  And when I moved schools and the kids brought their own supplies, this was STILL at the top of my list.  Those kids that bought the pre-sharpened pencils to add to our stash? Yeah, they were pretty much immediate teacher pets! :)

2. Pencil Sharpener

But, alas, even the pre-sharpened pencils dull up... #wompwomp  And when they are dull, raise your hand if you still use this guy?
Yeah, no one?  That's what I thought.  This ol' guy was one of the first things to get taken down in my room my first year teaching.  Not only was it in the most horrible spot EVER, but I just can't even deal with the squeaks and squawks that go along with this guy. #realtalk

So, when my kids do have to sharpen pencils (I have a helper that does it every afternoon for me during our afternoon stack and pack time!), I love using this battery powered sharpener.  I don't have to worry about where to put it, and if my helper is still sharpening after our stack and pack time when we read aloud our chapter book at the end of the day, she can take the sharpener in the hallway to finish or in a quieter corner of the room!  Word to the wise though: I buy an extra one every year because every now and then one just dies on me.  Doesn't happen every year, but it's good to have an extra just in case!

3. Cardstock

Not much makes me happier than fresh, crisp cardstock arranged by color in my cabinets.  It's pretty much my happy place.  Astrobrights cardstock and colored paper are must haves on my list!  The only complaint I have is that I can never find a packet that has ALL the rainbow colors included!  Why do we always leave out purple?!? I need a complete rainbow, please!

4. Flair pens

My most favorite thing to write with.  Ever.  I love all the colors and I love that the ink doesn't leak and gel up like regular pens. #grossesmeouteverytime

My favorite part is using them for records and color coding.  I use a different color for each quarter on my report cards.  And I use different colors each time I do a running record to keep my records from running together!  See what I did there? :)

5. Colored Sticky Notes

Yes, I could use the banana yellow sticky notes my school keeps in the office for us, but what fun is that?  I'd much rather buy packs of bright color stickies that get the "ooooohs" and "awwwwws" out of my firsties!  We love using them to color code our class graphs, to respond to our books during guided reading, and to spell with color coded sticky notes during phonics!  I usually several packs of these to last me through the year!

Of course, I love writing odds and ends on bright sticky notes, but these are my absolute favorite for organizing guided reading.

They are slick like plastic and last the entire year...even through all of our flexible grouping switches and such.  Plus, I can color code them to match my color reading groups. #winning

6. Dry Erase Markers

I refuse to live in a world where only black, red, blue and green dry erase markers exist.  Since dry erase markers are my main squeeze for anchor chart drawing and writing, I have to have color.

I buy 2 packs of these colored markers every year and they last me all year.  Some years, I luck out and have enough left over that I only have to buy 1 more packet!

Even with my interactive whiteboard becoming my main source for number talks, calendar math, writers' workshop model lessons, and more, I still use dry erase markers enough to make this a must have purchase in my book!

7. Laminator

Am I the only teacher that loves to laminate?  From the smell to the warm film to the crisp edges when I cut it...I love every bit of it!

Having my own small laminator in my classroom was a life saver!  I still laminated things on our large school laminator, but when I didn't feel like booking it all the way to the library or was in a time crunch, this small laminator was PERFECTION!  The laminator is still going strong almost 6 years later and a pack of 100 thermal sheets was enough to make it through an entire school year for me (and sometimes longer!)

8. Paper Cutter

Last but not least is a paper cutter!  I bought mine as soon as I was hired for my first teaching job.  I learned from my mentor when I was interning that it's just not worth the walk down the hall to use a paper cutter you may have to wait in line for...and that is probably going to be dull and add those fuzzy edges to your cut.  You know what I'm talking about!  That's a major sad face situation for this girl.  I had my own and it stayed sharp and crisp enough all 10 years for me...and my teacher buddies loved coming to borrow my paper cutter too! :)

What's on your must have list of teacher school supplies?

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