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Parent Teacher Conferences

Do you find parent-teacher conferences to be difficult? Often times I hear teachers complain that talking to parents is draining and that they struggle to help parents understand their concerns without offending them. Parent conferences are a necessary part of our job that can be a great chance to get parents on board with us and make the year their child's best yet!  But how?! Read on to find out...

Multiplication Strategies for Success

Are you looking for new ways to help your students with multiplication?  This post is for you!  Over my years in third grade I have practiced multiplication in many different ways.  Today I want to show you some things that have helped my students to be successful at multiplication without making the entire hundreds chart or just memorizing facts with know conceptual knowledge to back it up.  Let's dive in!

Okay first things first, I have to get this out of the way...and if you don't agree, please scroll on because I have A LOT jam packed into this post. So here it is...I let my kids use their fingers (yes you can shreak in horror now).  Done? Okay, let me explain why...

  1. Our students will always have their fingers (hopefully).
  2. They can be used as a manipulative and go with them everywhere.
  3. They are a great tool for our visual learners and our tactile learners.
 Still don't believe me...ask yourself this:  Would you tell a student with glasses they didn't need them? Its much similar to that. Some kids NEED that visual or physical manipulative, yet you and I know they can't have anything on tests, but they do still have their fingers.

The key to using their fingers is to give them practical ways that don't involve them counting EVERY SINGLE number on a finger. When this happens they end up lost and with the wrong answer anyway.  However, you can give them strategies to use that will help them to efficiently solve problems. And in my experience, as they continue to practice they naturally move from their fingers to memorization through practice and time.

teach multiplication, multiplication centers

I start with teaching 0& 1. I just teach the properties for these so that students know everything times zero is always zero. They usually get this through modeling. For instance, I will say show me zero groups of 3.  And we talk through it.  And they understand that no groups is no groups.  Then for the ones. I says show me one group of 4, just to give an example, and then they model it. These two come fairly easy.

From there, we move on to 2, 4, 5 & 10.  The reason for teaching these next is that they can all use skip counting.  For 4's we do double twos. So they count on their fingers skip counting each number twice.

Next we conquer the 3s.  For three I teach my students to use the sections of their fingers. (We do have to talk about the "imaginary" line on our thumb because we only have two lines on it. But if you look at your fingers, you have three sections between the joints. My students use these sections to count their numbers. For instance, for 3x4 they would hold up 4 fingers and they would could three sections on each finger counting on until out of fingers to give them 12.

Back to 4s for just a moment, for students that struggle with skip counting by 2s (and some kiddos have a hard time with that). I have them count the three sections of their fingers and then we count the tip for the fourth part.

You can click here to watch a video that explains this in more detail.

After these facts that leaves us with 6,7,8,9.  Most people know the nines trick so I'm going to leave that one alone and show you some other things that also work, because that has confused some of my students in the past.  There are two ways I like to teach these numbers.  The first is to decompose the numbers to make the problem simpler.  See the example below.

I also have them use a T-chart if that doesn't make sense.  Here is an example of a T-chart.

To make this students count their number, write it down. They then take the last number they got and count one more group of the number, then they take that number and add to it. They keep going until they get to their number.  The reason I like the T-chart is that it saves from making the whole multiplication chart, which can take some of them so long and they end up really frustrated.  This way they just make the number they need and they can always go back to the chart for that number if they run into it again on their work for that day.

I abbreviate the T-chart further (as seen in the picture) by have them start at a safe number when they are multiplying high numbers.  For instance. 7x7...this is a long way to count if they start at zero.  However, they know they can skip count their 5s. So students start with 5 (one of the safe numbers they can count).  They find the answer to 5 and then they count 7 more, write down that number for 7x6, and they then count 7 more and get to the answer for 7x7.

multiplication practice

These are just a few ways I have my students learn multiplication facts.  We do lots of fluency practice as well to get them ready.  To practice fluency we do things such as rolling dice, around the world, and multiplication war.  The combination of activities usually has them fluent by the time they leave my third grade room.

You can grab my freebie Multiplication Go Fish! Game by clicking here. 

I also LOVE using clip it games and you can find my Multiplication Clip It game by clicking the image below.

Another thing I like to incorporate is my Multiplication Lapbook.  In the lapbook students take notes on overall content, have opportunities to practice and it leave them with a great way to refer back to multiplication. I also love using the lapbook because it gives them an artifact of their learning that they can take home and show their parents.

If you would like to learn more about my Multiplication Lapbook, you can find it by clicking the image below.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Classroom Reveal- Outer Space Themed Classroom

I'm super excited to slide down to first grade this year! I've waited seven years to go back to my favorite grade level!  Today I'm taking you on a tour of my first grade classroom and the different things I have going on in the room.  My theme this year is Outer Space, so everything centers around that and my color scheme.  You can learn more about how to choose your own classroom by clicking here, but FIRST, let's look at my room for this year!

outer space theme and bulletin board ideas

So, just a few things as we "walk" through my classroom.  As I said I'm teaching first grade this year.  Another important note is that I'm also doing flexible seating.


I know there are many questions around flexible seating and how it works.  Everyone has a different approach and the bottom line is that you have to find the way that you are most comfortable with and the way it works best with your students.  If you are a newer teacher, I would also recommend that you work on classroom management and have that down before adding flexible seating into the mix if you are not 100% sure how you would like to run it.

So what seats do I have in my room?  I have balance balls, stools, crate seats, pillows, a heightened table, chairs, and carpet areas.  I allow students to pick their seat for the day and we change it up daily.  This is great incentive to get students to class on time.

For Kindergarten or for students who have trouble with self control, you may consider letting them choose their spot based on the task. For instance, Students A and Student B go to a spot, then send Student C and Student D and so on. Students get about ten seconds to choose their spot and get there or you choose for them.  Also, once they have chosen they cannot change unless you change them because they are unable to handle that spot.

first grade alternative seating


The second thing to note is that I use reading areas.  The places for students to collaborate and read are all around the room.  I know there are many people who have amazing and elaborate libraries that I am always in awe of. That doesn't work as well for me. My library is split up and placed around my room in tubs. The containers are (or will be - I'm still sorting and organizing with additions since the grade level switch) labeled based on leveling and subject.

Organizing books this way does two things for my kids.  The first is that if they take a book and need to put it back its a little easier to remember where it goes because they can remember the section of the room it came from.  Secondly, it helps to spread kids out when they are picking books because there aren't ten of them clustered all in one spot. Instead they are in small clusters searching in their bins.  I do have some bookshelves with books as well, but I will pull containers from these and systematically move them around the room based on my students' needs as the year progresses.

The area above is the reading area with chairs in the corner of the room by my Brag Tag board.  Below is another area near the window. Back in this area is where I house our class pet, math centers, and I also have my word wall on the cabinets.

flexible seating, word wall, tire seats, colors

This photo is of the back of my room.You can see more flexible seating here.  There are stools at raised desks that are clustered. I also have another reading area/grouping of tire seats. These seats are clustered around my math center area, but will be used for math and reading.

You can click the image or click here for a quick "How To" on making these awesome tire chairs.

bulletin boards and alternative seating, space theme

I also have a table with six balance balls. I set my balance balls on pool rings to hold them in place.  The balance balls and rings came from Five Below. You can get 4 rings for $3 which will work for 4 of the balance balls.  I also have two carpets that I put together for kids to lay on.  Many students like to lay on their stomachs and work and this can actually prove good for handwriting for students who struggle as they can keep their arm level with the floor.


Let's talk bulletin boards!  I LOVE bulletin boards! The more creative the better, the more I can put on them to make them cute I love! However, I restrain myself in this area.  I put up boards that will coordinate and work all year instead of changing them for seasons or events. On top of this kids come in to blank boards.

Why blank boards? I like to designate these areas and give students a place to know where things are going, but I also want them to be part of that process.  Thus,  I leave my boards blank and we add to them together as we work on things.  By the end of the first week I will have student work on one of the boards above the computers. The board below actually.

classroom reveal for first grade

Then the board above my lockers will hold anchor charts and other tools and things we are using for learning that are pertinent to our current content.  You can see that board below here, and you will notice it has two sections so we can organize those anchor charts and learning tools.

bulletin boards alternative seatin space theme

Also, as I point out this board, I want to point out the bookshelves on the tops of the cubbies.  One might ask, why do that?  Well, I have a little problem...its called "Out of sight, out of mind" and on the same token I want things organized and out of reach until I'm ready for them to be reached. To combat these issues I put some shelves up high where I can reach things and I can see my resources that are boxed.  It looks organized, and I have a visual reminder of the things I have to use instead of them being shoved in the back of a cabinet where I can't see them.

first grade classroom review

My awesome husband also redid this coffee table for me.  We sanded down the edges and rounded them due to some damage to the table and then I put pillows on the bottom shelf for students to pull out and sit on as they work.  You'll also note the carpet is taped to the floor.  This was a great idea shared with me by a coworker.  My rug had started to curl on the ends. I duct taped it to the floor and no more curl and it stays in place.

first grade classroom reveal, flexible seating

This is my last bulletin board. It is in the back of the room. The center section has pocket charts for our schedule and some rotations. I actually have three pocket charts up for rotations of different things including guided reading, guided math, and morning rotations for morning tubs.

Another fun thing I came across this year was a scarf ring holder at Ikea ($5).  I am using it to hold my flip books and rings of cards etc.  Right now it only has one short a book on it.  As we cover more content and hone in on certain skills I will add and remove from it accordingly.

Here is a close up look at it.

flexible seating first grade classroom reveal

The last area I want to show you is the front of the room.  There is a lot going on at the front as it is where we will gather most of the time.

alternative seating options

At the front we have the calendar up.  I only have a small one here because I use a digital calendar to review math skills and other daily skills (SMART Kinder Kids is my go-to for my digital calendars.)  I also have my objectives on laminated paper.  Here is an up close of them.

classroom reveal first grade flexible seating

And then I have an alphabet and numbers above the board.  Here is a close up of the alphabet and number line.

flexible seating first grade classroom reveal

You can find the numbers in multiple colors in my store online here.  The alphabet came from a local teacher store.  I also have star LED lights around the board that change color and light up.  These can be over stimulating to some children and will not stay on all the time, but will be on for special occasions and as a reward depending on how students react to them.

I hope you've enjoyed the tour of my room this week! You can hop over to Facebook to my page Smart Puppy Learning to view the video tour as well.

Wishing everyone a great year!
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