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WHEW! You made it to December and students and teachers alike are exhausted! Let me help you plan a socially-distanced party for your classroom, a Zoom party, or a Google Meet party! No matter if you are celebrating the end of 2020 virtually or in-person, you can have a memorable day with your beloved students. You can also snag printable lists of ideas to share with your co-workers!

The Top Ways to Celebrate Classroom Parties

You have had a hard year. Your students have too! 

Celebrate the end of 2020 in style with these fun classroom party ideas.

Zoom Party Ideas for the Classroom 

Are you able to mail something to your students? Do you have students picking up supplies, materials, and resources? 

You can grab something individually wrapped and send it to your students to have a special treat during your meeting!
  • Drink hot cocoa together
  • Eat popcorn
  • Send home or deliver a “party-in-a-bag” (popcorn, cocoa, bingo card, craft materials, candy cane, or other goodies/activities to use on party day)

Want to keep it hassle-free, friend? 

Here's a few dress-up and dress-down ideas and activities that you can do on a virtual meeting:
  • Wear pajamas 
  • Wear fancy clothes
  • Dance to music
  • Play Simon Says or Dance and Freeze 
  • Bring a stuffed animal for story time
  • Do a directed drawing 

Socially-Distanced Party Ideas for the Classroom

Want to spread some good cheer this holiday season? I can't think of a better way than to:
  • Make cards for family or nursing/senior living facility 

You'll need to deliver or mail the cards to the facility. It's a little job for you but will bring so much joy to this community who has been affected so deeply this year. It will also spread the message of gift GIVING too!

Here's some more ideas that you might like:
  • Do a craft or craftivity
  • Watch a movie
  • Decorate cookies
  • Play games
    • Bingo
    • Pictionary
  • Eat individually wrapped snacks

Are you ready for a cute treat for your students for their Winter Party?

  • Serve rootDEER floats, for each student use:
    • 2 candy canes for antlers,
    • vanilla ice cream for face,
    • cherry for nose, and 
    • root beer served in a plastic cup!

I have these complete lists and a BONUS list for Teacher Gifts for your co-workers and/or children's teacher! Snag the lists below!

How are you celebrating the end of the calendar year?
Tag me @downriveredu on social media!


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    Josh's Funk's How to Code a Rollercoaster is the best book to celebrate Multicultural Children's Book Day that inspires the newest generation of young female mathematicians and scientists. Sarah Palacios provides beautiful illustrations that combined with Funk's tale give a duo of kids the rollercoaster ride of their dreams.  Who doesn't love a rollercoaster?! Well, the idea of one is pretty cool when you're a kid! This is a great read aloud for elementary math and science classrooms that will get your eager mathematicians and scientists, ages 4 through 12, into coding! 

    Use How to Code a Rollercoaster to Celebrate Multicultural Children's Book Day

    Use How to Code a Rollercoaster to Celebrate Multicultural Children's Book Day

    Join Pearl and her trusty robot, Pascal as they adventure during a day at an amusement park! They’re excited to play games, eat ice cream, and, of course, ride all the rollercoasters. There’s just one problem: the Python Coaster, the biggest and best ride in the park, also has the longest line. Can Pearl and Pascal use CODE to help them get a seat on the giant coaster? By mastering the use of variables, sequences, loops, conditionals, and more, this duo just might get the ride of their dreams—while having the time of their lives.

    With world-renowned computer science nonprofit Girls Who Code, author and software engineer, Josh Funk and Pura Belpre Honor recipient, Sara Palacios use giggle-worthy humor and bright artwork to introduce kids to the fun of coding. Girls Who Code is on a mission to close the gender gap in technology and to change the image of what a programmer looks like and does.

    As a female teacher, leader within the schools, and mother to two young daughters, I am fully in support of closing the gender gap. 

    I want to personally thank the talented Josh Funk from Penguin Random House Books for sending me a copy of this book as I love to advocate for the use of high-quality picture books in elementary math and science classrooms around Texas and beyond. I only share books that I've read, used with children, and love with you!

    The first page of text invites the reader into an exciting amusement park featuring a collection of multicultural guests, young and old. Pearl, the eager female main character is determined to have to best day ever as she uses code to keep track of how many tokens she has to use while at the park.

    For coding novices, like myself or my young mathematicians and scientists, this book introduces the basics of coding. This is a great read aloud to create shared knowledge on the foundations of programming. It includes many programming concepts, including code, variables, loops, the if-then-loop, sequence, among others, that are easily accessible to all students.

    Vocabulary for How to Code a Rollercoaster: code, variable, loop, if-then-loop, sequence

    Whether you use this book as an introduction to programming unit, study of variables, or use it to celebrate diversity in the math and science community, your students will enjoy this amusing tale about Pearl and Pascal.

    This book was selected for review as part of a larger celebration, Multicultural Children's Book Day. 

    Please see the following for more information about this special event that all educators can benefit from, including how to get involved and many FREE resources.

    Multicultural Children's Book Day 2020

    Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020 (1/31/20) is in its seventh year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators. Seven years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues.

    MCBD 2020 is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board:

    Super Platinum
    Make A Way Media/ Deirdre “DeeDee” Cummings

    Language Lizard, Pack-N-Go Girls


    Audrey Press, Lerner Publishing Group, KidLit TV, ABDO BOOKS: A Family of Educational Publishers, PragmaticMom & Sumo Jo, Candlewick Press


    Author Charlotte Riggle, Capstone Publishing, Guba Publishing, Melissa Munro Boyd & B is for Breathe,

    Author Carole P. Roman, Snowflake Stories/Jill Barletti, Vivian Kirkfield & Making Their Voices Heard. Barnes Brothers Books, TimTimTom, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books, Charlesbridge Publishing, Barefoot Books Talegari Tales

    Author Sponsor Link Cloud
    Jerry Craft, A.R. Bey and Adventures in Boogieland, Eugina Chu & Brandon goes to Beijing, Kenneth Braswell & Fathers Incorporated, Maritza M. Mejia & Luz del mes_Mejia, Kathleen Burkinshaw & The Last Cherry Blossom, SISSY GOES TINY by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard, Josh Funk and HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER, Maya/Neel Adventures with Culture Groove, Lauren Ranalli, The Little Green Monster: Cancer Magic! By Dr. Sharon Chappell, Phe Lang and Me On The Page, Afsaneh Moradian and Jamie is Jamie, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, TUMBLE CREEK PRESS, Nancy Tupper Ling, Author Gwen Jackson, Angeliki Pedersen & The Secrets Hidden Beneath the Palm Tree, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 by Mia Wenjen, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher (Founders of Inner Flower Child Books), Ann Morris & Do It Again!/¡Otra Vez!, Janet Balletta and Mermaids on a Mission to Save the Ocean, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo & Bruna Bailando por el Mundo\ Dancing Around the World, Shoumi Sen & From The Toddler Diaries, Sarah Jamila Stevenson, Tonya Duncan and the Sophie Washington Book Series, Teresa Robeson & The Queen of Physics, Nadishka Aloysius and Roo The Little Red TukTuk, Girlfriends Book Club Baltimore & Stories by the Girlfriends Book Club, Finding My Way Books, Diana Huang & Intrepids, Five Enchanted Mermaids, Elizabeth Godley and Ribbon’s Traveling Castle, Anna Olswanger and Greenhorn, Danielle Wallace & My Big Brother Troy, Jocelyn Francisco and Little Yellow Jeepney, Mariana Llanos & Kutu, the Tiny Inca Princess/La Γ‘usta Diminuta, Sara Arnold & The Big Buna Bash, Roddie Simmons & Race 2 Rio, DuEwa Frazier & Alice’s Musical Debut, Veronica Appleton & the Journey to Appleville book series Green Kids Club, Inc.

    We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

    Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts
    A Crafty Arab, Afsaneh Moradian, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Bethany Edward & Biracial Bookworms, Michelle Goetzl & Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Educators Spin on it, Shauna Hibbitts-creator of eNannylink, Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joel Leonidas & Descendant of Poseidon Reads {Philippines}, Imagination Soup, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Serge Smagarinsky {Australia}, Shoumi Sen, Jennifer Brunk & Spanish Playground, Katie Meadows and Youth Lit Reviews

    FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

    TWITTER PARTY! Register here!

    Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

    I hope this post inspires you to check out How to Code a Rollercoaster and the many resources available for Multicultural Children's Book Day!

    What are your favorite books that celebrate diversity in the classroom?

    Make sure to pin and save this post for future reference.

    Discourse is the mathematical communication that occurs in a classroom. Utilizing discourse in the math classroom can be challenging. You may already be thinking: How can I get my students to explain their thinking? Effective discourse happens when students articulate their own ideas and seriously consider their peers’ mathematical perspectives as a way to construct mathematical understandings.

    Encouraging students to construct their own mathematical understanding through discourse is an effective way to teach mathematics, especially since the role of the teacher has transformed from being a transmitter of knowledge to one who presents worthwhile and engaging mathematical tasks.

    We can find ways to encourage eager mathematicians to share their ideas and to engage with others about their ideas by following three research-based recommendations:

    1. Clarify mathematicians’ ideas in a variety of ways.
    2. Emphasize reasoning.
    3. Encourage mathematician-to-mathematician dialogue. 

    The Best Three Ways to Encourage Effective Discourse in Math

    The Best 3 Ways to Encourage Effective Discourse in Math

    Think about all of the interactions among all the participants that occur throughout a math lesson--in the whole-class setting, in small groups, between pairs of children, and with the teacher. We will dive in deep today to learn the BEST three ways to encourage effective math discourse in your classroom.

    Students working together in math as they use discourse.Clarify mathematicians’ ideas in a variety of ways.

    Clarification is important for English learners because it reinforces language and enhances comprehension. We often think of using this skill in reading, but it’s equally important in mathematics!

    Here’s some practical ways to use clarification in the classroom: 
    • Restate ideas as questions to verify what mathematicians did. This allow also them to confirm what you’ve heard or observed. 
    • Apply precise language and make significant ideas more apparent.
    • Look for opportunities to clarify questions to ensure that ALL students understand ideas and reasoning.
    • Ask others to restate someone else’s ideas in their own words. This expresses ideas in a variety of ways and encourages listening to one another.
    • Use teacher prompting. (See examples in the photo below.)

    When we pay attention to mathematicians’ ideas, we send a message that their ideas are valued. This is the key to encouraging participation of individual mathematicians.

    Clarifying Math Ideas : Encourage Effective Discourse in Math

    Emphasize reasoning.

    Getting mathematicians to explain their reasoning is hard at first! Reasoning helps mathematicians understand their own thinking and the thinking of others. As they communicate about ideas, mathematicians will make connections between relational understanding and move towards mathematical proficiency.

    Here’s some practical ways to use reasoning in the classroom: 
    • Ask follow-up questions whether answers are correct or incorrect to place an emphasis on the reasoning process. This is to help mathematicians understand the others’ thinking.
    • Follow-up on both correct and incorrect answers to reduce anxiety. We do not want students only having to explain wrong answers!
    • Move mathematicians to more conceptually based explanations when able. 
    • Ask mathematicians what they think of the idea proposed by another.
    • Ask mathematicians if they see connections between two of their ideas OR an idea and a concept previously discussed.
    • Use teacher prompting. (See examples in the photo below.)

    Explain Math Reasoning: Encourage Effective Discourse in Math

    Encourage mathematician-to-mathematician dialogue.

    We wants eager mathematicians to think of themselves as capable of making sense of math. We do not want them to rely on teacher as the keeper of all knowledge. Encouraging student-to-student dialogue can help build this positive sense of self.

    Here’s some practical ways to use student dialogue in the classroom:

    • When mathematicians have different solutions, ask them to discuss one another’s solutions.
    • Ask someone to rephrase another mathematician’s ideas or add something further to someone else’s ideas.
    • Before a whole class discussion, have mathematicians practice their explanations with a peer. {This supports ALL mathematicians.}
    • Use teacher prompting. (See examples in the photo below.)

    Mathematicians are more likely to question one another’s ideas than the teacher’s ideas.

    Encourage Student-to-Student Dialogue: Encourage Effective Discourse in Math

    The value of student talk throughout a math lesson cannot be overemphasized. As mathematicians share their approaches, describe and evaluate tasks, and make conjectures, learning will occur in ways that are otherwise unlikely to take place.

    Remember, whoever is talking is doing the learning. Will it be you or your mathematicians?

    I hope you use the suggestions recommended in any of the three ways to encourage effective discourse in math.

    How are you currently using discourse in your classroom? 
    What recommendation would you like to add to your repertoire?

    Make sure to pin and save this post for future reference.

    Students working together using math discourse.

    Students that have "number sense" can solve a problem in a variety of ways. Flexibility with numbers is what helps these students show their sensational number sense.

    Researchers have linked good number sense with skills observed in students proficient in the following mathematical activities: mental calculation, computational estimation, judging the relative magnitude of numbers, recognizing part-whole relationships and place value concepts; and problem solving.

    Most Number Sense routines take an average of about 10 minutes and are incorporated at the beginning of the math block.

    There's four common Number Sense routines that are used daily in elementary math classrooms across the world. Okay, friend, here's what you've been waiting for...

    Number Sense Routines: Estimation Task, Number Talks, Which One Doesn't Belong, and Other Number Sense Routines. (Notebook with these words written in an organizational chart.)

    The Best Number Sense Routines for the Elementary Math Classroom

    1. Which One Doesn't Belong? (WODB)

    Which One Doesn’t Belong? is a routine that revolves around an thoughtfully designed four image set. Each of the quadrants can be a correct answer to the question “Which one doesn’t belong?”

    Because all their answers are right answers, students naturally shift their focus to justifications and arguments based on properties. A teacher can facilitate rich discussions and teach mathematical argumentation using Which One Doesn’t Belong? You can use this routine to listen closely and respectfully to students’ ideas.

    Resources for Which One Doesn't Belong?

    Guiding Questions: What do you notice? What makes all the items alike? What makes them different? Which one doesn’t belong? Can you share your reasoning to justify your answer?

    Image Website:

    Twitter Hashtag: #wodb

    2. Number Talks

    Number talks are brief discussions (5–15 minutes) that focus on student solutions for a single, carefully chosen mental math computation problem or a number string, a series of related problems. Students share their different mental math processes aloud while the teacher records their thinking visually on a chart or board.

    Resources for Number Talks

    Guiding Questions: How did you solve that? Explain why you did that? How did that help you solve the problem?

    Book Recommendations: This is my FAVORITE book for Number Talks (by Sherry Parrish) and is appropriate for all elementary grades.

    I really appreciate the myriad of suggest problems to use to help students practice specific strategies. They are all laid out in this book. It's like a huge resource bank for Number Talks. There's also video footage of variety of Number Talks, which helpful for newbies to this routine.

    There is another series of book for upper grades that I recommend: Making Number Talks Matter: Developing Mathematical Practices and Deepening Understanding, Grades 3-10. I have found valuable information in this book, but has less examples than the first text I recommended. It is typically less expensive that Sherry's book.

    Twitter Hashtag: #numbertalks

    3. Estimation Tasks

    Estimation is a skill that occurs naturally but one that needs to be nurtured and massaged as the child's brain develops. Think: use or lose it. Estimating a quantity weaves in mental computations that require problem solving and critical thinking.There are a variety of estimation tasks that students can engage in including physical models and virtual models.

    The most common estimation task for grades K-2 is an estimation jar. Fill a jar with similar objects (examples: cereal, marbles, mini erasers, etc.). Have students take one scoop out of the jar. Then, ask students to estimate how many scoops it will take to empty the jar. Record students' thinking and responses.

    Resource for Estimation Tasks

    Website Recommendation

    Estimation 180 is best for upper elementary math. Estimation 180 provides students with opportunities to strengthen their number sense and mathematical thinking through the use of engaging visuals and rich discourse. The visuals at Estimation 180 allow students to engage in mathematical conversations where students are encouraged to support their mathematical claims with evidence and reasoning.

    4. Other Number Sense Routines

    This is a broad category for every other Number Sense routine.

    The most popular books for these routines are Number Sense Routines (see below for links).

    Resources for Other Number Sense Routines

    Book Recommendations: These are two excellent books that help teachers understand the learning trajectories for the number sense routines.

    Find the primary book here: Number Sense Routines: Building Numerical Literacy Every Day in Grades K-3.

    Find the upper elementary book here: Number Sense Routines: Building Mathematical Understanding Every Day in Grades 3-5,

    I hope this list of Number Sense routines and suggested resources gets you thinking about implementing OR diversifying your Number Sense routine in your classroom.

    What number sense routines do you currently use in your classroom? 
    What routine would you like to add to your repertoire?

    Make sure to pin and save this post for future reference.

    Pinterest Image: Down River Resources (Notebook picture)

    We want to motivate students, encourage active learning in the classroom while we develop critical-thinking, communication, and decision-making skills. Group work can be an effective method to do all of these things. When looking more specifically at the 21st Century Skills, (12 abilities that we want to instill in our students to prepare for careers in the Information Age) group work enables us to build critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, flexibility, leadership, initiative, productivity, and social skills. Wow! Nine of the 12 21st Century Skills can be addressed by simply using group work in the classroom! What does productive group work look like in the classroom? What does productive group work sound like in the classroom? We will be diving into student group work! 

    The Best Skills for Cooperative Learning Groups 

    It is imperative that in the first weeks of school that you intentionally plan and spend time working on how to work well in groups with your students. We cannot assume that our students come into our classroom with the appropriate social skills needed for productive cooperative groups. 

    You want your students to be able to:

    ✅ listen to each other
    ✅ respect each other
    ✅ build on each others’ ideas

    Things you might see when students work well in groups:

    πŸ”Ž leaning in and working in the middle of the table
    πŸ”Ž sticking together
    πŸ”Ž following team roles

    Things you might hear when students work well in groups:

    πŸ‘‚ equal air time
    πŸ‘‚ silence when speaker is talking
    πŸ‘‚ asking each other a lot of questions

    Model and practice

    When first starting out using groups, you must have students model the correct behaviors (listed above). Have students practice working in groups. When finished, have the classroom gathered together and label specific behaviors that were aligned to the classroom expectations. 

    If you requested that all of the group members lean in, praise a group specifically for leaning in and working in the middle of the table. 

    By specifically labeling the correct behaviors, you are reinforcing the specific expectations for productive group work.

    How can you provide support with building on each others' ideas? 

    • Begin to ask more open-ended questions that may have more than one solution.
    • Give students question stems and encourage them to ask questions within their groups.
    • Practice questioning between partners and groups.

    Students love using these sentence stems in the classroom. 

    Using Accountable Talk in the Math Classroom

    Supporting language and vocabulary development is crucial in the math classroom. Educators need to explicitly teach and pay attention to the quality of talk in the classroom. English Language Learners will be supported, as well as ALL learners. This resource will help you keep mathematicians engaged in math conversations as they become proficient in "speaking math."

    I hope this post inspires you to incorporate group work in your classroom. If you are interested in using my math sentence starters for questioning in group work, you can find them in my TpT shop!

    What would you add to this list? What do you find the most difficult part to practice? 

    Make sure to pin and save this post for future reference.

    Kindergarten math and first grade math homework can be confusing and frustration to parents and teachers at times. My favorite messages come from these adults regarding questions on homework pages. Come 4:00 p.m., my cellphone starts blowing up with pictures of homework pages! These parents and teachers know that my love of math runs deep, but my love for helping others understand, especially the students who are depending on them to answers runs deeper! Most recently, I received one of these after-school text messages with a question from first grade geometry. The question read: "I am not a rectangle. I am not a triangle. What shape am I?" Four answer choices were given including a circle, square, rectangle, and triangle. How can you answer this question? More importantly, how you can you explain this answer to your child at home or in your classroom? Read more to learn about why a square is considered a special rectangle.

    Math 101: Why is a Square a Special Rectangle?

    If you haven't read between the lines yet, the answer to the question is a square.

    I am not a rectangle. I am not a triangle. What shape am I?

    The child on the other end of the text message instantly crossed out a rectangle and triangle.

    I was especially excited to see this because it is evident that the child's parent and/or teacher had taught them the importance of eliminating answer choices!

    The circle and square were remaining. The father instantly thought:

     It must be the circle.

    Why is that? Why did the parent deduce the circle from those two choices?

    The human brain is constantly looking for patterns. The child just eliminated two prominent shapes that have characteristics similar to the square. The rectangle and the triangle have vertices and edges. The brain sends the message that the square fits into a similar pattern; therefore, it must be the circle. 

    Right and wrong.

    There's more to this question that meets the eye, as with many word problems.

    Though "circle" is in fact the correct answer, the justification needs a little work.

    This question is testing the knowledge of a first grader, in this instance, if they know that a square is considered a special type of rectangle.

    The father instantly proclaimed:

    When I was in school, a square was a square and a rectangle was a rectangle!
    Though I can't discount this statement {we do know a lot more mathematical explanation in education these days}, this is a common frustration point with many teachers and parents alike.

    To learn more about this mysterious "special rectangle," we need to revisit the attributes or properties of shapes, particularly quadrilaterals.

    Attributes or Properties of a Quadrilateral 

    It's really easy to get lost within all of the academic vocabulary of kindergarten, first grade, and second grade geometry.

    Here's the basics:


    A quadrilateral has four sides, is 2-dimensional (a flat shape), closed (the lines join up), and has straight sides.

    Both rectangles and squares are quadrilaterals. Both shapes are two-dimensional four-sided closed figures with straight sides.

    Rectangles, squares, trapezoids, rhombuses, and parallelograms are all part of the quadrilateral family.

    What makes rectangles and squares unique within this family?


    A rectangle is a quadrilateral. It's sides intersect at 90 degree angles. A rectangle has opposite sides which are congruent, or have the exact same length. . The diagonals, are mutually bisecting, or cut each other in half.


    A square is a quadrilateral. It's sides also intersect at 90 degree angle. Similar to a rectangle, its opposite sides are congruent, but ALL of its sides are congruent, or have the exact same length. The diagonals, are mutually bisecting, or cut each other in half. The square also has perpendicular bisecting diagonals.

    A rectangle is also classified as a square when both pairs of opposite sides are the same length; thus, a square is a special rectangle. 

    Hierarchy of Quadrilaterals

    In this illustration above, the rectangle has the properties identified within the red quadrilateral.

    The square contains ALL of the properties of the rectangle AND the properties listed solely within the square figure. 

    This further depicts that a square is a special type of rectangle.

    If you are still following this, you know have passed kindergarten math in Texas! Yeehaw! This just so happens to be first grade math in pretty much the rest of the country.

    Content Standards Addressed: TEKS K.6A
    The student applies mathematical process standards to analyze attributes of two-dimensional shapes and three-dimensional solids to develop generalizations about their properties. The student is expected to: identify two-dimensional shapes, including circles, triangles, rectangles, and squares as special rectangles

    I hope this post inspires you to dust off your college textbook and learn more math lingo, or gives me the privilege to be a bookmarked site for future mathematical assistance.

    What is the most confusing homework problem you've seen?

    Make sure to pin and save this post for future reference.

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