As we've talked about many times in this corner of cyber space, I refuse to make teaching phonics a drag anymore.  I've been there and done that and it. is. miserable.

We've chatted about how I turned my phonics into a predictable and engaging routine that's quick and interactive using this interactive digital curriculum.

And we've talked about the emoji stories I use to teach the phonics sounds and engage kids.

Today let's talk about a piece of both of these things I've mentioned here and there, but never fully explained or shared: Vowel sound motions.  I've had several people ask about what motions I have my kids do for the sounds.  Let's talk about that today!

When I first introduce a sound, I tell the story about the letters and attach a motion to it.  For example, when I teach about ir, er, and ur, we talk about how they are teenagers just learning how to drive.

"IR, ER, and UR are teenagers that are learning how to drive.  BUT they are TERRIBLE drivers.  So every time they get behind the wheel to drive they end up driving crazy and going too fast and they have to slam on their brakes.  Guess what sound they make when they slam the brakes?  "ERRRRRRR" and I put my foot out like I'm pushing the brakes and hold on to my pretend steering wheel and say, "ERRRRRRR!"

We have motions for our most common vowel sounds.

The vowel sounds on our vowel charts that follow the long vowel sound (ea, oa, ie, etc...) we do not have motions for.  Those follow the "When 2 vowels go walking, the first one does the talking" rule.  We use this video's catchy tune when introducing these and all that is needed when they are decoding is the prompt, "When 2 vowels go walking..."

The vowel sounds that have motions are mostly vowel digraph sounds that cannot be decoded otherwise!

As we learn the sounds, we do the motions as we read our chart!  You can find a description of the stories I use and photos or videos of the motions I use in this resource!  The awesome thing is watching my kinesthetic learners moving to the vowel motions as they decode new words!!
(Note: if you have my Emoji Stories, some of the stories were changed slightly to match the emoji on the anchor chart.  The stories in this resource are the ones I originally, it doesn't matter which stories you use!  Just use what engages your kids!)

Do your kids struggle with finding this missing addend or part part whole?  I love this easy game to help kindergarteners and first graders practice finding the missing part in a fun and engaging way! Feel free to share this blog post with parents as this is a super easy game to play at home to reinforce what you are doing at school!

Materials You Need

My favorite math games are the ones that are no prep!  All you need for Counters in a Cup is exactly that--counters and cups!

Any cups that aren't clear or see through will work.  I've used styrofoam and red Solo cups before and both work great!

The two sided-counters work great for this because they fit easily in the cup.  But any small thing you have in your room will work.  And if you are a parent wanting to play this at home, here are some great things to use...
  • beans
  • buttons
  • legos

Anything small that you can fit 20 or so of them in a cup will work!  I'll be showing this game with buttons because they are just so fun and cute!

How To Play

To play Counters in a Cup, students need to be in partners (or parent-child, brother-sister if you are at home).

Player 1 puts a set number of counters in the cup.  I usually tell my first graders to put somewhere between 11 and 20 counters in.  They say, "I put ___ counters in the cup."

Then, player 1 spills out some counters.  Player 1 and/or 2 count the counters that spilled.  Player 1 says, "___ counters spilled out.  How many counters are in my cup?" and covers up the cup.

Player 2 solves the missing addend or part of the story and tells they answer.  Then, Player 1 empties the cup for them to check!

Then, both players record their missing parts!  Here are some examples when I played with my own kiddo!

***Off Topic...kinda...check out that amazing notation from my kindergartner.  I was one proud momma when I asked him to explain how he got 11 so fast and he went to writing out the notation! And, nope, other than help with a few blog posts, we don't work on this at home.  So BIG shout out to his kindergarten teacher and Arkansas' push to get kids fluently solving problems and explaining their thinking!!***

Differentiating Counters in a Cup

Another reason I love this game is because it's easy to differentiate and change up depending on your kiddos!

In first grade, I sometimes assign a certain number between 11 and 20.  Other times, I give different sets of partners a different number.  My low babies work on numbers below 10.  And my higher math thinkers work on more than 20 counters in their cup.

During my long-term sub job in kinder, we used this same game to help build missing parts and making combinations of a number.  For example, when we were working on ways to make 10, everyone used only 10 counters in their cup and spilled a different combination of 10 each time.

The kinder team I worked with played a similar game and used colored bears and called in Bears in a Cave!  Same game with a different name!

You can find the plans for this game, how I use it in my classroom, and the recording sheet with my Guided Math Workshop Plans!
The past several months, I've been a long-term sub in kindergarten for a girl on maternity leave.  And this little space has suffered just a bit. #realtalk

But I'm back today and blogging about one of my favorite math games for decomposing two-digit numbers into tens and ones and how I modified this game for kindergarten when we were working with teen numbers!

What Materials Do I Need?

I love Roll It, Build It, Break It because it's very easy to do "on the fly."  In first grade, I could pull out this game when another lesson was bombing or if I needed a last minute sub plans idea.  It's easy to play, and I guarantee you have everything you need right in your classroom!

All you need are dice, Unifix or pop cubes, and a recording sheet or dry erase board!

This game can be played independently, with partners, or as a whole group.  I love the flexibility of this game and I love that it's one I can give my kids choice on if they want to play with a friend or alone.

How Do I Play?

Let's chat about the basic game rules for decomposing 2-digit numbers (first grade version).  Students roll one or two dice at a time.  Each time they roll, they build a cube tower by adding that many cubes.  For example, if I roll a 6 first, I put six cubes together.  Then, if I roll a 3 next, I'll add 3 more cubes to my tower.

Have students roll a set number of times (usually 10 to 20 times is a good number). Sometimes it's easier to lay it flat with so many cubes!

Once kids have rolled the set number and built their tower or train, it's time to break the tower or train into groups of tens.  Students will find and break as many groups of tens as they can and leave the remaining ones.

Then, they will count the tens and ones to see how big their train was.  Finally, they will record their number by writing the numeral and drawing the tens and ones on their dry erase board or recording sheet.

How Can I Differentiate This Game?

If you have struggling counters, have them just use one die or roll fewer times.  For your strong counters, have them roll 30 times before breaking and then have them find groups of 100s after grouping the tens.

In kindergarten, we used this for decomposing teens into 10 and some more.  We played whole group so that I could make sure we were building a teen number.  I rolled the dice on our projector and the kids added the cubes to their train.  When we got to a teen number, I had the kids break the cubes to find a group of ten.  Then, we counted the number, "10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16."  We wrote the numeral together on dry erase boards and then I had them draw a picture of the tens and ones on their boards.

You can find the directions, I Can cards and recording sheets in my Primary Math Games Packet.  And you can also find this game's lesson plan in my full year of first grade Guided Math Workshop Lesson Plans!

Math Talks.  Number Talks.  Whatever you call them, they've been around for a while now.

We know that talking about number sense with our classmates leads to a deeper and more meaningful understanding of our base 10 number system.  You can read about Why I do Math Talks here.  Or, you can say...

"But I don't have 30 minutes every day in my math block to dedicate to a Math Talk!"

"But I've been doing Math Talks and it doesn't seem to be making a difference!"

"But I've started Math Talks but I have NO IDEA what in the world I'm doing!"

Don't worry.  I've been there.  I've had many a failed Math Talks over the years.  But I knew in my heart that Math Talks was a best practice because it was best for kids.  So I dug in my heels, put my big girl panties on (sorry, Mom!) and kept on.

And I finally found a rhythm to Math Talks that worked for me and my first graders.  So let's chat about how to make the most of a Math Talk.

Follow A Predictable Routine

There are no surprises in my Math Talk routine.  Oops.  I lied.  The content is a surprise to the kids.  The rest is the. exact. same.  Every time.  Why?  Because predictability is good for kids.  It makes the routine smoother and faster.  Once the kids learn what's coming next, there is no more explaining and it moves along like a well-oiled machine.

So what is the routine?
When it is time for the actual Math Talk, I pull up the digital Math Talk file on my White Board.  I tell the kids what our goal is for the talk.

"Today, we are working on using what we already know to solve a new problem.  Get your thinking caps on because it's time to TALK ABOUT MATH!"

Then, I click on the Math Talk link to pull it up.  If you are using your own Math Talk, this is where you would put that Math Talk on the board.

If it is an image (dots, ten frames, rekenreks, etc), then I only show it for 3 seconds.  After 3 seconds I click to the next (blank) slide and give them 30 seconds of wait time to solve.  The kids know this.  I don't remind them after the 2nd or 3rd time.  If it is an equation or skills (shapes, measurement, etc), I don't time them.  I just leave it up and they get to solving.  Again, they get 30 seconds or so of wait time.

After the wait time, I say, "TURN AND TELL" and they echo, "HOW I GOT MY ANSWER!"  Then, they think-pair-share for a minute or so.  I listen in to a few partners to hear strategies.

Then, I say, "TIME TO SHARE in 3, 2, 1..." and by that time they are turned back to face the Math Talk.  If it was an image, I go back to the slide at this time.  If it was an equation there is no need to change anything.

Now it's time to share as a whole group.  I ask some kids (randomly or intentionally's up to you) to tell me the answer only.  We collect different answers.  Then, I go back and ask those same kids to tell me how they got their answer so we can agree on the correct answer.

Once we agree on the correct answer, we start sharing different strategies.  This part can get long if you let it.  Don't.  Stay focused on your guiding question(s).  In my example, I would say after each strategy is shared, "Did you use something you already knew to solve?  What was it?"

As the kids share, I notate.  They do not come up to the board.  This will take up too much time.  They stay seated and they TALK.  I notate.  I share 2-4 strategies MAX.  I notate each strategy in a new color so we can easily see what goes with what!  Really enough to see different strategies and to reinforce our guiding question.  If I get the strategies I want and can reinforce our guiding question after 2 strategies, I move on.  If not, I may ask for 1 or 2 more.

There are 3 images or equations in most of the Math Talks.  I use the same exact routine for the 2nd round.  I repeat our goal, "Remember, we are working on using what we already know to solve a new problem.  Get your thinking caps back on because it's time to TALK ABOUT MATH!"

During the 3rd round, we do the same thing again with one difference.  This time, after our think-pair-share, we play, "Guess My Way."  We will come back to this in a few!

Picking the Right Math Talk

Once you have the routine down, it's time to learn how to intentionally pick a Math Talk that is best for your students.  This is definitely an art that gets better over time.  If you are new to Math Talks, my suggestion is that you just pick something--anything--and try it out.  Just jump in head first and follow the routine above.

You will find out quickly if you picked well or not.  If you missed the mark, don't be afraid to stop in the middle and tell the kids you'll start over later that day or tomorrow.  My hands up because I've totally done this a few times!  It's okay--no, it's good--for kids to see that adults and teachers mess up too! :)

Here is my thought process for picking out a Math Talk.

What is my base 10 or math skill goal for the day or week?
If I'm working on counting on, I need to choose images with a set that's easy to subitize and count on.

If I'm working on making a ten, I need to choose ten frames to help kids see how many more to ten.  Or I need to choose equations with numbers that can be combined to make ten and some more (3 + 4 + 7) or decomposed to make 10 (5 + 6).

If I'm working on shape attributes, I need to choose a shape talk that asks kids to defend what makes a triangle a triangle.

What do I want kids to demonstrate in the math talk?
If I want them to show FLUENT THINKING, I stick with images and equations that will push kids to do something besides counting all.  Those are images that can easily be subitized.  Or that have the bigger set on the right side so that they add on from the bigger number.  Those are also equations that have a clear bigger number (2+12) or have a 10 in them (5 + 3 + 5).

If I want students to show FLEXIBLE THINKING, I tend to use images or equations with more than 2 numbers.  Images always encourage a wide range of strategies because everyone sees the pictures differently where a basic equation, most kids read left to right and it's harder to push them outside of that box.

What type of Math Talk should I use?
In first grade, I do a mix of images and equations.  At the beginning of the year, the mix is probably about 70% images.  By the end of the year, that is flipped with about 70% of our Math Talks being equations.

In kinder, all Math Talks will be images at the beginning of the year.  And we will move to 30% of them being equations by the end of the year.

In second grade, the mix is mostly equations with a few images here and there as needed!

For my first grade teacher friends that don't want to have to think about all of this, I have the Math Talks I use for each of my weekly goals listed in my Guided Math Workshop Plans.

Engage Kids in Active Listening & Talking

The best way to keep kids engaged in a math talk is to keep it short, laser focused on the guiding question and goal, and move quickly from one part to the clockwork.  Timing really is...everything! :)

The next best thing to keep kids engaged and active in Math Talks is partner talk.  Giving kids a chance to turn and talk gives them a reason to move their body and talk one on one.  Everyone's strategy gets heard by at least their partner...even if they don't get to share with the whole group.

Another strategy I use is writing names next to the strategies as I notate them.  Kids LOVE seeing their names and their friends' names on the board.  And they will want to share more when they see names on the board.  I promise you that!

I'm a believer in TPR (Total Physical Response).  So when I show the image or equation, students put their thumbs to their chest when they have a strategy and are ready to talk.  But then, they continue to think of a different way to solve and add a new finger when they have another way.  So I can see kids who have one way or multiple ways or no way at all.

Another sign we use is "Me too."

The last thing I use to keep kids engaged during our 3rd "round" of Math Talks is "Guess My Way."  We basically do the same think time, partner talk time, and whole group share.  But I have a specific strategy in mind that matches our goal.  After each strategy, I say, "That was a great strategy, but...THAT'S NOT MY WAY!" and the kids learn to say that with me.  Once kids guess my way, I say, "That's a great strategy, and...YOU GUESSED MY WAY!"  If no one has guess my way after a few tries, I do tell them, just to keep things moving.   It doesn't matter that we play this every time.  This is their favorite. Every hand goes up during this game.

Notate, Notate, Notate

Notation is what takes a Math Talk from good to great.  Notation is writing exactly what we say in mathematical language.

And it's MY job to notate kids thinking in a Math Talk.  It's my chance to model how mathematicians write their thinking.  It's not unlike writer's workshop where I model how to write what kids are saying.

So if a kid says, "I started at 9 and counted 1 more," I'll say, "So you got 9 in your head" and write the 9 with a circle around it.  Then say, "and then counted 1 more" and write 1 more tally mark with a 10 in the green strategy below.  Then, I'll write the equation the same way--as I talk.

For kinders, my notation may just look like recording how I counted (either all or counting on) and with or without an equation depending on your kids.  That's an important piece too.

It's important for kids to see lots of ways to write equations and notations.  And it's MOST important that you talk as you write so they can connect their language to the written math language.

You may be tempted to have kids come up and write their equation.  Please, please, please do your best to refrain from this.  Not only does it take more time, it's not the goal of a Math Talk.  It's the time to model.  Just like in Writer's Workshop our mini-lesson is where we model write and then we send kids back to independently write and try out what we modeled.

During math problem solving, students will try out notations you model for them.  I've had first graders accurately use parentheses in their problem solving notation because I modeled it in Math Talks.   That would've never happened if I let kids notate their own thinking in Math Talks.  You model it, they will try it out on their own when they are ready!

Try out the Digital Math Talks for FREE here or find the bundle here.

One of my favorite math tools to keep in my classroom is playing cards!  I blog often about how I use them to play Math Games that build Base 10 and comparing and other math skills.  But today, let's chat about how to use playing cards to learn about related facts or fact families!

This game (like so many math card games!) can be played alone or in partners.  I love that my kids can choose if they want to work alone or with someone and still play the same game!

For this game, you only need cards 1-9 in the deck.  Put all of the other cards to the side. (If you play my other games that use a "0"--Queen-- or 10, you can keep those in this deck, but the game may be just a little harder that way.  It is totally doable if you want though!)

You will deal 21 cards in a face down stack.  Then, turn over 4 cards in a row beside the deck like this...

Look through the 4 cards and see if you can find 3 cards that make an addition or subtraction fact.  If you find a fact, pull the cards down and fill in the other related facts on your fact family game sheet.

Then, fill in with 3 more cards from the deck to get back to having 4 cards showing.  If you cannot find a fact family, simply draw another card from the deck to lay out until you can find a fact family.

The only difference with this is you may not need to draw any more cards or may need to draw fewer cards.  You want to keep 4 cards showing at the start of each round.

The object of the game is to find as many fact families as possible.  If you want to play against a partner you can take turns and see who can find the most fact families!

You can find plans for this game and the recording sheet in this Guided Math Workshop Plans Resource.

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