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Promoting Literacy Through Play

May 21, 2019
April Brown

Literacy through play

You might be surprised to learn that children develop literacy and language skills on the first day of their lives. From the moment a baby enters the world, they take in information from their surroundings, including how to communicate with others. When children play, they learn how language works and how to interact with other people. As the saying goes, "play is the work of a child."

You can foster literacy at home by using these five tips:

  1. Create a Play-Rich Environment
    Setting up an environment in your home that provokes wonder, curiosity, and metacognition is easier than you think. Remember that less is more, and having too many toys or crowded spaces can overwhelm your little one. To foster uninterrupted play, try to:
    • Keep toys at eye level or below in the play area so children can access them easily.
    • Provide objects that can be used for more than one purpose. Ideas include: scarves, blocks, baskets, mason jar tops, ropes, pom-poms, spools, feathers, and bottle corks (these suggestions are not intended for children under three years old). Model how to use these objects in imaginative play.
    • Find a variety of costumes and props for dramatic play. Dramatic play provides many opportunities for children to practice language by explaining thinking and roles, creating pretend scenarios, solving problems, etc.
  2. Say “Yes” to Unstructured Time
    From longer hours at work to enrolling kids in lots of extracurricular activities, families are exhausted. Instead of scheduling an activity for every waking moment, say yes to unstructured time (also known as “free time”). Play is a building block of healthy brain development, and an important precursor for learning to read and write. So take your little one outside to dig or create a structure with rocks. Or if the weather isn’t ideal, set up a castle in the living room and enjoy watching your child’s imagination at work.

  3. Vocalize What’s Happening
    When you play alongside your child, you can foster language development by discussing roles, objects, and directions. For example, if your child has a doctor kit and wants you to be the patient, you can expand your child's vocabulary by referring to the tools in the doctor kit by their correct names (e.g. thermometer, stethoscope, etc.) To introduce more complex sentences, vocalize what you are doing in your role: “Hi doctor. I am so sick! I need you to take my temperature.” Remember that infusing language into social interactions benefits literacy development.

  4. Use Experiences to Expand Themes
    Build your child’s repertoire of play themes by exposing them to new experiences. Children “play what they know” and are unable to gain new ideas unless they experience them firsthand. So take that trip to the aquarium, spend time at museums and bask in the sun at the beach. Enjoy watching your child integrate these new experiences into their play.

  5. Be Present
    More than anything, your child will thrive if you show them that you are interested in what they are doing. When you value play, you show your child that you care about their happiness. When children feel comfortable and supported, they will be more likely to take necessary risks and try new things.

Resources on Promoting Literacy Through Play

Developing Literacy Through Play by Alissa Marie Mielonen and Wendy Paterson.
Summertime Solutions: The Benefits of Unstructured Play from PBS Parents
Building Language and Literacy Through Play from Scholastic

About the Author

April Brown (M.Ed) is a learning designer and education consultant based in Austin, TX. With over ten years of teaching and administrative experience spanning three countries, the driving force behind her continued passion for transforming education is the belief that teachers are the heart & soul of the massive shift we need in our educational system. She is passionate about developing inclusive practices, materials, environments, and mindsets. Check out her blog, Mrs. Brown’s Blog; a safe space to tell stories, reflect on best practices in education, and strive to parent from the heart.

5 Ways To Inspire Learning While On A Summer Road Trip

May 15, 2019
Sarah Zegarra

Summertime Learning on the Road

It’s May, so school will be out soon and summer will begin. That's a good thing. Most kids love the precious time off that comes with summer vacation -- they’ve worked hard during the school year and they deserve some unstructured free time to have fun. Also, the freedom of summer contributes positively to a child’s self-esteem, well-being, and creativity. When kids have free time, they often come up with their own games and projects, causing them to feel good about themselves, thus boosting their self-esteem.

But there's a downside: the freedom of summer can cause the infamous “summer slide,” where kids forget some of the reading, writing and math skills they've learned at school. Many students, especially struggling readers, go down in reading levels during the summer due to lack of practice. Math skills are also easily forgettable for kids during the two plus months of school break. A lot of teachers spend weeks playing catch-up in the fall to make up for the summer slide. To avoid this dip in learning, it’s up to parents to encourage continued learning during the summer.

Traveling can be a fantastic way for parents to encourage continued learning during the summertime, while also giving their kids a memorable experience. Whether taking the kids on a road trip to visit family, or hopping on a flight to explore a different state or country, the learning possibilities are endless. If you and your family have a road trip or vacation planned this summer, take advantage of this built-in quality time to incorporate some fun learning activities. With a little planning, parents can create learning opportunities that are so fun the kids won’t even realize you are sneaking education into their free time.

Here are five tips for parents wanting to convert a road trip into a learning experience:

  1. Research: Before going on the trip, spend some time with your child researching the place you are visiting. Ask them what they would like to know about the place and involve them in the planning process. For older children, encourage them to plan out tentative itineraries and figure out distances between sights. Incorporate math thinking by having them figure out the budget for activities, accommodations, and food. If you are traveling abroad, give your child a chance to practice converting the currency.

  2. Audiobooks: While on a long road trip, listen to an audiobook and discuss the characters, plot, and setting. Go to the library or bookstore ahead of time and have your child help you choose an audiobook that interests them and would also interest the grown-ups. Perhaps it’s time for your family to start the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, or you may prefer Chris Grabenstein’s nail-biting mystery Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.

  3. Make a Travel Journal or a Summer Trip Scrapbook: Maintain your child’s writing skills during the summer by creating a journal or scrapbook of their experiences. A journal is a terrific way to encourage writing practice. To further spark their creativity, encourage doodling and sketching as part of their journaling. Model this activity by writing in your own journal alongside your child. Consistent journaling is a healthy habit to get into as it fosters self-reflection.

  4. Board Games: While on the plane or in a tent/cabin, play board games that require problem-solving and math skills. Games give your child a fun, low-stress way to practice their math skills, such as adding or multiplying. Some games promote strategic thinking or spatial awareness, which also strengthens their math skills. Kids get to experience real-life application of math skills through these board games. See this blog post on math games for some resources on how to adapt classic games to your child’s level while also making them educational.

  5. Talk, talk, talk: Sign your family up for guided tours or classes on local art in the area, then discuss the experience as a family. Remind your child to observe and engage with the environment of the place they are visiting. Some trips are conducive to science conversations around landforms, habitats, flora and fauna. Other destinations are ideal for reviewing history. The crucial goal is to have rich conversations with your child, that center on the place you are visiting.

The most important rule of thumb to follow for successful summertime learning on the road is to follow your child’s lead. Be flexible as their interests will ebb and flow while you travel. One path for learning may lead to a completely unplanned teachable moment. Savor the spontaneity and go with it! The equation of “kids = curiosity” lends itself beautifully to another equation I swear by: “travel = learning”. You just have to facilitate these critical learning opportunities and let your child do the rest.

About the Author

Sarah Zegarra (M.Ed) is an educator and teacher leader who taught K-5 bilingual education (Spanish-English) in California for 10 years before joining as a Learning Designer. Passionate about project-based, whole-child, culturally responsive teaching, and integrating the arts into learning, Sarah strives to make the world of education a brighter and more effective one. She currently lives in Mexico City with her husband, three children, and their dog.

5 Ways to Bring Learning Outdoors This Summer

May 10, 2019
April Brown

Bring Learning Outdoors feature

As the school year comes to an end, parents scramble to enroll their children in activities to beat the summer slide. But did you know that pretty much anything you can teach indoors can be taught outdoors, too?

Check out these 5 ways you can bring learning outdoors for your kids this summer:

Scavenger Hunt shot

Plan Scavenger Hunts

Don’t worry if you don’t have a yard, take the scavenger hunt to the park instead. Scavenger hunts can be modified for every age, ability, and skill. Some ideas for scavenger hunts include:

  • Reading and Writing - Hide sight words (check out’s sight words) around the yard and encourage your child to read them aloud to you as they find them. Challenge older children to create a sentence using two or more of the sight words, or have them use a dictionary to figure out the synonym or antonym of each word.
  • Math - Collect addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division flashcards. Provide your child with a clipboard, paper, and pencil to solve the math problems as they find the cards hidden around the yard.

Chalk shot

Explore the Endless Possibilities of Chalk
Chalk is one of the best inventions ever. Why, you ask? The possibilities for learning with chalk are endless:

  • Reading and Writing - Ask your child’s teacher to provide you with sight words that should be practiced over the summer. Draw shapes on the ground, and write one sight word in the middle of each shape. Challenge your child to jump from sight word to sight word as you call out the words. To make this activity extra engaging, have your child jump like a kangaroo or waddle like a duck. Modify this activity for older children by using more complex vocabulary words, or quizzing them on the capitals of each state (write down a state in each shape and see if your child can name the capital).
  • Math - For little learners, write down numbers 1-10 and see if your child can find small items such as leaves and pebbles to correspond with each number. Help older children learn their multiplication facts in a visual way by writing down a multiplication fact (e.g. 6 x 3) and challenging them to find natural objects outdoors to represent the math problem as an array.
  • STEM - Outdoor classification activities are a great way to hit upon subjects like science, engineering, or math!’s Chalk it Up! An Outdoor Classification Activity is a great place to start.

herb garden

Plant a Kid’s Pizza Garden

A garden is the gift that keeps giving. The best part is that you get to use herbs from your garden to make a pizza when your herbs thrive! Here’s how to start a pizza garden with your family:

  • Prepare - Bring your kids outside to the section of Earth ready for gardening. If you don’t have space or a yard, consider getting a plot at a local community garden. Choose your seeds/small plants (pizza herb ideas include: sweet basil, basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary) and let your child plant them in the ground. Incorporate reading/writing by having your child create plant labels with craft-sticks, stones, wine corks, or clothespins.
  • Visit the garden daily - Encourage your child to visit the garden daily with their nature journal. Document the growth of the herbs by drawing pictures, recording observations, using measuring tape, and taking photographs.


Storytelling with Small World Play
Even with minimal outdoor space, it’s possible to create small worlds in old planters and tin cans. Young children will work on their language skills by creating names and adventures for their new friends. Mathematics comes into play as children group and count items (e.g. I need 3 flowers, one for each fairy). Older children can create a blog or book about their small world.

Create a space

Create Space to Deepen Knowledge
If you have a tree-house, fort, or cabinet outside, gather props to support your child’s inquiries. For example, if your child is interested in trees, use an old basket and gather an assortment of nonfiction and fiction books all about trees. Field guides, charts, and other classification resources are also great props to include in this space. Don’t forget to add coloring materials, sketchbooks, binoculars, and other materials to support your child’s exploration. Remember that all STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) learning begins with asking questions. Children are constantly wondering about everything; be there to support and guide them along the way.

About the Author

April Brown (M.Ed) is a learning designer and education consultant based in Austin, TX. With over ten years of teaching and administrative experience spanning three countries, the driving force behind her continued passion for transforming education is the belief that teachers are the heart & soul of the massive shift we need in our educational system. She is passionate about developing inclusive practices, materials, environments, and mindsets.

Acting on Assessment

May 6, 2019
Audrey Lee

Acting On Assessment

Despite what you might have heard, May is the longest month of the year. In public education we often referred to ‘The Ninety Days of May’ right around the second week of this month. Why? Spring Break is but a memory, Open House looms, but summer remains just a little too far away to be believed. May is also the month many schools are administering their state testing. (“I love testing!” said no educator ever.)

After two decades in public education, I can tell you exactly what happens when you say “assessment” in a room full of educators. Noses crinkle. Eyes roll up at the ceiling. Body language shifts and people look at you like you drank the last of the milk and returned the empty carton to the refrigerator.

Assessments, especially the big statewide ones, have gotten a bad rap over the last... hundred years or so. And while I will be the first to admit they are fraught with issues, let’s not forget assessment is a critical and crucial component of quality instruction. Assessments are an important part of the cycle that lets us know how our students are doing and what we need to do to support them.

There are two types of assessment. The first is Summative (think: summary, after the fact). Summative assessments include unit tests, chapter tests, finals and midterms in high school and beyond, end of year state testing. These are primarily used to determine what a student has learned after instruction concludes. Summative assessment is evaluative.

The other type of assessment is formative. To illustrate, think of it as forming an opinion, like whether I should eat that maple donut or not, despite what my jeans tried to tell me this morning. In the classroom, these take the form of polls, question of the day, anecdotal conversations with students, even a simple thumbs up or thumbs down, and one of my favorites, exit tickets.

Formative assessment is the bread and butter of teaching, if used as it was intended: to take in actionable information and adjust course. Unfortunately, often formative assessment is used in classrooms summatively. Teachers learn what a child knows or doesn’t know, but the most important piece (the adjustment!) is sadly missing.

Formative Assessments

But how do you meaningfully fit a response to the data you’ve collected into your day? Some (like me) might argue that making certain every student in your charge has the understanding needed to move to the next level is one of the most important things you do. But I also know the reality of teaching - so much to cover in such little time, with an ever increasing span of needs and an ever decreasing pool of resources.

Don’t despair. There are many ways to quickly and efficiently act upon that data.

Try this tomorrow:

After collecting your exit tickets, separate them into two piles - Got It and Didn’t Get It. If everyone got it, pat yourself on the back and move on. Have a chocolate. In fact, have the whole box, since you’re probably dreaming.

So now you have a pile of Doesn’t Get It tickets. Split these into two more piles: Errors and Mistakes.

Literacy Guru Doug Fisher likes to delineate the very crucial difference between errors and mistakes. A mistake is often made through lack of attention, like when we make a typo or calculate the tip incorrectly on the dinner bill. We know how to calculate the tip; we just made a mistake. Mistakes are easily corrected. However, errors occur when the student doesn’t know how to fix the problem, because they don’t have enough knowledge. This is an important distinction to make because as Fisher says, “Correcting mistakes while failing to address errors can be a costly waste of instructional time.”

The following day, return your mistake tickets to students and see if they can spot and correct mistakes on their own. If they really are mistakes, I’ll bet they can.

Assessment treasure map

Now review the Error pile. Look for patterns. What kind of errors are your kids making? Group the cards in ways that make sense to you, and decide what information is needed to correct these errors. Doug Fisher identifies error types, and if you want to geek out on those types like I did, read his article.

Finally, pick one error that is representative of the class. First thing in the morning, show off this error to your students. Remember that we are building resilient humans who persevere in their learning. So love those errors to death, praise the student who made this teaching moment happen for everyone, and provide the appropriate instruction to correct the error. This strategy is sometimes called My Favorite No, and you can learn more about it on the National Education Association's website.

After this becomes routine for your students, you may want to praise and celebrate the correct answers once in a while too, just to keep things interesting.

About the Author

Audrey Lee is Director of Curriculum and Instruction for She is an educator with 20 years of experience, most recently as the Director of Curriculum and Educational Technology for a school district in the Bay Area; a role which she held for ten years. Audrey is an expert on standards-aligned instruction and blended learning. She loves supporting teachers in their craft and designing engaging, rigorous curriculum. Audrey holds a Master’s Degree in Education from UC Berkeley. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband, teenage son, and nine-pound Maltipoo Luna.

Math Games for the Whole Family

April 29, 2019
Jennifer Sobalvarro

Math Games feature

Have you ever played a game as a family and someone felt left out? You know, when the younger kids are throwing pieces and the older kids are on their phone? Try these tips to make the game accessible to all players, and give them some fun math practice, too. Here are three traditional games with a twist:

Multiplying Uno

Game #1: Multiplying Past Uno
Traditional Uno is a fun game for matching colors and numbers, but you can add different levels to the same game to bring an extra challenge for older children.

  • Level 1: Have younger children identify the colors and numbers as they place them into the pile. If you have a toddler watching along, encourage them to say the numbers and colors, too.
  • Level 2: Challenge children to multiply the number on the card they are covering with the card they place on the pile. If they cover a red 3 with a red 5, they will multiply 3 x 5 to get 15. If your child is just learning to multiply, you can let them use a multiplication chart.
  • Level 3: Take the challenge to the next power with exponents! Have your child use the number they cover and raise it to the power of the card they place down on the pile. For example, if they cover a red 3 with a red 5, they will answer 3 to the fifth power, or 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3. Don’t worry, they can always use a calculator for faster calculations.


Game #2: Candyland Makes a Difference
Yes, it’s exciting to think about a magical land filled with candy. Add an even sweeter touch to this matching colors game when kids practice counting and subtracting.

  • Level 1: When players draw a card with a color, have them count aloud the boxes they move.
  • Level 2: Have players continue to add on to their previous number as they make their way to the finish line. For example, if they are on the 14th square color from their last turn, when they get another turn, they should continue counting up from 14. Highlight a hundreds chart to help them keep track of their last number, or they can write the numbers on their number chart as they go.
  • Level 3: Instead of using the color cards from the game, challenge your older children to use two, 20-sided dice and move the difference of the two dice. Since they may finish long before the younger players, have them complete the board two or three times in order to win.


Game #3: Sorry Substitutions
Saying “Sorry” is never as fun as when you’re eliminating an opponent’s pawn on the board. Since all pawn movements in the game are based on the numbers on the cards, you can add an extra challenge, or simplify the game, by changing the cards.

  • Level 1: Let players use the number cards that come with the game, but use a separate deck with a limited number of cards. So, if you really want your children to recognize certain numbers, like 1, 2, and 3, then you can use the cards with only those numbers. As your children learn more numbers, you can add those to the deck. Alternatively, you can use ten frame cards.
  • Level 2: Switch out the number cards for cards with number sentences (10 - 8) that ask players to add, subtract, or divide to get the number of places they need to move their pawn. Increase the challenge further by adding two-digit numbers.
  • Level 3: Make the math more difficult when you substitute the number cards for cards with exponents or equations that contain variables. Since some exponents may repeat, like 2¹ = 2, players can practice solving the cards quickly and memorize some of the applicable rules.
  • Remember, in gameplay the rules of the game are what all the players agree to. Feel free to change any game to make it accessible to each individual member of your family using some of these math-inspired adjustments!

    About the Author

    Jennifer Sobalvarro is a Learning Designer for who has experience teaching in 3rd and 5th grade classrooms as well as ELL instruction. She received a Bachelor’s Degree from Middlebury College and a Master of Education Degree in Curriculum and Instruction in 2012 from Tarleton State University. In addition to contributing to, she continues to travel around the world with her Army officer husband and their children.

    Using Graphic Organizers with English Learners

    April 23, 2019
    Sarah Zegarra

    Graphic Organizers ELs

    Graphic organizers are effective tools for teaching and learning since they are equally helpful for both teachers and students. Graphic organizers simplify teaching by putting content into a more interesting, visual format, while making the learning more interactive for students. These visual tools can help students tackle challenging vocabulary or help them organize and show connections between new concepts.

    Graphic organizers are especially helpful in assisting English Learners (EL) grasp and master content in their second language. A dense piece of text can be overwhelming for ELs to tackle, but when a graphic organizer accompanies a text, the information becomes more accessible and easier to comprehend. By creating a visual representation of facts and information, graphic organizers support student learning by explicitly showing the relationship between concepts and ideas. The organizers help students to make their thinking visual and take a metacognitive approach to their learning.

    Furthermore, graphic organizers can increase student engagement by encouraging them to interact with the content through conversation with peers. Have students complete a graphic organizer in pairs or small groups, and notice how the graphic organizer lowers stress while simultaneously requires students to collaborate and discuss the material together.

    For ELs who need extra support, provide sentence stems/frames or a word bank to facilitate the use of academic language as they use the graphic organizer. If using a more complex graphic organizer, fill out some of the sections in the organizer to give students a scaffold for them to successfully complete it.

    Below, I’ve provided a list of graphic organizers and how they can help ELs. They work across all grade levels and subjects.

    Vocabulary Instruction

    • Vocabulary Instruction Chart - A super valuable pre-assessment to check how well your students understand new vocabulary words. It allows you to tailor the vocabulary instruction based on their needs and prior knowledge.
    • Frayer Model - An effective graphic organizer for teaching vocabulary. It has a section for an image representation, definition, examples, non-examples and a sentence. Students can complete the model with a partner and then present it to other students.

    Compare and Contrast

    • Venn Diagram - A classic graphic organizer that is extremely useful for comparing and contrasting in any subject area. Two overlapping circles show students a clear visual representation of how two items or concepts are similar and different.
    • Top Hat Graphic Organizer - Students will organize their comparisons effectively with this chart in the shape of a top hat. Similarities go on the bottom while differences go on the top two sections.

    Categorize and Organize Information

    • Bubble Map - A terrific general concept web, perfect for brainstorming, that can be used with ideas or information in any genre or subject area. Perfect for group exploration.
    • Timeline Organizer - Information is easier digested if it follows a sequential order. Use this timeline to help students make meaning of a story or a historical event.
    • T-Chart with 3 Columns - Sometimes a simple t-chart can go a long way. Use this graphic organizer to help students describe characters, explain solids, liquids, and gases, or discuss different groups of people during a particular time in history.
    • About the Author

      Sarah Zegarra (M.Ed) is an educator and teacher leader who taught K-5 bilingual education (Spanish-English) in California for 10 years before joining as a Learning Designer. Passionate about project-based, whole-child, culturally responsive teaching, and integrating the arts into learning, Sarah strives to make the world of education a brighter and more effective one. She currently lives in Mexico City with her husband, three children, and their dog.

    Many Ways to Multiply

    April 17, 2019
    Kerry McKee

    Many Ways to Multiply feature

    Multiplication can challenge young mathematicians, and memorizing basic facts is a major pain point for some. Developing a strong conceptual understanding of what it means to multiply will help kids master facts more easily.

    Beginning in second grade, students are introduced to multiplication through repeated addition and arrays. This foundation is essential as students progress to multiplying multi-digit numbers beginning in third grade. Different approaches to multiplying multi-digit numbers include the grid method (sometimes called the box method or area model) and the standard algorithm (sometimes called long multiplication).

    These approaches can help students develop a strong conceptual understanding of multiplication.

    Repeated Addition

    Repeated Addition

    Early exposure to multiplication will include problems that require repeated addition. Consider the problem: Jenny has four cups. There are three paint brushes in each cup. How many paint brushes does Jenny have in all?

    This problem asks students to add equal sized sets repeatedly: 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 12.

    Exposing kids to problems that require adding equal sized sets repeatedly will help them to conceptualize multiplication in concrete ways. Students will learn later that another way to solve the problem is 3 x 4 = 12.

    For more practice with repeated addition, try out this worksheet.


    An array is a simple arrangement of objects into rows and columns that helps children visualize multiplication. An array for the example problem above would appear like this:

    Arrays part 1

    This array makes it easy to see that there are 3 columns and 4 rows (3 x 4 = 12).

    Arrays are a helpful way to represent multiplication as numbers get bigger.

    To use an array to multiply:

    1. Print a copy of the 5 x 5 array found here.
    2. Practice multiplication facts to 25 by covering lines and rows of dots to show different multiplication problems. Cover the bottom row and two left columns to practice the fact 3 x 4.
    3. Talk about how the array shows repeated addition. Reveal another column of dots to show that 4 groups of 4 dots (4 x 4) equals 16, which is the same as 12 + 4 = 16.
    4. Reorient the array by flipping it on its side to show that 3 x 4 and 4 x 3 both equal 12. This lays a foundation for children to understand the commutative property.
    5. Introduce a 10 x 10 dot array to support kids as they memorize their multiplication facts to 100!

    Arrays part 2

    For more practice multiplying with arrays play the game Candy Shop Arrays.

    The Grid Method

    Also sometimes called the Box Method or Area Model, the Grid Method helps kids develop number sense by decomposing each factor in the multiplication problem.

    Grid Method example

    Follow these steps to solve the problem 27 x 56:

    1. Represent the factor 27 as 20 + 7. 56 is represented as 50 + 6.
    2. Create a grid, or box:
    3. Multiply each number in the left column with each number on the top row, solving for four "partial products."
    4. 6 x 20 = 120 6 x 7 = 42 50 x 20 = 1,000 50 x 7 = 350
    5. Write each number on the grid.
    6. Add the 4 partial products. Here, 56 x 27 = 42 + 350 + 120 + 1,000. So, 56 x 27 = 1512.

    Watch this video for more examples of multiplying using partial products.

    Standard Algorithm

    The standard algorithm, also called long multiplication, is handy because it makes it possible to multiply numbers of any size.

    Follow these steps to multiply 56 x 27:

    Standard Algorithm example

    1. Starting on the left, multiply 7 x 6 = 42. Write 2 below the 7, and carry the 4. Multiply 7 x 5 = 35. Add 4 to calculate the first partial product, 392.
    2. Write a 0 below the 2. Multiply 2 x 6 = 12. Write 2 to the left of the 0, and carry the 1. Multiply 2 x 5 =10. Add 1 to calculate the second partial product 1,120.
    3. Add the partial products. 392+ 1,1 20 = 1,512.

    Watch this video for more examples of how to multiply using the standard algorithm:

    Teaching many ways to multiply will be sure to get kids thinking about what it really means to do it. By learning different approaches to solving the same problem, children begin to think flexibly and conceptualize math in a way that will lay the foundation for future success.

    About the Author

    Kerry McKee is a Learning Designer at She began her career in education teaching English abroad in Kochi, Japan. Since then she has spent almost ten years teaching at both the elementary and high school level in the Bay Area. She specializes in Spanish-bilingual education, and loves engaging young language learners with songs, games and hands-on activities.

    10 Picture Books That Teach Math Concepts

    April 12, 2019
    Caitlin Hardeman

    Picture Books About Math feature

    Adults often ask kids what their favorite subject is, and once we get past the responses of “lunch” and “recess," we tend to see a trend between two major subjects: math or reading.

    Then come the questions:

    • How do I get the math lover to feel excited about reading?
    • How do I get the reading lover to feel excited about math?

    One way is to use picture books to teach math concepts - it’s the best of both (reading and math) worlds. Great picture books about math engage readers, foster creativity and teach important concepts. Many authors have caught on to this idea, so the amount of math-focused picture books is ever-increasing.

    See our 10 recommendations for picture books that will teach, review, and reinforce math concepts in the classroom and at home.

    Uno, Dos, Tres: One Two Three

    Uno, Dos, Tres: One Two Three
    By Pat Mora

    This bilingual counting book uses charming illustrations that are based on Mexican culture. This beautiful book provides opportunities for identifying numbers and counting items.

    The Mission of Addition

    The Mission of Addition
    By Brian Cleary

    A definition of addition is followed by pages of fun cartoon illustrations and word problems that promote discussion and understanding of this foundational math concept.

    The Action of Subtraction

    The Action of Subtraction
    By Brian Cleary

    This book tells what subtraction is and then provides examples in fun, rhyming stories. The best part is that this book’s silliness will engage those reluctant math learners.

    What Time Is It, Mr. Crocodile?

    What Time Is It, Mr. Crocodile?
    By Judy Sierra

    This silly story features a hungry crocodile who has created a schedule for his meals. Each illustration includes a clock, so it’s great for telling time on a clock.

    Measuring Penny

    Measuring Penny
    By Loreen Leedy

    This cute book is about standard and nonstandard units of measurement. Penny has an assignment about measuring an object in different ways, so she enlists her dog to come along on the measurement journey.

    Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter

    Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter
    By Cindy Neuschwander

    This medieval geometry story focuses on perimeter and area. Be sure to check out the rest of the Sir Cumference series for more geometry-themed books that make math fun.

    Math Attack!

    Math Attack!
    By Joan Horton

    Kids can relate to the main character’s overwhelming stress about the multiplication tables. The easy rhymes in this book will engage your learner, all the while giving them a little multiplication boost.

    The Multiplying Menace Divides

    The Multiplying Menace Divides
    By Pam Calvert

    This book is great because it has an engaging storyline and it teaches about division, which can be a scary topic for those who aren’t math lovers. Added bonuses include the beautiful illustrations and the funny story.

    The Grapes of Math

    The Grapes of Math
    By Greg Tang

    Use this fun, rhyming book to get your kids thinking outside the box when it comes to problem solving. Challenge their brains with fun riddles and arithmetic puzzles.

    This list highlights just ten of the many wonderful math picture books that are out there. I encourage you to continue giving your learners opportunities to make these powerful connections between reading and math. And then enjoy watching your young mathematicians blossom!

    About the Author

    Caitlin Hardeman is a Learning Designer and the Professional Development Coordinator for Prior to this role, Caitlin taught 3rd-6th grades in New York, Texas, Arizona, and Tennessee, and she specializes in English Language Arts. She began her career teaching 6th grade in the Bronx with Teach For America. Caitlin received a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Science in Teaching from Pace University in New York City. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Wilmington School of the Arts in Wilmington, North Carolina. She originally hails from New York, but also identifies as a Texan. After moving around while her husband served in the Army, she is happy to be settled with her family, and she enjoys getting to raise their two young children by the beach.

    Promoting Social and Emotional Learning at Home

    April 10, 2019
    Meena Srinivasan

    SEL at home feature

    Close your eyes for a moment and think about a young person that you care for deeply. Now take a few deep breaths and really reflect on what you ultimately want for this young person. Chances are that when you really tap into your hopes for this individual, what you most desire for them is happiness and well-being. All over the world we are recognizing that this is what matters most, but how do we get there? We can start with social and emotional learning (SEL).

    For more context, the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines SEL as “The process by which children, adolescents, and adults can acquire and apply the necessary knowledge and skills to understand and manage their emotions, feel and express empathy for others, set and achieve positive goals, and make responsible decisions.”

    These are the skills we all need for success. In fact, a cost-benefit study of SEL interventions showed a positive return on investment averaging a yield of $11 in long-term benefits for every $1 invested. Also, a 20-year study shows a link between SEL instruction in kindergarten and well-being in early adulthood, and a 2011 meta-analysis found an 11 percent gain in academic achievement.

    While SEL is increasingly being prioritized in schools and classrooms across the globe, the home plays a critical role in supporting the social and emotional development of young people. What follows are some key ways you can begin to practice SEL in your home. Also, now offers SEL lessons and activities that you can use to explicitly teach SEL to your child.

    Four Questions for SEL

    Practice Mindfulness Together

    The late, great Dr. Maya Angelou felt that at all times we unconsciously ask each other four critical questions (Schafer, 2017):

    1. Do you see me?
    2. Do you care that I’m here?
    3. Am I enough for you, or do you need me to be better in some way?
    4. Can I tell that I’m special to you by the way that you look at me?

    If our child asked us these questions, we’d have to first be fully present and available to them. As parents, the greatest gift we can offer is our presence. But faced with countless demands on our time, offering our full presence becomes a rare occurrence..

    Practicing mindfulness helps us to become present and pushes us to be there for our children. Practicing it while using several of the activities can be a fun way to connect and deepen your SEL skills while also strengthening your relationship with your child.

    You can start by choosing an mindfulness activity to explore together, from using a mindfulness bell to practicing mindful walking. Or just try taking a few deep breaths every time you hug your child so you can really feel each other’s embrace and sense the gratitude you have for one another.

    Also establish some ground rules around technology in the house if you haven’t already done so. Technology can enhance our lives but it also has the capacity to limit face to face interaction, which is essential to the deep connection that’s needed for all of us to thrive as we practice and grow our SEL skills. The American Academy of Pediatrics has developed a Family Media Plan that provides some wonderful guidance. Also check out A Parent’s Guide to Young Children in the Digital Age by Nancy Carlsson-Paige.

    A Restorative Approach for SEL

    Employ a Restorative Approach

    Restorative Practices (RP), a key element of many successful SEL initiatives, are specific practices inspired by indigenous values that build community, respond to harm or conflict, and provide circles of support for community members.

    These practices seek to support collectivist values while utilizing a structure that emphasizes interdependence.

    Employing a restorative approach in the home can help us shift from “blaming and shaming to relating,” and yet still hold our children accountable when they cause harm. The next time there’s an “incident” in your home, ask your child these six questions:

    1. What happened?
    2. What were you thinking about at the time?
    3. What have your thoughts been since?
    4. Who has been affected by what you did?
    5. In what way have they been affected?
    6. What do you think you need to do to make things right?

    These questions are respectful and require your child to reflect on the past, present, and future. They also help your child take ownership for the impact their actions have had while simultaneously developing their agency. If you get the response, “I don’t know” to “What happened?” then explore the question in other ways like, “Tell me what you think your role was in the incident?” At all times avoid asking “Why did you do that?” These questions can also be used when you’ve been unskillful with your child, modeling how you use the questions to repair harm can be a powerful way of modeling SEL in the home.

    Focus on Strengths

    Another great way to practice SEL in the home is focus on your strengths as a family. At the dinner table, each night have every family member share a strength they have observed in another family member in the past 24 hours. Get specific when sharing strengths. You can take it a step further and focus on your strengths as a family through emphasizing how you support each other and work as a team. When we focus on our strengths several positive things happen including relaxing our brain, which promotes creativity. Dopamine is also released which has several benefits, like increasing our happiness and improving our alertness.

    SEL starts with Adults

    James Baldwin said, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” SEL starts with adults and one of the most powerful ways in which we teach SEL to young people is through modeling SEL. When we fly, we are reminded (in time of emergency) to always put our oxygen masks on first before assisting our children. Similarly, we cannot bring SEL effectively into the home unless we first attend to building SEL within ourselves. Start small, explore which practices from this blog post really resonate with you and choose one to implement consistently.


    About the Author

    Meena Srinivasan, MA, National Board Certified Teacher, is an educational leader, writer and innovator with deep expertise in the fields of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and Mindful Awareness Practices (MAP). She is the author of Teach, Breathe, Learn: Mindfulness In and Out of the Classroom (Parallax Press, 2014) and SEL Everyday: Integrating SEL with Instruction in Secondary Classrooms (Norton, 2019). Meena is the Executive Director of Transformative Educational Leadership (TEL) and prior to this role she spent over five years working in partnership with the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) to implement SEL system-wide in the Oakland Unified School District. Learn more at Follow her on Twitter at @SELEveryDay.

    Jumping Into Google Classroom, Pt.2

    March 29, 2019
    Kevin L. Jones

    Google Classroom 2 feature

    This is the second in a two-part post on using Google Classroom.

    Recently, we looked at Google Classroom’s ability to share assignments. This week we’re going to go over its roster functions.

    Setting Up Your Roster

    To start using Google Classroom, you need to add students to your class. You can invite the students through their Gmail account or the students can self-enroll by using the class code.

    To add students yourself:

    1. Log onto Google Classroom and click on the “People” tab at the top of the page. You’ll be taken to your roster, which should at first only have your name.
    2. In the Students section, you can click on the button near the right to add students.
    3. Type in their emails in the box that pops up and press the Invite button at the bottom of the popup.

    Google Classroom roster

    If you want students to add themselves, the code they need is at the bottom of the page. It goes away after you invite students, but you can find it again on your classroom’s landing page and the Settings page.

    For additional tips on roster, check out the video below.

    What’s next?

    With your class roster set up, you can tap into Google Classrooms awesome features, such as sending students assignments and quizzes. The platform also allows you to communicate with individual students or assign work to the entire class at once. To do this, visit the stream page, which is also your class’s landing page. There you can send messages to everyone in your class, share files with them -- even YouTube clips -- and your students can do the same. It acts as a newsfeed, just like social media. You can control what students can do the stream (post, comments) through the Settings page.

    Google Classroom stream

    You can use the roster to message students individually. Find the student you need to connect on the people page and click the checkbox by their name. Under the actions dropdown, you will find an option for email.

    The Classwork page is where you can create assignments and send them to your students. You can also upload your extra material here to the class Google Drive. There’s also a link to the classroom calendar, making it quick and easy to schedule out due dates.

    Through the roster, you can also connect to outside apps and services, such as These sites connect your students to lessons, materials like glossaries and worksheets, even games. To see the kind of apps that connect with Classroom, you can visit

    Again, if you have more questions about Google Classroom, visit Google Support. For more tips, we also suggest visiting Super SchoolHouse on YouTube.

    About the Author

    Kevin L. Jones is's content marketing manager. Before coming to, he was a journalist covering the Bay Area.

    Jumping Into Google Classroom, Pt.1

    March 19, 2019
    Kevin L. Jones

    Google Classroom feature

    This is the first in a two-part series on using Google Classroom. Part two will run next week.

    Computers in the classroom have come a long way since Oregon Trail. What was once an exciting new tool is now an almost ubiquitous feature in K-12 education. Computers can be an important resource for teachers and students, providing everything from lessons materials to attendance platforms to research tools.

    It is almost daily that new edtech tools are unveiled, declaring that they will solve a teacher pain point or help students learn more effectively. Whether those resources can live up to their hype, only time will tell. However, one resource that has been in classrooms for several years now and has steadily emerged as a reliable, useful tool is Google Classroom. A veritable teachers’ toolbox in one package, Google Classroom can manage grades, assignments, quizzes, and much more. It’s a digital foundation for a successful classroom.

    Google Classroom logo

    That’s why partnered with Google to bring our lessons and resources to Classroom. Through the Classroom API, teachers can assign materials to students on with the click of a button. That work can then be shared to the rest of the class and even the public with another click of the button.

    If you’re a teacher who is new to Google Classroom or has heard about it but not used it, you should expect to use Google Classroom (or a similar program) in your own classroom at some point in your career. It is free to use and easy for school districts to adapt to their needs, which is one of the reasons why it’s used all over the world -- Google estimates over 40 million students and teachers currently use the program.

    To prepare yourself for using Google Classroom, here’s a few notes on what you can do with the program.

    Sharing Assignments

    One note to keep in mind when using Google Classroom is that the company did all it could to make it easy to use. Not only is it simply designed, it makes the most tedious daily tasks much easier.

    “Google Classroom is a huge time-saver, both for teachers and for students,” Kelleth Chinn, elementary school teacher and technology coach, said. “It’s also great for organization, because online assignments are always in one central location, and they're instantly accessible from any internet connected device.”

    Take for example the ability to share assignments and other documents with your students. No longer do you have to print out and pass out your worksheets to your students; it’s all done online. Any file in Google Documents or your Google Drive can be shared with your students with just a click of the share button.

    Google Classroom Share Button on

    You can create your own documents or find them through the various sites connected to Google Classroom, such as There you’ll not only find lessons, but support materials such as glossaries and worksheets too.

    Students can then work on the assignments online and attach additional materials, if required by the assignment.

    If you have more questions about Google Classroom, visit Google Support. You can also learn more about getting started on Classroom through this video, hosted by Super Schoolhouse.

    More on Google Classroom comes next week, when we publish part two.

    About the Author

    Kevin L. Jones is's content marketing manager. Before coming to, he was a journalist covering the Bay Area.

    Teaching Academic Vocabulary to English Learners (Part 1)

    March 7, 2019
    Dr. Sydney Snyder

    Feature graphic

    This is the first part of a two-part post; check back next week for Part 2.

    It’s a common scenario when teaching English learners (ELs): the textbook or unit plan comes with a lengthy list of key vocabulary. Should all of them be taught in depth? The risk in trying to tackle all these words is that ELs can end up overwhelmed. They could memorize the definitions but they need to effectively incorporate new vocabulary into their academic discussions and writings. Also, focusing only on pre-selected vocabulary doesn’t provide ELs with the skills they need to become better independent learners.

    So which vocabulary words should be used to teach ELs, and how should those words be introduced and practiced? For answers, we spoke with Dr. Sydney Snyder, principal associate at SupportEd and co-author of Unlocking English Learners’ Potential. Dr. Snyder has 15 years of experience teaching ELs, both in the U.S. and abroad.

    Question: How do I decide which words to teach ELs?

    Sydney Snyder: In a synthesis of research-based strategies for teaching academic content to ELs, Scott Baker and his panel of researchers recommend teaching a small set of academic vocabulary intensively over the course of several days. This means, in general, that five to eight words, but no more than 10 words, is appropriate. These words should be selected from a short text that aligns to the content being discussed in class. Baker recommends selecting words that are:

    • are key to understanding the text and likely unfamiliar to students,
    • are frequently used in the text,
    • are used across disciplines (general academic vocabulary),
    • are multiple meanings, and
    • have affixes (prefixes or suffixes).

    In order to further narrow down words for intensive focus, it can be helpful to pre-assess student understanding of key vocabulary. You can use pre-assessments to select the priority vocabulary and also as a tool to differentiate new vocabulary lists for ELs of varying proficiency levels. In other words, not all students are going to need practice with the same words. Possible pre-assessment strategies might include:

    • Having students do a self-assessment in which they rate their understanding and ability to use new vocabulary (see Figure 1).
    • Having students match words and their definitions.
    • Asking students to do a word or concept sort.
    • A word or concept sort involves having students sort key terms into categories that either you provide or that they determine on their own.

    Example Student Assessment

    Colorín Colorado provides a video of this strategy in action, which you can see below:

    As you are deciding which words to select for in-depth focus, you can also identify words that you will quickly teach while reading the text with your students. Words for a quick explanation usually:

    • require minimal teaching time,
    • can be taught with a visual, synonym, simple definition, or example, and
    • are not essential to understanding the text.

    Once you have determined which words you will focus on for in-depth instruction, Diane Staehr Fenner and I recommend using the following framework for vocabulary instruction.

    Example of wocabulary instruction framework

    Q: What are some strategies I can use to introduce new vocabulary?

    SS: When introducing new vocabulary, it is important that students have an opportunity to explore that vocabulary in varied ways. It’s essential to provide (or have students write) a student-friendly definition. You don’t want the definition to be more complicated than the word itself, though. The definition should be aligned to the meaning of the word as it is used in the text or the content being learned. is one resource for developing student-friendly definitions as this website provides definitions at the beginner, intermediate, and advanced level.

    In addition to a simple and accurate definition, you can also consider using visuals, gestures, examples and non-examples, synonyms and antonyms, and translations in home languages. When providing translations, it’s important to remember that even if students are literate in their home languages, they may not understand the meaning of academic words in their home language. While some academic words can be easily introduced with images and a short definition, more abstract vocabulary may present a challenge for both ELs and non-Els. To support deeper understanding of such vocabulary, you will need to offer students an opportunity to provide examples and non- examples of the word and use the word in authentic discussions. For example, if you were exploring the word justice, you might provide scenarios to students and discuss whether the individuals in the scenario received justice and then ask them to come up with their own scenarios in pairs or small groups. Using a Frayer model can be another effective way to explore abstract vocabulary words and phrases with Els (see Figure 2).

    Frayer Model Chart

    This article originally appeared on on June 4, 2018. It was last updated on Sept. 12, 2018.

    About the Author

    Dr. Sydney Snyder has over fifteen years experience working with English learners and their families in the U.S. and abroad. She began her teaching career as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guinea, West Africa and since then has worked with both elementary and high school students in US public schools. Most recently she served as the K-12 ESOL Curriculum and Instruction Resource Teacher for the City of Falls Church, VA school district.

    5 Practical Steps to Scaffold Lesson for English Learners: Webinar Recap

    February 22, 2019
    Lily Jones

    Practical Steps to scaffold English Learners

    On February 13, hosted a webinar with Dr. Diane Staehr Fenner, co-author of Unlocking English Learners’ Potential: Strategies for Making Content Accessible. Along with Heather Anderson, 2016 Oregon Teacher of the Year, Dr. Fenner led the session through a host of practical ways to help English Learners (ELs) succeed in the classroom.

    During the webinar, Dr. Fenner introduced five practical steps to scaffolding for English learners. (She also provided tools, which can be downloaded here.)

    1. Know your ELs
    There is great diversity among ELs. Before you can successfully plan instruction and scaffolds for students, you must learn more about your specific students’ strengths and areas of growth. Begin by assessing your ELs’ level of proficiency in English and gather information about your students’ ability to read and write in their home language. If your students are new to the United States, try to connect with parents to determine what educational experiences they had in their home country.

    In addition, it helps to find time to connect with you EL students and gain a better sense of their experiences, their likes and dislikes. As Dr. Fenner stressed on the webinar, it’s important to operate from an assets-perspective and start with getting to know all the things our EL students can do.

    Watch Dr. Fenner discuss the importance of knowing your ELs:

    2. Identify needed language and/or skills
    When planning for individual lessons, consider the academic language and skills your students will need in order to effectively participate in the lesson. Think about language demands at the word, sentence, and discourse level. Consider vocabulary, syntax, structural, and sequencing skills. After identifying which language and/or skills students will need, it is time to plan your lesson and corresponding supports for ELs.

    Dr. Fenner on the power of academic language and how it affects ELs:

    3. Plan the lesson
    Most likely, you will be planning lessons for ELs at varying levels of English proficiency. To help meet the needs of all ELs, consider scaffolds that you can provide for beginning, intermediate, and advanced students. Use the chart below for ideas about how you can support students at all levels of EL proficiency. The scaffolds for all levels provide great ideas too!

    Planning lessons for English Learners

    Dr. Fenner on planning lessons for ELs:

    4. Select and develop appropriate materials
    When planning a lesson, think about what are the most appropriate materials to use with your ELs. In the webinar, Dr. Fenner presented various criterion for selecting materials, including connection to content learning objectives, age appropriateness, multi-modality supports, home-language support, and availability for access beyond school. She provided a checklist to use, which can be seen below.

    Develop materials for scaffolding lessons for English Learners

    After planning which materials you’ll use, think about how you can adapt these materials for use with ELs. For example, you could have students start with a short passage before moving onto reading an entire text. You could also pre-teach vocabulary or provide a visual glossary to accompany the introduction of new words.

    Dr. Fenner briefly discusses preparing materials for EL lessons:

    5. Make adjustments
    During the webinar, Dr. Fenner discussed the importance of providing and eventually removing scaffolds as students develop fluency. As Dr. Fenner said, the goal is to “use and lose scaffolds.” As your ELs make their way through lessons, assess how they are doing and adjust the scaffolding and materials that you provide them in response to their needs.

    Dr. Fenner on the benefits of collaborating on lessons for ELs:

    What steps do you take when planning and implementing lessons for ELs? Whatever your current process is, consider how you can incorporate some of Dr. Fenner’s ideas into your approach.

    Watch the entire webinar below:

    About the Author

    Lily Jones is the Learning Design Manager at She has been a kindergarten & first grade teacher, instructional coach, curriculum developer, and teacher trainer. Throughout everything she does, Lily hopes to make learning fun for both teachers and students.

    3 Great Tips for Teaching About Presidents Day

    February 13, 2019
    Lily Jones

    Presidents Day

    Presidents Day is coming! Help bring this holiday to life by giving kids a chance to connect to presidents past and present. Their ages and interests can guide your lessons on this holiday. Here’s where to start:

    Preschool-1st Grade

    At this age, it’s about relating content to kids’ lives. Start by teaching who presidents are and what they do. Use a K/W/L chart to collect ideas about what your kids know and want to know. After teaching about presidents (try the book suggestions below), have kids share what they learned and add their thoughts to the “L” section of the chart.

    Presidents Day

    Once kids become familiar with the role, get them to think about what they would do if they were presidents. Preschoolers can draw pictures while kindergartners can fill in the sentence frame “If I were president, I would ____.” First graders could take it a step further and write an informational essay!

    2nd-3rd Grade
    Kids in second and third grade are ready to learn more about past presidents. Start with founding fathers like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Have children choose one president to research and use art -- posters, collages, etc. -- to share what they learned.

    After talking about presidents of the United States, tell them that schools can have presidents. Ask kids to think about what they would do if they were their class’ president. Discuss campaigning and have kids write speeches explaining why they’re the best candidate for class president.

    4th-5th Grade
    Fourth and fifth graders will likely have some background knowledge on presidents, so have them pick one to research. After learning about their president, kids can write a picture book to share what they’ve learned. Use the suggestions below to show what a book about presidents looks like.

    Also consider discussing the election process and how candidates are chosen. Have kids think about how it works at a school level. Challenge kids to create two different plans for electing a school president. These plans can be expressed using flow charts and pictures.

    No matter your kids’ ages, have fun learning about leadership as you celebrate President’s Day!

    Book Suggestions
    Ellie May on President’s Day by Hillary Homzie

    President’s Day by Anne Rockwell

    Our Country’s Presidents: A Complete Encyclopedia of the U.S. Presidency by Ann Bausum

    I Am George Washington by Brad Meltzer

    I Am Abraham Lincoln by Brad Meltzer

    About the Author

    Lily Jones is the Learning Design Manager at She has been a kindergarten & first grade teacher, instructional coach, curriculum developer, and teacher trainer. Throughout everything she does, Lily hopes to make learning fun for both teachers and students.

    Scaffolding Instruction for English Learners (Part 2)

    February 6, 2019
    Diane Staehr Fenner

    This is the second part of a two-part post for teachers on incorporating the instructional strategy of scaffolding into their classroom.

    EL Illustration

    Question: How can I select scaffolds by ELs’ English Language Proficiency Level?

    Diane Staehr Fenner: Now that you’re more familiar with what scaffolds are, as well as the three different categories of scaffolds, the next step is to select and try out some scaffolds for ELs. It can feel a bit daunting to try out a scaffold or two if you haven’t done so before. So, I’ll give you some guidance to help out.

    In order to select appropriate scaffolds, you’ll need to know your ELs’ backgrounds, as well as their academic strengths and needs. You’ll also need to have a sense of the linguistic demands of your instructional tasks to determine which scaffold(s) will best support your ELs in being able to successfully engage with and complete the academic task.

    Selecting scaffolds can cause us to look at our instructional tasks in a new, exciting way. Instead of simplifying the tasks we give ELs, it is instead the nature of the scaffold that is critical for ELs’ success with a particular lesson.6 As you consider how to scaffold a specific activity, think about the three categories of scaffolds that you may wish to include; you don’t have to include all three of them. (See Part 1 Your ELs’ strengths and needs will vary depending on the academic task that they’re working on.

    Also, please keep in mind that there are no hard and fast rules for selecting appropriate scaffolds for ELs of varying proficiency levels. Some scaffolds might be developmentally appropriate for all students (e.g., graphic organizers or pair work) and may be used as supports for the whole class, including English proficient students. It is also important to note that an EL’s need for a particular scaffold will vary depending on his or her familiarity of the content and the complexity of the task.

    The table below provides some general guidelines for you for selecting scaffolds for ELs at different English language proficiency (ELP) levels (beginning, intermediate, and advanced). This graphic is adapted from my scaffolding collaboration with Dr. Diane August. Even though this table provides a starting point, I always suggest using your professional judgement when selecting scaffolds.

    Suggested Scaffolds at Each Proficiency Level

    Q: How can I incorporate scaffolding for ELs into my lesson planning?

    DSF: Once you have selected a scaffold or two to try out with your ELs, it’s time to think a bit more deeply about how you’ll incorporate those scaffolds into your instruction. Our “Scaffolded Lesson Planning Checklist” will provide you with some considerations in doing so. In scaffolding instruction, I recommend you constantly reflect on the efficacy of particular scaffolds you use and adjust your instruction appropriately.

    Suggested Scaffolds at Each Proficiency Level

    Q: How can I collaborate to scaffold ELs’ instruction and assessment?

    DSF: One final consideration in successfully scaffolding instruction and assessment for ELs is to collaborate. As you begin scaffolding your instruction, think of other teachers who could support you in this endeavor. If you’re a grade level content teacher, you could turn to an ESOL teacher in your school for resources and advice on how to scaffold a particular lesson. If you’re an ESOL teacher, you could offer to work with content teachers to suggest scaffolds for particular lessons and assessments. You also may wish to offer to model the use of scaffolds in a particular lesson. Collaboration is key to successfully implementing scaffolding for ELs.

    This is a starting point to help teachers incorporate scaffolds into their instruction for ELs, framed around one chapter in Unlocking English Learners’ Potential: Strategies for Making Content Accessible by Dr. Diane Staehr Fenner and Dr. Sydney Snyder. The book offers a toolbox of strategies for teaching ELs and ensuring they can succeed in today's more rigorous classrooms. For more in-depth training on scaffolding for ELs, please see SupportEd's face to face and online professional development.


    1. Gibbons, P. (2015). Scaffolding Language, Scaffolding Learning: Teaching English Language Learners in the Mainstream Classroom. (2nd ed.) Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

    Copyright © 2018 LLC All Rights Reserved

    About the Author

    Diane Staehr Fenner is the Co-Author of Unlocking English Learners’ Potential: Strategies for Making Content Accessible as well as the President of Washington-D.C. based SupportEd.

    Scaffolding Instruction for English Learners (Part 1)

    January 28, 2019
    Diane Staehr Fenner

    This is the first part of a two-part post on incorporating the instructional strategy of scaffolding into their classroom. Check back next week for Part 2.

    Categories of Scaffolds and Examples

    With English Learners (ELs) numbering more than 4.8 million and comprising 10 percent of the general school-aged population, all teachers should consider themselves teachers of ELs. To that end, all teachers must have strategies and tools to support ELs in accessing challenging content while helping them acquire academic language. With the right tools, teachers can easily incorporate the instructional strategy of scaffolding into their teaching.

    How can teachers acquire these tools? For this, turns to the EL expertise of Dr. Diane Staehr Fenner, the president of SupportEd. Started in 2011, Support-Ed provides EL professional development, curriculum and assessment expertise, and programmatic assistance to school districts across the country.

    Question: What are scaffolds?

    Diane Staehr Fenner: According to Pauline Gibbons (2015), a scaffold is a temporary support a teacher provides to a student that enables the student to perform a task he or she would not be able to perform alone. This support comes in such forms as classroom materials and/or resources provided to the student, the instructional practices the teacher uses, or even how students are grouped during instruction.1 Scaffolds will vary and change over time as ELs’ knowledge of content and academic language increases.2 In fact, our goal when scaffolding for ELs is ultimately for them to be able to perform the task independently and without use of scaffolds.

    Scaffolding for ELs should not be limited to scaffolding instruction only, but should also include supporting assessments as a way of making them more valid for ELs. Imagine not only being instructed in a language you don’t understand, but also taking content assessments in that same unfamiliar language.

    While some may feel that scaffolded assessments give ELs an unfair advantage over proficient students, that is simply not the case. When you remove or diminish the language barriers that might be obstacles for ELs, you increase the validity of that assessment and can more accurately identify content knowledge and skills. An assessment does not need to look the same for all students, as students can demonstrate what they know in a variety of ways.3

    In scaffolding an assessment, for example, ELs at beginning levels of English proficiency may demonstrate their understanding of content through non-verbal assessments such as picture sorts, where ELs at higher levels of proficiency may benefit from using sentence stems or frames to complete an assessment.4 As with scaffolding instruction, as students gain English proficiency, teachers can gradually release scaffolded support on classroom-based assessments.5

    Q: What are different types of scaffolds for ELs?

    DSF: Scaffolds can be grouped into three categories:

    • Materials and resources
    • Instruction
    • Student grouping

    Our “Categories of Scaffolds and Examples” table shares examples of each category of scaffold, though this list is not exhaustive. In my collaboration with teachers of ELs, I find that many only think scaffolds fit into the “materials and resources” category. Often, they’re surprised at the types of scaffolds that we consider to be within the “instruction” and “student grouping” categories. Sometimes, they’ve been scaffolding for ELs all along but just didn’t realize it!

    Categories of Scaffolds and Examples


    1. Gibbons, P. (2015). Scaffolding Language, Scaffolding Learning: Teaching English Language Learners in the Mainstream Classroom. (2nd ed.) Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

    2. Daniel, S., Martin-Beltrán, M., Peercy, M., Silverman, R. (2015). "Beyond "yes or no?" Shifting from over-scaffolding to contingent scaffolding in literacy education with emergent bilingual students." TESOL Journal, 7(2), 393–420.

    3. Gottlieb, M. (2016). Assessing English Language Learners: Bridges to Educational Equity: Connecting Academic Language Proficiency to Student Achievement. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    4. August, D., Staehr Fenner, D., & Snyder, S. (2014). "Scaffolding instruction for English language learners: A resource guide for ELA."

    5. Gottlieb, M. Katz, A., & Ernst-Slavit, G. (2009). Paper to Practice: Implementing TESOL’s PreK-12 English Language Proficiency Standards. Alexandria, VA: TESOL International Association.

    Copyright © 2018 LLC All Rights Reserved

    About the Author

    Diane Staehr Fenner is the Co-Author of Unlocking English Learners’ Potential: Strategies for Making Content Accessible as well as the President of Washington-D.C. based SupportEd

    4 Ways Kids Can Connect to Dr. King

    January 14, 2019
    Lily Jones

    Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

    Monday, January 21, marks the 33rd year in which Americans celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. As you talk with your children or students about Dr. King, take a minute to think about what you would like your students to learn from him.

    While Dr. King lived “long ago”, as children might see it, his life's work and accomplishments still resonate today. Explore with children the connections that they can make to their lives. For example, explore concepts such as nonviolence, protest, and equality. Imagine how your children can put Dr. King’s messages into action.

    Below are a few ideas that might spark activities in the home or classroom.

    Discuss bullying, both face-to-face and cyber. Work together to consider how to deal with bullying and issues of inequality in a peaceful way.

    Take inspiration from how Dr. King was able to spark change through the power of his words. Is there something around your school or community that children feel should be fixed or changed? Have children brainstorm how they can peacefully get their voices heard.

    Focus on collaboration. While Dr. King played a huge role in the Civil Rights Movement, he did not work alone. For example, to make their voices heard and to protest unfair treatment or laws, people would often march peacefully. These marches required a lot of people to work together. Discuss with children how people can work together to speak out against treatment or laws that might be unfair.

    Connect to the present. People around the world are using the power of protest and non-violent resistance. Share that these tactics are not just a thing of the past, but a powerful approach to change. For example, consider talking about how over 785,000 people around the world marched in 2015’s Global Climate March to show their support for preventing climate change.

    For more inspiration or information about Dr. King’s life, a few good kid-friendly titles include:

    Ages 3-6

    Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King by Jean Marzollo

    Ages 6-9

    Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World by Christine King Farris

    About the Author

    Lily Jones is the Learning Design Manager at She has been a kindergarten & first grade teacher, instructional coach, curriculum developer, and teacher trainer. Throughout everything she does, Lily hopes to make learning fun for both teachers and students.

    Dashboard is now Progress Tracker!

    January 4, 2019
    Bill Walter

    The Dashboard is now called Progress Tracker. This exciting new tool provides tons more more detail on how your child or student is mastering each subject and skill.

    Assignments now appear in separate sections to allow teachers and parents a quick and easy way to manage assignments and track student progress towards mastery.

    New Feature: Assignments!

    October 9, 2017
    Kevin Nguyen

    Our audience of parents and teachers spoke, and we delivered; is proud to unveil...Assignments! This new site feature allows users to choose from our hundreds of engaging learning games and exercises to create assignments for students. See below for details and simple instructions on how to use this exciting new feature:

    How to Assign Games or Exercises

    1. Select a game or exercise that you would like to assign.
    2. Click on the "Assign" button.
    3. From here, you have two options: Add the game or exercise to a new assignment, or add to an existing assignment.
    4. If you're creating a new assignment, give it a name. Adding a description or due date is optional. Click "Next".
    5. Select the child(ren) you want to send this assignment to, then click "Done". You will see a confirmation message once it has been successfully assigned.

    How Children Can Access Their Assignments

    1. Your students can log in through your Pro membership log-in, or at by entering the Classroom Mode code.
    2. Once your child selects their profile, they will land on our main menu where they will see available assignments and due dates (if applicable).
    3. To complete the assignments, students click on the games or exercises listed on the assignment page, play, learn, and have fun!
    4. The main menu also allows students to see their progress in each individual game and exercise in the assignment.

    Track Assignment Progress

    As your child completes each assignment, you'll be able to track their performance in the Assignments tab of our Progress Tracker. You'll also be able to make edits to assignments from here, like removing games or exercises, or changing the due date.

    We're very excited about our new assignments feature. For us, it represents our continued commitment to making our products easier and more useful to teachers, parents, and young learners. To that end, please feel free to give us your candid feedback. We'd love to know how we're doing and what can be improved.

    Have a Smarter Summer

    June 8, 2017
    Kat Rosa & Blythe Tai

    Summer Learning Series 2017

    School may be out, but fun, independent learning is always in. With our free Summer Learning Series, your little one can still build skills, gain confidence, and get inspired all summer long.

    Each week during the series, we'll release a new volume of curated worksheets and a premium guided lesson, designed by our award-winning artists and teachers. Instead of a lengthy reading list, our series is chock-full of puzzles, drawing projects, singalong songs, and animated games. Plus, we've paced it so that you simply tackle one week at a time.

    We'll help you navigate all 12 weeks of our Summer Series with weekly emails, so you never miss a volume—no matter where your summer adventures may take you.

    During the long summer weeks, too many kids lose their momentum, forget skills they worked hard to learn, and have a difficult time picking up the thread when school resumes. In fact, the average student loses about two months in math and reading skills. Our program is designed in partnership with teachers to specifically address the skills kids need to make the transition between grades, from kindergarten through sixth.

    We passionately believe year-round learning is in every kid's best interest. As longtime members will know, we've hosted all types of summer programs, from DIY camps to reading adventures. And we couldn't be more excited about what we've got in store for you this year!

    Our Summer Learning Series kicks off this Sunday, June 11th, so keep your eyes peeled for our first volume. We hope that you (and your kids) love it as much as we do. Let us know what you think—tag us on Twitter @education_com or send us an email at

    See the entire Summer Learning Series here.

    New! Guided Lessons, Exercises & More

    September 8, 2016
    Kevin Nguyen

    You may have noticed that looks a little different recently! We’re excited to reveal our updated look and introduce a few new exciting features that we think you’ll enjoy.

    Skills Organization and New Exercises in Learning Resources

    Until recently, millions of users visited us daily to download a worksheet or play a game. We took a close look and realized that our users wanted resources that were more focused around practicing a specific skill. In order to better help parents and teachers achieve this, our expert educator team reorganized our library of learning resources by skills. Now if you want your child to work on subject-verb agreement, you can find all the different resources we have that teach that skill on a single page, whether it’s a worksheet, game, story, activity, or exercise.

    Learning Resources

    Grouping our resources by skill also acts as a great tool to help parents understand what skills are covered in each grade and subject. For instance, by selecting 1st Grade and Math, parents will find that Number Sense is an important topic covered in their child’s grade.

    Finally, we’re proud to introduce exercises to our collection of learning resources. To complement our games, songs, and stories, we’ve added math, reading, and writing exercises for 3rd-5th graders. Exercises allow kids to practice skills using interactive graphs, visual models, and many other components that can increase conceptual understanding. With the addition of exercises to our existing early learning program, members now have access to an entire digital learning program from Pre-K all the way through 5th grade!

    Step-by-Step Lessons

    New Guided Lessons

    We’re extremely excited to reveal our Guided Lessons section as an integral part of the new Our guided lessons section creates an online learning program that combines all of our learning resources into carefully designed, sequenced lessons that help kids learn math, reading, and writing skills. Through guided lessons, parents and teachers can work with children or allow them to learn independently to build foundational academic skills.

    With over 150 lessons and growing, members can access our step-by-step curriculum, created by our team of experts that include national and state Teachers of the Year, accomplished curriculum designers, and veteran graduates and advisors from institutions like Stanford University and UC Berkeley graduate schools of education.

    Guided Lessons are kid-safe—meaning they’re entirely free of ads—and incorporate progress reporting, so you can quickly identify areas where your learner excels or needs help.

    Guided Lessons

    Teaching Tools

    Lastly, our Teaching Tools section is a quick place for you to access content that is relevant to educators, like our worksheet generator, lesson plans, Common Core resources, and more upcoming tools.

    We really think you’ll love the new Guided Lessons and updates to Learning Resources and Teaching Tools as much as we loved making them. We at love to hear what our members have to say, so please tell us what you think about our new look and if there are any other things you’d like to see! Tag us on Twitter @education_com or send us an email at

    About the Author

    Kevin M.A. Nguyen is Product Manager at, a leading online destination for educators of students pre-K through fifth grade. He is a US Army veteran and learning designer by training. is Renovating... Sneak Peek of What’s to Come!

    August 12, 2016
    Kevin Nguyen

    Here at we’ve been working hard to bring you a new experience we think parents and teachers will love. We’ll be revamping the site and introducing new features based off feedback from both our loyal users and our brilliant education advisors.

    More details and full access to new features are coming soon, but we want to give you an exclusive sneak peek of what’s coming:


    Skills Organization

    Some people come to to look for worksheets or games, but sometimes you don’t care about the type of resource, you just want something that will help your child learn a specific skill, like two-digit addition. We’ve organized each of our 30,000+ learning resources by skill, so you can find all the different types of learning resources we offer that can help teach a certain skill or subject. (But don’t worry, you can still search for worksheets or games too.)

    Digital Exercises

    In addition to our online games for PreK - 2nd grade, we’re expanding our digital offerings to include fun exercises suitable for 3rd - 5th graders to practice Math and ELA skills.

    Guided Lessons

    We’re really excited about this one! Our curriculum designers and experienced teachers have designed a learning program with an immersive experience that can take kids all the way from PreK through 5th Grade. Complete with a points and rewards system for kids, and detailed progress reports for parents and teachers, our new guided lessons are the perfect blend of learning and fun.

    I want to assure all of our current customers that there’s nothing to worry about—everything you’ve enjoyed about will still be around. We’ve just reorganized the site to make it even easier for you to find the learning resources you know and love, and we’ve added some great new features to improve ease of use and learning outcomes for your kids.

    Stay tuned! We’re looking forward to unveiling the new very soon.

    Have concerns, questions, or thoughts? Shoot us an email to let us know what you think, or send us a tweet @education_com.

    About the Author

    Kevin M.A. Nguyen is product manager at, a leading online destination for educators of students Pre-K through fifth grade. He is a US Army veteran and learning designer by training.

    Brainzy Second Grade Math Has Launched!

    April 26, 2016
    Jenny Paradise

    Second graders can finally get in on the fun of Brainzy! We recently expanded our math and reading program for kids ages 3-8 to include a new second grade math section, featuring games, songs, and stories.

    Brainzy Second Games

    To help us with our expansion into second grade, we recruited experienced educators to identify the most important math concepts to cover. Once overarching skills were determined, teacher consultants were brought in to help. Our education experts oversaw the execution of each skill in a digital context, translating the most effective hands-on, manipulative learning strategies into gaming experiences. We then tested our games in real second grade classrooms to ensure their quality and effectiveness. Boasting 38 new games, our new sequences cover essential second grade math skills, including addition, subtraction, place value, geometry, measurement and data, time, and money. Fun and creative songs and stories put new concepts into contexts that help math learners understand them in fresh ways.

    These Brainzy games encourage students to try out new skills without a fear of failure, and have fun as they persevere to master each skill they tackle.

    You can unlock our entire second grade learning program on the Brainzy dashboard as part of your Plus or Pro account. A sampling of our brand new games are available to play, with more being added each week. Check out a selection of our second grade math games now. Later this year, we’ll add second grade reading games to help your child grow and become a better reader and writer.

    About the Author

    Jenny Paradise found the perfect marriage of her passions and skills when she joined the team in 2011.

    Previously, Jenny served as a Web Producer for Extra TV, where she oversaw editorial initiatives and built a varied skill set for digital content production. She discovered a love for early childhood education while teaching English abroad in South Korea. Since starting at, Jenny has been an influential content creator for the company, lending her expertise to the site’s games, products and resources for educators. She is passionate about improving how kids learn, and enjoys empowering educators.

    Jenny holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

    Our Newest Partner: Clever

    April 19, 2016
    Todd Schwartz, Co-CEO

    This morning, I received an alert from the bank about a suspicious transaction. I immediately went to log into my online account, but I couldn’t remember my password. Because I change passwords so frequently out of paranoia, I was locked out.

    Most of us use logins for everything. For online banking, food delivery, retail, streaming music... the list goes on. We all know the drill. Type in the wrong password, request a new one, go to email to confirm, use your childhood phone number as the new password (again). Times have changed, and we can no longer afford to use the same password over and over again.

    Even more than the average person, teachers need to easily access all the utilities they use in the classroom. Clever, an educational platform for teachers, has taken this challenge on—imagine that.

    Today, we announced a new partnership with Clever, and we think you’ll love them. If you’re a teacher and you haven't heard about Clever, you probably will soon. As we’ve all seen, there are seemingly an unlimited number of new learning applications available for teachers to use in the classroom. This is a good thing, right? Potentially. New technologies also come with challenges—especially if you’re dealing with sensitive student data. Keeping track of all those URLs, apps, usernames, and passwords takes time. The Clever team realized these challenges, so they developed a platform where educators can easily choose applications and learning tools that support their teaching needs while eliminating the challenges of accessing them in a secure way. And it's very simple. Districts can keep track of what applications teachers in the school system are using, and individual schools can approve applications and products for use by teachers and students. No brainer, right? aims to be everywhere teachers, parents and homeschoolers look for educational resources online—including in the tech systems schools and districts use most. Between our more than 2.5 million U.S. teacher members and Clever being used in 1 in 3 domestic schools, it was a very natural fit. So for us, it was an easy decision to put the Clever login right next to our own.

    So if you’re a teacher and your school isn’t using Clever yet, talk to your principal about getting it in your district. It’s a great tool, and now you’ll be able to log in with your childhood phone number just once.

    About the Author

    Todd co-founded in 2007 with the goal of providing parents and teachers with high quality educational resources.

    Todd previously served as Executive Vice President of the IPG Media Search Marketing Services unit, where he built the team and developed a plan to consolidate the holding company's search engine marketing practice, offering tools and services to all IPG agencies. Prior to IPG, Todd co-founded and launched directMASS, a search engine and interactive marketing firm, and Rotomedia, a small advertising sales startup. Before directMASS, Todd served as Director of Sales for Ask Jeeves in the New York City office, where he helped propel the company into a market leader position.

    Todd received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Maryland and has served as an adjunct lecturer at Columbia University. Todd currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two daughters.

    New! Chrome Apps & Brainzy Classroom Mode

    April 8, 2016
    Kevin Nguyen is now in the Google Chrome Webstore! We’re excited to introduce two new free Chrome apps: and Brainzy by

    What does this mean for you?

    The app acts like a bookmark by giving you quick and easy access to the site and your membership without requiring you to log in each time.

    Brainzy by allows your kids to start playing Brainzy games right away without requiring you to log in and access the page for them each and every time! Simply download the app, log in once with your Plus or Pro membership, and your kids can play, navigate levels, and even switch players all from the app. Closing out the app doesn’t log you out, so they can get back to Brainzy easily without your help.

    Brainzy Switch Players

    These apps can be downloaded on any Mac or PC that has a Google Chrome browser. They’re especially convenient for classrooms that use Chromebooks.

    In addition to the apps, we've launched a new feature in Brainzy for our Pro members: Classroom Mode! This has been requested by many of our teachers and we're excited to bring it to you.

    Pro members can now turn on Classroom Mode in their Brainzy Dashboard. When enabled, Classroom Mode lets a user customize Brainzy with a teacher and school name and generates a unique code their students can use to login:

    Classroom Mode Toggle

    Students only need the unique access code to login to Brainzy ( They no longer need the teacher's email and password.

    Access Code

    After logging in with the code, the student will see the customized teacher and school name.

    Classroom Branding

    Classroom mode also works with the Brainzy by App, so your students can quickly get to Brainzy and start playing. We hope you enjoy these new features and we at can't wait to show you what's next!

    New Features: Workbooks

    February 1, 2016

    We've updated the workbooks section of! Just as with lesson plans, search for and find the workbooks and subjects you're looking for with our improved search bar located on the left side of the screen. The search bar located here works even faster than before to look through titles, subjects, and tags including Common Core nodes for the workbooks that apply, allowing you to quickly narrow your search within workbooks. You can also use the navigation panel on the left to filter by grade and/or subject. Hold down the shift key to click and select more than one filter. Workbooks Filters

    Now you can choose between Grid View and List View. Grid View showcases each workbook's cover image, plus at-a-glance info for the subject and grade. List View provides descriptions and other information to help you make your decision and compare multiple books on one web page. Grid View preview List View preview

    Visit the workbooks section and see for yourself! We hope you enjoy the new features.

    New Feature: Download History

    January 20, 2016

    We’ve just launched the Download History feature! With Download History, you can find and re-download the resources you’ve used in the past that may be useful again. For instance, if you teach the same grade every year, you can easily retrieve the same content you used in previous classes for this year’s students.

    You can find Download History in your account dropdown.

    My Downloads Dropdown Menu

    Search for your materials by year and month using the navigation to the left. When you click on a month you’ll automatically be scrolled to it. You can tell where in time you are by what’s highlighted.

    To re-download your content, simply click on the thumbnail. If it’s been a while and you’d like more information about your download, click on the title and you’ll be taken to its description page.

    Navigating Download History

    New Feature: Notifications

    January 20, 2016

    New Notifications Alert

    We’ve launched a new notification system which you may have noticed in the top right corner of your screen when you logged in. With it, we’ll keep you updated on the goings on of and your account including new features (such as lesson plans, learning games, and more), blog posts, account reminders, and promotions. Enjoy!

    As you can see in the image below, once you've clicked on and read a notification it will become gray. Notifications will remain for a limited amount of time; if you don't want to see a message anymore simply click the "x" to delete the message. Notifications Expanded View

    New Features: Lesson Plans

    January 11, 2016

    We've updated the lesson plans section of! This includes improvements for speed - pages now load up to four times faster so that you can find resources more quickly. To go along with that we've made the search bar in lesson plans (on the lefthand) more powerful. Try it out - search by author name, Common Core node if applicable, or any important terms that may come up in the text of a lesson plan.

    Now you can also filter by multiple grades or subjects. Want to see both preschool and kindergarten lesson plans? Hold the shift key when selecting grade or subject filters.

    We started out lesson plans by asking contributors to give us their best, tried-and-true lessons from their own classrooms, and grew from there. We hope these new technical features help you get the most out of that lesson plans content.

    New Lesson Plans Pages

    Printable Brainzy Certificates Added to Your Dashboard

    November 30, 2015
    Candice, Content Manager

    Achievement Certificates are available to print for your kids as they progress through Brainzy games or for anything worth celebrating! Simply log in to and go to your games dashboard to take a closer look and download your certificates.

    Certificates Starring Brainzy Characters + You!

    Brainzy is a math and literacy program created by made up of rich stories, games, and songs for kids ages four to seven. Try out individual games or stories in the games section of the website. For the full program go to your games dashboard, or, if you're not an subscriber see what you'll unlock in Brainzy if you join.

    Save Worksheets to Google Drive

    November 18, 2015
    Candice, Content Manager

    Save any worksheet directly to Google Drive.

    Are you signed in to your Gmail or Google+ account? Then you're one click from saving worksheets to your Google Drive. Saving direct to Drive is an alternative to downloading worksheets onto your computer, emailing links to yourself, or using the Collect feature.

    We're happy to be able to provide this option for our users who have Google accounts; to make grabbing the worksheets you want even more convenient.

    Save to Google Drive

    12 New Borders to Finish Off Your Custom Worksheets

    November 10, 2015
    Candice, Content Manager

    Bonfire border on Division Practice Sheet Hiking Border on Fact Families Worksheet

    Twelve new themed borders are ready to top off any of our customizable worksheets. Head over to our worksheet maker to generate word lists and puzzles by putting in vocabulary words of your choice into Options, or choose Options settings for math worksheets. Select a Theme to add a little, not a lot, of decoration to the page, then download or save to use your worksheets when you need them.

    Worksheet Generator Themes Preview

    Don't see what you want? Give us your feedback and ideas to help improve worksheet generator here.

    Lesson Plans Have Arrived!

    October 21, 2015
    Jenny, Editorial Director

    Organizing for the classroom requires teachers to meticulously plan out each day, hunting for resources to complement each lesson and creating backup plans for students who need differentiation.

    We recruited over 70 contributors with experience teaching elementary-aged children from all over the United States to share their expertise. Working with a diverse group of educators gave our lesson plans a wide breadth of themes and knowledge, ensuring that all teachers could find a lesson that worked for their classes.

    To date, we have published 965 lesson plans and counting, moving forward to our goal of 1000. Our lesson plans cover math, science, reading, writing, social studies, and ESL topics.

    "The inspirations for our lesson planning template included the structure of mini-lessons used by Lucy Calkins in the Teachers College of Reading and Writing Curriculum and the structure of interactive modeling developed by Responsive Classroom," explains Tatum Omari, the Director of Curriculum at "The end product we were aiming for with our template was one that incorporated best practices in instruction and that could easily be adapted to any subject area."

    Many of our lesson plans are paired with original content, such as worksheets, customized worksheets, workbooks, digital games and activity ideas. These materials help students practice the skills using a range of strategies, so there’s something useful for every kind of learner.

    Our new lesson plans help streamline the process of classroom planning by offering educators structured plans that help students practice everything from counting and multiplication to reading comprehension.

    Lesson plans are available for preschool through fifth grade—check out our growing collection at

    It’s All Coming Together: Check Out Materials

    October 16, 2015
    Candice, Content Manager

    There are so many resources on—where do you get started? We've chosen to focus on grades preschool to five. So while we offer content in the grades above, we really shine in elementary school subjects. Read on to see what we have and hear about what's coming soon.

    Our 4,200 activities are made up of arts & crafts, group games, and practice ideas for reading, writing, math, science, and social studies in preschool to high school. You can find activities here:

    Brainzy, our online learning program, offers 450 Common Core-aligned games for preschool, kindergarten, and first grade, with second grade coming soon. You can access a sampling of featured games, stories, and songs online:

    Lesson plans are our latest content addition, and written by teachers for preschool to 5th grade in math, reading, writing, science, social studies, and ESL subjects. At over 900 lesson plans currently available on, we’ll soon reach 1000! You can view our latest lesson plans here:

    Our 1,800 science fair projects explore physical science, Earth & space, and life science topics for kids in kindergarten through high school. You can see science projects here:

    We offer 359 workbooks in a growing library of academic skills and seasonal topics for preschool to 5th grade. Workbooks are written in collaboration with educators to cover reading, writing, math, science, socials studies, and the arts. You can browse workbooks here: features more than 18,000 worksheets for students in preschool through high school, covering reading, writing, math, social studies, science, and seasonal and holiday content. This includes coloring pages just for fun and fine motor skills, all sorts of stories, and even Common Core aligned material. Find resources here:

    Our worksheet generator provides 17 templates to create endless worksheets for math or reading practice. This includes word searches, crosswords, word scrambles, and matching lists with words of your choice. Worksheets to practice the basic operations and fact families can be customized in several ways, generating from 5 to 20 problems on a page for you. You can try it out here:

    Signing up to for free gives you limited access to our most popular content including the ability to make your own worksheets, and you'll stay up-to-date with our newsletter. As an Plus member you get access to worksheets and answer sheets, worksheet generator, activities, workbooks, and science projects, a limited number of lesson plans per month, and up to three player accounts in Brainzy. As an Pro member you get unlimited access to everything, an ad-free website experience, up to 35 player accounts in Brainzy, and early access to new features. All levels of membership allow a certain amount of access to the content and resources above, and our Brainzy games sections and portal are always free of advertising.

    Stay tuned to the blog to see more lesson plans, great holiday content, a new grade level coming to Brainzy, material to meet your Common Core needs, and more!

    Welcome to What's New on

    October 5, 2015
    Candice, Content Manager

    Welcome to What's New! Here you'll find out about things we’re working on, like when we launch new tools or features on the website, and what seasonal content you can expect. Come back often to find out more about the parts of you already know and use, and upcoming features we think you’re going to love. Workbooks by Dover Publications

    July 16, 2015

    We're so proud to bring your favorite workbooks to print; put together through’s partnership with Dover Publications.

    “One of the main requests we have heard from our members,” states co-CEO Todd Schwartz, “is to make our worksheets available in a book format. So for the past few years, we’ve searched for a publisher that shares our core values—and the name that we kept returning to was Dover Publications. Dover has been in business for over seven decades and they have always made sure to keep prices low and the educational content high. In fact, they offer hundreds of books for children that are filled with the same type of educational activities that are found in our worksheets. It is also exciting that their wide distribution network will make our products available in entirely new channels.”

    “When Hayward and Blanche Cirker founded Dover in 1941,” adds Dover’s President, Frank Fontana, “they were determined to publish high-quality works at prices that were in reach of just about any reader. Our very first title was a low-priced reprint of a mathematics text, so we have been in the educational business since day one. Even our children’s titles help educate as they entertain since we publish coloring and activity books about counting, famous people, historical events, and more. So a partnership with makes perfect sense—we’re very complementary companies. provides the worksheet expertise, and our staff of professionals design, edit, publish, and market the actual books. Flipping through the first few titles, it’s obvious that the collaboration has been a rousing success.”

    The workbook series launches with 20 grade-specific titles, including Creatures & Counting, Adventures in Writing, Fun with Nature, Earth & Sky, Math Mania, and All Sorts of Science. Each workbook offers 100 pages of worksheets

    Printed and distributed by Dover Publications, the new workbooks are now available at, Amazon, Books-a-Million, and other major retailers.

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