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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Magic Play Dough

If you have never done Magic Play Dough with your students, you are missing out. This was the number one moment of our first week of school.

You make magic play dough by putting food coloring inside a ball of play dough, then closing up the hole so that it looks like regular play dough. I bought a 3 pound tub of white play dough from Amazon and it was just enough for my 29 students, and I even have a few left over. I used about 3-4 drops of gel food coloring per play dough ball.

I started off the activity by telling my students I bought some magic play dough, but I wasn't sure if it was really going to work or not. 

I really played up the fact that I wanted to try it because I heard that sometimes it will turn colors and then you can make a wish, but I have never tried it so I don't know if ours will or not... I told them if it does, great! If it doesn't, that's okay, we would still have fun playing with our regular play dough. 

Then I explained that the instructions said to keep it in the bag for two minutes because otherwise the magic will not work, something to do with air getting in the bag. 

The kids totally bought my act, and then were completely amazed when it worked! I'm talking over-the-moon excited, making wishes, glued to their changing dough. And after two minutes or so, I told them it was okay to take it out of the bags because the magic had already happened.

It was so fun, such a special moment to share with my new little firsties. =)

The next day though, I picked my kids up from recess and one of my boys was crying. I asked what was wrong and he told me, "I don't want my wish to come true! I don't want to turn into a robot!" I just about died laughing, on the inside of course. I assured him that the robot wish was just his pretend wish, and he could still make a different real wish. Haha! I checked in with him a few more times after that, and he doesn't seem to be scarred for life, so I think we are okay.

For a FREE Magic Play Dough poem (written by yours truly!) and an accompanying writing activity, head over to my store!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Giant Base 10 Blocks!

So easy. So cheap. I've seen this idea floating around internet-land over the summer, so I had to make giant base 10 blocks for my new first graders this year!

I bought 6 pool noodles from Dollar Tree, so this project cost me 6 dollars. Basically, I cut each noodle in half using a serrated knife, which made 12 halves (woah, math!), then I took two of the halves and cut them into ten pieces each.

Now, you only see 10 of the "ones" pieces because the first time I cut one of the big pieces into ten little pieces, I was not successful. They were uneven, and I didn't cut straight. It was sad. So I did some verrry careful measuring and cutting the second time around, and got 10 mostly even and straight pieces. Ten is all you really need anyway. ;)

With the uneven reject pieces, I cut each one in half, then cut a slit in the tops of them so they can be card holders! Name tags, table numbers, station labels, etc.! Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

(Schedule cards are all I had at home to test these babies out!) 

I can't wait for my kids to practice place value with these super fun giant manipulatives!

Monday, August 10, 2015

First Day of School, Part 3: Activities

The first day of school is a lot of logistical stuff, and of course tons of routines and procedures. But there must be fun too! The following activities are guaranteed to put smiles on your students faces and make the nerves melt away, and a lot of routines and procedures can be worked into these activities so you can feel like you are accomplishing a lot.

1. Magic Play Dough

Magic Play Dough is always an instantaneous hit, your kids will talk about it and remember it all year long.

The idea is that each student gets a ball of magic play dough and a poem (A freebie! Written by Yours Truly!). The poem tells students that if their magic play dough changes color, they can make a wish for the new school year!

Of course, all of their play dough will be magic, as you will have loaded it with food coloring to ensure they all get to make a wish!

Some teachers make their own play dough, but I don't have the time or the kitchen skills for that. I ordered this giant tub of white play dough and will put different colors of food dye inside-

You can also buy primary colors of dough and mix them to make secondary colors, it's up to you! The kids will be amazed either way. =)

Have students keep their play dough in the baggie for the first two minutes of squeezing and squishing to make sure they don't get dyed fingers, but then they can take it out (once you've given them the go-ahead) and it does not stain at all. They can play with it, mold it into something that represents themselves or represents their wishes, etc.

Next, the poem can be turned into a fun little flap booklet.

Students simply fold down the center dotted line, then cut on the star lines to make the flaps (Or you can cut the flaps for students in advance if you are not ready for them to use scissors on the first day, I'm still debating whether or not I'm going to!), then students write their responses underneath each flap.

Gotta love Magic Play Dough.

2. Gingerbread Man School Tour

If you haven't read this book, don't bother... ORDER IT RIGHT NOW. It is seriously my favorite for the first day of school, especially because of the activity that goes along with it.

In the book, some students bake a gingerbread man and as he comes to life, they leave for recess.  The gingerbread man panics because he doesn't know where all the kids went, so he searches for them throughout the school, then finally arrives back at the classroom where the kids are ecstatic to see him again!

The author, Laura Murray, has a fabulous (free!) gingerbread man hunt as a follow-up activity -

This is the PERFECT opportunity to do a school tour on the first day of school. You leave the clues out ahead of time, and the clues lead you and your students around to different parts of the school. It's a great opportunity to practice line up and hallway procedures, to meet other staff members they need to know, and to familiarize students with their surroundings.

In the end, the final clue leads you back to the classroom where the gingerbread man is waiting for you!

This guy ( is on his way to me right now, I can't wait! You can also print out a big version of him ( and color him in, or put out real gingerbread man cookies (Little Debbie makes some).

I will be leaving little gingerbread cookies (just small, round cookies) out at each student's desk; a gift from the Gingerbread Man! You will need a partner in crime in order to pull this last part off of course. Someone who can set out the cookies and the GB Man while your class is out and about... so save some cookies for bribery!

3. School Transportation Graphing Activity 

A little taste of math! To make sure that I know how students are going home, I do a graphing activity on the first day of school.

For Meet the Teacher Night, before school begins, I have transportation visual cards in a pocket chart. Parents fill out and sign parent permission cards with the required information about how their child is getting home each day, then they put them in the pocket chart and I collect them at the end of the night for my records.

Then on the first day of school, I do a math activity where I have the students put a name card in the category that describes how they are going home that day. Then they color in a graph to match the transportation data and we talk about which category has the most, the least, etc.


4. School Year Timeline

I have a year-long timeline set up somewhere permanent before school begins. It is a place where we document special events throughout the school year, and kids just love checking out the timeline and reminiscing about our year every once in awhile.

On the first day of school, I take a class picture in the morning. I print it out during my lunch or planning period, and we put the first event on our timeline sometime in the afternoon. Kids just love the nostalgia of always getting to look back on this picture of our first day together. And I start working on those social studies standards right off the bat! ;)


5. All About Me Activity

 Finally, the first day of school isn't complete without an All About Me activity! It's so important to get to know your students, and for them to get to know each other. Relationships are what this whole school thing hinges on; with them, your class will be harmonious and successful, without them, everyone struggles. Take the time, on this first day and throughout the first few weeks, to build those relationships.

There are so many great all about me activities out there, but this is the one I'm going to do this year! It comes from Sparkling in Second Grade, and I fell in love with it the moment I saw her post it!

It's adorable, it's editable, and it's fun. What more do you need? =)

I hope you have found some helpful ideas in this three-part series about the first day of school! If you missed one of the prior posts, you can navigate to them on the side bar ----->

Have a great first day, and a great year!