Sunday, January 26, 2014

Monday Madness: Match Up Puzzles

This is the first post in the new series Monday Madness. Everybody loves Mondays, right?! Ha! Said no teacher EVER, right? When I have students to tutor on Mondays, I honestly have mixed feelings. It's great to get the week started right away, but quite frankly, these kids DO NOT want anymore "school" after a Monday back to school.

So, how do I remedy this situation? The answer is games. About 80-90% of my students are math students, and most of them are working on multiplication facts at any given time of the year. So I created these fun, interactive flash cards that kids actually WANT to practice. I typically use these as an icebreaker, or warm-up activity when I first arrive. Recently I've been making smaller sets and leaving them with my students to practice in between sessions.

Here's what my folder looks like:

I've designed 3 boards for each set of flashcards, and in this particular set I've included facts for times 2, 5, and 10. I have students at various levels, so I designed two sets of boards, one for facts through 9 and the other for facts through 16. I also made each set follow the same pattern, so each puzzle can be printed as backs for each set, giving me about 18 different combinations. Now my students aren't just memorizing each puzzle, they actually have to learn the facts!

Like I mentioned, these work great to break the ice in the first few minutes of a session. However, I like to asses the student's progress on the facts, so I designed small companion assessments (in the schools I hear they are calling these exit tickets). They are super short, and specifically related to the facts in each puzzle. I store them right in the front pocket of my folder.

If you think your students might like these puzzles, or you want to add them to your bag of goodies to beat the Monday Madness, head over to my store on!

What do you do to beat the Monday Madness? Sound off in the comments and I'll award a free copy of this activity to the most creative solution!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Packing the Bag

This past week I had to restock some items for my tutor bag, and that got me wondering what other tutors have to have in their bags with them at all times. I asked my Facebook fans and received many different responses.

You can read the responses by clicking on this tutor bag from (the Clip Art Gallery on
Some tutors are very specific in what they have to have on hand, I am one of them. Here's a list of my MUST HAVES.

So what about you? What do you have to have with you when you're teaching/tutoring? Do you have a favorite type of bag? Sound off in the comments below.

Here's a quick peek at a project I'm working on right now... I REALLY hope it turns out the way I planned!!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Teaching Challenges

Most of my tutoring work involves math in some way or another. This math class imagined by kids is adorable, yet eye-opening. Isn't it true that sometimes it doesn't matter how we re-word the question, the kids just don't get it?!

I'd love to hear from you. What is the most challenging math concept you teach? Do you have a favorite resource that helps your students "get it"?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

DIY: Personal Wipe-Off Boards

I have to start by saying I can't take credit for this. I saw it on another blog some time ago. But I really have to share it, because of how helpful these have been!
So, basically, I just bought a pack of 20 large picture protector pages from our local dollar store. I bought the fun duct tape, we have about 4 in different colors and patterns.

Then, I cut the tape to fit the ends, fold it over, slide my finger across, and viola!

 I like to put two different colors of card-stock on the inside. This way I can change it up, and its almost like a new "screen" to look at for my students.

 I use card-stock because it makes them a little more durable.

 I also make a variation which I don't seal up all edges, I leave the larger side open. This allows me to put mastery sheets inside for students to work on, and I don't have to keep copying them off for every session! What a huge time and money saver that has been!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Multiple Students, Multiple Strategies

I don't know about you, but sometimes I find it difficult to keep all of my students apart. Sometimes I even wish I was more "specialized" in what I do. Almost envying classroom teachers who only have to prepare one set of lesson plans each day.

I'm writing this, not as a complaint--I do love my work, but as a shout out to any other tutors who feel the pressure. Any typical day for me might include remedial reading with a second grader, Pre-Algebra homework help with an 8th grader, remedial math and ELA homework help for a 4th grader, AND remedial math and Reading for a second year second grader.

I know the subjects all sound similar, but the levels at which they are being taught varies so much. And then, I must add, my own children in the mix. I am teaching 4th/5th grade and 8th/9th grade this year as well as "coaching" 9th grade.

So what does a typical day look like from another tutor's eyes? And how do you keep it all straight?

Becky Inspired {Place Value}

A few years ago I was working with this student, we'll call her Becky. She was starting fourth grade and was barely able to complete second grade tasks and activities without some assistance. I found she had two main areas that needed attention:

*Counting on and skip counting to bridge to multiplication.
*Place value awareness to help transition to regrouping strategies.

"Becky" HATED math- she would just shut down completely at the mention of math. So I had to think outside-of-the-box, and create games or game-like materials for her to use to build her skills in these basic content areas.

Here are a few things I created specifically for "Becky," and have adapted and transformed to use with several students since then.

#1 "Pace Value Sort Cards"

I use it like a game, with a deck of UNO cards. I had "Becky" randomly draw cards and place them right to left on the sheet. We started with only using the sheet for Ones-Hundreds. After she placed the cards, she recorded the numbers in a Place Value Chart. We would then use notebook paper to write numbers to represent each digit's value. 100 for 1 in the hundreds place, and so-on.

"Becky" also struggled to read numbers greater than 50, so I had her read the numbers, and eventually worked on writing the numbers out in word form. This bridged well for introducing expanded/standard form.

Each time she "got" a number, I'd have her remove a selected card and place a new one in its place. We would then go through these steps and she would decide whether the new number was more/less than the previous. Eventually she would have a list of 5 or so numbers she could put in order from least to greatest or vice versa.

Over a few weeks I began to add the thousands. And eventually we moved into the millions. So this student who could barely read a number larger than 50 at the beginning of fourth grade was: reading, writing, and decomposing numbers up to 100,000,000 by the start of fifth grade.

I added a lot to this product to assist another student I began working with during fourth grade. We will call him "Sean". He had some similar issues as "Becky" had, but came with his own uniquities as well! We'll cover that in a later post.

If you'd like to see a few other teacher's freebies, click the Linky button to see a list over at Teaching With Nancy.

Most Popular Posts Lately