Greater Than, Less Than Games and Practice

Comparing two numbers using greater than and less than symbols is a Common Core skill for first grade. It means that students should be able to look at a pair of given numbers, decide which one is less and which one is greater, and be able to use the symbols (< or >) to compare them. We made really cute alligator stick puppets to introduce this idea to us. We had the puppets mouth “eat” the bigger number and the students loved being able to use the puppet to practice comparing numbers. But…. what could be do after that? The students needed more practice on this topic, but would other things could we do besides boring worksheets?

I looked around the room thinking about what we could use to help us practice and that’s when I spied with my little eye: the dominos! What a fun, easy way to compare two numbers! It was very simple: The students got a pile of dominos with a partner. They flipped them all over so they couldn’t see the dots. Then they took turns flipping the dominos over and comparing the two numbers on that domino.

Domino comparing

So, if the domino they flipped over had 3 dots on one side and 2 on the other, they would compare those two numbers and say to each other things like, “2 is less than 3” or “3 is greater than 2”. It was also a great time to introduce = because about 1 minute into the game, a hand went into the air asking, “But, what do we do if the number is the same!?” We took the time to explain the = sign and how it means that the numbers are equal because they are the same!

Greater than and less than!

As a teacher, I love things like this because they require little to no planning, it’s very easy for the students to understand, and they are having fun while they learn! I think it’s very important for them to learn from each other and also learn while “doing”, both things this game does.

The next day, we played another game to practice this skill- this time with dice! I passed out the worksheets (interested teachers can buy this pack here: Greater than/less than bundle) The worksheet had a blank box, a circle, and another blank box. The students job was to use the dice to roll the 2 numbers they would be comparing. The students rolled one time (wrote down the number they got), rolled again (wrote down the number they got), and then used their pencils to write the comparing symbols, either <, >, or =.

Rolling dice for numbers

The students really loved playing this game. It was fun for them to roll the dice to pick the 2 numbers and kept them very engaged.

Playing and comparing!

This could easily have been adapted to be played with a partner too. One person could roll and write down one number, while the partner could roll and write down the other number.

Having fun!

These are just 2 simple ways to practice greater than, less than, or equal to in your classroom. They kept my first graders engaged, working, and having fun! Have you tried other things in your class for this skill? How did your students like it?


Living and Nonliving Picture Sort

Before starting our unit on plants and seeds (hopefully it’ll get more sunny next week so our seeds will grow!), we’ve been spending time on learning about our 5 senses and the difference between living and nonliving things. It was important to start with our 5 senses because that’s how we explore and observe the world! We spent time learning about our senses and doing a 5 senses room hunt (Five Senses Bundle) to really understand how we hear, touch, taste, smell, and see things around us.

The next unit we tackled was learning about things that are living and nonliving. At first, the students wanted to say “living and dead”, but that isn’t the case at all. Nonliving things were never living to begin with, so they can’t be dead. It simply means they don’t breathe, move, grow, change, eat, or drink. Things like rocks, books, ice, and juice are nonliving. Once we learned the definition, it was easy to point out things in our classroom and outside that were nonliving. In fact, wherever we were throughout the school- like in the hallways for a drink, you’d hear things like “Hey, the water fountain is nonliving!” or  in the lunch line- “Hey my hot dog is nonliving!” or outside after school- “My little sister is living!”; the students LOVED pointing out the things they saw and telling each other if they were living or nonliving. 🙂

To wrap up our unit yesterday, we used some pictures cards with various objects on them. The students cut the picture cards out. Next, we took a big piece of construction paper (and of course reminded ourselves that no matter what color we get, “we get what we get….. and we don’t get upset! 😉 ) and folded it in half. On one half, we wrote the words “Living” and on the other half we wrote the words “Nonliving”. Finally the sorting could begin! The students worked together to look at the pictures and discuss if it was showing something living or nonliving. They put the pictures on the sides they belonged on.

Picture sort!

Allowing the students to try it on their own first allows them time to THINK! I believe it’s so important to give them a chance to try things on their own first. It’s a great way for them to learn, explore, and try! Sometimes students are very used to being told what the answers are right away, but they need to have opportunities to explore on their own in order to truly learn and comprehend.


Sorting is also a great critical thinking skill. It means they have to be able to think, decide, and explain their choice. This is an upper level skill for first graders, but one that they excel at and love doing!

Thinking and exploring!

After the students had a chance to sort on their own, we went over each picture as a class. I would pick one of the cards, maybe the picture of the crab, and ask the students if it was living or nonliving. Of course a student would raise their hand and answer “Living!”. But, we are also always working on explaining our answers. So, I would ask that student a simple question, “Why?” Since these little scientists know all about what makes something living or nonliving, they were able to tell me why the crab was living- because it can move on its own, it grows, it changes, it breathes air, it needs food, it need food, and it can reproduce. We did this for all of the pictures. When we were done, they glued the pictures down to their construction paper.

Working hard!

You can keep this learning going on at home by asking your child if something is living or nonliving. And don’t forget, ask them to explain their thinking by asking, “Why?”

Have a fantastic weekend! 🙂

Vocabulary Hat Day!

Last Friday was a very EXPRESSIVE day! It was vocabulary hat day! (Vocabulary hat day is a day where students create a hat at home based on a vocabulary word we’ve learned this year!)  A few weeks ago, students got to pick one of the words we’ve learned to make their hat about. The word and the rules went home for the families. The rules of vocabulary hat day were very simple:

1. Make a hat that shows what the word means. You can use things you find around your house, you can draw on your hat, or attach things to the hat that show it’s definition.

2. Make sure the vocabulary word is written somewhere on the hat.

I can’t begin to tell you how amazed I was at all of these wonderful hats! They were so creative and really depicted the word’s definition. Here are some of our first graders in their hats:

Vocab Hats!

Vocab Hats!

There were hats of every shape and size. Some hats were funny, silly, creative, tall, and descriptive. All day long, we wore our hats. We read in our hats:

Reading in our hats

And read to a partner in our hats:


And enjoyed time in our library in our hats:

“Vehicle” hat

At the end of the day, we met with our 5th grade buddies and shared our hats with them:

Showing our hats to our buddies

The first graders loved the fifth graders hats and the fifth graders loved the first graders hats!

Looking at our hats!

We also played many games using our hats. We split into groups based on if your word was a noun, verb, or adjective, we lined up based on how many letters were in our words, and even lined up in ABC order. The 1st and 5th graders worked together like a team to do that job!

Putting our words in ABC order

Thank you for all the families and students who participated. It was such a fun day and the students loved it! Vocabulary hat day is a great way to review our words from the year, interact with our words, and have some fun. I hope you enjoyed it too!

Place Value Matching Game and Non-fiction Writing

We are so busy! After coming back from spring break last week, we’ve been working non-stop here! It’s a good feeling though and we’re getting lots of learning and things done. 🙂

Some of the things we’re working on in math is PLACE VALUE. (Here is the link to the game we used: Place Value Matching Game) This means, we’ve been looking at a given number and figuring out how many groups of ten are in that number and how many ones are in that number. We’ve been doing this by using ten sticks and one blocks. The students build the number with tens first and then use ones. It’s a hard skill for first graders, but we’ve been working hard and using our manipulatives to help us! Another way we’ve been practicing is with our memory game!


It’s a basic matching game. The students flip all the cards over and work in partners.

Playing the game!

They take turns pulling 2 cards at a time. On each card, there are either ten sticks or a number written. The students look at the cards. If the ten sticks match the numbers, it’s a match! If they don’t match, they put both the cards back and it’s their partners turn.

Looking for matches!

Playing these games are such a great way to enforce skills! Of course the students only see this as “fun” (they love matching games!) and think they are just playing. (Of course we adults love these types of games because the kids are having fun AND learning!) It keeps the students engaged and focused. They are practicing counting skills and matching skills. It’s a great way to practice place value skills!

Playing and learning!

And before I sign off, I wanted to share with you some of the pictures I snapped during writing yesterday. In our writing program, we’ve been practicing writing non-fiction stories. We started last week by writing facts about our partners. The students paired up, asked their partner questions, and wrote about them. They also drew a portrait of their partner on the cover. They were adorable and turned out so cute! This week, we wrote non-fiction stories about an object. The students got to bring an object to school (thank you parents for sending them in!) and we spent time each day writing, drawing, and making diagrams about that object.

Writing about his car

We spent time talking about how we should treat each others objects (because we were so excited to see what everyone brought in!)  and then we got to work! The students wrote how their objects looked, felt, what they did, and how they used them.

Writing facts!

It was a really meaningful writing experience because the objects were personal to the children. It made their writing full of great connections and real-life experiences.

Writing facts about his car

I love seeing the students writing in different ways. I’m always so proud and amazed of the great work they produce. These kids can do anything they set their minds to! The next unit we start in 2 weeks will be about poetry. I’m sure we’ll have just as much fun writing those!


Daily 5 Word Work Idea: Roll it, Say it!

It’s that time again- time to look at another activity we do for Daily 5 Word Work!

Roll it, Say it

Again you’ll notice that all of our Daily 5 Word Work activities are inside of these clear bins. I love it for many reasons: 1. The students can see what they are picking easily because it’s clear and it’s labeled. 2. All the things they need to play the game or activity is already inside the box (no searching around the room) and 3. They can take it and go get started right away!

Here’s a look inside this box:

Inside the box!

It’s a little messy 🙂 but you can see what this game includes: game boards, colored chips, and dice. Here’s a better look at one of the game boards:

A game board

Something to notice about the boards- they have high frequency words and decode-able words on them. And, each box has a number in it.

Here’s how to play this Word Work game (played in partners). The partners pick 1 game board to play with. They place that game board in front of them. One student rolls the dice. If they roll a 3, they would have to look at the game board and all the words with a 3 in the box. They pick one of those words and say it out loud. If they say that one word correctly, they use their color chip to cover up that space. If they say it incorrectly or don’t know it, they don’t get to cover it and it’s the other person’s turn. Here is a partner group playing:

Covering a word

The game continues until one player has covered an entire row or column. I like this game because it helps the students practice sounding out words and reading high frequency words. The students like this game because it’s fun and it’s like a competition. They love rolling the dice and picking their own word to read.

Here are some FREE game boards to use to play this game in your classroom or at home!  Roll it, Say it Game