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The Spin on Spinners: Test Driving Classroom Game Spinners

The Spin on Spinners: Test Driving Classroom Game Spinners

Game spinners can be used in so many ways in a primary classroom. They are a great alternative to dice when you want to focus on specific numbers and concepts and they add fun and fine motor practice to simple practice activities! While I have often use the paperclip and pencil spinner method, which is easy for students to learn, I wanted to try out some store-bought spinners that still allow for customization. I will include an Amazon affiliate link to each of the spinners I tested.

The printed and laminated spinners I used when testing these spinner arrows are 4.25" square. Two of the arrows I tested require making a hole in the middle of the spinner (which was little challenging), one uses a suction cup, and the other is a clear plastic overlay spinner. They all spun smoothly and did the job, but I think each are best suited for particular tasks.

The Spin on Spinners: Test Driving Classroom Game Spinners

These colorful spinner arrows are four inches long. They are reasonably priced for a 12-pack and, once attached to the spinner, work nicely. To use, you must make a hole in the center of your spinner and snap the two parts of the arrow together through the hole. The arrow can easily be removed to use with a different spinner.

These black board game spinner arrows function in the same way as the rainbow arrows above, but they are only three inches long, which worked better for my purposes (as the 4" spinners extended beyond the spinner circle. What I like about this type of arrow is that they stay put, spin smoothly, and lie just above the surface of the spinner, making it easy for children to see which section the arrow has "landed" on.

If you are making games that you want to keep forever, it is probably worth it to use these arrows. If I were going to be rotating my arrows through a variety of spinners, I don't think I'd want to have to make a hole in the center for each one. (To make the hole, I used this extended-reach hole punch which still wasn't quite long enough. The hole also wasn't big enough, so I had to expand it with scissors.)

 BryBelly Rainbow Spinner Arrows      Black Board Game Spinner Arrows

The next arrows I tried are these cute suction cup ones! I wanted these to be the best because they are such a fun idea. These can simply be pressed down onto the center of your spinner before flicking. What I found is that these are fun to use, they just don't stay stuck for very long. To a laminated spinner, the arrow did stick for long enough to spin, but it needed to be pressed down again for each new spin. I tried sticking it to plain paper and it would not stick for more than a brief moment (no surprise), but it stuck for considerably longer to a white board (both horizontal and vertically). These spinners are great if you want students to just be able to grab one and get to work. They might be motivating to some students, which could make up for their lack of stickiness! The only other downfall to these it that the arrow sits up higher from the spinner surface. This makes it a little trickier to see where the spinner is pointing if it's close to a line.

 Suction Cup Spinner Arrows

These last spinners, by ETA hand2mind, are transparent plastic overlay spinners. With these, you can lay them on top of your own spinner (and tape them if you don't want them to shift). This is a super simple way to make anything into a spinner! Another popular use for these is to tape the clear spinner to a CD jewel case. You can then stick any homemade spinner inside the case for a secure and interchangeable spinner solution. These spin smoothly and are, in my opinion, the most versatile and easy of the four spinners I tried. If you'd like to try the CD case option, these Memorex Jewel Cases are great. They come in five colors, which is great for grouping and differentiating, but the front covers are clear, so your spinner inside will be clearly visible.

 ETA hand2mind Clear Spinner

 Clear Spinner on CD Jewel Case

Speaking of spinners, check out my newest resource! These spinner games can be used all year long.

 Spinner Math Games on TPT

Thanks for reading!

Five Beautiful Books for Teaching About Plants and Seeds

five picture books for your plants unit in kindergarten, first grade

We all know that reading aloud is important. It helps children build language and vocabulary, encourages positive feelings about books and reading, and helps young students develop print and word concepts. [Read some research on these benefits here.] Quality read alouds also make it so easy to integrate science and social studies into literacy in the primary classroom. Always on the lookout for beautiful books that help children understand the science in the world around them, I gathered five books that are perfect to use in your plants and seeds unit! (This post contains affiliate links.)

1. Plant Secrets by Emily Goodman, illustrated by Phyllis Limbacher Tildes

This is a book that can be read again and again because, though the text is fairly simple, the illustrations are abundant and detailed. Plant Secrets takes the reader from seeds to plants to flowers to fruits and back to seeds again. Each section focuses on rose, oak, pea, and tomato plants, but many other examples are included in the illustrations. Children enjoy the refrain, "But all these ___ have a SECRET!" (seeds, plants, flowers, etc.) The back of this book has a section with more in-depth information about the stages of the life cycle and the four featured plants. My only wish is that the numerous illustrations were labeled, but all of the information that is included is sure to spur many connections in your learners' minds!

2. Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

This gorgeous books follows the narrator, a young girl, through the seasons as she works in the garden with her Nana. The text in this story is chock full of lyrical language beginning with, "Up in the garden, I stand and plan--my hands full of seeds and my head full of dreams." It also contains quite a bit of rich vocabulary (furrow, prowl, wilt, drenched) and figurative language (wind whistles, pumpkins blush orange). The books alternates between describing the activity the narrator and her Nana are engaged in as they plant and care for their garden with the activity that is taking place out of sight as insects and other critters go about their business in the soil. The illustrations are detailed and sweet and add quite a bit to the already lovely story. The back of the book has a great section with more information about the animals mentioned in the book. Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt is sure to inspire your children to plant their own gardens!

3. What Will Grow? by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Susie Ghahremani

This cute book with rhyming text is a quick read--perfect for those few minutes before lunch or specials begin. Each page has a short, descriptive rhyming passage followed by the question, "What will grow?" Most of the page spreads include the picture of the final plant along with the riddle (which takes some of the fun out of guessing), but there are four spreads with a fold-out page that reveals the answer along with a gorgeous illustration. The back of the book includes more information about each variety of seed along with instructions on planting. What Will Grow? is a great lead-in to a seed walk out on the playground or on a field trip to a natural area.

4. A Fruit is a Suitcase for Seeds by Jean Richards, illustrated by Anca Hariton

Using the simple suitcase metaphor, this book teaches about seeds in relationship to fruits in a way that students can really relate to. A Fruit is a Suitcase for Seeds describes the wide variety of seeds that plants produce and explains ways that they can travel and become planted in new spaces. It includes soft, but realistic, watercolor illustrations, many of which are labeled with fruit names. The back of this book holds a question and answer section with lots of the type of fun trivia that kids love to collect  (such as that some orchid seeds are so tiny that one million of them would equal the weight of a grape)!

5. The Dandelion Seed by Joseph Anthony, illustrated by Cris Arbo

This sweet story follows a slightly anthropomorphic dandelion seed through its life cycle. By ascribing human emotions to the seed, this book offers inspiration for children with fears to overcome, while also teaching about the life cycle of a familiar plant. The illustrations are bright and colorful and are filled with details for children to notice. The Dandelion Seed is a great picture book for making connections. Children will likely think about times that they have blown the seeds off of a dandelion and they may also think about times that they have been afraid or nervous about trying something new.

Five picture books for your plants unit in kindergarten or first grade

I'd love to know some of your favorite books that you use during your plants unit! Please share them in the comments!

Another resource you might find useful this spring is my Plants Unit on TPT. This set includes a nonfiction PowerPoint slideshow full of photos and facts about plants and seeds. It covers the life cycle of plants, their parts, and their needs. The resource also includes printable materials to support informational writing, a seed journal, and many thematic worksheets and activities.

I've also recently posted an informational plants resource for use with Google Slides. This one has an e-book (with audio) as well as six interactive slides. It's great for teacher who are working with students online using Google Classroom.

 Plants Unit on TPT     Distance learning activities for kindergarten and first grade - plants life cycle

Thanks so much for reading!