2017 - Down River Resources | Your Elementary Math Guide
Do you ever have trouble following through with things, like those ridiculous resolutions that no one ever keeps? Eating healthy is the most popular resolutions each year and it is no different for teachers! The months of January and February always bring out the best in my teacher lunch bag. A beautifully dressed salad with lightly coated dressing adorns the tightly sealed plastic container in my bag. By the time testing season rolls around in March and April, I begin to conceal leftover pizza in that same container. I strategically place my lunch bag in front of me so there is just enough room to sneak my reheated pizza into my mouth without detection from the judging eyes of my peers.

I know I am not alone in this annual struggle. Each year, I set a resolution to eat healthy and do not follow through for more than a few months. I did not create a plan with action commitments so when times are difficult, or stress hits, I do not have a plan, much less, a backup plan. This year, I am committing to be more mindful about my resolutions and rocking it in the New Year along with my students!

Being Mindful in the New Year with Rockin' Resolutions

Be a resolution role model for your students. 

As teachers, it is important to practice what we teach! Bring your resolutions into the classroom. It is a great thing to do as a whole class. Students will look to you to learn how to approach creating resolutions.

Instill a sense of responsibility in your students. 

Talk about responsibility and doing well in all things. We should not ask our students to do more than we are willing to do.

Keep resolutions positive. 

Instead of pointing out students’ shortcomings, be a historian of previous successes. Make note of things that your students are doing well. Ask your students, “How can you transfer your success doing ______ (the task they did well on) to something else?”

Brainstorm some ideas.

- What are some of the great things you want to do this year?
- What do you want to improve?
- What will make your life better and happier?

It is best to keep the list of resolutions to a minimum so you can devote time and energy to each item.

Decide how students can present their ideas.

Committing resolutions to paper by writing them helps out creates a record. It is important to set action commitments, or steps needed to complete the action, if you want to take your students through the critical thinking process and have follow-through.

It's important to share ideas with a friend and talk regularly about the progress. (See the photograph on the left for a creative way for writing and displaying resolutions!) Doing a weekly, monthly, or check after each grading period will help keep students accountable for their goals. They can simply check in with a partner.

When a student completes a goal or makes progress towards a resolution, it is important to celebrate these steps as to promote moving forward and accomplishing it! Play a special song during class time or write out the accomplishment in an exclusive location in the room. Make it fun!

Rock your resolutions in the new year!

My waist band and the judging eyes of my peers will be pleasantly surprised when a beautiful salad adorns my container through testing season this year! If you ready to implement these promising steps to being more mindful in the New Year, you and your students will benefit greatly! As you rock being a resolution role model, your students will be inspired to be successful in their goals too. Keep it positive, commit it to paper, and celebrate progress over perfection!

If you would like to use this New Years writing activity in your classroom, you can find it in my TpT shop.

What are you resolving to do in the New Year?

We all know that a more appropriate title for a teacher in December is "Chaos Coordinator!" You are constantly putting forth time and a lot of effort this time of year in so many areas. It is time to embrace your newly earned title in the classroom and engage your students with some winter-themed and Christmas-themed math activities for young children! These math activities will help you embrace the chaos and let your students math skills and creativity shine!

How to Embrace the Chaos with December Math

As we enter the busy season of holidays, it is difficult to keep students engaged in the content. It is often hard for us as teachers to stay focused and on track too! {I am not pointing at myself right now.}

By using the holiday, which is usually the distraction, as a focal point in the classroom, students become highly engaged in the content.

Embrace the chaos and select a math activity that is right on point for your class... here are a few of my favorite things!

From Chaos to Creativity: Top December Math Ideas

Wreath Math Craftivity {4 Skills}

One of the newest craftivities to hit my shop is this gem, Wreath Math Craftivity! Add paper plates and, perhaps, a dot marker with sponge tip applicator!{I make a small commission when you shop using this link which keeps the Diet Coke fund from running dry and the creativity flowing!}This creates a simple craftivity for students to complete. It gets even better than this cute wreath! There are four math skills that you can use as "ornaments" to decorate your wreath. {grades K-2}

- Sequencing Numbers (1-10, 10-20, random numbers up to 120, random numbers up to 1,200)
- 2-D Shapes (two dimensional shapes)
- 3-D Shapes (three-dimensional shapes)
- U.S. Coins 

Christmas Craftivity {Wants and Needs}

Do you teach wants and needs as part of your math or social studies curriculum?

The best way to teach wants and needs is in context. What not a better way than as students are generating a Christmas list?!

Don't worry, as with all of my resources, I strive to make them diverse. This craft includes two versions with Santa or a snowman to be inclusive of ALL students, especially culturally diverse students.

This is a great activity for little hands as the cutting is very simple. I took extra time when I created this to define the lines for cutting for younger students.

Splat! Interactive Math Games

If you have not heard of Splat! math games yet, you are missing out! I wrote about these fun, interactive games a little while back. You can catch up on how to play Splat! here. I have seasonal and skill-based games for winter including these sets:

Gingerbread Themed:

Reindeer Themed:
- Generate a Set to 20 {grades K-1}

Christmas Emergent Readers

Make sight word practice fun, engaging, and interactive with these math emergent readers!

These are perfect for math or literacy centers with a winter or Christmas theme. I love that you can use them for sight word practice, math centers, OR literacy centers! They are so versatile!

Students practice sight words in a math context with skills:
- instantly recognizing numbers (subitizing)
- compare sets of objects, (more/less)
- identify 2-D shapes
- distinguish between wants and needs.

There are so many standards-based winter and Christmas activities to choose from to support your math instruction during December. Embrace the chaos and keep the students engaged this holiday season with purposeful  math activities!

If you would like to use any of these activities in your classroom, you can find them in my TpT shop.

How do you embrace the chaos in your classroom? 

I anticipate the return of the back-to-school nightmares. The dreams about a fresh start back to school that end up in nightmares about not being prepared or things being out of order before the students arrive in their brand-new shoes and bright new uniforms. Can you relate? What back to school nightmares do you have? One thing I do to avoid these nightmares from becoming reality is to plan ahead. One of the first things I like to figure out is how to use the long list of school supplies that will soon take up the entire counter in my small classroom! All of my notebooks, whether spiral or composition, are used as interactive notebooks for the different subject areas, including math. I have most recently streamlined the process I have used for the last few years so that I can set-up notebooks in snap!

Interactive Notebooks are Easy to Setup 

There are some essential pages that you will need when beginning interactive notebooks in your classroom.

These pages are like the "front matter" in a chapter book. The pages, such as the title page and preface, that precede the main text of a book are considered "front matter."

An interactive notebook also has front matter, including a title page, table of contents, and a rubric that precede the content-specific information that will grow throughout the school year.

If you have this front matter ready and photocopied during the first week of school, you can start preparing your notebooks with your students. You can create the front matter yourself using my examples from the photographs or purchase these pages.

Breaking up preparation for each notebook during the first couple of days of school works the best. It is helpful for getting the students back into the groove after they enjoyed their summer off. I try to have a whole class activity, which helps build the community of learners, and then have an independent activity to practice the acceptable voice tone, or voice level. I repeat this pattern for the first week of school and then begin our regularly scheduled days with specific standards-based content.

Read more about building a community of learners and a few of the activities I have used with success here.

Throughout the first few days of school, we work on different components that can be found in all of the interactive notebooks we use for each subject. 

Cover Page 

Create a blackline, or black and white copy, of a notebook cover. Minimally, the cover page of a notebook needs to have a place for the student's name and the subject area. 

If you rotate classrooms or the notebooks go back-and-forth from home to school, you may also want to add a room number where the notebook belongs.

I like to use a blackline copy for the front cover as it encourages students to get creative and personalize their notebooks. This helps build a sense of ownership of their notebook and the items will be collecting in them as the year progresses.

I also like to add a strip of colored duck tape to the spine of the notebook. Each subject is identified by a different color of tape. For example, all of the science notebook spines are green while the math notebook spines are blue. This helps students organize their materials. This is especially helpful for younger students sifting through their desks attempting to locate the correct notebook.

Title Page 

Another way to denote important locating information on a notebook is on the title page. Many teachers like to include a title page as it resembles a reference book that you would access at the library.

When preparing students for the real-world and teaching real-life applications, it is important to expose students to accurate information. Something as simple as a title page, can prepare students for researching topics as they advance in the education.

Several teachers like to use a title page for additional information, including the teacher's name, class period (if applicable), and the school year.

This can also be a place where students can get creative and personalize their notebooks too.

Table of Contents

Locating information in an interactive notebook is made
easy with a table of contents. A simple table that includes the page number and title of the entry is most important. I also like to record the date of the entry too.

A table of contents is one of the places that is most difficult to keep up with so you want to establish a routine. 

When students are directed to get out their interactive notebooks, they immediately open to the table of contents. By creating this routine, students know that the first thing that they are responsible for is recording the entry on their table of contents.

I create an interactive notebook along with the students so I record the entry first and then use a document camera and overhead projector to show the students my entry. This is very helpful for younger students as they will need to copy the words into their notebooks.

Grading Rubric 

A grading rubric is another important element to feature in interactive notebooks as it presents the expectations for the notebook. 

I have two rubrics that I use including one rubric that measures the entire notebook and another rubric for checking individual pages.

When grading a specific page, I give the students the opportunity to present their best work. I let them know in advance that a certain page number will be graded using the rubric. 

I do not grade each notebook daily. I usually spot-check notebooks. One of my favorite ways to do this is during recess. I ask the students to open up their notebooks to the page I want to check right before they leave the classroom. When I return from dropping off the students, I quickly walk around the room and check their entries.

These are the essential components that I use in all of my interactive notebooks. Teaching routines and procedures for getting out their notebooks, recording information on the table of contents, and the expectations for notebook pages take some time at the beginning of the year. Once the routines and procedures are learned and practiced regularly, using interactive notebooks will become much easier. Students will beg you to create an entry in them before you know it!

If you would like to use my interactive notebook starter kit, you can find it in my TpT shop.

What are your secrets to setting up interactive notebooks?

The first days and weeks of school are important for establishing a positive classroom culture or classroom community. When students' view their classroom as a positive and supportive environment, they are more likely to learn. Now that's a powerful statement! Teachers who take the time to know their students, their families, and backgrounds, reap the rewards throughout the school year. Real estate agents often focus on three things: location, location, location. Teachers need to focus on three things too: relationships, relationships, relationships! One way to create a positive classroom culture is by applying the principles of culturally responsive teaching.

How to Create a Positive Classroom Culture

Creating a Positive Classroom Community 

Culturally Responsive Teaching is a pedagogy that recognizes the importance of including students' cultural references in all aspects of learning (Ladson-Billings,1994).

There are seven aspects that helps teachers implement culturally responsive teaching in their classrooms:
  1. Positive perspectives on parents and families
  2. Communication of high expectations
  3. Learning within the context of culture
  4. Student-centered instruction
  5. Culturally mediated instruction
  6. Reshaping the curriculum
  7. Teacher as facilitator
The biggest takeaway from studying this important pedagogy is that it's all about the student! 

How to Create a Positive Classroom Culture by Down River Resources
Teachers need to build relationship with the families connected to the STUDENT. 
Teachers need to communicate high expectations to the STUDENT. 
Teachers need to promote learning within the context of the culture of the STUDENT. 
Teachers need to value the STUDENT'S cultural history, values, and contribution.
Teachers need to reshape the curriculum to meet the needs of the STUDENT. 
Teachers need to be the facilitators of the STUDENT.

Ways to Create a Positive Relationship with Families 

I know you are thinking, how does positive perspectives and relationships with families impact the classroom community? Often times, students embody the same feelings and views that their families have on topics. If I think about the last political season, I could see the passion parents had as students talked about the candidates! They developed these views and opinions in the home.

Seek to understand the family's view.

It is important to seek to understand families' hopes for their child. Each parent, or guardian, wants their child to be the best and thinks their child IS the best. It is important that teachers embrace this vision for their students also. You can gain this understanding any time you encounter a family member, especially during conference times. Teachers must take a parents' vision for their child, as well as their concerns, seriously. If not, it threatens the relationship with the family. 

Write weekly notes to send home with the students.

One of the best things I ever did for my classroom was write a weekly note. I started the tradition my first year teaching. I include a little blurb about what happened last week and what we are looking forward to in the coming week. I also note what topics we are covering in each subject, The simple statement of each topics allows families to know what kinds of things that they can help with at home, if they choose to do so. Our weekly spelling list is also recorded there for quick reference.

By sending home a weekly note about the happenings in the classroom, families stay connected to the school. It is an additional time commitment for you, but it will valued by those who read it! My parents are constantly stopped by people in the community who remember my weekly notes home. 

Develop a rapport with families during pick-up.

Simply say a little more than the typical greetings during after school pick up. Share a memory of something fun, exciting, or interesting that their child did or said during the day. Not only does it create a window of opportunity for the parent to talk to you, but it helps establish a positive relationship with the parent. When an issue arises, it is much easier to address the concern with the parent. 

Ways to Create a Positive Relationships with Students

When you view parents, or families, as partners in the education of their child, their children are more likely to be receptive to you too. The first few weeks of school is the most important time for creating positive relationships with your students and among them too! I remember the old saying among veteran teachers, "Don't crack a smile before Christmas!" I think this is out-dated! It is important for a child to view you as an authority figure with high expectations, but them thinking you sleep at school is passé. 

Get to know your students.

 First Day of School CraftivityThe first few days of school are perfect for quick activities and ice breakers you know them personally. The more information you have about a child, the better you can connect with them. This embodies two principles of culturally responsive teaching: learning within the context of culture and student-centered instruction. 

I like to provide my students time to work on small crafts and other activities that allow students the opportunity to draw and color. This gives me an opportunity to quickly assess their fine motor skills, while providing time for them to talk to their table team. This is a simple way to start building that sense of community.

 Splat! Classroom Community Mega BundleI also play small community building games where students share about what they like or don't like. I learn a lot about students' preferences. I use this knowledge as a connector throughout the year to other connect. When a new movie comes out that my students have watched, I watch it too. I am able to make learning more relevant for the students!

Talk about things important to you.

When you share parts of your own personal life with students, they get more comfortable with the idea of sharing their own. This creates a connection with the students. I frequently mention Mr. Williams, my husband, or my sweet puppy dog, Jedi, when I am teaching. Students make that personal connection to me and engages them. When I was teaching in kindergarten, I had to teach about wants and needs of an organism. I designed an entire unit around my dog, Jedi. The students loved it and were able to make connections to other organisms' wants and needs much easier because they were so interested! It motivated them to talk and write about their experiences and connections!

I hope this inspires you to take steps this school year to create a positive classroom culture, if your interested in some of my classroom community building resources, you can check them out in my TpT shop.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The dreamkeepers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishing Co.
Teaching numbers isn't as easy as 1-2-3. While it might be easy for students to simply repeat or say their "numbers," there are many skills that blend together to build a child's foundation in numeracy. Children must be able to, not only, say their numbers and recognize them, they must also build a concept of counting and cardinality. From there, their learning continues to grow and develop as children learn what numbers actually represent. One of the skills that is significant for students to learn is visual discrimination. Visual discrimination is the ability to recognize details in visual images. It allows children to identify and recognize the similarities and differences of shapes/forms, letters, numbers, colors, and position of objects, people, and printed materials. Visual discrimination skills are essential for all subjects, including mathematics.

Visual Discrimination and Visual Processing

Visual discrimination is a visual processing skill that can be practiced in the home and at school. Visual discrimination is the ability to recognize details in visual images. It is important to emphasize that the development of this skill can be an issue for some children. We can continue to practice the skill and develop it, but some children will struggle and we need to be aware that medication nor additional practice will help those with a visual processing issue.

Processing issues go undetected on basic vision tests. Scientists have actually identified eight types of visual processing issues that exist and visual discrimination is one of them. Many children with learning issues, like dyslexia, have visual processing issues.

Regardless, visual discrimination is an important skill and needs to be practiced as it affects learning, especially in mathematics.

Visual Discrimination in Mathematics 

Let's look at how visual discrimination skills are developed through mathematics. Visual discrimination is the ability to visually detect differences in variables such as shape, pattern, color, size, etc.

Looking at the variables mentioned, it's easy to see how widespread visual discrimination skills are within the context of mathematics!

First, in order for children to be comfortable with numbers and mathematical concepts they reply on the ability to distinguish between different number symbols. If you think about letters, various numbers are similar in formation.

In fact, look the visual I created on the right side. This shows several of the numerals that young children often confuse because of their formation.

Examples of Visual Discrimination in Mathematics 

It is easy to ask a young child, "What is two plus one?" and get a correct response. When this is written down, it is common that the same child would not complete the question is writing, "2 + 1 = ?" Weak visual discrimination skills make it difficult for children to distinguish between the numerals and symbols.

As if single digit numbers were not challenge enough, Children have to identify the numerals correctly AND they but process them in the correct order, from left to right. Triple- and quadruple-digit numbers also comes with the same challenge.
double-digit numbers pose a challenge.

For example, 14 and 41 represent different amounts but are composed of the same numerals. Children must distinguish the order of these two digits.

The numbers 10, 100, and 1000 have visually similar digits but the place value is much different.

Children need to be able to determine whether a letter was a lower case 'e' or 'c', or an upper case 'F' and 'E,' in order to read those pesky word problems!

Visual discrimination allows applies to time. Take 5:07 and 7:05 a.m. into account. I would much rather wake up at 7:05 a.m. than 5:07 a.m.

Moving into geometry, a square and a rectangle both have 4 sides, 4 vertices, and 4 right angles. Squares and rectangles are similar but there is one variable that is different, thus each one is its own shape with a distinguishing attribute or property. In this case, the length of the sides is different; hence, visual discrimination helps a child see the difference.

These are just a few of the examples that are found within mathematics where visual discrimination is significant.

Practicing Visual Discrimination Skills

We can see why is it imperative that children have strong visual discrimination skills.

The lack of visual discrimination skills can lead to problems future problems in understanding mathematics. For example, if your child is unable to distinguish the the number“1” from the number “7,” he will incorrectly read the number “11” as “77.” This will lead, inevitably, to frustration and self-doubt, as your child struggles to understand their solution does not make sense (which it likely will not since “11” and “77” are not interchangeable).

We can help children to refine their visual discrimination skills in fun ways so that they build their confidence in math!

Here is a quick list of activities that can be done at school or in the home to help!

- Sort and match objects (socks, markers, blocks, etc.)
- Collect things from the playground or backyard to sort into categories.
- Complete straight edge puzzles where children must pay attention to the details on each piece.
- Matching games or concentration where children spot the differences in the cards. You can use numbers or shapes.
- Make duplicates of some family photos. Show your child two identical pictures with one different picture and ask him which pictures are the same and which one is different.
- Use simple matching puzzles with the same two number, colors, or objects are both pieces.

If you do have children with visual processing issues, remember that there is no cure, but there are many strategies and supports that can help them. All children can benefit from learning to detect the differences in visual images.

I hope this post inspires you to create opportunities for your children to practice their visual discrimination skills, and if you want some basic numeral puzzles to help your child build their skills download them here on the blog. (See box below.)

What activities can you do in the home or classroom to build visual discrimination skills?

Technology is everywhere! Cell phones, tablets, and computers are brought between home and school daily. Many schools are doing away with their no tolerance policies of the past and embracing the usage of these devices in the classroom. Whether you enjoy using technology in the classroom or not, the EdTech movement is taking over as more schools are adopting the 1:1 environment (one-to-one computing). I have always used technology as a fun way to present information to my students in math, but now I am able to allow my students to practice and master the content using an engaging new app, Boom Cards by Boom Learning. This new platform allows my students to engage in the math content using interactive digital task cards. My students love using the digital task cards during math centers, independent practice, and small group instruction using the Boom Cards app.

Down River Resources creates interactive digital task cards for kindergarten, first, and second grade math, hosted on Boom Learning. They are perfect to use during math centers, independent practice, and small group instruction time.

Boom Cards Teaching Resources Engage Learners

Boom Learning keeps teachers and parents alike afloat because...

Down River Resources creates interactive digital task cards for kindergarten, first, and second grade math, hosted on Boom Learning. They are perfect to use during math centers, independent practice, and small group instruction time.
1. Digital task cards can help students practice and master specific skills.

2. Digital task cards can assess students' understanding of specific skills.

3. Digital task cards can be used to differentiate instruction since decks of cards can be assigned to students to complete in the classroom or home.

4. Digital task cards save time and money since there is no photocopying, cutting, laminating, or storing!

5. Digital task cards create a fun, interactive environment where game features keep students engaged and wanting more!

Requirements to Use Digital Task Cards

Down River Resources creates interactive digital task cards for kindergarten, first, and second grade math, hosted on Boom Learning. They are perfect to use during math centers, independent practice, and small group instruction time.There are three things required to use this digital platform: a device (computer, tablet, cell phone, or interactive whiteboard), the internet, and an account on Boom Learning

Boom Cards teaching resources can be played directly on the website or through an app from the App Store, Google Play, or Amazon.

Teachers and parents can choose from an ever-growing
library of task cards options to assign to your class or child. There is a range of grade levels, subjects, and topics covered. This variety is great to keep all students engaged in the content, whether the child needs intervention on a specific skill or a challenge in a subject!

One of the best things about digital task cards is that students receive immediate feedback which engages students!

Each answer the student provides receives instantaneous feedback. The cards are self-checking and allow the students to know if they got the answer correct or not. In addition,  there is summative feedback, or a summary of of how the student responded, at the end. (See image for a sample screenshot of summative feedback.)

Down River Resources creates interactive digital task cards for kindergarten, first, and second grade math, hosted on Boom Learning. They are perfect to use during math centers, independent practice, and small group instruction time.
Another perk of this platform is that the student learning experience is "game-ified" to encourage mastery, struggle, and repetition. Students engage more in the content because of this experience.

- Students earn gems for mastering content.
- Coins are rewards for persistence and struggle.
- Pulses (the lightening bolt) reward over-learning behaviors (the concept that learning past mastery leads to automaticity, with speed and accuracy).

Teachers have the ability to assign decks (sets of cards) to individual students so the practice can be very targeted for intervention purposes too. The assignment can be completed within the classroom or at home. Thus, parents can get involved in their child's learning too.

Parents Can Get Involved in Digital Learning

Down River Resources creates interactive digital task cards for kindergarten, first, and second grade math, hosted on Boom Learning. They are perfect to use during math centers, independent practice, and small group instruction time.There are convenient printable password cards so they can be distributed to the students. This card will information families on how to access the website or app at home. These are great for passing out during parent-teacher conferences when parents ask for things that they can do for their child at home! Now, families can also get engaged in their student's learning from home and on-the-go!

In the image titled, "Student View," parents can see the information and progress for their child once they login to the app or website.

Teachers and parents can see how many times it takes for a student to correctly answer a card too. This can help teachers and parents identify any difficulties the student may be facing during the practice sessions. Speed and accuracy is also accounted for in the reporting.

Parents: Ask your child's teacher if they are use Boom Learning. If not, they might be interested in this platform. You can always create a personal account to use with your child independent from the classroom.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Two-Dimensional-Shapes-and-Their-Attributes-Boom-Cards-TEKS-3177514?utm_source=DRR%20Blog%20%7C%20May%2029%2C%202017%20Orange%20Image-%20FREE&utm_campaign=FREE%20Geometry%20Boom%20CardsThere is so much excitement for this new platform. Teachers are wishing they had the opportunity to engage their students in these types of digital learning tasks sooner!

My nieces and nephews are all signed up too and using the digital task cards this summer to prepare for kindergarten, first, and second grades! I look forward to watching them grow and master math!

Digital learning, is an instructional practice that effectively uses technology to strengthen a student's learning experience. If you haven't joined the movement, this is one of the easiest ways I know! Boom Cards teaching resources, hosted on Boom Learning is surely one quick-fire way to enhance a student's learning experience in the classroom and at home.

I hope this post inspires you to check out Boom Cards by Boom Learning, and if you want to use a free deck of cards and try this out, please follow this over to my TpT Shop. 

(You will get a FREE "basic" account that comes with a few extra perks above the free trial for using that link!)

How would you use interactive digital task cards in your classroom or home?

I love using math interactive notebooks! They have been a part of my classroom routine since I moved to Texas. Regardless of the grades I’ve taught, I have found success using them with all of my students in kindergarten, first, second, third, and fourth grades. After all, most of my teaching experience could be summed up by those grade levels! While interactive notebooks can be used in any subject, my favorite subject to use them in is math! Take a look at five of the reasons why you need to check out my math interactive notebooks.

TEKS-aligned math interactive notebooks are perfect for kindergarten, first, and second grades.

Interactive Notebooks in the Mathematics Classroom

1. Math Interactive Notebooks are…well, interactive! 

TEKS-aligned math interactive notebooks are perfect for kindergarten, first, and second grades.Interactive notebooks allow students to get hands-on practice or show mastery of a specific concept or skill. Students practice or show their understanding of a topic by “interacting” with it within their notebook.

Interactive notebooks contain folds and flaps, or graphic organizers, that are created to “move” with the students. Students cut, fold, crease, and glue tabs into their notebooks. These specially-shaped pieces become a medium for the students. Students draw, write, generate, create, use, location, model, describe, solve, represent, determine, and a plethora of other actions, using their folds and flaps within the interactive notebooks.

Students are engaged and excited as they learn using their notebooks! 

These notebooks are just not for days when students are adding to it. My students use their notebooks daily as a scaffold and support for their new learning, new and old. I used to get frustrated when my students were constantly asking me how to special something or how exact of a process. Can you relate?

Interactive notebooks work as an anchor for student learning too. Just like a chart on the wall, students access the information that is kept directly in their notebook that they can use as they need. Students interact with the prior information found in their notebooks throughout their work time, math unit, and school year.

I recently took on a large scale project and created all of the templates you need to use math interactive notebooks in your kindergarten, first, second, third, or fourth grade classroom! With my experience as a teacher of all of these grade levels (not all at the same time,) I have delved into the standards, taught, and lead my students to mastery and YOU can too!

2. Math Interactive Notebooks are a lot of work, but not anymore! 

TEKS-aligned math interactive notebooks are perfect for kindergarten, first, and second grades.When I first started using interactive notebooks, I spent hours on the computer studying the Texas standards, or TEKS. I would write down a list of the vocabulary words my students needed to know. In addition, I looked specifically at what my students needed to know, the content, to master the concept (e.g., how to generate a number, how to use place value, etc.) My weekends and week nights were consumed with planning this things out! You know the feeling! You've been there and done that too!

With my math interactive notebooks, there is NO homework for the teacher! Simply print the file! There are teacher pages designed with you in mind. These informational pages contain photographs of the actual folds and flaps and activities in use. This gives you a visual image of how the notebook is to look with the fold and flap in it!

With my interactive notebook, there is NO guesswork! For each fold and flap, there is also an answer key. The answer keys show the finished products as they should appear in the students' notebook.

No more guessing what should go underneath the flaps AND no more searching on the computer for definitions or specifics! 

Maybe this section's title should read: Math Interactive Notebook are simple!

3. Math Interactive Notebooks guide new Texas teachers and teachers new to the grade level.

TEKS-aligned math interactive notebooks are perfect for kindergarten, first, and second grades.I started my teaching career while I was living in my home state of New Mexico. Yep, the Land of Enchantment!

When I moved to Texas, it was a big task to learn the Texas standards, or TEKS. I am thankful for that experience now, but at the time, I felt like I was on a sinking ship. I was always drowning in information to look up and research.

When you download a math interactive notebook, you will see where you are going in your math unit. You will instantly know the main vocabulary words that your students need to master and the content you will be teaching. In a way, the notebook is a map for your journey through a unit!

If you fit into any one of these categories, math interactive notebooks are perfect for you if...

  • You're a brand new teacher! (Congratulations on landing a job in a rewarding field!)
  • You're a teacher who just moved to Texas. (You better learn how to say "ya'll" with a nice twang. Personally, I stick with "Howdy!")
  • You're an experienced teacher who recently moved grade levels. (Take one day at a time. Apply what your students loved last year in your new grade level, no matter the age gap. The students will love you!)

4. Math Interactive Notebooks keep you and your students organized. 

TEKS-aligned math interactive notebooks are perfect for kindergarten, first, and second grades.
Each math interactive notebook comes with one tab divider page. Not only does this page serve as a place marker in the notebook, it also gives specific information for the topic of the unit.

In this first grade example of the tab divider page, students have a visual that helps guide them through their learning.

Take a quick glance! Can you see what the students will be learning?

Along the top of the tab divider page, there is a visual organizer which shows the students the problem solving model. I attached an image to each step in the process to give the students additional support, which is important for younger students.

This is a great helper for you as the teacher to have a one-stop show for some of the bigger ideas in the unit. You may also be interested in printing a copy and sending it home for parents too!

5. Math Interactive Notebooks can be differentiated for ALL students.

TEKS-aligned math interactive notebooks are perfect for kindergarten, first, and second grades.
Interactive notebooks are inclusive. All students can thrive using their notebooks. There are some simple things that can be done with modify the activities to assist students who need additional support. 

You can add math manipulatives to add of the activities to give students additional hands-on practice and support as they are solving problems in their notebooks.

Some folds and flaps are meant to be written under, but I included strips that can be glued underneath the flaps too. These strips allow the freedom to differentiate in the classroom.

I felt strongly about the flexibility to differentiate the use of interactive notebooks. This is especially true with the vocabulary folds and flaps! There are a lot of words included. Most units contain between six to twelve words which means there are a lot of definitions!

Last year, I taught an average sized group, 22 students. In my classroom, I had two students who were being seen by an occupational therapist for difficultly with cutting, pasting, and writing.

When we used our interactive notebooks, the students' team members (grouped team created with their desks) would help cut and paste. I would write in all of the phrases or sentences that was just too overwhelming for the students. As I was designing these notebook units, it was imperative that I reduce the amount of assistance needed for complete the different activities. Of course, interactive notebooks need to be monitored, as with any assignment in the classroom.

I wanted the students to have more independence and feel successful putting their notebook together.

Whether you have used math interactive notebooks for years in your classroom and are looking for an easier way...or someone new to a grade level looking for hands-on, TEKS-aligned math activities, I am positive that you will benefit from my math interactive notebooks. I have taken the guesswork and homework out of planning the notebook unit components; provided support for all teachers, especially new teachers and those new to the grade level; placed an emphasis on organization; and made it easier to differentiate notebook activities.

I hope this post inspire you to try math interactive notebooks in your classroom, and if you want to check out my notebooks, they're in my TpT shop.

What is your favorite part of math interactive notebooks?

Multiplication and division can be difficult concepts to teach, especially if your second grade students have no prior experience with this type of thinking. It happens every year!  Multiplication and division problems are fundamentally different than addition and subtraction problem situations because of the types of quantities represented. Multiplication and division are taught together so that student can see that one operation is the reverse of the other. Let's make this year different! Using the mathematical principle of unitizing and the "GET" strategy, students will build their proficiency as they learn contextual multiplication and division in the math classroom.

Teaching Multiplication and Division in the Classroom 

Multiplication and Division are fundamentally different than addition and subtraction.

A simple addition problem situation could be: Ann has 3 cookies. Laura have her 4 more cookies. How many cookies does Ann have now? 

A simple multiplication problem situation could be: Ann has 3 bags of cookies with 4 cookies in each bag. How many cookies does Ann have? 

The numbers are the same but the quantities represented are different. This shift in thinking is what gives most students difficulty when transitioning from the operations of addition and subtraction to multiplication and division.

Second grade students need to be able to model, create, and describe contextual multiplication and division situations. What if there was something that could help bridge the gap for these students?

Unitizing Helps Students Shift Their Thinking 

 Have you heard of unitizing? It is an important, and often unknown, math word. Unitizing gives students a change in perspective.

Think back to the development of numeracy. Children learn to count objects one by one, also known as one-to-one correspondence. Instead of counting ten objects one by one, students can unitize them as one thing or one group. Another example of unitizing can be found within place value. Whenever we have 10 or more in a place value unit, we need to regroup. Thus, ten ones can also be thought of as a unit of ten.

This concept of unitizing is a big shift for students. It almost negates what our students originally learned about numbers. We want to help our students achieve the developmental milestone of unitizing. Unitizing is the underlying principle that guides students' learning.

Students need to use numbers to count, not only objects, but also groups... and to count them both simultaneously. Unitizing helps students build their proficiency in contextual multiplication and division.

Students need to be explicitly taught this principle and exposed to seeing it in action multiple times, much less subitizing in these primary grade levels. Show the students ten objects and tell them, " This is one group of 10." It seems simple, right? It is actually quite tricky for students to grasp, so repeat yourself...and repeat yourself. 

Multiplication and Division Strategy: Did You "GET" It?

Another trick for tackling multiplication and division is a little-known strategy. G-E-T is a simple acronym for an effective strategy when teaching contextual multiplication and division.

I have used the acronym before but I added this first step which helps build students' meta-cognition.

After reading through a word problem that involves multiplication or division, ask yourself: "Did you GET it?" If your answer is "yes," you probably followed these steps:

1. Read through the word problem at LEAST once.
2. Circle and label the number representing the GROUPS. (How many groups are the objects being divided  into?)*
3. Circle and label the number representing the EACH. (How many objects are within each group?)
4. Circle and label the number or noun represent the TOTAL. (How many total objects are altogether or in total?)

*When students label, they circle the number and noun (example: 12 cats) and they write the word to describe that part of the word problem (example: in this case, 12 cats would represent the total. The students would write the word TOTAL or the letter "T" on top of the circle.)

If your students label these three parts to a word problem, it will be so much easier solving for the unknown, whether is be the dividend, divisor, quotient, factors, or product.

Labeling word problems using the "GET" strategy is a non-negotiable in second and third grades! Of course, modeling and guided practice is a must before this layer of accountability takes effect! 

I hope this post inspires you to build your students' concept of unitizing and their proficiency with the "GET" strategy, and if you want to use my interactive math notebook on contextual multiplication and division, it's in my TpT shop.

What are some ways you build your students' proficiency in multiplication and division?

* References: Fosnot, C. & Dolk, M. (2001). Young mathematician at work: Constructing Multiplication and Division, NH: Heinemann. 
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