Sunday, September 30, 2012

Structured Math Talk

Morning Meeting is one of the most power packed 20 minutes of our day. It's as socially interactive as it is academic which is why it's such a powerful part of our day. One of the features that the children have been practicing is called "structured math talk". When a question is posed to the group they are first asked for "private think time", no hands raised, no one is called upon for an answer, and most difficult . . . no one can call out what they are thinking. We all think at different rates and this allows those who need more time just that. After a moment the children are then instructed to "turn and talk" with their partner in the circle. Now is the time they can share their thinking with each other and compare answers. A moment or two later I tell them to "finish their thoughts" and we come together to share as a whole group. The twist here is that they don't share their own thoughts but rather the thoughts of their partner. Not only does this method of structured math talk insure that everyone is participating but they have to listen carefully to their partner as well. A skill that is difficult for people of all ages to be sure!

Each morning when the children enter the classroom their first job is to sign in on the Smart board. The questions vary each day, they are always related to something we are working on, and give us information about how others think and feel. The children respond by moving their name into a "tens frame". We will be using tens frames all year, and in 1st grade as well, to help us think about numbers, count groups of numbers, add and subtract numbers, and just about anything else you can think of with numbers! Here is an example of one of our recent sign in questions.

The children can easily see which apple had the most responses and which had the least. That's old hat for us now. What this kind of tens frame allows them to do is to count how many children like red apples easily and efficiently. This particular tens frame was the perfect vehicle for me to teach the children the skill of counting on. An invaluable skill that will prove to be worth its weight in gold. We can also look at how many more a certain group has than another by counting the negative spaces, all in good time!

How can you help at home? I'm so glad you asked . . . pennies! Pennies are great for counting and sorting in a number of different and fun ways (shiny vs dull, heads & tails, dates). They also stack nicely in towers of ten and even better they lay down side by side in 2 rows of 5 to make a super 10's frame.
I bet you can already see where I'm going with this one . . . counting by 10's! We've been working on counting by 10's to 100 in the classroom with plastic bugs. You may need to count along with them, allowing for some echoing of counts if they are not sure what comes next. The visual and being able to touch the pennies really helps. If your child is ready to move on by all means take them further by adding more rows of pennies. If they are already beyond 100 slap a dollar bill down in front of the rows, teach them that its worth 100 pennies and count on from there. When they reach 200 slap down another dollar bill and go on and on and on. Want to really motivate your child . . . let them keep all the money they can count. By the end of kindergarten they may have enough for their first year in college. Or at least enough to pay for their books and resources! 

Real world math is so much fun and without a doubt the most meaningful. And to think that some people want to do away with the penny.  Have a blast counting with your little one!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Shapes in Our World

The children have learned various ways to identify 4 basic shapes (curved lines, straight lines, 3 corners, 4 corners, and basic names). They have used the shapes for sorting, graphing, counting, comparing & contrasting, and geometry. Today they worked in partnerships to find shapes in their world and photograph them. Each pair then had to choose their top 4 photos, one of each shape, to share with the rest of the class. They were very motivated and easily used the technology. It's interesting to view our classroom from their vantage point too!

Saturday, September 22, 2012


I'm quite sure iPads are one of the most engaging tools that educators of young children have available! This past week we worked on fine motor skills by practicing our Fundations letters using Doodle Buddy and iWriteWords. The children practiced over and over and over. All the while they were changing backgrounds, width of lines, experimenting with color and texture, and stamping out patterns. While using iWriteWords they had to accurately follow a path to successfully complete each letter. They quickly found that speed was not on their side and were able to self correct with ease. Their natural ability to use technology never ceases to amaze me.
Next week the children will work with a partner to use the camera on the iPads. The goal will be to find things in their world that are the shapes we have been studying in math. Each group will then present their findings via the SMART board and a document camera. They do love to share!!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Coming Together

Our classroom has been a very busy place as we all learn the routines and expectations of kindergarten.  Every day introducing more and more structure while maintaining everything from the days before.  This group of children really enjoy working and playing together.  Not once have I heard the words "What do I do now?" or "I'm bored".  I feel fortunate that they all listen well to directions, ask great questions, and seem to love school!  Yeah!!!
A very important part of our day is choice time.  The children have a variety of choices within the classroom, learn new options daily, have to figure out how to share materials, work through difficult situations, and clean up after themselves.  We are currently working on making a choice and staying with that choice, becoming involved in play with others, as opposed to flitting around the room like Tasmanian Devils!  The greatest outcome from this has been that the children have really gotten to know each other.
Another important social time during our day is math work places.  Throughout the year the children will practice math skills through a variety of games and activities set up as work places that they rotate through in small groups.  At times they can choose what work place they would like to go to while other times they will be assigned to work places, depending upon the skills they need to work on at that time.  Sharing the math tools,using them responsibly, and following routines has been a big focus over the past 11 days.
Our first monarch caterpillar made it's way through the cycle of life and we were able to watch it unfold it's wet wings and learn to fly.  The children were inspired by the colors and after reading a book about symmetry tried their hands at symmetrically coloring their own butterflies on the final page of their Very Hungry Caterpillar books.  I was so pleased by their efforts and as you can see on their faces they were quite proud as well.