Thursday, March 26, 2015

Fractions in First Grade

I know I seem to say this about every math concept I blog about but I LOVE FRACTIONS.

Well, the first grade version of fractions :) 

It's weird to even hear myself say it because I struggled, and I mean struggled, with fractions in school. I was a good test taker though so I always flew under the radar with my teachers but I remember just looking at them like What is this?! 

SO I think it is really important to build those fraction foundations so your students don't end up staring at fractions the way I did!

I think the first concept in fractions to teach is EQUAL PARTS, or EQUAL SHARES.

Fractions in First Grade ideas like this equal parts math center - lots of fun fractions ideas and activities

See those funky shapes with unequal parts on the right?? We call those "nutty shapes"!

Our job is to help our squirrel friend find the nutty shapes with unequal parts so we sorted the shapes by whether they had equal parts or unequal parts.

Then some practice!

Once your students understand that fractions have equal parts, I recommend having them partition fractions themselves! The most fun way to do this, in my opinion, is with dough!

In small groups, give each student a ball of dough. Provide a rolling pin for them to roll their balls flat and some circle cookie cutters to cut out circles. If you don't have rolling pins, you can use pretty much anything - even a highlighter - or they can just smash it down with their hands. If you don't have circle cookie cutters, you can use anything with a circle base. Turn a plastic cup upside down and press it in. Can you tell I improvise a lot?? :)

Great teaching fractions in first grade tricks on this post including using dough to teach partitioning shapes into equal parts... it makes a great small group fractions activity that helps students see and understand fractions

This activity is not only super fun but it promotes SO much good conversation and thinking.

Guide your students by having them cut one of their circles in half. Talk about how each of the 2 shares is a half and together they're called halves. Then have them cut their other circle into half.. and then half again. Let them know these are called fourths because there are four equal parts. As they're looking at their halves and fourths side by side, ask them if they notice anything. Discuss how the more shares you cut it into, the smaller the shares get. You could also cut your circle in an unequal way and ask if it's cut into halves/fourths/whatever and help them see that the shares must be equal to be called halves/fourths/etc. There are so many great concepts you can teach with the dough out! I also made a cute little recording sheet to go along with it so they can write about what they learned during/after their exploration.

For more halves, fourths, etc. practice, I made practice sheets in different difficulty levels.
One of the types of worksheets I made were these sheets that focus on a specific type of fraction (cut into halves, thirds, fourths, or eighths).

Fractions worksheets to teach halves fourths thirds and a lot of other great fractions activities and ideas

I love these because they practice several skills at once but for each type of fraction so it's not too confusing or overwhelming.

If you need something a little easier, this is a great worksheet to do first to review what halves, thirds, and fourths are:

Fractions halves fourths thirds worksheet to practice what each term means!
And of course some cutting and pasting action because I love having them for every math concept ever because kids love it and it is great, self-checking practice.
I've said this before but...
According to 5 and 6 years olds:
Math Worksheet = Math.
Math Worksheet + Cutting/Gluing = Party.

Equal parts worksheet for first grade fractions that practices sorting shapes as having equal parts or unequal parts in a fun way and other fun ideasHalves and fourths fractions shape sort worksheet to practice half of and fourth of shapes in a fun way

and a little coloring action too because who doesn't love coloring?!

Fractions in first grade are so much more fun when coloring is involved! Coloring by fourths, halves, thirds, and more fun fractions activities on this post! Definitely save this!

Once you think they've got it down, I recommend busting out the Fraction Flowers!!

I included this activity in a bunch of different ways because I love it so much. You can use it as a craft, a math puzzle/center, or hang the flowers up as a poster or visual aid.

The craft makes a super duper cute bulletin board!
I love the way ours turned out! Sorry for the #notsohumblebrag but I can't help it - I love, love them and they were a lot of fun to make!

Fraction flowers are my favorite way to learn fractions! Come see how to make these and all the other fun ways we learn about fractions!

Can someone help me think of a cute bulletin board title? "Come see what we're growing in our Fraction Garden!" "Our Fraction Garden is Blooming" ... I can't figure out exactly what I want it to say :)

For this math craft, we sorted the HALF OF fractions and FOURTH OF fractions. I also include WHOLE, THIRD OF, and EIGHTH OF. 

It's differentiated as well so you can choose how much to challenge your students. Each flower comes in both full color and black & white. Each of those options also comes in pre-made (where the flower is already put together as a pretty flower like you see above) OR mixed up in pieces for students to sort and build their own flowers.

For the craft, I just printed the premade black and white flowers so all you had to do is color in the fraction either half of or fourth of, color the rest of your flower, and then cut and glue it to the construction paper. 

What I recommend if your students are up for the challenge (or you have a select few that are) and you have the time, have them sort the petals to the right flower first! It's an awesome sorting activity that adds even more learning to the craft. Print the 'mixed up in pieces' black and white version for students to SORT FIRST to build their flowers. They'll put the petals with the right flowers and arrange them to build their flowers. It might not be as "perfect" looking for your bulletin board as the above example but it'll be authentic and awesome! (I used to always want bulletin boards to be perfect examples of perfect work and I finally realized that was silly and it was the imperfections and differences that made them authentic and beautiful examples of work - random weird philosophical thought, sorry! :))  

The mixed up pieces color version is a review center for next week!

Fractions activity to create half of, fourth of, third of, and eighth of fraction flowers! This math center is a kid favorite! Click to see the other fun ways she teaches fractions!How to make fraction flowers to practice halves and fourths in first grade and thirds and eighths for 2nd grade and a lot of hands on fractions activities that make it so much more engaging!

Students sort the petals to the right fraction and then copy what they match onto their recording sheet.

For the premade color ones, I printed and laminated them to use as a visual. 
Right now, they're on my table as a reference tool but I'm going to cut them out and hang them up as a classroom poster display soon.

How to make fraction flowers to practice halves and fourths in first grade and thirds and eighths for 2nd grade and a lot of hands on fractions activities that make it so much more engaging!How to make fraction flowers to practice halves and fourths in first grade and thirds and eighths for 2nd grade and a lot of hands on fractions activities that make it so much more engaging!

Being able to partition the fractions into halves and fourths themselves is a big concept in first grade so that's important to practice! I made worksheets to practice but this one (the easy level - A) is good to throw in a pocket protector with dry erase markers to practice in small groups when introducing it. Encourage your kiddos to find multiple ways to divide the circle/square into halves/fourths/thirds/whatever.

Fractions in first grade partitioning worksheets and activities for learning about fractions

Once you feel like they really get  the fundamental concepts, you can move into the number representation of fractions. I know a lot of first grade teachers are told not to do it but I personally think that once you lay down the basics, they're very capable. If you're saying "1 out of 3" shares, they might as well know the representation. BUT if you disagree, that's fine! I created some very simple straightforward worksheets and centers to practice it for those who want to venture into the fraction abyss.

Fractions worksheets and activities that are hands on and fun
I think a great way to help kids understand it is to write "out of" on the line that separates the numerator and denominator and teach them to read down to "read" the fraction. It really helps them get what the fraction means, but most importantly, they won't mix up the numerator and denominator if they know what the written expression for the fraction actually means. For example, the circle has 3 out of 4 pieces colored so that is how they would read it starting at the 3 and going down: "3 out of 4". Here is what I mean:

How to explain fractions to young learners in a way they can understand

Puzzles obviously because I would make puzzles of puzzles if I could :)

Easy fractions activities that are hands on to make introducing and learning fractions fun

And what else?? Cut and pasting fun! Always <3

Easy fractions worksheets and activities to make introducing fractions hands on and fun

Thank you for listening to me share some of my ideas for teaching fractions. I hope you got some new ideas!

If you want the activities from this post, they're ALL included in my:

along with A LOT more worksheets, centers, cutting and pasting activities, and assessments!

Unit 18 is also included in the First Grade Math Units 10-18 Bundle if you want all of the second half of my first grade math units :)

Okay one more thing I want to share with you that I love.....


I scored this adorable little bowling set at Target for only $7 over the weekend and I'm so excited to use it. You can find 10-piece bowling sets in a lot of places so if you can't find this at Target, I'm sure you can find one online pretty easily. It comes with 10 plastic bowling pins and 2 little plastic balls.

So the way to play Fraction Bowling is to set up all the pins. (It comes with a mat that shows exactly where to set the pins to make it easy for kids to set up but I set it up without it because it's cuter for the picture, not gonna lie :))

FREE Fractions Bowling math game printable and directions

Have students take turns rolling the ball to the pins to try and knock them down. I recommend letting them roll it twice just like with regular bowling so they don't completely miss on their turn and get upset. There are 2 balls.. an orange ball and a purple ball so they could get both balls to start and roll each.

At the end of their turn, they go to their recording sheet and color in how many pins they knocked down out of the 10 pins on the worksheet. Then, they write the fraction they made. So if they knocked down 4 pins, they'd color in 4 of the pins on their recording sheet and write 4/10 next to it. You can skip the writing the fraction part if your kids aren't ready for it. Just the 4 out of 10 is great practice anyway! Or if you want to make it harder for your super high kids, make them make a fraction of ALL the pins once they're all done (ex: 36/60 pins total). 

I made a simple little recording sheet to go with it that you can download for free by clicking here:
Fractions Bowling

FREE Fractions Bowling math game printable and directions

If you want to save these ideas for later on Pinterest, feel free to pin this or any other picture from this post:
So many hands on fractions activities and ideas! I love these fractions centers to practice halves and fourths, equal parts and unequal parts, partitioning shapes, and so much more - perfect for first grade or introducing fractions to any age!

Again, thanks so much for taking the time to read my little blog!
I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

To read blog posts about more of my math units, check out these posts:
Building Number Sense (Unit 1)
Place Value (Unit 9)
Adding 3 Numbers (Unit 12)
Time (Unit 15)
Fact Fluency (Unit 10) 
Making a 10 to Add (Unit 10)
Graphing and Data Analysis (Unit 16)
Composing Shapes (Unit 17)
Money (also comes in U.K., Australian, and Canadian coins) 

Also - don't forget to join Miss Giraffe's Class so you never miss out on fun ideas and exclusive free stuff from me only for subscribers!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How to Keep Gifted Students Engaged and Learning

Anyone who knows me, reads this blog, or uses my resources knows that I am passionate about differentiation. I think that is because I grew up hardly ever feeling like the work or tasks that I was given in school were appropriate for me and I so badly wanted them to be.

Differentiation seems to mean different things to different people. To me, it means meeting every single child where they are and pushing them forward. Not pushing them too hard, not pushing them too soft. Giving each student what they need that will make them feel successful but also challenge them. It's a really delicate balance and when you have a classroom full of 2 dozen kids- it can be really hard to find that zone for each child, especially since it is ever changing as they learn and grow. Teachers already have a lot on their plate so asking teachers to give each child a personalized education is a lot to ask for. With that said, I think that it should be attempted as much as possible for ALL students.

So today I want to talk about differentiating for your HIGH kids.
Your gifted kids. Those kids who just seem to "get it" right away when you teach things.  

I think a lot of times high achieving students are pushed to the side and are not given what they need, often times more than any other group. You already get it so why don't you go pick out a book to read while everyone else finishes their work. They already know, or it took them 5 minutes to fully get, what you're teaching that day... so what do you do with them for the next 5 hours??

I wanted to write this post of DOs and DON'Ts from the perspective of a gifted elementary school student.

I was labeled as "gifted" right away in school. Learning came really naturally to me as a child. I don't ever remember being taught to read or do math. I remember just sitting at home doing puzzles, writing, reading by myself (only child) anxiously waiting for the day I could finally start school. I was SO excited to learn new things, make new friends, and get my hands on more books and puzzles and learning. 


Although I loved going to school, I usually felt like it was up to me to make it fun (and honestly, tolerable) for myself. I also feel like there are entire school years where I didn't learn much at all to be completely honest.

Thankfully, I was raised as an only child so I was very used to finding ways to entertain myself or I think I would've become a 'naughty' student like my (also "gifted") husband which I'll talk about later.

Also thankfully, I had a few amazing teachers along the way that truly supported me and made school meaningful so I want to share what I feel as though they did right.

I'd like to say a quick disclaimer that, for some reason, it's really scary (and honestly, kind of embarrassing) for me to come out and tell the world that I was a "gifted kid." I'd honestly rather tell you my weight or about the time I sat on a chocolate brownie in white shorts in junior high. I don't want anyone to think I'm saying hey-look-at-me-I'm-smart because I don't think I'm smarter than anyone reading this at all. I was labeled gifted as a child. As an adult, I actually feel inadequate a lot of the time. I can barely juggle laundry and working. I often have to read something 5 times before I understand what it's saying. I still use my fingers to do simple math. I didn't learn how to swim until junior high. I still can't figure out how to do a cartwheel. There are so many things I don't know how to do and many things I'm not good at. Being labeled as gifted was really awkward for me in early elementary school and I felt like the other kids resented me and thought of me as different for it so it became an insecurity to me that I still carry to this day.

In 2nd grade, I remember my friend Carlos that I loved playing basketball with at recess telling me that sometimes he hated me because I always finished my work quickly and the work was really hard for him. Such an honest confession from a kid so young but it really stuck with me because it was the way I sensed that the other kids felt but he actually verbalized it and made it real. Don't get me wrong, I feel like I was socially accepted and I always had a lot of friends, but I always felt insecure about it. I think this is an important point because I often felt like some teachers propagated the idea to the class that I was different or oh-so-smart and, while they probably thought they were complimenting me and building me up in a public setting, I was wishing I could crawl into a ball and hide behind my smile.

So anyway, here are some tips to help your high kids stay engaged and learning but (more importantly, to me) feel like they belong.

[Note: These are all based on MY personal experience as a "gifted" student and from talking to my "gifted" husband/friends who had similar experiences. I'm trying to write this from the way I thought as a child, not as someone who went to college to become a teacher, to truly offer that perspective. So please realize that the feelings/thoughts I'm trying to convey may sound immature but they're the way I felt and/or the way my husband expressed that he felt when we were little kids in elementary school. I truly am fearful of being judged by this post but I think it's important to share how I felt so that future students can be supported better in their classrooms.]

How to keep gifted kids engaged and learning

DON'T give them extra of the same level of work if they finish early.
If they finish a worksheet quickly, they get it. They don't need to do it again so why give them more problems they already know how to do? It's busy work. They know it is. They may ask for it and, if they do, sure give it to them. But if they are asking for it, know that it is because they are BORED. It means they don't have another, better option so they're just trying to do something to pass the time. That's not learning in any way, shape, or form. I remember constantly asking for more work. It wasn't fun or stimulating in any way but it was either that or sit there super bored until I can't handle it anymore and get in trouble for talking to my friends that are still working.

Instead: Provide alternate and/or extension activities that are cognitively challenging things for them to do. Have it relate to the lesson! It shouldn't be more of the same work like more math problems than their friend, it should be the same concept but at a more challenging level. If you do a little searching, you can find challenging, have-to-think-a-lot type activities for most math and literacy skills or differentiated versions of activities. Most of my resources are differentiated and I know a lot of other people provide that as well. Every high kid I've ever encountered seems to love puzzles and brain teaser type activities so providing those is great as well. I used to bring crossword puzzle books, cryptograms from the newspaper, word searches, etc. from home to school to work on when I was done with my work. That definitely wouldn't fly in a classroom today though so try to provide things about the concept you're learning but on a higher, puzzle-y level if you can. Yes, puzzle-y is a word. :) I would have felt so much more connected to school if the things I was doing after my work had anything to do with what we were learning.

Here's a simple kindergarten or first grade example:

Let's say your class is learning the AR sound.
So you give your students the worksheet on the left to practice reading and writing AR words.

Differentiated AR sound worksheets to practice bossy R sounds with that tricky R controlled vowel! Differentiated AR sound worksheets to practice bossy R sounds with that tricky R controlled vowel!

The worksheet on the left is very straightforward. It's a picture of a barn so they write barn under it. The words are easy to sound out with sounds they already know. There's an S-blend in scarf and the SH sound in shark but you've already learned those sounds earlier in the year so your students should be able to figure it out.

The one on the right is what you give your high kid(s). It's practicing the same target skill (reading and writing words with AR sound) but at a more challenging level. They're even doing the same amount of work but it's way more appropriate for them.

Here's a few reasons why..
- The words are more difficult to read. Most have 2 syllables instead of 1 so they are more difficult to decode.
- They have sounds your class may not have learned yet (ue in argue, oo in cartoon, soft G in garbage and large, etc.) that they will be able to figure out but it might take them a minute
- Some of the words aren't as straightforward - some have an extra step in reading the word and figuring out which picture it describes. When they read the word "sharp," they have to think of what that word means and find the picture best suited for that description. Same with "sparkle" and "large."
- It uses vocabulary they might not know. Gifted kids typically love learning new vocabulary so this will be of much higher interest to them than barns and jars. "Larva" and "harvest" might be words they haven't heard before. They'll be able to figure out where they go on the sheet by process of elimination and then will sit, looking at the pictures, and ponder what those words must mean. They may ask you what a larva is when they're done. Perfect opportunity to direct them to a science book later that has real pictures of larva. The more you can connect things for them, the better!

Another option is to give the same skill practice but in a puzzle-y way like I mentioned above.

Differentiated AR sound worksheets to practice bossy R sounds with that tricky R controlled vowel!Differentiated AR sound worksheets to practice bossy R sounds with that tricky R controlled vowel!

These sheets still practice reading and writing AR words but they are more like puzzles. Really, any of your kids would enjoy these but they most likely need the straightforward practice first.

For the crossword puzzle on the left, they look at the picture and write the word just like the basic worksheet above but it's presented in a more challenging way and is highly engaging for a gifted student. The puzzle on the right gives them a box of words to read to figure out the path to form a sentence that describes the picture. I colored in the correct path to show you how it works. They have to read a lot of AR words to figure out the right path in the maze. Then, they write the sentence underneath. So both puzzle options above are still the same practice as everyone else... reading AR words, recognizing pictures, process of elimination, writing AR words... but it's at a more appropriate level for them.   

All of these pages are in my AR Worksheets & Activities {NO PREP!} Pack if you want them. 
I also have them for almost every phonics sound in a bundle.

I truly believe that...

DO let them work with a partner.
Gifted children can feel isolated. I know that I definitely did. It doesn't feel good to feel different, even if it's a good kind of different. It's still different.

If possible, let them work with a partner who also is high and finishes their work quickly. It can be very low maintenance for you if they know that when they're done with their work, they each go to some table to work on something to further their learning or know their choices. I love, love, love the way so many teachers do hands-on math stations and literacy stations these days - I would've loved that as a child. Let them do hands-on games and activities when they're done that they choose.. which leads me to...

DO give them choices in their extension/enrichment. 
Make sure there is always something in place that they can do when they are done and not something extra they have to do after their assigned task. If it is the same thing every day, they will get bored so quickly. So will most children. Have a list of at least 4-5 things they can choose from when they're done if they finish their work before the other students. The choices should be determined by you but they can choose which one to do.

Make sure you change out the choices often or they will get bored FAST.

Also encourage them to not choose the same thing always.. maybe make it a weekly list where they can choose a different one each day but have to do them all or 4 out of the 6 choices or something. 

If there is a choice that isn't that academic, be sure to limit it. I had a teacher that would let those of us that finished our work early play on the computer. So what did I do every single day? Play Oregon Trail. For a long time. Every day. It was fun and I loved it but did I learn anything? Other than the word 'dysentery' and that it is hard to ford a river in a covered wagon, definitely not. If you give them the choice to play computer games every day, they probably will. The point isn't to keep them busy, they're there to learn and grow.

DO provide funky fun things for them to do completely unrelated to what you're learning in class.
It's important to give them extension activities tied to what you're learning in class but it's also great for them to explore things that interest them that are completely unrelated!

One year, my teacher taught me how to say certain words and count to 10 in German and let me learn about German culture on the side. She had a lot of German books I could read and even brought sauerkraut for us to try. I thought it was so cool and was super engaged.

Another year, I was in an after school enrichment club to learn sign language and I LOVED IT. If your school has enrichment clubs, encourage them to join! If your school doesn't, consider starting one! We learned the alphabet, words, and the pledge of allegiance in sign language. But the best part?!?! We learned how to sign "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys!
Best. thing. ever. when you're 10 and boy bands are all the rage. Any time I hear that song to this day, I start signing the parts I remember cause IIII want it that waay :)

I know I said unrelated but you could easily incorporate a fun unrelated thing like sign language into every day learning IN the classroom as well. For example, let's say your class practices their sight words each week by building them with alphabet letters. That's great! It's fun and hands on but your gifted student will be able to do it quick and want something else. Challenge them by adding another component to it like sign language.

Gifted and talented activities for elementary plus so many ideas for teaching gifted students - for example, these secret sign language sight words center cards are a great early finishers activity for advanced students to do when they've finished their regular classroom work

Give them the sight word cards (335 words included in this pack) for the words you're practicing that week and a sign language alphabet chart (a chart is included in the pack). Have them look at the chart to figure out each letter of the secret word they're building and make it with their hands. This connects what you're learning in the classroom to a new, challenging skill that they can practice independently. They're still practicing your weekly sight words and building them but they're also simultaneously practicing a totally different, challenging skill. They'll probably want to practice the letters with their chart when they're done and spell other things like their name, your name, their friends' names, words around the classroom, etc. - it's a perfect extension activity and what's even better is that they'll think they came up with it. :) 

I personally love language and learning new languages was what interested me and challenged me as a student. Find what it is that interests your student and let them go wild with it!

Which leads me to...

DO find out what they're interested in and provide enrichment activities about that topic.
There aren't always enrichment and extension activities directly connected to what you're learning or, if there are, they breeze through them because they already know the material. Have project type learning activities that they can go to when they're done that are about what they're interested in. Let them explore that. They came to school to learn so if they already know the content that you're teaching, give them opportunities to learn about other things they're interested in.

If they love space, have high-interest space books they can read and respond to in fun ways. Let them build a diorama or make a book about space. We are so blessed to have a website like TeachersPayTeachers that will have something for anything you want to teach that you can find so easily ready to be printed and used. Yes it's extra work for you but they will love you for it. Forever.

In 3rd grade, I had an amazing teacher who knew that I loved to read and I remember the day she said I could come to the back of the classroom to this little reading nook area and do a project on Helen Keller whenever I was done with my work. She had books about her and little activities for me to do and I was just floored. I felt so special and cared for. After several years of being sent to the library/other classes or being told to sit and wait or read, I felt like someone was finally giving me what I needed. [We still keep in touch. She even came to my wedding despite me having moved out of town.]

Gifted kids are very well aware when you view them as something in your way. I often felt like I was this nuisance that my teachers were trying to get out of the way so that they could teach the other kids. In talking to my husband, he said he felt the same way. Make it exciting like, "Look at this fun activity you can do when you're done!! You can explore blah blah.." instead of "You can go to the corner over there and pick out something on the shelf to do until the other kids are done."  

DON'T provide enrichment and extension activities that take away their social times like lunch, recess, specials, etc.
Don't punish them for their intelligence. Where they need more attention and love is IN the classroom. If they already understand what you're teaching, why would they need MORE instructional time than their peers? They just need the instructional time they already have to be better spent.

Plus, they might already have a hard time connecting with their peers. Don't take away any social opportunities from them.

When I talked to my husband about his school experience, we both felt like we were always being punished for 'being smart' in elementary school. We were either being told to go away and do something else to not bother the other kids or, when we were actually given fun enrichment activities, they were done during things we actually wanted to do. For example, my husband said he really enjoyed the things he got to do in his enrichment class but it was during his lunch/recess, so he missed out on playing with his friends which was a bummer. For me, I remember having to miss specials like P.E. and art and music and things I would've really enjoyed and been able to actually connect on the same level as my classmates. I love art but I'm awful at it.. it would've been fun to struggle together with my friends with fun stuff like that and show them that I'm not good at everything. Instead, I had to be different as usual and go to enrichment club. It would've been great if the enrichment had happened IN the classroom rather than be bored all day.   

DO call on them for answers.
There were few things I hated more in school than not being called on ever. I remember my arm being physically sore from raising it all the time to no avail. I'm sure I annoyed my teachers by always having the answer but not being called on just made me feel awful.

My husband said that being called on to answer/speak was the only way he ever felt connected to the lesson being taught. Don't deny them of that connection.

I know you're checking for understanding so you want to call on the other kids to see if they get it, but call on them too. Let them be part of the classroom community and the lesson.

I know. Sometimes high kids can be long-winded with their answers but just let them be. I know you have so much to pack into your instructional time but when you don't call on them, you're sending a message to them that them being there for that lesson doesn't matter. Let them contribute. The other kids might learn from what they're saying but, even if they don't, the gifted kid IS learning. They're learning that you care and that they matter.  

DON'T spotlight how "smart" they are to the class unless you're doing it for others at that time as well.
They know they're smart. Of course they like to hear it. But they don't want to feel different than their friends or singled out in public. They most likely don't want you to say it in front of the entire class unless you do that for everyone. Instead, use specific praise by praising a specific thing that they did, not just that they are 'so smart.' The other kids don't want to hear that either. Just make sure that when you praise them, if you say, "Wow, Sofia, I love how you put an exclamation there to show how you were excited." immediately follow that with, "And thank you so much, Jack, for how nice and quietly you're working!" if that makes sense. If you're going to put them in the spotlight, don't leave them there alone, because alone is how they will feel.

Instead: Write little notes on their work before you hand it back. They will read it and they will love it. Even if you just write the word "Wow" or "Fantastic," it means something. I always did extra in my work. If we had to write a response, I wrote as much on those lines as I could fit and in the margins. I loved when my teachers would respond to it as if they read it and were impressed by it. Writing them little positive comments or notes is an easy way to praise them without making them feel different from their peers. Praise them with words as well but make an effort to do it privately.

DO understand that they are not good at everything.
Don't just assume they're good at everything academically. They're not. Make sure they truly understand a concept before they can exit the lesson to do an extension or other activity. Check their work and understanding like with any other child. If they don't understand something, they might try to hide it because they are used to everyone thinking they're perfect and the thought of not living up to their perfect image gives them a lot of anxiety. So make sure you're checking for understanding! Don't just assume they've got it. I got all the way to Algebra 2 Honors freshman year of high school without ever understanding basic fractions. I also hid the fact that I couldn't tell time for a good decade. If a teacher had caught things like that earlier, man oh man that would've been helpful for me. Your advanced student may be a math genius but struggle with spelling. Whatever they are, find their weaknesses. They have them, I promise. Build them up and provide activities they can do when they're done with their normal work to practice those things in a fun way.

DO know that they might get frustrated and give up more easily than other students.
If something is too hard for them, they might get frustrated or angry and give up quicker than your other kids. They're used to understanding things right away and immediately excelling at new things that they try so when that doesn't happen, they may be more inclined to give up. Your lower kids are used to struggling so their stamina and perseverance may be greater than your high kids'. Encourage them to keep going and offer small hints. Help them but DO NOT just give them the answer. They like a challenge but they want to be the one to figure it out. If you give them the answer, it might make them feel like a failure.

DON'T make them sit quietly/still through an entire lesson they don't need.
This is such a big one! It's also one of the hardest to implement in a regular classroom.

But this was the very first thing my husband and I both said to each other when we talked about what we didn't like about school: Constantly having to sit through lessons about things we already knew/understood.

Your gifted students most likely already know the content you're teaching or, if they don't, will be able to master it within the first few minutes of your lesson. Once they get it, it is very, very hard for them to just sit there perfectly still, quiet, and locked on your eyes for the rest of it. They want to. They really do. They want to "be good" but it is HARD when you're forced to do that all day every single day. It feels like torture. I loved school and wanted to be the perfect little child but oh how I just could not sit there quietly. I tried so hard but I just couldn't do it.

Have you ever had to go to a staff meeting for something you had already been trained on or knew how to do? You had to sit there for an hour and watch someone read a presentation on how to do something you already knew how to do. At first, you're like, "Ooh awesome, I already know this!" and then after 10-15 minutes, you're thinking, "....I already know how to do this. Why am I here? I could be in my classroom getting things ready for tomorrow or making copies or grading. What a waste of my time."

That's only an hour. Imagine doing that all day every day, and with the attention span of a child. Even at age 6, it is blatantly obvious to you that your time is being wasted. All you want to do is get up and go do the worksheet you know you're going to have to do when this talk is done so you can move on to something else. All you can think about is, "Please, please no one raise their hand when she asks if anyone has questions."

I understand that you might be required to have all of the students on the carpet when you're teaching. Or sitting at their desks looking at you when you're teaching. If you have to have them there, utilize partner sharing during your lesson. It might drive you crazy at first but... Let them fidget. Let them doodle on their paper while you talk. Let them play with something in their hands. Let them stare at their shoes and play with their laces. Heck, give them math blocks to build with while you talk as long as it doesn't distract the other kids too much. Trust me when I say that they're still hearing and taking in every word you say. I actually think way better when I have other things going on. I currently have music AND the T.V. on AND I'm alternating between several tabs doing other things. They most likely need extra stimulus and, if they can give it to themselves without distracting the other kids too much, by all means let them!

My husband said this was the single biggest thing that would've kept him from being a troublemaker in school. 

You could also have a secret signal with them. Have them sit in the back of the carpet so their fidgeting doesn't distract others. Explain to them that you understand that sometimes they already understand what you're learning but that they need to sit there until they fully understand it. When they feel like they understand it enough and want to go work on the practice work, they can give you some sort of hand signal like their hand raised halfway with three fingers pressed together (I'm just making up a random signal). You can discreetly nod that it's okay for them to go or slightly shake your head for no. That way, they still get the foundations they need but don't have to sit through the entire lesson once they get it. If they have trouble with their practice work, they can come sit back down to learn more but they very likely will not and will still get all of their problems correct. Once they finish the seatwork, they can go off to do one of their enrichment choices.

DON'T simply send them to higher grade levels.
This can be an okay option but it needs to be done very carefully. This one is really important to me because I hated this in school. In early elementary, I was often sent to other classes in a higher grade. It was nice to be able to leave my class but I felt like I was just being sent away. I did not feel like I belonged in those classes. I didn't have my own designated seat like everyone else, the other kids didn't know why I was there, and what they were learning in no way connected to what we were learning in my class. Plus, just because an advanced student is intellectually compatible with older students does NOT mean they are emotionally or socially compatible with them. In 1st grade, I was in a 1st/2nd/3rd grade combo class and it was awful. The 3rd graders were mean to us 1st graders at any opportunity. They made sure to let us know that we were little kids and didn't belong with them. They also talked about 'bad' things and used 'bad' words that I wasn't ready to hear as a 1st grader. It was shocking for me at the time.

If you do send them to an older class, I recommend only one grade level above and make sure they have their own seat they always sit in with the same kids around them. That the kids in the other class are talked to beforehand to treat them like they are a part of the classroom community.

Also - don't send them during the introduction of concepts! They may be able to get to the 99th story of that skyscraper when everyone else will only get to the 30th story but everyone has to walk through the lobby first to get to the elevator. Being sent out of my regular classroom during instructional time made me miss the introduction of so many things and actually caused me to really struggle later on! Sometimes it didn't catch up to me until junior high or high school but it did. I missed A LOT of foundations that I should have had and didn't. That's why I never learned time or fractions... I was sent to a higher grade level to learn something else instead while those things were introduced. I also missed decimals and percents and a lot of grammar concepts. To this day, I'm constantly teaching myself things I should have learned in elementary school (yay for the internet!). Concepts are usually taught sequentially and in a certain grade so make sure they're not missing what they should know in the grade they're in or they'll have trouble later on.

DO try to understand why they're acting out.
I know we hate to hear this but the answer is most likely because they're not being challenged enough.. or they haven't been in the past so they've developed less than desirable behaviors. You might think you're providing them with all of these challenging, interesting activities and differentiating your heart out but if they're acting out, you need to find a way to reach them. Keep trying, it's possible!

Have you ever had a kid in your class that is just so smart but you just cannot get him or her to do their work?
They don't seem to care. They play or fidget with things any time you're not looking at them or telling them to work. They don't pay attention to your lessons. They build towers out of the math manipulatives when they should be doing their work.

That kid was my husband.

Before I sat down to brainstorm what I wanted to say in this post, I asked my husband about his experience in school. I knew my husband was also a "gifted" kid but had a very different school experience than me so I wanted to hear his side of the story. He's a really nice, caring person with strong morals so I always found it funny when he or others tell me that he was a troublemaker in school. He's super smart but he didn't try in school at all. I remember those kids from my own schooling. They were usually boys that everyone knew were super smart but didn't try or care about doing well in school. They usually got in trouble for mischievous little things. I never understood why because I was that hard working must-get-straight-As goody two shoes type (again, please don't judge me! :)). I figured they just didn't care and never did, period.

Then I decided to ask my husband about why he didn't try and oh dang it ended up being a therapy session! haha.. and very, very eye opening for me. 

It gave me SUCH an interesting look into the eyes of that kid in your class who is smart but doesn't try. I asked him to walk me through his elementary school experience:

- He said in kindergarten, he was really excited about school and eager to learn. He would get a task, get it done fast, and then look around to realize everyone else was still working. He felt proud. Yay! I'm done first. I'm pretty cool[Smug smile]

- In first grade, he stopped getting called on for answers. Even if he was the only one raising his hand. The teacher would take that as a sign that 'the class didn't get it' and re-teach what she was saying and he would sit there feeling invisible. (This was a total light bulb moment for me! How many of you have done that??)
He said he was bored a lot in class and felt very unchallenged but he was still trying. But he said that the teachers not challenging him, giving him a bunch of work he already knew how to do, and denying him of any connection to the lessons by not calling on him made him really start to feel resentful towards school. He said that's when he began to feel himself caring less and less about school. He wanted to learn and wasn't getting to.

- In either 2nd or 3rd grade, every night's homework had a writing component to it where he had to write a small paragraph about whatever the topic was. He said he just didn't want to do it. He felt like it was dumb busy work. He said he'd always do the rest of the homework (math problems or worksheets or whatever) but always skipped the writing part. So he always got a C on his homework. He said for the first time, he wasn't getting As "and the world didn't end." He started to realize that the work and effort he did in school didn't matter. It didn't make any difference. He could sit and play around or daydream all day in class and still do just as well as, if not better than, the other kids on tests. If he needed to "turn on," he could and did. There was nothing to challenge him or help him learn anything new so he stopped trying.

- In 4th grade, he moved and made new friends. He said they were really smart like him but they were troublemakers. Evil geniuses if you will :) They made helicopters out of rulers in class, made rubber band school supply launchers, emptied pens to turn them into blow dart guns... basically he was super mischievous but in creative ways. He said he finally had found an outlet for his creativity. Finding ways to build pencil launchers to launch pencils across the classroom or what have you was finally something in school that could challenge him. By that time, he had given up on school being able to do that for him and found his own way. I probably had my mouth wide open as he was telling me all this by the way.

He said that he wished it didn't become like that because he really had wanted to learn. He came to school with such high hopes and excitement but was let down. And once he stopped trying in school, he said there really wasn't any turning back. He still did great on tests, but he didn't learn those important study skills that he needed once he reached high school and college.

I totally relate to that as well. I was used to working hard (a.k.a. doing a lot of work) but I was never used to doing challenging work so when work became challenging in high school, I didn't know how to exercise my brain in that way anymore. I didn't know how to think deeply. I hated the questions labeled as 'critical thinking' in high school. I still got all As but I had to work really, really hard for them. I feel like I had been a "gifted" kid but not exercising my brain and being so under-stimulated for so many years (or maybe it was all of the times I got hit in the head with basketballs/softballs/volleyballs playing sports growing up lol), I really became an only somewhat above average teenager.. and I definitely don't feel like a "gifted" adult.

If I had been pushed and challenged, I wonder if I would still be able to think and problem solve the way I could when I was a child. 

Anyway, I asked Mr. Giraffe what could have stopped him from being a troublemaker in school and he basically echoed all of the same things that I've mentioned in this post. All of the things that frustrated me were what frustrated him. It was so interesting to me that someone who was so different in school than me (and so different than me in general)  would feel the exact same way about so many situations.

DO supply quality books on their level.
Make sure that there are good quality books at their reading level available to them. I really recommend getting science books/magazines with vivid pictures and fun facts - they will eat. it. up.

DON'T ban them from reading books below their level.
I had a teacher that didn't let me look at the fun picture-heavy books even though the other kids could because she said they were too easy for me. Oh how I hated that. It was another way that I felt like I was being punished for doing well in school. Encourage them to find books at their level by all means but a fun book every so often will not hurt them. If anything, it keeps their love for learning and reading alive.

DO let them help!
If they want to help, let them! I obviously love teaching so I LOVED getting to be a tutor or helping the teacher. Your high kids can be your best little tutors. Pair them up with another student and let them help them. Make sure you model appropriate teaching. Explain to them how to teach and ask good questions and not just give the answers. Many high kids love playing teacher.. let them. Give them a stack of sight word flash cards to quiz other students. Give them a list of students and let them call students back during literacy stations to their own little teacher table (desk) to do their own little rotation. To do flash cards or read a leveled book together or whatever your kids need practice with. They'll both think of it as a fun game and oh-so-funny that they're "playing" teacher. The other kids will learn a lot and get an extra round of small group instruction and you don't have to do much at all! What is the gifted child getting out it? A sense of belonging. Social interaction. It will help your high kid feel needed and like they have an important role in the classroom community.

If they want to, let them be your personal assistant. This is in addition to the extension and enrichment opportunities you're providing them so I honestly think it is okay if they spend some time helping you if they enjoy it. Before you say it's a waste of instructional time, think of how many hours they waste so bored 'learning' something they already know. Doing a task for you every so often that they want to do will help them stay happy and motivated in the classroom. It helps to add some variety to their day, which they most likely consider monotonous. If you can keep them happy and motivated, they will be able to stay better engaged when it comes to learning new things throughout the day so it actually increases their overall genuine learning time in my opinion.

Examples of ways they can help: (And how you can justify it academically)
-  Alphabetize things for you. Do you alphabetize your papers before you enter grades? Have them collect everyone's paper and put them in ABC order for you. (ABC order is a commonly tested literacy skill)
- Keep the classroom library organized.. and hey, if they find a book they want to look at/read while they're in there, that's okay too. (They're sorting books into genre categories or by author, that's definitely a literacy skill)
- Take attendance/do the lunch count/etc. (Learning leadership skills)
- Organizing math manipulatives (Sorting/organization)
- Pulling out the materials for the next week/putting away the current week's things on Friday afternoons (Organization?)
- Change all the behavior colors back to green or the starting color (Fine motor skills? haha)
- Turning on and logging into the classroom computers each morning (Technology skills)
- Put the papers to go home that day in each kids mailbox
- If you're collecting permission slips or something else non-confidential, they can go through the stack and highlight each kids' name on your class list
etc. etc. etc.

Some may argue with me but I really don't think you need to justify it academically. You're keeping them stimulated and happy which will make them work harder for you when you ask them to. It's not like you're having them be a helper all day.. just very occasionally. Giving them responsibility and ownership of their classroom can go a long way. A lot of "gifted" kids are natural leaders so they'll jump at the opportunity to have more responsibility.

DO let them teach.
I'm a big believer in students teaching/leading the class in learning and discussions when possible. All students, high and low. The more they talk, the more they learn and learn from each other. Make sure your high kids get an equal opportunity to do so. I remember one year never being called on to solve the problem on the overhead projector in front of the class despite ALWAYS having my hand raised each day when my teacher asked for volunteers. Not even once. I remember how it felt so unfair, especially when some kids got to do it multiple times a week.

DON'T look at them like an already passed test.
With how grossly obsessed our world is with perfect test scores, don't just look at them like an already achieved goal. They have just as much potential learning and growing to do as any other student, it just might be at a higher level or more accelerated pace than your other students. Push them higher. They want to be pushed and challenged.

DON'T let them get bored.
They are way more likely to check out and dislike school because they're bored than the other kids. Don't let that happen. Provide so many FUN learning activities that they can choose from that they don't even have time to get bored. Engage them socially with the other students, let them do activities that involve them walking around or moving, and make sure that the activities are varied and always changing. 

DO give them creative twists to assignments.
If and when possible :)

DO give them opportunities to work with other kids like them.
My husband said something that would've helped him not disengage and misbehave in school was if he could have had opportunities to be around kids like him. 

Beg your principal to let you form a little group of your grade level's highest kids to get together once or twice a week to work on a learning project together during class. Get together a group of your highest 4-7 kids from the different classes and have a fun, hands-on inquiry assignment, something they have to build together, some kind of math challenge, just anything for them to work on together collaboratively. Make sure it's a task they can do without any (or hardly any) teacher help and work on together. Something that gets their creativity flowing and makes them have to discuss what they're doing. If you teach in a small school with only 1 or 2 teachers per grade level, use the other high kids from a grade level above or below. If they're engaged in what they're doing, it shouldn't be a behavior problem at all. Maybe alternate whose classroom they go to each week so the same teacher doesn't have that extra work of extra kids in the room each week. Set up a place where they're not too distracting to the other kids to work on their special project together. Again, make sure it's during their regular classroom time, not during their specials or lunch or recess.

DO give them love and attention.
I often felt ignored like I've mentioned above. My husband said he did too. We saw the struggling kids get pulled back for extra help and attention all the time. In our eyes, our teachers always seemed to be helping or talking to or calling on the other kids. Make sure you're giving your gifted student attention and care as you do everyone else. Even if it's less, still call them for groups. Even if it's less, still call on them for answers. Even if it's less, still go check on them while they're working as if you're checking to see if they get it like you do for everyone else.   

DON'T get upset when they question you.
They might ask a million questions. Question your directions. Question "WHY" this and "WHY" that. They're not trying to be defiant or annoying, they're truly just curious. 

DO use parent volunteers if you have them.
If you're fortunate enough to work in a school with parent volunteers, utilize them with your high kids! Have them pull a small group of high kids to do a challenging science inquiry project or an educational board game/activity that would be too challenging for your other kids. Something that you don't need to explain to a parent volunteer but they're there to supervise and keep the kids talking. 

DO look for competitions or opportunities for them to showcase their creativity.
Look out for poetry contests, writing contests, etc. where they have to mail in a submission, tell them about it and let them work on it when they're done with their normal classwork. Give them ample time before it's due to tell them about it. They're most likely going to want to perfect it. Mail it in for them when they're done. Even if they never hear back, they'll still enjoy doing it. I had a teacher do this for me and I felt really special. I actually had my poem published in some book of kids' poems and I basically thought that was the coolest thing ever back then. There are SOO many writing and other contests available to kids if you just type in "contests for kids" into your search bar.

You can look for other things like science fairs or spelling bees but try to find educational extras they can do IN the actual classroom.

DON'T make them read at a slow pace.
Thankfully kids have leveled reading groups and such these days but many are still subjected to whole group reading. I think whole group reading can be done well but it can also be done very... not well. I LOVED reading as a child but I grew up in a 'round robin' world and it felt like we read the same story for hours and hours and hours. I remember as soon as we got out our books, I'd flip through to find the longest paragraphs to wait to volunteer for to pass the time quicker. Each time we turned the page, I'd read the page (and neighbor page) to myself and then find a way to occupy myself until we could turn the page. I didn't want to look different or get in trouble so I'd stare at the pages and daydream. I would look at a line in the text and try to make as many words with those letters as I could. I would imagine what all the WoRdS wOuLd LoOk LiKe If ThEy WeRe TyPeD lIkE tHiS. I would move my finger to air-write the page in cursive. I would read the pages backwards in my head. What I'm trying to say is I was incredibly bored.

Instead: Try partner reading! Partner students of a similar reading level together and have them read the story together. Have them read it together a second time for fluency. Have them alternate reading or tracking by sentence, paragraph, or page so they catch each other's mistakes. Encourage them to correct and help each other. As early as 1st grade, your partners of all levels can read the story together and then read/answer the questions in the back of the story without you leading them along if you train them to. Just walk around and monitor. This way, every kid can read the story at their own pace and enjoy it because they're doing it with a friend. No anxiety of being called on to read in front of the class or everyone having to read it at a slow pace so your lowest kids can follow along. If you read it 'on level' whole group, your lowest kids are probably just pretending to follow along anyway. This way, everyone gets what they need. Your lower kids will take longer to finish but no one will notice because you can provide many things for student to do when they're done reading. Put bonus comprehension/discussion questions on the board for those who finish early. Once they read it together and discuss it, they can grab a sand timer to time each other in how fast they can read it. Have them flip through the story and come up with their own questions to ask each other to try to stump the other. If there are bold words in the story, have them find them and discuss what they mean together. Have them discuss something that has happened to them in their own lives like in the story or compare it to another story they've read. Have them do a quick mapping of a character or write an alternative ending with their partner. Train ALL of your students to know these are choices they can do once they're done so it's easy to manage each week because they know the expectations. There are so many things your high kids could be doing AFTER finishing the story at a pace more appropriate for them rather than sitting and listening to the story at what feels like a glacial pace to them. Partner reading is great because you can walk around the room listening to every student's reading and conversations and stop by to discuss it with them all. You'll get so much more opportunity to check for understanding than if you're reading the story all together and ask the whole class a question and only hear from one or two kids at a time.     

DON'T send home extra homework.
Their parents might even ask you to because they're driving them crazy at home. Don't do it.
Just don't.
They don't need extra problems or extra pages.
BUT, if you can, modify it to make it more challenging in a thinking (not hand moving) sort of way and less like busy work if you can! Tell the parents you'll send home more challenging work.
Another BUT - if they ask you for pages to take home because they want them (their parents didn't ask them to ask you), give them to them! Let them take any extra pages home that they want. It means they're booored at home. Or they're weird like me and they enjoyed playing school with their stuffed animal students and their friends in the neighborhood when they got home :)
Also encourage them to take home books or magazines from the classroom library that they're interested in.  

DO make sure they are emotionally taken care of in the classroom.
Just like any kid, they might have emotional difficulties or troubles at home.

They might feel isolated or like they don't fit in. Help them build social relationships with their peers.
They might be bullied for being different. Again, help them build social relationships and put a stop to any bullying.
They might get angry easily at others when they don't understand what they do. Explain to them how we all learn differently and all have our own talents.
They might stress out about upcoming tests/events because they want to be perfect. Help ease their fears.

DO remember they're still just a kid.
They want to have fun. They want to run and play at recess. They want to please you and be loved by you just like any other kid. Don't put unrealistic pressures on them. And, if they're ever having trouble getting something, NEVER ever ever say something like, "You're smart. You should know this!" Give them the same patience, love, attention, and care that you would any other child in your class.

Or they might write a blog post about you 15-20 years later :) 

Wow, this post is so, so LONG. If you made it through this whole thing, we are officially best friends. I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

I hope this post was able to help someone! Again, I didn't write this as a teacher, I wrote this as a student, and I hope that anyone who read this was able to pick up something from it to take back into their classroom. Thank you so much for caring about your students and their needs and for reading what is probably one of the longest blog posts in the history of blog posts.

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If you want to keep up with all the teaching ideas and fun stuff I share, you can follow me in these places too if you want!
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You can also check out all my favorite blog posts I've written organized by topic here:
Miss Giraffe Blog Posts List
I share A LOT of teaching tips in those posts so definitely check them out to read more fun ideas! :)

Thank you so much, again, for taking the time to read this. This post means a lot to me and I'm so thankful to anyone who took the time to read it. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Currently: March 2015

I am so excited to be linking up with Farley for my first Currently! ...and even more excited that I am actually sticking to my weekly blogging goal so far :)

I'll be the first to admit that I am horrible at laundry. Our dryer has this handy little "wrinkle prevent" option that makes it restart every so often so the clothes don't get wrinkled but really I use it as a snooze button. When the dryer first beeps, I don't have to hurry up and take it out so I don't forget (which happens constantly with the washer) because the sound of it restarting a few times lets me leisurely take my time to empty it :)

I am LOVING all of the clip art I bought during the big TpT sale!! 
I spent way too much but I'm excited to have new things to create with that I really needed.
I also discovered some new clip art artists which is always fun!

Here is a picture of one of my furchildren helping me shop during the sale :)

Definitely been dreaming of a beach vacation recently!
I LOVE the beach. I love the breeze, I love the smells, I love walking in sand, I love playing in the water, I love just sitting and enjoying the views. I would love to live near a beach, I think I'd go every day!

I just realized it's been over a year since the last time I was at a beach and that is far, far too long.

This is a picture I took a little over a year ago while we were on a cruise.
This is Shoal Bay East on the gorgeous island of Anguilla.
The cruise port was technically St. Maarten but we took a ferry to Anguilla :)
Any other cruisers out there??

I would LOVE to be able to snap my fingers and have all of my math units and phonics packs done! I love creating, don't get me wrong but ohhhh how amazing it would feel to have them all done!

If you haven't seen them, I have a big pack of First Grade Math Units 1-9 that are super big units that have 3 differentiated levels of worksheets for each math concept in them as well as centers, cut and pastes, etc. for each and every math concept. I absolutely love them but since they're so big and so heavily differentiated, they take f.o.r.e.v.e.r. to make. 

So what did I do?

....Promise the world 9 more units, of course!

But really, I received so many amazing emails from teachers about how much the units were helping their students and making a big difference in their math achievement (cue the onion cutting, I'm a big baby) that I just felt like I had to keep creating them. When I first mapped them out, I had originally planned out 18 units like I'm doing but I had no idea how they'd be received and never thought I'd have so many people contacting me. I thought I'd be able to just slowly put them together and take my time. Ha! I get soo many (wonderful) people requesting which concept the next unit will be that now I feel some intense pressure to get those babies out there! But it's a good thing :) It keeps me motivated and creating! 

So right now I am working on the First Grade Math Units 10-18 Bundle which currently has Unit 12 (Adding 3 Numbers), Unit 15 (Telling Time), and Unit 17 (Geometry) in it so far!

If you have any interest in seeing what my math units are like, I wrote blog posts about a couple of them:
Blog post about Unit 9 - Place Value
Blog post about Unit 15 - Telling Time
EDIT: All 18 first grade math units have now been made and I have more math blog posts than these that show them in action! :)

Did I mention that I also have somewhat of the equivalent for literacy?

Except this bundle, I did something a little crazy. I started it out at 20% off the price of all of the packs included (which was only 1 pack ago).. but that's off of only the packs that are included so far. I plan on adding a lot more packs. As many as TpT's file size limit will allow! :) And you're only paying for the ones that are currently in it AND getting them at 20% off at that, so it's basically a ridiculously smokin' deal if you get the bundle early. I kept going back and forth on whether or not I wanted to do it but I have so many amazing people that get these packs every time I post a new one and I wanted to be able to reward them. So basically, the earlier you get it, the more free packs you get :) 
EDIT: This bundle is now complete! & I even have a Phonics No Prep Bundle Part 2 now!

Ack, I ramble! Basically I was just trying to say...
holy moley I have a lot to do!

To keep up this blogging momentum I've finally started! I've had my TpT store for almost 2 years now and have always wanted to be a blogger like all of my teacher heroes (yes, I have teacher heroes) but I haven't been doing that great of a job. Once I decide to write a blog post, it ends up being like 4 pages of typed up ideas and then the idea of actually sitting down to write it seems so daunting that I don't. Hence why the blog posts I do write are soo long. This happens with my products too! I just can't ever do anything halfheartedly. Grumble grumble. :) Like I said in my last post, I need some blogging friends to yell at me when I start slacking. Anyone want to be my bloggy friend? :)  

Spring Break Plans 
House projects! We bought a house about 6 months ago and have been having a lot of fun fixing it up and decorating. It's so nice to finally be in a house. I did apartment living for sooo long and always said, "Someday when I have a house..." for all of the things I wanted to do so it's been great getting to do those things. Having a house is a lot of work though! Mr. Giraffe and I decided to be Cheapy McCheapertons and landscape our yard ourselves instead of paying someone else to do it like everyone else (i.e. intelligent people). Mr. Giraffe actually did an amazing job of putting grass in our backyard though. It was all dirt and small patches of rough, dead grass when we moved in and now it's pretty, green grass. So now we decided to fix up the rock areas and shovel rocks. Yes, shovel rocks. Can I just say that there are so, so, so many rocks?! But I am committed. I even went to the hardware store and bought my own shovel and leather working gloves. :)

Look at some of the pile we did the first day!

And that was actually just the picture I snapped while we were doing it the first day! It's been days and days of this shovel-rocks-after-dinner party so the pile is HUGE. We gave up on the tarp a long time ago... and the flamingos (Mr. Giraffe's parents flamingo'd our house awhile back so that's where those came from.) keep going higher and higher. I'm excited to get some projects done once all the rocks are out of the way but I am not looking forward to putting them all back! :) It's been fun working outside with the Mr. though. I spend too much of my "down time" working on the computer so it's great to get outside and do a little work.

Well that was fun! I typed too much as I suspected I would. Thanks again to Farley for hosting this link up! I'm excited to read others' Currently posts. I'd love to hear from you in the comments! Have a great week, all!  

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