Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hello, again! First Year Recap

Hello, again! I'm back! Turns out my first year of teaching was a little VERY busy... but it was also AWESOME, rewarding, challenging, and FUN!! There are so many things I want to share but for now I'll leave you with a recap of some of my favorites activities...Enjoy!

1. Native American Tribes in the United States
In Virginia, 2nd graders learn about the Powhatan, Lakota, and Pueblo Native Americans. They must know their regions, land, climate, modes of transportation, occupations, architecture, and contributions. Students worked in groups using construction paper and markers to make a map (I already had the outline of a blank US map printed for them) demonstrating the essential knowledge.This was an excellent hands-on, cooperative activity, especially for the art smart and visual learners!

2.World Map with Sugar Cookies
This cooking activity was a hit! The final outcome it what you see above... to have a world map labeled with the continents, oceans, and specific rivers and mountain ranges. So much happened before this though and we got a little messy!! First, the students made the sugar cookie dough!

I had stations set up around the room with an ingredient and measuring utensil at each station. Then each group of 5 to 6 students had a big mixing bowl at their table. Each group member received one or two ingredient cards with a measurement. They were responsible for using their ingredient card(s) to go to an ingredient station, measure, the ingredient, and put the ingredient in their mixing bowl. Everyone was held accountable, had an important role, and had to make sure their measurements were correct! If your students haven't learned measurement yet, I suggest doing a mini-lesson beforehand so their cookie dough comes out...normal. Then came the mixing, the cookie cutters (purchased from Amazon), and the baking.

The next day, when the cookies were all done, the students used their textbook to research the location of the continents, oceans, rivers, and mountain ranges that are listed in our state's standards. Each group received a baggie of labels and divied up the labels between the members of their group. I had the students put the labels on toothpicks and write their student number on their labels so I would know who was responsible for what. Not only did we integrate our measurement and map skills, we had a yummy treat when all was said and done. :)

I LOVE this reading activity from Babbling Abby at The Inspired Apple!! Here's a synopsis from Abby's TpT store:

"By investigating "Snow Day Case Files" students will sort through evidence to determine what the main characters in a mini-story did during a snow day. As "Inference Investigators," students are encouraged to make inferences based on the clues in the evidence."

Tree Map for classifying evidence (the heading of the map says "Clues")

I had my students work in pairs and each pair made inferences about two pieces of evidence. After the students made inferences about their evidence, we had a whole group discussion about their discoveries. I had discussion questions, like Abby suggested, but I also made a tree map with masking tape on our rug to classify our evidence. Each branch of the tree map connected with a discussion question. For instance, if the first discussion question asked, "What are some activities Tim and Grandma Sue did," then the students would place any evidence that they thought answered that question under the first branch on the tree map. Classifying the data with the tree map really helped students see the connections between their evidence.

I LOVE the "Snow Day Case Files" because the kids LOVED it. However, my favorite thing about this activity is how it makes inferencing, an abstract reading comprehension skill, concrete and hands-on. As a result of this activity, the students really knew what it meant to inference and be a "reading detective". They became expert inference investigators!! Be sure to check out Abby's Inferencing Investigation!

4.  Gallery Walks
I love using Gallery Walks to get kids up and moving around the room! During a Gallery Walk, students rotate around the room to an image or piece of text, like a discussion question or problem. The students may work independently at each gallery or may have some kind of discussion, it's up to you! My students have done Addition and Subtraction Story Problem Gallery Walks, Fraction Gallery Walk, and Matter Gallery Walks. In the picture above, the students had to identify and illustrate the change in matter based on a real-world example. Here's a close-up of one of the galleries and recording sheet:

Stay tuned for a recap of my favorite technology integrated activities!! Thanks for visiting. :)


  1. It looks like your first year was very sucessful. :) Great activities! Lattes and Laughter

  2. I love the activities you did, especially the cookies! I'm glad your first year went well. I'm about to start my first year, and I'd appreciate any tips you have for first year teachers.

    Learning and Teaching for Life

    1. Thanks for your message, Meghan! I'd be happy to offer some tips:

      1. Be prepared! Try to set up your classroom before teacher work week because teacher work week is usually filled to the brim with meetings. Plan out how you want to run your classroom, how you will teach reading/writing/math, how you will keep parents informed, how you will monitor student progress, how you will stay organized, classroom expectations, behavior management, etc. Your plans will be fluid and change based on the needs of your students but it's good to have a starting point.

      2. Take initiative! Ask questions, seek help/advice, and share ideas.

      3. Be positive! Positivity is contagious and will inspire others. There will be negativity but remember there is opportunity in every challenge.

      Best of luck as you begin your first year!


Thanks so much! Have a Happy Day! :)

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