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:)

Any primary teacher that has attempted to teach their beloved students how to solve word problems, has surely encountered the Word Problem Woes.

You know the look, that deer in the headlights, have no idea what is going on, "I'm lost Mrs. Ebersole" look. Teaching students how to solve word problems in 1st grade is not an easy task. In fact, the students' ability to solve word problems relies heavily on the students ability to comprehend the words or the situation in the word problem.

Take for example this word problem:

This is an example of one of the word problems I give to my students to start our day as a warm-up. 

I incorporate word problems throughout the entire year as a warm-up. We also work on word problems throughout the year in small group instruction. 

At the beginning of the school year, I introduce my expectations for our warm-ups and solving word problems. I explain to them that everyday I will read the word problem to them (the important thing is for them to be able to solve the word problems, not read them). I also explain to them that they can use any method I teach them to solve the word problems. As the weeks pass, I introduce different ways and tools to solve the word problems. We use number lines, hundreds charts, manipulatives (counters), draw pictures, as well as I continuously model how to solve the more difficult word problems I see them struggling to successfully solve.

So given the word problem above, many of my students would right away want to add 8 + 2.  As I walk around the room, as they are solving, even if I see the majority of them solving it incorrectly, I still give them about 5-7 minutes to work through the problem. I re-read the problem quite a few times for the students who need that repeated direction or extra processing time.

After giving the students a few minutes to solve, I then ask 2 questions. The first thing I ask is, what is this problem asking us to solve? Many students don't even hear what I said, they just want to spew out the answer. I will then repeat myself, and say PLEASE LISTEN--WHAT IS THIS PROBLEM ASKING US TO SOLVE? Sometimes I even have to re-read the problem because they are unsure what the problem is asking them to solve.  Then someone will finally say, "it wants us to find how many hearts Jada can cut out." And I may clap or I may do a cheer, but either way, I make a big deal that they understood what the problem is asking of us.

The 2nd question I ask them, with EVERY word problem, is what do we know? Meaning when we read this problem, what do we know about what is happening. Of course in the word problem above, the answer I am looking for is "We know that each piece of paper can be made into 8 hearts, AND we also know that Jada has 2 pieces of paper". 

So after we review those 2 questions What is this problem asking us to solve, and what do we know---I then will give them some more think time (if needed).  This gives the students the chance to go back and check their work, or go back and start over and change their work and answer. 

I will then ask students, what answer did you get? I'll have a few students share, after each one stating their answer, I'll ask their peers, do you agree or disagree? Thumbs up or down? After giving me their answer, I'll have them tell me how they solved. Some students prefer to draw a picture, some prefer number lines, others prefer hands on manipulatives.

With the word problems that I see quite a few students struggle on, I will model how to solve. Like in the word problem shown above, I would draw the 2 pieces of paper that Jada had, and I will draw 8 hearts on each piece of paper. And with some word problems, I may model various ways to solve it. 

I encourage my students to really think about the word problem and what it's asking us to solve. We focus on the things we know that are happening in the word problem, and we go from there. I have found this way to be very successful for the students in my classroom. Many of them struggle with comprehension, so breaking it down into smaller chunks is key to their success.

If you are interested in checking out my word problem sets, I have them currently available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store, or you can click the images below!
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/February-Word-Problem-Warm-Ups-Printables-1OA1-2940341 https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Word-Problems-Addition-and-Subtraction-NO-PREP-Printables-1722883

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