Sunday, August 17, 2014

Math Manipulatives on a Budget

Last week I stopped by my favorite Dollar Tree store to look around for ideas for math centers.  Jackpot!  I always get stopped at the front with the seasonal items. But this time, I continued on to the less known baby aisle to pick up some baby plates for another activity.  And what did I see?  BABY LINKS!  So I thought of some math activities to go with them.  I like the small links that you get at the teacher stores, but these were different.  They are the big chunky links that provided sensory feed back too.  And just wait until you see all the different ways to use these.  They come 10 in a packet for $1.00.  I purchased five which gave me 50 big chunky links.  That's an awesome set of manipulatives for $5.00.

Now if you know me, I am big on differentiating centers so students can use similar or the same materials and work with them on their own level.  And I also work with PreK-1st grade students.  So what can you do with these manipulatives seen in the picture bellow?  Keep on reading :)

  • Sort them by color (top-left picture).
  • Sort them by their sensory bumps and grooves (top-right picture).
  • Link them together by their attribute for great fine motor practice.
  • Make a pattern by color.
  • Make a pattern by sensory bumps and grooves.

  • Count and link to match a number card.
  • Link them together to build a number.
  • Roll a die and build the number.
  • Turn over a playing card and build the number.

But WAIT!  I started thinking about how I could make them separate or show combinations.  I went over to the toy aisle and grabbed a couple of boomerangs.  Perfect!  I wrapped some duct tape around the middle of the boomerangs several times to make a middle sorting side.

Choose from the ideas below to match individual needs.
  • Students place total number of links on the left side.  
  • Student removes some from left side and places on right side.
  • Student says the number combination.
  • Student draws a pictorial representation of the combination.
  • Student writes a number sentence for the combination. 
  • Student places 5 rings on the left side.
  • Student rolls the dice.
  • If lands on 6, roll again.
  • Student removes the number of rings to match the number or dots on dice and places them on the right side.
  • Student says the number combination.
  • Student draws a pictorial representation of the combination.
  • Student writes a number sentence for the combination.

  • Student places 10 rings on left side.
  • Student turns over a card.
  • Student removes the number of rings to match the number on the card and places them on the right side.
  • Student says the number combination.
  • Student draws a pictorial representation of the combination.
  • Student writes a number sentence for the combination.
Thanks for reading all the way to the end.  I hope you have some new ideas for differentiating with these links.  

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Dollar Store Math Center

Games! Math Centers! Games!  I love to go to the Dollar Tree and walk the aisles looking for bargains and activities for my students.  Who doesn't love to make a math center for just $1.00?  This post is part of the BRIGHT IDEAS LINK UP. 

 If a picture is worth 1000 words, then this 3 minute video will help explain how to play it even more.  I differentiated this activity to use with PreK to 3rd grade students.  Just think of all the possibilities for playing this game!

Materials needed:
  • Plastic sorting tray (Dollar Tree)
  • Dice

Let's recap what all can be done with this tray again.  
  • Recognizing numbers
  • Counting all
  • Counting on
  • Adding 2 numbers
  • Adding 4 numbers
  • Adding multiple numbers
  • Subtracting
  • Comparing numbers
  • Working with place value
  • Multiplying 2 numbers
  • Multiplying more than 2 numbers
  • Student bounces a blank die.  
    • Builds the number using manipulatives.
    • Makes the number out of play dough or wiki stick.
    • Writes the number.
  • Student uses a blank die.  
    • Bounces it into a compartment.  
    • Counts up to 10.  
    • Counts up to 20.
  • Student uses a blank die.  
    • Bounces it into a compartment.  
    • Records the next 3 numbers.
    • For example, the die lands on the 4.  
    • The student records 4 then writes 5, 6, 7
    • Student can also record 4 and go backwards.  4, 3, 2, 1
  • Student bounces one die.  
    • Compares the two numbers.  5 > 2
  • Student bounces one die.  
    • Adds the two numbers.  
    • Records the number sentence and then writes the fact family. 
  • Student bounces one die.  
    • Adds the two numbers.  
    • Determines if it is an odd or even number.
    • Student draws a representation of it in a math notebook.
  • Student bounces one die.  
    • Uses the number from the compartment and the number from the die to make the largest number. 
    • Records the number in a math notebook then builds it with base ten blocks.  
    • Student then draws a representation of the number too.
  • Student bounces a blank die into 3 different compartments. 
    • Records the numbers.
    • Puts them together to make the largest number.
    • Writes the expanded notation.

  • For Younger Students, draw shapes in the compartments.  
    • Student uses a blank foam die to bounce. 
    • Student names the shape.  
    • Student builds the shape out of pipe cleaners, play dough, or wiki stik.
    • Student draws the shape.
  • As a Literacy Center
    • Program the compartment with word families. 
    • Write consonants on foam dice.
    • Bounce and blend.
    • Is it a real word?
    • Is it a nonsense word? 
Have you thought of another way to use this after reading my blog and watching the short video clip?  Leave your ideas in the comments section for others to read at the end of the link up. Collaborating is so much FUN!

If you liked this Bright Idea, please consider following me on Face Book, Teachers Pay Teachers, and Pinterest.  Or you can sign up by email at the top right side of my blog.

Check out these other wonderful ideas from some amazing bloggers!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pete the Cat Fun Theme Activities

Raise your hand if you read Pete the Cat books and do many "Pete" activities at the first of school. I do!!!  This is a fun way to end an author study (Eric Litwin and James Dean) on Pete the Cat books the first week of school.

Which Pete the Cat book is my FAVORITE?  Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes! It is a wonderful first mentor text for helping children learn about speech bubbles, rhythm, predictable text, sequencing, and the author's purpose for writing the story (moral).

Disclosure:  Amazon links provided for your convenience.

Since I've posted so many activities to go along with Pete the Cat books on my blog (read to the end for links), my friends and colleagues know that I am a HUGE fan.  Enter the shoe above.  My friend Kathleen who lives many, many miles away from me sent me a text with a picture of a piñata shoe that she found at TARGET.  Hold on until the end of this post before you head there :)

Kathleen was brainstorming ways to use it with her students.  So what do teachers do best?  They collaborate!   Kathleen, Vanessa at PreK Pages, and I began planning.  Keep reading for links to my other posts, free printable, and  PreK Pages Where's Pete game.  

Now Vanessa was SAD because she couldn't find the shoe at her Target (mine had 6).  I cheered her up by coming up with a way for her to make her own Pete the Cat Piñata out a box.  I started out with a cereal box but ended up choosing the Swifter box since it was wider. 

Step 1:  Draw a black line on one side of the box to use as a guide.

Step 2:  Cut on the black line.

Step 3:  Hole punch the sides.  Make sure you go down far enough for it to be sturdy.  Measure where your holes are on each side so they match.

Step 4:  Open up the bottom of the box and remove the tabs as shown above.  This will make it easier for the students to open up the piñata when they hit it.

Step 5:  Use painter's tape or duck tape to cover the box.  It took me about 5 minutes to wrap the tape around it.  I just taped one layer with blue painters tape since the cardboard is sturdy.

Step 6:  To keep the tape from sticking to the top of the shoe (underneath side), I cut a strip of white construction paper and taped it underneath the top where the hole punches are.

Step 7:  Use shoe string to lace your shoes or I used some white elastic loom bands to tie through mine.  You use what you have at your house :)

Step 8:  Insert your piñata prizes, and tape shut with Scotch tape.  You can use stronger tape if you choose, but the Scotch tape worked fine for me.  I taped it 4 times across the bottom, and it took about 7 swings to get the bottom to fall open.  Tie a string around the middle bands so you can hang it.  You also have the option of taping it shut with a string and having someone pull the bottom open instead.

Here are some FREE printables to use as wrist bands in your piñata for an alternative to candy.  There are many different versions to fit the needs of PreK, Kindergarten, 1st grade, preschool, and home schoolers too.  Print them on white paper for your students to color or print them on different colored paper.  The children can also draw pictures to sequence the story.  Tape the wrist band around your students arm as a prompt for sharing their fun day with their families.  There is also an "Ask me about my day" band too. I use my crinkle-cut shape scissors to cut out the wrist bands.

So what do you want to do now?  Head over to PREK PAGES for the Where's Pete School Tour and recipe. (Mmmmm!)  She has a cute sequencing printable for you to use too.

Here are links to my other Pete the Cat activity posts.  Have FUN!

Back-to-School Games with Pete the Cat
Following Directions with Pete the Cat



Saturday, August 9, 2014

Back to School Games with Pete the Cat

Teaching procedures the first weeks of school require your students to listen and follow directions.  Teachers need a toolbox full of games, songs, and activities to help our young students build their stamina for listening and following directions.  Playing games that help your students learn each other's names will foster a collaborative learning community too. 

Pairing favorite books with activities helps children have a connection to their learning.  Pete the Cat books are my favorite for the first of the school year games and activities!  Young children just love him too.  So what better way than to engage them into listening and following directions than Pete himself.  I begin by reading Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons.

This game can be played several ways.  You will need one button to hide.  I use my Pass the Pete can or Pete Pointer for this game.  Directions for making Pass Pete are HERE.


Children sit in a circle. 
Take off one of the buttons.
Have the children place their hands behind their backs and close their eyes.  NO PEEKING!
Place the button in one student's hand.
Children open their eyes.
Have everyone put their hands in the lap with fists closed, so the button stays hidden. 
Start the chant.


(Your Name) hid the button from Pete's jacket. (class)
Who me? (teacher)
Yes you! (class)
Couldn't be! (teacher)
Then who? (class)

(Choose a student who does not have the button) hid the button from Pete's jacket. (teacher)
Who me? (student)
Yes you! (class)
Couldn't be! (student)
Then who? (class)

(Student picks another student) hid the button from Pete's jacket.  (student)
Who me? (student)
Yes you! (class)
Couldn't be! (student)
Then who? (class)

Play continues until button is found.   The player that has the button says, "I did. It's true!"


To make it easier the first time, model how to play the game by hiding the button in your hand.  Start by going around the circle beginning with the child on your left.  Say the chant as in the directions above until you get to "Then who?" The student on your left that you named says the name of the student on her left.  Play continues around the circle until it returns to the teacher.   The teacher says, "I did.  It's true!"  


Play this similar to Doggie, Doggie Where's My Bone.  Send a child to an area of the room where he can't see circle time or have him turn around.  For understanding these directions, the child's name is Josh. Hide the button as in the steps above.  Call the student (Josh) over when the button is hidden.  The student (Josh) gets to lead the chant trying to find the button.

(Names a student) hid the button from Pete's jacket. (Josh)
Who me? (student named)
Yes you! (Josh)
Couldn't be! (student named)
Then who? (class)

Student repeats until the button is found.

The student that has the button will be named Tessa for understanding these directions.

Tessa hid the button from Pete's jacket. (Josh)
Who me? (Tessa)
Yes you! (Josh)
I did. It's true! (Tessa)

Tessa now gets to be the student that hides her eyes and guesses.

If you like these Pete the Cat activities, check out:

Following Directions with Pete the Cat

And stop by PreK Pages for even more Pete the Cat ideas. 

                                       Links are provided for your convenience.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Listening and Learning Activities with Pete the Cat

Pete the Cat books are not only perfect for the first of the school year, but all year long.   I especially like to begin the first day of school with Pete the Cat:  I Love My White Shoes and Pete the Cat: I'm Rocking in My School Shoes.  The first provides a framework for building your classroom community.   Young children can connect to Pete the Cat's character as an example for what to do when things don't go as planned.


You will need a Pete the Cat Puppet, Pete the Cat Stuffed animal, or this DIY Pass Pete (Directions below).  Have your students sit in a circle.  Introduce the chant.

Hi there Pete the Cat.
Go see ___________.

Teacher models how this will look during circle time.  Teachers looks at Pete the Cat as if giving him directions.  Teacher then passes Pete to the person on the left when she says, "Scat!" This student nows says the chant.

Hi there Pete the Cat.
Go see (student on left side).

Play continues until Pete gets passed around to everyone and makes it back to the teacher.  This game is great as a "Getting to Know You" routine and learning each other's names.


When the students have masted this activity, place your students' pictures or name cards inside the Pass Pete container.  Teacher models activity.

Teacher draws out a name card.
Teacher reads the name card.
Teacher inserts the name of student in the chant.

Hi there Pete the Cat
Go see Kathy.

Teacher takes Pass Pete to the child (Kathy).  This student (Kathy) draws a card and repeats the same steps.  Play continues until all names have been read.


1. Use an empty cylinder Kleenex container.  Have you seen these Kleenex containers?  I love them and have been collecting them.  You know you're a teacher, when you save your trash and turn it into treasure :)  You could also use an empty Pringles can.

2.  Cut yellow paper to fit the height of the container.  

3.  Wrap the yellow paper around the container and secure with tape or glue.  I used yellow masking tape to secure this one.  

4.  Download a copy of this printable to use for Pete's head.

5.  Trace the head on blue paper and make a tail out of the blue paper.

6.  Cut out yellow eyes and fill in with a black marker.

7.  Laminate the head for durability.

8.  Glue the Pete's head to the front of the container.

9.  Optional:  Add 4 pieces of velcro to the front of the container and on 4 buttons.

10.  Connect the buttons to the velcro.

11.  You can make a Pass Pete Stick using a paint stick, yellow tape, buttons and the same head.  Laminate the head for durability and secure to the paint stick.  I used velcro to attach the head and the buttons.


Here is a big book you can make after reading Pete the Cat Books. Click HERE for FREE big book printable.
8 1/2 x 11 Option and 1/2 Size Option for Just Right Reading

Directions are included in the download above.

I hope you've enjoyed today's post and have a new whole group game along with a connection to reading and writing too.   How do you use Pete the Cat in your classroom?  Let us all know in the comment section below.

Amazon links provided for your convenience.  Pete the Cat books are now available on the Kindle and can be put on the iPad through the Kindle app.


Do you want more ideas on using Pete the Cat in the classroom?  Sign up by email (top right corner of my blog) so you don't miss my next 2 posts with MORE Pete the Cat FUN.  Check out my other posts with Pete the Cat ideas.

Following Directions with Pete the Cat

And stop by PreK Pages for even more Pete the Cat ideas. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Following Directions Activities with Pete the Cat

It's Back-to-School time again.  Are you ready?  The first day of school can be challenging as teachers help their students learn the routines of the day. Teaching our young students to follow directions and build their listening stamina is crucial.  I always say, "If they're not listening, they're not learning."  Early childhood teachers need many activities to teach listening and following directions.  And if you are a parent or grandparent visiting my blog, you can do this at home too!

Pete the Cat books are perfect for the first day of school.  One of my favorites is I Love My White Shoes.  I read the book to the children and introduce the character Pete the Cat.  When we are finished, I introduce a Following Directions game to my class.  This is a great way to teach them listening skills.  I begin by modeling first.

Shhh!!! Listen to Pete the Cat.
Touch your _______.
Just like that.

On the part "Just like that," the children touch the body part that is named. Once they understand the game, then they join in like this.

Shhh!!! Listen to Pete the Cat. (class)
Touch your shoulders. (teacher)
Just like that. (class says and touches shoulders 3 times to match the words)


Keep the game going by letting the students give directions and play Follow the Leader "Follow Pete the Cat." You can choose one student to be the leader or call on different children throughout the chant. Use this activity as a transition or to provide your students movement.  You can use the stuffed animal Pete the Cat for the students to hold.  The link is provided here for your convenience.

Click on Pete for the link to Amazon.
Or you make the bucket in the picture above.  The directions are at the end of the post.


Shhh!!! Listen to Pete the Cat. (class)
Touch your head. (student)
Just like that. (class)

Teach your students these motions to go with the rhyming chant.

Shhh!!! Listen to Pete the Cat.

  • Class says the words
  • Puts hand over lips on shhhh!
  • Puts hand behind ear on listen.
  • And points to whoever is "Follow Pete."

Jump 3 times.

  • Student leader chooses action and models while saying jump 3 times.

Just like that.

  • Class jumps 3 times while saying the words.
  • Motions match words.

What else can they do?

  • kick 
  • blink 
  • clap 
  • twist 
  • hop 
  • stomp 
  • march 
  • wave

Directions: I purchased the yellow trashcan and buttons from the Dollar Tree.  Cut out the face and tail on blue construction paper. Use a hot glue gun to secure the buttons, face, and tail.  You can place words or pictures in the Pete the Cat container for the leader to draw and read.

Have fun following directions with Pete the Cat.  Did you know Pete the Cat is available as a Kindle download now?  You can put the Kindle app on your iPad and display it through a digital projector.  I'm very pumped about that!



Do you want more ideas on using Pete the Cat in the classroom?  Sign up by email (top right corner of my blog) so you don't miss my next 2 posts with MORE Pete the Cat FUN.  Check out my other posts with Pete the Cat ideas.

And stop by PreK Pages for even more Pete the Cat ideas.