2016 - Down River Resources | Your Elementary Math Guide

Teaching is an adventure or nothing. I choose adventure over nothing any day, and I think most teachers would too! An adventure wouldn't be complete without a detour. How many times in your day do you end up exactly where you wanted, but you had to take a different path to get there? That summarizes most days in the classroom for me personally. Kindergarten Down River will be taking a detour in the next few weeks as I expand my vision for the future in the new year of 2017.

The first few weeks of January will be full of changes. I started sharing resources with my friends across the state of Texas and the globe over the internet with the name Kindergarten Down River, which described path I was cascading at the time. The waters have changed and so has my knowledge and expertise, thus a name change has been in order for some time now. Quite frankly, I have been intimidated by change. Representative of my namesake though, I must take the plunge and continue "down river." In 2017 and beyond, with God's abundant grace, I look forward to new adventures as I embody the name Down River Resources.

I look forward to the new opportunities that this name change will provide and as my mission to serve others expands. Please continue to follow me through the current channels of social media. Beginning soon, my name will change on social media and my TpT store. If you are currently following me on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, or TpT, all you should notice is the name change...and soon my profile pic, etc. My blog name and address will change soon as well. I will announce that information as it becomes available and the changes are made.

I greatly appreciate you trusting me to provide you and your students with quality standards-based resources. Thank you for your patience as I plunge into the river and journey forward to serve you better.

Happy Following!

What changes are in store for you in 2017?

Since I started teaching kindergarten, I have been disappointed with the resources that have been provided to teach math. Most math resources lacked depth and were not truly 100 percent "standards-based." I rolled around the idea for quite some time about creating my own resources for kindergarten math units. This past summer, I decided to take the plunge and have not regretted my decision since! I have many sleepless nights refining activities and researching the teaching topics, but it has become a valuable asset in my classroom and others' who have used it!

Munch Through Math: Kinder Math Units for TEKS and CCSS

How do you munch through the math standards for kindergarten? You use MUNCH THROUGH MATH, of course! It is my new kindergarten math series! It provides students with hands-on, engaging practice while meeting the specificity of the standards. These units were primarily designed to meet the Texas Kindergarten Math TEKS (adopted 2012), but also are correlated to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The great thing about this series is that it can be used to supplement ANY math program that you use. It allows the teacher to use the materials flexibly, but gives guidance on how to teach the concepts. There are many great components that you will find in each Munch Through Math Unit.

Each unit provides the teacher with the academic vocabulary necessary to teach the math unit. You will notice that there are some words that are more difficult and are uncommon to use. In these instances, I have created anchor charts that illustrate these words to help you and your students master this academic vocabulary.

Interactive math notebooks are becoming more popular each year. Each unit comes with a few folds and flaps to use as you teach the vocabulary and/or concepts to your students. At a minimum, your students should be using their notebooks to anchor their learning each week. 

Several hands-on, engaging activities are included in Munch Through Math. They activities will need to be prepared in advance, but can be used in so many different settings in your classroom including: introducing and practicing concepts with the entire classroom, practicing and refining skills within guided math, small group intervention, or tutoring, or they can be placed within a center for independent or partner practice. 

Every unit contains a variety of printables* to use for modeling, guided practice, and independent practice. If you do not want to print class copies, you could put them in a dry erase sleeve or pocket for students to write on with a dry-erase marker! While I realize that many teachers and schools are moving away from the "worksheet" or "printable," it is essential in many classrooms. For some, a gradable item that can be used in student portfolios or as evidence of learning is a must. I often use these pages as supportive documentation when getting students assistance through the Response-to-Intervention process and to provide evidence of intervention to the committee.

The piece that I spend the most time creating in these units are the checkpoints. Checkpoints are the formative assessments that teachers use to monitor students' progress working through the standards being taught. In my classroom, I use these checkpoints for formative assessment and the district-mandated assessments for our summative data collection. If you do not have any type of final unit assessments, these can be used as such too! 

*Many of the printable pages are broken up and are sold separately, if you are just looking for a small supplement for your classroom. The academic vocabulary and checkpoints are exclusive to the Munch Through Math Units. 

I hope this inspires you to create engaging math sessions for your students to munch through the standards and if you would like to use my math units they are in my TpT store.

Check out these Munch Through Math Units AVAILABLE NOW!


How do you munch through math?

Teaching wants and needs can be a complicated business, especially for younger children. Kindergarten students are expected to distinguish wants and needs as a skill of personal financial literacy. What not a better way than to connect this learning to something that is magical, like Christmas?!

Wants and Needs Christmas Craftivity 

As the Christmas wish books multiply in length, so does our children's lists of desired items. These lists are filled with top toys, which are difficult to find, and costly electronics. As I was teaching kindergarten, I realized that even five-year-olds were aware of the most expensive items that were much better quality than anything I possessed. (Talk about embarrassing! I had a flip phone while my five-year-old students were receiving iPhones for Christmas!)

It was after that year teaching that I became aware of the materialism at such a young age, so I began teaching wants and needs through Christmas. (Lightbulb moment!)

I usually begin my mini-unit on wants and needs by describing the wants and needs of my dog. I talk about her a lot with my students so they connect to her very easily. Jedi, my sweet puppy, NEEDS dog food, water, and a dog house. Jedi WANTS a squeaky toy, jerky treats, and a rawhide. It is a great way to get students thinking about wants and needs and it coincides with the basic needs of organisms also. Connecting math and science...awesome!

Next, I connect this to birthdays and the holiday season, when we receive gifts from others. We distinguish between needs and wants and generate a list of these items, organized in a T-chart. This is a great anchor for the culminating activity, a Christmas Craftivity. It makes a great holiday bulletin board too. (Two for one!)

The great thing about the craftivity is that all students, regardless of age or religion, can participate. I always find it difficult to do seasonal activities with diverse learners, but this craftivity lends itself well for this, which was my goal when I created it.

First, students choose a topper for their craftivity. They can choose between a happy snowman or a jolly St. Nick. I have found that it is usually an even split in the classroom between the two options. I let the students choose!

By allowing the students to choose, they are more involved and the activity has more meaning for them!

The snowman is a great option for those who do not participate in the holiday of Christmas. I have not had any difficulty using the snowman version of this for them and their families were supportive of the idea and were happy that I was considerate of their beliefs.

The snowman topper makes great with the snowballs where students will actually write down or draw pictures of the items that they need and want. The presents match with the Santa topper.

It is up to you if you would like coordinating craftivities or if you allow students to mix and match. Personally, my OCD and Type A personality can not condone interchanging the pieces. 

Another feature to support diverse learners is the primary lines or blank spaces options. Younger students may find more flexibility in the blank spaces. Older students, who have spatial reasoning, might like this as they get creative in their writing styles.

If your goal is to improve handwriting or support students in this way, you may find the primary lined option best for your students' needs.

Also, you can mix it up if there are students who could benefit from each of these options in your classroom! Judgement-free zone here! 

The final option allows you to provide support for students who are gaining fine motor skills. For my kinders, cutting around the wiggly snowball is quite difficult, so cutting around a thick black rectangular border makes this more manageable.

You can choose to include the boxes if your students need additional support cutting around shapes. If not, let the students cut around the shapes without support.

If you need to, you can mix and match based on student need.

Teachers love the flexibility of this craftivity!

Here are some examples from a second grade classroom showing varying skill levels:

What teachers are saying about this:

"So cute and a nice way to have children think about what's important...needs and wants...not usually the same thing...but not often thought about!"

"This is a great way to touch back on wants and needs and really express to my students the importance of being grateful and thankful!" 

"Love the choices of how students can create this!"

I hope this post inspired you to teach wants and needs in a meaningful way, and if you want to use my Christmas Craftivity in your classroom, you can find it in my TpT store!

I hope your students enjoy this craftivity as much as my students have in the past few years! May your wants and needs be fulfilled this holiday season and always.

Happy Crafting!

How do you teach wants and needs in your classroom?

Howdy, Friends!

I have a special secret for  you... Teachers Pay Teachers is hosting a huge Cyber Monday sale! Shhhh! Keep it under your Santa cap! Alright?!

I wanted to give you a quick peek at my top three wishlisted items in my store that will help you build numeracy and efficiency in your classroom. Remember, this holiday season, you are NEVER too old to peek! In fact, if you want to check out the entire list of sale items for Cyber Monday, the wait is over...you can check out my Holiday Resource Book 2016.

TpT Cyber Monday Sale

Many of my best selling products will be on sale at least 20%. If you enter the code: CYBER2016 at checkout, you will save additionally with the TpT sale discount. The sale will only be on November 28th and 19th, 2016. Start adding to your cart today...you're only a click away from some great savings! 

Number Puzzles from Kindergarten Down River 
Math Notebook from Kindergarten Down River
Folds & Flaps from Kindergarten Down River (also available in 1st & 2nd Grades)
You can give your teaching buddies a bonus by purchasing multiple licenses to share with them this holiday season! Thank you for entrusting me to provide you with great resources for your classroom!

Happy Shopping!

One plus two is easy to solve, but math discussions about joining two addends together tends to be much more difficult for students. Can you relate? My classroom goal is to encourage discourse and give students processing time to make sense of mathematical concepts. This concept is especially important as I teach mathematics in an English language learner classroom. I use math sentence stems to help foster productive discussions with my students.

Discourse in the Math Classroom Begins with Sentence Stems

Giving students the beginning of an academic response, or sentence stem, is an effective tool that will increase the quality of student participation in the classroom. Sentence stems allow students to focus their attention on content-specific vocabulary and provides students language support they need to engage in discussions. In addition, students begin to apply previously taught vocabulary in more formal speaking and writing.

What does this look like in an elementary classroom?

When using sentence stems for the first time, it is important to model, model, model...did I mention, modeling? This type of academic language may be used by you with ease (a highly sophisticated and VERY intelligent teacher), but getting your students to engage with the vocabulary is very unnatural. Here are three steps to foster productive math discussion in your classroom:

  • Before the lesson begins create a purposeful sentence stem that will correspond with your lesson. Write the sentence stem out in a prominent place. (Example: If you are focusing on addition or subtraction, your sentence stem might be: "The strategy I used was..." to use after solving.)

  • When completing the portion of your lesson that applies to the sentence stem, stop and model the use of the sentence stem. 
Mathematicians, we are going to focus on the strategies we are using to join two numbers together. I am going to want to know what strategy you are using today. I want you to watch and listen to me as I show you how to use the sentence stem.

Here is my sentence stem. (Point to the sentence stem). It says, "The strategy I used was..." So, I need to think about the strategy I used today to join the two numbers together. (Pause showing that you are thinking. Then use a gesture or point to the sentence stem as you complete the sentence.) The strategy I used today was counting on."
If you have a poster or anchor chart with your addition strategies, or the concept you are teaching, it will add an additional scaffold and support for students, especially English language learners.
  • Give the students their own problem to solve and allow them to work with a partner or small group. When the group is done working, prompt them with the sentence stem and give them time to generate their response. Time and practice are the two essential components of this step. Students, especially those who need language support, need time to process the information you provided them so that they can apply it to their individualized problem.
The use of partnerships or small groups provides an additional support so the students can vocalize their thinking and refine it before they need to present their sentence to the whole group. This is a great way to build a positive classroom culture where all students feel respected.
If your students can talk about their thinking in mathematics or any other subject, can you imagine what type of learning opportunities you are fostering in your classroom? Your students' active participation in classroom discussion is the vehicle for deepening understanding and building comprehension that will enhance their educational experience.

I hope this post inspired you to foster productive math discussions, and if you want to use my set of math sentence stems for your classroom, you can find them in my TpT store!

What are some things you do to foster math discussions in your classroom?

Happy Modeling! 


Marzano, R.J. (2004). The developing vision of vocabulary instruction. In J.F. Baumann & E.J. Kame’enui (Eds.), Vocabulary instruction: From research to practice (pp. 159–176). New York: Guilford Press.

The temperatures are getting cooler. The sound of coughing students fill the classroom. It is only a matter of time until the teacher “catches them all.” It took me several years and moving to a large city to consider having an emergency substitute plan and tub of work! Nothing is worse than having to drive 40 minutes while feeling like the plague has struck! Here are some simple ways to make preparations for your substitute.

Time-Saving Substitute Preparations 

Create a basic binder. 

Think about the general information that a substitute teacher needs to function throughout the day. This should include:

 A schedule of important times of the day (subjects, lunch, recess.) Make sure you include a list or calendar of the special classes (music, dance, physical education.) 
A current seating chart. If you use flexible seating, you can create a document with a headshot of each student with their name. (This is a great visual tool!)

Having these simple documents in a clearly marked binder will make your substitute’s day much smoother. If you create this early in the year, you will have it when that last minute prep is needed!

Create a general script of routine daily activities.

If you create a thorough script of your routine activities during the day, you will leave a lot of the guesswork out and your substitute can accomplish more. For example, I like to leave a detailed plan for what to do before, during, and after a read aloud. This way, the script can be paired with a book I leave or one a substitute grabs off a shelf! I also write out our calendar math routine so the substitute can follow our usual pattern of activities.

Is there an activity that stays consistent for you that you might be able to have ready? Is math fact practice or a warm-up a part of your regular routine? Write out the script or a detailed plan for that time.

Leave a folder of class sets of printables.

Find a series or set of printables that need little to no explanation that students can complete during the time when content is usually taught. 
Find pages that match concepts that have previously taught and make class sets of these pages. 

To save paper, photocopy pages front to back and staple pages together to make a packet. The packets help all students stay on task, no matter their pace. When you have your folder ready, you do not have to call your colleagues on the middle of the night or impose on them early in the morning to make your copies! 

The more planning and preparation you can do for your substitute, the smoother those days will be. If you have some general plans in place beforehand, you can feel at ease leaving your classroom when you have to leave in a hurry!

I hope this post inspired you to make some advanced preparations for substitutes, and if you want to use my set of math printables for your classroom, you can find them in my TpT store!

What are some things you do to be prepared for a substitute? 


Teachers are very busy this time of year recovering from "Halloween Monday" (which should  be a federal holiday for the record), Fall Carnivals, and the all too common cold! Let's face it! We have NO time to pour our creative juices into an award-winning bulletin board! A few years back, I finally gave up on that dream! Have you? If so, you may be interested in my simple craftivities that I LOVE to use this time of year. There are six great ways to display them in your classroom or hallway! (The Thanksgiving craftivities come in English or Spanish!

1. The Turkey Topper

This cute turkey is begging you, with its colorful feathers, not to eat him or her this Thanksgiving. This turkey topper is great for students who are creative and love using their crayons or markers! There are five feathers to color as well as the ledge and body of the turkey.

2. The Pilgrims Topper

The cute pilgrims need a colorful ledge to rest their tired hands. They are still full of such joy despite their sleepy state. Look at their faces! The pilgrims themselves aren't very interesting to color. The divided up ledge, however, will entice your students with possibility and, of course, many students will ask if you notice the pattern they created! "Teacher, I made an AB pattern!" You know, it's bound to happen!

3. Cut Around Shapes 

If you notice, I don't even attempt these shapes in my student samples. They are way too complicated for my kindergartners. You may have more patience than me or less OCD. If so, let your students have at these. You may not have any of the tops left on them...but parents love their kids' artwork...no matter what! (No, really, they do! My dad always told me to relax during these projects because of this reason...and Dad is right! Always!)

4. Rectangular Boxes

This is my preferred option for these activities. I may have learned this the hard way, but a simple addition of a rectangular square around the shape is my OCD's best friend. You know, all that trouble I go to adding the shape, my students will still not cut on the lines. However, I will emphasize the nice dark black line 20 times just for my own sanity. 

5. Hang Vertically (See Photo Above)

Cut 1.5" strips of construction paper (lengthwise for a long strip). This instantly becomes the base where your students' creation will come together. I like to glue the top and bottom pieces first and then center things around them. Depending on how old your students are, this might not be a battle worth fighting.

6. Hang Horizontally 

Cut 1.5"strips of construction paper. They can be any set length or students can cut them up. This may be a good option for older students who have spatial reasoning. Glue three strips onto the back of the ledge of the topper. Glue the three pieces (apple, acorn, and pumpkin) on the bottom of each strip of paper.

Craftivities are so much fun for students. I love that they give students a little break and allows them to be kids with crayons! No text evidence, no math strategies, just some old-fashioned fun! The biggest perk is that it really is educational and standards-based. I always tie this into my English/Language Arts standards. Your learning target could be writing a phonetically spelled word or a complete sentence. For some students, they may draw a picture and tell you the word or sentence. The greatest part of this craftivity is that it can take on whatever life you want to give it. Give your students all of the options or pick the one that best suits your classroom! 

I hope this inspired you to get creative with your crafting options this turkey season and if you are interested in using my craftivities, they are in my TpT store!

What other ways would you display this craftivity?

Happy Crafting!


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?

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