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A Back-to-School Reading List for Young Kids

August 21, 2019
Jasmine Gibson

Back to School Books

The first day of school is upon us. Your child (and let’s be honest, you!) are probably experiencing all kinds of feelings in anticipation of the new year. Maybe they’re starting a new school, getting a new teacher, or hoping to be in the same class as old friends. They might be feeling nervous, excited, or a combination of different feelings. Whatever the circumstances, a little preparation goes a long way. Here are some fabulous read-alouds to help both you and your child get acclimated to the new year!

Books About the First Day of School

How to Get Your Teacher Ready

Begin your back-to-school preparation by reading How to Get Your Teacher ReadyBy Jean Reagan to infuse some humour in your back-to-school preparation. This hilarious take on a classic “how-to” text will give your child all the information they need to get their teacher ready for the first day, as well as all of the important milestones for the year ahead (e.g., the 100th day of school, picture day, etc.). As your child learns how to prepare their teacher, they will, in fact, be getting ready themselves.

It's Back to School We Go! First Day Stories from Around the World

Ever wonder how school might be different or the same all around the world? Read It’s Back To School We Go!: First Day Stories From Around The WorldBy Ellen Jackson to learn how children prepare for their first day of school around the globe. Using beautiful pictures and first-person accounts from children living in 11 different countries, your child will learn that, while they differ in some ways, they have much in common with children around the world.

The Day You Begin

Next, read this story full of gorgeous art and lyrical text, where children learn that sometimes we all feel different and that, in fact, makes us special. The Day You BeginBy Jacqueline Woodson is a great read to share with your child that a little bravery and kindness can help you find your place.

Back to School Books

Books to Help Kids Leave their Families and Go to School

Lena's Shoes are Nervous

Heading to school can be hard! In this book, it’s the first day of year one and Lena is fine, but her shoes are nervous! Read Lena's Shoes Are Nervous: A First-Day-of-School DilemmaBy Keith Calabrese and Juana Medina to learn how one little girl helps her shoes to bravely set out on the first day of school.

Hello Goodbye Dog

In a story full of loyalty and love, one dog does her best to stay with her best friend, Zara. Through a series of setbacks and challenges (dogs aren’t allowed at school!) and one great idea, this pair finds a way to stay together. Hello Goodbye DogBy Maria Gianferrari is a tale about the power of true friendship.

Families come in all shapes and sizes. In The Great Big Book of FamiliesBy Mary Hoffman, children will love looking through the delightful illustrations as they read all about families and their day-to-day lives. As your child heads off to school, this celebration of families will provide a wonderful reminder of the diversity within families, all with one thing in common, love.

Llama Llama Misses MamaBy Anna Dewdney is the perfect read-aloud for a child who might be wondering, “What happens when my parents leave me at school?” In this story, Llama Llama is worried about missing his mama as he heads off to kindergarten. His mama tries to prepare him, but ultimately Llama Llama finds out that new friends and loving teachers can make for a wonderful first day experience.

Books about Friendships at School

All Are WelcomeBy Alexandra Penfold is a lovely story all about a day in the life of one school where children learn from one another’s traditions while developing deep friendships across cultures. Children learn that no matter who they are, they are welcome and celebrated at school.

What happens when you’re the new kid in school — and nobody can pronounce your name? The Name JarBy Yangsook Choi is the story of Unhei, who has just moved from Korea to the United States. Worried that she won’t be accepted, she decides not to share her Korean name, choosing instead to adopt an American name instead. In this heartwarming story, Unhei discovers that she is welcomed for who she is, and that her friends want to learn her real name and its special meaning.

In Princess Cupcake Jones Won’t Go to SchoolBy Ylleya Fields, Cupcake is a modern-day princess who doesn’t want to go to school! She tries everything to get out of going, but her mom stays one step ahead. When she finally arrives at school and meets a friend, Cupcake finds out that maybe school isn’t as terrible as she thought. In fact, school might be pretty great.

Choose one or two books to read each day before the first day of school. practise asking open-ended questions about the characters as you read, e.g., “How do you think ________Feels? What makes you say that?” This provides an opportunity for your child to practise empathy, process their feelings, and make connections with others. Head to your local library and start reading!

Additional back-to-school books for your kids’ bookshelves:

  • Back to Front and Upside DownBy Claire Alexander
  • Here Comes Teacher CatBy Deborah Underwood
  • First Day JittersBy Julie Danneberg
  • School’s First Day of SchoolBy Adam Rex.
  • Adventures to School: Real-Life Journeys of Students from Around the WorldBy Miranda Paul, Baptiste Paul, and Isabel Munoz
  • TwindergartenBy Nikki Ehrlich
  • Stella Brings the FamilyBy Miriam B. Schiffer
  • A New School Year: Stories in Six VoicesBy Sally Derby
  • Heather Has Two MommiesBy Lesléa Newman
  • Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for year oneBy Joseph Slate
  • The Exceptionally, Extraordinarily Ordinary First Day of SchoolBy Albert Lorenz
  • Dear TeacherBy Amy Husband
About the Author

Jasmine Gibson is an educational consultant with expertise in early elementary education, teacher support, and curriculum design. As a Learning Designer at, Jasmine is able to bring her enthusiasm for teaching to a wider audience. Her passions include incorporating nature and art into everyday learning environments, infusing diverse children’s literature across subjects, and creating accessible learning platforms. Jasmine lives in Portland, OR with her family.

3 Ways to Boost Your Child's maths Skills

August 16, 2019
April Brown

3 Ways to Boost Your Child's Math Skills

A few weeks ago I wanted to purchase a new shelf for our living room to house our daughter’s growing collection of toys. The only space left in the room was pretty small, shoehorned between an old chest and a chair. To convince my husband that it was feasible, I measured the length, height, and width of the space and found a shelf online that fit perfectly.

This is a great example of a learning opportunity for kids of all ages. My child is three years old, but she was able to carry the measuring tape, hold the paper and pencil, and was totally engaged in helping me solve the problem. Older children would be able to measure the space, record the measurements, and help parents search online for a shelf that has the right dimensions. You could take this one step further by giving your child a budget for the shelf.

Maths is all around us, yet many kids cringe when told they’re “doing maths.” We can integrate maths concepts into our daily lives — in our tasks around the house, out in our neighborhoods, and when planning for the future. Besides integrating maths into plans for new furniture purchases, here are three easy ways to use real-world learning to prepare your child for maths success in the upcoming school year:

3 Ways to Boost Your Child's Math Skills

1. Cook a Meal Together

It’s important for kids to know that dinner doesn’t appear magically on the table. Cooking a meal involves a lot of mathematical thinking, from figuring out the costs, doubling the recipe to feed hungry mouths, and measuring ingredients accurately. Some ideas to capitalize on this real-world learning opportunity include:

  • Preparation:Involve your child in the planning of a meal. Estimate how much the meal will cost by looking up the ingredients online prior to going grocery shopping. If your child is in early elementary school, help them write down the amounts and add them up to find a total. This is also a great way to help your child get comfortable using a calculator. Older children can practise estimating the cost by rounding the ingredient prices up to the nearest dollar. Head to the grocery store and have your child help navigate the aisles to find the ingredients. Challenge older children to compare the amount you thought the meal would cost with the actual cost. Discuss taxes and how they affect purchasing items from the store.
  • Cooking:Print out the recipe or display it on an iPad or computer so it’s easy to read. Gather the ingredients, measuring cups, bowls, pans, and other cooking materials you need on the counter. If your child can read, encourage them to read the directions step-by-step. Assist your child as they help you safely cut up the food (for little hands, Consider a wavy chopper), place the food in bowls and pans, stir as needed, and check the recipe for accuracy. You can also discuss the temperature needed to cook certain foods, while reinforcing safety procedures (adults should always control the oven and stove).
  • Dishing It Out:Figuring out portion sizes is an awesome way to connect to parts of a whole and fractions. If there are four members in the family, how many pieces of the homemade veggie pizza will each person get? How can you figure it out? What about the salad? How can we make sure that each person has the same amount? Encourage your child to explain their thinking to make the learning stick.

3 Ways to Boost Your Child's Math Skills

2. Shop Around the House

Create story problems using everyday grocery items you already have. This activity doesn’t involve getting in the car, and you can modify the activity to help your child learn how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide.

Before you begin, you’ll need the following: 10-20 grocery items, blank piece of paper to solve the problems, sticky notes, notecards, markers, and pencils.

Here’s how to get started:


  1. Create labels using the sticky notes. Write any amount from $1-$10 on each sticky note. For example, label macaroni and cheese, milk, and a granola bar as $2.
  2. Create story problems for your child to solve using the items and record them on notecards. For example: Dad went to the store and bought pasta sauce, pasta, and broccoli. How much did he spend altogether?
  3. Be mindful of the difficulty level of the story problems depending on your child’s needs. Lower elementary students may only add 2 items, whereas upper elementary students may add 5 or more!

What To Do:

  • Instruct your child to choose a story problem. Next, have them gather the items and figure out the correct mathematical operation to use. Encourage children in upper elementary to use multiplication to solve problems when applicable. For example, if your child solves the problem by adding $3 + $3 + $3, prompt them to think of a different way to find the answer by saying, “I noticed you added the same number a few times to solve the problem. Is there another operation (e.g., multiplication) we could use to solve this problem?”
  • To challenge your child, have them create story problems for you to solve, or create story problems that involve multiple steps and operations.
  • To support early learners and visual and tactile learners, use real money or play money to support learning.

3 Ways to Boost Your Child's Math Skills

3. Collect Data

Adults collect data all the time, even if we’re not aware that we’re doing it. Whether it’s comparing prices of bananas at two different grocery stores or finding trends in our month-to-month spending habits, data helps us in so many ways. We can help our children understand the importance of data collection by encouraging them to take in data throughout the summer. Here are a couple ideas to get you started:

  • I Spy In My Yard:Create a simple bar graph on a large piece of brown packing paper or a large poster board. Ask your child to choose five animals they see in their yard during the summer (if you don’t have access to a yard, have your child think about the animals they see at a narby park or outdoor space). If your child is really into birds or bugs, you can choose different types (e.g., robins, blue jays, etc.) Create a title and label your graph (X-axis: Animal Types, Y-axis: Number Of Animals Seen). Keep track of the animals you see for a few weeks. Ask your child to think about the animal they saw the most and the least. Encourage your child to reflect on why they may have seen certain animals more than others (e.g., nocturnal vs. diurnal).
  • Weather Over Time:Ask your child to help you make a bar graph on a large piece of paper. Next, have your child reflect on typical weather patterns in your community. Have your child choose 3-5 types of weather and label them on the X-axis. Then have your child label the number of days on the Y-axis. Record the weather in the morning or at the end of each day. Reflect on which type of weather you saw most over the span of a month, and ask your child to think about if the weather stayed the same throughout the day or if it changed (e.g., from rainy to sunny to cloudy). Encourage your child to think about how keeping track of weather patterns helps people plan their day. Challenge older children to watch a weather report on TV each night and make a prediction if the meteorologist is going to be right or wrong.

For more tips on how to prepare your child for the new school year, check out’s Parent’s GuideFor your child’s grade level.

Real-World maths Resources:

Education World: Connecting to maths in Real Life

Edutopia: 7 Real-World maths Strategies

Imagine Learning: Real World maths: 6 Everyday Examples

About the Author

April Brown (M.Ed) is a learning designer, writer, and education consultant based in Austin, TX. She is passionate about developing inclusive practices, materials, environments, and mindsets. Check out her blog, Mrs. Brown’s Blog: a safe space to tell stories, reflect on best practices in education, and strive to parent from the heart.

3 Back to School Routines to Build Your Child's Literacy Skills

August 16, 2019
April Brown

3 Back to School Routines to Build Your Child's Literacy Skills

Early elementary school literacy instruction is focused on instilling a love of learning and supporting children as they learn to read and write. Although you might not have a background in education, it’s important to remember that you truly are your child’s first teacher and there are many ways you can support your child’s learning at home. Parents play a vital role in their child’s literacy development: Through their actions and words, they show children that literacy is a valuable and worthwhile endeavor. Here are 3 simple routines you can use to promote literacy at home:

Create a Cozy Reading Corner

Inspire your child to love reading by setting up a cozy reading corner. Include a bean bag chair, soft lighting, stuffed animals, and a basket with their favorite books (for inspiration, Pinterest has some fun ideas). You can support your child in reading by encouraging them to draw pictures or write about their favorite characters from the stories they read, and display their creative work using a piece of twine and clothespins. You can make it a fun ritual to set up a time each evening for your child to spend time in their cozy reading corner. If possible, find a comfortable spot and dive into a new book yourself!

Begin a Word-of-the-Week practise

This is a fun way to increase your child’s vocabulary. Write down an interesting, wacky, or difficult word, such as “magnificent” or “humongous.” Next, look up the meaning online or in a dictionary, or provide your child with a kid-friendly definition of the word. Encourage your child to act out the word or draw a picture of the word’s meaning. Challenge the whole family to use the word of the week in daily conversations. Keep a tally of how many times each family member uses the word, or even better, write down the sentences you hear them say. Allow older children to help choose the word of the week.

Start a Family Book Club

Involve the whole family in reading by starting a family book club. Books can vary from simple and short picture books to longer chapter books that you can read aloud to your child. Here is a fun project for the whole family. You’ll need:

  • One medium-sized mason jar, tin can, or bucket
  • Small pieces of paper or craft sticks
  • Pencils
  • Notebooks for each family member
  • Coloring materials
  • Sticky notes
  • Stickers and other creative supplies
  • A cheap basket or bin

What to do:

  1. Gather your family in a common area and brainstorm all the books you’d like to read together. Need inspiration? Find ideas by visiting your local library, online bookseller, or find recommendations from other educators or parents online.
  2. Write your book ideas on the small pieces of paper or craft sticks. Encourage your child to help you.
  3. When you are finished, put all of the slips or sticks in your bucket.
  4. Take turns shaking up the jar and choosing one of the books. Next, set aside time to request the book from the library, or find an online version instead.
  5. Read the book together as a family. Some books may take longer than one week to read.
  6. Name your book club. Deciding on a fun, catchy name will foster even more togetherness and get your kids excited about reading.
  7. Buy notebooks for each family member participating in the book club. Explain that these will be your reading journals. Decorate the journals with colorful patterns and stickers. Tell your child that they will use their reading journals to record their ideas, thoughts, pictures, and questions.
  8. Encourage deep thinking while you are reading with your child by prompting them to think about questions like:
  • What is the story about?
  • Who is the main character in the story? What are they trying to do?
  • What is your favorite part of the book?
  • How did this story make you feel?
  • What new facts did you learn about this topic?
  • What questions do you have after reading?
  • Purchase a cheap basket or bin to organise your family book club supplies. Keep markers, pencils, erasers, and other creative supplies in your bin.
  • For more tips on how to support your child’s literacy development at home, check out’s Parent’s GuideFor your child’s grade level.

    About the Author

    April Brown (M.Ed) is a learning designer, writer, and education consultant based in Austin, TX. She is passionate about developing inclusive practices, materials, environments, and mindsets. Check out her blog, Mrs. Brown’s Blog: a safe space to tell stories, reflect on best practices in education, and strive to parent from the heart.

    Preparing Your Child for the First Day of School

    August 14, 2019
    Jennifer Sobalvarro

    Preparing Your Child for the First Day of School

    I went to a “Mom Chat” group today. I have wanted to go since I first arrived in Germany six months ago and, on a whim, I decided that today would be the day. I get anxious in new circumstances, which is why it took me this long to get up the courage to go.

    I walked in (10 minutes late!) and I could already see people were grouped in cliques. The childcare area was at capacity and could not accommodate my three preschoolers. I tried to start some conversations with other moms, but they avoided eye contact and silently continued their crafting.

    Ultimately, I busied myself with my own children, thinking about how to extract myself from this awkward situation. With a little more thoughtful preparation, I could have done so much better! Maybe if I arrived on time and set some expectations for myself in advance, the day could have ended with new friendships, rather than a heavy feeling in my stomach.

    I’m an adult and I still get the jitters about meeting new people. Can you imagine your child attending a new school or grade level for the first time and having to meet new friends? And then a complete stranger, aka the teacher, sets all the rules and expectations? Fortunately, there are many things that you as a parent can do to help set your child up for success and ease some of the anxieties they may face throughout the lead up to their first day of school.

    Maintain a Back-to-School Countdown>

    Knowing the date and time beforehand can eliminate some of the mystery surrounding the first day of school. Using a paper calendar, add a sticker, or use X- marks on each day leading up to it. It’s normal for your little one to get frustrated that it is “taking sooooooooo long” to get to the big day… or to feel a little nervous! You know your child better than anyone else, but I’ve always found that a countdown to big days can help manage expectations.

    Practising a countdown also has the added benefit of allowing your child to practise their numbers and days of the week while giving a sense of security in knowing when the big day will arrive. If you have younger children, I suggest starting your countdown only a week in advance for their shorter attention spans.

    Take a Tour of the New School>

    Try to get a tour of the school before the new school year begins. If you know what school your child will attend ahead of time, you can even participate in some of the school activities open to the public. Previewing the school will help your child become familiar with the building and some of the staff members. While on the tour, discuss important locations within the school building, such as the main office, exits, cafeteria, and my personal favorite... the library.

    Alternatively, sometimes schools let children play on the school grounds during the summer or after-school hours. Encourage your child to meet new friends at the playground. It’s likely they will attend the same school the following year. While at the playground, you can help them establish a sense of ownership by cleaning up after they use the equipment.

    Discuss What to Expect on the First Day of School>

    Talk about what school will be like and typical rules. Review a potential schedule for the day while at school. You can call the main office to get a sample schedule to review with your child. Will your child have two teachers? If so, will they switch classrooms or will another teacher be in the same room all day? Will there be teacher’s aids in the classroom? Mention the special classes they might have, like art and gym, and how they’ll be able to check books out from the library.

    Sometimes schools use the summer break to make the classroom lists. When you get a notification about your child’s teacher, make a big deal about it. practise saying the teacher’s name and talk about what things your child wants to know about their teacher. Visit school's website to see if the teacher's page has any helpful information. Some neighbourhood communities have Facebook pages, so feel free to ask around for some details about the teacher or grade-level team of teachers.

    Discuss Topics They Might Encounter on the First Day of School>

    Okay, so let’s talk ice-breakers. They are great because they get new people talking and getting to know each other, but children get anxious when they don’t know what to say or how to respond to a question. Role-play with your learner using some typical questions they might encounter on the first day of school. Some typical questions they may encounter are:

    “What did you do this summer?” “What is your favorite subject?” “What do you want to learn this year?” “What is you favorite animal?”

    Sometimes teachers do an interest survey to help get to know your child. Discuss your child’s interests and things they feel comfortable sharing with others.

    Go to school with a neighbour>

    Don’t we all agree that everything is easier if you bring a friend along with you? Get to know a family that lives near you that has a school-age child as well. Maybe set up a play-date before the school year starts so they can get to know each other. If your child has a new friend to bring with them to school, that friend may be able to introduce your child to new people, or at least be someone to talk to in the beginning of the school year.

    To sum up...>

    School can be a major deal for some kids, especially if they're not used to being away from their parents, or if it’s a new school in a new town. While every student has different challenges and confidence levels, there are some things parents can do to ease the tension a bit. The first couple days may be a challenge, but you can help make it just a bit easier by taking the initiative to prepare your child for the first day of school.

    About the Author

    Jennifer Sobalvarro is a Learning Designer for who has experience teaching in 3rd and year 6 classrooms as well as ELL instruction. She received a Bachelor’s Degree from Middlebury College and a Master of Education Degree in Curriculum and Instruction in 2012 from Tarleton State University. In addition to contributing to, she continues to travel around the world with her Army officer husband and their children.

    6 Activities to Support Your Child's Emotional Intelligence at Home

    August 8, 2019
    Jasmine Gibson

    6 Activities to Support Emotional Intelligence at Home

    “How do you feel?”

    This might seem like an easy question to answer, yet so many people — especially young children — get overwhelmed by their feelings. Research shows that the ability to identify and understand emotions is an important skill that will not only improves a child’s well-being as they grow up, but also will set them up for better academic success and life satisfaction.

    Children learn best through positive modeling, so here are some great ways to incorporate emotion-based language and practices into your day-to-day life.

    • Use books to introduce and highlight emotions.Children’s literature is rich with examples of books that support emotional literacy. Try adding in these books to your bedtime reading list as a way to normalize different emotions and provide examples of what they can look or feel like. Another great practise is to ask questions about characters in any story, e.g “How do you think __ ___ ___ ______ __ ___ ___ ______ feels? What makes you say that?” This encourages children to flex their empathy muscle while practising recognizing emotions. Here’s a great list of books for young children to get you started:
      • When Sophie's Feelings Are Really, Really HurtBy Molly Bang
      • When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really AngryBy Molly Bang.
      • Mean SoupBy Betsy Everitt
      • It's Hard to Be Five: Learning How to Work My Control PanelBy Jamie Lee Curtis
      • Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods That Make My DayBy Jamie Lee Curtis
      • In My Heart: A Book of FeelingsBy Jo Witek
      • The colour Monster: A Pop-Up Book of FeelingsBy Anna Llenas
      • All Kinds of FeelingsBy Sheri Safran
      • A Book of FeelingsBy Amanda McCardie
      • The Great Big Book of FeelingsBy Mary Hoffman
    • Post a feelings chart like Mindfulness: Guide to Feelings or the Carson-Delossa Feelings Chart somewhere prominent in your home.Using the chart, identify your feelings throughout the day. Encourage your children to use the chart to help them figure out how they might be feeling and what they might need. An extension to this activity, would be to invite your child to create their own feelings chart by drawing faces on index cards and making a poster to hang in their room.
    • Share daily “rose and thorn.”Dinner is a great time for everyone in the family to share a high and low point over the course of your day. practise using feeling words as you describe your day, e.g., “I felt excited when...I felt worried when...I felt brave when...” to deepen and strengthen your child’s emotional vocabulary. Building in a regular, meaningful reflection using is a great way to deepen relationships and become more comfortable with expressing emotions.
    • Ask open-ended questions.Do you ever ask, “How was your day?” and get a dispassionate, “Good” — or worse — crickets? So many things happen during the day, it can be hard for children (and adults!) to think back and share on what really happened. Ask questions such as, “When did you feel happy today?""What made you feel worried today?" "When did you feel grateful?" "Can you tell me about a time when someone was kind to you today?” to help your child think about their day in relation to their feelings.
    • Create and use an art journal to keep track of ideas and process feelings.Art is a wonderful way for children to express themselves, especially when the prompts or materials are open-ended like those in suggestion 4 above. Model how to use a sketchbook-style journal to express your feelings through different artistic modalities (painting, drawing, collage) and provide time to work side-by-side or collaboratively with your child.
    • Acknowledge feelings.Provide a safe space for your child to experience their emotions by listening to their needs. This practise both helps your child understand their feelings and also provides them with the knowledge that you see and hear their needs. Phrases such as, “It seems like you are feeling disappointed to leave the playground. It can be hard to leave before you are ready.” or “You looked really happy riding your bike this morning.” Invite your children to hear feeling words used in relation to their own experiences and allows them to agree or disagree, while helping them to share how they feel.

    By supporting your children to develop their emotional intelligence at home, you will be giving them a skill that will benefit them throughout the rest of their life. education and well into adulthood.

    About the Author

    Jasmine Gibson is an educational consultant with expertise in early elementary education, teacher support, and curriculum design. As a Learning Designer at, Jasmine is able to bring her enthusiasm for teaching to a wider audience. Her passions include incorporating nature and art into everyday learning environments, infusing diverse children’s literature across subjects, and creating accessible learning platforms. Jasmine lives in Portland, OR with her family.

    Father's Day Fun: 6 Crafts to Make Dad Smile

    June 11, 2019
    Kevin L. Jones

    Father's Day feature

    Father’s Day gifts don’t need to be fancy. The real reward is seeing the fruits of a father’s love and labor reflected in their children. That’s why the best Father’s Day gifts come from children — they’re honest expressions of appreciation for their dads. So, before you go rushing to the store to find something last minute, check out this list of Father’s Day crafts that any papa would love to receive from his kiddos.

    • Personalized Father's Day Card
      What’s more fun than a Father’s Day card? One your kids make themselves. With some cardboard and a pair of scissors, kids can make a card that looks cute and stands on its own.

    • Plan a Father's Day Hike
      For families who appreciate adventure! Let your kids show off their knowledge of your neighbourhood by having them map out a hike. Then make a day out of enjoying the hike together.

    • Father's Day Rebus Puzzle
      Show your children the fun and challenge of using pictures to tell their dad they love him. You can write something simple, or make it a tongue twister.

    Father's Day paperweight

    • Father's Day Paperweight
      This simple project also provides a chance to show your kids that anything can be turned into something beautiful. And yes, people still use paperweights.

    • Make a Father's Day Crown
      If it’s your family’s tradition to let Dad be king for a day, might as well make it official. A perfect project for the real little ones.

    • Father's Day Apron
      You need to buy a blank apron beforehand, but this can be a real special treat for the dad who likes to spend time behind a grill.

    If you want more options, check out These ideasFor making Father’s Day a success. Instead of picking one on your own, let your children make the decision. They’ll be more excited about it and that’s sure to make the gift even better for Dad.

    About the Author

    Kevin L. Jones is's content marketing manager. Before coming to, he was a journalist covering the Bay Area.

    5 Ways to Assess Your Learner

    June 3, 2019
    Caitlin Hardeman

    Assess learners feature

    Do you cringe at the word “assessment?” Parents and teachers alike are often discouraged by the thought of “assessing” their children, probably because standardized tests have given assessments a bad name. Yet testing remains an integral part of a teacher’s job, and they're important for us parents, too.

    The reality is that teaching isn’t successful unless there’s learning. Assessment is a necessary part of the process. If we don’t assess, we don’t know if the “teaching” did anything for the learners. Did they listen? Did they learn something? Can they do anything with what they learned?

    Good assessment is frequent. Assessments are designed to provide a snapshot of a child’s understanding in a given moment, so if we can get more snapshots, we have a more complete picture of their knowledge. As parents, we can assess our children’s learning throughout the year. Whether during informal activities in the summer or projects throughout the year, here are five simple ways to assess your learner so you can identify gaps in their knowledge and learn which ones to address.

    Draw it!

    • Draw It- Foster the creative spirit in your child by having them draw as a way to show what they know. In this quick assessment, have them draw what they understand, and also what is confusing, about a specific topic. For a small variation, present an image and have them add to it by drawing and labeling.

    • Explain What Matters- Can your learner understand the “bigger picture”? Have them explain the most important part about a given topic in two or fewer sentences. To get them started, provide sentence supports, such as “The most important part about _____ is ______.” This allows your child to write down their thoughts in complete sentences before sharing out loud.

    • 3-2-1- The number system in this assessment provides a structured task. Your learner will record 3 things they learned, 2 things they want to know more about, and 1 question they have. They can use words or drawings to demonstrate their understanding. Use this 3-2-1 Assessment worksheetTo get your child to reflect on their learning and what questions they still have.

    hand signals

    • Hand Signals- The beauty of an assessment like this is that it’s quick, easy, and free. There are several variations to this check-in, and you can put your own spin on them based on your personality and that of your child.
      1. Thumbs up or thumbs down:This is simple for yes and no questions, as well as for determining if your learner is ready to move on to another step.
      2. Five Finger Rating Scale:Use 1 finger to show minimum understanding and 5 fingers to show maximum understanding. This is a great activity to use for assessing how comfortable your child is about vocabulary, too.
      3. Heads and Noses:Have your child put their finger on their head if they agree or their nose if they disagree. After demonstrating hand signals, ask your child to elaborate on their hand signal.

    • Roll the Dice- All you need for this assessment is some dice and some sentence starters. Have your child roll the dice and then respond to a prompt based on the number rolled. If you have more than one learner with you, they can discuss in a group while you observe. If you’re in a one-on-one environment, engage in a discussion with your child and have them roll the dice more than once. Prompts can vary based on subject, topic, and age, but they could include:
      1. I want to remember…
      2. Something I learned today…
      3. One word to sum up what I learned is…
      4. This reminds me of...
      5. I'm still confused about…
      6. An "aha" moment that I had today was...

    Frequent assessment gives us a more solid foundation as we figure out what to do next. Assessments don’t need to be time consuming and complicated, and they don’t need to be scary, either. Quick and easy check-ins with your child give you valuable information about their learning, letting you know how to help them be their best.

    About the Author

    Caitlin Hardeman is a Learning Designer and the Professional Development Coordinator for Prior to this role, Caitlin taught 3rd-6th grades in New York, Texas, Arizona, and Tennessee, and she specializes in English Language Arts.

    Get Physical: Using Total Physical Response at Home

    May 28, 2019
    Kerry McKee

    TPR feature

    With summer around the corner, does your child have boundless energy? You may want to try using Total Physical Response. TPR is a technique that gets children moving while reinforcing new language structures and academic vocabulary. Long used to teach English learners, TPR is now being incorporated across many subject areas. Whether you are a classroom teacher or a parent who wants to work on vocabulary with their child at home, TPR is a great way to engage kids as they learn new words.

    TPR helps children remember new vocabulary and phrases by creating a mental association between speech and movement. By using it, learners react to verbal input with movement, mirroring the way that children learn language from their parents. The movement helps children better understand the new language and serves as a memory aid. The TPR method gives learners an opportunity to hear the same language repeatedly over time before they are expected to produce the language themselves. Because it gives kids the chance to actively participate in learning, TPR has even been found to lower stress levels.

    Here are a few ways to use Total Physical Response at home:


    TPR is a fun way to teach vocabulary. In a lesson that incorporates TPR, a gesture is taught as new words are introduced. Get your head around what TPR looks like by watching teachers use the strategy. You can start by watching a intermediate science teacher use TPR to teach science vocabulary on The Teaching Channel.

    In the video below, you can see TPR in action in a bilingual year four classroom. The students take it a step further by helping the teacher create the gestures:

    Here's a teacher using TPR by combining repetitive language, movement and drawings on the board to tell a story to primary school children:

    Signal Words

    One way that teachers incorporate TPR in the classroom is through using signal words and gestures. A signal word is what a teacher calls out to gain the attention of the class during a transition. Teachers choose a vocabulary word based on what the class is studying and develop a gesture that represents the word. For example, during a unit on geometry a teacher might use "angle" as a signal word. When the teacher calls out the word "angle" students form an angle with their arms and respond chorally with the definition, "the figure formed by two rays meeting at an endpoint."

    Try using a signal word with your child at home by choosing a vocabulary word that you would like to reinforce. Let your child know that when you call out the word, your child should respond with the definition and a gesture. Use the signal word as a fun way to let your child know that it is time to transition to a new activity, for example at dinnertime or bedtime.

    Action Songs

    Action songs are a great way to get kids practising language in an interactive way. Linking movement to songs and chants helps children internalize the meaning of new words. For example, watch this teacher combine gestures and song to Teach intermediate science.


    Children learn best when they are relaxed, so why not dial up the fun by incorporating TPR in games? A simple game of Simon Says will get kids moving and learning commands. Or, play a game of charades and have your child act out new vocabulary words for others to guess.

    TPR is fun for both adults and kids. Try using TPR with signal words, songs, and games, and be prepared to be amazed by how it helps children retain academic vocabulary. To learn more about the research that led to the development of TPR, and to find TPR-related resources, visit

    About the Author

    Kerry McKee is a Learning Designer at She began her career in education teaching English abroad in Kochi, Japan. Since then she has spent almost ten years teaching at both the elementary and high school level in the Bay Area. She specializes in Spanish-bilingual education, and loves engaging young language learners with songs, games and hands-on activities.

    Promoting Literacy Through Play

    May 21, 2019
    April Brown

    Literacy through play

    You might be surprised to learn that children develop literacy and language skills on the first day of their lives. From the moment a baby enters the world, they take in information from their surroundings, including how to communicate with others. When children play, they learn how language works and how to interact with other people. As the saying goes, "play is the work of a child."

    You can foster literacy at home by using these five tips:

    1. Create a Play-Rich Environment
      Setting up an environment in your home that provokes wonder, curiosity, and metacognition is easier than you think. Remember that less is more, and having too many toys or crowded spaces can overwhelm your little one. To foster uninterrupted play, try to:
      • Keep toys at eye level or below in the play area so children can access them easily.
      • Provide objects that can be used for more than one purpose. Ideas include: scarves, blocks, baskets, mason jar tops, ropes, pom-poms, spools, feathers, and bottle corks (these suggestions are not intended for children under three years old). Model how to use these objects in imaginative play.
      • Find a variety of costumes and props for dramatic play. Dramatic play provides many opportunities for children to practise language by explaining thinking and roles, creating pretend scenarios, solving problems, etc.
    2. Say “Yes” to Unstructured Time
      From longer hours at work to enrolling kids in lots of extracurricular activities, families are exhausted. Instead of scheduling an activity for every waking moment, say yes to unstructured time (also known as “free time”). Play is a building block of healthy brain development, and an important precursor for learning to read and write. So take your little one outside to dig or create a structure with rocks. Or if the weather isn’t ideal, set up a castle in the living room and enjoy watching your child’s imagination at work.

    3. Vocalize What’s Happening
      When you play alongside your child, you can foster language development by discussing roles, objects, and directions. For example, if your child has a doctor kit and wants you to be the patient, you can expand your child's vocabulary by referring to the tools in the doctor kit by their correct names (e.g. thermometer, stethoscope, etc.) To introduce more complex sentences, vocalize what you are doing in your role: “Hi doctor. I am so sick! I need you to take my temperature.” Remember that infusing language into social interactions benefits literacy development.

    4. Use Experiences to Expand Themes
      Build your child’s repertoire of play themes by exposing them to new experiences. Children “play what they know” and are unable to gain new ideas unless they experience them firsthand. So take that trip to the aquarium, spend time at museums and bask in the sun at the beach. Enjoy watching your child integrate these new experiences into their play.

    5. Be Present
      More than anything, your child will thrive if you show them that you are interested in what they are doing. When you value play, you show your child that you care about their happiness. When children feel comfortable and supported, they will be more likely to take necessary risks and try new things.

    Resources on Promoting Literacy Through Play

    Developing Literacy Through PlayBy Alissa Marie Mielonen and Wendy Paterson.
    Summertime Solutions: The Benefits of Unstructured PlayFrom PBS Parents
    Building Language and Literacy Through PlayFrom Scholastic

    About the Author

    April Brown (M.Ed) is a learning designer and education consultant based in Austin, TX. With over ten years of teaching and administrative experience spanning three countries, the driving force behind her continued passion for transforming education is the belief that teachers are the heart & soul of the massive shift we need in our educational system. She is passionate about developing inclusive practices, materials, environments, and mindsets. Check out her blog, Mrs. Brown’s Blog;A safe space to tell stories, reflect on best practices in education, and strive to parent from the heart.

    5 Ways To Inspire Learning While On A Summer Road Trip

    May 15, 2019
    Sarah Zegarra

    Summertime Learning on the Road

    Most kids love the precious time off that comes with summer vacation -- they’ve worked hard during the school year and they deserve some unstructured free time to have fun. Also, the freedom of summer contributes positively to a child’s self-esteem, well-being, and creativity. When kids have free time, they often come up with their own games and projects, causing them to feel good about themselves, thus boosting their self-esteem.

    But there's a downside: the freedom of summer can cause the infamous “summer slide,” where kids forget some of the reading, writing and maths skills they've learned at school. Many students, especially struggling readers, go down in reading levels during the summer due to lack of practise. maths skills are also easily forgettable for kids during the two plus months of school break. A lot of teachers spend weeks playing catch-up in the fall to make up for the summer slide. To avoid this dip in learning, it’s up to parents to encourage continued learning during the summer.

    Travelling can be a fantastic way for parents to encourage continued learning during the summertime, while also giving their kids a memorable experience. Whether taking the kids on a road trip to visit family, or hopping on a flight to explore a different state or country, the learning possibilities are endless. If you and your family have a road trip or vacation planned this summer, take advantage of this built-in quality time to incorporate some fun learning activities. With a little planning, parents can create learning opportunities that are so fun the kids won’t even realise you are sneaking education into their free time.

    Here are five tips for parents wanting to convert a road trip into a learning experience:

    1. Research:Before going on the trip, spend some time with your child researching the place you are visiting. Ask them what they would like to know about the place and involve them in the planning process. For older children, encourage them to plan out tentative itineraries and figure out distances between sights. Incorporate maths thinking by having them figure out the budget for activities, accommodations, and food. If you are travelling abroad, give your child a chance to practise converting the currency.

    2. Audiobooks:While on a long road trip, listen to an audiobook and discuss the characters, plot, and setting. Go to the library or bookstore ahead of time and have your child help you choose an audiobook that interests them and would also interest the grown-ups. Perhaps it’s time for your family to start The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling,Or you may prefer Chris Grabenstein’s nail-biting mystery Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.

    3. Make a Travel Journal or a Summer Trip Scrapbook:Maintain your child’s writing skills during the summer by creating a journal or scrapbook of their experiences. A journal is a terrific way to encourage writing practise. To further spark their creativity, encourage doodling and sketching as part of their journaling. Model this activity by writing in your own journal alongside your child. Consistent journaling is a healthy habit to get into as it fosters self-reflection.

    4. Board Games:While on the plane or in a tent/cabin, play board games that require problem-solving and maths skills. Games give your child a fun, low-stress way to practise their maths skills, such as adding or multiplying. Some games promote strategic thinking or spatial awareness, which also strengthens their maths skills. Kids get to experience real-life application of maths skills through these board games. See This blog post on maths gamesFor some resources on how to adapt classic games to your child’s level while also making them educational.

    5. Talk, talk, talk:Sign your family up for guided tours or classes on local art in the area, then discuss the experience as a family. Remind your child to observe and engage with the environment of the place they are visiting. Some trips are conducive to science conversations around landforms, habitats, flora and fauna. Other destinations are ideal for reviewing history. The crucial goal is to have rich conversations with your child, that centre on the place you are visiting.

    The most important rule of thumb to follow for successful summertime learning on the road is to follow your child’s lead. Be flexible as their interests will ebb and flow while you travel. One path for learning may lead to a completely unplanned teachable moment. Savor the spontaneity and go with it! The equation of “kids = curiosity” lends itself beautifully to another equation I swear by: “travel = learning”. You just have to facilitate these critical learning opportunities and let your child do the rest.

    About the Author

    Sarah Zegarra (M.Ed) is an educator and teacher leader who taught K-5 bilingual education (Spanish-English) in California for 10 years before joining as a Learning Designer. Passionate about project-based, whole-child, culturally responsive teaching, and integrating the arts into learning, Sarah strives to make the world of education a brighter and more effective one. She currently lives in Mexico City with her husband, three children, and their dog.

    5 Ways to Bring Learning Outdoors This Summer

    May 10, 2019
    April Brown

    Bring Learning Outdoors feature

    As the school year comes to an end, parents scramble to enroll their children in activities to beat the summer slide. But did you know that pretty much anything you can teach indoors can be taught outdoors, too?

    Check out these 5 ways you can bring learning outdoors for your kids this summer:

    Scavenger Hunt shot

    Plan Scavenger Hunts

    Don’t worry if you don’t have a yard, take the scavenger hunt to the park instead. Scavenger hunts can be modified for every age, ability, and skill. Some ideas for scavenger hunts include:

    • Reading and Writing - Hide sight words (check out’s sight words) around the yard and encourage your child to read them aloud to you as they find them. Challenge older children to create a sentence using two or more of the sight words, or have them use a dictionary to figure out the synonym or antonym of each word.
    • Maths - Collect addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division flashcards. Provide your child with a clipboard, paper, and pencil to solve the maths problems as they find the cards hidden around the yard.

    Chalk shot

    Explore the Endless Possibilities of ChalkChalk is one of the best inventions ever. Why, you ask? The possibilities for learning with chalk are endless:

    • Reading and Writing - Ask your child’s teacher to provide you with sight words that should be practiced over the summer. Draw shapes on the ground, and write one sight word in the middle of each shape. Challenge your child to jump from sight word to sight word as you call out the words. To make this activity extra engaging, have your child jump like a kangaroo or waddle like a duck. Modify this activity for older children by using more complex vocabulary words, or quizzing them on the capitals of each state (write down a state in each shape and see if your child can name the capital).
    • Maths - For little learners, write down numbers 1-10 and see if your child can find small items such as leaves and pebbles to correspond with each number. Help older children learn their multiplication facts in a visual way by writing down a multiplication fact (e.g. 6 x 3) and challenging them to find natural objects outdoors to represent the maths problem as an array.
    • STEM - Outdoor classification activities are a great way to hit upon subjects like science, engineering, or maths!’s Chalk it Up! An Outdoor Classification ActivityIs a great place to start.

    herb garden

    Plant a Kid’s Pizza Garden

    A garden is the gift that keeps giving. The best part is that you get to use herbs from your garden to make a pizza when your herbs thrive! Here’s how to start a pizza garden with your family:

    • Prepare - Bring your kids outside to the section of Earth ready for gardening. If you don’t have space or a yard, consider getting a plot at a local community garden. Choose your seeds/small plants (pizza herb ideas include: sweet basil, basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary) and let your child plant them in the ground. Incorporate reading/writing by having your child create plant labels with craft-sticks, stones, wine corks, or clothespins.
    • Visit the garden daily - Encourage your child to visit the garden daily with their Nature journal. Document the growth of the herbs by drawing pictures, recording observations, using measuring tape, and taking photographs.


    Storytelling with Small World Play
    Even with minimal outdoor space, it’s possible to create small worlds in old planters and tin cans. Young children will work on their language skills by creating names and adventures for their new friends. Mathematics comes into play as children group and count items (e.g. I need 3 flowers, one for each fairy). Older children can create a blog or book about their small world.

    Create a space

    Create Space to Deepen Knowledge
    If you have a tree-house, fort, or cabinet outside, gather props to support your child’s inquiries. For example, if your child is interested in trees, use an old basket and gather an assortment of nonfiction and fiction books all about trees. Field guides, charts, and other classification resources are also great props to include in this space. Don’t forget to add coloring materials, sketchbooks, binoculars, and other materials to support your child’s exploration. Remember that all STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) learning begins with asking questions. Children are constantly wondering about everything; be there to support and guide them along the way.

    About the Author

    April Brown (M.Ed) is a learning designer and education consultant based in Austin, TX. With over ten years of teaching and administrative experience spanning three countries, the driving force behind her continued passion for transforming education is the belief that teachers are the heart & soul of the massive shift we need in our educational system. She is passionate about developing inclusive practices, materials, environments, and mindsets.

    Acting on Assessment

    May 6, 2019
    Audrey Lee

    Acting On Assessment

    Despite what you might have heard, May is the longest month of the year. In public education we often referred to ‘The Ninety Days of May’ right around the second week of this month. Why? Spring Break is but a memory, Open House looms, but summer remains just a little too far away to be believed. May is also the month many schools are administering their state testing. (“I love testing!” said no educator ever.)

    After two decades in public education, I can tell you exactly what happens when you say “assessment” in a room full of educators. Noses crinkle. Eyes roll up at the ceiling. Body language shifts and people look at you like you drank the last of the milk and returned the empty carton to the refrigerator.

    Assessments, especially the big statewide ones, have gotten a bad rap over the last... hundred years or so. And while I will be the first to admit they are fraught with issues, let’s not forget assessment is a critical and crucial component of quality instruction. Assessments are an important part of the cycle that lets us know how our students are doing and what we need to do to support them.

    There are two types of assessment. The first is Summative (think: summary, after the fact). Summative assessments include unit tests, chapter tests, finals and midterms in high school and beyond, end of year state testing. These are primarily used to determine what a student has learned after instruction concludes. Summative assessment is evaluative.

    The other type of assessment is formative. To illustrate, think of it as forming an opinion, like whether I should eat that maple donut or not, despite what my jeans tried to tell me this morning. In the classroom, these take the form of polls, question of the day, anecdotal conversations with students, even a simple thumbs up or thumbs down, and one of my favorites, Exit tickets.

    Formative assessment is the bread and butter of teaching, if used as it was intended: to take in actionable information and adjust course. Unfortunately, often formative assessment is used in classrooms summatively. Teachers learn what a child knows or doesn’t know, but the most important piece (the adjustment!) is sadly missing.

    Formative Assessments

    But how do you meaningfully fit a response to the data you’ve collected into your day? Some (like me) might argue that making certain every student in your charge has the understanding needed to move to the next level is one of the most important things you do. But I also know the reality of teaching - so much to cover in such little time, with an ever increasing span of needs and an ever decreasing pool of resources.

    Don’t despair. There are many ways to quickly and efficiently act upon that data.

    Try this tomorrow:

    After collecting your exit tickets, separate them into two piles - Got It and Didn’t Get It. If everyone got it, pat yourself on the back and move on. Have a chocolate. In fact, have the whole box, since you’re probably dreaming.

    So now you have a pile of Doesn’t Get It tickets. Split these into two more piles: Errors and Mistakes.

    Literacy Guru Doug Fisher likes to delineate the very crucial difference between errors and mistakes. A mistake is often made through lack of attention, like when we make a typo or calculate the tip incorrectly on the dinner bill. We know how to calculate the tip; we just made a mistake. Mistakes are easily corrected. However, errors occur when the student doesn’t know how to fix the problem, because they don’t have enough knowledge. This is an important distinction to make because as Fisher says, “Correcting mistakes while failing to address errors can be a costly waste of instructional time.”

    The following day, return your mistake tickets to students and see if they can spot and correct mistakes on their own. If they really are mistakes, I’ll bet they can.

    Assessment treasure map

    Now review the Error pile. Look for patterns. What kind of errors are your kids making? Group the cards in ways that make sense to you, and decide what information is needed to correct these errors. Doug Fisher identifies error types, and if you want to geek out on those types like I did, Read his article.

    Finally, pick one error that is representative of the class. First thing in the morning, show off this error to your students. Remember that we are building resilient humans who persevere in their learning. So love those errors to death, praise the student who made this teaching moment happen for everyone, and provide the appropriate instruction to correct the error. This strategy is sometimes called My Favorite No, and you can learn more about it on the National Education Association's website.

    After this becomes routine for your students, you may want to praise and celebrate the correct answers once in a while too, just to keep things interesting.

    About the Author

    Audrey Lee is Director of Curriculum and Instruction for She is an educator with 20 years of experience, most recently as the Director of Curriculum and Educational Technology for a school district in the Bay Area; a role which she held for ten years. Audrey is an expert on standards-aligned instruction and blended learning. She loves supporting teachers in their craft and designing engaging, rigorous curriculum. Audrey holds a Master’s Degree in Education from UC Berkeley. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband, teenage son, and nine-pound Maltipoo Luna.

    Maths Games for the Whole Family

    April 29, 2019
    Jennifer Sobalvarro

    Math Games feature

    Have you ever played a game as a family and someone felt left out? You know, when the younger kids are throwing pieces and the older kids are on their phone? Try these tips to make the game accessible to all players, and give them some fun maths practise, too. Here are three traditional games with a twist:

    Multiplying Uno

    Game #1: Multiplying Past Uno
    Traditional Uno is a fun game for matching colors and numbers, but you can add different levels to the same game to bring an extra challenge for older children.

    • Level 1: Have younger children identify the colors and numbers as they place them into the pile. If you have a toddler watching along, encourage them to say the numbers and colors, too.
    • Level 2: Challenge children to multiply the number on the card they are covering with the card they place on the pile. If they cover a red 3 with a red 5, they will multiply 3 x 5 to get 15. If your child is just learning to multiply, you can let them use a Multiplication chart.
    • Level 3: Take the challenge to the next power with exponents! Have your child use the number they cover and raise it to the power of the card they place down on the pile. For example, if they cover a red 3 with a red 5, they will answer 3 to the fifth power, or 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3. Don’t worry, they can always use a calculator for faster calculations.


    Game #2: Candyland Makes a Difference
    Yes, it’s exciting to think about a magical land filled with candy. Add an even sweeter touch to this matching colors game when kids practise counting and subtracting.

    • Level 1: When players draw a card with a colour, have them count aloud the boxes they move.
    • Level 2: Have players continue to add on to their previous number as they make their way to the finish line. For example, if they are on the 14th square colour from their last turn, when they get another turn, they should continue counting up from 14. Highlight a Hundreds chartTo help them keep track of their last number, or they can write the numbers on their Number chartAs they go.
    • Level 3: Instead of using the colour cards from the game, challenge your older children to use two, 20-sided dice and move the difference of the two dice. Since they may finish long before the younger players, have them complete the board two or three times in order to win.


    Game #3: Sorry Substitutions
    Saying “Sorry” is never as fun as when you’re eliminating an opponent’s pawn on the board. Since all pawn movements in the game are based on the numbers on the cards, you can add an extra challenge, or simplify the game, by changing the cards.

  • Level 1: Let players use the number cards that come with the game, but use a separate deck with a limited number of cards. So, if you really want your children to recognise certain numbers, like 1, 2, and 3, then you can use the cards with only those numbers. As your children learn more numbers, you can add those to the deck. Alternatively, you can use ten frame cards.
  • Level 2: Switch out the number cards for cards with number sentences (10 - 8) that ask players to add, subtract, or divide to get the number of places they need to move their pawn. Increase the challenge further by adding two-digit numbers.
  • Level 3: Make the maths more difficult when you substitute the number cards for cards with exponents or equations that contain variables. Since some exponents may repeat, like 2¹ = 2, players can practise solving the cards quickly and memorize some of the applicable rules.
  • Remember, in gameplay the rules of the game are what all the players agree to. Feel free to change any game to make it accessible to each individual member of your family using some of these maths-inspired adjustments!

    About the Author

    Jennifer Sobalvarro is a Learning Designer for who has experience teaching in 3rd and year 6 classrooms as well as ELL instruction. She received a Bachelor’s Degree from Middlebury College and a Master of Education Degree in Curriculum and Instruction in 2012 from Tarleton State University. In addition to contributing to, she continues to travel around the world with her Army officer husband and their children.

    Using Graphic Organizers with English Learners

    April 23, 2019
    Sarah Zegarra

    Graphic Organizers ELs

    Graphic organizers are effective tools for teaching and learning since they are equally helpful for both teachers and students. Graphic organizers simplify teaching by putting content into a more interesting, visual format, while making the learning more interactive for students. These visual tools can help students tackle challenging vocabulary or help them organise and show connections between new concepts.

    Graphic organizers are especially helpful in assisting English Learners (EL) grasp and master content in their second language. A dense piece of text can be overwhelming for ELs to tackle, but when a graphic organizer accompanies a text, the information becomes more accessible and easier to comprehend. By creating a visual representation of facts and information, graphic organizers support student learning by explicitly showing the relationship between concepts and ideas. The organizers help students to make their thinking visual and take a metacognitive approach to their learning.

    Furthermore, graphic organizers can increase student engagement by encouraging them to interact with the content through conversation with peers. Have students complete a graphic organizer in pairs or small groups, and notice how the graphic organizer lowers stress while simultaneously requires students to collaborate and discuss the material together.

    For ELs who need extra support, provide sentence stems/frames or a word bank to facilitate the use of academic language as they use the graphic organizer. If using a more complex graphic organizer, fill out some of the sections in the organizer to give students a scaffold for them to successfully complete it.

    Below, I’ve provided a list of graphic organizers and how they can help ELs. They work across all grade levels and subjects.

    Vocabulary Instruction

    • Vocabulary Instruction Chart- A super valuable pre-assessment to check how well your students understand new vocabulary words. It allows you to tailor the vocabulary instruction based on their needs and prior knowledge.
    • Frayer Model- An effective graphic organizer for teaching vocabulary. It has a section for an image representation, definition, examples, non-examples and a sentence. Students can complete the model with a partner and then present it to other students.

    Compare and Contrast

    • Venn Diagram- A classic graphic organizer that is extremely useful for comparing and contrasting in any subject area. Two overlapping circles show students a clear visual representation of how two items or concepts are similar and different.
    • Top Hat Graphic Organizer- Students will organise their comparisons effectively with this chart in the shape of a top hat. Similarities go on the bottom while differences go on the top two sections.

    Categorize and organise Information

    • Bubble Map- A terrific general concept web, perfect for brainstorming, that can be used with ideas or information in any genre or subject area. Perfect for group exploration.
    • Timeline Organizer- Information is easier digested if it follows a sequential order. Use this timeline to help students make meaning of a story or a historical event.
    • T-Chart with 3 Columns- Sometimes a simple t-chart can go a long way. Use this graphic organizer to help students describe characters, explain solids, liquids, and gases, or discuss different groups of people during a particular time in history.
    • About the Author

      Sarah Zegarra (M.Ed) is an educator and teacher leader who taught K-5 bilingual education (Spanish-English) in California for 10 years before joining as a Learning Designer. Passionate about project-based, whole-child, culturally responsive teaching, and integrating the arts into learning, Sarah strives to make the world of education a brighter and more effective one. She currently lives in Mexico City with her husband, three children, and their dog.

    Many Ways to Multiply

    April 17, 2019
    Kerry McKee

    Many Ways to Multiply feature

    Multiplication can challenge young mathematicians, and memorizing basic facts is a major pain point for some. Developing a strong conceptual understanding of what it means to multiply will help kids master facts more easily.

    Beginning in year three, students are introduced to multiplication through repeated addition and arrays. This foundation is essential as students progress to multiplying multi-digit numbers beginning in year four. Different approaches to multiplying multi-digit numbers include the grid method (sometimes called the box method or area model) and the standard algorithm (sometimes called long multiplication).

    These approaches can help students develop a strong conceptual understanding of multiplication.

    Repeated Addition

    Repeated Addition

    Early exposure to multiplication will include problems that require repeated addition. Consider the problem: Jenny has four cups. There are three paint brushes in each cup. How many paint brushes does Jenny have in all?

    This problem asks students to add equal sized sets repeatedly: 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 12.

    Exposing kids to problems that require adding equal sized sets repeatedly will help them to conceptualize multiplication in concrete ways. Students will learn later that another way to solve the problem is 3 x 4 = 12.

    For more practise with repeated addition, Try out this worksheet.


    An array is a simple arrangement of objects into rows and columns that helps children visualize multiplication. An array for the example problem above would appear like this:

    Arrays part 1

    This array makes it easy to see that there are 3 columns and 4 rows (3 x 4 = 12).

    Arrays are a helpful way to represent multiplication as numbers get bigger.

    To use an array to multiply:

    1. Print a copy of the 5 x 5 array Found here.
    2. Practise multiplication facts to 25 by covering lines and rows of dots to show different multiplication problems. Cover the bottom row and two left columns to practise the fact 3 x 4.
    3. Talk about how the array shows repeated addition. Reveal another column of dots to show that 4 groups of 4 dots (4 x 4) equals 16, which is the same as 12 + 4 = 16.
    4. Reorient the array by flipping it on its side to show that 3 x 4 and 4 x 3 both equal 12. This lays a foundation for children to understand the commutative property.
    5. Introduce a 10 x 10 dot array to support kids as they memorize their multiplication facts to 100!

    Arrays part 2

    For more practise multiplying with arrays play the game Candy Shop Arrays.

    The Grid Method

    Also sometimes called the Box Method or Area Model, the Grid Method helps kids develop number sense by decomposing each factor in the multiplication problem.

    Grid Method example

    Follow these steps to solve the problem 27 x 56:

    1. Represent the factor 27 as 20 + 7. 56 is represented as 50 + 6.
    2. Create a grid, or box:
    3. Multiply each number in the left column with each number on the top row, solving for four "partial products."
    4. 6 x 20 = 120 6 x 7 = 42 50 x 20 = 1,000 50 x 7 = 350
    5. Write each number on the grid.
    6. Add the 4 partial products. Here, 56 x 27 = 42 + 350 + 120 + 1,000. So, 56 x 27 = 1512.

    Watch this video for more examples of multiplying using partial products.

    Standard Algorithm

    The standard algorithm, also called long multiplication, is handy because it makes it possible to multiply numbers of any size.

    Follow these steps to multiply 56 x 27:

    Standard Algorithm example

    1. Starting on the left, multiply 7 x 6 = 42. Write 2 below the 7, and carry the 4. Multiply 7 x 5 = 35. Add 4 to calculate the first partial product, 392.
    2. Write a 0 below the 2. Multiply 2 x 6 = 12. Write 2 to the left of the 0, and carry the 1. Multiply 2 x 5 =10. Add 1 to calculate the second partial product 1,120.
    3. Add the partial products. 392+ 1,1 20 = 1,512.

    Watch this video for more examples of how to multiply using the standard algorithm:

    Teaching many ways to multiply will be sure to get kids thinking about what it really means to do it. By learning different approaches to solving the same problem, children begin to think flexibly and conceptualize maths in a way that will lay the foundation for future success.

    About the Author

    Kerry McKee is a Learning Designer at She began her career in education teaching English abroad in Kochi, Japan. Since then she has spent almost ten years teaching at both the elementary and high school level in the Bay Area. She specializes in Spanish-bilingual education, and loves engaging young language learners with songs, games and hands-on activities.

    10 Picture Books That Teach maths Concepts

    April 12, 2019
    Caitlin Hardeman

    Picture Books About Math feature

    Adults often ask kids what their favorite subject is, and once we get past the responses of “lunch” and “recess," we tend to see a trend between two major subjects: maths or reading.

    Then come the questions:

    • How do I get the maths lover to feel excited about reading?
    • How do I get the reading lover to feel excited about maths?

    One way is to use picture books to teach maths concepts - it’s the best of both (reading and maths) worlds. Great picture books about maths engage readers, foster creativity and teach important concepts. Many authors have caught on to this idea, so the amount of maths-focused picture books is ever-increasing.

    See our 10 recommendations for picture books that will teach, review, and reinforce maths concepts in the classroom and at home.

    Uno, Dos, Tres: One Two Three

    Uno, Dos, Tres: One Two Three
    By Pat Mora

    This bilingual counting book uses charming illustrations that are based on Mexican culture. This beautiful book provides opportunities for identifying numbers and counting items.

    The Mission of Addition

    The Mission of Addition
    By Brian Cleary

    A definition of addition is followed by pages of fun cartoon illustrations and word problems that promote discussion and understanding of this foundational maths concept.

    The Action of Subtraction

    The Action of Subtraction
    By Brian Cleary

    This book tells what subtraction is and then provides examples in fun, rhyming stories. The best part is that this book’s silliness will engage those reluctant maths learners.

    What Time Is It, Mr. Crocodile?

    What Time Is It, Mr. Crocodile?
    By Judy Sierra

    This silly story features a hungry crocodile who has created a schedule for his meals. Each illustration includes a clock, so it’s great for telling time on a clock.

    Measuring Penny

    Measuring Penny
    By Loreen Leedy

    This cute book is about standard and nonstandard units of measurement. Penny has an assignment about measuring an object in different ways, so she enlists her dog to come along on the measurement journey.

    Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter

    Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter
    By Cindy Neuschwander

    This medieval geometry story focuses on perimeter and area. Be sure to check out the rest of the Sir Cumference series for more geometry-themed books that make maths fun.

    Math Attack!

    Maths Attack!
    By Joan Horton

    Kids can relate to the main character’s overwhelming stress about the multiplication tables. The easy rhymes in this book will engage your learner, all the while giving them a little multiplication boost.

    The Multiplying Menace Divides

    The Multiplying Menace Divides
    By Pam Calvert

    This book is great because it has an engaging storyline and it teaches about division, which can be a scary topic for those who aren’t maths lovers. Added bonuses include the beautiful illustrations and the funny story.

    The Grapes of Math

    The Grapes of maths
    By Greg Tang

    Use this fun, rhyming book to get your kids thinking outside the box when it comes to problem solving. Challenge their brains with fun riddles and arithmetic puzzles.

    This list highlights just ten of the many wonderful maths picture books that are out there. I encourage you to continue giving your learners opportunities to make these powerful connections between reading and maths. And then enjoy watching your young mathematicians blossom!

    About the Author

    Caitlin Hardeman is a Learning Designer and the Professional Development Coordinator for Prior to this role, Caitlin taught 3rd-6th grades in New York, Texas, Arizona, and Tennessee, and she specializes in English Language Arts. She began her career teaching 6th grade in the Bronx with Teach For America. Caitlin received a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Science in Teaching from Pace University in New York City. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Wilmington School of the Arts in Wilmington, North Carolina. She originally hails from New York, but also identifies as a Texan. After moving around while her husband served in the Army, she is happy to be settled with her family, and she enjoys getting to raise their two young children by the beach.

    Promoting Social and Emotional Learning at Home

    April 10, 2019
    Meena Srinivasan

    SEL at home feature

    Close your eyes for a moment and think about a young person that you care for deeply. Now take a few deep breaths and really reflect on what you ultimately want for this young person. Chances are that when you really tap into your hopes for this individual, what you most desire for them is happiness and well-being. All over the world we are recognizing that this is what matters most, but how do we get there? We can start with social and emotional learning (SEL).

    For more context, the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines SEL as “The process by which children, adolescents, and adults can acquire and apply the necessary knowledge and skills to understand and manage their emotions, feel and express empathy for others, set and achieve positive goals, and make responsible decisions.”

    These are the skills we all need for success. In fact, a cost-benefit study of SEL interventions showed a positive return on investment averaging a yield of $11 in long-term benefits for every $1 invested. Also, a 20-year study shows a link between SEL instruction in year one and well-being in early adulthood, and a 2011 meta-analysis found an 11 percent gain in academic achievement.

    While SEL is increasingly being prioritized in schools and classrooms across the globe, the home plays a critical role in supporting the social and emotional development of young people. What follows are some key ways you can begin to practise SEL in your home. Also, now offers SEL lessonsAnd ActivitiesThat you can use to explicitly teach SEL to your child.

    Four Questions for SEL

    Practise Mindfulness Together

    The late, great Dr. Maya Angelou felt that at all times we unconsciously ask each other four critical questions (Schafer, 2017):

    1. Do you see me?
    2. Do you care that I’m here?
    3. Am I enough for you, or do you need me to be better in some way?
    4. Can I tell that I’m special to you by the way that you look at me?

    If our child asked us these questions, we’d have to first be fully present and available to them. As parents, the greatest gift we can offer is our presence. But faced with countless demands on our time, offering our full presence becomes a rare occurrence..

    Practising mindfulness helps us to become present and pushes us to be there for our children. practising it while using several of the activitiesCan be a fun way to connect and deepen your SEL skills while also strengthening your relationship with your child.

    You can start by choosing an mindfulness activity to explore together, from using a Mindfulness bellTo practising Mindful walking.Or just try taking a few deep breaths every time you hug your child so you can really feel each other’s embrace and sense the gratitude you have for one another.

    Also establish some ground rules around technology in the house if you haven’t already done so. Technology can enhance our lives but it also has the capacity to limit face to face interaction, which is essential to the deep connection that’s needed for all of us to thrive as we practise and grow our SEL skills. The American Academy of Pediatrics has developed a Family Media PlanThat provides some wonderful guidance. Also check out A Parent’s Guide to Young Children in the Digital AgeBy Nancy Carlsson-Paige.

    A Restorative Approach for SEL

    Employ a Restorative Approach

    Restorative Practices (RP), a key element of many successful SEL initiatives, are specific practices inspired by indigenous values that build community, respond to harm or conflict, and provide circles of support for community members.

    These practices seek to support collectivist values while utilizing a structure that emphasizes interdependence.

    Employing a restorative approach in the home can help us shift from “blaming and shaming to relating,” and yet still hold our children accountable when they cause harm. The next time there’s an “incident” in your home, ask your child these six questions:

    1. What happened?
    2. What were you thinking about at the time?
    3. What have your thoughts been since?
    4. Who has been affected by what you did?
    5. In what way have they been affected?
    6. What do you think you need to do to make things right?

    These questions are respectful and require your child to reflect on the past, present, and future. They also help your child take ownership for the impact their actions have had while simultaneously developing their agency. If you get the response, “I don’t know” to “What happened?” then explore the question in other ways like, “Tell me what you think your role was in the incident?” At all times avoid asking “Why did you do that?” These questions can also be used when you’ve been unskillful with your child, modeling how you use the questions to repair harm can be a powerful way of modeling SEL in the home.

    Focus on Strengths

    Another great way to practise SEL in the home is focus on your strengths as a family. At the dinner table, each night have every family member share a strength they have observed in another family member in the past 24 hours. Get specific when sharing strengths. You can take it a step further and focus on your strengths as a family through emphasizing how you support each other and work as a team. When we focus on our strengths several positive things happen including relaxing our brain, which promotes creativity. Dopamine is also released which has several benefits, like increasing our happiness and improving our alertness.

    SEL starts with Adults

    James Baldwin said, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” SEL starts with adults and one of the most powerful ways in which we teach SEL to young people is through modeling SEL. When we fly, we are reminded (in time of emergency) to always put our oxygen masks on first before assisting our children. Similarly, we cannot bring SEL effectively into the home unless we first attend to building SEL within ourselves. Start small, explore which practices from this blog post really resonate with you and choose one to implement consistently.


    About the Author

    Meena Srinivasan, MA, National Board Certified Teacher, is an educational leader, writer and innovator with deep expertise in the fields of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and Mindful Awareness Practices (MAP). She is the author of Teach, Breathe, Learn: Mindfulness In and Out of the Classroom(Parallax Press, 2014) and SEL Everyday: Integrating SEL with Instruction in Secondary Classrooms(Norton, 2019). Meena is the Executive Director of Transformative Educational Leadership (TEL) and prior to this role she spent over five years working in partnership with the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) to implement SEL system-wide in the Oakland Unified School District. Learn more at her on Twitter at @SELEveryDay.

    Jumping Into Google Classroom, Pt.2

    March 29, 2019
    Kevin L. Jones

    Google Classroom 2 feature

    This is the second in a two-part post on using Google Classroom.

    Recently, we looked at Google Classroom’s ability to share assignments. This week we’re going to go over its roster functions.

    Setting Up Your Roster

    To start using Google Classroom, you need to add students to your class. You can invite the students through their Gmail account or the students can self-enroll by using the class code.

    To add students yourself:

    1. Log onto Google Classroom and click on the “People” tab at the top of the page. You’ll be taken to your roster, which should at first only have your name.
    2. In the Students section, you can click on the button near the right to add students.
    3. Type in their emails in the box that pops up and press the Invite button at the bottom of the popup.

    Google Classroom roster

    If you want students to add themselves, the code they need is at the bottom of the page. It goes away after you invite students, but you can find it again on your classroom’s landing page and the Settings page.

    For additional tips on roster, check out the video below.

    What’s next?

    With your class roster set up, you can tap into Google Classrooms awesome features, such as sending students assignments and quizzes. The platform also allows you to communicate with individual students or assign work to the entire class at once. To do this, visit the stream page, which is also your class’s landing page. There you can send messages to everyone in your class, share files with them -- even YouTube clips -- and your students can do the same. It acts as a newsfeed, just like social media. You can control what students can do the stream (post, comments) through the Settings page.

    Google Classroom stream

    You can use the roster to message students individually. Find the student you need to connect on the people page and click the checkbox by their name. Under the actions dropdown, you will find an option for email.

    The Classwork page is where you can create assignments and send them to your students. You can also upload your extra material here to the class Google Drive. There’s also a link to the classroom calendar, making it quick and easy to schedule out due dates.

    Through the roster, you can also connect to outside apps and services, such as These sites connect your students to lessons, materials like glossaries and worksheets, even games. To see the kind of apps that connect with Classroom, you can visit

    Again, if you have more questions about Google Classroom, visit Google Support.For more tips, we also suggest visiting Super SchoolHouseOn YouTube.

    About the Author

    Kevin L. Jones is's content marketing manager. Before coming to, he was a journalist covering the Bay Area.

    Jumping Into Google Classroom, Pt.1

    March 19, 2019
    Kevin L. Jones

    Google Classroom feature

    This is the first in a two-part series on using Google Classroom. Part two will run next week.

    Computers in the classroom have come a long way since Oregon Trail. What was once an exciting new tool is now an almost ubiquitous feature in K-12 education. Computers can be an important resource for teachers and students, providing everything from lessons materials to attendance platforms to research tools.

    It is almost daily that new edtech tools are unveiled, declaring that they will solve a teacher pain point or help students learn more effectively. Whether those resources can live up to their hype, only time will tell. However, one resource that has been in classrooms for several years now and has steadily emerged as a reliable, useful tool is Google Classroom. A veritable teachers’ toolbox in one package, Google Classroom can manage grades, assignments, quizzes, and much more. It’s a digital foundation for a successful classroom.

    Google Classroom logo

    That’s why partnered with Google to bring our lessons and resources to Classroom. Through the Classroom API, teachers can assign materials to students on with the click of a button. That work can then be shared to the rest of the class and even the public with another click of the button.

    If you’re a teacher who is new to Google Classroom or has heard about it but not used it, you should expect to use Google Classroom (or a similar program) in your own classroom at some point in your career. It is free to use and easy for school districts to adapt to their needs, which is one of the reasons why it’s used all over the world -- Google estimates over 40 million students and teachers currently use the program.

    To prepare yourself for using Google Classroom, here’s a few notes on what you can do with the program.

    Sharing Assignments

    One note to keep in mind when using Google Classroom is that the company did all it could to make it easy to use. Not only is it simply designed, it makes the most tedious daily tasks much easier.

    “Google Classroom is a huge time-saver, both for teachers and for students,” Kelleth Chinn, elementary school teacher and technology coach, said. “It’s also great for organization, because online assignments are always in one central location, and they're instantly accessible from any internet connected device.”

    Take for example the ability to share assignments and other documents with your students. No longer do you have to print out and pass out your worksheets to your students; it’s all done online. Any file in Google Documents or your Google Drive can be shared with your students with just a click of the share button.

    Google Classroom Share Button on

    You can create your own documents or find them through the various sites connected to Google Classroom, such as There you’ll not only find lessons, but support materials such as glossaries and worksheets too.

    Students can then work on the assignments online and attach additional materials, if required by the assignment.

    If you have more questions about Google Classroom, visit Google Support. You can also learn more about getting started on Classroom through this video, hosted by Super Schoolhouse.

    More on Google Classroom comes next week, when we publish part two.

    About the Author

    Kevin L. Jones is's content marketing manager. Before coming to, he was a journalist covering the Bay Area.

    Teaching Academic Vocabulary to English Learners (Part 1)

    March 7, 2019
    Dr. Sydney Snyder

    Feature graphic

    This is the first part of a two-part post; check back next week for Part 2.

    It’s a common scenario when teaching English learners (ELs): the textbook or unit plan comes with a lengthy list of key vocabulary. Should all of them be taught in depth? The risk in trying to tackle all these words is that ELs can end up overwhelmed. They could memorize the definitions but they need to effectively incorporate new vocabulary into their academic discussions and writings. Also, focusing only on pre-selected vocabulary doesn’t provide ELs with the skills they need to become better independent learners.

    So which vocabulary words should be used to teach ELs, and how should those words be introduced and practiced? For answers, we spoke with Dr. Sydney Snyder, principal associate at SupportEd and co-author of Unlocking English Learners’ Potential.Dr. Snyder has 15 years of experience teaching ELs, both in the U.S. and abroad.

    Question: How do I decide which words to teach ELs?

    Sydney Snyder:In a synthesis of research-based strategies for teaching academic content to ELs, Scott Baker and his panel of researchers recommend teaching a small set of academic vocabulary intensively over the course of several days. This means, in general, that five to eight words, but no more than 10 words, is appropriate. These words should be selected from a short text that aligns to the content being discussed in class. Baker recommends selecting words that are:

    • Are key to understanding the text and likely unfamiliar to students,
    • Are frequently used in the text,
    • Are used across disciplines (general academic vocabulary),
    • Are multiple meanings, and
    • Have affixes (prefixes or suffixes).

    In order to further narrow down words for intensive focus, it can be helpful to pre-assess student understanding of key vocabulary. You can use pre-assessments to select the priority vocabulary and also as a tool to differentiate new vocabulary lists for ELs of varying proficiency levels. In other words, not all students are going to need practise with the same words. Possible pre-assessment strategies might include:

    • Having students do a self-assessment in which they rate their understanding and ability to use new vocabulary (see Figure 1).
    • Having students match words and their definitions.
    • Asking students to do a word or concept sort.
    • A word or concept sort involves having students sort key terms into categories that either you provide or that they determine on their own.

    Example Student Assessment

    Colourín Colorado provides a video of this strategy in action, which you can see below:

    As you are deciding which words to select for in-depth focus, you can also identify words that you will quickly teach while reading the text with your students. Words for a quick explanation usually:

    • Require minimal teaching time,
    • Can be taught with a visual, synonym, simple definition, or example, and
    • Are not essential to understanding the text.

    Once you have determined which words you will focus on for in-depth instruction, Diane Staehr Fenner and I recommend using the following framework for vocabulary instruction.

    Example of wocabulary instruction framework

    Q:What are some strategies I can use to introduce new vocabulary?

    SS:When introducing new vocabulary, it is important that students have an opportunity to explore that vocabulary in varied ways. It’s essential to provide (or have students write) a student-friendly definition. You don’t want the definition to be more complicated than the word itself, though. The definition should be aligned to the meaning of the word as it is used in the text or the content being learned. is one resource for developing student-friendly definitions as this website provides definitions at the beginner, intermediate, and advanced level.

    In addition to a simple and accurate definition, you can also consider using visuals, gestures, examples and non-examples, synonyms and antonyms, and translations in home languages. When providing translations, it’s important to remember that even if students are literate in their home languages, they may not understand the meaning of academic words in their home language. While some academic words can be easily introduced with images and a short definition, more abstract vocabulary may present a challenge for both ELs and non-Els. To support deeper understanding of such vocabulary, you will need to offer students an opportunity to provide examples and non- examples of the word and use the word in authentic discussions. For example, if you were exploring the word justice, you might provide scenarios to students and discuss whether the individuals in the scenario received justice and then ask them to come up with their own scenarios in pairs or small groups. Using a Frayer model can be another effective way to explore abstract vocabulary words and phrases with Els (see Figure 2).

    Frayer Model Chart

    This article originally appeared on Education.comOn June 4, 2018. It was last updated on Sept. 12, 2018.

    About the Author

    Dr. Sydney Snyder has over fifteen years experience working with English learners and their families in the U.S. and abroad. She began her teaching career as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guinea, West Africa and since then has worked with both elementary and high school students in US public schools. Most recently she served as the K-12 ESOL Curriculum and Instruction Resource Teacher for the City of Falls Church, VA school district.

    Practical Steps to scaffold English Learners

    On February 13, hosted a webinar with Dr. Diane Staehr Fenner, co-author of Unlocking English Learners’ Potential: Strategies for Making Content Accessible. Along with Heather Anderson, 2016 Oregon Teacher of the Year, Dr. Fenner led the session through a host of practical ways to help English Learners (ELs) succeed in the classroom.

    During the webinar,Dr. Fenner introduced five practical steps to scaffolding for English learners. (She also provided tools, Which can be downloaded here.)

    1. Know your ELs
    There is great diversity among ELs. Before you can successfully plan instruction and scaffolds for students, you must learn more about your specific students’ strengths and areas of growth. Begin by assessing your ELs’ level of proficiency in English and gather information about your students’ ability to read and write in their home language. If your students are new to the United States, try to connect with parents to determine what educational experiences they had in their home country.

    In addition, it helps to find time to connect with you EL students and gain a better sense of their experiences, their likes and dislikes. As Dr. Fenner stressed on the webinar, it’s important to operate from an assets-perspective and start with getting to know all the things our EL students can do.

    Watch Dr. Fenner discuss the importance of knowing your ELs:

    2. Identify needed language and/or skills
    When planning for individual lessons, consider the academic language and skills your students will need in order to effectively participate in the lesson. Think about language demands at the word, sentence, and discourse level. Consider vocabulary, syntax, structural, and sequencing skills. After identifying which language and/or skills students will need, it is time to plan your lesson and corresponding supports for ELs.

    Dr. Fenner on the power of academic language and how it affects ELs:

    3. Plan the lesson
    Most likely, you will be planning lessons for ELs at varying levels of English proficiency. To help meet the needs of all ELs, consider scaffolds that you can provide for beginning, intermediate, and advanced students. Use the chart below for ideas about how you can support students at all levels of EL proficiency. The scaffolds for all levels provide great ideas too!

    Planning lessons for English Learners

    Dr. Fenner on planning lessons for ELs:

    4. Select and develop appropriate materials
    When planning a lesson, think about what are the most appropriate materials to use with your ELs. In the webinar, Dr. Fenner presented various criterion for selecting materials, including connection to content learning objectives, age appropriateness, multi-modality supports, home-language support, and availability for access beyond school. She provided a checklist to use, which can be seen below.

    Develop materials for scaffolding lessons for English Learners

    After planning which materials you’ll use, think about how you can adapt these materials for use with ELs. For example, you could have students start with a short passage before moving onto reading an entire text. You could also pre-teach vocabulary or provide a visual glossary to accompany the introduction of new words.

    Dr. Fenner briefly discusses preparing materials for EL lessons:

    5. Make adjustments
    During the webinar, Dr. Fenner discussed the importance of providing and eventually removing scaffolds as students develop fluency. As Dr. Fenner said, the goal is to “use and lose scaffolds.” As your ELs make their way through lessons, assess how they are doing and adjust the scaffolding and materials that you provide them in response to their needs.

    Dr. Fenner on the benefits of collaborating on lessons for ELs:

    What steps do you take when planning and implementing lessons for ELs? Whatever your current process is, consider how you can incorporate some of Dr. Fenner’s ideas into your approach.

    Watch the entire webinar below:

    About the Author

    Lily Jones is the Learning Design Manager at She has been a year one & year two teacher, instructional coach, curriculum developer, and teacher trainer. Throughout everything she does, Lily hopes to make learning fun for both teachers and students.

    3 Great Tips for Teaching About Presidents Day

    February 13, 2019
    Lily Jones

    Presidents Day

    Presidents Day is coming! Help bring this holiday to life by giving kids a chance to connect to presidents past and present. Their ages and interests can guide your lessons on this holiday. Here’s where to start:

    Kindergarten-year 2

    At this age, it’s about relating content to kids’ lives. Start by teaching who presidents are and what they do. Use a K/W/L chartTo collect ideas about what your kids know and want to know. After teaching about presidents (try the book suggestions below), have kids share what they learned and add their thoughts to the “L” section of the chart.

    Presidents Day

    Once kids become familiar with the role, get them to think about what they would do if they were presidents. Preschoolers can draw pictures while kindergartners can fill in the sentence frame “If I were president, I would ____.” First graders could take it a step further and write an informational essay!

    2nd-year 4
    Kids in second and year four are ready to learn more about past presidents. Start with founding fathers like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Have children choose one president to research and use art -- posters, collages, etc. -- to share what they learned.

    After talking about presidents of the United States, tell them that schools can have presidents. Ask kids to think about what they would do if they were their class’ president. Discuss campaigning and have kids write speeches explaining why they’re the best candidate for class president.

    4th-year 6
    Fourth and fifth graders will likely have some background knowledge on presidents, so have them pick one to research. After learning about their president, kids can write a picture book to share what they’ve learned. Use the suggestions below to show what a book about presidents looks like.

    Also consider discussing the election process and how candidates are chosen. Have kids think about how it works at a school level. Challenge kids to create two different plans for electing a school president. These plans can be expressed using flow charts and pictures.

    No matter your kids’ ages, have fun learning about leadership as you celebrate President’s Day!

    Book Suggestions
    Ellie May on President’s DayBy Hillary Homzie

    President’s DayBy Anne Rockwell

    Our Country’s Presidents: A Complete Encyclopedia of the U.S. PresidencyBy Ann Bausum

    I Am George WashingtonBy Brad Meltzer

    I Am Abraham LincolnBy Brad Meltzer

    About the Author

    Lily Jones is the Learning Design Manager at She has been a year one & year two teacher, instructional coach, curriculum developer, and teacher trainer. Throughout everything she does, Lily hopes to make learning fun for both teachers and students.

    Scaffolding Instruction for English Learners (Part 2)

    February 6, 2019
    Diane Staehr Fenner

    This is the second part of a two-part post for teachers on incorporating the instructional strategy of scaffolding into their classroom.

    EL Illustration

    Question: How can I select scaffolds by ELs’ English Language Proficiency Level?

    Diane Staehr Fenner:Now that you’re more familiar with what scaffolds are, as well as the three different categories of scaffolds, the next step is to select and try out some scaffolds for ELs. It can feel a bit daunting to try out a scaffold or two if you haven’t done so before. So, I’ll give you some guidance to help out.

    In order to select appropriate scaffolds, you’ll need to know your ELs’ backgrounds, as well as their academic strengths and needs. You’ll also need to have a sense of the linguistic demands of your instructional tasks to determine which scaffold(s) will best support your ELs in being able to successfully engage with and complete the academic task.

    Selecting scaffolds can cause us to look at our instructional tasks in a new, exciting way. Instead of simplifying the tasks we give ELs, it is instead the nature of the scaffold that is critical for ELs’ success with a particular lesson.6As you consider how to scaffold a specific activity, think about the three categories of scaffolds that you may wish to include; you don’t have to include all three of them. (See Part 1 Https:// Your ELs’ strengths and needs will vary depending on the academic task that they’re working on.

    Also, please keep in mind that there are no hard and fast rules for selecting appropriate scaffolds for ELs of varying proficiency levels. Some scaffolds might be developmentally appropriate for all students (e.g., graphic organizers or pair work) and may be used as supports for the whole class, including English proficient students. It is also important to note that an EL’s need for a particular scaffold will vary depending on his or her familiarity of the content and the complexity of the task.

    The table below provides some general guidelines for you for selecting scaffolds for ELs at different English language proficiency (ELP) levels (beginning, intermediate, and advanced). This graphic is adapted from my scaffolding collaboration with Dr. Diane August. Even though this table provides a starting point, I always suggest using your professional judgement when selecting scaffolds.

    Suggested Scaffolds at Each Proficiency Level

    Q: How can I incorporate scaffolding for ELs into my lesson planning?

    DSF:Once you have selected a scaffold or two to try out with your ELs, it’s time to think a bit more deeply about how you’ll incorporate those scaffolds into your instruction. Our “Scaffolded Lesson Planning Checklist” will provide you with some considerations in doing so. In scaffolding instruction, I recommend you constantly reflect on the efficacy of particular scaffolds you use and adjust your instruction appropriately.

    Suggested Scaffolds at Each Proficiency Level

    Q: How can I collaborate to scaffold ELs’ instruction and assessment?

    DSF:One final consideration in successfully scaffolding instruction and assessment for ELs is to collaborate. As you begin scaffolding your instruction, think of other teachers who could support you in this endeavor. If you’re a grade level content teacher, you could turn to an ESOL teacher in your school for resources and advice on how to scaffold a particular lesson. If you’re an ESOL teacher, you could offer to work with content teachers to suggest scaffolds for particular lessons and assessments. You also may wish to offer to model the use of scaffolds in a particular lesson. Collaboration is key to successfully implementing scaffolding for ELs.

    This is a starting point to help teachers incorporate scaffolds into their instruction for ELs, framed around one chapter in Unlocking English Learners’ Potential: Strategies for Making Content Accessible by Dr. Diane Staehr Fenner and Dr. Sydney Snyder. The book offers a toolbox of strategies for teaching ELs and ensuring they can succeed in today's more rigorous classrooms. For more in-depth training on scaffolding for ELs, please see SupportEd's face to face and online professional development.


    1. Gibbons, P. (2015). Scaffolding Language, Scaffolding Learning: Teaching English Language Learners in the Mainstream Classroom. (2nd ed.) Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

    Copyright © 2018 LLC All Rights Reserved

    About the Author

    Diane Staehr Fenner is the Co-Author of Unlocking English Learners’ Potential: Strategies for Making Content Accessible as well as the President of Washington-D.C. based SupportEd.

    Scaffolding Instruction for English Learners (Part 1)

    January 28, 2019
    Diane Staehr Fenner

    This is the first part of a two-part post on incorporating the instructional strategy of scaffolding into their classroom. Check back next week for Part 2.

    Categories of Scaffolds and Examples

    With English Learners (ELs) numbering more than 4.8 million and comprising 10 percent of the general school-aged population, all teachers should consider themselves teachers of ELs. To that end, all teachers must have strategies and tools to support ELs in accessing challenging content while helping them acquire academic language. With the right tools, teachers can easily incorporate the instructional strategy of scaffolding into their teaching.

    How can teachers acquire these tools? For this, turns to the EL expertise of Dr. Diane Staehr Fenner, the president of SupportEd. Started in 2011, Support-Ed provides EL professional development, curriculum and assessment expertise, and programmatic assistance to school districts across the country.

    Question: What are scaffolds?

    Diane Staehr Fenner:According to Pauline Gibbons (2015), a scaffold is a temporary support a teacher provides to a student that enables the student to perform a task he or she would not be able to perform alone. This support comes in such forms as classroom materials and/or resources provided to the student, the instructional practices the teacher uses, or even how students are grouped during instruction.1Scaffolds will vary and change over time as ELs’ knowledge of content and academic language increases.2In fact, our goal when scaffolding for ELs is ultimately for them to be able to perform the task independently and without use of scaffolds.

    Scaffolding for ELs should not be limited to scaffolding instruction only, but should also include supporting assessments as a way of making them more valid for ELs. Imagine not only being instructed in a language you don’t understand, but also taking content assessments in that same unfamiliar language.

    While some may feel that scaffolded assessments give ELs an unfair advantage over proficient students, that is simply not the case. When you remove or diminish the language barriers that might be obstacles for ELs, you increase the validity of that assessment and can more accurately identify content knowledge and skills. An assessment does not need to look the same for all students, as students can demonstrate what they know in a variety of ways.3

    In scaffolding an assessment, for example, ELs at beginning levels of English proficiency may demonstrate their understanding of content through non-verbal assessments such as picture sorts, where ELs at higher levels of proficiency may benefit from using sentence stems or frames to complete an assessment.4As with scaffolding instruction, as students gain English proficiency, teachers can gradually release scaffolded support on classroom-based assessments.5

    Q: What are different types of scaffolds for ELs?

    DSF:Scaffolds can be grouped into three categories:

    • Materials and resources
    • Instruction
    • Student grouping

    Our “Categories of Scaffolds and Examples” table shares examples of each category of scaffold, though this list is not exhaustive. In my collaboration with teachers of ELs, I find that many only think scaffolds fit into the “materials and resources” category. Often, they’re surprised at the types of scaffolds that we consider to be within the “instruction” and “student grouping” categories. Sometimes, they’ve been scaffolding for ELs all along but just didn’t realise it!

    Categories of Scaffolds and Examples


    1. Gibbons, P. (2015). Scaffolding Language, Scaffolding Learning: Teaching English Language Learners in the Mainstream Classroom. (2nd ed.) Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

    2. Daniel, S., Martin-Beltrán, M., Peercy, M., Silverman, R. (2015). "Beyond "yes or no?" Shifting from over-scaffolding to contingent scaffolding in literacy education with emergent bilingual students." TESOL Journal, 7(2), 393–420.

    3. Gottlieb, M. (2016). Assessing English Language Learners: Bridges to Educational Equity: Connecting Academic Language Proficiency to Student Achievement. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    4. August, D., Staehr Fenner, D., & Snyder, S. (2014). "Scaffolding instruction for English language learners: A resource guide for ELA."

    5. Gottlieb, M. Katz, A., & Ernst-Slavit, G. (2009). Paper to practise: Implementing TESOL’s PreK-12 English Language Proficiency Standards. Alexandria, VA: TESOL International Association.

    Copyright © 2018 LLC All Rights Reserved

    About the Author

    Diane Staehr Fenner is the Co-Author of Unlocking English Learners’ Potential: Strategies for Making Content AccessibleAs well as the President of Washington-D.C. based SupportEd

    4 Ways Kids Can Connect to Dr. King

    January 14, 2019
    Lily Jones

    Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

    Monday, January 21, marks the 33rd year in which Americans celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. As you talk with your children or students about Dr. King, take a minute to think about what you would like your students to learn from him.

    While Dr. King lived “long ago”, as children might see it, his life's work and accomplishments still resonate today. Explore with children the connections that they can make to their lives. For example, explore concepts such as nonviolence, protest, and equality. Imagine how your children can put Dr. King’s messages into action.

    Below are a few ideas that might spark activities in the home or classroom.

    Discuss bullying,Both face-to-face and cyber. Work together to consider how to deal with bullying and issues of inequality in a peaceful way.

    Take inspirationFrom how Dr. King was able to spark change through the power of his words. Is there something around your school or community that children feel should be fixed or changed? Have children brainstorm how they can peacefully get their voices heard.

    Focus on collaboration.While Dr. King played a huge role in the Civil Rights Movement, he did not work alone. For example, to make their voices heard and to protest unfair treatment or laws, people would often march peacefully. These marches required a lot of people to work together. Discuss with children how people can work together to speak out against treatment or laws that might be unfair.

    Connect to the present.People around the world are using the power of protest and non-violent resistance. Share that these tactics are not just a thing of the past, but a powerful approach to change. For example, consider talking about how over 785,000 people around the world marched in 2015’s Global Climate March to show their support for preventing climate change.

    For more inspiration or information about Dr. King’s life, a few good kid-friendly titles include:

    Ages 3-6

    Happy Birthday, Martin Luther KingBy Jean Marzollo

    Ages 6-9

    Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.By Doreen Rappaport March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the WorldBy Christine King Farris

    About the Author

    Lily Jones is the Learning Design Manager at She has been a year one & year two teacher, instructional coach, curriculum developer, and teacher trainer. Throughout everything she does, Lily hopes to make learning fun for both teachers and students.

    Dashboard is now Progress Tracker!

    January 4, 2019
    Bill Walter

    The Dashboard is now called Progress Tracker. This exciting new tool provides tons more more detail on how your child or student is mastering each subject and skill.

    Assignments now appear in separate sections to allow teachers and parents a quick and easy way to manage assignments and track student progress towards mastery.

    New Feature: Assignments!

    October 9, 2017
    Kevin Nguyen

    Our audience of parents and teachers spoke, and we delivered; is proud to unveil...Assignments! This new site feature allows users to choose from our hundreds of engaging learning games and exercises to create assignments for students. See below for details and simple instructions on how to use this exciting new feature:

    How to Assign Games or Exercises

    1. Select a game or exercise that you would like to assign.
    2. Click on the "Assign" button.
    3. From here, you have two options: Add the game or exercise to a new assignment, or add to an existing assignment.
    4. If you're creating a new assignment, give it a name. Adding a description or due date is optional. Click "Next".
    5. Select the child(ren) you want to send this assignment to, then click "Done". You will see a confirmation message once it has been successfully assigned.

    How Children Can Access Their Assignments

    1. Your students can log in through your Pro membership log-in, or at by entering the Classroom Mode code.
    2. Once your child selects their profile, they will land on our main menu where they will see available assignments and due dates (if applicable).
    3. To complete the assignments, students click on the games or exercises listed on the assignment page, play, learn, and have fun!
    4. The main menu also allows students to see their progress in each individual game and exercise in the assignment.

    Track Assignment Progress

    As your child completes each assignment, you'll be able to track their performance in the Assignments tab of our Progress Tracker. You'll also be able to make edits to assignments from here, like removing games or exercises, or changing the due date.

    We're very excited about our new assignments feature. For us, it represents our continued commitment to making our products easier and more useful to teachers, parents, and young learners. To that end, please feel free to give us your candid feedback. We'd love to know how we're doing and what can be improved.

    Have a Smarter Summer

    June 8, 2017
    Kat Rosa & Blythe Tai

    Summer Learning Series 2017

    School may be out, but fun, independent learning is always in. With our Free Summer Learning Series, your little one can still build skills, gain confidence, and get inspired all summer long.

    Each week during the series, we'll release a new volume of curated worksheets and a premium guided lesson, designed by our award-winning artists and teachers. Instead of a lengthy reading list, our series is chock-full of puzzles, drawing projects, singalong songs, and animated games. Plus, we've paced it so that you simply tackle one week at a time.

    We'll help you navigate all 12 weeks of our Summer Series with weekly emails, so you never miss a volume—no matter where your summer adventures may take you.

    During the long summer weeks, too many kids lose their momentum, forget skills they worked hard to learn, and have a difficult time picking up the thread when school resumes. In fact, the average student loses about two months in maths and reading skills. Our program is designed in partnership with teachers to specifically address the skills kids need to make the transition between grades, from year one through sixth.

    We passionately believe year-round learning is in every kid's best interest. As longtime members will know, we've hosted all types of summer programs, from DIY camps to reading adventures. And we couldn't be more excited about what we've got in store for you this year!

    Our Summer Learning Series kicks off this Sunday, June 11th, so keep your eyes peeled for our first volume. We hope that you (and your kids) love it as much as we do. Let us know what you think—tag us on Twitter @education_com or send us an email at

    See the entire Summer Learning Series here.

    New! Guided Lessons, Exercises & More

    September 8, 2016
    Kevin Nguyen

    You may have noticed that looks a little different recently! We’re excited to reveal our updated look and introduce a few new exciting features that we think you’ll enjoy.

    Skills Organization and New Exercises in Learning Resources

    Until recently, millions of users visited us daily to download a worksheet or play a game. We took a close look and realized that our users wanted resources that were more focused around practising a specific skill. In order to better help parents and teachers achieve this, our expert educator team Reorganized our library of learning resources by skills. Now if you want your child to work on subject-verb agreement, you can find all the different resources we have that teach that skill on a single page, whether it’s a worksheet, game, story, activity, or exercise.

    Learning Resources

    Grouping our resources by skill also acts as a great tool to help parents understand what skills are covered in each grade and subject. For instance, by selecting year 2 and maths, parents will find that Number Sense is an important topic covered in their child’s grade.

    Finally, we’re proud to introduce ExercisesTo our collection of learning resources. To complement our games, songs, and stories, we’ve added maths, reading, and writing exercises for 3rd-5th graders. Exercises allow kids to practise skills using interactive graphs, visual models, and many other components that can increase conceptual understanding. With the addition of exercises to our existing early learning program, members now have access to an entire digital learning program from Pre-K all the way through year 6!

    Step-by-Step Lessons

    New Guided Lessons

    We’re extremely excited to reveal our Guided Lessons sectionAs an integral part of the new Our guided lessons section creates an online learning program that combines all of our learning resources into carefully designed, sequenced lessons that help kids learn maths, reading, and writing skills. Through guided lessons, parents and teachers can work with children or allow them to learn independently to build foundational academic skills.

    With over 150 lessons and growing, members can access our step-by-step curriculum, created by our team of experts that include national and state Teachers of the Year, accomplished curriculum designers, and veteran graduates and advisors from institutions like Stanford University and UC Berkeley graduate schools of education.

    Guided Lessons are kid-safe—meaning they’re entirely free of ads—and incorporate progress reporting, so you can quickly identify areas where your learner excels or needs help.

    Guided Lessons

    Teaching Tools

    Lastly, Our Teaching Tools sectionIs a quick place for you to access content that is relevant to educators, like our Worksheet generator, Lesson plans, Common Core resources, and more upcoming tools.

    We really think you’ll love the new Guided Lessons and updates to Learning Resources and Teaching Tools as much as we loved making them. We at love to hear what our members have to say, so please tell us what you think about our new look and if there are any other things you’d like to see! Tag us on Twitter @education_com or send us an email at

    About the Author

    Kevin M.A. Nguyen is Product Manager at, a leading online destination for educators of students pre-K through year six. He is a US Army veteran and learning designer by training. is Renovating... Sneak Peek of What’s to Come!

    August 12, 2016
    Kevin Nguyen

    Here at we’ve been working hard to bring you a new experience we think parents and teachers will love. We’ll be revamping the site and introducing new features based off feedback from both our loyal users and our brilliant education advisors.

    More details and full access to new features are coming soon, but we want to give you an exclusive sneak peek of what’s coming:


    Skills Organization

    Some people come to to look for worksheets or games, but sometimes you don’t care about the type of resource, you just want something that will help your child learn a specific skill, like two-digit addition. We’ve organized each of our 30,000+ learning resources by skill, so you can find all the different types of learning resources we offer that can help teach a certain skill or subject. (But don’t worry, you can still search for worksheets or games too.)

    Digital Exercises

    In addition to our online games for PreK - year 3, we’re expanding our digital offerings to include fun exercises suitable for 3rd - 5th graders to practise maths and ELA skills.

    Guided Lessons

    We’re really excited about this one! Our curriculum designers and experienced teachers have designed a learning program with an immersive experience that can take kids all the way from PreK through year 6. Complete with a points and rewards system for kids, and detailed progress reports for parents and teachers, our new guided lessons are the perfect blend of learning and fun.

    I want to assure all of our current customers that there’s nothing to worry about—everything you’ve enjoyed about will still be around. We’ve just reorganized the site to make it even easier for you to find the learning resources you know and love, and we’ve added some great new features to improve ease of use and learning outcomes for your kids.

    Stay tuned! We’re looking forward to unveiling the new very soon.

    Have concerns, questions, or thoughts? Shoot us an emailTo let us know what you think, or send us a tweet @education_com.

    About the Author

    Kevin M.A. Nguyen is product manager at, a leading online destination for educators of students Pre-K through year six. He is a US Army veteran and learning designer by training.

    Brainzy year three maths Has Launched!

    April 26, 2016
    Jenny Paradise

    Second graders can finally get in on the fun of Brainzy! We recently expanded our maths and reading program for kids ages 3-8 to include a new year three maths section, featuring games, songs, and stories.

    Brainzy Second Games

    To help us with our expansion into year three, we recruited experienced educators to identify the most important maths concepts to cover. Once overarching skills were determined, teacher consultants were brought in to help. Our education experts oversaw the execution of each skill in a digital context, translating the most effective hands-on, manipulative learning strategies into gaming experiences. We then tested our games in real year three classrooms to ensure their quality and effectiveness. Boasting 38 new games, our new sequences cover essential year three maths skills, including addition, subtraction, place value, geometry, measurement and data, time, and money. Fun and creative songs and stories put new concepts into contexts that help maths learners understand them in fresh ways.

    These Brainzy games encourage students to try out new skills without a fear of failure, and have fun as they persevere to master each skill they tackle.

    You can unlock our entire year three learning program on the Brainzy dashboard as part of Your Plus or Pro account. A sampling of our brand new games are available to play, with more being added each week. Check out a selection of our Year three maths games now. Later this year, we’ll add year three reading games to help your child grow and become a better reader and writer.

    About the Author

    Jenny Paradise found the perfect marriage of her passions and skills when she joined the team in 2011.

    Previously, Jenny served as a Web Producer for Extra TV, where she oversaw editorial initiatives and built a varied skill set for digital content production. She discovered a love for early childhood education while teaching English abroad in South Korea. Since starting at, Jenny has been an influential content creator for the company, lending her expertise to the site’s games, products and resources for educators. She is passionate about improving how kids learn, and enjoys empowering educators.

    Jenny holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

    Our Newest Partner: Clever

    April 19, 2016
    Todd Schwartz, Co-CEO

    This morning, I received an alert from the bank about a suspicious transaction. I immediately went to log into my online account, but I couldn’t remember my password. Because I change passwords so frequently out of paranoia, I was locked out.

    Most of us use logins for everything. For online banking, food delivery, retail, streaming music... the list goes on. We all know the drill. Type in the wrong password, request a new one, go to email to confirm, use your childhood phone number as the new password (again). Times have changed, and we can no longer afford to use the same password over and over again.

    Even more than the average person, teachers need to easily access all the utilities they use in the classroom. Clever, an educational platform for teachers, has taken this challenge on—imagine that.

    Today, we announced a new partnership with Clever, and we think you’ll love them. If you’re a teacher and you haven't heard about Clever, you probably will soon. As we’ve all seen, there are seemingly an unlimited number of new learning applications available for teachers to use in the classroom. This is a good thing, right? Potentially. New technologies also come with challenges—especially if you’re dealing with sensitive student data. Keeping track of all those URLs, apps, usernames, and passwords takes time. The Clever team realized these challenges, so they developed a platform where educators can easily choose applications and learning tools that support their teaching needs while eliminating the challenges of accessing them in a secure way. And it's very simple. Districts can keep track of what applications teachers in the school system are using, and individual schools can approve applications and products for use by teachers and students. No brainer, right? aims to be everywhere teachers, parents and homeschoolers look for educational resources online—including in the tech systems schools and districts use most. Between our more than 2.5 million U.S. teacher members and Clever being used in 1 in 3 domestic schools, it was a very natural fit. So for us, it was an easy decision to put the Clever login right next to our own.

    So if you’re a teacher and your school isn’t using Clever yet, talk to your principal about getting it in your district. It’s a great tool, and now you’ll be able to log in with your childhood phone number just once.

    About the Author

    Todd co-founded in 2007 with the goal of providing parents and teachers with high quality educational resources.

    Todd previously served as Executive Vice President of the IPG Media Search Marketing Services unit, where he built the team and developed a plan to consolidate the holding company's search engine marketing practise, offering tools and services to all IPG agencies. Prior to IPG, Todd co-founded and launched directMASS, a search engine and interactive marketing firm, and Rotomedia, a small advertising sales startup. Before directMASS, Todd served as Director of Sales for Ask Jeeves in the New York City office, where he helped propel the company into a market leader position.

    Todd received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Maryland and has served as an adjunct lecturer at Columbia University. Todd currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two daughters.

    New! Chrome Apps & Brainzy Classroom Mode

    April 8, 2016
    Kevin Nguyen is now in the Google Chrome Webstore! We’re excited to introduce two new free Chrome apps: Education.comAnd Brainzy by

    What does this mean for you?

    The appActs like a bookmark by giving you quick and easy access to the site and your membership without requiring you to log in each time.

    Brainzy by Education.comAllows your kids to start playing Brainzy games right away without requiring you to log in and access the page for them each and every time! Simply download the app, log in once with your Plus or Pro membership, and your kids can play, navigate levels, and even switch players all from the app. Closing out the app doesn’t log you out, so they can get back to Brainzy easily without your help.

    Brainzy Switch Players

    These apps can be downloaded on any Mac or PC that has a Google Chrome browser. They’re especially convenient for classrooms that use Chromebooks.

    In addition to the apps, we've launched a new feature in Brainzy for our Pro members: Classroom Mode! This has been requested by many of our teachers and we're excited to bring it to you.

    Pro members can now turn on Classroom Mode in their Brainzy Dashboard. When enabled, Classroom Mode lets a user customize Brainzy with a teacher and school name and generates a unique code their students can use to login:

    Classroom Mode Toggle

    Students only need the unique access code to login to Brainzy (Http:// They no longer need the teacher's email and password.

    Access Code

    After logging in with the code, the student will see the customized teacher and school name.

    Classroom Branding

    Classroom mode also works with the Brainzy by App, so your students can quickly get to Brainzy and start playing. We hope you enjoy these new features and we at can't wait to show you what's next!

    New Features: Workbooks

    February 1, 2016

    We've updated the Workbooks sectionOf! Just as with Lesson plans, search for and find the workbooks and subjects you're looking for with our improved search bar located on the left side of the screen. The search bar located here works even faster than before to look through titles, subjects, and tags including Common Core nodes for the workbooks that apply, allowing you to quickly narrow your search within workbooks. You can also use the navigation panel on the left to filter by grade and/or subject. Hold down the Shift keyTo click and select more than one filter. Workbooks Filters

    Now you can choose between Grid View and List View. Grid View showcases each workbook's cover image, plus at-a-glance info for the subject and grade. List View provides descriptions and other information to help you make your decision and compare multiple books on one web page. Grid View previewList View preview

    Visit the workbooks sectionAnd see for yourself! We hope you enjoy the new features.

    New Feature: Download History

    January 20, 2016

    We’ve just launched the Download History feature! With Download History, you can find and re-download the resources you’ve used in the past that may be useful again. For instance, if you teach the same grade every year, you can easily retrieve the same content you used in previous classes for this year’s students.

    You can find Download History in your account dropdown.

    My Downloads Dropdown Menu

    Search for your materials by year and month using the navigation to the left. When you click on a month you’ll automatically be scrolled to it. You can tell where in time you are by what’s highlighted.

    To re-download your content, simply click on the thumbnail. If it’s been a while and you’d like more information about your download, click on the title and you’ll be taken to its description page.

    Navigating Download History

    New Feature: Notifications

    January 20, 2016

    New Notifications Alert

    We’ve launched a new notification system which you may have noticed in the top right corner of your screen when you logged in. With it, we’ll keep you updated on the goings on of and your account including new features (such as Lesson plans, Learning games, and more), blog posts, account reminders, and promotions. Enjoy!

    As you can see in the image below, once you've clicked on and read a notification it will become gray. Notifications will remain for a limited amount of time; if you don't want to see a message anymore simply click the "x" to delete the message. Notifications Expanded View

    New Features: Lesson Plans

    January 11, 2016

    We've updated the lesson plans section of! This includes improvements for speed - pages now load up to four times faster so that you can find resources more quickly. To go along with that we've made the search bar in lesson plans (on the lefthand) more powerful. Try it out - search by author name, Common Core node if applicable, or any important terms that may come up in the text of a lesson plan.

    Now you can also filter by multiple grades or subjects. Want to see both kindergarten AndYear one lesson plans? Hold the ShiftKey when selecting grade or subject filters.

    We started out lesson plans by asking contributors to give us their best, tried-and-true lessons from their own classrooms, and grew from there. We hope these new technical features help you get the most out of that lesson plans content.

    New Lesson Plans Pages

    Printable Brainzy Certificates Added to Your Dashboard

    November 30, 2015
    Candice, Content Manager

    Achievement Certificates are available to print for your kids as they progress through Brainzy games or for anything worth celebrating! Simply log in to and go to your games dashboard to take a closer look and download your certificates.

    Certificates Starring Brainzy Characters + You!

    Brainzy is a maths and literacy program created by made up of rich stories, games, and songs for kids ages four to seven. Try out individual games or stories in the Games section of the website. For the full program go to your games dashboard, or, if you're not an subscriber see what you'll unlock in BrainzyIf you join.

    Save Worksheets to Google Drive

    November 18, 2015
    Candice, Content Manager

    Save any worksheet directly to Google Drive.

    Are you signed in to your Gmail or Google+ account? Then you're one click from saving worksheets to your Google Drive. Saving direct to Drive is an alternative to downloading worksheets onto your computer, emailing links to yourself, or using the Collect feature.

    We're happy to be able to provide this option for our users who have Google accounts; to make grabbing The worksheetsYou want even more convenient.

    Save to Google Drive

    12 New Borders to Finish Off Your Custom Worksheets

    November 10, 2015
    Candice, Content Manager

    Bonfire border on Division Practice SheetHiking Border on Fact Families Worksheet

    Twelve new themed borders are ready to top off any of our customizable worksheets. Head over to our Worksheet makerTo generate word lists and puzzles by putting in vocabulary words of your choice into Options, or choose Options settings for maths worksheets. Select a Theme to add a little, not a lot, of decoration to the page, then download or save to use your worksheets when you need them.

    Worksheet Generator Themes Preview

    Don't see what you want? Give us your feedback and ideas to help improve worksheet generator Here.

    Lesson Plans Have Arrived!

    October 21, 2015
    Jenny, Editorial Director

    Organizing for the classroom requires teachers to meticulously plan out each day, hunting for resources to complement each lesson and creating backup plans for students who need differentiation.

    We recruited over 70 contributors with experience teaching elementary-aged children from all over the United States to share their expertise. Working with a diverse group of educators gave our lesson plans a wide breadth of themes and knowledge, ensuring that all teachers could find a lesson that worked for their classes.

    To date, we have published 965 lesson plans and counting, moving forward to our goal of 1000. Our lesson plans cover maths, science, reading, writing, social studies, and ESL topics.

    "The inspirations for our lesson planning template included the structure of mini-lessons used by Lucy Calkins in the Teachers College of Reading and Writing Curriculum and the structure of interactive modeling developed by Responsive Classroom," explains Tatum Omari, the Director of Curriculum at "The end product we were aiming for with our template was one that incorporated best practices in instruction and that could easily be adapted to any subject area."

    Many of our lesson plans are paired with original content, such as worksheets, customized worksheets, workbooks, digital games and activity ideas. These materials help students practise the skills using a range of strategies, so there’s something useful for every kind of learner.

    Our new lesson plans help streamline the process of classroom planning by offering educators structured plans that help students practise everything from counting and multiplication to reading comprehension.

    Lesson plans are available for kindergarten through year six—check out our growing collection at Http://

    It’s All Coming Together: Check Out Materials

    October 16, 2015
    Candice, Content Manager

    There are so many resources on—where do you get started? We've chosen to focus on grades kindergarten to five. So while we offer content in the grades above, we really shine in elementary school subjects. Read on to see what we have and hear about what's coming soon.

    Our 4,200 activities are made up of arts & crafts, group games, and practise ideas for reading, writing, maths, science, and social studies in kindergarten to high school. You can find activities here: Http://

    Brainzy, our online learning program, offers 450 Common Core-aligned games for kindergarten, year one, and year two, with Year three coming soon. You can access a sampling of featured games, stories, and songs online: Http://

    Lesson plans are our LatestContent addition, and written by teachers for kindergarten to year 6 in maths, reading, writing, science, social studies, and ESL subjects. At over 900 lesson plans currently available on, we’ll soon reach 1000! You can view our latest lesson plans here: Http://

    Our 1,800 science fair projects explore physical science, Earth & space, and life science topics for kids in year one through high school. You can see science projects here: Http://

    We offer 359 workbooks in a growing library of academic skills and seasonal topics for kindergarten to year 6. Workbooks are written in collaboration with educators to cover reading, writing, maths, science, socials studies, and the arts. You can browse workbooks here: Http:// features more than 18,000 worksheets for students in kindergarten through high school, covering reading, writing, maths, social studies, science, and seasonal and holiday content. This includes coloring pages just for fun and fine motor skills, all sorts of stories, and even Common Core aligned material. Find resources here: Http://

    Our worksheet generator provides 17 templates to create endless worksheets for maths or reading practise. This includes word searches, crosswords, word scrambles, and matching lists with words of your choice. Worksheets to practise the basic operations and fact families can be customized in several ways, generating from 5 to 20 problems on a page for you. You can try it out here: Http://

    Signing up to for free gives you limited access to our most popular content including the ability to make your own worksheets, and you'll stay up-to-date with our newsletter. As an Plus member you get access to worksheets and answer sheets, worksheet generator, activities, workbooks, and science projects, a limited number of lesson plans per month, and up to three player accounts in Brainzy. As an Pro member you get unlimited access to everything, an ad-free website experience, up to 35 player accounts in Brainzy, and early access to new features. All levels of membership allow a certain amount of access to the content and resources above, and our Brainzy games sections and portal are always free of advertising.

    Stay tuned to the blog to see more lesson plans, great holiday content, a new grade level coming to Brainzy, material to meet your Common Core needs, and more!

    Welcome to What's New on

    October 5, 2015
    Candice, Content Manager

    Welcome to What's New! Here you'll find out about things we’re working on, like when we launch new tools or features on the website, and what seasonal content you can expect. Come back often to find out more about the parts of you already know and use, and upcoming features we think you’re going to love. Workbooks by Dover Publications

    July 16, 2015

    We're so proud to bring your favorite workbooks to print; put together through’s partnership with Dover Publications.

    “One of the main requests we have heard from our members,” states co-CEO Todd Schwartz, “is to make our worksheets available in a book format. So for the past few years, we’ve searched for a publisher that shares our core values—and the name that we kept returning to was Dover Publications. Dover has been in business for over seven decades and they have always made sure to keep prices low and the educational content high. In fact, they offer hundreds of books for children that are filled with the same type of educational activities that are found in our worksheets. It is also exciting that their wide distribution network will make our products available in entirely new channels.”

    “When Hayward and Blanche Cirker founded Dover in 1941,” adds Dover’s President, Frank Fontana, “they were determined to publish high-quality works at prices that were in reach of just about any reader. Our very first title was a low-priced reprint of a mathematics text, so we have been in the educational business since day one. Even our children’s titles help educate as they entertain since we publish coloring and activity books about counting, famous people, historical events, and more. So a partnership with makes perfect sense—we’re very complementary companies. provides the worksheet expertise, and our staff of professionals design, edit, publish, and market the actual books. Flipping through the first few titles, it’s obvious that the collaboration has been a rousing success.”

    The workbook series launches with 20 grade-specific titles, including Creatures & Counting, Adventures in Writing, Fun with Nature, Earth & Sky, Maths Mania, and All Sorts of Science. Each workbook offers 100 pages of worksheets

    Printed and distributed by Dover Publications, the new workbooks are now available at, Amazon, Books-a-Million, and other major retailers.

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