Place Value

The Common Core Place Value standards are so important when teaching first and second graders. Understanding the meaning of ones, tens, and hundreds sets the foundation for counting, adding, and subtracting. When I teach place value, I emphasize the use of manipulatives with my students. I especially have success using place value blocks. I like place value blocks because students can see that a ten is composed of ten ones and a hundred is composed of one hundred ones.Place value blocks are also easy to manipulate.

My students love Mr. R's Place Value Song! You can watch it here or on You Tube.
He also has a TpT Store!
 Mr. R's Place Value Song

In the beginning of the year, I like to reinforce place value with my students by doing a Number of the Day for morning work. The routine and repetition of Number of the Day really helps students gain number sense. You can use a printed sheet for number of the day, but if your copies are limited, this Rainbow Number of the Day worked great for my class.

                 Sample Number of the Day Poster- Just Laminate and hang on the board.

I just created this poster and had students fill in each section with the corresponding color in their Number of the Day Journal. In the beginning of the year, we went over the Number of the Day as a class. As students mastered this concept, I took a few minutes to check student journals and pull small groups as needed.
Example of student journal using Rainbow Number of the Day Poster

My students also loved making a Place Value Book. 

The book, along with other worksheets, a scoot game, and a quiz can be found in my first and second grade place value packet on TpT. 



Teaching Arrays in Second Grade

Partitioning Rectangles (2.G.A.2) and Arrays (2.OA.C.4)

These standards go together perfectly because they both involve arrays. 2.G.A.2 asks students to partition rectangles into rows and columns to make arrays. Standard 2.OA.C.4 asks students to use addition to find the total number of objects in an array. 

This is my favorite 2nd grade math unit because arrays work perfectly with using food! These lessons are very engaging and memorable for students. Here are some ideas I have used in the classroom:


After students have some familiarity with these standards, I bring in a tray of brownies. I ask students to help me figure out how I should cut the brownies into rows and columns so we have enough brownies for everyone in the class. I give students time to make a plan in groups. After students come up with a solution, they share with the group. When we find a plan that will work, we cut the brownies and enjoy!

Chocolate Bar Math

This is always my second grader's favorite lesson. In this lesson, I bring in a chocolate bar (divided into rectangles) for each of my groups. Students complete an activity with their team using the chocolate bar. Of course, the best part is when students get to partition the chocolate bar and eat it in the end. This lesson can be found, along with other practice sheets for these standards, here:


Open House

Back to school means getting ready for open house. Here are some forms you can use to stay organized. Click on the pictures to grab them for free!


I hate to lecture parents on open house night. Often parents get bored and it makes me nervous! When I was in the classroom, I liked to create a short PowerPoint presentation with key things parents want to know. I created this template to make creating your own presentation easy. Grab it here for free:

In my school students were always invited to join their parents at open house. When I was in the classroom, I liked to include the children in the night. Students always are so excited to show their parents the classroom, so I created these scavenger hunts. This activity has always been a big hit! It also gives parents the chance to see what goes on in our classroom. Snag them for free here:

I hope your open house night goes smoothly! 

How I teach the Common Core Reading Informational Text Standards

How do I teach the Common Core reading informational text standards?

I have found that it is most effective to introduce and teach each standard in isolation. Many students benefit from being taught each standard explicitly. They succeed when they are given steps to follow and know what to expect. Once students have mastered standards, I integrate the standard into other activities.

Here is a sample schedule of how I teach each standard. (Of course the time spent for each lesson depends on the complexity of the standard and the students prior exposure to the standard.)

Day 1: Model (Approx. 15 min.)

1. Introduce the standard. Show students a poster of the steps you take to help you attack the standard in a reading passage. (I create the poster before and may leave some blanks for students to fill in.) Give students a "mini" anchor chart for their journal. Keep the student's engagement by having blanks for them to fill in as you go over it.

2. Model how to read a passage and answer questions based on the standard. You can put a passage on a projector or on a piece of chart paper. I usually just print the passage very big and paste it on a poster. It is helpful to have the poster for reteaching. Students also constantly refer back to the poster. Be sure when you model how to answer the questions, you are going through the steps. Model exactly what you think.  (NOTE: If you are using my Non Fiction Common Core Reading Comp. packets, you can pick one passage for the model. Model answering 2-3 questions. Save the rest of the questions for the We-Do Together portion of the lesson. )

*Remember- Modeling is not time for students to participate orally in the lesson. You should not be asking for any student input during the lesson. 

3. Closing: Before sending kids off for independent reading, centers, and small groups, I close the lesson by reviewing what we learned. On the first day, I may close the lesson by asking random students to repeat the steps back to me. (I also let them use their journal to refer to the steps. It will take a lot of practice throughout the week for students to internalize the steps.)

Day 2: Guided Practice- We Do Together

1. Have students bring their journals to the gathering place and open them to the Anchor chart from the day before. Display your anchor chart. Call on students to review the steps they need to follow to master the standard.

2. Display a passage on a projector or poster (you can use the same one from the day before if you have more questions that go with it.) Reread the passage. Tell students that today, you would like their help. Work as a class to go through the steps to answer the remaining questions. Make note of students who are quickly grasping the process and of students who need more support.

(To make this poster, I just went to print, then under size I clicked poster, then I changed the size to 250%). 

*If a lot of students are struggling, work with a lower level passage. Sometimes you may even need to go back to modeling and thinking aloud. I taught in an inclusion class with students who were two or more grade levels behind. Often times, I would continue to work with and support these students through the "we do with a partner" day. It is also very important to differentiate passages. I am currently working on adding first grade leveled passages to my store. 

3. Closing: On day two, I challenge students to practice the new standard in their independent reading. After small groups and centers, I ask for one to two student volunteers to share how they used the new standard. They must have something written in their journal or on a sticky note.

Day 3: Guided practice- We Do With a Partner

1. Review the steps students need to follow to master the standard.

2. Students who are ready will work with a partner on a new passage. Students who are not ready will work on a new passage with the teacher.

3. Closing: On day three, I ask students to practice the new standard in their independent reading. After small groups and centers, I ask for one to two volunteers to share how they used the new standard. They must have something written in their journal or on a sticky note.

Day 4: Independent Practice

1. Review the steps students need to follow to master the standard.

2. Students who are ready will work on a passage and question set independently.

3. Some students will work with a partner.

4. Some students will continue to work in guided practice with the teacher.

5. Closing: On day four, I expect students to practice the new standard in their independent reading. After small groups and centers, I choose two random students to share how they used the new standard. Everyone must have something written in their journal or on a sticky note.

*While it sounds chaotic to have students working on all different things, if you follow this routine every week, students will get the hang of it quickly. It is also important to have set rituals and routines in place. 

Day 5: Independent Practice (Everyone)

1. Review the steps students need to follow to master the standard.

2. Around day five, I have the entire class practicing on a passage independently. I differentiate passages. Students who started independent practice on day four get a more challenging passage (if they were successful). Students who were still struggling the day before get a passage on their independent reading level.

*I walk around the room and ensure I check on each child multiple times. If possible, I try to check off their work as I roam. This instant feedback is very helpful to students. It also helps you catch any misconceptions immediately and gives you time to confer with them quickly. 

3. Closing: On day five, I expect students to practice the new standard in their independent reading. After small groups and centers, I choose two random students to share how they used the new standard. Everyone must have something written in their journal or on a sticky note.

Day 6: Independent Practice Continued

1. Review the steps students need to follow to master the standard.

2. Students finish and correct their independent work from the day before.

* It is very important to review student work as soon as possible. Give students feedback immediately and guide them towards making corrections. 

2. I may pull my lowest group if they need more support. I may also rotate groups of students with similar mistakes on passages or similar reading levels.

3. Closing: From here on out, I expect students to practice the new standard in their independent reading. After small groups and centers, I choose two random students to share how they used the new standard.

4. Exit Ticket: All students must give me a sticky note or their journal to show me how they practiced the standard in their independent reading. Give feedback to students as needed.

*Sometimes I continue Independent practice for 4 days. If I have students struggling, this gives me more time to meet with small groups. It also gives my higher students more time to practice the standard with higher level text. 

Day 7: Assessment (If ready)

1. If most students mastered their independent work, I assess the following day. If there are still a lot of students struggling, I continue to reteach and provide support until they are independent.

Day 8- Review Assessment

1. Grade the assessment, but do not write the correct answers. Review the assessment as a class, or in small groups. I typically like to review assessments in small groups because students tend to pay better attention and grasp and correct their mistakes. I try to rotate through small groups quickly. I group students who got the same questions wrong.

If you'd like to purchase my 2nd & 3rd Grade Common Core Non Fiction Bundle, click here.

If you'd like to purchase my 1st Grade Common Core Non Fiction Bundle, click here

If you'd like to purchase individual Common Core units, click here.


Student Success Data Binders

Are you overwhelmed by the thought of data binders? Do you want a way to help students become responsible for their learning?

I first heard about data binders from a partner teacher when I was teaching 5th grade ELA. My partner teacher wanted to start data binders after we had already "gotten in the swing of things," and I didn't have much notice. Not surprisingly, I wasn't enthused about the idea. I didn't want to put in the effort to change my whole system. Needless to say, our data binders that year were a mess. With students changing classes, they constantly forgot their binders and lost pages. I did not use them with consistency. Having something this huge "thrown" at me did not make me buy into the idea; however, after reading about data binders over the summer, the following year I decided that I would give it another try with my second grade class. I knew there would be value in having students track their own data. I also was willing to pass off some of the responsibility of keeping binders FULL of data on each student for every subject. This was for the kids after-all, so why not have them track their own data?

Implementing student data binders with fidelity was LIFE CHANGING in my classroom. It was really one of the BEST teaching decisions I made. Data binders transformed my students into being motivated goal seekers. Students learned that they hold the key to their own success.

If you are thinking of getting started with student led data tracking, my biggest tip is to START SLOW! Pick a few of the most important things you would like your students to track and start there. It is easy to add more things later on. If you get in over your head before you start and try to do too much, you will be less likely to follow through at all. While you should certainly pick what is most important to you and your classroom, these are the things I chose to focus on first.

1. Student Goals- When I was in the classroom, I liked to have students develop quarterly goals. At the beginning of each quarter we set new goals, reviewed them periodically, then again at the end of the quarter as we were ready to set new goals. At first my second graders were clueless as to what their goals should be. They made meaningless and unattainable goals such as "Read more." "Read longer." "Read for 5 hours every day." I quickly realized my kiddos needed more guidance. Splitting their goals into four different reading sections helped. Students made a goal for fluency, stamina, reading strategies, and phonics. I created a goal sheet where students could write the specifics for each goal and check of strategies they could use to meet their goal. I did a similar form for math including fluency and math strategies.

2. Tracking Student/ Teacher Conferences- Our goal sheets tracked our longer term goals. I needed an effective way to track conferences. Conferences were a HUGE deal in our school, but that is an entire different post. Before using student data binders, I had pages of student conferences for each child, but rarely did anything with them. They were ineffective for me and the student because the forms were sitting in my huge binder. I created a student/ teacher conference form that mirrored our quarterly goal sheets. Each conference, I would meet with each student and go through each area of focus. For fluency I tested students' WPM, asked them to summarize what they read for me, and asked them clarifying questions. Based on this data, the student and I were able to come up with fluency and reading strategy goals. We also discussed their stamina (I did monthly class stamina checks) and phonics goals (based on their weekly phonics assessments and small groups.) Student then kept the conference notes in THEIR binder. After-all, these are their personal goals they are creating to help themselves. During the conference I also tracked their reading level on a graph in my teacher data binder.

3. Student Graphs for reading level and fluency- Since we already go over this during our conference, it is simple to teach students to track their progress on their graph. For little kids, you do have to walk them through this at the beginning of the year, but after a few conferences they know exactly how to graph. I would just have them complete their two graphs at the table while I called my next conference. Graphing progress has been POWERFUL for my students. They LOVE to see the line go up and it really motivates them to improve their reading skills. If their line isn't going up (or goes down), students really start to make the connection that they need to focus on their goals. (On a side note, I feel strongly that we don't want to create misconceptions for children. I do have students do a line graph for their reading level and fluency. Line graphs are not introduced in math until a much later grade, but this is the proper type of graph to use since we are showing change over time.)

4. Student Graphs for Math Fluency- Math fluency is a huge problem for many students. Having students track their progress with their math facts really motivates students to study and learn their facts. They love to see the progress they make. Students quickly see the connection between practice and progress.

These four things are a great starting point for student data binders. Once you and your students get the hang of these things, you can certainly add more data tracking. The more you use your data binders, the more independent students become with them. Here are some other aspects I used to add later in the year when my students got the hang of things.

  • Stamina Graph
  • Standards assessment tracking sheets
  • Sight word tracking sheets
  • 100 Book Challenge
  • Writing Polished Pieces with Teaching Learning Rubrics
How and when do we use data binders?

*Conferences: Data binders are the main tool for student led conferences with both teachers and parents. I already went over briefly how I used with with student/ teacher conferences. During parent conferences, I always began by having the student go over their goals and successes in their data binder with their parents. This really makes parent conferences meaningful because parents can actually see their child's progress through graphs and conference notes. It also helps parents understand the importance of developing students who are responsible and accountable for their own learning.

*Daily Use- Students keep their data binders with them at their seat all day. (Yes, I know they take up space, but to use them with fidelity, they need to be right net to students at all times.) Students always have their data binders out during center work or independent reading. They need to have their goals right in front of them because during independent reading time and center time they are working on their goals. Don't forget to hold students accountable to this. At the end of reading and math block I always choose a few students to share how they were working towards attaining their goal. In my experience, if you do not use data binders daily like this, they are not nearly as effective.

To purchase my Student and Teacher Data Binder, click here. They are available for first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade.
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