Using Cooperative Learning In The Classroom


What is Cooperative Learning?

Cooperative learning is an instructional method based on past research of the theory that people who work together to achieve shared goals are more successful in achievement of goals(Alport Watson Shaw and Mead). The theory was established before the onset of World War One. Philosophers and Psychologists John Dewey, Kurt Lewin, and Morton Deutsh further developed the theory helping to establish it in the educational setting. Later David and Roger Johnson actively promoted the theory from 1974 to 1994. It has proven to be a popular and successful instructional method.

With the cooperative learning method, the teacher’s role becomes that of facilitator rather than just instructor. Learning occurs naturally as students interact among themselves. Students work together to create a common project or assignment by sharing opinions, knowledge, and skills. The success of each individual in the group is reliant upon the success of the whole group as a unit.

What Are the Positives of Cooperative Learning?

Research shows several positive outcomes when using cooperative learning. Studies show retention of learned material increases. Students will have greater recall of skills and facts covered in the activities.

The method has been shown to increase social skills that help students prepare for good citizenship and successful living in society. It is thought that cooperative learning can set the stage for students to experience greater success in the world of work. Most jobs and professions require employees to cooperate and work together toward a common goal.

Finally, cooperative learning encourages respect among students for one another when working in groups of varying abilities and ethnic groups. Acceptance and respect for diversity will be important all through life.

Implementing Cooperative Learning


Cooperative learning can be implemented in lessons in any subject and in grade levels from kindergarten to college. It can be as simple as a group brainstorming a list of writing or research topics or as complex as a project for a science exhibit.

Grouping learning disabled or other special needs students with non-disabled peers is a valid and useful accommodation. It can become a part of the student’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) or 504 plan. It can be a useful way to accommodate students with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Work can be “chunked” for students to complete. A long set of math problems can be a daunting task for the ADHD student. Divided and shared between four students the task becomes more manageable for them.

Although good research exists proving the advantages of cooperative learning, educators may be finding themselves reluctant to use the method. Some claim that students socialize too much and often get off-task. They favor more direct instruction. While it is true that many students benefit more from direct instruction, cooperative learning may be well worth giving a second chance. A few strategies could help in making it successful.

The teacher will need to monitor and decide when and how to make adjustments. Do the students need to be rearranged within the groups? Is the activity either too easy or too hard? Begin with these questions. Keep in mind that motivation is a key underlying factor for learning to occur. Teachers may need to find ways to motivate students. This could be accomplished by allowing them to choose from a list of activities.

Strategies for Implementing Cooperative Learning

1. Begin with less complex tasks when first implementing cooperative learning. Pair lower ability students with higher ability.

2. Establish a set of rules within the other class rules. Make sure students understand the procedures and take a few minutes to go over them directly. Have the rules posted. Implement the same consequences for not following them as with the other class rules.

3. Keep groups small, no more than 4 to 6 students. Doing so will ensure that each member of the group will have to participate and be accountable for the finished product. Use a rubric for grading and always give grades.

4. Assigning a certain role for each member of the group will give guidance and direction making each student feel important. If they tend to argue over roles, then have them to draw numbers.

Roles to consider:

Leader- checks each member for understanding. reports problems in understanding or materials to the teacher

Recorder- records responses.

Reporter- reports findings to share with the rest of the class. reports problems in behavior to the teacher.

Monitor- can keep time for timed assignments. reminds others to stay on task.

5. Switch members of cooperative groups occasionally keeping in mind who does or does not work together well. Also switch roles occasionally.

6 Assign each student one fourth of a lesson to study. then have them take turns “teaching” their part of the lesson to the other students. Have a list of ways to share to choose from.

Ideas for sharing:

compose a song, poem or rap

draw an illustration

write a summary

give an oral report

write true/false questions for the other students to answer.

7. Students enjoy hands-on activities. Let them work together to create projects such as making a Frosty the Soap Man.Each student can be responsible for one part of creating the whole project. The leader can be responsible in making sure that each part is completed for putting the project together.




Summer Reading:10 Reasons Why Teens And Adolescents Should Dig In

What is Summer Slide

The long Summer break most traditional schools experience can cause the average student’s learning to regress by one month and is referred to as “Summer slide.” This can spell trouble for the students who have left the apron strings of the elementary school where the focus was on learning to read. Now the game has changed and it means reading to learn instead. The best solution? A Hot Summer Reading List that will keep them wanting to read all Summer.

Educators of younger students are all aware of how important self-selected reading is. Self-explanatory, this method of reading entails the child selecting a book himself, one that appeals to him to enjoy in a comfortable setting. Why should we change this for the older student? While there will probably be required reading assignments for the Summer, the teen and adolescent should make the time to select a few books that they really feel will be enjoyable to them.

It is estimated that even as few as 6 books will keep “Summer slide” at bay and more. Following are 10 good reasons for Summer reading for adolescents and teens along with 6 great books that will keep them engaged.

1. Improving Vocabulary

Summer reading fun can improve vocabulary. In middle and high school, vocabulary words aren’t sight words anymore. They are those “hard” words that show up in the content areas-general science, history, economics, etc. Reading for pleasure provides practice in making connections between familiar and unfamiliar words by using word structure (roots, affixes) and context clues. Studies show that the amount of reading time influences the size of both the reading and speaking vocabulary.

2. Improving Decoding Skills

Summer reading for fun is a good way for the budding middle school student to reinforce the decoding skills they learned throughout elementary school. Once an adolescent is out of grade 4, decoding instruction will likely be reserved for remedial reading classes. The middle school student will be required to read more supplementary materials for learning in the content areas. The vocabulary in these (expository) reading materials will be more difficult to decode than those in narratives.

3. Keeping the Mental Processes Active

Summer reading for fun keeps the mental process active. Scientists believe that attention, memory, and thought rely on the brain’s active neuron patterns. The firing of one memory network causes other memory networks to fire. Impulses travel through neurons and jump from dendrite to dendrite via the synapses in a sort of dominoes fashion. The reader can make connections between events in the story to events in her own life. Activation of related networks in the brain will strengthen the synaptic connections of neurons. It’s sort of the brain’s way of getting exercise. Additionally, a good riveting tale can stir the emotions which will also help connect memory networks.

4. Improving Concentration and Focus

Summer reading for fun can improve concentration and focus. A well-written story of high interest is a good attention grabber. The reader will be focused on the outcome of the story, paying attention to the details that contribute to the plot. The ability to concentrate and focus will essentially help in all subject areas.

5. Reading for Interests

Summer reading for fun is a good way to increase interests and hobbies. As students move through middle and high school career choices become issues. The purpose of school begins to be seen in the context of preparing for the workforce. For example, a story about a sick or wounded animal could spark an interest in veterinary medicine. Or a story about a social issue could encourage volunteering for a cause.

6. Reduce Summer Boredom

Summer reading fun can help reduce boredom. The bored adolescent or teen can get into trouble more easily. Boredom on long hot days can set in, especially toward mid-summer when interest in the beach, pool or lake begins to fizzle. A good story can be entertaining. Unlike TV shows or movies, the written story will be more mentally engaging. It will be like a “movie in the mind” and can stimulate creativity.

7. Reading to Improve Test Scores

Summer reading fun can help test scores. Like it or not, high stakes testing is a fact and is probably not going to go away. Not all high stakes testing is used to determine school funding. Students everywhere must pass the end of course tests, high school competency tests and attain certain scores on the SAT or ACT to get into higher institutes of study.

8. Learning About Other Cultures and Places

Summer reading for fun can create an awareness of other cultures and places. With the internet and travel life has become more global. Chances are the adolescent or teen will travel to other parts of the world. They can “travel in an armchair” and learn about their destinations through descriptive literature. They can “time travel” and read about other times in history and learn how the culture was different.

9. Solving Personal Problems

Reading for Summer fun can help teens with life’s problems. The adolescent and teen years can be bewildering times. New freedom gives rise to new issues. Or sometimes they feel they don’t have the freedom they should have for their age. Peer pressure, bullying, feeling left out of groups, problems getting along with parents and siblings and new attractions to the opposite sex are all issues that many authors write honestly on. Reading about the problems that characters face can be like receiving advice.

10. To Develope a Lifelong Love of Books and Learning

Whether ebooks or paper books, they will always be the door to learning. Kids who learn to love a good book will always have that love.

If you are an adolescent, teen or the parent of one please pick out at least 6 good books that you really think would be fun Summer reading. Don’t forget that required Summer reading list. But do have fun reading! Here are some ideas to get you started.


Solar System Cupcakes: Make A Cupcake For Every Planet!


A Fun Cupcake Recipe

Kids today have such an advantage when it comes to both learning and being entertained at home. There are so many interesting topics to explore on the internet! When I was growing, up glossy color photos in an encyclopedia and television was as good as it got.

One of the most fascinating topics to explore is outer space. There is a multitude of cool websites that feature fantastic “close-up” and real photos taken by satellites sent into space. Some of the sites are interactive. Kids at home for the summer or on a cold winter weekend have no excuse for boredom anymore.

Some kids have to be motivated more than others to seek out knowledge. The way to a kid’s brain may be through the stomach. Grab their interest in learning about the solar system by helping bake and decorate solar system cupcakes! Each cupcake represents one of the planets in the solar system and orbits around a big yellow sun cake!

Supplies for Solar System Cupcakes

Use your favorite cupcake mix and various items to help decorate. Browsing the cake decorating aisle at a couple of different supermarkets first is a good way to plan the cupcakes. Here is a list of what we used for decorating the sun cake and the cupcakes.

  • 2 boxes of cake mix (add eggs, oil)
  • 1- 7 oz. tube red decorator icing
  • red, & yellow food color (mix to make orange icing)
  • blue food color
  • Wilton decorating gels in green, pink, purple, yellow and sparkle white
  • Cake Mate decorator cupcake gems
  • Shimmer white sugar sprinkles
  • Cinnamon drop sprinkles
  • 16 ozs. Betty Crocker Frosting Starter
  • Packets of mocha almond, caramel and cotton candy flavor packets for frosting starter
  • Red sugar crystals
  • 16 oz. can white cake frosting
  • life savers
  • For each of the terrain planets, fill the cupcake tins half full with batter and let the kids add a dollop of red icing to cook inside. This will teach the fact that they have hot molten cores.Fill the giant gas planets up a little fuller with batter so they will look bigger.Bake and decorate as described below. For the sun, bake two single layers of round cakes. Frost one yellow and one orange. Cut the orange cake into “pie wedges” and place around the yellow cake to represent a glowing sun.

    Acronym For Learning The Order Of Planets From The Sun
    • My-Mercury
    • Very-Venus
    • Educated-Educated
    • Mother-Mars
    • Just-Jupiter
    • Served-Served
    • Us-Uranus
    • Nine-Neptune
    • Pizzas-Pluto, dwarf planet



    With an orbit equivalent to 88 Earth days, Mercury is the fastest planet around the sun. However, it rotates very slowly, about one rotation for 59 Earth days. Like Earth, it is a terrain planet and is thought to also have a molten iron core.

    Mostly composed of rock and metals, Mercury is full of craters like the moon. Although it is dry, hot and airless this planet has H2O ice at both poles that lies deep in the craters-so deep the heat of the sun does not completely melt it. It is dusted with a thin layer of minerals called silicates.

    Decorating Mercury: frost Mercury with white icing and add white cup cake gems to represent a rocky planet with craters.



    Also known as the morning and evening “star”, Venus is a terrain planet that is the brightest object in the night sky after the moon.

    Similar in size to Earth, it is the closet planet to Earth and is referred to as our sister planet.

    It is also thought to have a hot molten core. Images for Venus show a variety of land forms-mountains, rolling plains and volcanoes made of hot lava.

    With a very dense atmosphere, this planet probably had water like Earth but it boiled away-which is exactly what would happen to Earth were it closer to the sun!

    Decorating Venus: frost Venus with caramel icing (use just enough of the caramel frosting starter mixed in 1/2 cup white frosting, do the same for mocha chocolate). Swirl in some of the mocha chocolate frosting.



    Home sweet home! Earth is the only known planet in the solar system that supports any form of life. That’s because it abides by the “Goldilocks Law”-being neither too hot nor too cold but just right.

    The distance that Earth is from the sun allows us to live in comfort as far as temperature goes. Well, most of the time anyway. Sometimes it is hard to believe that our home planet is three quarters water. Images of Earth show a beautiful blue ball spun with green, brown and white.

    Since scientist live here, we can of course learn more about this planet. We know that it is about 4.5 billion years old, and that the temperature of the inner core is 7500 degrees Kelius-that’s 13,040.6 degrees Fahrenheit- hotter than the sun! The surface of Earth is constantly changing due to things like erosion and earthquakes.

    Decorating Earth: tint some of the white frosting with blue food color. Swirl with green and white decorator gel. Use a toothpick to swirl in a bit of mocha chocolate icing.






    Mars is known as the red planet. It has been easy for spacecraft to get images of Mars because they actually landed on the planet.

    For a long time, it was voted “planet most likely to have life other than Earth” and science fiction writers liked writing about it. The last terrain planet, Mars has about the same land as Earth-but it is much smaller and has no oceans. However, scientists think Mars might possibly once contained bodies of water.

    This dusty, rocky planet has a cold,dry atmosphere. Like the other terrain planets, it probably has a hot,molten core.

    Decorating Mars: Frost Mars with the red icing, sprinkle with red sugar and place cinnamon sprinkles around for Mar’s rocky, dusty surface.

    note: don’t try to color white frosting with red food color, it will just get dark pink.



    Jupiter is the largest planet and the third brightest object in the night sky. With no solid surface, it is the first gas planet in our solar system. It is composed of mostly liquid hydrogen with traces of methane, water and ammonia.

    Jupiter has a rocky core made of various ices, or solid gases and is surrounded by small, faint rings. The vivid bands of color seen on images of this planet are probably due to chemical reactions of trace elements in the atmosphere. There are wind bands of high velocity winds on Jupiter and a giant red spot, a high pressure region with higher,colder clouds.

    Decorating Jupiter: Frost Jupiter with caramel frosting and swirl in mocha chocolate and red frosting. A red life saver represents Jupiter’s giant red spot.



    Saturn, the second largest planet, is composed of gases much like that of Jupiter with liquid hydrogen as the main ingredient. It also has a rocky core made of various ices, or solid gases.

    This planet is surrounded by very thin rings made of rocky particles coated with H2O ice. Images of Saturn also show bands of color like Jupiter, only fainter. Helium, the gas that makes balloons float on air can be found here.

    As Earth is the most dense planet, Saturn is the least dense. Some scientists think this planet is so light it could actually float on water! This could make sense. Think about how light helium is. How easily the balloons filled with helium float away~

    Decorating Saturn: Frost Saturn with white frosting. Use the purple, pink and yellow gels for Saturn’s rings. Sprinkle with shimmer white sugar to represent the ice. Gas ices have formed on Saturn, a cold planet far away from the sun.



    As we travel through the solar system the planets farthermost from the sun get harder to see. They are also the hardest to learn about. Uranus is the next gas planet in the solar system. Images of Uranus show up as being a beautiful shade of blue due to methane gas in the upper atmosphere. Scientists think that this planet probably has bands of color like Jupiter but they are hidden by the methane layer surrounding it.

    Decorating Uranus: Frost Uranus with frosting starter that is mixed with some of the cotton candy flavor packet. Shimmer white sugar shows it’s cold surface.



    Neptune is the last gas planet in the solar system. Now getting still colder and darker, images of Saturn appear as deep blue in color. Hydrogen and helium are the two known gases to make up the composition of Neptune.

    So far away from the sun, it takes Neptune 165 Earth years to orbit the sun once. In fact, in 2011 the planet completed it’s first orbit since it’s discovery in 1846. Neptune is whipped with very strong winds, up to 2000 km per hour.

    Decorating Neptune: Tint some white frosting with blue coloring. Use more to make it darker than the icing used for Earth. Sprinkle with shimmer white sugar.



    Poor Pluto was dropped from the list of planets in our solar system in recent years. It is now considered one of the dwarf planets. So far from the sun, it is in constant darkness. Only Hubble has been able to show very faint images of the largest of Pluto’s features.

    Decorating Pluto: Frost Pluto with mocha chocolate frosting. Sprinkle with chocolate sprinkles and shimmer sugar.

    How To Make Letter Shaped Pancakes

    A Breakfast Family Tradition


    Years ago, the popular children’s book Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett inspired me to establish Saturday morning as family pancake morning with my children.

    This delightful story opens with Kate describing Saturday morning breakfast with a jolly grandfather who makes pancakes. He prides himself on the art of flipping pancakes. On this morning he flips a pancake so high it crosses the room and lands on her brother Henry’s head. They all have a good laugh and the event kicks off the “best bedtime story ever” that night.


    Grandpa creates a wild tale about the town of Chewandswallow, a town where the food supply doesn’t come from grocery stores. Instead, the townspeople walk out with a plate and utensils to catch food the sky serves up three times a day. It may rain tomato soup, snow mounds of mashed potatoes- or maybe a storm of hamburgers blows in. All is well until the “weather” turns yucky and extra large and the people are forced to set out in search of a new town.

    Children (and adults) love pancakes. A family pancake morning can promote togetherness for the family and create fond memories. It provides a chance to connect and talk about the week’s events. Children can pitch in and practice measuring and cooking skills. Pick any day of the week that is best for you.


    Children will Enjoy Making Letter Shaped Pancakes

    C is for cherries!

    Children will especially love making shaped pancakes. Making letter pancakes is one idea for pancake fun. Letter pancakes are created using your favorite pancake batter and a turkey baster. After mixing the batter simply draw the mix up into the turkey baster just as you would with meat juices. Release the batter by squeezing the bulb. Now “write” your letter onto the hot griddle. Brown and flip just as you would an ordinary pancake.

    Making letter pancakes is especially good for preschool children learning to identify letters. Activities using letters will help children learn the alphabet more easily. If you have a preschooler you may have noticed certain activities they do- like gluing macaroni on a large letter M for example. Preschool teachers usually introduce one letter per week and conduct activities with that letter each day. Find out what your preschooler’s letter of the week is for the following week. On family pancake morning, introduce that letter with letter pancakes. This will give your child a head start on letter mastery. For phonemic awareness (a necessary reading prerequisite) practice the sound that letter makes.

    Whole Wheat Pancakes

    Studies have proven that whole wheat flour is the most nutritious for your family’s pancakes. Whole wheat significantly lowers the risk of many chronic diseases including stroke, type 2 diabetes,  a risk of heart attack and colorectal cancer. It is thought that whole wheat aids in maintaining a healthy weight. Following is a quick and easy recipe for whole wheat pancakes courtesy of



    • 2 Cups Whole wheat flour
    • 2 tsp Baking powder
    • 1 tsp Salt
    • 2 Eggs, Well beaten
    • 2 Cups Milk
    • 2 Tbs Vegetable oil


    1. Stir the dry ingredients together.
    2. Then add the eggs, milk, and oil.
    3. Cook pancakes until browning and bubbly around the edges.
    4. Turn with a spatula and cook until done.

    Add to the taste, fun, and nutrition of pancakes with fillings and toppings. Choose a different filling or topping each week, or perhaps have two or three choices and let each child choose a personal preference. Chop very finely or sprinkle on the pancakes as they cook for the letter pancakes.

    In recent years research has produced results labeling certain foods as being super foods. Super foods are high in anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants, as the term implies, attacks damaging oxidation in animal tissue. They contain vitamins, minerals and enzymes (proteins that assist in chemical reactions) thought to prevent the development of several chronic diseases.

    Older children, between ages 8 and 10 are old enough to understand the dangers of unhealthy eating. Discuss diseases and causes, particularly the ones that may be genetic in the family. Talk about the benefits of food research and super foods so that they become aware of them.

    Nutritious Pancake Fillings and Toppings 

    Healthy fillings and toppings for letter shaped pancakes
    Healthy fillings and toppings for letter-shaped pancakes

    Dried cherry filling: red cherries are packed with anti-oxidants. Plenty of research indicates tart cherries as having anti-inflammatory value, reducing pain from gout and arthritis.Heart health benefits are also linked to the cherries.

    Fresh blueberry filling: blueberries are naturally sweet and children will love the taste without added sugar. Research indicates blueberries as highly beneficial in protecting neurological damage to the brain. Lifelong consumption of these antioxidants could slash the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in future seniors.

    Semi- sweet chocolate morsels filling: dark chocolate is very rich in poly phenols which are good news for chocolate lovers. Poly phenols are known to be inhibitors of the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis found that a small bar of dark chocolate a day thins blood as well as a baby aspirin reducing the risk of blood clot formation that can lead to strokes.


     Other Fillings and Toppings

    Have fun with family pancake morning! There are so many possibilities for fillings and toppings that can add variety and nutrition to your pancakes. The whole family will look forward to family pancake morning!

    Other filling and topping ideas:

    • stir finely chopped walnuts into the batter. Top pancakes with sliced bananas and cinnamon.
    • add chopped fresh in-season fruit to the batter, such as strawberries or whipped cream.
    • top with bananas, strawberries, and honey.
    • add finely chopped apples and raisins to the batter.
    • top pancakes with homemade fresh cherry pie filling.

    Get creative and I’ll bet you will come up with your own yummy and nutritious creations!


    12 Terrific Ideas For a Red Ribbon Week Door Decorating Contest


    Red Ribbon Week Door Decor

    Does your school, office, or dorm have a Red Ribbon Week door decorating contest? Need some fresh ideas?

    The contest comes around every year along with other activities to honor Red Ribbon Week. It comes around the same time as, you guessed it, Halloween, so it’s not unusual to see a Halloween theme incorporated in the decorations.

    History of Red Ribbon Week

    Red Ribbon Week is a week in late October or early November to emphasize and promote drug and violence prevention. It started slowly after the kidnapping and murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camereno and his pilot in Chihuahua, Mexico in 1985.

    Camereno’s efforts led to the discovery of a multimillion dollar narcotics manufacturing operation. Citizens in Camereno’s hometown wore red ribbons in his honor. Clubs were started in California high schools in 1986. Club members presented Nancy Reagan, then the first lady with a proclamation.

    The first official Red Ribbon Week was organized in 1988, proclaimed by Congress, and chaired by Mrs. Reagan.


    12 Ideas for Red Ribbon Week Doors

    1. Drugs will Make You Croak.
    A confused frog smashed into the window.


    2. The Fortune Teller’s Crystal Ball Says it with Lights

    Painted with poster paints on black paper. Your Future will be Bright if you Keep Drugs out of Sight.

    3. Warm Hugs Not Drugs

    Individually decorated snowmen and snowflake cutouts


    4. Oh, The Places We’ll Go

    Dr. Suess theme. The good life, drug free.


    5. Cool Ninja Turtle

    Of course, he’s wearing a red bandana!


    6. Your Team Against Drugs.

    Your favorite team is in the lead . Drugs score 0.


    7. Be a Lifesaver, Not a Dum Dum

    Can we eat the candy later? Yes, it’s real.


    8. Drugs are a Nightmare

    A Halloween theme spelled out on a big yellow moon.


    9. Don’t Be Bugged by Drugs

    Spooky spiders and bats with googly eyes.


    10. Election Day is Around the Corner

    The candidates are saying drug free slogans.

    11.You Only Live Once

    Think twice. A powerful message personalized with photos.


    12. A Message with a Halloween theme.

    The haunted house, big moon, ghosts, and bats tell the message perfectly.


    Using The Calendar For Teaching Basic Math Concepts

    Elementary Math Using the Calendar

    A calendar is a great tool for teaching basic skills to elementary age children. Walk in any elementary classroom and you will likely see a colorful, seasonal calendar attached to a bulletin board and surrounded by a variety of teaching aids. A table may be added to the area to hold manipulatives, games and task cards, making it double as a math learning station.

    You don’t have to have a classroom to use a calendar for teaching math. Parents, homeschoolers, and tutors can use any calendar as long as it is a monthly one and not a daily display calendar. Activities vary from grade level to grade level. The following teaching suggestions are divided into primary (PreK-2 grade) and elementary ( 3rd-5th grade). They will help meet the math teaching standards in all states.

    Primary Grade Calendar Math

    For really young students, like pre-k through grade one, or older, disabled students, the teacher will want to build the calendar together with the class.

    Number Recognition

    On the first day of the month, review the names of all 12 months and introduce the new month. Pass out number cards (1-30, 31 or 28) and have students bring the correct one to pin on the calendar.

    Ordinal Numbers

    Calendar time is the perfect opportunity to introduce students to ordinal numbers and their endings. Each day, demonstrate how to write the date as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and so on.

    Number Sequencing

    Use the calendar to practice skip counting by 2s and also to talk about numbers that come before and after. If today is the 22nd of the month, ask what yesterday’s date was. What will be tomorrow’s date?

    Time sequencing


    Number Riddles

    Increase children’s number sense with number riddles each day. Vary in difficulty as time goes by. Examples:

      1. I come after the number 3. What number am I?
      2. I am the sum of this Tuesday and next Wednesday.What number am I?
      3. I am the number of the 2nd Tuesday this month. What number am I?

    It is important for children to develop a sense of time. Use calendar math time to learn the order of the months and the days of the week. Look for songs and rhymes to use for teaching the order of the days and months.

    Question students about what month comes before and after the current month. This is a good time to talk about seasons also.

    Vary the difficulty of questions as time goes by, challenging students to think.

        1. What is the date one week from today?
        2. What month will it be two months after Christmas?
        3. What was the date two weeks ago from yesterday?

    Place Value


    Beside the calendar, place a ones, tens hundreds pockets chart. You can even use three plastic cups stapled on the bulletin board. Be sure to use the labels ones, tens and hundreds. Beginning on the first day of school, the teacher shows the calendar math helper how to place a straw or Popsicle stick in the ones pocket.

    One the 10th day of school, it is time to “bundle” the straws or sticks with a rubber band. Every 10 days from here on, you will bundle and add to the tens pockets. The kids will be thrilled when there or 10 bundles of 10s on the hundredth day of school.


    A calendar makes the perfect number line for simple addition and subtraction. Show students how to add problems like 6+ 9 by starting on day six and jumping forward nine days.

    Likewise, subtract by jumping backward in time. What was today’s date six days ago? what number sentence shows that operation?

    Counting Money

    Counting money is a lot of fun using calendar math. Each day is a penny, five days a nickel . Trade two nickles for a dime on the tenth day.

    The 25th day of school is a quarter. Trade two quarters for a half-dollar on the 50th day of school. Use large paper coins to display the money in a piggy bank pinned to the calendar math bulletin board. So if it is the 62nd day in school, for example, you will have a half-dollar, a dime,and two pennies.

    After 99 cents, kids will be thrilled to add a paper dollar for the 100th day of school.



    Students can help the teacher create a pictograph or bar graph depicting the number of rainy days, sunny days, etc.


    Elementary Grade Calendar Math


    For older students, days can be added one at a time at the calendar circle times. Although some of the objectives are the same, skills become more advanced with each grade level. They still love counting the days of school and modeling the ones, tens, and hundreds, but now, they will use the day to write decimals and percentages.

    Number Sense


    Patterning is an important skill that will help students later on with algebraic concepts. Some teachers like to use seasonal symbols like pumpkin, ghost bat. Others just use colors. You can use geometric shapes and help students identify them, covering an important geometry standard.

    Use the calendar time to learn about odd and even numbers and prime and composite numbers. Tell whether each day is odd or even. Let the calendar math helper write these in the correct place.

    Have students tell whether each day is a prime or composite number. The 13th of the month is prime because its only factors are one and 13. Is October 25th a prime or composite day? Composite, because it has 5, 1 and 25 as factors. On “composite days”, have students create factoring trees as part of their morning work.

    Students can use the calendar for harder skip counting like 3s, 4s, and 6s.

    Place Value

    Show students how to write “big numbers” by turning the month into a number. For example May 25th, 2014 would be written as 5,252,014. Whatever the date is, start on the right and place commas after each set of 3 numbers. December 22, 2016, would, therefore be 12, 222,013.

    Have a place value pocket chart from ones to ten millions pinned to the calendar math bulletin board. The calendar math helper can place number cards in the pouches to show the date.

    Use ones, tens and hundreds for counting the days in school. Students can write these as decimals and percentages. For example, the 82nd day of school would be written as .82 and 82%. The 102nd day? 1.02 which is one whole and 2 tenths., or one whole and 2 percent.


    Students in later grades are expected to be able to perform column addition and regroup. Pick three or four days and have students add them together. For example, say, add last Wednesday’s date, today’s date and next Thursday’s and Friday’s date together.

    Use the calendar for teaching fractions. For example, the 6th of December would be written as 6/12ths. After introducing simplifying fractions, a student could show how to reduce this to 1/2. Some days will be improper fractions. For example,February 7th would be 7/2. Students can divide to get the mixed number 3 and 1/2. December 12th will be 12/12 and makes the whole number, one.

    Counting Money

    Counting money is pretty much the same for all grade levels. This skill can be parallel to place value and decimals. One way to make counting money more complex it to add days together. For example, what is the total of the 160th day and the 161st day. Students would add $1.60 and $1.61.

    Some teachers of older students use thousands and add them to a depositor each day. For example, the 1st is $100 dollars, and the 10th is $10,000 dollars. Likewise, the 20th is $20,000. Add another thousand to the depositor on the next day, the 21st.

    Time Sequence

    Again, time sequence and awareness of time is important for elementary students as well. Make it more difficult with more complex tasks.

        1. You have a dental appointment 2 weeks from next Tuesday. What is the date of your dental appointment?
        2. We started our Social Studies unit five weeks ago from yesterday. What date did we begin the unit?
        3. What will be the date nine months after Christmas day? What month is five months before December?



    Organizing The Early Childhood Classroom

    The Life of an Early Childhood Teacher


    Pay scales for teachers remain a debated issue ranging from merit pay to the traditional yearly step increase. Having teaching experience at every grade level in both general and special education, I have always been a proponent of what I call the “youngest student rule” which states the “younger the student, the greater the pay”. I base my deduction on the fact that the younger the student, the more active supervision they need.

    Students in the early grades may have learning disabilities and other problems that have yet to be diagnosed. Maturity can be an issue, and teachers, as well as parents, may overlook a problem just because it is “too soon to tell.” Additionally, budget cuts may increase class size and staff reductions that can really wreck havoc in the life of an early childhood teacher. The teachers assistants can be cut as well as additional support staff. Special area classes such as art, music, and physical education may well be cut making it even more stressful for the EC teacher. Now she must provide that instruction as well as giving up what would have otherwise been valuable planning time.

    Early learning is very important. It sets the stage for the entire educational life of the student. An early childhood classroom has some important differences from the elementary classroom organization. A good positive early learning experience provides the basis for life-long learning. That could be another argument for my youngest student pay scale rule.

    As I know of no school system that goes by my “early childhood teacher that needs more pay theory” then I shall share some organizational ideas for the early childhood classroom that I hope will help.

    Why Stay Organized?


    Organization is a key factor in classroom management at any grade level and will ensure smooth operating all through the day. The well-organized classroom fosters improved instruction and promotes better student behavior. If the teacher has to stop and look for materials, then what educators refer to as downtime can occur. Students will not be engaged in the lesson. Therefore, a lack of good instruction can cause behavior problems.

    The teacher of young children will make hundreds of decisions during a typical day. Thousands of thoughts will pass through her mind. A well-organized classroom can help a teacher concentrate on the lesson to be taught and the needs of the students.

    Organization will mean smoother transitions between activities. Less time will be wasted. Young students will feel more secure and happier. The teacher, in turn, will be less tired at the end of the day and have more energy for herself, her family and for preparing for the next day’s activities. It is a win-win situation!

    Take a picture tour of one super teacher’s classroom to spark ideas for organizing an early childhood classroom.

    Students start the day with assigned and attractive places for storing personal belongings.


    Tables are best for seating in an EC classroom, allowing efficient traffic flow. Carpeted flooring is comfy and cozy for sitting on the floor at circle time.



    Four early childhood students work comfortably at a table four by two feet. Names tags are on wide clear tape for durability.


    Built-in shelves house lots of plastic storage containers holding everything from crayons to flash cards.Tree shaped sentence strip holder utilizes space well.



    A Circular table is a space-saving way to include computers in the EC classroom. Covering bulletin boards with cloth keeps ugly rips and tears away, saving time




    Calendar math is a bulletin board, large group instruction area and a learning center all-in-one. Students learn a multitude of math concepts in one place.


    Concept maps help organize learning material for young minds.


    Horseshoe table is a must for small group instruction. The bags on the table contain individual reading materials that students transport from home to school.


    Store math manipulatives in good-sized plastic storage containers. A must have for manipulatives and small learning tools.


    Leveled readers neatly displayed in color-coded boxes.


    Sturdy wooden Big Book holders are available from educational specialty stores. Big Books are great for read-alouds.



    Slip-on pouches on chairs are great for storing student materials. Turn one end of a pillow sham inside out and slip it over the top of the chair.


    Plant Cell Project Ideas: Plant Cell T-Shirt


    Making a Plant Cell Model

    If you have an older elementary or middle-school student or will have someday, you will probably find yourself helping her create a plant or animal cell model project. And if you visit the science fair, you will be amazed at the creative ways kids come up with to make the cell models.

    Styrofoam, empty toilet paper rolls, old batteries, clay and other items are used to represent the cell wall, cell membrane and all the organelles in the cell.

    Then there are the edible ones like animal and plant cell cakes or jello ones with candies that represent the various parts of the cell.

    Or, make an animal cell t-shirt instead.

    Make a Plant Cell T-Shirt

    But how about one you can wear? That’s the idea we came up with for our plant cell model. Start with a plain white t-shirt. You will need fabric markers for labeling and fabric glue for gluing.

    Begin by making a pattern for the cell and the large central vacuole. Trace and cut these out of craft felt. Glue the cell on the front, then glue the large central vacuole on the cell. Use ribbon, yarn or green fabric marker for the cell wall and cell membrane.

    From here, you will pick and choose items from things like felt, bows, buttons, pom poms, chenille stems, etc. for your plant cell organelles. Here is a chart listing what we used for each part of our plant cell model.

    Tip: Place light cardboard or newspaper inside the t-shirt to keep the front and back from sticking together.




    Cell Part
    Material Used
    Light green felt
    Cell Wall
    Green ribbon
    Cell membrane
    Green fabric marker
    Large central vacuole
    White craft felt
    Vacuole membrane
    Green chenille stem
    Yellow felt circle
    Medium purple pom pom
    Smooth endoplasmic reticulum
    Narrow light purple ribbon
    Rough endoplasmic reticulu,
    Purple plastic beads
    Tan felt oval / red chenille stem
    Green felt oval /yellow chenille stem
    Druse crystal
    Small white pompom/tiny green pom pom
    Golgi apparatus
    Pieces of orange chenille stem
    Golgi vesicles
    Tiny green pom poms
    Clear plastic beads
    Raphide crystals
    Pieces of sparkly green chenille stems
    Purple button

    Plant Cell T-Shirt Photo Tutorial

    Use hot glue instead of fabric glue if necessary for heavier material.
    A craft felt circle with a pom pom makes the nucleus and nucleolus.
    Green ribbon makes the cell wall. Color in the cell membrane with a green fabric marker.
    The plant cell and organelles
    Embellish the crew neck.


    February Ideas For The Elementary Classroom


    February Holiday Ideas for School

    To be the shortest month of the year February is certainly a busy one. Aside from the natural occurring holidays (Valentine’s, Ground Hog and President’s Days) there are several themes of recognition set in the month of February.

    Perhaps because everyone thought February was such a boring month certain organizations decided to make February National “Whatever” Month.There is American Dental Month, Heart Health Month, Black History Month…the list goes on and on!

    These special holidays and themes of recognition provide great opportunities for fantastic and creative instruction in the classroom for the month of February. The time of year is ripe for focus and rigor. The distraction of Fall and Winter holidays are over and breaks are at a minimum.

    The second semester is relatively new. It’s just after the new year and it is the last chance to “get it right” before the end of the school year. Capitalize on all that positive energy and provide your students with creative, high-interest lessons. Following is a collection of ideas to get you going, and a wide range of grade levels are included. Materials used in the activities are inexpensive.

    Valentines Math


    Patterning is an important skill for student and actually prepares the mind for algebraic concepts later on. Young students will really be motivated to use colored valentine cut-outs to follow a pattern started by the teacher to follow.Every other color is a beginning pattern, then go as complicated as needed for the ability level of the student.

    Conversational hearts make great counters for beginning addition and subtraction problems for the youngest students.Use for teaching multiplication and division concepts to older elementary students. Have the students make arrays for multiplication, or put them in piles to show the inverse of multiplication and division. Students will love the lessons and participation is sure to be high! Have a set to count with and a some to eat separately in a plastic baggie!


    Are you teaching the concepts of place value and regrouping ones and tens? Use cinnamon heart candies to make groups of ten and then count the left over loose ones. Then have them to write the number represented by the candies.

    These are just a few ideas for teaching math concepts with Valentine candy. Try bar graphs according to colored hearts or candies. The creative teacher can think of many ways to use Valentine candy to teach math concepts.

    Valentine Art and Crafts for School



    Trading Valentine cards is a long standing tradition in elementary school. Use an empty tissue box for students to create their own “mailbox” for Valentine cards. Simply paint them with white tempera or acrylic and decorate with stickers, foam pieces or other creative ways. Let the imagination loose! Encourage creative thinking for your students. Students will love delivering their valentines to these cute tissue mailboxes. Have them to write their name on the bottom.

    Centers are fairly standard in the early childhood class.If you need a good idea for the art center for February try sponge painting hearts on gift wrap. Pour tempera in meat trays. Provide heart shaped sponges for sponge painting on the gift wrap with red and pink hearts.Parents will love it when their kids bring home the gift wrap. Dads could use it to wrap the rose stems for Mom!

    For students needing occupational therapy activities try this engaging activity. Cut out a big valentine of red paper. Provide lots of 1-inch squares of white tissue paper.Show students how to pinch them and create a ruffle to glue around the edge of the valentine.They will love it!

    Groundhog Day Ideas for the Classroom


    Ground Hog Day is a good opportunity for both younger and older students to learn.Challenge older students to research the origin and meaning of the day. Have them create a report on their findings with a written or oral report, or perhaps a Powerpoint presentation.

    Casting Shadows Across Literacy and Science is an awesome lesson plan written by Dr. Deborah Jensen and published by International Reading Association. Dr.Jensen links literacy and science beautifully as students explore what makes shadows and how and why shadows change. Tools are provided for the teacher to have students study and record observations of shadows. A wonderful study of literature that includes poetry about shadows is sure to encourage any budding authors in the group.

    What makes a shadow? Do shadows change? Can a person escape his or her shadow? These questions guide students in developing a scientific understanding of shadows. Discussions on shadows in literature (fiction, informational text, and poetry) link scientific knowledge to the world of literature or students. A recording observations of shadows hand out is printable for the teacher’s use.

    To help the very youngest students develop an early awareness of Ground Hog Day try this adorable idea by Marian Bartleson (Mailbox magazine, February/March 2006). Provide students with a pattern of a groundhog to trace and cut from brown construction paper. Glue the groundhog on a tongue depression stick. This will be a puppet for the background created with a sheet of blue construction paper. Add a snow covered ground, puffy cotton ball cloud and a yellow sun to help make the groundhog’s shadow. Help students cut a slot for sliding the puppet up and down simulating the groundhog popping out of his hole. Remember the tune I’m a Little Teapot? Teach young students these words for the same tune to perform with their puppets and backgrounds:

    I’m a little groundhog, Brown and Stout, Will I see my shadow when I pop out.

    If I see my shadow it will be six more weeks of winter that you see!

    Students of all ages will enjoy making silhouette pictures. Tape butcher paper on a wall or screen. Have the student sit in a chair facing sideways in front of a bright light. An old overhead projector works for this. Another student (or the teacher for younger ones) traces the silhouette for the student to cut out. Then have the student trace this on white paper. Cut out the silhouette and mount on black paper. Play a guessing game by displaying them alongside a given number. Have students number their paper and write the name of whom they think each silhouette picture is.

    Many will remember lying in bed making shadow puppets on the wall as a kid. Younger and older students alike will enjoy this great guide for making shadow characters. Challenge drama students at the secondary level to work in cooperative learning groups to produce and perform a play using shadow puppets.


    President’s Day Ideas for School


    Give both younger and older students background information on the origin of this federal holiday. George Washington was the first American citizen whose birthday was used for an official holiday. For many years, that observance was held on February the 22nd which is his actual birth date. On January 1st, 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act shifted the date to the third Monday in February naming it President’s Day. Since Abraham Lincoln’s birth date is February 12th we typically engage in activities to commemorate his great presidency.

    Assign upper elementary and middle school students a U.S. President to research– or if preferred let them select their own. Students then write a brief biography of the president following a given outline that includes their date of birth, childhood, education and contributions to history from their presidency. If desired students can complete the project making a life-size replica of the president by tracing around another student onto large white bulletin board paper, cutting out and then embellishing it with hats, clothes, and features to resemble the president.

    Younger students will enjoy using paper plates and construction paper for creating George Washington and Abe Lincoln. Use cotton balls to make George Washington’s white curly wig. Lincoln’s top hat is easy, Washington’s hat is a bit more complicated.Here is a template for Washington’s hat.

    Check out this Presidents Day Thematic Unit for younger students

    Black History Month Ideas For School

    Black History month recognizes great African Americans all month long. There are plenty of activists, inventors, and artists to recognize. Introduce a new one each day in the class or school morning news.

    Go on a trip to the public library to check out a book about a famous African-American.

    Teach students about the Harlem Renaissance and introduce students to African-American writers. Great projects are included that will take from three to five days to complete

    There are plenty of interesting lessons on the civil rights movement.  Have students play a segregation simulation game in which they choose either a blue or green strip of paper. The greens interact with only greens and blues with blues for one day. This activity is sure to spark interesting class discussions the next day.


    American Dental Health Month Ideas for School



    Thematic units are lessons that teachers create to meet the needs of their early childhood students. For American Dental Health week use one or more of these adorable books for sharing with students. The creative teacher is sure to come up with ideas for incorporating math and language arts in the classroom as whole group and center activities inspired by these stories.

    1. Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist by Jan and Stan Berenstain
    2. Brush Your Teeth Please by Leslie McGuire
    3. Little Rabbit’s Loose Tooth by Diane De Groat and Lucy Bate
    4. Dear Tooth Fairy by Graham Joyce
    5. Throw Your Tooth on the Roof by Selby Beeler
    6. Doctor DeSoto by William Steig


    Young children will enjoy making and eating these cute Apple Smiles snacks from Family Crafts at Using two apple slices line the inside with natural peanut butter. Attach marshmallows to the peanut butter. The outside of the apple represents lips and the meat of the apple is the gums. The teeth are mini marshmallows!

    Older students can increase career awareness by researching dental health related careers at career websites such as Have students list the careers, education and job training for each and average salaries.

    Heart Health Month Ideas for School


    It is important to teach students of all ages healthy habits for a healthy heart. Brainstorm a list of ideas that help keep healthy hearts. Be sure students include healthy diets that don’t include too many trans fats, not smoking and getting exercise. Students can pick one “heart healthy rule” and make a poster promoting it.


    Other ideas:

    1. Pick a day in February for wearing the color red to recognize Heart Month.
    2. Use a week in the month to teach the circulatory system.
    3. Take pulse and compare between rest periods and activity periods.
    4. Use red and blue clay or play dough to build heart models
    5. Have students trace around another student’s body on butcher paper. Cut out and draw in the circulatory system.
    6. Have the school nurse to come in and speak on heart health and let the students listen to the heartbeat with a stethoscope.
    7. List foods that are heart healthy and create menus.


    Make an Ivory Soap Snowman For Good Clean Fun

    A snowman sculpted from Ivory soap is a great project for kids of any age. It is a unique project for a cold winter’s day when kids may be home from school on a “snow day”. Teachers could use it as an idea for group work in a cooperative learning format. Whatever the setting, it is sure to provide some “good clean fun.” Here’s how:

    Assemble these materials:

    • 3-4  bars of Ivory soap
    • mixing bowl
    • a little water
    • a handful of dry black beans
    • strip of  felt

    • black construction paper (for a hat)
    • cheese grater
    • a baby carrot (for a nose)
    • pipe cleaners and pom poms


    Grate the soap bars shredding them just like cheese.


    Add a little water, no more than an eighth of a cup.


    Form into large, medium, and small balls.


    Add the end of a baby carrot and black beans for features. 


    Brown pipe stems make good arms. Or use Popsicle sticks, even real twigs. 


    Earmuffs can be made by hot glueing pom poms to pipe stems. We had some left over from Christmas crafts.


    Make a stovepipe hat with black paper. Scarfs can be crafted from felt or ribbons. Make your soap snowman unique!