Saturday, January 25, 2014

Math lately - partner games and decomposing numbers

We've been flying along in math lately! Since we lost our beloved high school tutors, I'm trying out a new format for our math period, which is loosely based on the Daily Five management model. I start out with a math warm-up, such as skip counting by 10s, subitizing (identifying the number of dots or objects automatically without counting them), or figuring out the mystery number. Then I do a ten-minute mini-lesson with the whole group, usually on the rug. Next week our mini-lessons will focus on those pesky teen numbers (11-19) and how they are actually broken down - into one "ten" and some "ones." Then, after the mini-lesson, the kids break into small groups and do one of four stations:

  1. Math By Myself (drawing, counting and finding other ways to represent the number of the day)
  2. Math with a Partner (playing math games with another person)
  3. Math Work (using cubes, blocks, Legos, geoboards, and other manipulatives to sort and build) 
  4. Math with the Teacher (meet with me!)
Below are pictures of some of the great games we've been playing at Math with a Partner.

Sorting patterns and non-patterns 
More pattern sorting
Finding jungle animals around the room,
and measuring their height in Unifix cubes
Towers Up, a game of rolling the dice and
taking down the corresponding number of cubes
Last month we began learning about decomposing numbers. This is a very important math concept for kindergarteners (and first graders and second graders and third graders...). Decomposing essentially means breaking down a number into parts. For example, the number 5 can be decomposed into 1 and 4, or 2 and 3, or 5 and 0, etc. While this may seem like simple addition, it's actually a great practice for kindergarteners to build number sense. We don't just want them to memorize math facts, such as 4+1 = 5, without really understanding what that means. I want them to be able to visualize five objects, splitting into a group of 4 and a group of 1. This will help them greatly when they are expected to do higher math such as multiplication (which is just repeated addition - we want them to see 5x3 as 5 groups of 3 objects).

Below are some ways we have been working with decomposing numbers. These hands-on activities are a great way for students to internalize the meaning of "decomposing," and later apply that to addition and subtraction facts.
Making cube "trains" with the same number of cars,
broken into different groups 
Using bingo dobbers to portray different ways to make 3
Ways to make 3
Drawing spots on ladybug wings, to represent ways to make 4

Ask your kindergartener if they know any ways to make 3 or 4! In a few weeks we'll be moving on to making 5 and 10.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Tomorrow we have off school to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Kindergarten is often the first time that students are introduced to him and the movement he helped start in our country. Learning about MLK and other heroes of the civil rights movement is a great time to discuss concepts of tolerance and diversity, both in and out of the classroom. Below are some photos and descriptions of what we studied! This unit began in the beginning of the year, as part of my effort to build community and respect in the classroom. We continued the second half of the unit this month.

During one of the first weeks of school, we read the book The Colors of Us by Karen Katz. The book talks about a girl whose community is filled with people of many different skin colors. Instead of using the words "black" or "white" to describe their skin color, she uses different shades of brown. We compared our skin colors to each other's, and each kindergarten then picked out a skin-color crayon that most closely matched their skin. Here are their matches:

Then we used the crayons to color in portraits of ourselves, and hung them in the hallway for all to see! After we took down the posters, I made them into a big book that is a popular choice for Read to Self time.

We took a photo of our beautiful skin!

When January began, we revisited this book and again discussed how our skin colors can be all different - but we have much in common! We read several books on Martin Luther King Jr. and the fight for equal rights for people of all skin colors. You can see some of the videos we watched: this one and this one (made by a kindergartener)! We also read the excellent book The Skin You Live In by Michael Taylor, which talks about how skin is for running, jumping, and playing in, not separating people.

We then listened to an excerpt of MLK's I Have a Dream speech. I explained that it wasn't a dream like we have at night while we're sleeping, but instead a hope or wish that he had for the world. Then each kindergartener came up with their own dream for the world. We drew pictures of that dream and hung them up in the classroom for all to see.

To finish the unit, we met with our third grade reading buddies who are also studying Martin Luther King Jr. and how skin colors can be different. As a group, we looked at two eggs, a brown one and a white one. We talked about what was the same and what was different about each, then cracked them both open to see what they looked like on the inside. They were the same! We talked about the lesson this teaches us about how skin color may make us look different on the outside, but we have many things in common on the inside.

a journal entry on what we saw inside each egg
If you have a chance at home, ask your kindergartener what he/she knows about Martin Luther King Jr. and the colors of our skin!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Writers Workshop: Writing pattern books

In December we learned about writing pattern books during Writers Workshop. Many of the books that kindergarteners read during small group lessons with me (called Guided Reading) are pattern books, with simple lines that repeat and change only one word. For example, a book might say "I see trees. I see flowers. I see clouds." This way, readers can use their knowledge of sight words (like "I" and "see") and clues from the pictures to read the book.

As we began reading pattern books, we also began writing them! The simple sentence structure of pattern books is easy for many kindergarten writers, so that completing several books each week becomes an accessible task. Below are pictures of the kids sharing their published books with their partners. We added their books to the classroom library, which have become a popular choice during reading time!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Learning our sight words

One of the things we have been working on for reading and writing are sight words. Sight words, also known as high frequency words, are very important words for kindergarteners to learn because they are the words that appear most frequently in children's literature. Knowing these words automatically helps kindergarteners (and all readers) fluently read books. If they don't need to stop and deliberate over these words, they can save their effort and brain space for dealing with new and unfamiliar words. Plus, sight words are often words that can't be sounded out phonetically (like "are," "have," and "there"), so memorizing them will help young readers immensely!

We work with sight words every day, but I'm always looking for more creative ways to practice them. Here is one way we will start practicing them. Each kindergartener was assigned a sight word to color and decorate. Then we took pictures of the kids holding them up, and put them into a slideshow. Next week I'll show the slideshow to the kids and have them read the words out loud. It's just a more fun version of flashcards!