Monday, December 9, 2013

A Little Elf and Gingerbread House Math

I love the Elf on the Shelf.  The kids get so excited.  I love the creativity of coming up with fun ways to display her.  The kids are excited to come in each morning and search for our Elf, Trinity (last years class named her and she came back this year).  I love that the First Graders (last years Kindergarten class) come in a couple of times a week to say hello to her and wish the new class a great day.  I thought I would share a picture of her and Pete the Cat having a snowball fight today.

We also do a great big Gingerbread Man unit this time of year (which I also love).  We compare and contrast all of the different Gingerbread stories we read.  We re-enact the stories in dramatic play, we graph our favorite stories as a class.  We work on rhyming, patterns in reading and patterning in math when we build our houses.  We will go on a school wide hunt searching for our run away Gingerbread cookies, we make posters trying to find them (writing) and we label and describe Gingerbread people.  Today we started building our Gingerbread houses and we learned about being architects.  We also reviewed the difference between 2-D and 3-D shapes (square versus cube, triangle versus triangular prism).  I watched them problem solve how to make their building stable, negotiate sharing materials, use expanded vocabulary to describe how they built their house and overcame the problem of the walls falling down, and how they supported and helped each other when they needed help.  I listened to them talk about the patterns they were creating in their decorations.  I sat back and watched and listened and glowed in the knowledge they did not need me during this project.  I watched in amazement at the 100% engagement, even though I ran out of Graham crackers and all the children could not participate.  I watched in amazement as one child offer another child their crackers and said they would wait until tomorrow to build their house.  The children that had to wait until tomorrow started sorting the candies the amazing parents donated for the children who were building their houses.  I dumped the whole bag on the floor and watched them work together to sort by color, type and size and place the items into containers they found in dramatic play to hold all of the treasures.  I watched them count, make groups of 10 and laugh as they worked together with their classmates.  This was truly a magical day as a teacher.  Some other teachers say I am crazy for doing this project.  Too messy, too much time, too much chaos, but I would not teach any other way.  There were so many concepts being APPLIED.  Math, language, social skills, fine motor, vocabulary, story retelling.  But mostly I watched their minds growing, their imaginations taking off, I watched them learn, teach and mostly be the kind of learners and team mates that I am proud to say will lead our future.  Here are some pictures.  I hope you enjoy them.  I leave you with this thought, do messy projects that require the students to problem solve.  Get away from the worksheets.  Let go a little bit and watch the wonders of learning.  Play with a purpose.  Know what skills you want them to master, give a guide for reference, but not step-by-step instructions.  Let them struggle.  Let them use their brains.  Let them play.  Let them play.  Let them play.  That is when the true magic of learning occurs.  That is when the brain grows in amazing ways.  Let them be excited to learn by letting them be present in the experience.  Make it interesting, make it sensory, make it messy, make it meaningful.
Do you see the pattern work this child is doing?  ABAB around the plate he said as he was placing the candies in the yard.

This child tried four times to make the house.  It fell in three times before they finally figured out how to add icing (glue they called it) to fill in the cracks.  The interesting part was they referenced the Laura Ingalls Wilder books when Pa built the little house in the big woods out of logs and had to fill in the cracks.  Then they filled in the cracks with more icing and it worked!  I loved that this child made a connection from a story read in the fall. 

This child did not want a roof.  He had one, but he took it off.  I love that he was independent and knew he was safe to create his house his own way.  He wanted to use the sprinkles but could not apply the icing to the slanted roof so he made a flat roof that he could spread icing on without the structure falling into itself.  He said Santa could have a party on that roof!

This child was so interested in the fact that it took six squares to make a cube.  This child also listened to the other child at the table talking about filling in the cracks like Pa and said "That is a great idea, I am going to do that too!".

This child has a hard time writing but can read like nobodies business!  He struggled trying to get all of the pieces to stay together.  This was a very challenging project for him, but he did not give up.  He asked another child that had completed his house to come and help.  They talked about structure, and making things strong and the importance of where to place the icing.  This child said they wanted to be an architect when they grow up.


This was my guide piece.  During large group instruction I showed how to construct a cube and a triangular prism (yes, I use those words and so do they).  They were concerned about how to fill in the roof so I stuck a gingerbread cookie there and secured it with icing.  We talked about the importance of not eating the icing and candies (germs you know) and I let them know that I had a separate stash for eating.  We used Popsicle sticks to get our icing out of the container and we did NOT lick the stick (at least I didn't catch anyone doing that).  There was a great deal of finger licking though when the structures were finished.

The beginning of the process.  Each child had to count out the correct number of crackers needed (six for the house plus two for the roof means eight total).  Then they had to start talking about how to construct their houses.  It was so interesting to listen to their reasoning about how the house should be made.  This child said you needed the floor first so the walls had something to hold on to.

These are the students that did not get to make their houses today.  They are working together to sort, separate and store the donated left over Halloween candy graciously given to us by one of the parents.  The discussion on how to do this was priceless.

They used mats to sort by candy type.  I thought that was very smart problem solving.

Fine motor practice at it's finest!  There is nothing like icing to sweeten up a math lesson!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Fall Math Ideas

Here are some pictures of ways you can use the fall resources (such as pumpkin seeds, Indian Corn, leaves and seeds) to make learning foundation math skills fun and meaningful for your child.  Not only will you be teaching your child important math concepts such as sorting, counting, graphing and categorizing, you will also be making lasting fall memories.  Enjoy this post and enjoy your child and the beauty of the fall season.

These students have taken fall leaves they collected and are working on sorting them into categories.  The first time they sorted by color.  Then they counted how many items were in each set.
These are close up shots of how they sorted the leaves into categories.
Next they worked together to graph each group in order to determine which leaf category had the most, least, and if any groups had equal amounts.  They determined that the green leaf category had the most leaves.

You can find fall cut outs, foam pieces and other small items cheaply at local craft stores, dollar stores and at the dollar spots in department stores.  The students worked in small groups of four or less with the items to sort, categorize, and eventually graph their items.  The children had to work together to decide how to sort the items.  Some groups sorted by color while others sorted by shape.  They had to work together to decide how the items should be categorized.  They worked hard to problem solve and work together to make decisions while participating in this activity.  Some groups then counted how many items where in each group strengthening their number sense.

In this activity the students used items collected in nature (Indian Corn, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds) to sort, count and categorize.  Each Kindergarten class has been working on these skills over the past two weeks.  Using items found in nature during the fall months also gives the students a chance to explore the natural world and obtain a better understanding of the life cycle of plants.  These concepts were introduced during our Pumpkin Unit of Study and will be reinforced during the school year.  The students were also encouraged to use descriptive words while working with these items so they can become better at using descriptive words (adjectives) in their writing.  The more experiences they have with real items at this age the stronger their writing skills will become as they become writers.  Go on Nature Walks, to the zoo, museums, library programs or other activities that will expose your child to new experiences and vocabulary.  Encourage them to describe what they experience and to keep a journal they can write and draw in during these (or right after) trips.
Students sorted the seeds and kernels before starting to create graphs.  The purpose of graphing is to help the students visualize the mathematical concepts of greater than (more), less than (less) and equal to (same).  Graphing allows the student to visually record these concepts.  This helps when they start learning about place value (10's, 100's, 1000's), fractions and decimals.  This also helps the students start to learn groups of 10, counting to 100, addition/subtraction and multiplication.
Students graphing their items that were sorted into categories.

 These students are working independently with a handful of items.  Students mentored each other during their independent work.  Mathematical vocabulary was used during their discussions.  Many were asked to explain or justify why they classified the items the way they did.  Most students classified by type (pumpkin seed, corn kernel, sunflower seed).  Others divided the corn kernels into multiple categories by color (dark, light, mixed) and counted them as separate categories.  When doing these activities at home always ask your child to explain or justify their reasoning for sorting or classifying items into categories.  This helps them use logic and rich vocabulary to explain their thinking which is a critical skills needed in all academic areas.  Their explanations are often fascinating and we learn so much about each child from those conversations!


This child found a different way to graph his information.  He then taped one of each item at the bottom of his graph so others could understand his data.  He also wrote the numeral next to each item before he removed the items from his paper.  He wanted to "see" his graph after he had to put the items away so he created his graph in a way that he could take the activity home with him.  As teachers we like to leave many of our activities "open-ended" so children can express their learning in different ways.  We encourage you to do the same at home. 

This child created her graph on a write-on/wipe-off board.  We encourage you to have one of these at home along with some dry erase markers.  It will save you a ton on paper, it is easy to clean and can be used almost anywhere!

The last fall math activity we would like to share with you is this easy to make pumpkin math game.  One of the teachers found this idea on Pinterest (we don't know how we taught before Pinterest came into our lives, lol) and it only took five minutes to make.  Take orange paper and a black permanent marker and cut out random oval/circle shapes.  Draw on faces using basic shapes.  Make sure the mouth is extra big to accommodate many candy corn (at least up to 12 if you are using two die or larger if you want to use 3 die).  Have your child roll the first die and place that many candy corn on where the top row of teeth would go.  Next you, or your child can roll the second die and then place the number of candy corn that correlates with the number on the die.  Now ask your child to add together the top row and bottom row of teeth (candy corn) and give you the sum (the total).  Try to use the correct vocabulary (using words like sum for total).  You can also use the following language.  "The total number of candy corn teeth in our pumpkins mouth is 11.  11 is the whole.  11 is made up of two parts.  The first part is 6, the second part is 5.  The whole is 11.  6+5=11."  We are teaching the children math vocabulary such as adding, sum, total, part, all together, more than, greater than, less than and equal too.  You can expand this activity by asking your child which number is greater, 6 or 5?  What comes after six?  What comes before five?  What would the total be if we add on more tooth to the mouth?  What would the total be is we had one less tooth in the mouth?  There are lots of ways you can expand your child's math knowledge by just asking a few more questions during any math game you play.

The students had a ball playing this game.  We did have to talk about germs, not eating the candy and taking turns when we play a math game before we started this activity.
These two students thought it was too funny when they each rolled a one on their die.  They also thought the pumpkin face was funny with just two teeth!

We encourage you to play math games with your child.  Have them identify numbers at the grocery store or gas station.  Have them count how many red lights you go through on a drive to run errands.  Play high/low with playing cards.  You both flip a card at the same time and the person with the high card (or low card if you want to play that way) gets both cards.  Play until one person is out of cards. The person with all the cards wins.  You can have them count how many coins are in your pocket, count how many letters are on the cereal box or have them count how many letters are in their name.  All of these math games will make them stronger mathematicians and will help them love learning math!

We hope that sharing some of these ideas will encourage you to "play" math at home.  Please share with us any great math games you play at home!  Enjoy playing with your child.  Thank you for all you do to help support your child mastering the skills we are working on in class.

Part of a fall post to our parents

In Ms. Arrendale's class the students finally were able to explore the fall items brought back from the pumpkin patch field trip during their science time.  They were able to compare and contrast these fall fruits/vegetables to the pumpkin they carved.  They were able to estimate the number of seeds and graph fall items during math.

The students were taught how to use a magnifying glass to observe and study the inside of the pumpkins and other fruit/vegetables.  The children were encouraged to use descriptive words to explain what they were observing.  They also created an anchor chart using descriptive words to describe a pumpkin after they used the magnifying glass to study the pumpkin closely.

In Ms. Arrendale's class they students drew different types of Jack-O-Lantern faces using the basic shapes on write-on/wipe-off boards and voted on the face they wanted carved into the pumpkin.  This was the finished product using squares, semi-circles, triangles, ovals and rectangles.  The students also wrote about their trip to the pumpkin patch in writing workshop.
We hope this little glimpse into our daily classroom activities helps you facilitate conversations that will help reinforce skills they were exposed to during last months lessons.  We had a great time teaching all of our kindergarten kids last month!  Fall is a great time to expand on their math, language and science skills.  We will update you each month with a monthly classroom update post to keep you informed.  Now that you know how to "butter" your popcorn words get a yellow highlighter and have your child "butter" some popcorn words in magazines, newspapers and junk mail you receive at home.  It is a fun and meaningful way to practice those popcorn words!