Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Math Talk: Find Someone Who....

Hello Addition unit. We can use multiple measures to analyze a quantity, then add it to another to compose a new quantity using either abstract or concrete means. And once we're done explaining that way, we can explore and explain another way. Well....we're on our way there.

Here was a short-and-sweet Math Talk to review the concepts of same as, less than and greater than we used today. I didn't even begin an anchor chart, since this was really just re-teaching, but feel free to interject one for your lesson as needed. You just need space and some classroom management norms for kids walking and talking all around the classroom.

Find Someone Who: Has the same length foot as your foot

Find Someone Who: Has a different length foot as your foot and tell us how your feet are different lengths....Student response: My foot is longer/greater/shorter than my partner's foot.

Find Someone Who: Has the same armspan as you

And so on, and so (much math language between students) forth. It was fun, experiential, student centered and packed with rich language. Try it with your class! Have other ways to do it too?

 Follow me on Twitter to find another no-prep, direct CCSS Math "game" for your class that matches this set of skills. Just tweeted now!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Math Talk: Subitizing

To refresh my kiddos on some of the foundational skills we'll need for the addition unit, we've been working with sets of objects and our subitizing skills. 'Sue-Bit-Eye-Zing' is defined by the Illinois Early Learning Standards as "the rapid and accurate judgement of how many items there are without counting," 6.A.ECb. The idea is fluency, specific to a set of objects and quantity rather than of simply the numeral. The Erikson Institute has some great resources at

We continue to work on the skill with dot cards, pictured above. First, they were part of direct instruction during our math talks. Now, I keep a pile by the door in our classroom that travels with us to specials classes for flashcard-style quizzes if we arrive early or have to wait.

Anyway, today we reviewed subitizing with our number of the day, 12. The students were talking to each other about the "right" way to show 12 with dots, so we studied different examples on the SmartBoard. It lead to some hearty conversation, and I hope connections to a big idea!

Here is a screenshot of our discussion. The first two boxes in the top row were mine, drawn last.
The four boxes in the second row were student-drawn, by four different volunteers.

This lesson was worth sharing and seemed powerful to see and talk about the different sets of 12 because we had previously observed the different sets in isolation. Subitizing is usually about fluency. For us, it was about analysis today. 

Most kiddos seemed to understand that ALL the sets above are the "right" way to show what we know about 12. We also agreed that our brains are happiest when we can find more than one way to show a quantity (their words, not mine...happily). 

Have you tried subitizing? Have you tried analyzing sets in this way? Leaves your tips and tricks below!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Addition is Coming! Where do we begin?

Addition is coming to Kindergarten! We are wrapping up a unit on classifying, sorting, representing, etc. The next step is officially identified as "Understanding Addition and Subtraction of Numbers to 10."I am counting on a lot of research, my amazing team and some trial and error to meet these standards.

In planning this two-month unit, I'm scratching my head at a few things. How do I pace? How do I pre-test? Will they get sick of the material over the next 9 weeks?? How can I make WORD PROBLEMS comprehensible to my ELL students? Scary stuff...potentially. The first essential question for me this week is: Do my students have the background knowledge and requisite skills that are foundations for addition and subtraction?

We've had a pretty heavy dose of subitizing, or promoting number (both numeral and quantity fluency) through identification practices that look a lot like these. I've retested and am reteaching writing numerals 0-9, but that's the easy stuff. What are some essential things to review, reteach and reassess before teaching addition to Kindergarteners?

My best guesses are as follows, but please add more ideas, missing pieces or counterarguments below!

Center 1: Recognizing numbers, creating number sets

Student 1 chooses a card and reads the number. Student 2 writes the number and a set of dots that matches it. Then, S1 reveals the card and both students compare the numerals and quantities, making corrections if needed.

Center 2: Comparing Numbers
Using a handwritten, mixed-up number line, students try to cover up numbers that match the qualifiers on 2 sets of cards. Set 1: Cards labeled More than, Less than or Equal to (Same as). Set 2: Numerals 1-10. Students turn over one card from each pile. Then, use a counter to cover up one number on the line that matches the cards. EX: Less than and 8 would lead the student to put the counter on any numeral 1-7 on their number line. Playing in partners, the winner is the one who covers all their numbers first. Optional: Yells out, "Face Off!"

Center 3: Number Reporter

Students choose a domino and count the dots. Then, use popsicle sticks to create that quantity in tally marks. Next, recreate the written tally marks and counting in our perennial favorite app, ShowMe. I chose this center because we are also practicing skip counting by 5's.

Center 4: Math Journal
Essentially used to "show what we know" about a numeral/quantity. It will be coming soon to this blog for free! If you can't wait until then, try my TpT store. *If you teach in BSD100, email me and I'll send you my stuff for free today!

What else am I missing to prep my students for composing and decomposing? We are familiar with word problems and their symbols from our weekly calendar problem, but I still feel like something is missing? Not a short or simple answer, I am sure...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Few ShowMe examples for Measuring and Classifying Shapes

These are some examples from my students, who were asked to create a ShowMe presentation describing an attribute block. I challenged them to tell me 2-4 things about each shape by drawing on their screens and describing with their words.

These examples are all ranges of proficiency of this task. I'm so impressed by how my students navigate the app, including self-corrections and staying (mostly) on task.

These were created on the second day of instruction, so if I use them as a formative assessment, I'd say my students have a limited understanding of the tasks or concepts. I'd be wise to repeat with slightly different objects and offer the choice to work alone or with a partner to yield the results I'm looking for. I'm sure I'll tweak and make changes but this activity will definitely be repeated next year.

How to recreate: We use a mix of iPads (1-3) and the free app ShowMe. What do you need to recreate, extend, or improve this activity??

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Best of Today: Measuring & Data Activity in Kindergarten

The best part of my day today? My student's work in one of their math centers, the Apps center.
We used ShowMe, which works like a personal, interactive whiteboard on the students' iPads with drawing, writing (text or pen) and voice recording features.

So, we're in ShowMe and our background knowledge is describing and sorting attribute blocks in many ways. It was basic, an oldie-but-goodie.  Additionally, we've done shared writing to create an anchor chart on our focus board about ways to classify and words to use when we do. 
Attribute Blocks (Remember us??)
Used to classify by color, size, shape, number of sides, etc!

Next, students take a baggie that contains 4-6 blocks. With a partner, and then repeated the next day individually, students choose a shape and record themselves on ShowMe drawing and telling about it. My students made 5 or 6 page presentations describing size, color, shape, volume, number of sides, number of corners. It was amazing! I saved their recordings to make notes for assessment and reteaching. I will try to share a couple tomorrow.

The added bonus? I found this activity to hit all three Common Core standards for Measurement & Data. The shape we're in is great! The standards below:

Describe and compare measurable attributes.

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.MD.A.1 Describe measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight. Describe several measurable attributes of a single object.
  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.MD.A.2 Directly compare two objects with a measurable attribute in common, to see which object has “more of”/“less of” the attribute, and describe the difference. For example, directly compare the heights of two children and describe one child as taller/shorter.

Classify objects and count the number of objects in each category.

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.MD.B.3 Classify objects into given categories; count the numbers of objects in each category and sort the categories by count.1

Do you have any other classifying activities that also incorporate other math or technology skills? Please share!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Implementing Part 2 : Tips for Polishing the Launch

Today you're invited to learn from my mistakes as I share some tips on smoothly implementing the routines and practices of Kindergarten Math Workshop. Though I make it a point not to "sweat the small stuff" when it comes to hiccups in activities during the school day, there are a few things I've found to be worth repeating so your classroom can get engaged in and exposed to developmentally appropriate, CCSS aligned math.

We've got the time, space and schedule expectations down, but I still saw the need to fine tune a few things so my kiddos would be more than on-task but really engaged in the language and exposure to the math concepts we're learning....or supposed to be learning. Tip 1: Use your daily picture schedule. I think I repeated it about 399 times until it truly set in but when the schedule says Math, the rule is that is all we are doing or talking about. You don't need to make anything special, but it is that little concrete booster that can help keep them focused.

"The rule is we can only talk about math during math time."
Example schedule, from Alicia Eyer.

Tip 2: Whenever possible, incorporate one of the work station activities into your math talk. Not only does this connect your mini-lesson to the students' exploration but it maximizes their work station time. When I can't fit it into our Math Talk, I tack it on to the end of our Morning Meeting.

Tip 3: Find ways to allow student choice in at least 2 of your work stations. When you can't be at their side and conceptual exploration is up to the student, a sense of choice helps augment their buy-in to the activities. However simple, some choices I've included in the past are:
Math Practice on
When assigned activities under N: Sorting, ordering and classifying,
students can choose the sequence in which they work through the activities
  • Choosing between 2 math apps, or both at the App Center
  • Choosing to work alone or with a partner; in a pair or a trio
  • Choosing any order of game practice
  • Choosing a set of numbers to work on (ex: 6-10, 1-10, 11-15)
  • Choosing to represent quantities with an App like ShowMe or ScreenChomp, with concrete manipulatives or a pencil-paper representation like a drawing or tally marks

Admittedly, the latter is the best example of authentic student choice in the classroom. It is something I strive to incorporate more (not yet one of my strong suits, but not something I neglect either). Do you have any good tips for more student choice during math??? Comment away!

Finally, Tip 4.  Secure your valuable time at the Work with the Teacher center by adapting the popular, yet silly strategy of a magical accessory. I've seen teachers wear tiaras, scarves, top hats, crazy glasses, feather boas and Hawaiian leis to help with classroom management during this time. The idea is that when you are wearing your special item, you can only hear and talk to the students in the group at your immediate table. Those students feel instantly connected to you, and other students can be taught strategies that they readily use in your "absence." I don't need to reinvent the wheel because when I am wearing my special item, my students know I am not available but they can:
"Ask 3 before you ask me"
Consult the timer
Tell a peer they are going to the bathroom if it's an emergency(!)
Make their best guess and ask me during our mid-workshop check in time

The thing I like best about students deferring from me to one another is the language that sometimes gets produced when one clarifies or explains something to another. It can be amazing but you have to set them up for it!

What special item to I wear, you're wondering?? A banana-leaf necklace that my best friend brought back from a year with World Teach in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. It is pretty....special.

What tips am I missing? What else do you need that I can share? Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Top 5 Math Websites I Cannot Live Without : Winter 2014

All of these websites I use equally when planning units, pacing, activities, assessment and in some cases intervention for Kindergarten math using the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). I think they need no further introduction, but I must say THANK YOU to all these organizations for sharing their resources at no cost to us teachers!

One of the many reasons I selected each of these sites is that their resources align neatly with the CCSS practices. Another reason is that they are perfect for Kindergarten being both standard and performance based. It is up to you to use the assessments as formative (as you go along), summative (at the end of a lesson/week/unit) or both. Last, but not least, they are free! (Which gives me a pay-it-forward sentiment, coming soon to this blog).

What additional sites do you have, if you don't mind sharing the wealth???

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Setting up Math Workshop : Space and Time.....and Classifying!

As we learn about sorting and classifying sets of objects, we're repeating skills and vocabulary with a few different activities. I've included a few photos of my kiddos' work from this week, but also a quick glimpse at their work spaces and material organization that takes us through the workshop.

Two quick tips to share today about making Math Workshop work comfortably, efficiently and consistently...Be consistent with your space and organization. Probably "a given" or default for some, but if not, my experience is that this helps get your students engaged more quickly.

Next, give your students not only the sense of space and time to work, but the physical space and time as well. When kids get used to hearing that they do, in fact, have time to work (versus, "Hurry up! Come on! Let's go, we'll be late!") their effort can reflect that. Using a simple timer, repeating the time scheduled for work stations and extending the sense of time to cleaning up makes for a more respectful Math workshop. I find it helps some students put more ownership into their work.

Here are a few visuals to help you understand how we implement and run Math Workshop in Kindergarten. I make changes based upon what works best, but all this helps me get 50 full minutes of math engagement each day....from kids who are 5!!! Sounds crazy but it works!

Below: Blue Buckets keep our materials contained for the duration of the week
Students are building "cities" and comparing their structures to those of their partners.

Thank you website I cannot live without! More on those tomorrow....

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

CCSS Math Book Study for Teachers

In a building-wide Book Study, a group of teachers in my building elected to read and discuss Common Core Mathematics in a PLC at Work in Grades K-2 by M.R. Larson et. al. Our district provided us with the texts and one teacher leads the discussions and divvies up the chapters. We usually meet for 25-30 minutes one morning before school a week.

I like the discussions because they aren't rote or scripted like a college class with strangers might be.  Since we are all in the same boat with similar resources and professional development, the topics and discussions are highly relatable. Plus, it is great insight into what the older grade standards truly are....since no matter how often I read the first and second grade standards, they don't really stick with me.

It's a pretty dense read, as are the standards themselves.  However, I know it is a book I will highlight, take notes and revisit in chunks as I need it. It's a keeper.

Does your district have a similar book study program ever? Any titles to recommend to us?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Workshop Math for Dummies...You CAN do it!

Back in August, my team of teachers and I found ourselves facing brand new curricula and instructional strategies. Novices, or dummies for lack of a better term, to the "Workshop Style" of teaching, we jumped right in and found wasn't that scary! Our collective experience was limited to either undergraduate methods course in implementing a workshop or in-classroom experience 12 years ago. So, if we can do it, you can too!

My Team's Must-Haves to implement Workshop Math:

  • District-wide collaboration with all Kindergarten teachers for 2 hours to introduce the structure and provide specific support during a Professional Development Day ("This really worked for me....or Definitely don't try it this way...")
  • Followed up by e-mail chain to troubleshoot and share resources
  • Weekly collaborative plan time to share anchor charts and clarify Math Talks
  • Parent Volunteers
    • Some parents are only comfortable with prepping materials while others can follow your lead and jump into guiding a group or work station...we'll take any help we can get!
  • Technology
    • Specifically
      •, for targeted skill practice
      • Various skill-based apps for our units
      • SMARTBoard & Notebook application, used for the majority of Math Talks

Structure of Workshop Style Math in Kindergarten

Daily Time Frame

5-10 minutes: Math Talk

20-40 minutes: Exploration

5 minutes: Close

  • Math Talk: A concise and focused mini-lesson, directly connected to that day or week's exploration and big idea
  • Exploration: In my classroom, these are one of four small group centers or work stations. Each center is labeled according to one letter in the MATH workshop acronym
    • M is for Manipulatives
    • A is for Applications (specifically on our iPads)
    • T is for Teacher assisted exploration
    • H is for Help A Friend, in a partnered math activity
  • Close: A quick check of finished products, opportunities to reflect on the big idea and use relevant terms in oral language or students sharing "I found that..."
Visuals for both the Center assignments as well as the tubs I store manipulatives in are labeled as such:

To group students and rotate them through each week, I put them into groups of 4-6 based upon skill level, heterogeneously. They named their groups on their own, and we ended up with simple visuals for some of their favorite sports teams (or so they say!).

In the Friday column, I record student choice or my own assignment for them for the day. In the far right column, I treat that as a checklist for the 1-on-1, performance based assessments that I work through the week to get through. (Sometimes during math, sometimes not...)

 I'm so proud of my class for picking up this routine faster than any other in our classroom this year. This chart is where I first started. I have 2 students who currently require some heavy intervention so I have a modified schedule for them to follow. I'll share that soon in Part 2 of implementing Math Workshop....

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Welcome! Here We Go....

Kindergarten today is undoubtedly different from the year you attended, maybe with the exception of the Kindergarten class of 2012. It feels like Kindergarten is the new first grade. The students are still five years old, going on six, so how in the word do we rectify developmental norms and rigorous learning standards? There are many ways to tackle this solution, and my goal is to share with you some suggestions I have that blend Common Core and Common sense.

I'll share resources, strategies, photos, examples, and any other things I can get my hands on to help you as teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals or parents balance this in a meaningful, effective, appropriate and FUN way for Kindergarten students. Conversely, I'd love to hear your suggestions as well. What is more "Common Core" than understanding and demonstrating more than one solution to a problem anyway?!

Although I'll share a mix of materials, here are my specific goals for the 2013-14 school year:

·                Focus 1: Common Core Math for Kindergarten
o                 Plan standard based interventions
o                 Create performance assessments for standards
o                 Utilize "workshop" format featuring small group exploration, technology integration and ongoing/multiple assessment
·                Focus 2: More focused use of iPads in classroom
o                 Fewer apps with deeper use
o                 Challenge-based project for students using iPads or App Smashing
·                Focus 3: Integrate Lucy Caulkins Reading and Writing Workshop
What are your goals for this school year?