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So close reading has been a hit in the literacy classroom at least for the last 5 years since I have been teaching. Students have shown great gains when taught to closely read their text. So why not take those same strategies and apply them to teaching students to tackle word problems with closely reading them!

I teach STEM to two wonderful groups of students. When we first reviewed solving word problems at the beginning of the year, they got it. However, when we started to dabble in multi-step word problems, it's like we were attempting to solve ancient Roman hieroglyphics. I found that they just weren't paying attention to what was going on in the problem. They saw numbers and then a keyword and assumed they should add and be done. The other problem I noticed was the lack in effort to check their work. I would say, did you check your work, they would look into the distance and respond YEP! Insert eye roll here, it's ok, that's how I felt too!! I was ready to give up!

So, thinking about how we teach to closely read a text, I thought perhaps this would work for my students! Fingers were crossed anyway!

The first day I introduced this I had all the kids come to the rug and we explicitly discussed each of the 5 steps to Math Close Reading. So first step is the students are going to read the math problem and describe it in their own words. It is important here that they are describing the actions, not necessarily the amounts in the word problem. For example, if the word problem were "Perry had 45 baseball cards. His mom got him 24 at the store and then he gave 32 to his sister Lyndsey. How many cards does Perry have now?'  You would model explaining this in your own words by saying 'Perry had a lot of baseball cards, mom got him some more, but then he gave some to his sister, and now I have to figure out how many he has now?' The focus is not on the numbers, but on what is truly happening in the text.

Step 2, the students are going to re-read the word problem, pick out any important details (such as amounts or words that indicate to add or subtract), circle anything that doesn't make sense and fill out the do/what chart. I have to say, I stole the idea of the do/what chart from a brilliant ELA teacher at my school. In a do/what chart, the students reads the text and writes a word (action word on the do side) and then writes what they are going to do (on the what side) because of that word. So in the example I gave in the paragraph above, I would write 'Mom got' on the do side and then I would write add on the what side. To figure out this step of the word problem you have to add, and you know to add because of the act of Mom giving him 24 more cards. I would also write 'gave 32' on the do side and 'subtract' on the what side, because to figure out this step of the word problem you would have to subtract because of Perrys' act of giving his sister 32 cards.  At this point while students are working, I circulate the room, to make sure that no one has circled anything that they don't understand--and if they do have questions I am available to help them with those.

Step 3, the students re-read for a 3rd read, to make sure they completely understand and didn't miss anything important. Once they've read it again, they will then start the process of solving. I let them use whichever method I've taught to tackle the addition and subtraction. Then I have them write their explanation to go with their work, so they are practicing writing out their thinking--and this also helps them as they are looking over their work to write about it--to catch any mistakes they may have made.

Step 4, I have them share/tell/show a partner their work. In a perfect world, the person sitting next to them would be their partner, but since they all work at different paces, getting done the same time as the person sitting next to them does not normally happen. So as they get done, they stand and look around the room for another student who is standing looking, and then they share/tell/show their work with them. When we first starting sharing/showing to a partner, I felt like my students were not taking it as serious---so when I told them they would be given a grade for their partners' work--they were much more invested (even though that's not what I did). 

Step 5, the final step is that the students need to go back and check their work. So often they are quick to jump up and say "I'M DONE!" without ever truly checking their answer. 

Each day we did a word problem and then when everyone was finished, I would pull it up on the projector to go over with the students. Each day I modeled the steps to close reading the math problem, and by the end of the week, the students made tremendous gains! They are finally starting to understand! We are going to continue working with the math close reading, as I am planning on incorporating it as a daily warm-up!

If you would like to try math close reading in your class room with the printables and layout I used, you can find it here:

Another strategy I snatched up from my literacy teacher counterparts was CONFERENCING! I have found the power in meeting with a student and setting personal goals for them to work on has kept them focused and determined to achieve their goals! 
And you can find the conferencing sheet HERE for free! As always, any questions, suggestions, or comments, email me at mwhitt613@gmail.com


Teaching in December is hard! I know, I'm preaching to the choir, but boy oh boy! Competing with the possible first snow, Christmas lists, their elf on the shelves, and Santa is nearly impossible! The kids are checked out, and where I teach the students have 20 days of instruction in December. So as much as I'd like to just say let's just try to get through December, why not use those things that distract our students--and use them for our advantage!

So in our 2nd grade classroom, we have an elf. Our elf is named Lucie. I teach math and science and my counter-part teaches reading and writing, and her elf is Tinsel. This past Thursday, our elves went missing and left this envelope for the students--you can get your copy here! The students were upset that Lucie and Tinsel were not there for the day, but were super EAGER to find out exactly what these riddles the elves left them were all about!

So each riddle has a it's own printable for the students to show their work. For the example shown in these pictures above--the riddle is "What kind of music do elves like best?" The answer is "wrap music"-which is 9 letters. So the students have 9 clues a.k.a. task cards with math problems to solve. Once all the task cards or math problems are solved, they use their CRACK THE CODE- CODE BREAKER to see which letters are associated with each number. This also helps children go back and check their work if their answer doesn't make sense! I had a student say, Mrs. Ebersole, this answer to the riddle doesn't make sense, and I said well the letter that doesn't fit MUST BE WRONG!! Go check your work!!

So I didn't want all my kiddos working on the same riddle, because, well naturally 2nd graders tend to cheat! So I got a little creative with it! I had 7 total elf riddles. I partnered my students with purposeful partners (a higher level students with a lower level student). Each riddle I made a red and green set. So like for the example above--I had a red group and a green group working on What kind of music do elves like best. They were competing against each other to correctly solve the problems in the fastest time. Each elf riddle was differentiated as well. The easiest had 8 problems to solve, or 9, or 10, 11, 12, or 23 (which was the hardest and took those students over an hour to solve all the problems). And then I had all the green teams together, tracking their total times and all the red teams total together tracking their time. When we were finished, the partnership that had the fastest time got to pick a GoNoodle brainbreak, and then the winning team (the green team) all got an extra sticker for their sticker charts (these are our classroom economy system that works for us!)
For being the middle of December, I have to say I was super excited with how well this activity went! The students were super engaged and LOVED the riddles! All the math talk that was happening was so awesome as well!! You can download a PREVIEW with 2 Elf Riddles---FREEBIE ELF RIDDLES or you can get the complete set:

So if you've ever played BINGO with your students, well, you know already know it can get loud. But don't tune me out just yet! 

I know, loud can = chaos. BUTTTTTTTT, they LOVE it!!

Those loud, chaotic moments are the moments they remember! The reasons they look forward to coming to see you each and every day. And the moments they miss when they've moved onto the next grade level! 

So now that I have your attention, your next thought or question may be, well how do I make BINGO work for what I am teaching. 

So, BINGO can work for anything you are teaching, really! Place Value, math facts, expanded form, skip counting, and I'm listing all math activities because I am teaching only math and science this year, but I know you can do a lot of reading activities with BINGO as well.

My kiddos even love BINGO so much that they ask to play it during indoor recess, instead of doing Gonoodle, watching a magic school bus, or even playing games. 

Something else with BINGO, kiddos love using emoji erasers from Five Below! I think I got a GIANT pack for $3. Or you could trade out the seasonal $1 mini-erasers Target always has!

Wanna try it for free?! Why not, you don't have anything to lose!


Many students are able to route count long before they enter the school system. However, every once in a while there may be a student or two that enters your classroom that counting was something they've never been introduced to. Or maybe for one reason or another they are just unable to. 

There are a few students in my classroom this year who had not yet mastered counting. Some of them could count to 10, but they didn't understand and hadn't yet grasped the concept of one-to-one correspondence. Meaning when counting a group of objects, and prompted to tell me how many, they would count one, two, three, etc and not count each actual object. 

Once they had the route counting down, we practiced touching and counting each object. They became bored with counting and counting and counting. So I wanted to make it fun for them, so I came up with the idea of Color and Count! I currently have this Freebie available:


Each page has a color key with 5 different objects for the students to color, and then count. This has helped my students feel successful at counting, while doing something they enjoy-coloring!

First grade is such a monumental year. So many new skills these young learners acquire, in reading and math, and the opportunity to watch first grade students grow is something I don't ever plan on changing!! 

I have taught 1st grade for the past 4 years. This year I have 1st and 2nd graders, so it's been a little bit different than in years past. I also only teach math to two groups of kiddos. I share these kiddos with my teammate that teaches them reading and writing. 

So one of the most IMPORTANT skills in math in first grade is comprehending place value. Without a solid base of understanding place value, it is really hard to move past that and build on it.

This week we have been working on place value. My highest group of kiddos have been working on adding within 100. 

We start out the lesson by reviewing the I can statement and focus poster. Both these hang on the clothes line that is directly above my small group table. I teach my math lesson based off what the students needs within a small group setting. I find that hanging these up on the clothesline is convenient and practical!

My students have really connected with using base ten blocks to build two digit numbers, as well as solve a 2 digit number plus a multiple of 10. Even when playing these spin and add games, my students used the base ten blocks to successful help them out.

These games are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store, you can find them by clicking HERE! You can also find the I can poster and focus wall poster for 1.NBT.4 HERE :)
Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!!

With it being the infamous Dr. Seuss week, and me being a primary school teacher, doctor Seuss' birthday doesn't go by without mention. My dilemma being that I teach Math, but yet wanted to read one of his books.

I was in Target checking out the other day, and they had many different Dr. Seuss titles, but when I saw Ten Apples up on Top I thought of an activity for the kiddos to do to go with the text!

After reading the story we discussed how each page an animal added another apple trying to out-do the other animals. I teach 2 different classes of math, so I differentiate this activity by having my one class write equations with different color apples, and my other class count and label the apples stacked on top of their head in their picture.

Kiddos love Dr. Seuss and I didn't want them to miss out on it in my room just because I teach math. I love integrating fun read-alouds into our math lessons! They enjoyed it as well!

What fun activities did you do in your classroom to celebrate Dr. Seuss and his birthday?

You know it never gets easier. Call me Debbie Downer, or Negative Nelly, but it's the truth, watching our babies grow, it is sooo bittersweet. I am getting ready to return to work after having my fifth and final baby, after 75 days of being able to stay home. It has been amazing. Like parts of me wish I could stay home. I made lunches daily for my older school children, I made these wonderful meals at night, my house has been clean, my toddler and I have played games and done crafty things! I mean really, real-life, this kinda stuff doesn't happen when I'm working, which makes me feel like a terrible mother, but it's the truth! But I have truly enjoyed my time off.

And even though I know when I return to work I won't be making meatloaf on school nights, or vacuuming my living room daily, I know that my babies will be loved. They know I love them, and if there is one thing I've always done that is to make time for them. We talk about their days. We laugh about funny things that have happened. Sometimes we even get a pick up game(baseketball) in before dinner. I come to their games and baton competitions and parades and concerts and cheer them on. I pick them up from practices. I help them with their homework. I make sure they brush their teeth (although not nearly enough I'm sure). I make sure their clothes are clean. I make sure we have food in the house (even those not so healthy treats they love, along with fruits and healthier choices, of course ha ;). I sing to them at bedtime and we pray every night. My children know that I love them. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't tell them each MANY times how much they are loved. And I'm sure you are the same way, you do many things for your own children. Thank you for raising your children in a loving home :)

I always knew I wanted to teach. It was something that was bigger than me. Even after dropping out of college, getting pregnant, fighting all the odds of being a single mom, getting married, having 2 more kiddos, I earned my bachelors and masters degree and got my certification to teach. I truly believe I was put on this Earth to teach. 

And teaching in today's world is so much more than teaching fractions or poetry or chemistry. I mean yes, of course, we all have curriculum we have to teach our students, but we teach so much more than that. Students come to us from broken homes, they may be unwanted or feel unwanted, they may have no concept of how to act socially, or how to handle their emotions. Our students may come to school without food in their homes, or even without homes. They may have different last names than their family members, they may be being raised by no one they are related to. They may have seen things you or I couldn't even imagine. They may have dealt with loss, more loss than a child should even deal with. They may smile while hiding a closet full of secrets. I choose to teach to reach these babies, even if it's just 1 baby a year. I choose to teach to make sure that 1 student that needs to feel loved, feels it, and knows it.

Those who stumble upon this post that aren't in the education field, please know, and don't judge me, that I do love my own children. BUT I know that the children put in my classroom also need me, and I love them as well. And that's what keeps me in this profession. 

Thank you teaching mommas (and teaching daddys) who choose to stay in our profession and teach. With behavior issues, parental issues, administration issues, curriculum issues, testing issues, and all the other issues, THANK YOU for continuing to not only raise your own children in a loving home, but also help raise your students in a loving classroom :) YOU are making a difference in our world, and the future is truly in our classrooms. 

P.S. Thank you for reading, this was more of a pep-talk for myself, but hopefully it helps other teaching parents as well:)

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