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Digital Activities for Seamless Classroom Transitions

Classroom teachers need to have a few quick learning activities in their toolkit! Activities that take only a few minutes can help out with classroom management, and keep those little minds engaged and growing.

Especially for our younger elementary-aged students, transition time can be tricky. I’ll help you use it wisely to keep your kids engaged all day long, filling every moment of learning time during our increasingly busy days. I have some great ideas and resources to share that you can try out and build into your routines to help reduce downtime anxiety for teachers and students.

When should you use transition activities?

Any time you have a few minutes before your students are ready to move on to the next part of their day, you should have something easy on hand to keep them engaged and ready to smoothly transition into the next activity.

Use these transition activities when:

  • You’re waiting for the "specials" teacher to show up.
  • You’re waiting for the lunch bell to ring.
  • Kids are lined up for buses.
  • You have breaks in your day but you don’t have time to dive into curriculum.
  • You need to manage movement and engagement for your actively learning students.
  • Your days don’t go as planned. Use these activities to keep kids on track while you work through unexpected downtime or technical difficulties.
  • You have a substitute teacher and want to give them a leg up on transitions.

Why do I need transition activities?

As simple as they are, these transition activities can be super useful. They make even a new teacher look like a confident veteran. Not only will they help ease your anxiety by giving you solutions for seamless transitions, but they really help our kids stay engaged and learning in many ways.

Transition activities help:

  • Keep kids engaged and well behaved even when we have just a couple of "waiting" minutes.
  • Impress other teachers/staff with how behaved your class is during those transition times—perfect for those pop-in admin visits!
  • Reduce anxiety for kids who struggle with waiting in line, waiting for the next teacher, etc. when expectations aren't clear.
  • Clear minds and build focus with ideas and concepts that require a little practice.
  • Build in more kinesthetic, visual, oral learning activities into your day so everybody has access to their best learning styles throughout the day.
  • Get controlled movement and talking time for little bodies full of energy.

What transition activities should I be looking for? And where can I get them?

Flash Games

I have several super easy and engaging digital slide activities in my TPT shop for primary classes. While you can have students play these anytime independently in class or during distance learning, you can also adjust them easily and play for a few minutes with the whole group.

Kids simply watch the smart board and answer questions together. Each slide has a 20-second timer bar at the bottom to help students manage their time when answering each question. It also helps them monitor when the next question is about to show up.

Here are links to my Flash Math and Phonics resources. I also offer a flash math freebie if you want to test drive before you buy!

Interactive Games

If you want to get all your students involved and actively engaged, interactive games are for you! They are perfect to use as a review game during a transition period. Try them on your interactive whiteboard and pair it with a student response system like Plickers to get every child involved during your whole class lesson!

The Interactive Phonics and Math Bundles will give you access to all the activities you need to take your students through the curriculum in small bites. They are also available as individual sets if you want to pick and choose the standards to cover.

Looking to sample first? Here’s a peek at the phonics activities if you are interested in learning more and testing them out with your K-2nd graders.

Digital Flashcards

Another great resource for your interactive whiteboards are digital flashcards. I have phonics flashcards that are great for kindergarten and 1st grade. The flashcards are in a PDF file so you can use any device that has a pdf reader available. 

Chit Chat

NEW Resource Alert! This is a great freebie for you to start engaging with thoughtful and fun conversations in the classroom with 5 chit chat prompts. Get your students talking and thinking critically while building classroom rapport. Use these as a jumping-off point to have kids ask their own questions and help establish norms within the class.

All resources included here are digital because a lot of us are still navigating distance learning and increasing digital fluency with our students. Feel free to use these however they work best in your classroom, and leave a review or check back with me on social media to share how you use them for your students!

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Exit Tickets: An Easy Way To Check For Understanding!

Are you a fan of using exit tickets with your students? They are one of my favorite tools in my teaching repertoire! Chances are, you do something resembling an exit ticket each day in your classroom, but you may call it something else. Exit slips, entrance tickets, closure activities. No matter what you call it, the goal is the same: to check in with your little learners and discover how well they’re understanding a concept.

What are exit tickets?

Back in your teacher training classes, you most certainly learned about the difference between formative and summative assessments. Before your eyes glaze over thinking back to those old lectures, let’s define our terms.

“Formative assessment” is really just a fancy term for those small check-ins teachers do each and every day. They help us figure out what kids are learning during a lesson. “Summative,” on the other hand, refers to those assessments that sum up what kids learned at the end of a unit.

Exit tickets are one kind of formative assessment. A common way to do this is to have students answer a question or two on a small slip of paper. You then sort their answers (or have the kids sort them!) based on level of understanding. I like using three piles: Got it! Getting it. Not there yet.

You don’t have to use paper though! There are some great digital options. For example, students could complete a Google Form or you could use a tool like Padlet, Quizlet, or Kahoot!

Why should you use math exit tickets?

Informal assessment is the name of the game with exit tickets! They are an easy, low stakes way to get a sense of what students know and don’t know on a certain topic. By low stakes, I mean that students feel less pressure than they might with a more formal quiz or test.

Exit tickets also give students a great chance to practice self-reflection. We want to train our little scholars to have a growth mindset approach to learning. It’s okay to need improvement, and it’s important that they be able to assess their own progress on certain skills. It’s so powerful when a child can reflect and recognize I’m not quite there yet because it gives them a sense of ownership over their own learning.

There are huge advantages for us teachers as well! Exit tickets, when used wisely, tell us how to teach better. Do we need more time, or less, on a concept? If the majority of my class is in the Didn’t get it! category, that tells me we need to spend more time on that lesson. Conversely, if everyone demonstrates understanding, we can move on more quickly!

When should you use exit tickets?

Traditionally, teachers use exit tickets as a pass to get out the door and onto the next part of the school day. There are lots of other ways to use them, though!

You can flip the timeline entirely and use them as entrance slips! This is a great way to get students thinking about the objective before you start.

Use exit slips to break up the day. After a long stretch of work, an exit slip can signal the end of a lesson. It’s kind of like hitting the pause button before moving on to the next thing!

Use them at the beginning of a new unit to activate students’ prior knowledge and help you plan your teaching.

Spontaneously! Maybe you notice that the kids are getting restless, or you’re not sure if they are really understanding the concepts. Have them pull out a sheet of paper and answer a couple of questions! Spontaneous check-ins help me know when I need to adjust my teaching strategies on the fly.

How I use math exit tickets

I like to use math exit slips that have a couple of components. First, there’s of course a math problem or two for students to complete. Beyond that, I like to have a space for kids to assess themselves. This might be a simple ranking scale (1 = not there yet, 5 = I’m a pro!) or space for them to journal, ask a question, or write a comment.

Ready to give math exit slips a try? Check out these ready-made options: LINK!

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Freebie Alert! Thanksgiving Writing Activity for Primary Grades

With the holiday season on its way, and with the wild year that has been 2020 coming to a close, there is no better time than now to practice gratitude. I know we have moved mountains this year by adapting our curriculum and teaching during a pandemic. Many of us feel like we’re in survival mode as we wrap up the first half of the school year. That's why, as we approach the holidays and some much deserved school breaks, I love doing activities that focus on what is going well and what we are thankful for in our lives.

Mindset is a super important part of building resilience. Gratitude and thankfulness isn’t explicitly addressed in most curriculum standards. BUT it’s such an important element to help little ones, and big people too, develop ways to cope with things that feel out of our control. It’s never too early or too late to start practicing gratitude.

Just in time for November, I have a fun Thanksgiving Freebie for you to use with your students. It will not only help kids think critically about what they are thankful for and WHY, but it gives them a chance to write and apply grade level skills. All while accessing that gratitude mindset that we all need right now.

Let’s break it down: How can primary grades use this fun Thanksgiving freebie?

I’ll share how I used this resource with my primary students so you can picture how it might work for you.

Step 1: Collect ideas

Together, we brainstormed things, people, and places that we are thankful for. I encouraged the kids to really think about WHY they are thankful for that thing. It isn't very meaningful to say "I'm thankful for my playstation" or "I'm thankful for my mom.”

I pressed them to really focus on the “because” behind those statements. When they started to complete their thoughts with “because,” I could see the light bulbs go off for them! They started digging deep into their gratitude, which was awesome!

A student shared: "I’m thankful for my mom because she takes care of me and plans fun things and cooks yummy food."

Step 2: Time to draft

This writing template has six spaces, so I broke it down like this:
  1. Who is a person that you are thankful for?
  2. Where is one place you are thankful for?
  3. What is one thing you are thankful for?
  4. Name an event in your life you are thankful for.
  5. Share something about yourself that you are thankful for (either your physical appearance or a quality).
  6. Your choice! Most wanted to choose a second person they were thankful for.
For each section, they had to write the REASON they are thankful for that thing. Example: for the person category, instead of writing "I am thankful for my dad," they had to write "My dad plays with me at the park.”

Step 3: Edit and revise

In an ideal situation, you would allow time for a round of peer or self-editing and a revision. Don’t worry! If you’re strapped for time, as we all often are, you don’t have to complete the entire writing process. Do what works for you. This freebie is flexible!

Step 4: Turkey Time

Have your students write their final drafts on the PDF and decorate their turkeys. They may not be able to color them in if you’re virtual, but depending on your district’s digital resources, there are lots of ways you could address this. I’d love to hear your ideas!

Step 5: Display student writing

When other people see this on your walls, it might encourage them to take stock of what makes them feel thankful this year.

If you’re teaching virtually and don’t have physical walls to display it on, you still have great options. Consider posting them on a digital newsletter, email, teacher websites, class social media pages, blogs, etc. I know you guys come up with so many innovative ideas. Please share with me what works for you on instagram!

Are you a teacher looking for some other great Thanksgiving ideas? Consider an I Am Thankful Class Book that can work in preschool and primary grades. I also offer a Thanksgiving Craftivity in my TPT Store for grades K-2, and fun Thanksgiving Activities for centers, games, and literacy time in 1st and 2nd grade.

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Primary Math Centers in a Socially Distanced Classroom

We all know math centers are a great way to differentiate and personalize learning for our little mathematicians. They give kids the chance to apply strategies and math thinking independently while staying motivated to learn. They’re also a great way to help students build skills independently while teachers are focusing on managing whatever we have going on in the rest of the classroom—be that assessing, reteaching, or working on another task.

Covid has put teachers’ flexibility to the ultimate test, but we won't let anything get in the way of learning! I’ll show you how you can give students access to great math centers while following safety guidelines in your classroom. I’ve got strategies to individualize centers and give everybody the hands-on learning experiences they need. And I’ll share the resources you need to make sure you can incorporate centers in a way that works best for you and your students.

Individualizing math centers for young learners

I love the idea of using photo boxes to separate individual centers for each student. They’re small and easy to keep in a student’s desk, cubby, or basket. And you can help kids build stamina by assigning two centers per student for the week. That way, you can rotate them out when you’re ready. Yes, this means students complete fewer centers in a week than they normally would, but even limited access to great centers will help increase student achievement.

Take away the guesswork in stocking your math centers with engaging activities, and check out This Math Centers Bundle. It’s already designed perfectly to fit into photo boxes for the socially-distanced classroom. It’s a great way to keep things organized while helping students work independently!

This math bundle includes 13 sets of centers with 4 games in each set. Centers included are:
- Subitizing
- Number Sense (1-20)
- Number Sense (11-20)
- Addition to 10
- Subtraction to 10
- Addition to 20
- Subtraction to 20
- Skip counting
- Fact Families
- Hundred Chart
- Place Value
- Fractions
- Graphing

The themes work all year round so they’re easy to incorporate whenever and however you want. 

Help kids safely use math manipulatives

We all know manipulatives get touched often by many sets of little fingers, popped into pockets, and sometimes even into mouths. Instead of sharing all those pieces, and all those little germs during math center time, try giving one type of manipulative to each student for the week. There are a variety of different tasks kids can do with each of them. My Manipulative Math flip books will give kids the choice between 10-12 tasks that will sustain their learning until you're ready to switch them out.

There are 6 flip books for each of the following manipulatives:
  • counting bears
  • dice
  • snap cubes
  • number lines
  • pattern blocks
  • base ten blocks
The flip books help stretch out the amount of time kids are accessing each center and keep kids engaged while working independently—and keeping the germs at bay!

Tips for cleaning manipulatives

Even when you’re keeping them as separate as possible, you’ll still want to make sure you’re taking extra precautions to keep your manipulatives clean. Handwashing will take DAYS, and with tight school budgets, and stores running out of cleaning supplies, a lot of teachers want to use their disinfectant spray and wipes sparingly.

A quicker way to sanitize manipulatives is to put them in mesh bags and throw them in the washing machine. Alternatively, you can get those little pieces nice and clean by putting them in the steam basket or silverware tray of your dishwasher. Run it on the light cycle with heated dry settings, and they are sanitized and ready to use!

...if you’re looking for another alternative

Thorough sanitation is important, but it’s a time-consuming step for teachers who are already feeling overloaded. You also might be a teacher who just doesn't have the budget for all these manipulatives for each of their students. If that’s the case, have you considered doing centers without using hands-on manipulatives at all?

Yes, you read that correctly—you can do effective centers without hands-on manipulatives! Try these digital manipulatives instead! They’re Google Slide files that can help with small groups, digital learning, extensions and more. 

You can even mix it up and incorporate both digital AND hands-on manipulatives in your classroom. Some students will benefit more from different types of centers, so why not incorporate as much as you can, while maintaining safety guidelines that will keep your classroom running smoothly?

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