5 Meaningful Ways to Fill 5 Minutes in the Classroom

It happens every day.  We all have 5 minutes here and there during our day in the classroom that we need to fill and we want to find meaningful ways to fill that 5 minutes. We want to make the most of those minutes, so it is important to find activities that are both educational and quick.  I am here to help!

Today I am going to share with you 5 meaningful ways to fill 5 minutes by sharing 3 super simple activities you can use in your primary classroom right away, 1 website that is a must and 1 new product that will help you teach foundational Phonemic Awareness skills in just 5 minutes a day!

Stand Up/Sit Down

This listening activity can be used with any topic you choose.  In grade 1 I use it to get to know students by asking questions about them, their families and their interests.  It gets them moving but they need to listen to be able to play.  Some possibilities are using letters or sounds in names: Stand up if you have the "s" sound in your name.  You can use it in math as a way to answer survey questions:  Stand up if an apple is your favorite fruit.  There are many possibilities.

Around the Circle

This is a game we play in our carpet area.  My kids giggle when I tell them we are going to play Around the Circle because we actually make a rectangle to play.  Around the Rectangle doesn't have the same ring!  I have played different variations of this game, too.  The most popular one is a counting game  - as I go around the circle I count each student according to the pattern I have decided.  At the beginning, I determine a number or numbers that, if you are counted, you will sit down.  For instance, if we are counting by 1's to 50 I might say that if your number ends in 0 you must sit down when you are counted.  We continue counting to 50 until there is only one person left standing.  The kids start to predict who will sit down next based on how the pattern has progressed. This is a great way to practice skip counting too.

Categories is another version.  We all stand up and I give a category.  Each student in the circle has to say a word that fits in that category with the hopes that you can make it all around the circle. Categories could relate to any content area, for instance: name a healthy food or name an even number. If a student doesn't have an answer they can sit down or you can start a new category if you don't want anyone to go "out".

Body Spell

In my version of body spell, we spell the word wall words.  We don't make the actual letters but I use these actions:
Tall letters - hands over head
Tummy letters (letters that sit on the line) - tap your stomach
Dangly letters (letters that drop below the line) - touch your toes

I give them a clue before I start - The word start the letter W or it is on the top half of the Word Wall or in the Word Jail.  If I was spelling "went" I would tap my stomach 3 times and the put my hands in the air.  I encourage them to count my movements so they can use the clue of how many letters in the word to help them find the word.  They become very good at figuring out the word and love to come to the front and body spell for their classmates. It is a great way to get your students to look closely at the letters in words and another awesome way to use your Word Wall. If you are interested in learning more about how to set up and use a Word Wall you can check out my part 1 of a 3 part series {HERE}


If you don't use GoNoodle then you need to. There are so many quick brain breaks that will easily fill 5 minutes.  The only down side for me is that my classroom room computer is so sloooooow sometimes that it takes almost that much time to get the page open and select the brain break.

Phonemic Awareness in 5 Minutes

As a first grade teacher, I start the year assessing my student's phonemic awareness skills with the screener we are provided.  Once I have analyzed the data I make a plan for addressing the gaps that most students have and plan to do some whole group work.  All of our phonemic awareness resources are in a big binder that is not very teacher friendly while you are teaching the whole group at the carpet. I needed a portable resource that I could hold in my hand and have ready to go.

phonemic awareness in 5 minutes with 122 word lists to teach phonemic awareness skills.

Phonemic Awareness in 5 Minutes was born out of this necessity.  It has 122 Word Lists covering everything from Word Awareness to Sound/Phoneme Manipulation.  All of the cards are color coded but you can just as easily print them on colored paper to easily distinguish the different sets.

phonemic awareness in 5 minutes with 122 word lists to teach phonemic awareness skills.

Put a set of cards on its own binder ring and hang the sets that you need in your teaching area.

phonemic awareness in 5 minutes with 122 word lists to teach phonemic awareness skills.

Choose the skills that fit your needs!  Cards sets for skills from word awareness up to the more complex skill of phoneme manipulation.  

phonemic awareness in 5 minutes with 122 word lists to teach phonemic awareness skills.

There are enough words for each skill that you will not need to repeat words, so each student has their own word to show their understanding with.

22 Word Lists to help teach phonemic awareness skills.  They are perfect for RTI.

The cards are set up in such a way to make it easy for a volunteers or parents to use with minimal direction or training.

If you are interested click on any of the images or on this link:

 Phonemic Awareness in 5 Minutes - Word Lists.

I hope that you have found some ideas to make filling those small chunks of time in your class in a meaningful way. Thanks for stopping by.  

Until next time.  

Celebrate Thanksgiving in the Classroom with a Thankful Card and Craftivity

Thanksgiving is here again and we all have turkey on mind.  I love using Thanksgiving themes in Art and any other area of the curriculum that I can easily integrate.

First up is this adorable turkey card.  I found the idea on Pinterest and made it with my first graders. I must admit that they don't look a whole lot like the beautiful version I have seen online, but they were fun to make!  Anytime we use paint it is always a hit.  Painting with our fingers is extra exciting.

These little guys are ready for googly eyes when I am sure they are all dried.  Some of these turkeys have pretty thick paint on them.

I often read a book like "Thanks for Thanksgiving" to provoke conversation about things we are thankful for.  Most children immediately say their Mom, Dad, sister, brother, friends or pets and that is what they write about inside of their card.  Not one of these little guys mentioned anything materialistic.  That makes my teacher heart happy!

Speaking of great literature, there are so many fun Thanksgiving books that revolve around a turkey trying to escape so he isn't eaten at Thanksgiving dinner  One of my favourites is The Great Turkey Rescue by Steve Metzger.  In this book the turkeys are on the "lamb" having escaped last year's dinner and return to their farm to save the chickens.  I love this book to work on inferring skills.  I also use it for some creative writing to go along with my turkey craftivity.  I created this resource to compliment this book or any other book about runaway turkeys.

After enjoying the book and working through some whole group inferencing activities the students get to colour their own turkey and disguise him so that he can hide.  You will find all the information in the unit.  This year I added another layer and had students create a pattern for the feathers as we just wrapped up our patterning unit.

They are going to create their disguises for their turkeys next.  They can pick from several included with the craftivity or they can make their own props.  After the turkeys are disguised the students write about how they disguised their turkey and what he is going to do.

Last year's class had some wonderful ideas:

I can't wait to see what this year's class comes up with.

What are your favourite Thanksgiving Read Alouds?  I am always looking to expand my library (aren't we all!)

If you are looking for other ideas check out my Fall theme Pinterest board for more ideas:

I hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with great food and family.

Until next time,


Engage your students with Hands On Patterning Centers and Ditch the Worksheets!

I love, love, love using hands-on centers during my guided math time. What I don't love is marking the worksheet follow up pages that often accompany centers.  The more I reflect on my practice, the more I am coming to realize that there does not need to be a worksheet to keep kids accountable.

Math Centers and math activities are a huge part of my math instruction. Students need kinesthetic experiences as much as possible, especially in first grade, where I have spent most of my career.  My first math unit is always Patterning.  That is the one area in math that students all seem to come to first grade with an ability to do.  They can easily recognize and create patterns, so it sets them up for success in math right from the start and helps them approach math with a growth mindset.

Patterns are everywhere and a pattern scavenger hunt is a perfect spot to start!

Put out the clipboards and send them hunting for patterns to record and you will be amazed at what they draw and write.

Putting out any and all of your math manipulatives and loose parts is also a great way to inspire kids to pattern.

As teachers, we want to document their work as proof of learning.  Having students draw to show their work is one way to do it or giving them a worksheet is another. Lately, though, I have embraced technology and now have my students show their learning very frequently by taking a picture on our class I-pads.  They love to use the I-pads, so they are motivated to complete their tasks, so they can take a picture and share their work with me.  All of those pictures need a home and I found the app that makes this process super simple.

I absolutely love the app Seesaw - The Learning Journal
(I am not affiliated with Seesaw, I simply love how simple the app is for both me and my students) 

The app is a digital portfolio and so much more.  I only use the app to store their work in their own digital folder, which I can access later for planning, assessing and reporting.  If you are interested in learning more about how the app works, my good friend Erin at Mrs. Beattie's Classroom has written a terrific post about setting up the app to use in the classroom.  You can check out her post {HERE}

When I am ready to target particular expectations I somewhat move away from using any manipulatives and use more directed centers aimed at addressing particular expectations.  My favourite go-to manipulatives have to be pattern blocks when it comes to patterning.

hands on patterning centers for first grade

Clip cards are a huge hit in my class. They love the colourful clothes pins. These cards challenge students to name the pattern and another option asks students to extend the pattern, both first-grade expectations you can address with this one activity.

hands on patterning centers for first grade

The ability to look closely at a pattern and discriminate between patterns and non-patterns is an important skill to develop. You can use these cards as a sorting center - worksheet free - or many students can use the same cards and colour their responses in.

hands on patterning centers for first grade

This is a more open-ended activity that provides criteria for pattern creation but allows students to create with the blocks of their choosing.  It is differentiated in that your students can create a simple pattern as was created for the bottom card or they can create a more complex pattern using the same blocks for the same Make It! task card.

hands on patterning centers for first grade

Post-its are another great tool for quick and simple check in's.  Rather than using a worksheet use a post-it and have student's record their answer on it.  You can do a simple checkmark on the post-it to show you have seen it and they understood the concept or take a picture of the post-it and the center.

hands on patterning centers for first grade

Recognizing pattern rules and expressing a pattern in terms of the rule is more challenging for my students.  This is a great activity to purposefully pair stronger readers with weaker ones to create a more successful center time while sorting patterns with pattern rules.

hands on patterning centers for first grade

Sorting out patterns by names helps students to realize that any pattern can be represented in a multitude of ways.  They are always amazed as they sort that there are several cards on each of the pattern names. They have an idea that there is only one correct answer and thus only one way to make each pattern.   It helps to solidify the idea that there is not one right answer.

You can check out these centers by clicking on any of the above images or by clicking on the image below.

While there is some problem solving evident using these centers, it is not the focus. Instead, we work through pattern block problem-solving challenges.  I do have students complete these activity sheets but you could also project them on your interactive whiteboard and have students solve the problem with pattern blocks at their desk and take pictures of their solutions.

Patterning problem solving activities for kindergarten

I am not advocating doing away with paper pencil tasks completely but I am advocating finding new ways to document learning.  One added bonus I am finding during center time is students returning to centers they have already worked at.  This has not been the case in the past when they completed the center and accompanying worksheet.  I think once they completed the paper, in their mind they were "done" and saw no reason to return and work there again.

I hope you have found a bit of inspiration here for your own Kindergarten or Grade 1 patterning unit. It is a great math unit to break away from traditional methods and let the kids surprise you. If you are looking for more math center ideas then check out this post for 2D geometry.

Until next time,


12 Ways to Teach using Play Doh!

Play doh is something every child loves to play with.  Have you ever thought about using that love to excite your students and use it to teach?  There are so many possibilities and all of these ideas really help our kinesthetic learners.  Today I am sharing 12 ways you can use play doh in the classroom during your math and literacy times.

Use play doh in the classroom to teach math and literacy skills

At the beginning of this school year, I gave each of my students 2 of the mini sized containers of play doh (from the Halloween section at Costco). On the first day, it was a great ice breaker, all of the students were eager to transition to their desks to start playing.  On and off over the first few days, we pulled those little containers out and had a great time.  I was tempted to send it home but decided it would just stay in their desk as I thought we could use it again.  I started to think about ways to use it as a teaching tool and quickly came up with the ways that I am sharing with you today.

1.  Represent Numbers

Use play doh in the classroom to teach foundational math skills.

Roll out little balls to show a particular number.  It is good fine motor practice and a tactile way to show what you know.

2.  Use play doh to build a number in a 10 frame

Use play doh in the classroom to teach foundational math skills.

Roll out little balls and fill a ten frame to show a number.

3.  Make your own base 10 blocks

Students can create snakes (as they call them) and break them into rods for 10's and little balls for 1's

4.  Cover up numbers on a 100's chart 

Use play doh in the classroom to teach foundational math skills.

Provide students with number cards and have them find and cover numbers with little balls of play doh.

5.  Show skip counting patterns on a 100's chart 

Use play doh in the classroom to teach foundational math skills.

Cover the number patterns with different colors of play doh. This makes it very easy to see what numbers are used in multiple skip counting patterns.

6.  Use as a manipulative for addition 

Use play doh in the classroom to teach foundational math skills.

Use a different color for each addend to help visualize the addition problem.

7.  Use as a manipulative for subtraction

Use play doh in the classroom to teach foundational math skills.

Use one color to build the first number and then flatten the balls of play doh that are being taken away.  It's a great visual and the kids will love squishing the little balls.

8. Use to create patterns 

Use play doh in the classroom to teach foundational math skills.

Work with a friend and create patterns with 2 or more colours.  Work alone and create shape and size patterns with 1 color.

9.  Make 2D shapes

Roll out a long snake and form it into different 2D shapes.

10. Make 3D shapes

Create solid shapes with your play doh

11.  Make letters out of play doh

Use play doh in the classroom to work on literacy skills.

Roll long snakes and form letters and then words.

12. Stamp in play doh

Use play doh in the classroom to work on literacy skills.

I have lots of letter stamps but don't like ink pads.  The ink always gets all over everything and everyone.  This is a no mess alternative.  Flatten the play doh - I like to use old placemats or laminated sheets for a work surface. Use that flattened piece to stamp words into. It is a great no mess alternative.

All of these ideas build in fine motor practice for your students.  Rolling and manipulating the play doh will help build up hand strength.  Play doh can also be used a fidget for those students that need something to hold on to help with their attention.

Are you ready to start using play doh to teach in your classroom? Download a fun play doh themed freebie 10 frame building mat with numbers.  You can find it {HERE}

What ways do you use play doh in the classroom?  I would love to hear from you.  Share your ideas in the comments below.

Thanks for stopping by.
Until next time,

I am turning 2! A look back at my Top 5 Most Popular Posts!

Happy Blogiversary to me!  It is hard for me to believe that I have been blogging for 2 years as of this Sunday, August 21st.  I am trying to be a more consistent blogger and to provide content that will help you in your classroom.  To celebrate I am going to do a bit of a look back and share 5 of my most popular posts.

What would a celebration be without presents?   It wouldn't be much of a celebration at all!  Luckily I have an amazing group of friends who want to celebrate with me and we have a great opportunity for you.  We are offering you the chance to win 1 of 4 TPT gift cards!  With Back to School preparation in full swing these will come in very handy.  I for one could think of many, many awesome resources I would spend it on, but I don't get to go shopping...you do!

My  blog didn't always look this way.  In the beginning I designed it myself and it looked pretty basic, but I was proud of the fact that I figured it out {mostly}on my own.  I was excited for a makeover and still love the look of my blog - I love things that are bright and colourful and the design certainly is.
Now on to the most popular posts from the last 2 years.  Click on each of the graphics to check out the full post.  


This post is filled with advice for teachers - new teachers, those about to retire and everyone in between.  Consider it a little pep talk! 

In this post I shared about my go-to resources to teach Guided Reading as well as the tools I put in the hands of my students to keep them engaged and learning during our small group time.  There are lots of great tips here to check out!  

My third most popular blog post is all about 2D geometry and the activities and centers I use to make it hands-on and fun for my first graders.  I really believe that math is so much more than worksheets and I make sure that everyday during math my students are working with manipulatives to help them to understand and to extend their learning.  

Do you struggle with your name tags?  In this blog post I share how I attach my name tags so they stay on the desk and don't need to be replaced constantly!  

I don't have just one blog post as my most popular but a series of posts. These three posts have received more traffic than all of the posts on my blog put together. That statistic kind of of blew me away!  I am a huge proponent of Word Walls and have used one since I started teaching many years ago.  In this series I am offering tips on how to get started, teaching with your Word Wall and why you need a Word Jail as well as a Word Wall. This blog series is a must read for any primary teacher who uses a Word Wall.  I will be adding 2 more installments soon - How to incorporate Word Families into your Word Wall and How to practice Word Wall words during literacy center time.  

So that's it! My most popular posts so far in my blogging journey.  I hope you will continue to visit and check out my blog.  

Now to the presents for you.  Take a moment to enter the rafflecopter and make sure you visit each of my amazing friends who are helping me out with this giveaway.  I will be announcing the winner on Monday morning.  Good Luck!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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