04 July 2013

Throwback Thursday

I'm throwin' back with you today all the way from Michigan!  HAPPY JULY 4th!  We spend this holiday with our sweet family on the lake every single year and I can honestly say that this is one of my most favorite summer traditions!  I just love this time of year!  If you have any extra time on your hands today...or any time this week...link up with us for another edition of....

This week I'm highlighting a little post I blogged about last summer.  One of my most FAVORITE ways to integrate math and reading/writing.  Hope you can maybe incorporate this into your classroom, too!!
HAPPY 4th!!!!  

Originally posted July 19, 2012

Hi friends!  Are y’all enjoying summer as much as I am?!?!   I’m *trying* to savor every little second before I have to head back to set up my NEW classroom!!  Eeeek! 
I think I’ve said it before, but I LOVE teaching math.  I wasn’t always a fan, but over the last couple of years, it’s become one of my favorite things to teach.  I like math even more when I can integrate literacy into it. During my 2nd year of teaching, I had this little mailbox in my classroom.  Book characters would write to my kids asking them to help solve a problem.  This was my little way to try and incorporate math & literacy into my whole group time.  The kids LOVED it.  Our librarian at the time suggested I send that idea into The Mailbox, so I did.  And they published it!  I was SO stinkin’ excited!
This was back in 2005 right after I married Mr. Spouse.  That little fact has NOTHING to do with this post…just thought I’d give him a little shout out :)
I sent in my idea when I was still a “Miss”.  Miss Hagerty, to be exact.  And if we were bff, you might’ve even called me “Miss Hag” ;)
The idea behind Mailbox Math was to get the kids solving problems and writing!!!!  It was my most favorite time of the day!!!  After we’d read a book….let’s say, Square Cat…the main character would write to us asking us to solve a problem.  The letter would show up in our class mailbox and my helper of the day would excitedly check the mail and bring it to the carpet.  I’d read the letter aloud and ohmiword…crickets.  You could hear a pin drop!  They were so excited to hear from someone we just read about!  AND…they were even MORE excited to help that character solve a problem!!
Have y’all read Square Cat by Elizabeth Schoonmaker?!  Ohmiword…LOVE it.  She sent this to me back in the Spring and ever since then I’ve been absolutely OBSESSED!  But I digress…
So it would go a little something like this.  *Square Cat*…aka: YOU…writes to the class…
The problem can be ANYTHING!  We solved ALL sorts of problems!  The big idea was to get the kids thinking…talking…and working together.  After you read the letter aloud…usually in a whole group setting…the kids use manipulatives to try and solve the problem. I’d give them a little bit of time to discuss the problem with their friends and then solve it…together or independently.  I’d call on a few friends to share their strategies & answers with the class and I’d always make them explain HOW they got their answers.  My kids were PROS at it!  Then we’d sit down as a class and write back…in this case, to Eula…the Square Cat.
SO…not only are we solving problems, but we’re writing, too!!!  This was the *perfect* little activity for reinforcing letter writing…even in Kindergarten!  As we’d write back, we talked about the greeting, body, closing, and signature.  I’d always remind the kids how important it is to have neat handwriting so that Square Cat/Eula could read it…if he can’t read it, then he doesn’t know how to solve his problem!!!  Depending on the amount of time, I’d have the kids come up to the easel and help me write the letter…sight words, numbers, etc.  It’s great for building math vocabulary & familiarity with key words, too :) 
If you get a chance to incorporate Mailbox Math into your class, you should!  The kids love it and it just lends itself to SO many learning/teaching opportunities! 
Since I LOVE incorporating math & literacy so much, I created a little packet combining the best of both worlds.  This is just another way I plan on integrating both into my class this year…in addition to Mailbox Math.
B2S Mystery Messages
I designed this packet for *Back to School*, but it can definitely be used throughout the year!  It includes 20 different mystery messages.  I’m SO excited to use these in my classroom!!!!  I know the kids will be, too!!  I mean, what kid doesn’t love a good mystery?!?!  HA!!!  If you want to read more about it, click on the pic for a detailed description…

Feel free to link up with your Throwback post anytime between today and next Wednesday!  Can't wait to see what I've been missing!


  1. Oh boy, congrats on being published in Mailbox back in the day! Just think you are publishing yourself everytime you press enter, now!


  2. Hi Cara,

    Thank you so much for setting this up each Thursday!! I have had so much fun reading all of the fun ideas!! :) Happy 4th!



  3. Glad you are able to get away and enjoy Michigan! Michigan is my home state and we are enjoying time at the lake with our family for the 4th too. Love this linky. Thanks for hosting!
    Funky First Grade Fun

  4. I love the square cat activity! I grew up in Ohio and I LOVED going to the lakes in Michigan! Have fun! :)

  5. I love that activity! I can't wait to use it this year with my new first graders! Enjoy Michigan! Midwest summers are truly magical! Wisconsin is going to be beautiful today! Thank you for hosting this party!
    Blue Eye Life

  6. That is such a great idea! Love it!

    And Happy 4th!

    Teach on a Limb

  7. love this throwback! I just completed a 3-day training on teaching math almost only through the use of story problems, so this gives me great inspiration! Enjoy your time with family;) Happy 4th!

  8. I LOVE the square cat activity. I'll definitely have to use that idea. Enjoy Michigan and enjoy your 4th! Thanks for the linky. I just love going back and reading everyone's old posts.

    The 2nd Grade Surprise

  9. LOVE the square cat exploration! I must get the book!! Thanks so much for sharing and the opportunity to link up!

    Sarah @ Hoots N Hollers

  10. Cara, I love Mailbox magazines! My first year teaching, I spent hours in the library resource room, after school, copying the all the incredible activities! And Square Cat looks awesomely fun! Thanks for the book reference!
    Ms. Marciniak's First Grade Critter Cafe

  11. This is my first time linking up! Cool idea! I am a new follower.

    A Tender Teacher for Special Needs

  12. Thanks so much for your great ideas!! I am excited to incorporate the Mailbox Math and the Brown Bag Lunch Club!

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  14. Congrats on all your success! Such great ideas! Thanks for letting me join your linky! I'm still trying to figure out how to link back here from a your button image I put on page... I'll get it hopefully by next week! =)
    Fired Up for First Grade

  15. Hi Cara! Thanks so much for setting up this great linky! I was just introduced to the blogging world last fall, and I absolutely love it!!

    I"m definitely going to try out your letter writing activity with the characters!! I love it!!

    Being from Northwest Indiana, I completely understand how great Lake Michigan is!! Have a great time!!! :)

    All Things Apple in 2nd

  16. Thank you! Big square hugs! Happy 4th!


  17. LOVE that square cat math - so cute and engaging! I think mailbox math would be a fantastic way to introduce a new concept! :D

    {I linked up but clicked out of the link image by accident. I'm #78... if you want to delete it, I'll link up again. :D}

    ❤ Traci
    Dragonflies in First

  18. OH my - Mailbox Magazine really brings me back! That thing was packed full...and before the internet I depended on such things! Fantastic idea for a linky - I had fun looking through old posts and finally picked one on self-publishing since I still do that once a year.
    Thanks so much and enjoy the 4th!
    Whimsy Workshop

  19. Ha! I am not kidding! I have that same issue of Mailbox! You were famous BEFORE you were famous! Love ya!

  20. I would flip if I was ever published in Mailbox! I love this idea. I have been toying with the idea of doing Math Journals in second grade this year and I think this would be awesome to do and allow the kids to 'write back' to the character in their journals. Thanks for the idea! Hope you had an awesome 4th!

    Bitty Bilinguals

  21. I love this linky and am very excited to be linking up for the first time. I love the idea of Mailbox Math and I know my kiddos would, too. They LOVE problem solving, and using their favourite characters would be an absolute bonus. Thanks so much for sharing your idea!

    Miss Galvin Learns

  22. Awesome linky! I love the idea of mailbox math. A focus on letting kids truly grapple with concepts and form their own understandings is SO important. This is a great way to do it and still make it fun...with a writing focus to boot!

  23. Hi Cara! I just wanted you to know that I added your linky to my new weekly linky page on my blog! I LOVE the idea of Throw Back Thursday and I wanted other people (who may not already know) to find you! Thanks again!
    3 Teacher Chicks Weekly Linkies

  24. I used Cara's Back to School Mystery Messages last year and my students loved them! I already have them copied for the upcoming year:) ~ great packet!!