Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater...Lots and Lots of Pumpkin Fun!

Can there ever be too much orange this time of year?  The answer is no if you are spending time with a big Boise State fan, and you are taking the grandkids to a corn maze and pumpkin patch.

The answer is also no, if you want to use your senses and math skills to explore pumpkins.  This week we will be doing just that.

We are reading about how pumpkins grow and creating a life cycle poster.

We will label the parts of a pumpkin.

We will closely observe both the inside and outside of a pumpkin.  We will weigh them and measure them and scoop out all the guts and count the seeds.  We will answer the question...Does the biggest pumpkin have the most seeds?

I have a trick for counting the seeds...scoop them out one day and don't count until the next.  This helps with the slipperyness of the seeds.  They are much easier to handle.

Second trick for counting seeds....use small cups and bigger cups to keep things organized.  10 seeds in a cup, 10 little cups go into a bigger cup.  Start over.  Count  the big cups as 100, and then how many cups of 10, and finally how many little ones left over.  Second part of this trick....invite parents to come and help count the seeds.  I have the best parents!

If you are not tired of pumpkins yet try some of these great books....

Friday, October 25, 2013

Zombies are coming...

I am always on the lookout for great little things my Kinders can use as manipulatives for math.  The more they touch, move, and manipulate stuff, the easier it is to understand those abstract things we call numbers.

Halloween isles are filled with good things to use.  When I saw a package of eyeballs I just knew I needed them.  It didn't take long to realize that if I added a cauldron I would have all I needed to play a missing addend game.

The game is simple but the math concepts and thinking can be complex.  The more you get your students talking about what they did, and what they were thinking, the deeper their understanding will be.

The game simply goes like this....take a certain number of things (in this case eyeballs), count them so you are sure of how many you have.  Then while everyone hides their eyes, you put some in your container.  Everyone looks and tells you how many they see.  Now for the many are in the cauldron?  When they tell you (right or wrong), ask them how they knew.  "What were you thinking?"  It is GREAT to get more than one way to figure out the answer.  Check the cauldron to see if they were right.  More discussion, especially if someone was mistaken.  How could they think differently, what could they have done differently?  My quickest student couldn't tell me how he knew.  As a matter of fact he told me exactly the wrong things.  So we talked about finding the words to explain our thinking.  Building vocabulary...building number sense...getting ready to add and subtract.  All wrapped up in this simple game.

When your students are ready I created these recording sheets.
You can change this game as often as you want.  I use jingle bells at Christmas and white pompoms in January.  There are seashells, and dinosaurs, and let your imagination run wild.  Limit the number of manipulatives for struggling students and increase the number as students are ready.  Turn their recorded games into number sentences when they are ready for more abstract thinking. 

Most important...Have Fun (but don't let the Zombies get you)!  Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Learning About Numbers

I wanted to get my lesson plans for the week posted, but once again I am not getting my lesson plans finished enough to post.  But, I can share how I teach number sense.  It goes sort-of the same each week for each number through ten (the the routine changes once we hit those tricky teens).

I focus on one number each week, stopping at 5 and 10 to get some extra practice with those important anchor numbers. I begin the week thinking of ways to make the number (for example this week we are doing 4).  We look at 10 frames and 5 frames, we make number lines.  We look at dice and dominoes and unifix and connecting cubes.  We look at shells and bears and STUFF.  Then we chart them on a circle map.  Everyone goes and brings me that many of something.  We finish our first day with the circle maps by Fran Kramer of Kindergarten Crayons.  Fran is so generous she offers a version of these for free on her blog, but the complete version is in her store.

Next we move on to writing the number and really understanding it with Peas and Carrots.  Composing and decomposing numbers with Peas and Carrots is really the backbone of building number sense with my students. 

I have a tub of just green and orange connecting cubes  The students are directed to grab a certain number of cubes (I have that number already writtten on a small paper plate).  We then sit on our carpet and look at all the combinations we made.  We draw those combinations on sticky notes and post them on a number poster.  I cluster the ones that are the same together.  As a class, we look them over and try to decide if we have all the combinations.  If not, I challenge them to find the ones they are missing.  To help keep track I created these recording sheets:

We not only write the numbers...but I have them draw the peas and carrots too.
We start with lots of modeling and think alouds.  We begin with the word and, then move to the plus sign.  Lots and lots of talking about our thinking and our strategies for finding all the combinations.  As the year progresses we do this in partners and sometimes we revisit smaller numbers in work stations as independent practice.  My teaching partner will give them a recording page with too many spaces to see if they know when they are done and if they found them all.

We always make a little book as one of our math stations.  I like this one in Fun With Numbers by Kathleen Pedersen from Growing Kinders.  There are many other resources in that packet we use all the time.  There are matching cards and ten frames, graphing, tracing, dot the number, and more.  Some I use in centers, some for practice, some as a whole group lesson or game.
What else do we do?  We go back to probably the best blog post ever for number sense.  Kindergarten Crayons has a plethora of ideas all in this one blog post.  There are books to make with your kinders and number writing practice, and games to play....all for free.  Check it out here.

We also look at more, less, and equal as we work with each number.  Using a simple table and a single dice, we throw the die, draw the dots (or write the number), and compare that to our focus number.   

At the suggestion of a sweet friend I have changed up my peas and carrots just a bit.  If you want something just for fall...I have Apples and Pumpkins.  I am going to use this version in math work stations, just so my kiddos will have fun using the little apples and pumpkins I hope to find in the candy isle (otherwise the apples may look more like candy corn).  There is always spiders and bats (I am hoping to get it finished by this weekend, I have spider and bat rings just waiting for little fingers). 

  How do you teach numbers?  What fun games and activities do you use?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Can you believe it?  It is October already.  I LOVE autumn, I love October, and I love linking up with Farley from Oh Boy 4th Grade.
I love NCIS!  I think it is the only show I try to remember to watch every week.  Give me a Tuesday and I am watching.  Due to where I live I can watch it twice (once in the Mountain time zone, 6:00 my time, and once in Pacific time zone, 8:00).  That just means that if I get distracted I can catch up on what I missed.  Is that crazy??

We finally bought me a new car.  My hunk of junk that refused to die, but really didn't work...just had to be put to away.  I resisted for a long time because I didn't want car payments when the old one still ran.  But we bit the bullet and bought a new to me little truck.  I LOVE it!!  To top it off my husband surprised me with custom license plates.
We have been in school just 5 weeks, but my desk is stacked high and I worked so hard at getting it clean.  I need to get back on track and spend time mucking out.  I am still trying to pare down, be more organized, and have less clutter in my life (school and home).

Wouldn't it be wonderful if a little fairy appeared to help me.  I am beginning to think those little shoemaking elves would be more than welcome in my house.

Now for a treat...a Halloween treat.  If you have any of those bat rings hanging around, add a witch cauldron and make a game out of "guessing" how many are in the cauldron.  First count the bats (or whatever little trinket you find on the Halloween isle), then put some in the cauldron.  Students then need to figure out how many are missing.  This freebie will help with keeping track of the numbers.  There is also a math talk card for thinking through the game.

Happy October!