The Joy of Teaching – An Evan-Moor Blog

Sharing creative ideas and lessons to help children learn

April 27, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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Kindergarten Readiness Checklist: What Does My Child Need to Know for Kindergarten?

Preparing your child for kindergarten can be a stressful experience. With new learning standards, children are expected to enter kindergarten with a higher skill set than previous years. Set your child up for success and start practicing some basic kindergarten prep skills that will give your child a strong foundation.

Here is a list of skills your child should practice before entering school in the fall. Print the kindergarten checklist.

Listening/Speaking

  • Listen to stories without interrupting
  • Recognize rhyming sounds
  • Pay attention for short periods of time to adult-directed tasks
  • Follow 2-step directions
  • Speak in complete sentences
  • Make comparisons between objects such as big/little

Social/Emotional

  • Understand actions have both causes and effects
  • Start to follow rules and share
  • Separate from parents without being upset
  • Speak understandably
  • Manage bathroom needs independently

Motor Skills

  • Cut with scissors
  • Hold pencil correctly
  • Trace basic shapes
  • Hop, jump, run, bounce a ball

Math

  • Count to ten
  • Identify numbers 1–5
  • Correspondence counting (one-to-one counting)
  • Sort similar objects by color, size, and shape
  • Identify basic shapes and colors
  • Understand more than and less than

Phonological Awareness and Print Knowledge

  • Recite the alphabet and identify most of the letters
  • Identify rhyming words
  • Identify the beginning sound of some words
  • Write name
  • Retell a story

 

More Kindergarten Resources

How-to Videos


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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April 21, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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Teacher-Recommended Educational Games and Apps for Grades PreK–5

Not all of the educational games and apps available are created equal. As a parent and teacher, I have discovered most educational apps to be a waste of time and money. But you can make your child’s screen time count with these top three performers. Designed to practice skills with fun and engaging activities, these educational games will capture children’s interest and feed their brains.

 

Starfall, Grades PreK–2
The Starfall website introduces early educational skills through play. Children learn essential math and reading skills through songs, chants, rhymes, and games. You can use the free version with limited access or pay $35 for a year’s subscription for the full version.

Draw Then Write, Grades K–3
Evan-Moor’s Draw Then Write educational app is the perfect tool to inspire reluctant writers. Children are allowed to let their imagination run wild with over 30 theme-based drawing and creative writing prompts. Using digital drawing tools, children create a picture and then write a story based on their picture. Draw Then Write is available for $3.99 and available in iTunes (for use with iPads).

ABCYA, Grades PreK–5
ABCYA is a teacher-created website that offers fun and engaging learning games and apps for grades PreK–5. It offers access to all grade levels with math, reading, thinking, and spelling games. A family subscription is $6.99 a month.

What other educational games and apps have you used with your children or students? Please share in the comments section!


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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April 12, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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Dinosaur Fossils: Earth Science Activity

Dinosaurs are a great topic to sneak into your earth science fossil unit. They engage your students’ interest easily and often produce the best writing samples of the year. This souvenir activity is a memorable way to wrap up your study and will enrich your students’ learning experience.

Materials: Tupperware (one per student), modelling clay, shells, plastic dinosaurs, plastic plants, Plaster of Paris, water

 

Directions:

  1. Press a little modelling clay, about 2 cm, into the bottom of a Tupperware container.
  2. Carefully press shell or other object into the clay.
  3. Remove objects from the clay.
  4. Mix a ratio of 1 part water to two parts Plaster of Paris.
  5. Pour the plaster on top of the clay and let it dry for 24 hours.
  6. Remove the plaster from the Tupperware and leftover clay. (If you have students remove all of the plaster pieces from the clay, you may reuse the clay.)

Writing Extension Activities:

  • Write a short story about a fossil. Include key vocabulary and specific descriptions of the fossilization process. What does the fossil tell you?
  • Research a type of dinosaur.
    • When and where did they live?
    • What did they eat (carnivore, herbivore, omnivore)?
    • What does their name mean?
    • What is the theory of how they died?


Download your free lesson from Read and Understand Science Grades 2–3.

For more dinosaur lessons and ideas, subscribe to TeacherFileBox, Evan-Moor’s digital lesson library.

 

 

 

 


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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April 11, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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5 activities to get active boys and girls ready for kindergarten

If you have an active preschooler, getting your child ready for kindergarten with workbooks and seatwork can be a challenge. Here are some fun activities and games to help your child learn important kindergarten readiness skills—without sitting down!

Musical Letters Dance

Kindergarten readiness skill: Letter recognition 

Inspire and entertain the dancer in your child while teaching letter recognition.

  1. Write the letters of the alphabet on 8 x 5 construction paper and cut them out. Tape them, in random order, on the floor of a room. (Start with 8-10 letters at a time.)
  2. Create matching 3 x 5 cards with one letter on each card.
  3. When the music plays, everyone dances around the room.
  4. When the music stops, hold up a 3 x 5 card with a letter on it. (Make sure it is on the floor, as well.) Your child should find the same letter on the floor that you are holding up on the 3 x 5 card.

This game also works well outside with chalk.

Matchbox Car Counting

Kindergarten readiness skill: Correspondence counting 

Start teaching one-to-one correspondence counting with objects your child enjoys.

  1. Tape the numbers 1–10 onto 10 matchbox cars. Have your child count out loud and put the numbers in order from least to greatest. (Increase numbers when appropriate.)
  2. Tape letters to the top of matchbox cars. Have your child create simple three-letter words (sounding out the beginning, middle, and end sounds). Start with words that end in the letters “at,” such as bat, cat, sat, mat, rat, pat.

Scavenger Hunt Directions Game

Kindergarten readiness skill: Follow multi-step directions

Learning to follow multi-step directions is an important skill to learn for kindergarten. Help your child learn listening skills by playing direction games. Make it fun with a direction scavenger hunt.

  1. Hide 5–10 fun objects around the house.
  2. Give oral 1- to 3-step directions for finding the objects. Start simple with one step and work up to three steps.

Sight Word Target Practice

Kindergarten readiness skill: Recognize sight words 

Introduce beginning sight words with some target practice.

  1. Write sight words on paper plates. Beginning sight words to use: can, see, the, a, we, look, to, me, go, here, I, is, for, it. (Start with two sight words and work up.)
  2. Line up the plates on the floor, wall or pavement.
  3. Have children read a word and throw a beanbag at the word they identified.

Dinosaur Dig

Kindergarten readiness skill: Fine motor skills

Discover you inner paleontologist with this fine motor skills game.

  1. Pour rice into a deep pan or dish.
  2. Bury miniature colored dinosaur figures in the rice.
  3. Have your child pull out the dinosaur figures using a pair of tweezers. (Ask your child to count the figures for cross-curricular practice.)

Final tips on getting your active child ready for kindergarten: Keep learning fun and positive the entire time! If you are able, try incorporating some fine motor skill practice. Holding a pencil and scissors properly is difficult and requires frequent practice. Keep these practice sessions short, but regular.

For more ideas about preparing your child for kindergarten read 5 Tips to Help Your Child Get Ready for Kindergarten

Recommended resources for active learners

Zoo Phonics is a multisensory language arts program that combines movement and learning.

Alphabet Puppets  teaches alphabet and phonemic awareness in letter formation in a unique and entertaining format.


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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March 27, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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Create Independent Learning with Take It to Your Seat Centers

As homeschoolers, we know it is quite important to create independent learning experiences for our children. Parents know the value of our children learning to complete tasks on their own.

Since we want our kids to be able to thrive independently, it is essential that we create independent learning opportunities to guide them through the process.

One of my go-to resources that I use to create independent learning experiences is an Evan-Moor series called Take It to Your Seat Centers. The full-color activities in these books are designed for children to practice skills on their own!

Step-by-Step Method to Create Independent Learning

I wanted to share this simple step-by-step method to create independent learning:

  1. Teach the new skill (I highly recommend Evan-Moor’s Language Fundamentals and Math Fundamentals as your baseline curriculum).
  2. Make certain children understand the skill. We check for this understanding to make sure they are ready for practicing using the new skill correctly.
  3. Choose an activity that will help your child practice this skill. My kids really enjoy the full-color activities from the Evan-Moor series called Take It to Your Seat.
  4. Introduce and practice the independent learning activity with them. Why? Even though children may understand the skill, it still may be new to them. Let children try the activities on their own. Once kids have success with guided practice on their own, they will naturally move toward learning on their own.
  5. Follow up by having children repeat the activity again as a review in future independent work time such as workboxes or centers.

How I Use Take It to Your Seat Centers

Evan-Moor’s Take It to Your Seat activities are so fun, colorful, and engaging that children will be motivated to work on their own.

There are Take It to Your Seat books for math, geography, language, literacy, phonics, reading, science, vocabulary, and writing!

One of the secrets to creating independent learning experiences for children is to practice with them FIRST. If we are working with skills that are new to children, we do the Take It to Your Seat activity together. Then I put the Take It to Your Seat activity in their workboxes as a review within the next 3–7 days.

If the Take It to Your Seat activity is a skill that children have already been taught, then I make sure they understand the directions and let them have a go on their own!

BONUS TIP: I like to print these activities out and keep them in an envelope or plastic bag. We use them to review all year long!

Have you checked out the Take It to Your Seat series yet? If not, head over there right away!

Remember, you get the BEST price by joining TeacherFileBox for $13/month. You will have access the entire series of Take It to Your Seat books and tons of other publications covering grades PreK–6 in reading, phonics, math, science, and MORE!

How do you set your child up for success for learning independently? Share your ideas in the comments!


Amy Michaels is a certified teacher with 11 years of elementary classroom experience who is actively homeschooling her own children. Her mission is share the best teaching methods and resources with all homeschoolers. Amy supports parents through her podcasts, webinars, and online training for homeschoolers on her website www.thrivehomeschooling.com.

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March 17, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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DIY Schoolyard Habitat Lesson

Often, science labs can be tedious labors of love that require tremendous amounts of time and preparation. This fun activity is a simple schoolyard observation that encourages students to put on their investigative caps and research the habitats on their playground.

  1. Create a Habitat logbook: Students will create their own science logbook to record class notes and observations. Be sure to include blank pages for observations and drawings. (For the logbook that I used check out ScienceWorks for Kids: Habitats.)
  2. Research: Check out books from your school library on habitats. I like to designate a corner of my classroom to this theme and fill the space with books, posters, and pictures.
  3. Playground field trip:
  • Discuss the scientific method of inquiry, investigation, hypothesis, data collection, and analysis. Have students record their hypothesis in their logbook about what they might find outside.
  • Separate students into pairs.
  • Give each group a quadrant (wire hanger pushed into a square). Magnifying glasses and clipboards are helpful if you have them.
  • Instruct students to observe only the area within their quadrant.
  • Students record living and nonliving things they discover in their logbooks. Encourage them to draw detailed pictures. 
  1. Conclusions: Discuss what students found during their observations and identify what type of habitat they observed outside. Students will write their conclusions in their science logbooks.

This is the perfect springtime activity to get students out of the classroom without spending your precious field trip budget. Listed below are additional resources I used in my unit study on habitats, biomes and ecosystems.

Additional Resources:


Backyard
by Donald Silver


ScienceWorks for Kids: Habitats offers detailed study units on diverse habitats


Complete Thematic Units, Habitats – Forests and Meadows


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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March 2, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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St. Patrick’s Day STEM Activities

St. Patrick’s Day is a great day to include a little magic in your daily lessons. What could be more fun than mischievous leprechauns, magical rainbows, and pots of gold? Make your classroom celebrations educational and engaging with these STEM and writing activities.

Build a Leprechaun Trap: Engineering and Design

This is a fun activity that works well with small groups. Have groups discuss and plan their trap before building. Be sure to build students’ background knowledge by learning the history and facts behind leprechauns. Define key terms and encourage students to use them in their writing.

Materials:

  1. Recyclables: egg cartons, plastic containers, toilet paper rolls, wine corks, rubber bands, shoe boxes, string etc.
  2. Colored paper
  3. Shiny rocks (spray them with gold) or Lucky Charms cereal for bait
  4. Glue/tape

Writing Prompts:

  1. Write a short story about catching a leprechaun in your trap. Describe three wishes you would ask him for and why.
  2. Describe how to rebuild your leprechaun trap. Be specific!

Rainbow Crystals Science Experiment: Structure and Properties of Matter

Encourage a love of science in your classroom with this rainbow crystal experiment. Students create their own crystal rainbows with just pipe cleaners, string, borax, and water.

Materials: Borax, boiling water, pipe cleaners, Popsicle sticks, large container

Directions:

  1. Link colored pipe cleaners into rainbow design.
  2. In a bucket, mix 3 T. borax for every boiling cup of water. Only the teacher should handle the boiling water mixture.
  3. Dip pipe cleaners in solution and leave overnight (24 hours).

For an extra special addition to students rainbows, have them set them on chocolate gold coins.

Download your free science lesson Rainbows from Read and Understand Science, grades 2–3.

May the luck of the Irish be with you!


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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February 22, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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3 Keys for Teaching Young Children to Read: Homeschool Ideas and Resources for PreK-3rd Grade

When we teach young children to read, we often start to think of teaching letters and letter sounds. While that is a fine place to start, what do you teach next?

Teaching reading can be fun for both us and our kids, and Evan-Moor has several options to help you teach reading in ways that are effective and keep your kids wanting to read!

Key #1: Teaching Young Children to Read with Decoding

When our children are preschool age, we teach them to name letters and say basic letter sounds. We know these letters will be put together to form words. Most children enjoy learning the letters of their name first, so that is a fun first word to teach them.

As our child learns letter sounds, we soon find that letters in the English language can get tricky. Yes, each letter has its own sound, but those letter sounds can quickly change. For example, the letter “g” makes a different sound in “goat” and “giraffe.” Additionally, once we start combining letters, the sounds can change completely (as in “ight” in the word “right”). It is common for children to continue studying phonics rules throughout the elementary school grades.

It is so helpful to have a list of these phonics rules to know exactly what to introduce next when teaching young children to read. Evan-Moor has 2 popular options that are great for homeschooling: Daily Phonics and Basic Phonics Skills.

Daily Phonics is for grades 1,2,3 and 4–6 — and focuses on particular phonics skills each week. One of my favorite features is that the weekly unit begins with a single page that contains 5 quick phonics lessons for the week (typically one lesson per day). It is so easy to follow! Then there are quick practice pages to allow the child to put the new skills to use.

Basic Phonics Skills is for grades PreK–3 and can be used as a curriculum. This book invites the child to focus on one phonics skill per practice page. Personally, I like to have my child work on these in an independent practice (like workboxes) in days following our Daily Phonics lesson. This helps me to see if my child really understands the phonics skill on her own.

Key #2: Teaching Young Children to Read with Comprehension

As we are teaching young children to read, it is vital that the children understand what they are reading. My favorite way to teach reading comprehension is reading several types of reading materials. We read fiction books, nonfiction books, recipes, instructions, poems, etc. As we read each one, we talk about what we are thinking. We share what we understand with each other. It keeps us all engaged and enjoying reading together.

If you want to enrich your homeschooling with time-saving activities, Evan-Moor has multiple options for your reading instruction. One of my favorite features of these publications is that often the practice pages also include skills in other areas like writing, phonics, and vocabulary.

Reading Literary Text is offered for grades 1–6. Each unit includes the mini-book or reading passage that is needed for the week. Each unit provides a new story for your child to read! After your child reads the selection, there are practice pages to go specifically with the story. Additionally, each story is leveled in difficulty within each grade level. So homeschoolers can easily set their child up for success when they are learning to read.

Once our kids are learning to read, we can also teach them to read to learn. Evan-Moor has a truly fabulous (newly revised) book called Nonfiction Reading Practice. There are about 17 topics per book, typically on science and social studies topics. There is one brilliant aspect of this book: each topic offers 3 reading passages of varying difficulty! This is terrific if you are homeschooling more than one child, so you can select the reading passage that is just right for your child.

Reading Informational Text is another powerhouse of lessons and activities to use when teaching young children to read. This series is offered for grades 1–6 and is organized in units on a particular topic. Within each unit, there are ready-made lesson plans for vocabulary, reading comprehension, writing, and more! These topics teach kids to read to learn and provide an opportunity to use other skills related to the topic.

Key #3: Teaching Young Children to Read with Fluency

When teaching young children to read, we need to teach them to read with fluency. Reading with fluency is reading smoothly (rather than in a robotic or choppy way). There is one vital part of teaching fluency – kids should be reading material they already know how to read. This is not the time for teaching decoding. This is a time to have FUN reading.

Do your kids like to entertain you? Our kids like to put on “shows” where they use puppets or act out their favorite stories. How about doing some readers’ theater? This is where your children will retell a story by each reading their parts aloud, often using puppets or acting out what they are reading.

When teaching young children to read with fluency, we invite children to have fun reading with expression! Children practice reading out aloud in the way that we naturally speak (and maybe enjoy a little dramatic effect, too!). Leveled Readers’ Theater is available for grades 1–6 and contains topics and stories that kids enjoy. If you are involved in a homeschool co-op, readers’ theater can be a fun way to teach young children to read with fluency!

Another EASY option for teaching children to read with fluency is to have them read familiar materials from previous grade levels. Your child can read the previous grade level materials from any of these series that I have shared!

Homeschool Tip: TeacherFileBox digital lesson library

If you are trying to choose between any of these Evan-Moor books to use in your homeschooling, I have to let you in on my favorite way to get access to ALL grade levels of each of these series in digital format! Evan-Moor has created a digital lesson library of all of these books into TeacherFileBox.

You can gain access to TeacherFileBox through a monthly or annual subscription. You can search by skill, grade level, subject, or topic! What is even more amazing if that you get access to ALL grade levels of these books with your subscription. Once you subscribe, you have access to all of the fun books I shared in this blog and over 400 other titles, as well! Subscribe for a month and get the first 30 days free or get the best deal ($79.99 for a year) through the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op.

 

Which of these books would you like to integrate into your homeschooling? Just let me know in the comments!


Amy Michaels is a certified teacher with 11 years of elementary classroom experience who is actively homeschooling her own children. Her mission is share the best teaching methods and resources with all homeschoolers. Amy supports parents through her podcasts, webinars, and online training for homeschoolers on her website www.thrivehomeschooling.com.

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February 14, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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Presidents’ Day Activities for Grades 3–6

Presidents’ Day formally honors George Washington, but the holiday opens up the perfect opportunity to salute all of the men who have served our country. Dedicate a few lessons to the study of these great men.

Listed below are a few research and writing activities to inspire your students to think about the importance of individuals within our government. It is possible you may be inspiring a future political leader.

Research

  • Presidential term limits and qualifications to be president.
    Write an opinion piece on whether or not the qualifications should change.
  • Students choose an influential president to research and write a report about his contributions while in office.
  • Study and research the Electoral College and its role within the election process.

Interview
Interview a family member or friend about the president he or she remembers the most and why. (Brainstorm a list of questions.)

Counting in Code Game

  • Ask students to count money but list only the names of the presidents on the bills. For example: two George Washingtons, one Abraham Lincoln, and three Andrew Jacksons.
    • $1 George Washington
    • $2 Thomas Jefferson
    • $5 Abraham Lincoln
    • $10 Alexander Hamilton
    • $20 Andrew Jackson

President Word Search

Download your free printable here. (From Seasonal Activities series)


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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February 14, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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Presidents’ Day Activities for Grades PreK–2

Presidents’ Day is the perfect holiday to salute some of the great men who have served our country. Here are some fun activities to introduce young students to the importance of the presidency.

Coin Sort (PreK–1)

  • Students separate pennies and quarters by identifying the president on each.
  • Advanced: Include dimes (Franklin Roosevelt) and nickels (Thomas Jefferson)

Create a Timeline
Create a timeline of Abraham Lincoln’s life. (Download free timeline cards here.)

Coin Cleaning Science Experiment

  • Hypothesize which solution cleans coins the best: water, vinegar and salt, tabasco, lemon juice, cola, or baking soda.
  • Fill separate containers with solution and drop a dirty penny in each. Wait 15 minutes before removing the pennies.
  • Observe and record observations.
  • Discuss which solution worked the best and why. (Vinegar and tabasco work well because of the vinegar and salt solution.)

Writing Prompts:

  • Compare and contrast Washington and Lincoln.
  • What are some important lessons we can learn from famous presidents?
  • Students imagine they are president of the United States for one day. What would they do? What is the most important thing a president does?

Craft
Create a portrait of George Washington.

Book Recommendation

  • This Caldecott award winner has wonderful facts and stories about many of our nation’s most prominent presidents.
    So You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George

For additional resources and activities, check out Evan-Moor’s Theme Pockets: Presidents’ Day.


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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