Welcome to Paula's Primary Classroom! This blog is where I share ideas for teaching and learning with families, friends and other early childhood educators. Please don't use the photos or text of this blog without permission, but please do use any ideas you find useful. Thank you for stopping by!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Shark Week Blog Hop (and Freebie!)

Are you ready for Shark Week?!  I'm excited to be joining a Shark Week blog hop for the first time, many thanks to Jenny at LuckyFrog's Lilypad and Matt at Digital: Divide & Conquer for putting this together!

I want to show you a couple of jawsome shark resources I've made recently, because summer and ocean themed learning just seem to go together!

Shark Math covers lots of first grade math concepts: measurement, graphing, addition and subtraction, word problems, and sequencing by size.  This one really takes a bite out of your math curriculum!

 Shark Patterns is great for a math center, where students can manipulate shark pictures to extend patterns (on a table top or in a pocket chart), then follow up with cut and paste worksheets to complete patterns and to create their own. 

If you're working on numbers to 100, these hundreds charts are super popular with kiddos!  Students read numbers 1 - 100 and color each one on the chart, revealing a mystery picture as they do.  I have hundreds chart mystery pictures for over 20 different themes, but if there's something else you're looking for, let me know, I'd love to hear your suggestions for new sets!

I also made this FREE resource for you - just click on the picture to go to my TeachersPayTeachers store to download it.  If you like it, please take a moment to rate it and leave feedback!
Sharks! Reading Fun includes 12 sentences and pictures for students to read and match...
... and a shark poster to display.

Thanks for stopping by and checking out my shark resources!  For LOTS more resources, ideas, and freebies, continue the blog hop and head over to

Saturday, June 4, 2016

My favorite tricks for teaching children to count money

Are your children struggling to learn to count coins?  A lot of children do - but it doesn't have to be hard!  Today I'm going to share some of the tricks I've learned in over 20 years of teaching.
This post has lots of fun ideas and activities to help teach children how to count coins. Great for both parents and teachers!

(Side note: I have always used real coins with my students because fake coins just aren't the same.  Fake coins cost more than using real ones - so why on earth would I spend more to use something less useful?!  Worried they'll be stolen? In all my years teaching, I had one single dollar bill disappear from my first grade classroom one time.)  Use the real thing!

#1 Start simple, start early, repeat often

Counting mixed coins is a pretty complex task - children have to identify each coin, know it's value, start counting from the largest denomination, count by 25, 10, 5 and 1, and be able to count on while switching between those counting methods.  For most counting tasks our children will have encountered, we;ve expect them to count 1 item for each number, practicing 1-1 correspondence.  With mixed coins, they really need a whole new set of skills!  So what is a teacher (or parent) to do?

We break it down into baby steps, and we take it slowly.  We start by teaching our children to identify coins and their value.  When I still had my preschool (yes, I did say start early!) I had a stack of 3 oz plastic cups, each containing a penny, a nickel, a dime and a quarter.  Part of our daily routine was singing and dancing, and I often included a money song, such as Show Me The Money, by Jack Hartman and Money Money Money by Rhonda Crigger.  As each song began the children would spread the coins on one flat hand, so that they could point to each coin as it was named in the song.
This post has lots of fun ideas and activities to help teach children how to count coins. Great for both parents and teachers!
I could quickly monitor to see who needed help, and point to the correct coin for those children.  When the song finished, each child poured their coins back into the cup, ready for the next day. 

As simple as this sounds, the children LOVED it - they got to hold REAL money! Frequent repetition meant the children had lots of chances to master the skill, and singing about identifying each coin helped to cement the knowledge in their minds.

#2 Skip counting is essential!

Way back in the olden days, when I was student teaching, my mentor teacher was AMAZING.  One of the tricks I learned from her was to teach skip counting from the first day of school, and to modulate my voice differently for each kind of skip counting (2, 5, 10, 25).  She incorporated skip counting into our calendar or circle time, and there were movements to go along with each one.  Movement helps many children learn, and helps keep the pulse rate up a little, getting oxygen to the brain for maximum learning.

When we counted by 2, we all held up 2 fingers on each hand, and alternated extending the arms as we skip counted to 20.  To count by 5 we alternated raising left and right hands (or feet!) with five fingers (or toes) extended...
This post has lots of fun ideas and activities to help teach children how to count coins. Great for both parents and teachers!
...and for 10s we reached all 10 fingers (or toes) up each time. 
This post has lots of fun ideas and activities to help teach children how to count coins. Great for both parents and teachers!

 #3 Have fun with it!

To really grasp any new concept, we need to play around with it for a while.  Another favorite part of our day was our math play time.  After lunch each day, after we cleared the tables, I put out a variety of manipulatives for the children to explore.  We sorted, measured, organized, graphed, built shapes - and yes, you guessed it, worked with money.  Here's one of the children sorting coins.
This post has lots of fun ideas and activities to help teach children how to count coins. Great for both parents and teachers!

 An even easier way to sort is to have a pile of pennies and a pile of "not pennies" - a concept you can apply to any coin, but also to shapes, toy animals, blocks... almost anything.

As a parent I found some other ways of making money concepts fun, and I often recommended these to parents of my students too.  Try "count it and keep it" for starters.  At the end of the day you probably have some coins in your purse or your pocket.  Pull them out, and choose some that you are fairly certain your child can either identify or count - you want them to win at this game!  Show them the coins, and let them know that if they can count it, they can keep it.  They'll be begging to play this game every day, and mastering a difficult skill as they do!  Start simple (see trick #1) with just pennies, then just nickels, or just dimes.  When they have mastered counting each kind of coin, slowly increase the difficulty by mixing nickels and pennies, helping them to count the highest denomination first and the lower ones next.  I like to let the children master counting 2 kinds of coins in all the possible variations before moving on to 3 and finally all 4 kinds of coins together.

To keep my boys on their toes during summer break, I put together some super simple coin counting activities for them to do each day.  When they were in the younger grades, I put mixed coins in a film canister (do you even remember those?!) for them to count each day, just like the "count it keep it" game above.  As they got older and more skilled, I had to up the ante - and not only by putting more and more coins in each box.  I would have quickly gone broke, they were great coin counters!

Our next game was "What have I got?"  Again, I would get a small pile of coins, but this time I did the counting, and they had to figure out what I had.  I would give just 2 clues: how many coins I had, and the total value of them.  For example, if I have 9 coins worth 53 cents, what have I got?  (4 dimes, 2 nickels, 3 pennies)  If they could figure it out, they got to keep it.  Guess whose children were really good at figuring it out?  One of the beautiful things about this game was that I would give this type of clues to my oldest son, who had to figure it out, and he then put those coins in a small container for his younger brother to count.  He loved the responsibility of setting it up for his brother (or maybe he just liked that he could do something his brother couldn't), and I really liked having his help.

Another way to take this kind of play up a notch is to have children figure out change from $1.  In my classroom I had some toy grocery items, which I marked with imaginary prices, and the children had to figure out how much change they should get if they "bought" it with $1.  It doesn't sound so difficult, but it's a completely different way of thinking about money.  If you "buy" a 37 cent item, you then have to count on with pennies to get to 40 cents, a dime to get to 50 cents, and quarters to make it to $1.  (You may also have a super smart kiddo who figures 100 cents - 37 cents = 63 cents, and then counts out the coins that way!)

#4 Use other resources if you need to.

Of course, there are times when we need help to teach these skills to our children, so I've also made some money counting games available in my TpT store.  The simplest one is:
Children work with just pennies, nickels and dimes, and count 2 - 4 coins at a time - great for early in the process of learning to count money!

Next up is this cool pirate themed game, because everyone knows buccaneers love treasure!
Included with this game are 96 coin counting cards, with mixed coins worth up to 35 cents.  The total values aren't huge, but each card includes from 1 - 11 coins to count, and includes many different ways to make each amount.  

For children who are ready for a little more, Bye-Bye Summer Slide includes counting cards for mixed coins up to 75 cents, and also includes game style review of sight words, addition and subtraction, telling time and much more!  I designed this resource to be reproduced and sent home with children to review during the summer, so everything is included in b&w, but the coin pages are also included in color.

 Do you have some nifty tricks for teaching children to count money?  I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments!