Category : First Grade

STEM – Imagining

I had more STEM fun with my nephews today. I wanted to get in some quality time with them before they went off to summer camp. I live pretty far away so I wanted to make sure we spent our time wisely, and we did. We created posable sculptures out of tin foil. The task was that they had to make the sculpture show how they feel about going back to school. Their school starts in about 1 month, so needless to say their sculptures looked a little sad. What I loved most about this project was their me blocks. I got to learn a little about them that I wouldn’t have regularly asked like, what is their goal for the upcoming school year.

The design process that I had them do had a step called imagining. During this step I asked them to brainstorm three things that they wanted to incorporate into their sculpture. My youngest nephew wanted to make sure his had two legs and two arms, a sad head facing downwards, and he wanted it to sit on his me cube. Imagining is important it gives the students fuel for the next step of the process. It’s important to encourage students to go wide so they can think beyond obvious solution. You should encourage variety and volume – the two Vs.

You can see here that he accomplished one of his goals of his design right off the bat by quickly making two legs.


I loved this activity but it is a good solo activity and it doesn’t have any competition in it. I have to admit I love competition, but sometimes it’s good to just have fun without seeing whose creation is the tallest or throws the farthest, etc.

Here’s a picture of my youngest nephew’s final project. You can grab your own Back to School STEM printables here: STEM Center Challenges – Back to School Edition


Apple Schoolhouse STEM Challenge – The Planning Stage

I was spending time with my nephews and they had a problem that they could not solve. I asked them if they had ever heard of the design process because I thought it would be helpful to them. They had not heard of it. I explained how the design process is used in engineering, but is now more commonly being applied to school projects as well as combatting everyday obstacles. Simply put, the design process takes a problem and makes it more manageable by breaking it down into pieces.

The problem they were trying to solve was, who could build a catapult out of lego bricks that could fling a minifigure across the room the farthest? We sat down and started to talk about the design process.

After we spent the afternoon talking this, I decided this would be a useful document I could make for my TeachersPayTeachers store. I decided to base a series of STEM challenges around the design process. The first challenge is to make an apple schoolhouse.

colored pretty

We had fun getting the materials together. I cut all of the apples so that they would have to work with the pieces given. I did this as an extra challenge, once I heard they wanted to slice the apples thinly and use them for shingles. I even gave them the apple core, as you never know what they might want to do with it.


My nephews had a lot of fun designing the house together and brainstorming what they wanted to add to their house. My youngest nephew insisted on a door that would open.

The planning stage is important! Planning helps students narrow down their thoughts and focus on the best solution. In this case they needed to focus on the details. This is why I encourage the students to not simply draw out their plan, but to create a diagram: a detailed, labeled blueprint.


There are other steps to the design process, but I’ll focus on those in future posts.

Here are a few more fun pictures of my nephews working on their Apple Schoolhouse.



Here is the finished product! They were so proud of their accomplishment and it was a fun way to teach them a lot about the design process. I love the fact that they managed to create a door out of apple chunks and pipe cleaners that would open and close. I especially love how they used part of the paper plate as the roof of the schoolhouse!


You can get this product here: STEM Challenges Back to School

STEM cover1small

Mixing math and literacy

LEGO Minecraft mine set

Plenty of subjects get taught in schools – science, history, geography, art – but there’s no denying that, at least where the Common Core is concerned, the focus seems to be on mathematics and English language arts.

Normally, math and technology skills are associated with the left side of the brain, while literacy, grammar, spelling, reading, writing, etc. are associated with the right side. And many kids seem to have a preference for using one side of the brain and not the other. Some kids are gifted with numbers, while others are gifted with letters.

So if you’re looking to make all kinds of kids happy, you should look for ways to use both sides of the brain. Toys like LEGO bricks are great tools for learning for this very reason. Kids can use their analytical skills (working with shapes) while also employing their creative selves (coming up with new designs and ideas for LEGO brick creations).

When teaching math and literacy in the classroom, why not try mixing the two? Come up with activities that get kids using both sides of their brains. If they prefer working with numbers, give them exercises that get them doing calculations and completing equations. If they prefer working with words and sentences, give them a satisfying right brain reward for using the analytical skills of their left brains.

Back to School Math Stories

Here are some math stories that mix mathematics with English language arts.

Back to School Math Stories - Fourth Grade

These printables with a Back to School theme feature stories with missing words that students must fill in. They do this by solving math problems to fill in the blanks.

Have fun with your math and literacy teaching and homeschooling!

Fun with interactive printables

Interactive printables

It’s great to get kids solving problems, and the tried and true method for doing this is the worksheet. I myself filled out hundreds of worksheets during my wild and crazy ride through those school-aged years. I’m sure you did too.

But while rote problem drills do help to cement skills in mathematics and language arts, these worksheets are not as engaging as they could be. Elementary school students especially are especially tuned to learning things in a hands-on manner.

Enter interactive worksheets. While the problems are there, testing math and literacy skills, they are presented in a way that allows students to manipulate problems and answers in an arts and crafts kind of way. That way, they’re learning in an interactive manner, and that’s a great way to learn.

Some people might argue that kids spend more time solving problems this way. True, it’s a lot easier to simply write down an answer than it is to break out your scissors and glue and interact with a worksheet. But is it as fun or effective? Maybe not.

Why not give it a try and find out? Here’s an interactive printable featuring addition and subtraction equations that will get your students moving cut-outs of numbers around to solve each problem.

Back to School Interactive Printables

If you and your students are fans of interactive printables, here are a few available at our store.

Back to School Interactive No Prep Printables - Second Grade

These printables have been created for the months of August and September, ready for students who are heading back to the classroom after summer vacation. As such, the worksheets feature a “returning to school” theme. They are available for first grade through sixth grade. Here are the links:

There will be many more interactive worksheets, notebooks, journals, and other activities to come. Please let us know what you think about teaching in an interactive manner, and what experiences you may have!

It’s time for some Thanksgiving fun!

A Thanksgiving turkeyAmerican Thanksgiving is just around the corner! And I, for one, have plenty to be thankful for. It’s been a great year so far! And the holiday season is nearing – I love this time of year!

A Thanksgiving turkey craft

If you’re looking for a fun craft to make in your classroom this November, here’s a Thanksgiving turkey with a variety of different feathers that you can cut out. Your students can cut out and paste or tape together the turkey, then write the various things that they are thankful for on the provided feathers. Finally, they can color the turkey and otherwise decorate it however they like!

The free PDF download for the Thanksgiving turkey craft can be found at the bottom of this post.

Math and English Language Arts Common Core Thanksgiving Activities

Thanksgiving Stress-Free Printables Common Core Math and LiteracyLooking for something to do in the classroom in those days leading up to Thanksgiving?

Here are some easy-to-use Common Core-aligned math and literacy printables that you can use in your classroom for those days or weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Problems involve mathematics and English grammar and writing skills for a variety of grade levels.

These worksheets are designed to be stress-free, offering an easy-to-use solution for the classroom activity, or for a substitute teacher. Why not check them out?

I hope that you have a wonderful lead-up to the Thanksgiving weekend, and that your Thanksgiving is spent with food, family, and friends!

What are you and your students thankful for?

Using the following Thanksgiving turkey craft, students can cut out the featherless turkey, and the oval feathers. They can then paste the feathers onto the turkey to create a turkey with feathers. On each feather, they can write something that they are thankful for – for example, family, friends, food, pets, or good health!

When the crafts have been completed, you can put them on display on your classroom wall or on your classroom door, or let your kids take them home to put on the fridge to add some Thanksgiving cheer.

A quick disclaimer – I did this craft when I was a kid, and while I may be a turkey, I’m certainly no spring chicken. So I am pretty sure that variations of this craft qualify as “fair use”!

Happy Thanksgiving!

September is here! Along with some cooler weather

An autumn sunsetSeptember has arrived!

Here in Florida, it’s been a hot July and August (not surprising, really). With the arrival of September, I’m happy to see some of the cooler breezes arriving on our porch. September evenings are terrific evenings to go for long walks in the neighborhood, to spend some time at the swimming pool, or to visit the Disney parks! Our family much prefers to visit central Florida’s attractions in the evenings; the weather is nicer, the crowds are fewer, and as such, the lines to the various rides are much shorter.

September Interactive Math Notebooks

These days, interactive notebooks are red hot. Most of the elementary and middle school teachers I speak to are using interactive math, reading, writing, and/or science notebooks in their classrooms this fall. They’re a great way to get kids to get some hands-on practice using the various skills they will need to master during the school year.

If you’re looking for September-themed interactive lessons for your students, we’ve made a Common Core-aligned September interactive math notebook for first, second, and third grades. Inside you’ll find various interactive activities with a back-to-school and fall theme. You can find the products here:

A September poster for your classroom

Here is a free poster that you can download in PDF (or JPG format. You can put it on your classroom door or tack it to the wall to add some September charm to your decor. We hope you have a wonderful September!

A Poem for Earth Day

A poem for Earth DayI’m a big fan of Earth Day! Growing up in Canada, I always appreciated the forests and lakes of my homeland (I probably would have appreciated the Rocky Mountains, too, but I grew up in the eastern part of the country. I guess I appreciated them from afar). I did plenty of scouting and camping as a kid, and I fondly remember frequent trips to our family cottage by the lake in a forested area of northern Ontario. I used to dream about being a forest ranger, sitting atop a fire tower in a remote Canadian forest, taking in the peace and tranquility and fresh air! But they don’t tend have very good Internet way up there, so that’s probably a no-go.

An Earth Day poem and poster

Interested in celebrating Earth Day in your classroom? Below you will find a free poster I made for Earth Day that you can display on your classroom walls or distribute to your students to use in their writing and language notebooks (or maybe in another fun and creative way you can come up with – it’s late and my imagination is running out). It features a poem I wrote about respecting our beautiful planet Earth, and is available for free download in PDF format.

Earth Day Common Core Stress-Free Printables

Earth Day Common Core Stress-Free PrintablesYvonne and I have created some no-prep printables packets for your classroom, including the Earth Day Common Core Stress-Free Printables, now available at our store at Teachers Pay Teachers. For Earth Day these packets offer a variety of different worksheets aligned with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and English Language Arts, and are available for first, second, third, fourth, and fifth grades.

The packets feature a fun Earth Day theme, including recycling, the environment, planting trees and saplings, and a general appreciation of the planet Earth. The pages are all ready to be printed and used: no prep, no laminating and low ink for a no-stress experience. The worksheets comprise several different levels of activities to help with differentiation in a classroom.

You can use the activities in this packet in a variety of different ways:

  • As morning work
  • As homework
  • As a skills review
  • As an assessment
  • For a substitute teacher
  • To accompany an Earth Day unit or work center

We also have Easter Common Core Stress-Free Printables available at our TPT store for Easter, another holiday that takes place in April this year.

If you do check out these products, please let us know what you think! We’re always interested in feedback and looking for suggestions for new products that teachers can use in the classroom or in a homeschool environment.

The Earth Day poem and poster

Here’s the free poster for Earth Day. I hope you have fun teaching your students about our beautiful environment!

An April Writing Activity

A writing worksheet for AprilSpring is finally here! And the month of April is just around the corner. It’s one of my favorite months, with flowers blooming, celebrations for Easter and Earth Day, and a general upswing in peoples’ moods. It’s great to see the rebirth of our planet in action, with saplings growing, trees budding, and colorful flowers sprouting from the ground.

Here’s a free downloadable PDF worksheet for your classroom for April, featuring a poem I wrote to celebrate the month! Please let me know what you think about the worksheet – if you like it, I’ll make more for future months. The download for the PDF can be found at the bottom of the post.

As always, we really appreciate your downloading and using our activities with your students, and sharing our site with others. Thank you! It means a lot to us!

Fun Common Core math activities for the classroom

The Crawfords' Big Book of Math-tivities - Common CoreWe’re very excited about our new book, The Crawfords’ Big Book of Math-tivities, filled with Common Core-aligned activities for mathematics for grades K-2. We’ve worked hard to come up with fun activities for the classroom – things that students will enjoy when it comes time for math class. Activities include:

  • Mathbooking, a creative take on math journal prompts
  • Goofy Glyphs, an engaging and potentially silly glyph activity
  • new ideas for incorporating the joy and energy of holidays and seasons into your math teaching
  • fun ideas for puzzles and games
  • ideas for teaching math outdoors
  • unique ways to combine math with storytelling

Instructions and helpful tips for using these activities can be found in the book, as well as ready-to-use example activities included with each chapter.

Check it out, and please let us know what you think!

April writing worksheet

Here’s the free writing activity for April. I hope you have a wonderful month!

First Grade Math Common Core Breakdown

Common Core for First GradeHere is the first grade version of the Common Core Breakdown for mathematics. I’ve taken the various Common Core domains from the Common Core State Standards Initiative and broken them down using pie charts. I’m hoping that this free PDF can serve as a useful resources for teachers who are discussing the skills that they are going to teach their children math during the first grade academic year.

First grade skills learned

The Common Core teaching focus for first grade mathematics is on students learning the following skills:

  • Using counting as a strategy for solving problems
  • Understanding place value
  • Addition and subtraction within 20
  • Properties of operations
  • Measuring lengths
  • Telling and writing time
  • Understanding geometric shapes and their attributes

First Grade Common Core Standards

The Common Core State Standard domains for first grade mathematics are broken down like so:

  • Operations and Algebraic Thinking: 8 standards (38%)
  • Number and Operations in Base Ten: 6 standards (29%)
  • Measurement and Data: 4 standards (19%)
  • Geometry: 3 standards (14%)

As with the kindergarten version, the percentages on the first grade chart add up to 99% and not 100%; this is because of the way the numbers ended up rounding. I thought it would look nicer not to use decimals on the chart (plus, that Common Core skill isn’t learned ’til a later grade)!

On the chart, I have also indicated the Common Core skills that the Common Core State Standards Initiative indicates that teachers should be teaching their first graders.

If you’re teaching first grade this year, I hope you are having an excellent year with your students!

Learning About Haikus

Common Core Poetry: HaikusSpring is here… it’s a great time to learn about poetry and other creative pursuits.

What is a haiku?

A haiku (俳句) is a type of Japanese short poem. Traditionally, haikus have consisted of 17 syllables, with:

  1. Five syllables in the first line
  2. Seven syllables in the second line, and
  3. Five syllables in the third line

However, haikus do not have to follow this format… many famous Japanese haikus are simply short poems with a “cutting” (or juxtaposing) rhythm, often about nature or everyday objects or occurrences. It’s also fun to tell stories using poetry as a medium.

It’s a lot of fun to create your own haiku poems… it takes a bit of work to follow the rules for lines and syllables in haikus and write something that does not sound choppy. It’s not enough to simply write 17 syllables worth of prose from beginning to end… the syllables per line rule means that the haiku should flow a certain way, in a manner that is moving and rhythmic. Getting kids to compose their own haikus is a great way to help them practice following other English grammar rules.

A poster about haikus

Here is a poster that will help you to explain haikus to your children or students in your classroom. The best part about this poem is that it is a poem about haikus, written using haikus! As such, your students can learn about the nature of haikus by reading a short series of haikus.

Common Core poetry lessons

If you’re teaching your students English language arts and literacy lessons according to the Common Core State Standards, here is a packet that you can use to teach poetry. In this packet can be found lessons where students can learn about and compose a variety of different types of poems, including:

  1. Haikus
  2. Shape poems
  3. Alphabet poems
  4. Autobiographical poems
  5. Alliteration poems
  6. Color poems

… and more. If you have been teaching poetry in your classroom, and have been writing other types of poems that are not found in this packet, please let me know! I’d be interested in learning about other, different styles of poetry, and how to create new, unique types of poems.

Common Core Aligned Poetry Unit

First, Second, Third, and Fourth Grades

Common Core standards: 1.RL.4, 1.RL.10, 2.RL.4, 2.RL.10, 3.RF.4b, 3.RL.10, 4.RL.2, 4.RL.10

My post is finished.
I hope you have a great day
Writing poetry!