Hi friends! Today we're talking about a big one... maternity leave! As I sit here writing this, I'm currently 9 weeks away from meeting our second child, a sweet baby girl named Kendall. So this is my second shot at maternity leave and I thought I'd share my process with you for how I planned and prepped ten weeks of lesson plans BEFORE I take my maternity leave.

Here's an extra tip before we get started.. I planned 10 weeks of maternity leave, but I will only be out for 8 weeks. I planned for the week before AND the week after, just in case.

Prep Your Lesson Plan Template

My first step was to start with a blank slate a.k.a. a blank lesson plan template. The most important part of this step for me was being able to fill in school holidays and special events that I knew I would need to plan around. 

As you can see above, I use a digital version of lesson plans that I created in Excel. I like this platform the best because it allows me to keep all of my weeks (excel sheets) together in one document. You can see how I listed my other weeks down at the bottom of the screen. Although I did mine digitally, I definitely contemplated using an old school plan book to write out these lessons because that is a great option, too! 

Make a Plan to...well, Plan

Step two involves the dirty work... actually planning all of the lessons. Here's my advice, start with the easiest part of your day! For me, that's phonics. We focus on a different spelling pattern each week so that was the easiest to plan. Think of it as a snowball effect, once you are a able to knock a few easy things off your list, your are going to catch momentum and find the energy and determination to get it all done. 

So here's what you do: 
1. Write down everything you plan on a normal week. 
2. Now re-write that list in order of shortest amount of time to plan to longest amount of time to plan. 
3. Start with the first thing on your list and get to work!

Best part? Take a break whenever you need to! The list will still be there when you're ready for it.

Keeping it All Organized

So you're working on your first planning baby step, for me that was phonics. I went through week by week and found the resources I needed and (1) typed them into my lesson plans and (2) stored the papers I needed to copy in the shelves below. 

As you can see, I have 10 paper trays that are labeled Week 1-10. I use these on a normal basis, but they worked perfect for maternity planning, too. As I find a resource I want to use, I store it in the appropriate paper tray until I'm ready to make all of my copies for that week. I usually keep a sticky note on the top paper of each tray that lists the date for that week (ex: Jan 7-11) and any other special notes I might need such as "Valentine's Week" or "Starting coins".

Copy and Gather Materials

So you've typed in all of your lesson plans and gathered all of your materials. What now? Copy and sort them by day and include all necessary materials. 

When I'm done I store the week's worth of a resources in an XL ziplock bag. If you are an elementary teacher like me and need your sub to change out guided reading or guided math stations, you may need more than one bag. 

Here's a sneak peek at both of my bags. Remember these two bags are only ONE WEEK worth of resources. 

Bag One

I put a copy of my lesson plans on top and my daily resources underneath. I didn't do anything fancy with the sorting by, as  you can see, I simply used a post it note indicated Monday-Friday. When I say gather materials I mean everything from hats for student birthday to mentor texts to station materials for the week. Do not make your sub go hunt for things, have everything prepped and ready! 

Bag Two

I used a label on the outside of my "stations" bag of what kind of games and materials I needed to gather for stations. Once I put the resources in the bag, I would mark it off. I also labeled my bags with what topics I was teaching that week, such as coins, to help me gather the right kind of station games. 

Organize and Store

Here's some simple math, I had two XL bags per week for 10 weeks of maternity leave.... I had 20 giant bags to store! Here's my storage solution... banker boxes and copy paper boxes. I was able to fit two weeks of resources (4 bags) in each box. I labeled the outside of the box with which weeks were included in the box.

Want more ideas on how to get your classroom organized? Check this out--->

Need easy "Click and Print" resources for a sub? Check these out---> 

Hi friends! I don't know about you, but the later it gets in the school year, the uglier my anchor charts get. I'm not even going to try and lie about it. Today I'm going to share with you my secret to having cute and engaging anchor charts without all of the work!

The Secret

I have two words for you: sentence strips. Sentence strips make it so easy to add a huge pop of color to your anchor charts which not only makes them more appealing, but it helps students focus in on the information you want them to.

The best part about using sentence strips? I write out my sentence strips ahead of time, but I scaffold the time in which I add them to the chart, this lets us actually build the anchor chart one strip at a time which helps give students greater ownership.

Go Simpler... 

When you are using sentence strips, you really don't need an anchor chart at all. Here are a few examples of how we use sentence strips instead of anchor charts to practice our word families at the beginning of the year!

Love these Word Family Flags? Get them here--->

Hi friends! I don't know what it is about popsicle sticks, but my students go CRAZY for them! They love having activities that they can get their hands on and is a little different than your typical math station. Here are a few of my favorite ways to use popsicle sticks as math stations!

Open Number Lines

Step 1: Give students one popsicle stick and three numbers written on clothes pins.
Step 2: Students place the smallest numbers at the top of the popsicle stick and the bigger numbers towards the bottom.
Step 3: Once students have the numbers in order, you can then start talking to them about spacing the numbers appropriately.

Want to make a self-check option? Write the numbers in the correct order with the correct spacing on the back of the popsicle stick!

Place Value

Step 1: Give students a set of ten popsicle sticks with ten dots draw on one side of each popsicle stick and one dot drawn on the other side of each popsicle stick. 
Step 2: Students pick up the sticks and drop them on the floor or on their desk. 
Step 3: Students sort the sticks into tens and ones.
Step 4: Students count the value of the sticks. It should sound like "10, 20, 30, 31, 32", etc.

Tally Marks

Step 1: Give students 20 popsicle sticks with the numbers 1-20 written at the top. I like to color code mine in groups of five and make one long mark on the stick that "shuts the door". 
Step 2: Students order the sticks 1-20. 
Step 3: Students re-group the sticks into tally marks using the chants "1, 2, 3, 4, number 5 shuts the door" and "6, 7, 8, 9, number 10 draws the line". 

Shape Puzzles

To make these shape puzzles, it is really beneficial to use the colored popsicle sticks but it is not necessary. 

To make the puzzles: 
1. Select desired number of sticks (example: triangle=3 sticks)
2. On each stick write the name of the shape, and write the number of sides on both ends of all of the popsicle sticks (example: traingle=write 3 on both ends of all three popsicle sticks).

*You may have to cut some sticks in half to make certain shapes like a rectangle. 

Addition Facts

How to Play: Partner One tries to find a popsicle stick that completes their math fact. If partner one finds the match and correctly answers the problem, they get to keep the sticks (similar to The Matching Game). 

*I put dots on the left side of every stick so they will know if the stick is upside down or not. 

Want a self-checking option? Write the answer to the equation on the back of the sticks. 

More Station Ideas

Hi friends! This week we are talking about unique ways to celebrate Black History Month for the first  grade classroom. There are so many great ideas out there and some really awesome crafts, but this is sometimes a topic that is hard to approach with first graders. Here are some of my favorite "first grade friendly" ideas!

Kid President

Who tells a kid-friendly story better than Kid President? Check out this video of him telling the story of Martin Luther King Jr. and his fight for all people to be treated equally. We always start our week with this great video to really draw in my students attention and get them thinking about equality. 

Interactive Anchor Chart

A great way to review what students have learned OR pre-assess what they already know is with an interactive anchor chart. I like to pre-make MOST of my anchor chart with sentence stems. This really saves me time when I'm in a crunch. Then, I have students come up and fill in the blanks, this helps them take ownership of their learning on the topic. 

Mentor Texts

There are SO many great mentor texts available for teaching Black History Month, and I'm sure you have your favorites. Here are two great mentor texts that you might not have thought of for teaching equality and helping young learners relate to the Civil Rights Movement and fight for equality.

The Sneetches

The Star-Belly Sneetches think they are the best, and look down upon Sneetches without stars. The Plain-Belly Sneetches remain depressed and oppressed, prohibited from associating with their star-bellied counterparts, until Sylvester McMonkey McBean comes along with his Star-on and Star-off machines.
(Synopsis from UMICH.edu)

Strictly No Elephants

When the local Pet Club won’t admit a boy’s tiny pet elephant, he finds a solution—one that involves all kinds of unusual animals in this sweet and adorable picture book.

Today is Pet Club day. There will be cats and dogs and fish, but strictly no elephants are allowed. The Pet Club doesn’t understand that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like friends. Now it is time for a boy and his tiny pet elephant to show them what it means to be a true friend. (Synopsis from Simon & Schuster)

Equality Lesson

Looking for a unique hands-on activity? Check out this free Equality Lesson from One Sharp Bunch.

Diversity Quilt

Diversity quilts are such an awesome way for students to show the individuality and then understand diversity when all of the images are put together. Here is an example of a diversity mural that the art teacher of our school created at the beginning of the year. 

There are so many different ways to make a diversity quilt and Pinterest will be your best friend in finding what works for you!

Directed Drawing

I have done this activity for at least five years now. It's my favorite way to wrap our lessons on Martin Luther King, Jr. There is an underlying lesson in this directed drawing.... I love to point out to students that everyone was giving the exact same instructions, but each and every drawing is unique and different, just like them. 

Get it FREE from Mrs. Miner's Monkey Business here--->

Kid-Tested Resources I Use

In addition to videos and activities, we always include a few fact finding resources like timelines, tree maps and other biography writing. If you need some great printable that you can "click and print", check these out---->

Hi friends! Today we are talking about the benefits of using beaded number lines to help build number sense with your students. Sometimes 100's charts or 120's charts are a little too abstract for our young learners. It really benefits them to be able to have a concrete representation of numbers and conceptualize numbers without actually looking at the numbers!

How to Make Beaded Number Lines

Easy, grab some shoe strings and colored beads. I put 120 beads on my shoe strings and alternated ten of each color bead on them. There are many different ways that you could do this, but for my classroom this is what I felt like worked best. 

Where and When to Use Them

We use our number lines all over the classroom. We use them in our math warm-ups almost every day. Somedays we use them at our desk, sometimes we sit on the rug, we use them a lot at our small group table and I also encourage students to use them during their independent practice time. Using these routines everyday have helped by students build fluency in a lot of different math areas.

The easiest way to introduce using beaded number lines is simply counting to 120. Always start counting on the left, the same way you write a number. 

Addition and Subtraction Word Problems

When we started using our beaded number lines to help us solve addition and subtraction problems, we started with equations to ten. We practiced different ways to make ten, missing numbers to ten and also word problems to ten.

As students gained mastery of these skills, we increased the rigor and started using three addends. 

You can also include some partner work, which would look like this: 

"Partner one and two, show me ten beads"

Once the two students figure out a ways to show ten, you would then have them write the equation to help them VISUALIZE the work they had just done. This can be done as a demonstration in a whole group mini-lesson, in a small group mini-lesson/intervention or even as a math station.

Place Value

To use beaded number lines to show place value, it would look like this: 

"Show me 43"

Student counts by 1's to 43.... eventually the student gets tired of counting and starts looking for patterns, then you show him how to move four sets and three more. 

Once students mastered simply showing 43, we move on to the drawing the groups of ten/place value we see, which leads into expanded form. Again, this can be done as a demonstration in a whole group mini-lesson, in a small group mini-lesson/intervention or even as a math station.

Adding Ten

Adding ten more can be a hard concept for students to grasp. In the past, I've always taught strategies on the 100's chart because it seems simple, go up for ten less, down for ten more. I would get so frustrated when students didn't get it. Now, I teach it using beaded number lines FIRST because it creates a better foundation. 

It looks like this: 

"Show me 43 plus ten more"

Students count out 43 and 10 more and write the equation. Then, we move our number line beneath the equation and re-group our tens. Now students can visualize the 53 looks very similar to 43 only now it has an extra set of ten. 

Skip Counting

Skip counting on the beaded number line is super easy. It's usually my first transition after counting by ones to 120. It is also a good foundation skill to have before you start teaching place value because your student will already be used to counting by tens on their beaded number line. 

Want to make it more challenging? Try this: 

"Show me 43, now count by tens to 113"


We usually only do this activity once during whole group when we are introducing time. We may do it again during an intervention group, but the purpose of the activity is simply to show students that a clock is also a number line that goes from 0 to 60 and starts over. If your student have already been skip counting by 5's on their beaded number lines then this activity will help them to make that connection. 

How to Plan Interventions

As I've mentioned several times, these activities can be used in a variety of ways, but they are a GREAT resource for interventions. 

Need help planning interventions? Check this out---->

Need more materials for math stations? Check these out---->

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