November 2016 - Down River Resources | Your Elementary Math Guide

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 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'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' 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! 

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