Top TPT Wishlisted Products for 1st Grade

If you're anything like me, the searching process for the best products and deals on Teachers Pay Teachers can take forever! Who has that kind of time during the week? So, I've linked up with Daisy Designs and several other sellers to share with you our most wish listed, must have, rock your world products
My Highlight & Record Bundle is by far the most wish listed item in my next top 4 are the individual units! More importantly, they are the most requested word work activity in my own first grade classroom...nothing says success more than a 6 year old's approval!

What is it?

The Highlight and Record series is a set of phonics/fluency pages designed for K-2 students, intervention groups, and ELL students. Students search for a specific spelling pattern/word family at both the sentence level and story level. Some pages focus on individual sounds while others allow students to search and sort sounds.  
This bundle includes all 4 individual products (Short Vowels, Long Vowels, Blends/Digraphs, and R-Controlled Vowels), along with any sets added in the future. Here is an example from the Short Vowel Set.

Why is it a must have?

- Easy to use- Just find the spelling pattern you are working on and print!

- Easy to differentiate- I print a variety of pages for each of my spelling groups based on their needs (short vowels, blends, digraphs, long vowels, etc.)

- Engaging! My kids go bananas for using a highlighter! Seriously....

- Meaningful practice- Rather than just memorize a list of spelling words, students can find the spelling pattern in context.

My next most commonly wish listed item is my Munchin' on Missing Punctuation literacy center.

What is it?

This literacy station comes with pre-made sentences on the shape of potato chips. Simply print the chips (and store in a Pringles container if you want) and have students decide if the sentences need a period or question mark. I like to have my students sort them into mini bowls or onto labeled paper plates. Blackline chips are also included to print onto colored paper if you prefer.

Why is it a must have?

If your students are anything like mine, they ALWAYS seem to forget to use punctuation marks. When they do, it's not necessarily the correct one. This FUN game gives them the practice they need while having a good time. Plus, who doesn't like chips? ;)
Finally, my third most commonly wish listed item is my Popcorn Counting to 120 Math Center.

What is it?

This math center was designed for first grade students and uses numbers up to 120. However, K-2 students can use it based on their needs. Simply print the popcorn and popcorn box pieces for an easy math center. Students match the fill in the blank boxes with the missing popcorn pieces to practice counting, ordering numbers, number recognition, and more!

Why is it a must have?

Counting is such a foundational skill! Rather than constantly drilling, allow your students to have some fun with this popcorn themed game. I store my pieces in a popcorn box for even more excitement. This is just of my counting games which can now be found in a year long bundle, including a winter version!

Writing Inspiration with Napkin Books

I am always trying to find creative ways to inspire my students when it comes to writing time.  The struggle is real for some of my kiddos, just to even get started! Napkin books are for sure one of my favorite ways to motivate my students to write and using them is something I have done in my classroom for years.

Napkin books are exactly what they sound like! Simply find any themed or decorative napkin and staple paper inside. The napkin then becomes the cover of the book and turns a regular writing topic into a “fancy” published piece that students will beg to complete! (Seriously, my kids are obsessed…which I consider a #teacherwin!)

Sometimes I put lined paper with prompts inside, and other times I just staple blank paper inside. 

• Brainstorming made easy! Many students struggle with brainstorming topics to write about and spend the majority of their independent writing time “thinking” rather than writing. Having a fun cover or writing prompt guides them in a direction so they can begin the actual writing process quicker.

• Get over the fear of a blank page! Students who get overwhelmed at the thought of writing will find comfort in the pictures, lines, or prompts being there to help them get started rather than a big empty page. Plus, the napkin inspires students and gives them a starting place.

• Spice up Work on Writing time! Many students get tired of the same writing journal routine each day. Add some color, creativity, and inspiration. 

• Students love having their work published! When students feel that their work is important and special, they are more likely to put forth their best effort. Students can easily create their own books to share with family and friends. Or, you can create class books.

• Students can be creative! One napkin design can be used for dozens of writing possibilities, everyone can come up with something unique, and as teachers you can cater it for the style of writing you happen to be working on at the time (opinion, narrative, informational, etc.).

• Practice handwriting and fine motor skills! In the past I have always just stapled blank printer paper inside of my themed napkins. However, this year I wanted to provide the support of lined paper for my students who needed extra handwriting practice and had trouble organizing their sentences visually when using blank paper. You can see a collection of writing prompt pages for napkin books here

1) Buy themed/decorative napkins. I like to buy mine at the Dollar Store or when they are on clearance after a holiday to stock up for the next year. Craft stores are also great places to find them. I have used everything from Disney themed napkins, sports, holiday, birthday, food, and more. 

2) Put the style of paper in that best fits your purpose. You can put blank paper inside of books, colored paper, or writing prompt pages. If you are interested in taking the work out of creating them, I have designed dozens of writing prompts. Simply print the pages (in 1/2 or 1/4 sheet sizes based on the napkins you buy). You can create books on one topic or combine several prompt pages to allow for student choice. 

3) Staple booklets together. Add a few staples to the top to secure pages.

4) Write. Allow students to create their own themed napkin books. Students could also add themed stickers to enhance illustrations.

Since one napkin design can be used for dozens of writing topics and styles, the possibilities are really endless. As teachers you can also cater the books for the type of writing you happen to be working on at the time (opinion, narrative, informational, etc.).

• Work on Writing- Students choose from a variety of prompts and napkin designs for an independent writing activity or literacy center.  I like to set out a box of pre-stapled books and let my students choose which one inspires them the most.

• Final draft/published books- If you guide students through the writing process with drafting, revising, and editing, napkin books are a great (an inexpensive) way to have students publish their final versions.

• Class books- Create a class book by passing out one copy of the page you want to each child. Once everyone has completed their page you can combine them into one class book. Create and save books in your classroom library throughout the year. Students will love reading each other’s work.

• Gift ideas- Depending on the topic, you can easily have students create a book to give away as a holiday gift or for other special occasions. Friends and families love having something handmade!

hope you were able to find a few ideas on how you can use napkin books in your own classroom. My students love them and I hope yours will too. 

If you are interested in any of the products used in this post you can find them here:


Back to School in 1st Grade

Hello there!
It's been a crazy busy past few weeks! I always think I'm tired at the end of the school year...and then back to school season happens! I'm going to share a few of our new favorites so far and what's been going on in my first grade classroom.

 Disclaimer- this post contains affiliate links which means that I earn a small amount when you make purchases (at no extra cost to you). However, my promise to you is that I am only sharing my honest opinions and I will never promote something I do not believe in.

The biggest success during our math time were number puzzles. I simply bought a bunch of 100 piece puzzles from Dollar Tree and numbered the pieces 1-100. The most complicated part was finding the time to put them together first! I am storing each puzzle in a zipper pencil pouch. I also cut the main image off of the puzzle box and put it in the pouch so they know what they are working towards. 

Each day during arrival and math center time my kids have been building number sense skills by putting these puzzles together. I was surprised last year with how many of my students had never put a puzzle together before so in addition to practicing counting, they are also increasing spatial awareness. I think I will also get a few with less pieces so they can be completed quicker. Even my students who struggle with numbers are getting better at recognizing the order. Most importantly, they LOVE the puzzles and are so engaged and focused when working on them.

We are continuing our getting to know you activities by playing Find Someone Who games. Even though we've practiced learning names since the beginning of the year, it never hurts! Plus, they are learning how to write and spell each other's name. I like having my kiddos learn about what they have in common with new classmates and fun facts.

We also began literacy rotations this week now that I have some more of their baseline data. I use Words Their Way for our spelling/word work, and Daily 5 as my framework for our literacy block. Guided reading groups have an ocean animal theme and WTW has colors. 

Because I have two sets of groups, I decided to make center clips to help them remember which groups they are in. I used Scotch Thermal Laminating Pouches and printed/cut out little pieces of paper to put inside each clip card. I love these mini laminating sheets! (Side note, I also made student computer password cards and lunch number cards and laminated them too because they are so durable.) To save the step of laminating they also have Vertical Name Tag Holders that could work the same way. I also bought Badge Clips to attach them with. My students love to wear their clips and I often catch them with them on later in the day just because. It's the little things in first grade that excite us!

We also introduced some new reading tools in small group. I have mini magnifying glasses (especially for word work time and searching for spelling patterns), timers, and reading trackers. I made some of the reading trackers out of popsicle sticks with google eyes on them. I also found drink stirrers and reading highlighter strips from Dollar Tree. My kids love them and they're really helping with the one to one tracking!

Finally, after a stressful week I have to tell you about my favorite new discovery! The Occupational Therapist that is working with 2 of my Autistic students brought in Mr. Fox, a weighted, lavender scented stuffed animal. Well one of my kids bonded with him instantly! The weight helps ground him and the scent is also calming. Not gonna lie, his EC teacher, Speech teacher, and myself have been caught sniffing the poor little fox a few times! 

Today I went to Marshalls and found a special section with these Warm & Cosy friends for $13 each. I bought the Frog and Sheep and am going to try them with a few of my other sensory/ADHD students. I think the weight of one sitting in their lap, along with the snuggly feel and scent will really do great things. I'll let you all know how it goes! They are also available online but Marshalls seems to have the best pricing I've seen so far. 

Well, that's about it for now! I hope you had a fabulous week and enjoy your weekend :)

How I Printed 2000 Copies for Free

Ok teacher friends, have you heard about the HP Instant Ink program?? Today I'll share with you how I was able to print over 2,000 pages (in color!!) for free and how you can earn free pages too. I will also answer some of the most commonly asked questions I have heard from teachers about the program.

Please note, this post does contain affiliate links which means that I earn a small amount when you make purchases or enroll. However, my promise to you is that I am only sharing my honest opinions and I will never promote something I do not believe in. See my disclaimer page for full details.

I'll be honest, I was a skeptic when I first heard about the Instant Ink program. I even had my printer for almost a year before I decided to take the plunge.  Living on a teacher's budget makes me watch my spending pretty carefully, but I have to say, this was so worth it!

The Basics

What is HP Instant Ink?

I define Instant Ink as one of the best decisions I've made lately...and a huge sanity saver! But, I suppose a more technical definition may be needed as well. Instant Ink is a monthly subscription program through HP that monitors your ink usage wirelessly. Then, they send you new ink as soon as you start to get low. You pay by the amount of pages that you print, not by the amount of ink you use. This means that you can literally print everything in full color if you need to!

What kind of printer do you need?

First, you need to see if your HP printer is compatible with the Instant Ink Program. The printers listed below are compatible.

I currently have the HP OfficeJet Pro 8620 which I love! Sadly it has been discontinued but they do have a newer model which is the HP OfficeJet Pro 8720.  I also just bought the HP OfficeJet 5741 Printer this summer because it came with one year of instant ink! If your printer is not compatible now is a great time to find one with all of the back to school sales. If your printer is compatible, you are in luck because it is super simple to sign up and I will walk you through the basics.

How much does it cost and is it worth it?

When you enroll in the program you can choose a plan that works best for you. The plans start at just a few dollars a month and the most expensive plan is currently only $9.99 a month.

I have the $9.99 plan which means that I can print 300 pages (in color if I choose) each month. Some months I have gone over my limit. In those situations I was charged $1 for every 25 pages I printed. At first I was worried about the cost but then realized that $1 was a LOT less than if I took 25 pages to my local copy store to be printed in color.

Also, when I first enrolled in the program I had 6 free months (I promise I will show you how to get free months too) so I can justify a few dollars in overages.

Now to the "Is it worth it?" part of the question.... To me, the answer is yes. When I would go out and buy ink I would easily spend $60-$100 at a time depending on how many cartridges I had to replace. Now, it would take me 6 -10 months to spend that much on ink using the $10/month subscription!  I like that I am not making large payments at one time. I even tried using refurbished ink cartridges in the past which were definitely less expensive but often gave me trouble. Now as soon as I run out I know that I have larger than normal cartridges waiting as a backup for me in my office which means that I need to replace them less often than before too.

Why does this work so well for teachers?

Here are a few of the reasons that I think this program works especially well for teachers.

* Teachers love color!- It is so nice to know that I can print full color centers and materials without having to worry about running out of ink or needing to use the draft setting. My room looks beautiful and my students are happy.

* Last minute binge printing is totally possible.... you never run out of ink! I don't know about all of you but I often occasionally put off school work until the night before I need something. Nothing is more annoying than happily binge printing when you suddenly run out of ink. Who wants to run to the store in PJs on a Sunday night?!? HP monitors your ink usage so as soon as they notice you are running low they send you more ink.
*** Also, I want to mention that I was sent ink a few weeks ago and have since printed almost 400 pages and STILL do not need to switch cartridges yet. That is how far in advance it's sent.  Plus, if you know you are going to be doing a ton of printing you can contact them (super friendly customer support) and they will rush you ink sooner.

* It is cheaper than office supply stores. I already mentioned this once but again, I am saving so much money by not needing to buy ink all the time or take pages to copy centers. My teacher wallet is happy.

* Change the plans as needed. Okay, just like we like to differentiate, so does HP. You can choose a plan that works for you and switch it whenever you need to at no extra cost! For example, if you know back to school requires a lot of printing then you can have the 300 page plan that month. However, maybe you are out of school for Winter break and want to switch to a lower plan in December. Totally fine! You can always switch back when you want to.

* One less thing to think about. HP does the thinking for you. They will send you an email when your ink is getting low, and when you are getting close to your page limit for the month. They also mail the ink right to you. Simply drag your tired teacher body to the mailbox and you are good to go.

* Teachers love to share and earn free things! If you sign up for instant ink and love it like I think you will, you will probably want to tell all of your friends. Of course you can share this post with them but HP also has a referral program that makes it easy for you and your friends to earn a free month whenever they enroll using your code.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I print?

Anything you want! It doesn't matter if you print a small picture, black and white worksheet, or full page photo. Each counts as one page. Also if you print something double sided know that it counts as two pages, just like the copy machines at school. HP monitors the pages printed, not the pieces of paper.

I have printed everything from last minute homework assignments to colorful classroom decor. I use my HP 8620 the most since it is at home and have had no problems with it printing on different materials like card stock. I have also printed on Avery Printable Magnet Sheets which are my new obsession. My printers take the magnetic pages great and it still counts as just a regular page. I also love using Avery 2 X 4 Shipping Labels to organize EVERYTHING in my classroom.

What happens when I get to my limit each month?

You can easily monitor how many pages you have printed through your HP account once you get set up. They will also email you when you are getting close to your monthly limit. If you do run out of pages you have a few options.

1) Use rollover pages- If you do not print all of your pages in one month the remaining pages will be stored as rollover pages (up to the total amount of your plan). This means that if you are on the 300 page plan you can have up to 300 rollover pages stored (maybe you save 50 pages one month, 100, the next, 20 a different month, etc.). If you need to go over your page limit one month and have rollover pages stored, your account automatically uses those rather than charging you. 

2) Wait until next month- Not ideal, but you could wait until your monthly plan restarts.

3) Keep on printing and know that it is still less than an office supply store. This is typically what I do if I have have used all of my pages and my back up rollover pages. $3 in ink overages is better than the $30 it would have cost to buy a cartridge otherwise or the hassle of leaving my home to print somewhere else.

Do I change the ink as soon as they mail it to me?

Nope! They will send you ink far ahead of time and you just set it aside and keep using what you have. You only change the ink once your printer tells you you are completely out (mine usually stops printing unless I put new ink in at that time). Also they make it super easy for you to recycle your old empty cartridges for free.

What happens when I first enroll?

If you are purchasing a new printer that comes with a trial of instant ink it will usually include directions on how to get started. If you would like to use my referral code we each get an additional free month :)

If you already have a printer and are ready to take the plunge you can click here to sign up. Again, it is a super simple process!

Once you have signed up HP will send you a welcome letter and kit that contains ink. Your free trial or enrollment period does not begin until you actually install those cartridges. This means that you can use the ink you currently have in your printer until it runs out and then install the new ones. No need to waste ink.

How do I get the best deal?

Teachers love great deals, I know I do. Here is how I think you can get the most bang for your buck.

* First, when you enroll in the program you can enter Promo Codes to have a free trial. The trial is great because you will get a feel for the program without worrying about paying for it. You can also use the code 3MONTHS for three months free. Remember you can cancel any time but I do believe you will love it!

* Enroll in the 300 page plan, especially if you are using the free trial. Print what you need to now, stock up on some rollover pages, and be able to print everything you need in color without worrying about going over your limit.

*Save printing your black and white copies for school and enjoy loading up on color for your classroom using your Instant Ink. If I am printing simple worksheets or homework I prefer to use my school's copy machine. However, I have also printed plenty of last minute black and white copies at home (ex. sub plans) when I was in a pinch.

Well if you stuck around for such a long post you deserve a pat on the back! I hope you were able to see the value in Instant Ink and are ready to join. If I can answer any other questions or help you get set up please just let me know, I would be happy to help.

Happy printing everyone!

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Math Tip Monday- Tips for Teaching Time & Money

Hi there! I hope you had a wonderful week last week and truly felt appreciated! This month we are going to share some fun ways to teach time or money during our Math Tip Monday Link up.

My school district (and the 1st grade Common Core Standards) doesn't place a huge emphasis on learning about money. While I still think it is important to teach, my focus today is going to be on teaching time.

Anchor Chart

First, like always we start with our "Who Cares About Time" discussion and anchor chart. We brainstorm why knowing how to tell time is important and which professions find it especially important. For example, time is very important in baking (setting a timer so food doesn't burn), sports (certain amount of minutes per game/time-outs), and at airports (making sure planes come and go without accidents). Of course there are tons of other real world examples!

Vocabulary & Concepts

Once we set the stage for learning I make sure my students have a handle of the vocabulary (day, night, clock, analog, digital, face, hand, etc.). We spend a day or two thinking about the order of events in a day and what we do during morning or night.

We then move on to the concept of seconds, minutes, and hours. To show the difference between seconds and minutes I have my kids jump up and down for a minute, see how many letters they can write in a minute, how far they can run, and more. I also make a conscious effort to point out as the hours pass and review what we accomplished in that span of time. As adults we often say "wait one minute" which really turns into 5 or 10 and gives children unrealistic expectations of time.


Once we have the basics down, it's time to introduce the clocks! I like making paper plate clocks with my students so they each have one. Simply use a brad fastener to attach hands on the plate and write in the numbers. I make sure we have practice reading the times I show (to the hour and half hour), writing the time in digital form, and having them manipulate the clock hands to show a specific time.

Telling time to the hour comes very easily. Time to the half hour however is a whole different story! To determine which hour it is when the hand is between two numbers I have my kids get in the practice of starting their finger on 12 and racing it around the numbers until they get to the hand. They can see that they passed one number and didn't quite get to the next.

I also incorporate movement when displaying times. Whenever they share the time the point their arms up in the air if it's an o'clock and crouch down the the ground if its _:30.

Centers & Practice

Once I've taught it for awhile we do lots of telling time math centers and matching. One of our favorite activities is a whole grade level scavenger hunt. I used my Pirate Telling Time activity but any clock cards can be used. We hang clock cards around the hallways and give each student a clipboard. They search the  area and record all times. Of course there's a prize for everyone! The treasure chest came from a craft store along with gem shaped Easter eggs I found earlier in the year.

I hope you had a great "time" learning a few new tips! Check out the other posts below for even more fabulous ideas!