Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Subitize It! Number Talks

Subitize It! Number Talks for 1st Grade | Apples to Applique


Number talks have become my absolute favorite way to practice math. They require no prep, my students love them, and most importantly, they allow students to engage with numbers in a meaningful way.

I love how number talks develop mental math skills, give students the opportunity to show and explain their thinking, and the chance to learn from their peers. It is amazing to see the number of different strategies they can come up with for the same problem--often, they come up with strategies I didn't even think of!

Subitize It! Number Talks for 1st Grade | Apples to Applique

Subitize It! makes a great starting point for introducing number talks. Kids usually have some kind of prior exposure to subitization of some sort, just from using dice or playing with dominoes.

When I use Subitize It! in my classroom, I display a slide, and then give students silent think time. When they are ready with a strategy, they know to show me a quiet thumbs-up in front of their chest. I opted for this procedure rather than hand-raising, because I didn't want the students to feel pressured if they noticed a friend was finished thinking before they were.

After everyone has had adequate think time, I call on a few students to show us their strategies. They circle the groups they saw on the board, and write number sentences to represent what they saw. They get SO excited to show off their own unique ways to solve a problem! I think for some of them it has become a competition to see who can come up with the most creative strategy to arrive at the answer.

Subitize It! Number Talks for 1st Grade | Apples to Applique

This is a fabulous way for kids to really start putting the meaning behind the numbers; so much more effective than the old memorize-and-drill methods that were used when I was in school. I am thrilled with the number concepts my students are developing; they are able to manipulate numbers in ways that show me they truly understand what the numbers actually mean, instead of merely repeating rote facts.



Subitize It! is the first release in my new Calculate It! Number Talks line, with many more to come! Get it here in my shop, or here in my TPT store.

I know you'll love watching your students blossom with these number talks as much as I have!
Keep teaching with heart and passion!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Three Little Pigs: A STEM Story

The Three Little Pigs: A STEM Story | Apples to Applique

I've shared more than once about my growing love for STEM activities. Watching my kids problem-solve and coming up with creative solutions to problems is just so satisfying. One of my absolute favorite ways to incorporate STEM lately is through STEM Stories. I shared a post recently about Jack and the Beanstalk: A STEM Story, and promised I had more in the works. I am excited to announce that the second installment, The Three Little Pigs, is ready!



Just like Jack and the Beanstalk, this is an original rendition of the classic story. The book itself can be printed and bound to be used for years.

The Three Little Pigs: A STEM Story | Apples to Applique

At designated points in the story, reading stops as a STEM challenge is completed.

The Three Little Pigs: A STEM Story | Apples to Applique

For each challenge, there is a planning sheet for students to map out their designs, as well as a reflection sheet, which is completed after testing their designs.

The Three Little Pigs: A STEM Story | Apples to Applique


Of course, the extra-fun part about The Three Little Pigs is that the kids get to test out blowing their houses down!

The Three Little Pigs: A STEM Story | Apples to Applique


If any of your students prove to be amazing architects and construct straw or stick houses that aren't easily blown down, don't worry! That's my favorite feature of STEM stories--the outcome of the STEM challenges determines the path the story takes. Using a format similar to a choose-your-own-adventure story, the text guides your readers to the page appropriate for their outcome.

The Three Little Pigs: A STEM Story | Apples to Applique


Just like with my other STEM Stories, The Three Little Pigs includes 3 STEM challenges.

The Three Little Pigs: A STEM Story | Apples to Applique
Using a toy pig can add to the fun!
I include lists of suggested supplies, but these can be adapted depending on the level of your students and the things you have on hand. Of course, for this particular story, straws, sticks, and bricks of some type are a must, but it is up to you how many other materials your students get to use. You can make the challenges more difficult for upper elementary students by giving them a shorter time limit or access to a limited amount of supplies. For younger elementary students, I suggest a longer time limit and access to a greater variety of supplies. Adjust it however you think is best to meet the needs of  your students!

I hope you have a blast using this STEM Story with your students. You can find it here in my shop or here in my TPT store. Stay tuned for more STEM Stories coming soon!

Keep teaching with heart and passion!

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Escape from the Farm! A Subtraction Breakout Activity

Escape from the Farm! A Subtraction Breakout Activity | Apples to Applique

Subtraction seems to be a tricky concept for a lot of kiddos to grasp. For some reason, adding groups together seems more natural, but when it comes time to take away, kids can get stuck. I've been trying to work more engaging subtraction practice into my math block. My kids are obsessed with escape rooms, and so far I had only made one for addition, so of course I had to create one to practice subtraction!

Like my other escape rooms, this one sets the scene by starting with a story card and a clue.

Escape from the Farm! A Subtraction Breakout Activity | Apples to Applique

A storm blew down a fence and some of the farm animals escaped; the students' job is to help the farmer get the animals home safely and repair the fence.

First, they round up all of the chickens and put them back in the correct chicken coops by matching the subtraction equations to the differences. This whole group activity gets them up and moving as they work to find the classmate with their match. Playing a few rounds of this activity gives students the chance to practice several different equations and add to their math fluency.

Escape from the Farm! A Subtraction Breakout Activity | Apples to Applique

Next, they help find the lost sheep as they play a dice game with sheep counters and practice writing number sentences.

Escape from the Farm! A Subtraction Breakout Activity | Apples to Applique

Then, they help the farmer check out the rest of the animals and farm buildings as they do a write the room activity. They complete the subtraction problems and then find the pictures around the room to check their work.

Escape from the Farm! A Subtraction Breakout Activity | Apples to Applique

Finally, they help the farmer repair the fence by completing a subtraction puzzle.

Escape from the Farm! A Subtraction Breakout Activity | Apples to Applique

The variety of activities in this escape room are sure to be a hit with your students, while the incorporated movement and collaboration add to the level of engagement and learning.

Find Escape from the Farm here in my shop or here in my TPT store.

Keep teaching with heart and passion!




Tuesday, January 7, 2020

How to Set Up a Fairy Tale Castle Dramatic Play Center

Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of my links, I'll receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thanks for your support!

How to Set Up a Fairytale Castle Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

This has been one of my all-time favorite dramatic play centers. It's the kind of thing you set up and then watch the kids come in and stare at, wide-eyed.

Yes, it took a little bit of time to set up. I actually did it on a parent-teacher conference day, working on it when I had a gap between conferences. The kids' faces when they saw it made it totally worth it! The good news is, it was cheap to set up, too! I had almost everything on hand, and the things I needed to purchase were inexpensive.

First, I cut long sheets of brown butcher paper and cut out square shapes at one end to form the crenels and merlons for the battlement. (That's the toothy-looking part at the top of castles. Yes, I learned some new words and wanted to use them.) I attached these to the wall. My dramatic play area happened to be in a corner, but it would work just as well on a flat wall space.

How to Set Up a Fairytale Castle Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

It proved more difficult than expected to wrap the paper into the corner, and my corner looked choppy and horrible (I forgot to get a picture). So I improvised and added a beanstalk. For that, I just twisted and wrinkled a long piece of green butcher paper, and then attached it to the walls. However, I should have waited to do that until after the next step.

Initially, I was just going to put up the brown butcher paper with the battlement cut out and call it good, but once I had it up, I just wasn't loving it. I decided it needed bricks, but there was no way I was going to attempt to freehand draw them somehow. Then in dawned on me that a car washing sponge would be the exact right shape and size to paint on some bricks.

How to Set Up a Fairytale Castle Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

I found one similar to this at Walmart for a couple bucks. I mixed white and brown tempera paint and brushed it onto the sponge, then printed a simple brick pattern. The corner proved to be a pain with the beanstalk in the way, so if you recreate this in your classroom, I suggest putting up the beanstalk after painting the bricks.

How to Set Up a Fairytale Castle Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

Painting the bricks went by much faster than I anticipated, and I was so pleased with the results! The spongey texture was perfect!

Next, I cut some football-shaped pieces from light green construction paper and drew some simple veins on them with a green marker to make leaves. I stuck them up randomly on both sides of the beanstalk. I also cut a cloud out of white butcher paper.

How to Set Up a Fairytale Castle Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

It was definitely starting to have more of the look and feel I wanted!

How to Set Up a Fairytale Castle Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

To add to the fairytale castle feeling, I decided it needed a stained glass window in the middle of the brick wall. This ended up being so much fun to make! I grabbed lots of different colors of construction paper and cut them into random shapes. Then I drew the window shape I wanted on a piece of white butcher paper.

How to Set Up a Fairytale Castle Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique
It's a little difficult to see the diagonal lines at the top of this, but they're there!

I glued the colorful shapes all over the paper, overlapping one another and the edges of my window.

How to Set Up a Fairytale Castle Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

I didn't want there to be any white space left in the middle. This part took a little more time than I thought it would, but I made a pretty big window.

How to Set Up a Fairytale Castle Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

When it was all covered, I cut through all the layers to get a clean line for my edges. Next, I cut some strips of black construction paper and glued those all around the perimeter to make a frame. I think it would also work to use something like black electrical tape around the edges, and may be faster.

How to Set Up a Fairytale Castle Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

After it had dried pretty well, I attached it to the middle of my castle wall.

How to Set Up a Fairytale Castle Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

Then, because I can never seem to help myself, I decided it needed one more thing: sconces. Those were quick and easy. I just rolled up 2 pieces of brown construction paper...

How to Set Up a Fairytale Castle Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

...and then stuffed them with orange and yellow tissue paper after hanging them on either side of the stained glass window.
How to Set Up a Fairytale Castle Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

There, that was the effect I was going for! I love it when the picture in my head actually materializes.

For some play accessories, I ordered some royal robes for the kids to wear, and then I hit up the Dollar Tree. I bought some "crystal" glasses and silver plates, which made everything look fancy, but only set me back about $5 total.

How to Set Up a Fairytale Castle Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

Some other fun accessories would be knight and princess dress up clothes, stick horses, plush dragons...anything you can think of!

My students had hours of fun in this area, acting out stories we read during our fairytale unit or making up stories with their own imaginations. It was a delight to watch them.

I would love to hear about fairytale dramatic play in your classroom!

Keep teaching with heart and passion!