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A Plateful of Ideas

When I taught the primary grades in a Title I school, I often found homework was seldom returned. I knew I had to come up with an idea that would be unique; something the parents would recognize as homework; something the kids would want to complete. Thus a Plateful of Ideas was created.

What this entailed was using paper plates on which the assignment was to be completed. I bought about 300 at the local dollar store. The children wrote their name on the back of the plate, and I would put the assignment on the front. (Since I didn't want to write it 25 times, I would copy it, then glue it to the center of the plate). Some sample assignments were:
  1. Find pictures of things that are the color blue and paste them on your plate. 
  2. Find words that start with the letter "S" and glue them on your plate. 
  3. Find things that come in pairs or twos. Paste the pictures on your plate. You may also draw items that come in twos. 
  4. Write as many ways as you can to add and get the answer of ten. 
  5. Write at least eight different three digit numbers on your plate. 
  6. Find pictures or draw pictures of at least six vegetables. 
  7. Around the rim (circumference - I like to use proper mathematical language with my students) of the paper plate, write the numbers from 1-25. 
  8. Around the rim (circumference) of the paper plate, write all the alphabet letters as capitals. 
On the plate, draw your family, including your pets.

The next day, those children who brought their plate back with the assignment completed would receive a small reward for doing so such as a sticker, a small box of raisins, a new eraser, a new pencil, etc. (I love the Oriental Trading Company for this!) I would place the reward on their plate which, of course, would bring a big smile. No plate = no reward! As you can imagine, few plates were left at home, and few assignments were incomplete. I then displayed the plates in the classroom and used them during the day for sharing or reteaching, or just praising a child. Since the child's name was on the reverse side, I could hang them up on the hall bulletin board as well.

I did not do this assignment every day, but at least once a week, the children would have a Plateful of Ideas assignment to complete. Parents liked it because when they saw the paper plate, they knew their child had homework. Children were encouraged by their parents to complete the assignment; so, besides the physical reward, they were given the much needed parental encouragement to do homework. I found it to be a win-win situation for everyone.

So if your plate isn't too full right now, I hope you will give this idea a try.

A Go Figure Debut for A Poet Who Is New!

Theresa's TPT Store
Today’s post features a Board Certified Teacher from North Carolina. (As most of you know, Board Certification requires a great deal of work!) Theresa has taught Reading Recovery, been a third grade resource teacher, has taught first and second grade, as well as a first and second multi-age class. She has been teaching for 19 years and says she still loves what she does!!! Besides teaching, she enjoys spending time with her family and taking care of her two cats that are named Cindy Lou Who and Boots.

Her Teachers Pay Teachers store, Theresa’s Teaching Tidbits, is unique in that it contains several resources that showcase poems. Theresa even features a poem of the week and offers a bundle of these poem activities in the resource entitled: Poem of the Week Bundle. It includes all four of her Poem of the Week elementary products at a discounted price. They are:
Discounted Bundle
  • A Kind and Caring Classroom: Poems of the Week that Promote Good Character
  • Science Poems and Activities for Primary Grades
  • Patriotic Poems and Activities for Primary Grades
  • Fall Poems and Activities for Primary Grades
She suggests using these poems as a part of your weekly routine to teach comprehension, phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary and fluency.

Free Resource
Since her students love word searches, Theresa has created a ten page freebie called Word Searches: Fry Word Finds. She uses word searches to help early readers increase instant recognition of high-frequency words. Each word search in this free resource features ten of the 100 most used words in reading and writing and includes three different word searches with answer keys. These would be perfect for a center or for those who finish early!

Additionally, Theresa has a blog that bears the same name as her store. I loved reading her August 27th post about having a school garden. Since I teach at a college, we have gardens everywhere, but they aren’t created or maintained by the students which might be a good thing. If you take time to look at her blog, you will see pictures of her current classroom which might give you some ideas for arranging yours. In addition, she shares some books that made it to her front porch over the summer. I get the idea she loves reading books to her students!

In her August 20th post, Theresa gives you a step-by-step picture tutorial on how to make four-pocket folders that she uses in her writing workshop. (You’ll have a good laugh on why she didn’t make a video tutorial.) She even has free labels for these folders that you can download. You’ll just have to check out her blog to find out where and how…something I highly recommend that you do!

There's A Place For Us!

My college students just finished the first chapter in Fractions, Decimals, and Percents where the focus was on place value. Over the years, I have come to the realization how vital it is to provide a careful development of the basic grouping and positional ideas involved in place value. An understanding of these ideas is important to the future success of gaining insight into the relative size of large numbers and in computing.  A firm understanding of this concept is needed before a student can be introduced to more than one digit addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems. It is important to stay with the concept until the students have mastery. Often when students have difficulty with computation, the source of the problem can be traced back to a poor understanding of place value.

It was not surprising when I found that many of my students had never used base ten blocks to visually see the pattern of cube, tower, flat, cube, tower, flat.  When I built the thousands tower using ten one hundred cubes, they were amazed at how tall it was.  Comparing the tens tower to the thousands tower demonstrated how numbers grew exponentially.  Another pattern emerged when we moved to the left; each previous number was being multiplied by 10 to get to the next number.  We also discussed how the names of the places were also based on the pattern of:  name, tens, hundreds, name (thousands), ten thousands, hundred thousands, etc. 

I asked the question, "Why is our number system called base ten?"  I got the usual response, "Because we have ten fingers?"  Few were aware that our system uses only ten digits (0-9) to make every number in the base ten system.

We proceeded to look at decimals and discovered that as we moved to the right of the decimal point, each number was being divided by 10 to get to the next number. We looked at the ones cube and tried to imagine it being divided into ten pieces, then 100, then 1,000. The class decided we would need a powerful microscope to view the tiny pieces.  Again, we saw a pattern in the names of each place:  tenths, hundredths, thousandths, ten thousandths, hundred thousandths, millionths, etc.


I then got out the Decimal Show Me Boards.  (See illustration on the left.)  These are very simple to make. Take a whole piece of cardstock (8.5" x 11") and cut off .5 inches. Now cut the cardstock into fourths (2.75 inches).  Fold each fourth from top to bottom. Measure and mark the cardstock every two inches to create four equal pieces. Label the sections from left to right - tenths, hundredths, thousandths, ten thousandths. Numbers (see free handout below) will fit into the slots which are the unfolded part of the cardstock. (You can type up the names of the places which then can be cut out and glued onto the place value board).

Here are some examples of how I use the boards.  I might write the decimal number in words.  Then the students make the decimal using their show me boards by putting the correct numbers into the right place.  Pairs of students may create two different decimals, and then compare them deciding which one is greater.  Several students may make unlike decimals, and then order the decimals from least to greatest.  What I really like is when I say, "Show me", I can readily see who is having difficulty which allows me to spend some one-on-one time with that student.

If you aren't ready to do decimals, Show Me Boards can also be made for the ones, tens, hundreds and thousands place.  Include as many places as you are teaching. I've made them up to the hundred thousands place by using legal sized paper. As you can see on the left, my granddaughters love using them, and it is a good way for them to work on place value.

I have attached a link to a number handout which is FREE. Just run it off onto cardstock, laminate, cut apart, and place the numbers into small zip lock bags (one sheet per child). Try using different colors of cardstock, so if a number is lost, it is easier to find the bag from which the number is missing.

Free Resource


Under the resource cover on your right is the link to a free page of numbers which anyone is welcomed to download and use.



A good way to practice nay math skill is with a game. Your students might enjoy the place value game entitled: Big Number.  Seven game boards are included in this eleven page resource packet. The game boards vary in difficulty beginning with only two places, the ones and the tens.  Game Board #5 goes to the hundred thousands place and requires the learner to decide where to place six different numbers.  All the games have been developed to practice place value using problem solving strategies, reasoning, and intelligent practice.


Magically Squaring Numbers

My college math students lack confidence (I classify them as mathphobics.); so, I like to show them math "tricks" which they can use to impress their peers.  I encourage them to know their squares through 25. (Yes, I know they can use a calculator, but the mind is so much quicker!)  When we get to solving equations using the Pythagorean Theorem, I introduce this trick. Please note: For the trick to work, it must be a two digit number that ends in 5.
Suppose we have 352.  (This means will be making a square.)
  • First, look at the number in the hundred’s place. In this case, it is the “3”. 
  •  Next think of the number that comes directly after 3. That would be “4”. 
  •  Now, in your head, multiply 3 × 4. The answer is 12. 
  • Finally, multiply 5 × 5 which is 25. 
  •  Place 12 in front of 25 to get the answer. Thirty-five squared is 1,255.
  • 3 × 4 = 12      5 × 5 = 25       
  • The answer is 1,225.
This means that we can build a square that is 35 by 35, and it will contain 1,225 squares or have an area of 1225 squares.

Now let's try 652
  • One more than 6 is 7; so, 6 x 7 is 42. 
  • Place 42 in front of 25 (5 x 5) and so 65 squared is 4,225.
  • 6 × 7 = 42      5 × 5 = 25      
  • The answer is 4,225.
How about finding the square root? We begin by looking at the numbers in the thousands and hundreds place. In the answer of 1,225, we would use the 12. Think of the factors of 12 that are consecutive numbers. In this case, they would be 3 and 4. Use the smaller of the two which, in this case, is 3. Now place a five after it. You now know the square root of 1,225 is 35.
Thirty-five represents the length of one of the sides of a square that contains 1,225 squares.

Now, try some numbers on your own. When you get comfortable with the "trick", try it with your students. They will find out that math can be magical!