A few weeks ago, we did some math operating in our homeschool 2nd grade class! :)

And, ya'll, I wish we had worked on this much sooner!  My kid is a strong math thinker, who struggles with notation or showing/telling me how he figured out his answer.  His little brain works so fast that he has a hard time using the right language to explain his thinking.  That has been my main goal this year for him.  

I knew it was important for him to know and understand the 4 math operations, but I had no idea just HOW helpful it would be in giving him more math language to frame his thinking and ultimately write down his notation in a mathematical way.  

Sound familiar?  Here's a look at our week of math operations!

Introducing Math Operations

We kicked off the week introducing math operations.  I wrote the numbers 6 and 2 on the board and asked, "6 and 2 come to our math hospital.  There are 4 math operations that we can do with these numbers.  What's one thing we can do to 6 and 2?"

As we listed out the operations, we charted them.  We charted the symbol, the name of the operation, the sample equation, and keywords or phrases we use when performing that operation.

Once we worked through all 4 operations and compared and contrasted them, we read the digital book from my Guided Math Workshop Plans called, "Socks for Knox."

Each page has a different story problem type.  We read the problem and discussed which operation we should use and why.  The answer is less important...in fact, that's why I used very low numbers.  I wanted him to think about the operation and not get caught up in the numbers.

Let's just take a moment to add that I really, *really*, wanted my 2nd grader to dress up in his old doctor outfits and pretend like we were performing surgery, but he wasn't having it.  #boys  This would make a super fun classroom transformation project though! :)

Math Operations Sort

In Guided Math Workshop, Mondays are mostly whole group days where most of the content is frontloaded and introduced.  Then, the rest of the week, kids work independently on the goals and content we learned on Monday.  They solve a new problem independently each day, play a hands on game with a partner, meet with a teacher in a small group to discuss their problem solving and work on a technology based game to practice the math skill from Monday.  You can read more about those routines here.

This week, our hands-on activity was an operations sort! We used the cards to sort symbols, equations, and stories into the 4 operation categories.

These cards can also be used to play memory!

Then, he did a cut and paste sort on his own.

All of this practice made a HUGE difference in his ability to show his strategies during problem-solving.  He was able to name the operation he needed to use and write his equation more easily.  

You can find all of these lesson plans and activities and more in my Guided Math Workshop Plans for 2nd Grade!

One of the things I work hard on instilling in my preschoolers at church and at home is that you can do hard things.

I remember one day with Cooper when he was about 4 and he got into this habit of telling us how he couldn't do this, this, or this.  He would tell us, "I can't do it.  It's too hard."  After failing many times at getting him to see that he could do it, we finally just met this head-on and said, 

"You're right.  It IS hard.  But...you can do hard things."

And then one day, I made up a song to the tune of The Farmer In the Dell to sing along with that statement.  (**side note: Am I the only mom constantly making up songs for anything and everything? Yes, I am?  Okay, well thanks!**)

I can do hard things,

I can do hard things,

With the help of God,

I can do hard things!

That song has served us well over the years!  And for that reason, it showed up in our Samson Bible unit for my preschoolers at church.  During this unit, we play a "hard things" game each week.  It's kinda like a minute to win it for preschool kiddos! 

Here's a look at the games we use to build our strength, courage, and confidence so that even the littlest begin to understand that we can do hard things.

For each game, there are multiple levels of difficulty.  You can use this to choose the level that best fits your kids.  Or, you can use it as a way to start easy and talk about what happens when the game gets harder with each new level!

Bead Stack

Materials: plastic beads

Directions: have kids try to stack the beads into a tower of 5 beads high.  **TIP: You can get different sized beads depending on the fine motor skills of your kids.

If they do well with that, try stacking 10 beads.  Last, try to stack a tower of 5 or 10 beads in 1 minute or less!


Materials: chopsticks or pencils and pompoms

Directions: Use chopsticks or pencils as chopsticks to move the pompoms from one plate to another.  For a harder level, do it in 1 minute or less.

Snow Tower

Materials: craft sticks and marshmallows

Directions: put the stick in your mouth.  Stack 3 marshmallows on the stick to make a snowman.  To make it harder, make a taller snowman or do it in less than 1 minute.

Cup Pyramid

Materials: red solo cups

Directions: Build a cup pyramid with 3 cups on the bottom.  You will need to model this for the preschoolers and have a sample out for them to see.  To make it harder, they can build one with 4 cups or 5 cups on the bottom or do it in less than 1 minute.

Noodle Pickup

Materials: raw penne pasta and raw spaghetti noodles

Directions: Use spaghetti noodles to pick up the penne noodles with no hands.  See how many you can do in 1 minute to make it harder.

These minute to win it like challenges are perfect for this Samson Bible Unit or for the classroom setting as you are trying to build confidence and teamwork at the beginning of the school year.

 I love a good, corny joke.  That's what of the main reasons I love teaching matter.

What's the matter with you?

Science matters.

Does it matter?

I'm here all day, ya'll!  But seriously, I do love teaching matter during our 2nd grade homeschool time... and not just because of the corny jokes.  There's a lot of opportunity for hands-on science labs about the states of matter and matter properties.  Let's take a look at a couple of my favorite labs for the states of matter and their properties!

States of Matter

We started off this unit with the book, What is the World Made Of? I love this book because it's written in a kid-friendly, easy to understand way and it's easy for kids to connect to!

(affiliate link)

As we read, we stopped after each state and charted it.  Once the book finished talking about gases, we stopped reading.  We will read the 2nd half of the book when we start talking about changes in matter.

Once we finished charting the states, we sorted objects into their states.

The next day, we learned that all matter is built with atoms.  And the arrangement of the atoms matters.  Get it?  Okay, okay, I'm done with the corny jokes.  Maybe! :)

We watched a video about atoms and then built a solid, liquid and gas with "atoms."  And we ate a few along the way...

Properties of Matter

Once we had a good understanding of the states of matter, we were ready to observe some objects and talk about their properties.

This was also a good chance to review our recent work with sensory details and not just writing that an object feels "good." 

Oobleck Lab

We ended the week with Oobleck, because...how can you learn about matter and NOT make oobleck?  We read Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss.  Then we made oobleck and played with it observed its properties.

We recorded our observations, and he made a hypothesis about what oobleck is... a "soliquid." LOL! :)

After we watched a video explaining oobleck we made our conclusion!

All of the labs, plans and paper materials are in this 2nd grade Next Gen Matter Unit!

Guided Math Workshop was a new structure that came about as I was leaving the classroom for my mommy break.  Why the change in my math block time?  I loved the focus we had on problem solving before, but it was hard for me to feel like I could conference with all of my kids.  I also struggled with the need to do small group instruction, but not having a framework for managing that.

And lastly, I needed more balance between kid-guided problem solving and direct instruction.  So Guided Math Workshop was born.  Here's a look at what a week of math looks like now!


On Mondays, we introduce the goal for the week through a mini-lesson.  Sometimes, we read a book, sometimes we watch a video, and sometimes we work through some digital slides with some discussion together.  I spend about 15-30 minutes on this, depending on the activity.  Here is one of our mini-lessons from when we practice drawing shapes with specific attributes with a personal favorite, The Greedy Triangle!

Then, we do a brain break video that relates to our goal for the week.

After our blood is flowing again, we have some kind of math talk that ties to the goal for the week.  This is my chance to model math notation and how to show our thinking during problem solving time.  It also gives my kids a chance to hear strategies from the whole class.  Here's a math talk we did on the dry erase board brainstorming ways to regroup.

And here's another math talk we did using the riddles from The Grapes of Math.

After our math talk, I introduce the hands-on game that the kids will play with partners during the week.  We play the game as a whole group so that I can teach them the game and model how to fill out the response sheet.  And then we are ready for the rest of the week!

Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday

Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays look exactly the same.  This is perfect because if we have a four day week, we can just have 2 days of this rotation schedule instead of 3 and not much is taken away from the math instruction except for more practice time! :)  Here's the routine for these three "rotation" days.

Launch Math Mysteries

For the first 5-10 minutes, we launch the story problem the kids will work on independently for the day.  I edit the launch slide in our rotation slideshow and pull it up during our launch.  We review our goal for the week, read the problem, and we talk about what we know about the story problem and what we are trying to figure out.  The launch is short and sweet, because I want to give kids time to work on the problem and figure it out on their own.  

Then, we continue the rotation board.  This is a timed powerpoint presentation that shows kids exactly where to go. Once I move to this slide, the chimes will sound and the rotations begin.  It will give kids 15 minutes to work on their first rotation.  At the end of 15 minutes, the chimes will sound again and go to the next slide which shows the kids where to move to next.  The names and even the time is completely editable and found in my plans for 1st grade or for 2nd grade.

**NOTE: Yes, I know this doesn't spell math.  Long story short, sometimes the rotations are out of order to make sure each group gets to every station when they need to get to it.  Want the long story?  The very detailed explanation and directions are included in the plans.**

Let's take a closer look at each of the rotations!

M: Meet With Me

During this rotation, kids come back to my small group table.  For *most* kids, this rotation comes immediately after their at my seat time where they have been working on solving the problem.  We use this time to share our strategies with kids who are in similar places in their problem solving skills.  I can use this time to extend or give extra support to these kids and model notation that specifically applies to certain kids.

For my lower babies, they come meet with me first.  Why?  Because most of them are unable to get started independently and need extra support.  So, during their meet with me time, we might act out the story problem or even work through the first level of problems.  By the end of this 15 minutes, these struggling mathematicians are ready to finish solving the rest of the problems independently and they will move straight to At My Seat next.

A: At My Seat

During this rotation, kids work on independently solving all 4 levels of the story problem.  This is a quiet and independent working time for these kids at their seat.  Remember, the low kids have just come from meeting with me for extra support before they start.  And the rest of the groups will be coming to meet with me after this to share their strategies.

T: Technology

During this rotation, kids work on our goal for the week on a device.  I have used websites like dreambox, I-Ready, starfall and abcya.  With my 2nd grader at home this year, I am using these fluency Google Slides assignments.

H: Hands-On

During this rotation, kids play the game we modeled together on Monday.  Some games I play take longer and will take the whole week to finish playing.  With other games, I have the kids use a different version each day (like a new tic tac toe board).  Most games are designed to play with partners, but some can be independent.  This is the only station where kids might be talking/whispering.  So, in general, rotation time is pretty quiet except for your hands-on kids and the kids at your table! :)


After the last rotation, we get back together and reflect.  This is my time to talk about what worked (with the math and with behavior, etc) and what didn't.  It's also a chance for me to address any common problems I saw with the problem solving that day or strategies that I want everyone to see.  But, mostly, this time is more like a class meeting about our math time!


Fridays are non-rotation days! We start off working through our spiral review of grade level math skills with our digital math wall time.

Then, we work on counting collections.  You can read about those routines here, but it's one of my favorites!  

Sometimes, later in the year, I start doing counting collections every other week and fact fluency practice on the off weeks where we practice our math facts.  (Read those routines here!)

If we have time, we do another share time at the end of the day where we share counting or fact fluency strategies, or any other things we need to discuss with our goal for the week!

You can find these detailed plans and materials for 1st and 2nd grade below.

I love using games to help kids understand Bible stories better!  The Bible story of Joshua is a great one for teaching kids to choose to serve the Lord because He is faithful to help us.  Let's talk about some of my favorite games to play during our Joshua Bible unit!

Ants on a Log

Bible Story: Joshua is Moses' helper

Bible Idea: I can help others.

Materials: kids and tape (or sidewalk chalk)

Directions: Create a log using tape or sidewalk chalk.  The log should be thin enough for all of the kids to stand on.

Have kids stand shoulder to shoulder inside the "log."  Name one kid "Moses."  Moses will need to move down the log past a few kids without stepping "off" of the log.  Have them move past at least 2-3 people.  While "Moses" is moving, make sure the other kids are helping Moses just like Joshua did in the Bible.  Play several rounds to let kids take turns being Moses.

Battle of Jericho STEM Challenge

Bible Story: Joshua and the Battle of Jericho

Bible Idea: God can do anything!

Materials: red solo cups (or playing cards for more of a challenge) and a party favor kazoo

Problem: Pretend that the king of Jericho has asked the kids to rebuild the wall of Jericho with playing cards (or solo cups to make it easier as shown in the pictures!).  It needs to be tall to protect the city, but also strong enough to withstand Joshua and his army.

Directions: Let kids work alone or in teams to complete the challenge.  

When they are finished, they can test out their wall by walking a stuffed animal or toy around the wall 7 times for the 7th day.  

On the 7th time they will blow the kazoo directly at the wall to see if it will stand.

Hailstone Drop

Bible Story: Joshua defeats the Amorites

Bible Idea: God will help me if I serve him.

Materials: white pompoms, buckets or cups of various sizes

Directions: Kids will grab a handful of white pompoms to use as the hailstones.

Then, they will toss the "hailstones" all at once toward the buckets like a hailstorm.

Count the hailstones that fell into the buckets to see how many points you get! 

You can set up multiple stations for people to play in small groups, or do one large hailstorm where everyone drops and handful toward a lot of buckets and count the whole collection together!

Find all of these games and more in this Joshua Bible Unit!

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