Thursday, November 6, 2014

Freebies! Buttons, Pete the Cat, Math & Literacy

Over the summer, a friend of mine posted pictures of her son playing with his grandmother's jar of old buttons on Facebook.  My younger son can spend hours sorting and playing with beads, jewels, and other small manipulatives; I knew he'd love to paw through a pile of vintage buttons!  I called my mother, who had kept a box that belonged to her grandmother, and she generously went to dig it out of the attic for us.  After noticing this book online,

I decided to incorporate the buttons into our schoolwork.  We started by reading The Button Box, by Margaret S. Reid.  It's a cute story about a boy going through his grandmother's button box, sorting the buttons and imagining who they might have belonged to.  Colby loved it.

He was thrilled when I put this button box in front of him!
I gave him plenty of time to just enjoy it, and then I asked him to choose one particular button that he really liked.  He selected a matching pair of shiny gold ones, and I gave him this worksheet:

He drew a picture of the button in the center, and then came up with five adjectives to describe it.

I asked him to imagine who might have worn the buttons, and he thought they probably came from some sort of military uniform.  He drew a picture of a soldier wearing the button, and then wrote about it.  
(There are several versions for different ages and writing abilities, and each version comes in color or black-and-white.)

Next, I asked him to sort the buttons.  We talked about all the different ways we could sort them: by size, or shape, or what they were made of, or how old they were.  Then he wrote down some of these ideas on this worksheet:

Finally, we completed this pocket chart activity.  Colby matched the button cards with the appropriate numerals and number words.  He loves the way it looks so much that we're leaving it intact until we need the chart again!

Who else loves buttons?  Pete the Cat, of course!  We read  Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, by Eric Litwin.   This is such a cute book!

We did some simple descriptive writing, with an illustration of course.  This page is from Team Sugar's Pete the Cat Journal Writing Prompts.  It's such a cute packet of writing pages, and so inexpensive!

This super fun Pete the Cat Subtraction Mat is a fabulous freebie from Learning With Mrs. Parker.  Check out her blog and snag a copy here!

We did some addition with these button ten frames and two d10 dice.

There are two different colored ten-frames for each number 1-10, so they can be used for adding doubles, or more complex addition.  (They're not all shown in the photo).  

We finished up with buttons and continued with Pete the Cat, moving on to Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin.  This is my favorite Pete book thus far!  No matter what he steps in, Pete keeps his characteristic positive outlook and loves his shoes.

Colby really enjoyed this cause and effect activity by Allison Palm.

It comes with these great pocket chart cards, which we chose to use on the floor,

and this follow-up sheet.  Colby got to choose his own cause-and-effect scenario for Pete and his beloved white shoes.  Pete stepped in purple paint, and ended up with purple shoes!  You can find these activities right here.  (Super inexpensive!)

The next day, we moved on from learning about cause and effect and focused a little more on color words.  This fun freebie from Made For 1st Grade is actually meant to be assembled into a class book, but it works just as well for a single student!  I knew it was coming eventually - poor Pete stepped in dog poop.  Colby chortled the whole time he practiced writing "brown".

We practiced AB, ABC, ABB, and AABB patterns with this awesome free worksheet from The Groovy Teacher.  Colby loves to color so this was perfect for him!

For lots more Pete the Cat freebies and DIY ideas, try this Pinterest board:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Vertebrates & Invertebrates (Freebie!)

Both of my boys are exploring life science this year, which means that their curriculum overlaps at least some of the time (thank goodness!).  Right now Colby is learning some basic comparative anatomy: vertebrates vs. invertebrates. 

Our classroom laptop is playing a larger role this year than it previously has.  Carefully chosen online games and videos can keep one child engaged and learning while I work one-on-one with the other.  I got a pair of good headphones with volume control (Kidz Gear Wired Headphones For Kids), so that the computer sounds aren't a distraction.

This video on vertebrates and invertebrates was great for Colby.  It's less than six minutes long, but it's well done and there's lots of good information!

Bobbie Kalman is a fantastic author of science books for children; we rely on her often.  Her name is one of the first searches I try when I'm trying to find the right book.  The books above are perfect for first graders studying vertebrates and invertebrates!

We completed this cut-and-paste sorting activity and added it to Colby's Interactive Science Notebook.  There are 18 creatures to sort; it can be a bit tricky!


Vertebrates included are: shark, frog, wolf, bat, walrus, chameleon, bird, snake, and penguin.
Invertebrates are: crab, jellyfish, butterfly, earthworm, scorpion, clams, spider, fly, and starfish.

If you'd like a free copy of the sorting activity, click here!

Another great book to try is Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons by Sara Levine.

Both of the boys read through it more it than once; it's a pretty cool book!

For more ideas and activities, check out our Pinterest boards!  Almost everything on our 168 (and counting!) boards is either free or DIY.

Do you have an awesome idea or activity for learning about animal classification or comparative anatomy?  Share it in the comments!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Little Red Hen - With Freebies!

For the past two weeks we've been reading fables.  We've mostly been sticking with Aesop, but I decided to include The Little Red Hen as well.  I like the moral of this story; though many these days would disagree, I think it's important for kids to understand that those who expect to eat should also expect to work.

 There are dozens of versions of The Little Red Hen out there, but we decided to stick with a classic:

the Little Golden Book version, by Diane Muldrow.

After reading the book and discussing the moral, Colby used sequencing cards in his tabletop pocket chart to show the steps the Little Red Hen takes to grow wheat and bake bread.

For a free copy of these sequencing cards, keep reading!

He also completed this cut-and-paste sequencing sheet to record his work.  (He insisted on coloring the scenes afterward, of course.  My Colby hates a black-and-white page!)

A copy of the cut-and-paste sequencing activity is included in the free download at the end of the post!

Didn't this come out great?!  We found the idea for the handprint chicken here, at  I love a good writing/art project.

The writing prompt we pasted at the bottom asks, "Would you help the Little Red Hen?  Why or why not?"  Colby's response was, "I would help the Little Red Hen because she asked."  It's completely true, too; Colby is a very helpful little nugget, and a request is all it would take!

For a FREE copy of the sequencing cards, cut-and-paste sequencing activity, and writing prompt, click here!

For my older son Hunter, we skipped the sequencing activities and went straight to the meat of the lesson: discussing the moral in depth.  After our conversation, I gave Hunter this worksheet:

It's a fabulous freebie from Kelly's Classroom Online!  
Hunter wrote about some of his insights and opinions regarding the story.  It's a great activity to extend any lesson on fables; scoot on over to Kelly's Classroom and grab a copy!

We hope some of this will be helpful!
You can find many more activities and ideas to use with The Little Red Hen on our Pinterest board:

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Interactive Science Notebook - Physics Freebies, Part 2

Here we go, more physics for your Interactive Science Notebook!  
(If you missed Physics Freebies Part 1, you can find it here.)

This page has a shutterfold on Potential and Kinetic Energy, and a cutout that says "Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can change form".

The shutterfold comes with definitions that fit on the insides of the flaps, and examples of potential and kinetic energy to sort and paste underneath.

Our physics curriculum includes calculating an object's gravitational potential energy in foot pounds, which is simple enough for even younger kids.

This flapbook covers the definitions of "pound", "foot", and "foot-pound", which can get a little confusing!  Definitions to cut and paste under the flaps are included.

This is just a simple problem to demonstrate understanding of calculating GPE.

On this page, Hunter cut out and pasted the cannon and cannon balls (and drew some cute background stuff, like grass and the sun) to show how kinetic energy is gradually transferred to potential energy and back again.  The cannonball has maximum kinetic energy as it is first fired, and just before it hits the ground.  It has maximum potential energy at the top of the arc.

(Two sizes are included in the download.)

The vocabulary words included in this flapbook are: motion, inertia, mass, friction, momentum, and speed.  The definitions included are from our primary text, but if they don't suit you, you can always have your student write underneath the flaps rather than gluing the definitions provided.

This page is one of my favorites; it covers the contributions of Aristotle, Galileo, and Newton to the study of motion, and there's also a staggered flapbook on Newton's Laws.

For this flapbook, the student will need to match each theory or contribution to the correct scientist and paste it beneath the appropriate flap.  Of course, your child can always simply take notes beneath the flaps instead!

(The download includes two options:  to print on one piece of paper, or to use two different colors as shown above.)

This flapbook on Newton's Laws of Motion comes with the Laws and explanations to be pasted on the corresponding flaps.  It also has frames that can be pasted on the undersides of the flaps, for the student to include illustrations of each law.  (I recommend doing the illustrations before you cut out the frames and paste them.  It's just easier.)  The download is designed so that the laws and frames can be printed on white paper, and the flaps can be printed on two different colors that will alternate when the books are put together (as shown).

For loads more freebies and ideas for your Interactive Science Notebook, try our Pinterest Board:

For more physics freebies and activities for kids, check out this board:

There are a lot more freebies on the way this year, in many different subjects.  Don't miss anything!  Consider following us on Facebook or Bloglovin.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Interactive Science Notebook - Physics Freebies, Part 1

Hunter kept an interactive science notebook last year, and I'm finally getting around to sharing it with you!  

It was the 4th year in our science cycle, and our focus was physics.  Our main text for the year, which I recommend to anyone teaching physics at an elementary level, was Level I Physics by Rebecca W. Keller Ph.D.  It is part of the Real-Science-4-Kids series, and you can also purchase the accompanying Teacher Manual and Laboratory Worksheets if you feel you need them.

Click on the photo to check it out on

For the actual notebook, we like to use the Pacon Artist Sketch Diary.  It's nice and large, with much sturdier pages than a regular notebook.  The best part is, they're nice and cheap!  Because they are so much larger than the composition notebooks commonly used in classrooms, the elements I design are usually larger too.  Most things will easily fit in a smaller book, though not necessarily in the same layout we use - you will probably have to put fewer elements on each page.  I also try to offer a smaller version of certain elements in the same download, so hopefully everyone can use them!

All of the vocabulary and definitions come from the book we used.  If the definitions don't suit you, simply have your student write under the flaps rather than gluing the provided definitions.  Vocabulary terms included in this flapbook are: physics, physical laws, force, energy, and work.

The first force we studied was gravitational force, and we supplemented the main text with these two books:


and this video:

Who doesn't love Bill Nye the Science Guy?

This notebook page shows that gravity pulls things towards the center of the earth from every direction.  In the frame, Hunter has written:

Gravity is a force of attraction between two objects.  Objects with greater mass have greater gravity.  Earth's gravity pulls things toward the center.  No matter where I stand on Earth, the center of the Earth is "down".

On this page, Hunter has shown that the Sun's gravity pulls on the Earth, and the Earth's gravity pulls on the moon. 

This basic sort reinforces the difference between mass and weight.  Often in elementary school these terms are used interchangeably, and while that's not always incorrect, I like to be clear that they are not the same thing.

This was a really fun activity.  Hunter completed this wheel, showing how much he weighs on Earth, and how much he would weigh on the moon, the sun, Jupiter, and Mars.  We talked about how his weight would change as the gravitational force changed, but his mass would remain constant.  We used this very cool free calculator from to find his weights on the different planets:

Click the pic to visit the calculator!

This is how we notebooked through our experiments!  I took pictures of each step and created custom frames for Hunter to record his hypothesis, methods, results, and conclusions.  We found this particular experiment in the back of Gravity Is a Mystery (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2).  It helps students discover for themselves that objects of different sizes and weights will hit the ground at the same time.  The shape of an object, however, can slow it down.

This page simply contains Hunter's conclusions from the experiment, and a staggered flap book called "Facts About Force".

The facts Hunter chose to include in his flapbook are as follows:

The Newton is the standard international unit of force.  Usually abbreviated as "N".

Forces occur in pairs and can be either balanced or unbalanced

Forces have a magnitude and a direction.
Example: 7N, South
Magnitude: 7 Newtons
Direction: South

(The download is set up so that it can be printed on two different colored papers, as shown above.)

This page has a lot going on!  In a smaller notebook, all of this won't fit on a single page.  Some elements may need to be glued into a smaller notebook the long way.

This flapbook comparing balanced forces, unbalanced forces, and net force includes cut-and-paste definitions to go under the flaps, if you choose to use them.

A rocket launch is the perfect example of unbalanced forces at work!  Hunter glued in the photo (which is included in the download below), then added two different colored arrows beside it showing the direction of the thrust, and the weight of the rocket being pulled in the opposite direction by gravity.  Underneath, he explains:

The thrust of the engines is greater than the weight of the rocket.  The unbalanced force shoots the rocket up.

Just a little rocket math here!  The first problem is simplified for elementary students and asks the student to find the net force behind a hypothetical rocket launch.  The second is tougher, but even a younger kid can do it with guidance and a calculator.  The main lesson for Hunter was how to plug two known values into the equation (Force = mass x acceleration, or F = ma) to find the unknown value.  We worked it out, step by step, with Hunter recording each step as we went along.

This page has eight simple problems for calculating net force.  The green arrows show force being applied to the box from each side, with the magnitude of each force noted (all numbers are between 0 and 20 to keep things simple for young kids).  Explain to the student that when the two forces are going in the same direction, you add the numbers together.  When the arrows point in opposite directions, you subtract the smaller number from the larger. 

In the close-up, you can see the forces in this example are equal and opposite.  The net force is therefore 0, and the forces are balanced.

I have a lot more to share from our Interactive Physics Notebook; I hope to have the rest of it up very soon!  Consider following us on Facebook or Bloglovin - there are freebies galore planned for the new school year!

*Interactive Science Notebook - Physics Freebies, Part 2 is now up!  Check it out!

For lots and lots of Interactive Science Notebook ideas and freebies, try our Pinterest board:

Or, for more free or DIY physics resources, this board: