Improving Fact Fluency

Kids have to learn basic fact fluency such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  So the question is how to do this without resorting to the dreaded flashcard?  How do you learn and make it fun?  There are several websites that can really up the ante when it comes to enjoyment of this type of learning.  Pink cat studio has a ton of games, some paid and some free which work on basic fact fluency.  I use it all the time, especially with my younger learners.  Another platform that can be really beneficial for drills is Quizziz.  Quizziz is a platform that covers a broad base of subjects but the fact fluency games can be fun and motivating for our little learners.  Kahoot is another fun free game that I learned about in a teacher training course that provides fact fluency drills.  There are both free and paid versions of this platform and it covers a wide range of subjects, beyond math.  The most important component of learning basic fact fluency is repeated practice.  A little bit each day goes a long way.  Another critical component of teaching fact fluency is teaching strategies.  Strategies such as skip counting (2,4,6,8 etc) when learning multiplication tables can go a long way and other strategies such as the 9’s trick (a method of figuring out the nine’s table using your fingers) with multiplication can be very beneficial.  A final strategy that I would suggest is for students to practice with someone.  Over the summer, it could be a parent, sibling or friend.  Working and practicing fact fluency with someone can be quite motivating to keep the momentum going as well as holding students accountable for their learning.  Whatever method/s you choose know that repeated practice will cement the knowledge that your child needs to succeed!


Teaching Kids Vocabulary and a Love of Words

Teaching kids to love the English language and how to dissect words to discover their meaning is not always easy.  In my time as a teacher and then as a tutor, I have taken many different approaches to this pedagogy.  Most recently I have embraced a Unit 1-12 bundle on root words, prefixes and suffixes which has proved outstanding (Root Words, Prefixes, & Suffixes Units 1-12 Bundle by Literacy in Focus (teacherspayteachers.com).  offered through TeacherPayTeachers.  Each page offers short exercises on a new root word, prefixes or suffixes.  I usually keep these lessons short and focus on one affix at a time.   

Another activity that my kids absolutely loved for vocabulary building involved graduated paint chips.  I would start with a single word such as microscopic and then have students write synonyms based on the strength of the color and the meaning of the word.  For instance, microscopic would be on the palest pink paint chip and small would be on the most saturated paint chip along with variations in between.

I also like to rely on age appropriate mad libs to expand vocab and learn about parts of speech.  Mad libs has been around forever and pretty much guarantees fun for all ages plus it requires that students reach for words in their vocabulary

Finally, I have found using this “Words You Often Use” list (attached) to be invaluable for spelling and vocab with my students.  I usually leave it on their desks for reference as they are writing.  It is perfect for quick reference.

Preventing Summer Brain Drain: Some Tips

After the crazy year we’ve had many parents are wondering how to prevent summer brain drain which is nothing new in the education world.  There are some easy ways to approach this trend in learning:

  • Read to your child and have your child read to you.  This is hands down a really easy and efficient way to make sure your child isn’t losing the decoding skills he or she has already attained.  Block out a little time for this each day and you will be amazed at the results!
  • Engage your child with educational apps and technology.  There are so many educational apps and websites out there that are great for supplemental learning.  Although screen time often gets a bad rap, when supervised by an adult certain apps and websites can be great supplemental education.  Some of my favorites are Endless Reader, Prodigy, Quizziz, Khan Academy and Blooket to name a few.
  • Go on educational, hands on outings with your kid.  They will love the time spent with you and learn while doing.  Museums, zoos and farms are all fantastic learning opportunities.
  • If you go on a vacation have your child write a postcard.  This will help with handwriting and is not a huge amount of writing so that the child is overwhelmed or sees it as a chore.
  • Use everyday chores and tasks such as baking and gardening as educational experiences.  Both can teach basic math skills and a love of the task at hand.
  • Take a break!  After the year we’ve had everyone needs the chance to relax and regroup.  This will be a gift you can give yourself and your child.

Keeping things Green During Covid-19

Beyond getting some fresh air and going on plenty of hikes how can we keep learning green during this most unusual time, even as things are opening up?  I have found online academic games to be a fantastic way to enrich learning during a time when students are home more than usual.  Prodigy is a free online math game which challenges Avatars with math battles.  It is highly imaginative as well as being excellent math practice and has captured the attention of many of my little learners.  Another game that I love is Blooket which has a fantastic database of math and ELA games and beyond.  This is also free and they seem to be adding games which keeps it interesting.  Quizziz is another great learning platform that I purchased but is a quiz show type game with a huge database of academic quizzes.  As an author, you can also create your own quizzes.  The students that I teach like this game for the content as well as because at different points in the game there are available powers such as time eraser (erasing the timer) and 2X the points for 1 question to keep it interesting.  Finally, padlet is a free learning platform which is great for creating timelines, image boards and more. As a tutor I have found it fun to incorporate a digital recess online in which students can discuss a question of the week or an item of the week such as a favorite toy.  Although we are all struggling to determine how much screen time to allow, the Internet makes it so that learning can be fun and educational.  And following all of this online learning, I have never underestimated the benefit of a good hike with my own daughter!