Saturday, September 16, 2017

Addition to 10....Just the Basics!

Hello friends!

How is the beginning of the school year treating you?   Are you as dog-tired as I am at the end of the day?  Like the saying goes,

There ain’t no tired like beginning of the year teacher tired!

Well, tired or not, we have things to do and munchkins to teach, so....

Let's chat about math at the beginning of the year....specifically, Addition to 10

It’s the beginning of the year, and I am still working on setting up procedures, routines, and expectations with the kiddos, all the while trying to get a handle on where they are academically.

Like most years, I am finding that most of my kiddos have a good handle on the kindergarten standards, but some dislike math, a few are still unsure how many fingers they have, and several have a really advanced understanding and enthusiasm for math.

Phew!  Where do I start!?!

Well, we start at the beginning, my friend.

The first grade Common Core standards we cover in this topic are pretty straightforward, and covered in an introductory and abbreviated manner:
1.OA.A.1  Use addition and subtraction within 20 to solve word problems 
1.OA.B.3  Apply properties of operations as strategies to add and subtract. (commutative and associative properties)
1.OA.C.5 Relate counting to addition and subtraction. (counting on)
1.OA.C.6  Add and subtract within 20, demonstrating fluency for addition and subtraction within 10. (using strategies)
* the underlined words and descriptions in parentheses are my own description and emphasis

Now, when I say we cover these standards in an abbreviated manner, I mean that the standards that cover addition also cover subtraction, the relationship between the two, and lots of rigorous concepts like missing addends, making 10 to add, solving word problems that compare numbers, etc.

It can be a bit overwhelming, but don’t worry!  We have the whole year to get there.

As teachers, we know that the best way to teach primary students is one step at a time.  I’ve found that many of the Common Core math resources my district provides tends to throw the kids in the deep end and think that they will figure out how to swim.

That doesn’t work for me.  Or my kiddos.

I prefer to help them learn to love math first, then teach them the beginning basics. 

We gradually scaffold through the year and build upon our mathematical understandings as we go.  Are my kiddos capable of mastering all of the rigorous Common Core math standards?

I answer that with a resounding YES!!!!
…….just not all of them in September, thank you very much.

Here is how a typical lesson goes in my classroom:

First, we start with one of Lola’s PowerPoint lessons on the SMART Board.  Students work with cubes and number bonds mats, ten frames and counters, and white boards at their desks. They follow Lola’s directions and help her solve problems. The lessons are very interactive and engaging, and the kids really get a kick out of making connections with Lola and her pets, friends, and favorite activities. 

When the lesson is over, I hold up a Quick Check and students answer it on their whiteboards.  I make a mental note of who is struggling, and then show the second Quick Check.  Once we are done with this simple assessment strategy, I know who has a good grasp of today’s concept and who may need some small group intervention.

As a first grade teacher, one of my goals is to get students to move from being able to do math hands-on to being able to do it on paper in a more abstract, symbolic format.  By checking for understanding, I know who is ready for the paper practice, and who still needs some more hands-on practice.

Being a teacher requires a good understanding of the material AND your students.  I like to make a few different sets of copies for my class. 

Some will get the Daily Practice page, some will get the Try This! enrichment page, and some may get both on a double-sided sheet.  The kiddos I work with at my table will start with hands-on and hopefully be able to finish the lesson with the Daily Practice Page. 
If they are ready for it.

What I don’t want to do is push kids too fast, too soon.  I’ve seen what it does to their mathematical understandings and their confidence in general, and I have to say, I am a much bigger fan of taking baby steps when necessary.  You won’t find me throwing anyone in the deep end. 

When students are finished with their paper practice, they can choose a math center to continue to practice the addition standards we are covering.  I also provide scaffolded enrichment lessons for small groups so I can stretch the minds of those high flyers… I don’t meet with them every day, but I do try to catch them about two or three times a week. 

Check out this complete math lesson!  I am giving you the Lola PPT lesson for whole group, two quick checks, two practice pages (on-level and enrichment), and scaffolded small group plans your students will love! Just click to access the lesson. :)

Have a terrific September!  I’ll be back in another week or so to talk about Subtraction from 10…

Until then, may your days be filled with fun and joy and your coffee be stronger than your energetic kiddos. J

Much love,

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Numbers to 120

Hello, friends!

I hope you are having a WONDERFUL back to school season!  I am super-excited to meet my new kiddos in just two more days…

Before I start back to school full-time (ahem- tomorrow morning), I wanted to share with you some fun activities I have planned for our first math unit this year.  This year is going to be a new adventure for me because I decided to jump in with both feet into the world of GUIDED MATH. 

To say I am excited would be an understatement.

I LOVE meeting with my students in small groups for guided reading, and I LOVE teaching math, so putting them together is like …..discovering how heavenly french fries taste dipped in mayo. 

(I discovered that little tip in our years in Germany….if you haven’t tried it, you definitely need to!)

Anyway… topic.  

Let’s get back to the real focus of this post….
Numbers to 120!

The first grade Common Core standards we cover in this topic are pretty straightforward:
  • 1.NBT.A.1 Count to 120, starting at any number. In this range, read and write numerals and represent a number of objects with a written numeral.
  • 1.NBT.B.2 Understand that the digits of a two-digit number represent amounts of tens and ones.
  • 1.NBT.C.5 Given a two-digit number, mentally find 10 more or 10 less than the number, without having to count; explain the reasoning used.*
*I usually focus only on mentally finding 10 more, or counting on by tens, in this unit.  
We save the rest of this standard for our place value unit a little later in the year.  

One of my very favorite ways to let kids practice some of these skills is to take a 120 pocket chart and dump it out.  I let a small group of students work together to put the cards back where they belong. 

Now, I don’t just walk away….I watch them.  I listen to the reasoning they use with each other.  And I take notes.

I can tell from this simple activity who understands the patterns in the 120 chart, and who still needs to develop their understanding.

A shorter, simpler version is to simply take SOME of the cards out.  They could be randomly placed, or they could be all in one row or one column…whatever you want to observe with your small group of students.  The most important tip I can give you is to make sure they are TALKING about what they are doing.  They should be thinking aloud so you can follow the connections they are making.

When students get really good at placing numbers in a 120 chart, they are ready for number puzzles.  Number puzzles are simply pieces cut out of a number chart that have missing numbers.  Students need to use what they know about number patterns to complete the puzzle.

I like to start out with simple squares or rectangles

then get trickier with more complex puzzles 
(especially for my advanced learners…they LOVE these!)

Check out this free guided math lesson, complete with quick checks and two practice pages full of number puzzles your students will love!

After mastering the patterns in the 120 chart, we work on starting at any number and counting on by ones or by tens.  Not an easy task for most students, but with lots of practice, they can do it! 

Here is another freebie for you- this one is a Solve and Scoot game that focuses on counting on by tens.

And lastly, we practice number riddles to describe numbers….first Lola and I give the riddles and the students solve them, then we switch and the kids get to make their own number riddles! This is another great way to assess their understanding.

Most of you know I created a line of PowerPoint guided practice math lessons.  Lola’s lessons have been a staple in my classroom for the past two years. We use them to introduce, model, and practice each day’s skill with hands-on materials and step-by-step instruction. 

 My kiddos think they are mathematical GENIUSES every year because Lola baby steps the instruction and makes them feel oh-so successful. #allthehearteyes

The new guided math lessons align perfectly with Lola’s PowerPoint lessons (and I’ve also created math centers to go with them). So, if you are looking for more resources to help you teach Numbers to 120, please feel free to check out these products:

Have a terrific August!
 I’ll be back in a couple of weeks to talk about Addition to 10…building the foundational understandings students need before moving on to adding higher numbers.    

Much Love,

Sunday, July 9, 2017

What to Do When Your Math Curriculum STINKS

Maybe your district handed you a big box math curriculum that you don’t love.

Is it easy to use? No.

Does it meet the needs of all of your students? Definitely not.

Was it designed by so called “experts” who apparently have never met a first grader? OMGYEEEESSSSSS.

Or maybe you are still using curriculum that is old and outdated and does not meet today’s standards.

Or maybe you don’t HAVE a cohesive math curriculum…maybe you are just trying to piece together a mishmash of resources to cover the standards.

Well, friend, I’ve BEEN THERE and DONE THAT.

For all 3 of those scenarios! 

Today I’m going to offer you a few helpful suggestions for what to do when your math curriculum just plain STINKS
 (or doesn’t exist)!

Choice 1:

Use it, anyway.  Go ahead and follow your district mandates for using the required parts of your boxed curriculum. 

1. It may be easy for you because everything is ready to go or you only need to open the teacher’s guide each day and read from it to teach the lesson. Boom....Done!

2. The units and skills are most likely vertically aligned and may include some sort of spiral review that is convenient.  Nice!

1. It’s not what is best for kids. Ugh.
This might be something you feel in your gut, or you may have data and research to support this feeling, but you know it is there.

2. Too many workbook pages, not enough explicit teaching, and lack of small group and center resources are unfortunately hallmarks of most of the big boxed curriculum out there. 
You don’t have what you need to teach the material WELL.

3. Your students aren’t enjoying math.  At all.  
You hear groans when it is time for math. 
It breaks your heart a little, but what can you do?

Choice 2:

You can supplement.

(Why this may work)
1. There are a lot of terrific resources out there (many of them created by teachers) that you can add to your math block to help fill in the holes left by the boxed curriculum. 

2. You can find fun, engaging activities that help your students enjoy math a little more.

3. You may already have some of these purchased and created in your classroom. Score!

(Why this still isn’t best for kids)
1. Lack of a cohesive plan for meeting the standards usually means something is not getting covered well.  And since these primary years set the foundations for mathematical understandings down the line, that can be very worrisome.

2. It takes a LOT of time and effort to research the standards fully and make sure they are all being taught in a comprehensive way, especially when you consider differentiating for your students.  

Do you really have everything covered? 
Are you sure?

Choice 3:

You can throw it out and do your own thing.

(Why this may just be what is best for kids)

1. You know your students better than anyone, especially a curriculum writer that designs materials for K-12.  How much does that person really understand about a first grader and how they learn and what gets them excited about math?

2. Vertical alignment is already built into the CCSS.  Students need to master this year’s standards to be well prepared for the following year. So as long as you know the standards inside and out, and you cover them completely, you can rest easy knowing you've got this covered. Phew!

3. There are so many different ways to connect with students and engage them in the world of mathematics!  If you have the freedom to design your own system, wouldn't you include lots of hands-on experiences, small group interventions and extensions, fun ways for the class to review, etc.? 

Wouldn't it be great to incorporate those types of activities instead of the same old thing every day?

(Drawbacks for you)

1. You will need to spend a LOT of time researching and creating materials that will engage your students.  Maybe you have time for this, and maybe you don’t.

 Maybe the thought of spending that much time and effort on more classroom work makes you want to cry.  
What about your family time?
What about that summer vacation you so desperately need?


2. You will need to purchase (or somehow acquire) a complete curriculum created by someone who knows the standards inside and out and has loads of experience working with primary students. 

Ultimately, though, it is up to you.  

You might be told what you need to teach, but you make the decisions about HOW to teach it. 

Or at least, you should. 

You are the grade-level expert.
You are the one who knows your students best. 

And you are the one who is ultimately responsible for their learning.



Make sure you are meeting the standards. 

Every. Single. One.
This is non-negotiable. 

As primary teachers, we HAVE to teach the foundational skills really, really well.  That’s our job.HAVHAV

Ensure that you are meeting your students’ mathematical needs WHERE THEY ARE. 

Yes, you need to differentiate.
This is best done in small groups and independent work.

Do your small group work, centers, and independent practice offer easy differentiation?  Or is it still up to you to figure out how to meet everyone’s needs?

Find ways to incorporate some spiral review so that students remember skills they were taught a month or two ago.

Working hard to learn a skill and then failing to connect it to later learning or forgetting the skill entirely is not productive.  Students need to continue to practice skills long after they have supposedly mastered them. 

As a primary teacher, you know this! 

So....what do you think?

Does your math curriculum offer this?

If not, then you may want to join my mailing list for oodles of math tips and free resources for explicit teaching and engaging lessons!

Teaching math doesn’t have to be hard.  Or painful.

It CAN be fun, engaging, exciting, and empowering if you know what you are doing! 

I’m not kidding… 
and I would LOVE to help you on this journey!

You can do it!  
You are not alone....we are in this together!

Much Love,

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