Saturday, December 1, 2012

Counting and Cardinality....Patterns and Paper Chains

I am a huge fan of combining learning with fun...learning with holidays, seasons, or themes.  I like Kindergarten for this very reason.  It is almost expected that you are playing while you are learning.

My kinders this year seem to need more practice with patterns.  Many are struggling to copy any pattern I create other than abab and to keep that pattern going.  Also, I want my room to look more festive.  Combine the two and you have one of my favorite (and first) activities for December.

Paper Chains

Each day this week we are made old-fashioned paper chains with a different pattern each day.

First, I started out with the pattern I knew they were good at....abab.  I figured this was a good chance to throw in some higher level thinking.  I asked them if I wanted them to use 10 paper strips how many red would they need and how many green?  Too easy for some of my kinders and they got it right away.  Yay!!  Next some counting practice.  I gave them random amounts of red as I quickly passed out the paper strips, and told them to count out five.  They were to give me back the extra.  Surprise!!  This turned into an informal assessment of who understood 5.  Many of my kinders came and told me they had seven or eight, and I had the chance to talk to them about how many they were supposed to have and what should they do.  Some thought they had five and when we counted together they discovered they did not.  Some thought they had five because they had more than five...again we talked about that.  Once they had five red, they could go and count out five green.  Then they went to work.  Day one took my kids about 30 minutes to get everything counted out and the chains made.

Day two, I went for another pattern I thought they were pretty good at abcabc... red, yellow, green, red, yellow, green.  I confess that I was worried about the time and the discussions (about how many we need to make our chains, and could we have the same number of each color if we used 10 strips) went too fast and I did too much of the talking.  It is so important for us to let our kinders talk with each other and discover things on their own.  We need to work hard at stepping back and not giving them all the answers.

This time we only had to count three...and I had them count with a partner (I could pass out the strips quicker).  The counting went quicker.  More students were understanding the expectations, counting to three was easier, and they had a partner to help them count.  Even with having to fix patterns gone wrong, we had plenty of time to go back to yesterday's chains.  We took all those chains of 10 and connected them into one long chain and counted.  Every tenth chain we stopped and added a star.  We wrote the number on the star and my kiddos told me how to write that number.  Zero was our hero helping us make those numbers.  Perfect timing lunch recess bell rang, right when we got to 100.  So we stopped there.  When I hung that up 100 fit right across the front of my room...perfect length!

Day three and on to a pattern I really hadn't talked about at all....aabb.  More and more of my kinders were getting it and counting and creating patterns went quickly!  They loved continuing on the patterns to make Rapunzel hair.  All of a sudden it seems my kiddos are getting patterns.

Day four and it's time to take my own advice and let them have a chance to work with some of those mathematical practices from the common core.  Can they have persistence in solving a problem?  Do they know how to approach the solution?  Can they communicate with each other about how to solve the problem?  Can they use tools to solve the problem?  What was the problem?  If you were making a chain of red, red, green, red, red green (and yes they labeled it aab for me without me even asking...volunteered that information!) how many red strips and green strips would you need if the pattern repeated  three times.  When we talked about the pattern I drew it twice on my white board.  I made sure they knew they could use anything in the room...paper, pattern blocks, counting chips, connecting cubes, just their fingers.  I paired them up and they went to work.  And boy did they work!  I wish I had pictures or a video camera to record their conversations.  And where was my principal during all this?  He still needs to do my observation. 

When about half had figured it out we stopped and shared our thinking.  Now everyone knew how many paper strips to get and it was off to make the chains. 

Thursday our classroom elf hung up the chains that were finished and boy were they excited!  We have a rule that you can't hang anything from the ceiling or lights...but we do have beams in my room.  So, I put the chains from the top of the bulletin boards across the room to the beams.   It's beginning to look a  lot like Christmas!

Have a great week!!   I am working on some cute freebies to keep your eyes open.


  1. I love your paper chains. I love when you hang them from the ceiling in the hall. It is the best! Your trees are awesome too!