October 2016 - Down River Resources
Target attracts attention. Their brand is recognizable. The quality of their merchandise is impressive. Their style is unique...and their Dollar Spot section is addicting. LET'S FACE IT, we all have seen someone post a picture of their haul and immediately lust for new items to add to our ever-growing "stash." You may even start hallucinating in red and white.

Target's Dollar Spot Has Many Options for Teachers

Many times I don't even have a purpose for my Dollar Spot deals...but "I will find one," I constantly would tell myself. After cleaning my garage this summer, I knew my old habits of buying things because they're good deals HAD TO STOP! (If not, I wouldn't be able to hit Starbucks or Sonic!) I had a lot of great stuff but I did not USE it. Luckily, I replaced my mindset...not because I wanted to, but because I HAD TO! I was pregnant with my daughter and our budget got tighter than ever! 

Now, when I check out that alluring Dollar Spot, I ask myself a few simple, but important questions:

  • Do I need it? (Most of the times, the answer is no. Skip to next question.)
  • Do I want it? (Umm...YES!)
  • Can I use it? (I will find something to do with it.)
  • How can I use it? (Um...like I said, I will find something to do with it!)

Now, if I can think of a way to incorporate a Dollar Spot product in my classroom or home office, I place it gently in my cart, look over it, and purchase it! BAM! My thinking changed; my purchasing habits changed; and fun, new ways of using their colorful products came to my mind! 

Here are some simple things you can do with the basic essentials you find in the dollar spot. 

Small toys and erasers instantly can become:

1. Motivational Rewards or Prizes

When a student is rocking their work or stretching their mindset positively, offer them a bonus incentive. This is a small, but simple token that immediately acknowledges the student's efforts. You could offer random incentives, to keep your students always working since they never know when the rewards jar comes out. I call mine the, "Star Jar." Altogether, ooooooooooh!

2. Math Manipulatives

Instead of your overly-loved linking cubing or bear counters, use small toys and erasers as counters. You can use them for a Roll and Cover center and have the students stack up the matching numbers of erasers making towers.

Typically, the quantity of the packs of erasers range from 8 (big and fancy, like the spiders) to 50 (smaller erasers). Think about what type of counting you want to do, or how many students will be using them at one time, and load up your cart. They work perfectly in ten frames too. PUT THOSE RED & YELLOW COUNTERS AWAY! ;-) These seasonal counters can be stored in a tool or craft box with individual compartments. I know, I wish Target would switch their stock already too! Need. More. Erasers.

3. Math Centers 

I have a few standard sets of number cards (following this grouping of cards: 0-5, 5-10, 10-15, 15-20, 0-10, 0-20---this way I can pull the sets I need depending on what numbers I am teaching and what numbers the students can recognize.) I use these number cards and pair them with the counters. This INSTANTLY becomes a math center. 

MATCHING CENTER (See Spider Photos)
- Students draw a number card.
- Students count out the correct number of erasers to match.
- A partner can check their work and/or partners can take turns.

- Students roll a dice.
- Students count the numbers of pips.
- Students count out the number of erasers to match.

Shopping at the Target Dollar Spot has become more of a treasure hunt since I have been applying this new mindset to my shopping adventures. Not only am I saving money, but I am being more intentional in creating ways for my students to use the products. In my area, my students do not shop at Target, so this is even more special for them to be able to use these items.

I hope this post inspired you to USE your Target Dollar Spot purchases in your classroom, and if you want to use my set of roll and cover games you can find them in my TpT store!

P.S. After I gave birth to my daughter, I took her straight to the Target Dollar Spot. That's her in the photo above. I mean, I've gotta raise her right! (Plus, I needed some exercise after sitting in a hospital bed for two days!)

So, go ahead and love on your local Target!

What are some other ways you have incorporated one dollar erasers in your classroom?

Number Puzzles are not a new concept in early elementary classrooms. Playing puzzles has been around since...well, a long time! Large quantities of puzzles are available to download at the tip of your finger, but it is up to the teacher to determine how to hold students accountable for their learning while they “play” with them. Let’s be honest...we expect our students to complete the task (number puzzles) during math centers with little direction, interaction, or evidence of learning...GUILTY! After years of simply filling up my tubs with puzzles, I began supporting my students in three SIMPLE ways. (It’s not as puzzling now!)

Number Puzzles Build Proficiency 

1. Establish, Practice, and Enforce Expectations 

When using number puzzles as a math center, it is too easy to add the puzzle pieces to a brightly colored tub or basket and assign students to “work” on them. I mean, how hard can it be to put a puzzle together?! It is more complex IF you want to improve your students’ academic performance. What does that look like? What does it sound like? We often model behaviors, like walking down the hallway and putting away our materials; why not apply that same model to teach students how to work on number puzzles? This is especially important if you will be using number puzzles frequently or as a year-round center.

Number Puzzle Anchor Chart
It’s important to teach the routine of working on number puzzles. Take one puzzle from a set and model the expected behaviors so your students will maximize their math time. 

2. Encourage Accountable Talk During Math Centers 

Student discourse plays a large role in the development of students’ mathematical understanding.Students do not naturally engage in this level of talk so it is our job as teachers to facilitate it. What can students say about number puzzles? A lot! Check it out in the photo below.

Math Sentence Starters

Classrooms are made up of diverse learners whether it be English Language Learners or those with special needs..but really ALL students can benefit from a systematic way to lead a discussion on their mathematical learning. Tying a visual aid, such as a speech bubble, can remind students of their task. 

3. Implement a Tool as Evidence of their Learning 

As students complete the number puzzles with a partner or small group, it is easy to end the activity there. If you are busy engaging with other students, perhaps in a guided math model, you may never get the chance to check in with the students and see if they completed the puzzles. Let’s face it! It happens! Having a paper-pencil or whiteboard-marker routine students complete after they finish the puzzles allow you to track your their learning. You will get bonus points for progress monitoring!

Recording Sheets for Math Centers
Students need to record their learning as evidence of their work during center time. For sequencing puzzles, students may write the numbers in the order they appear on a sheet of paper. This is also an extra dose of practice writing their numerals! (This is a permanent work sample.) For representing number puzzles, students may write or draw ways to represent a particular number on a whiteboard. (This is a temporary work sample. The whiteboard can be left in a particular spot or shown in the air to the teacher before clean-up time for a quick check.)

Number puzzles used for math centers are abundant. Whether you purchase them at your dollar store, download them from the internet, or create a DIY puzzle out of popsicle sticks...you want students to take responsibility for their learning and improve their academic performance. In an age where every student, and, sadly their test score, counts...we as educators must maximize every learning opportunity by holding students accountable. I hope this post inspired you to implement accountability routines in your classroom, and if you want to use my set of number puzzles you can find them in my TpT store! 

Have you used number puzzles in your classroom? 
How do you hold students accountable? 

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