3 Tips for Busy First Grade Hands

Teaching firsties is the BEST! It’s both exhilirating and exhausting! There is so much to do and so much to learn! There are also so many other amazing first grade teachers out there! I am thrilled to be linking up with the super sweet Jen from Sparkling in Second to share some First Grade Teacher Tips!

One thing you must know about first graders is that they have busy hands, like really, really, REALLY busy hands! Here are some smart ways to keep their hands busy and their minds focused! You can pin any of the tip images so you don’t forget to try them!

Have you heard of fluency ears?! I LOVE them and so do firsties. They are perfect for guided reading or for reading as a whole class! Just place your hands over your ears like earmuffs and whisper read. The sound is amplified for you, but it does not distract anyone else. You can read at your own speed, and it gives your hands an important job too!

I always monitor my firsties as they read with their fluency ears. If you ever see me crawling around the carpet between kids and they have their hands over their ears- do not be alarmed, we’re just doing fluency ears!

When you want kids to listen, ask them to use their hands! Here is my favorite attention getter, especially if it’s really loud or we’re really involved in something crazy! I start off loudly and then say each command in a smaller voice until I am whispering. You can add lots of other actions in the middle too (put your hands on your shoulders, put your hands on knees, etc) but I always start with clap once, clap twice…and end with ready hands.

If you want to grab these posters for your classroom, just click on either version to download for FREE! (Thanks to Creative Clips for the graphics-she’s the best!)

If you really want your firsties learning, try keeping their hands busy. I love using manipulatives, but you know when kids see blocks, they want to build a tower. When they see dry erase boards, they want to spin them around and around (WHY?!) Here is a tip to keep their hands busy and keep you sane. Try doing “Busy Minutes!”

After you pass out a manipulative (even if you’ve used it like 29 times before), set a timer for 2-3 minutes. During that time, let your firsties build with the blocks, spin the spinners, make a train with the cubes, balance the rulers on their finger tips- whatever! When the timer goes off, those manipulatives are “TOOLS for learning– NOT TOYS for playing!” In my experience, allowing them time to try everything out and explaining your expectation, eliminates the woes that come with using manipulatives. 

Thanks for stopping by friends, I hope these tips for busy first grade hands gave you some new ideas for your classroom. I am always looking for new things to try so I would love to hear what you do to encourage busy hands in your classroom!

Emily Yerty

Emily Yerty

I’m a first grade teacher who believes in creating a classroom kids love and activities that keep them engaged all day!

7 Responses

  1. Thank you Lauren! I loved the "secret" you shared to get a straight and quiet line! There is always so much to learn and so many new things to try! Thanks for inspiring me!


  2. I've used the "fluency ears" idea, (we used it in high school chorus to help fine tune our pitch) but didn't have a cute name for it before. Thank you for the idea!

  3. I just adore your busy hands ideas, Emily! I always give my students time to play before learning with manipulatives as well…but I love the way you've explained it! Thanks!
    Elyse 🙂
    Proud to be Primary

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