Monday, March 17, 2014

Let's Grow a Magic Creature!!

So what is a magic creature??  Well...These super-slurping, water-absorbing creatures are made out of a special chemical called a superabsorbent polymer, or hydrogel. You can think of this as millions of sponges that absorb water.

You can pick these fun creatures up at Dollar General, Wal-Mart, Target, or online. They are usually in the dollar sections or toy sections. 

So...where do you start??

·         It's important to gather data as you go!  Make sure you measure before you start and then set up a routine of measuring every day or every other day.  One of the easiest ways to take measurements is to place the growing creature on a piece of graph paper and trace around it. Simply count the squares to determine the size of the creature.  You can also use measuring tape (like in the picture from Mrs. Ward’s class) to measure the growing creature.  Kinders also need to see it measured with cubes since they can relate to them so well!  

·         Fill a huge plastic tub or aquarium with room temperature water. Do not use hot water because it will make the growing creature break up into tiny pieces. Some people even have better results using distilled water. GROWING TIP: Change the water each day for the first few days. I’m not sure if it's the fresh water aspect or the fact that you're adding more water that activates the growing??  It works - so try it!
·         It is fun to watch the creatures grow for the first 24 hours... but don't be disappointed if it's not huge. It takes a full week for the creature to get really big. After 24 hours, remove the creature from the water and carefully dry them off with a paper towel. Take measurements and record your data.  The Giant Growing Creatures should grow to at least 3 times their original size and reach their maximum size after 7 days. Your students will be dying to see how much it has grown! 

·         Be sure to name the creature... because you can't just call it "creature."
·         Will the Creature Shrink? - Yes! Just leave your giant creature in the container without water and allow the moisture in the creature to evaporate. It might take a very long time to shrink depending on how humid your climate is. Be sure to have the students keep a record of how much the creature shrinks each day.

So...what does it look like? 

The first picture is of Mrs. Ward and one of her students from Brilliant Elementary.  They built a cube tower to match how long their creature had grown and then compared it to an earlier tower. 


The next picture is a close up of their data chart.  Her students loved growing a magic creature!!

You can tie literacy and science into this measurement activity by adding a book about the magic creature you selection. So what are you waiting for??  Grow a magic creature with your students!! They will love it!!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Let's Get Groovy with Rekenreks!

Introducing Rekenreks:
Yea, Yea!  I finally found the time to complete a comprehensive packet on rekenreks!  So for those of you not familiar with this crazy named item...they are nothing more than arithmetic racks that were designed by a Dutch mathematician.  The rekenrek is a great visual model for developing number sense of 5, 10, and 20 (if using the double racks). They also support the strategy approach to learning. 
This packet contains over 50 flashcards, two rekenrek games, journal pages, story problems, rekenrek handwriting booklet, multiple blank pages for journaling or building with real beads. Click the picture to find out more and see a preview!  If your one of my AMSTI teachers, you know what to do...just an email!
There is a great packet of free ideas and lesson on introducing rekenreks in your classroom from The Math Learning Center.  It can be found here:

Making / Buying Rekenreks:
There are some great rekenreks out on the market but you can also just make a set.  The ones I purchased for my classroom were found at They are super quality and shipped fast.   If you want to go a little cheaper, K-5 Math Teaching Resources has easy step by step instructions on how to make a class set.  You can find the directions here:

Mechelle Thomas from Rogersville Elementary emailed me her wonderful creation!  She found the whiteboards in the dollar section at Target and had her husband drill the holes.  She completed the rekenreks using yarn and pony beads. BOOM she has an awesome class set.  Theses are great because the kiddos can use Expo markers to make number sentences right under the rekenreks! 

**My best advice is to be sure and make or buy the rekenreks with at least two
    rows.  This allows for a much greater instruction and range.**
How to Start:
  1. Allow the students time to explore and “play” with the rekenreks so they will be ready to work when you are.
  2. I use red and green dots on the ends of my rekenreks to help students use them the correct way.  The green is the start side…meaning we slide from that side and the red is where the beads stop.  Students should slide beads beginning with the red ones first.  A rekenrek is read just like a book left to right.

    3.  Start with small numbers 5 and under and encourage students to move the  beads in groups and not one by one.  Increase until they can move 5 (all the red) at one time all the way up to moving 10, 15, and 20.  A later goal would be to move beads for numbers like 8 which would be 5 red and 3 white in one group and not one by one.
Adding White Boards:
When students are ready…add a white board by having them place the rekenrek at the top and then write a matching number sentence below.  Great way to practice writing numbers, understanding order of operation, and constructing number sentences.
EEEKKK.....I just love Rekenreks!  Hope you have as much fun as I'm having!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Counting Collections Part 2

Since last blogging on counting collections (you can read that post here), I realized it was hard for me to give my teachers all the information they would need to get started while visiting with them.  Distractions in the classroom, interruptions, etc...always get in the way.  I decided it would be nice to have an easy go to guide for running counting collections in the classroom.  I also added some ideas on variations, assessments, and organizational tools from my experiences out in the classroom.  You can click on the picture below to see more about the packet in my TPT store. 

Great Give Away Jan. 31st!! 
3 lucky winners will win this packet!! Just become a follower of my blog and leave a comment with your email below! Easy!

Here are some additional pictures of my collection set-up.

Let me know if you count collections in your classroom and what you do to make it fun!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Teaching Through Board Games...Oh My!!

I have always loved games and played them often when growing up.  Now that my daughter has turned 5, I am seeing the real value in these games and the impact they can have!  I have become a firm believer that board games should be a part of the K-2 classroom. 

Just by playing them, board games can teach important social skills like communicating verbally, sharing, waiting, taking turns, and enjoying interaction with others. Board games foster the ability to focus, and can lengthen attention span by encouraging the completion of a game.
Research suggest that as children approach 5, they have more sophisticated thinking skills and can begin to incorporate and exercise their number, letter, and word knowledge in literacy-based games. By 6, children may prefer more cognitively challenging games like checkers or connect four, which require and help develop planning, strategy, persistence, and critical thinking skills.

Board games teach children a number of valuable skills, the most basic of these is counting. Almost all board games require at least some number recognition and, especially for younger kids, encourage the ability to count. A die is the most basic of board game equipment and rarely do they just have the number printed on the faces.  Most dice included with board games are six-sided and rely on dots that your child will have to count (or hopefully can subitize) in order to play the game. 

Here are a few that my daughter and I love:

These can easily be put in stations or used on a Friday afternoon as a fun time.  Send home a note to parents about even donating a game for your classroom.  I bet you would be surprised at how many come rolling in.  Playing games is such a vital part of growing up and learning.  Everyone in our society could use a good dose of being a good winner and loser!  What are you waiting for....start gaming!!

Please comment with any wonderful games you currently use in the classroom or at home!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cyber Monday

Yea for a sale!!  TPT is holding a great sale for cyber Monday.  I also have everything in my store 20% off so you save 28% off your purchase!  Don't forget to add the promo code: CYBER before checking out.  It's a great time to get those products you have been wanting.  Click the banner below to visit my store!  Happy shopping!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Recognizing Numbers

Why or why do K kids still have trouble this far in the school year recognizing and writing their numbers?  Core has them writing their numbers to 20 and for some students it seems to be an impossible task!  I have decided to develop a little jewel that I hope will help with the first step to writing numbers...knowing what they look like!!  I made it into a seek and find type of activity where the students have a target number and then try to recognize that number among other numbers.  I have posted a free preview of the product that you can try out.  The whole set to 20 is also available if you want it.  Remember...if your an AMSTI teacher, it's yours free just ask!  Click the first picture to visit my TPT store and grab your free copy!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 the word for this post!!

Hi all!
Whew...I have been busy this past month out in schools!  I really love my job because I get to see all different styles of teaching and ideas!  It is amazing what our kindergarten teachers are doing out in the schools!  Wow! I am just blown away sometimes.  I wish all of you could just travel with me for one day and see what is really going on in our schools.  This post will be full of some neat and free things...I hope you find the ideas useful in your own classroom! 

This first freebie is a sheet I made to use in stations, small groups, or to even send home for parents to play.  It is Roll and Cover...I'm sure you have seen different versions of this game everywhere!  The download includes one mat that is programed for adding two dice together and I also provide a blank version that you can level either down by only using numbers 1-6 for one die or up by using three dice that the students would have to add together before finding the number to cover.
 Click on the picture to grab your free copy.  It looks even better printed in black/white.  Please rate it if you choose to download it.  Have fun!

This next freebie is from one of my very talented teachers...Marisa Frederick!  She is offering this in her TPT store and it is on sale right now! 
Click the picture to see it! Also check out her blog at:
The last freebie is a website full of educational apps.  Some are free and others are paid.  It has a wealth of ideas and is from our technology in motion person here in north Alabama. Check it out!
I hope the rest of your week is fabulous!! 
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