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Valentine's Day Actvities and FREE Printables

Oh the joys of Valentine's Day in the classroom! It's such a fun holiday, but sugar + kids = chaos.
First thing this morning we had our Cub Coaching.  Each adult in our building (classroom teachers, teaching assistants, secretaries, special area teachers, etc.) is assigned a small group of "cubs." (Our school mascot is a lion.)  Our cub group is a combination of students from every grade level that we meet with 5 times a year for 30 minutes just to get to know each other, check in, and do some type of activity.  The theory behind this is that since we are such a large school (over 600 students) having these cub groups allow the students to have another familiar adult in the building.  These groups stay the same every year (5th graders are replaced with new Kindergarteners), so we follow these students through their years at our elementary school.
The biggest challenge is trying to think of activities for some a large range of students.  I decided to have my cubs see how tall they could make a tower out of Conversation Hearts.
In all honesty, I figured that the students would just start stacking them up on top of each other and make one big column.  However, they were SO creative!
Later on in the day, this was turned into a measurement lesson with my 1st graders.
They had a lot of fun!
Another fun activity that we did this morning that is perfect for all age ranges, is a heart tearing contest.
The students had to hold a piece of paper behind their backs and try to tear out a heart.
Some of them turned out pretty good.
We also had our Valentine's Day party this afternoon. (Go ahead and be jealous...we have a four day weekend.)
If you are in need of some last minute Valentine's Day printables, here are some ideas.
You can download all of these for FREE by heading over to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

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Tips for Teaching Fact Fluency

I am sure that I don't need to tell you the importance of fact fluency for your young students, but I will anyways.
"Lack of automatic recall is a problem as children advance into the middle and later elementary grades, because the need to rely on laborious counting procedures creates a drain on mental resources needed to learning more advanced mathematics." (Spear-Swerling 2006)
 Think about how often you use addition and subtraction in your life.  It is definitely a lifelong skill.  Our particular math program does not focus much on fact memorization, so we constantly have to find ways to supplement in this area.  I wanted to share some tips for teaching math facts.
The important thing to remember is that children really need a basic understanding of how addition and subtraction works before you start focusing on fact fluency.  If your students do not understand why 3+2=5, then they are not ready to start memorizing their math facts.  These students still need to work on basic number sense and one to one matching with manipulatives.
Use games to keep things fresh and interesting.  I love using games in my classroom.  If students are having fun while learning, they will be more engaged and much more likely to remember what they learned.
You can find fact fluency games in my Addition Fluency packet and my Subtraction Fluency packet.  (I also have a combo packet HERE.)  These are great for partner work or small group work.
The more hands-on my students can be the better.  I love to get them up out of their seats and working with other students.  Games are a great way to review skills or to fill those extra minutes that you have in the day.  I always have plenty of games copied and ready to go.  Whenever I see a need for a change of pace, I can grab a game out of my drawer, and we are ready to practice our learning.

Use manipulatives as much as possible.  Students want to get their hands on things.  I use manipulatives in math as often as possible.
Use technology to practice fact fluency.  We go to the computer lab at school once a week, so we have the ability to use the computers for math fact games.  If you have access to tablets in your classroom (I do not) there are some fantastic math fact apps.
It is important to remember that students will learn their math facts at their own pace.  It is impossible to believe that everyone in your classroom should learn all of their +2's one week, +3's the following week, and so on.  Just like anything else, students will learn them at different times.
While learning math facts is extremely important, it is NOT the sole determiner of whether or not a child is good at math.  Some students excel at memorization, while others excel at the higher order thinking portions of math.  Just because a child may be struggling with memorizing their math facts, do not assume that they will struggle with all areas of math.
Most importantly, make learning math facts FUN.
You can find these activities in my Addition and/or Subtraction Fluency packets.
Another simple idea is to change out a Candy Land game to practice fact fluency.  Just write a math fact on each card.  The player must say the answer before moving on the board.
Another fun idea is to have students take turns drawing flash cards from a stack, saying the answer, and then putting them in order from 1-10.  The first player to get all numbers from 1-10 is the winner.
We also love playing Addition Top-It, which is basically the card game War.  Each player turns over two cards and adds the numbers.  The player with the higher sum is the winner of that round and gets all four cards to add to their pile.
Another idea is to write math facts on popsicle sticks.  You can add a star, frowning face, sticker, etc. to some of the sticks.  Players will take turns pulling out sticks and saying the answers.  If a players pulls a stick with a picture, they have to put all of their sticks back into the container.
What are your favorite ways to practice fact fluency?
Want to check out my Addition and Subtraction Fact Fluency packets?  Click on the pictures below.

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Dealing with a Loss

{*Disclaimer...this is not at all teaching related.}
I have gone back and forth about a million times of whether or not to write this post.  It is not teaching related at all, but ultimately I decided that my blog is an archive, and this is someone that I want to remember forever.
My high school best friend passed away two weeks ago.  She tragically died in an avalanche while skiing in Jackson Hole. 
We first met in Kindergarten.  We did gymnastics together our whole lives, and then added cheerleading, diving, and track to the mix in middle school and high school.  She was a free spirit that lived life to the fullest.  She was always up for trying something new and exciting. 
This quote truly sums up her life.  This is a picture of her doing her infamous yoga pose that she would do everywhere. 
She never sat still for long, and she was always the life of the party. 
She traveled the world and truly made friends with everyone she met.  She had a heart of gold and a smile that could light up the darkest room.  She was hilarious, smart, kind, and outgoing.  She lived more life in her 36 years than most people will ever live.
I could tell stories about her all day long, but I shared my favorite one during her eulogy at her funeral on Monday.  When she was working on her doctorate at Northwestern in Chicago, my husband and I went to visit her.  She introduced us to her friend, a homeless man that lived on the streets of Chicago.  While most people would shy away from the homeless, she befriended him and got to know him as a person.  She would bring him her leftovers, and eventually even took him to his doctor's appointments. 
She touched so many lives and made the world a better place.  She will be missed by so many people!  In light of this tragedy, I have learned to LIVE LIFE to its FULLEST!  If you want to do something or go somewhere, find a way to make it happen.  No one is guaranteed tomorrow.  Do what makes you happy!
Her tagline was to #grablife and she definitely did that up to her last breath. 
 She will never be forgotten and will live forever in my heart.

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Our 100th Day of School

Monday was our 100th Day of School.  I meant to share these pictures on Monday night, but life threw a huge curveball at me and it's been a really rough week.
I decided to break my students up into 4 groups after some inspiration from my friend Cara at The First Grade Parade.  I had them complete 100 day themed activities at each station. 
 We made gumball machines at one of our stations.  I bought a package of paint dobbers and my students put 100 dots on their paper plates.  Then, they filled in the bottom of their gumball machine.
It was definitely challenging for a couple of them to keep track of how many gumballs they had made.  We talked about how to organize ourselves when doing this project.  For example, make 10 green dots, then 10 yellow dots, etc.  You can grab the free gumball machine download by clicking HERE.
One of their favorite stations, which again, I found on The First Grade Parade, was the cup station.  I placed 100 red solo cups on the carpet and let them work together to build away.  They LOVED it!
Another group worked on 100 day necklaces that we bought from Really Good Stuff.
At the last station, I placed 100 pattern blocks in bags.  Each student at the station had their own bag to create whatever they wanted.
Later on in the day, we completed activities from my 100 Day Booklet.  You can click on the picture below to check it out.
Happy 100th day!
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