Wednesday, December 31, 2014


A New Freebie for a New Year!


I can say, "Happy New Year!" because 2015 has about 49 hours left of it.  2016 is just hours away!  I decided to update this little blog post this evening to make the best most of the remaining hours in 2015.

If you are an educator, you might be celebrating your New Year with a well deserved break away from school.  Schools in my area closed for the holidays on December 19th.  They won't reopen until January 5th.  That's sixteen days off of school!  The long span of time away from school will require students to adjust to a routine again.  That is, getting up early, getting ready for the school day, and staying FOCUSED in class.  For teachers, it makes January a challenging month!  The first week back is easier (for teachers and students) when the children are provided with plenty of breaks during the day.  Incorporating games into the instructional day can also keep the "Winter Doldrums" at bay. 

Perhaps you are planning a New Years theme with your students when they return to school.  You could have them write a personal goal for 2015.  You could also set time aside for a "Desk Cleaning Event".  (Some of them are going to find a long lost, half-completed, assignment buried in the backs of their desks!) Cleaning out their desks will give them a fresh start with their developing organization skills.  I highly recommend the "Desk Cleaning Event".  It gets them moving.  They'll need as much movement activities as possible as they adjust to going to school again. 

If you are planning a New Year's theme, you might like to use my New Year decoding phrases.  You can get them at my Teachers pay Teachers shop.  The file is FREE!  Here is an example of one of the pages.
This printable has the children write the missing letters in the blanks.  The code is given to them.
Additionally, for those of you that have SMART Notebook software, there is a companion product.  It will allow you to model the printable pages on the SMART Board as the children complete the activity sheets.  It's also free!  

These activities are NOT appropriate for per-kindergarten or kindergarten.  These activity sheets will work well with second and third graders.  They might be too challenging for some first graders although you could give it a try. 

Here's how the decoding phrases work.  Students use an alpha-numeric arrangement to decode a New Year's phrase.  An example of a phrase might be a fact about new years such as, "The New Year Begins on January First".  

Each numeral represents a letter.  Students write the appropriate letters in the blanks above the numerals which reveals the New Years phrase.
The New Year Begins on January First

After the children have practiced decoding, you will want them to create their own codes for a New Year's phrase.  When they create alpha-numeric codes, they are making their own choices about the numerals they will use.  It also requires them to plan, map, and check the location of the numerals.  This promotes higher order thinking skill.  Higher order thinking skills do not happen when children complete phrases with codes given to them.  An alpha-numeric code that is provided is a starting point which a child can draw background knowledge from when he is ready to create one independently.
This printable provides one of the numerals for the child.  The child chose to write numerals in descending order after the "seven" which was the given numeral.
The photo shown above has the task started for the children.  The "seven" is provided and is also written below the two blanks needed to spell the two "P's" in the word "HAPPY".  The children select other numerals which they print above the letters.  Then the children "PROGRAM" the correct numerals below each of the blanks so the phrase will spell correctly.

The final task is to print the letters in the blanks.  The students could switch papers with a classmate to complete this part.

This New Year's freebie is designed exclusively for the 2016 year.  I plan to update it for the 2017 New Year.  The update will take place in December of 2016.  You might like to get the updated version at that time.  If you would like to get this freebie from my Teachers Pay Teachers store, click the image below:

If you are interested in modeling this on the SMART Board, click on the next image shown below.

Have a Happy New Year!

Lessons by Molly © 2014  All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


I love the month of December!  There are so many great children's books about the holiday season.  I don't have time to read them all so I try to pick the ones that are the favorites.  One of my favorite holiday books is, The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola.  I love it when extension activities can be used after reading a good book.  It is one of the reasons I created an activity packet that could be used after a reading this story.  My freebie packet was long overdue for an update!  Fortunately, Edu-clips had some terrific graphics that worked well with the additions that I made.  You can read the original blog post here.  I wanted to include at least one activity for each grade level beginning with pre-kindergarten through  third grade.  The packet can be downloaded at my Teachers pay Teachers store.  Here is a sneak peek that will show you both the old and new pages within the packet.

The children can draw pictures to show what took place before and after the miracle.  The green weeds transform into beautiful Poinsettia plants.  This will be an obvious change for the children to understand.  The changes in the emotions of the characters could also be reflected in the facial expressions in the drawings as shown in the drawing above.  This requires a certain level of sophisticated thinking and young children may not be ready for that.  Discussing the emotions of the characters, before and after the miracle, and connecting it with facial expressions might be helpful before the children begin to draw their "before" and "after" pictures.
Here is a "child-made" visual of the people and the only animal mentioned in the story.
Uppercase letter printing.
I made a game for pre-kinders and kindergartners.  (Shown above)  The goal is to get to the hay.  The children  pretend to lead "Pepito" to the hay.  They draw Poinsettia cards from a stack of cards or from inside a bag.  The cards have one, two, or three flowers on them.  They count the flowers and move their markers the same number of spaces.  I used buttons for markers.
I made another game.  This one can be used with first and second graders.  The concept is the same as with the first game.  That is, lead Pepito to the hay.  In this version, the children solve math facts and move the same number of spaces as the sum.  If they "land" on a Poinsettia, they slide forward one space. 
The children can solve the facts mentally as they play the game or they can write in the answers and then cut out the game cards.  
There are a lot of words that can be made with the word "Poinsettia".  In the picture above, the words are categorized according to the number of letters.  I've included a list of possible words in the packet.
I made a "Fill in the bubble" comprehension quiz about the story.
 Here are the goodies again!  I tried to include something for grades pre-k through third.  I hope there's something YOU can use with your class.  There is also a pattern to make a Poinsettia.  Children love making crafts at any age!  My pattern is for making large, paper Poinsettias.  They are nice for holiday programs and decorations.  The original blog post (2012) about this freebie has a few images of the Poinsettia pattern.

The picture below is the updated product cover.  You can click on it to go to my Teachers pay Teachers store and get the free packet.

Lessons by Molly © 2014  All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Congratulations to An for winning the ten dollar Teachers pay Teachers gift card.  An, I've sent you an email with the code.  Enjoy your "Back to School" shopping!

Update August 21, 2017

Drum Roll Please!"  You've probably come here to view some drums but before you do, enter my giveaway for a chance to win a ten dollar gift card from Teachers pay Teachers.  I'm having a sale at MY SHOP on Tuesday, August 22, 2017Save up to 25% off by using this promo code: BTSBONUS.  This sale is for one day only!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway From Oatmeal Boxes into Drums!  Oh What Fun!  
Making homemade (or classroom made) instruments is one of my favorite craft activities.  Making drums tops the list in the fall!  It's not a difficult activity for the children and the LOVE painting their drums.  First, you'll need to gather your materials.  Here's the list:

1.  Acrylic paint - I purchased my paint at Walmart in the craft section.
2.  Something to put the paint in - I used disposable plastic cups.
3.  Paintbrushes - You'll need both the wide and thin brushes.
4.  Smocks - This will help protect clothing.
5.  Newspapers - Use this to cover the tables.
6.  Cardboard, cylindrical, oatmeal boxes - Either small, large, or both sizes can be used.

If you want the cloth embellishments on the tops of the drums, you'll also need:

1.  Fabric - 1 yard makes at least 10 circles.
2.  Scissors - I used pinking shears in order to have a zigzag edge around the drums.
3.  Paper plate (10 1/4 inch or 26 cm.) - Use it to trace the circles.
4.  Permanent marker - Use it for tracing the circles.)
5.  Rubber bands - Use them hold the cloth in place on the oatmeal boxes.

There are not too many teachers that I know who go through twenty-something oatmeal boxes in one year!  Here are a few ideas to acquire the oatmeal boxes:

1.  Check with your school cafeteria staff.  They might be able to help you.
2.  Ask the parents of your students.  Be sure to specify that you need an empty, cardboard, cylindrical box.
3.  Check with your local universities, restaurants, and nursing homes.

The picture below will give you an idea of what the finished drums might look like:       

From Oatmeal Boxes to Drums!
You might want to send a note home and ask that the children wear old clothing on the days you plan to paint . . . just in case.


To get started, have the children put the smocks on and roll up their sleeves.  Spread newspaper out on the tables for the activity.

Make sure you have everything you need before getting started.
1.  Give each child an oatmeal box without the lid.  Make sure the child's name is written on the bottom of the oatmeal box.  (If you're not adding the cloth embellishment, the children can paint the tops of the lids.)  
2.  Pour paint into the disposable cups and place a wide paint brush inside the cups.  
3.  Give each child a cup of paint with the paintbrush in the cup.  
4.  Have the children cover the outside of their oatmeal boxes with paint.  

Emphasize that the paint goes on the OUTSIDE of the box and not on the INSIDE.  If you're working with preschoolers, you might also need to tell them that the paint is not for their HANDS or FACE!

*The darker color paints will cover the oatmeal boxes quickly.

*The lighter colors may require an extra coat of paint.

Painted Oatmeal Boxes
If you paint early in the school day, the "drums" should be dry enough during the afternoon hours to allow the students to use a second color on their drums and paint designs.

Here's where things start to get interesting!  Brainstorm with your students to get ideas for their designs before the second stage of painting begins.  Planning and thinking about what they're going to do is a great activity for young minds!  Model drawing different kinds of lines and shapes on the whiteboard.  A mix of wide and thin paint brushes could be used to explore thick and thin streaks of paint on the drums.  Of course, if it's preschool, they might want to just paint a new color over the first color that they used.
Use a light colored paint over dark paint for contrast.
Creative expression is a part of every high quality educational program.
Once the drums have dried, add a piece of cloth to the top.  Use a large paper plate to trace a circle on a piece of cloth.
One yard of cloth will make about 10 cloth circles.
Trace the circles on the cloth with a permanent marker and a large paper plate.
Cut out the circles that were traced on the cloth.
Use scissors or pinking shears to cut our the cloth circles.

Return and secure the oatmeal box lid to the oatmeal box.  Evenly position the circular cloth over the top of the oatmeal box.  Put a rubber band around the cloth to hold it in place.
Use a rubber band to hold the cloth in place.

Develop real to life sequencing skills by having the students think about the steps involved for painting the drums.

What was the first color used to paint with?
What was the second and third color used to paint with?

Surprise the students by giving each child two new pencils which are not sharpened.  They can use these to beat their drums with!
These drums can be made for any season or holiday.  Change the paint and cloth to red, pink, and white and they could be used as Valentine mailboxes.

Don't forget to send a "Thank you" photo to the local companies that donated the empty oatmeal boxes.  They'll love receiving a picture of the finished drums from your classroom project.

We like making our drums in the fall but this activity could be done anytime during the year.  Can you imagine what these would look like in the month of February with red, pink, purple, and white colors?  The cloth toppers could be Valentine themed fabric.  Kids could open the lids when it's time to exchange cards to use the drums as their "Mailboxes".  

© 2014 Lessons by Molly    

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Today is Veterans Day!  I have a little freebie for you but you have to take a test first to see if you qualify.  (Just kidding!) 

Here's the question:  "What are the branches of the United States Armed Forces?" 

Let's see how you did:

You probably got this one:
And I know you'll get this one:
I think you'll get this one too:
Most of you will get this one as well:
Air Force
Is that all of them?  Just four branches?
Do you remember the fifth one?
Keep going.
Think about it!
The answer is here:
Coast Guard
Here's the freebie.  Students use an alpha-numeric code to help them answer questions.  
Click on the picture below to get the FREEBIE!

If you would like more Veterans Day codes for your students, click on the product shown below to see it at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  This packet includes seven activity sheets.  There is a sheet for each of the five branches of the United States Armed Forces along with two additional activity sheets for higher level thinking. The activity sheets range in difficulty although they are best suited for second and third graders. Your students will love using the "secret" codes to find out the answers to each question. They'll also discover an interesting fact about each branch of the United States Armed Forces.

© 2014 Lessons by Molly  All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


Here are a few tips on teaching repeating patterns with kindergarten and first grade children.  Before I get started, here's a short story that might interest you:

"It's October and first year teacher Miss Larson prepares a math lesson on repeating patterns with her kindergarten class.  The evening before the lesson, she carefully counts out 8 purple and blue cubes and she puts them in a sandwich bag.  She repeats this procedure 19 more times.  All 20 of her kindergartners will have their own bag of manipulatives to work with at their tables.  Miss Larson is confident that her upcoming lesson will be a success.  During the entire month of September she has used the a-b-a-b-a-b pattern on the September calendar by alternating apples with leaves.  She had pointed out the red and white stripes on the American flag and discussed the repeating pattern.  The week before her lesson she had a "Show and Tell" day in which the children came to school in striped clothing to demonstrate alternating color patterns.  She was sure that EVERYONE would easily master a-b-a-b-a-b patterning during her lesson.  Much to her surprise, a little guy in her class named Jerry randomly places the purple and blue cubes (in no particular order) in a neat row.  No repeating pattern!  Miss Larson is stumped.  Jerry was the calendar helper during the last week of September and demonstrated the a-b-a-b-a-b pattern sequence with the apples and leaves without hesitation.  Miss Larson does not realize that Jerry has CVD!  (aka:  "colorblindness")  If only she had known.  She would have used a different medium (something other than color) to teach and assess Jerry's understanding of the concept of repeating patterns."

*If you care to know more about CVD, click here.
Using color as the medium to teach patterning concepts may not be the best choice.

In Virginia, one of our kindergarten math standards deals with repeating patterns.  It falls under the Patterns, Functions, and Algebra strand.  Some of the key skills require the children to create and extend repeating patterns.  Luckily for Jerry, several kinds of mediums can be used to teach this!
Using size as the medium might be a better choice than color.  The picture above shows the a-b-a-b-a-b pattern with big and small buttons.  A perceptive child might also notice that the small buttons have two holes and the big ones have four.

What other mediums can be used to create repeating patterns?  LOTS!  Size, texture, sound, movement with their bodies, and quantity are a few examples.  Using a variety of media AND manipulatives, may foster growth in their modalities of learning as well.  It's best to start patterning with two objects that are VERY DIFFERENT from each other.
Using two, very different mediums will avoid common misconceptions.  These misconceptions are unrelated to the concept at hand which is to repeat and extend a pattern.  The wooden cubes and the aquarium decor shown above, are two, very different types of materials. 

Virginia kindergarten students also need to identify the core in a repeating pattern.  Another word for the core is the unit pattern.  The core is where the pattern starts and ends before it is duplicated.  In the pattern ABBABBABB, the core would be ABB.  It's best to make sure that children have mastery of the a-b-a-b-a-b pattern before introducing new patterns (such as the a-b-c-a-b-c-a-b-c and a-a-b-b-a-a-b-b).
This is an "a-b-a-b-a-b" pattern.  The pattern is expressed with position of the milk caps . . . "cap up-cap down-cap up-cap down . . . "

One way to cause a little "disequilibrium" for students that are becoming competent in their patterning concepts is to give them just one type of material.  Then ask them to create an "a-b-a-b-a-b" pattern from it.  At first they might be confused until they realize that position or quantity can be used as the medium.  The photo above is an "a-b-a-b-a-b" pattern.  The position of the milk caps is utilized as the expression of the pattern.

The children's patterning days aren't over when they enter first grade either.  In addition to using what they learned about patterning in kindergarten, they also need to TRANSFER a pattern from one form to another.

They need to transfer a pattern from one form to another.  Get this freebie sheet by clicking here!

First graders also need to create GROWING patterns . . . and there is a difference between a repeating pattern and a growing pattern.  It's important to use manipulatives and visuals when introducing growing patterns.  A written numeric form of a pattern such as:  "5, 8, 11 . . . "  Can be very confusing to young children and therefore is not the best method of teaching the concept of a growing pattern.
This is a simple, growing pattern.
The photo above shows a growing pattern.  It is a "Plus One" pattern which shows the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Later on, a child might be able to show a sequence with a stack of 3 cubes, then 7 cubes, then 10, then 13, and so forth to show an increasing pattern of "Plus 3". 
The pattern shown above is a-b-a-b-a-b. It could be stated as:  "one-two-one-three-one-four-one-five".
Sometimes patterns can express both a repeating and growing sequences.  The photo shown above is one such pattern which is a higher level of complexity than simple, repeating patterns.

I'm excited to tell you about a little resource I've created to help your students with patterning.  The packet is solely for the a-b-a-b-a-b pattern.  Perfect for kindergartners in the month of October!  My little fellow is testing out the product.  He already has mastered simple, repeating patterns but was willing to try out my activities.
First he has to continue the pattern by drawing more candy corn and pumpkins.  
In row two, he'll need to draw the candy corn upside down.

The medium in row three is about size.  So he'll make big and little candy corn.

Since "thinking about thinking" (or meta-cognition) is so important in order to make a concept stick, it's necessary that THEY create their OWN patterns.  In the first worksheet, the pattern was already made up for him.  All he needed to do was extend it!  Now he has to CREATE the a-b-a-b-a-b pattern.  The medium is color.  He has to "program" the candy corn that gets cut out as well, using  the appropriate colors.  (The color medium is fine for him because he does not have "colorblindness".  It's always a good thing to know your students!)

I think at this point, he had a plan to take a short cut.  It was faster for him to keep the same color in his hand and skip the uncolored images.

Then he went back and colored the rest of the candy corn in the row.

He chose, what looked like, two shades of orange for the final row.  Go figure!
I really liked that HE got to choose the colors for his candy corn math instead of being told what colors to use.  This makes the activity a little more open-ended instead of having a "cookie-cutter" look displayed for student work.

I used square shapes for the cut-outs which is much easier to cut than any other shape.  There's no point in frustrating kindergartners with their "cut and paste" activities.  He was so focused on the cutting that he didn't even pay attention to the paper falling off the dining room table!
 Then we glued the "programmed" pieces.

The finished work!
The packet also has a few photos that are sized for pocket charts. They're photos of candy corn and the pumpkin variety of candy corn. 
We have shown you just three of the items included in this packet.  There's more!  Some of the pages have a color version for laminating.  These could be added to your fall themed math centers.  The image below shows a little more of what's included.  The "Petrified Patterns" page is an introduction to the core pattern concept.  It is intended for exposure and not a practice of the skill.  Right now I am selling this for just a dollar.  Click the image below to view this packet at my Teachers Pay Teachers shop.

Lessons by Molly © 2014  All rights reserved.

Teacher Treasure Hunter hosted a giveaway to celebrate her "follower" milestones.  There were a number of different categories.  While the giveaway has ended, you can still purchase the products shown below!  Read more about the "Fabulous Fall Friends Giveaway".  Just click the image below.