Crayon-Themed Picture Books

 The beginning of the school year is a busy time filled with teaching expectations and procedures. However, it is also a time to celebrate just how diverse and important each student is to your classroom!  Just like a box of crayons, each student plays an important role in the overall picture.  For this reason, I love to read The Crayon Box That Talked by Shane DeRolf.  But why stop there? Two books that pair well with this text are The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, and A Day With No Crayons by Elizabeth Rusch.
I want to share some activities you can use with these picture books in your classroom.

Since all of these picture books have a color crayon theme, a crayon craft is a must-have! This crayon craft is a trifold that doubles as a response booklet and it can be used with any of the three books previously mentioned.  After printing the crayon template onto various colors, you can pick from 5 different writing templates to glue to the inside of the craft.

The crayon craft can be used horizontally or vertically to fit your needs:

Here are just a few ideas of the ways you can use these crayons in class.

Reading Response
favorite part of each story
book reviews
compare/contrast two stories

Writing Prompt
Which color is the best?
How are crayons made?
invent a new crayon

I have included six discussion questions for each book. Some of the questions are text-based and others are more open-ended. These discussion questions can be used with the whole class, in a small group setting, or in student journals for written response practice.

 Two of the stories have crayons that either talk or speak by writing letters. Students can use these talking crayon templates to quote the crayons from the text, to write advice, or to even have a conversation between two crayons.

In The Day the Crayons Quit, the crayons write letters to Duncan to express their feelings.  Students can pretend to be Duncan and write friendly letters back to the crayons. These crayon labels can be added to your friendly letter anchor chart so students can make sure to include the five parts of a friendly letter.  There are also letter templates included for each color crayon mentioned in the text.

A Day with No Crayons is a great story for identifying cause & effect. I use a sentence frame to help guide my students:
Because _______, then ________.

Here's an example from the book:

Knowing that each class is different, I have included a few options for retelling the stories. These can be used with any of the picture books. You can pick and choose what will work best with your students.

I have also added a few colorful extras for your fast finishers! These include a word scramble, word search, ABC order, color mixing, and a color hunt.

You can find all of these resources and more here:

Happy Reading!

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Laminating - Do You Really Need to Pre-Cut Your Pieces?

Do you love laminating? I do! For years I have laminated the small pieces of my games and centers to make sure they will last. Because I use small pieces, I have been cutting the pieces, laminating, and then cutting again so the edges would remain sealed after laminating. I started reading stories about teachers who never cut prior to laminating. I was skeptical, but also curious. I had to try it out for myself and here's what happened.

First, I printed off some pages from my graphing pack, put them in pouches, and sent them through my Scotch laminator.

Next, I was ready to cut the cards apart.

After cutting, I had to check out the edges and can you guess what I found????

They stay sealed - total game changer!

So as you're prepping materials for your classroom, skip the pre-cutting and save yourself some time.

Happy Laminating!

Multiplication Mazes

Math mazes are a great way to get your students practicing math facts! This set of multiplication mazes focuses on the factors 2-12, with TWO different mazes included for each factor. On each maze, students move from start to finish by identifying the true math fact sentences and watching out for the false facts along the way.

 Today I want to share several ways you can use these multiplication mazes with your students.

 Crayons or Colored Pencils
This is probably the easiest route to go. Just print the mazes you need on white paper and let your students choose the color they want.

Sometimes a small change in the tool can make a big difference for students. Instead of a traditional marker, give your students a highlighter to mark the true multiplication facts.

Bingo Daubers
If you have access to daubers, this is a great option for students who take FOREVER to color. Students can simply mark each fact and still see the maze when finished.

Dry Erase Markers
If you want to save on paper copies, this is the route to go. Just grab some sheet protectors and place the mazes inside. You can even insert puzzles back-to-back for double the fun!

Colored Paper
Each maze has a label in the upper right-hand corner for easy identification of the factor students will find in the maze. However, sometimes printing on different colors of paper makes it easier to sort the mazes and differentiate for students. When using colored paper for the mazes, students can lightly shade in the boxes using their pencil, crayon, or colored pencil.

You can find all of these multiplication mazes here.

There's also a pack of addition and subtraction mazes here

Happy Teaching!

Nate the Great Book Series

If your first and second graders are ready to dive into the mystery genre, you need to check out the Nate the Great series written by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. These books are a little shorter than the typical chapter book (most are around 50 pages in length) and they include many illustrations that will keep your students turning the pages. Some of the books have been broken down into chapters, while others read as a short story.

So now that you've grabbed some Nate the Great books, keep reading to find three ways to use these books with students.

 My students have always loved flip books, so it only made sense to create one for this book series. The flip book has seven pages:

Students can complete the pages during or after reading a text. They will focus on the setting, problem & solution, how Nate's friends help provide clues and information to solve the case, a summary of the story, identifying their favorite part, and giving a book review.

Here's a closer look at the page, A Friendly Investigation, where students identify how the other characters in the text help Nate solve the mystery. Rosamond, Annie, and Fang make an appearance in most of the books, but the third character who helps Nate often changes. For the books where Rosamond and Annie don't help Nate as much, there is another option where all three character spots are left blank. 

Another way to engage your Nate the Great readers is to create a detective's case file, which doubles as a reading response booklet.

There are pre-made reading response templates that match the flip book shown above. There are also open-ended pages (lined, blank, and a picture/writing combination page). These open-ended pages work great for vocabulary, making connections, asking questions, visualizations, and more! You can even combine the two options:

If you're planning to use the Nate the Great books with your guided reading group or with your book club, creating a reading response journal is a great way to keep all of the student materials in one place. These book companions contain comprehension questions to guide your readers, vocabulary words, and a handful of graphic organizers.

You can find all of these Nate the Great resources here.
You can also find two free downloads from Random House here and here.

Happy Reading!

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Using Tickets in Math Class

Raffle tickets are a great way to practice math skills in the classroom, but did you know they can be a great management tool, too? Today I want to share with you how I have used math tickets in my 2nd and 3rd grade classroom.

Spring was always an interesting time of the school year for me. The students were growing by leaps and bounds, but they also became a little too comfortable in the classroom which meant stopping to review procedures and practice routines more often. This combination was one of the reasons I loved using tickets during my math block for both skill practice AND management.

Raffle tickets were a great choice because they could be found in many stores or even online. I always bought the double-roll tickets so that I had the matching ticket to every ticket I handed out. My raffle tickets always lasted a long time because they came in large quantities. This meant I didn't have to spend a ton of money on them. The tickets also came in a wide variety of numbers and colors so I could easily differentiate for my students.

In order to practice math skills, my students needed to have tickets. So on the day I introduced math tickets, I gave each student several so we could start using them right away. As students earned tickets, they would write their name on the back. One ticket went in their bag and the other went in my bucket. I did this for two reasons: It discouraged ticket thieves and when a ticket was found on the floor, students could return it to the rightful owner.


There are so many math skills you can practice with tickets. Tickets also make it easy to differentiate because you can teach your students to cross out part of the numbers to match their particular skill level. Here are just some of the skills we practiced with our math tickets:

Reading Numbers
I would randomly draw a ticket from my bucket and read the number aloud.
Who has 4,526?
Students had to read the numbers on their tickets to see if they had a match. When a student did have a match, he would read the number back to me out loud.

Place Value
I would randomly draw a ticket and read it like a place value riddle.
My ticket has a 6 in the tens place. It has a 3 in the hundreds place. I see a 4 in the ones place. What is my number?

Comparing Numbers Using >, <, or =
I would partner my students for this activity and set a timer for 3-5 minutes. Both students would draw one ticket out of their bag. They compared the numbers using >, <, or = and then placed the tickets back into their bag. They repeated this process until the time was up.

Ordering Numbers
I would ask my students to pull three tickets out of their bags and put their tickets in order from smallest to largest or largest to smallest on their desk. Then they would turn and read their numbers to a neighbor.

Adding and Subtracting
Second and third graders always needed practice adding and subtracting. I would ask my students to draw two tickets out of their bag and either add or subtract them using their whiteboards. Some students worked with 2-digit numbers, while others were ready for 3-digit numbers (or higher).

For older students, tickets could easily be used for fractions and probability. Students could also add decimal points to the numbers on their tickets.

Now that I've shared a little bit about how I used tickets to practice math skills, let me tell you how I used them as a classroom management tool.

At the end of math class each day I would plan to draw three tickets. The number of tickets drawn would increase or decrease based upon student behavior during class.

When a ticket was drawn, I would first check the name on the back. I did this for two reasons. First, if the student was absent, I would put the ticket back in the bucket and draw again.  Second, it told me who to keep my eye on as the students checked their tickets. After looking at the name, I would read the number out loud, repeating, as needed. This helped model the correct reading of the number before a student repeated the number back to me. Once a ticket was claimed, both copies of the ticket were ripped and recycled. The student then earned a new ticket and a reward. In my classroom this meant $1 of classroom money. If a ticket was not claimed, it went into the recycling bin.

Once I began using tickets, I found that students wanted to earn more tickets....A LOT of tickets! They realized that the more tickets they had, the better their chances were to have a ticket drawn. They also noticed that the numbers on the tickets were getting bigger and students LOVED having large numbers at their fingertips. I used this to my advantage.

I would walk around with a stack of tickets and pass them out when I saw students making good choices (staying on task, cleaning up math games carefully, using the right voice level when working with a partner, etc). This really motivated my students, but sometimes that wasn't enough. That's when I tried something a co-worker shared with me.

When my students were having a really hard time making good choices, I would make a really big deal of picking up the ticket bucket in front of the whole class. I would reach in and blindly grab a ticket (or two). Then I would rip it into tiny pieces. I never announced which ticket number it was, but the students realized it could have been theirs and it quickly turned things around.

So, if you have a stack or roll of tickets lying around, grab them and put them to use!

Happy Teaching!

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