Showing posts with label Featured. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Featured. Show all posts
Before our 9 day vacation, I started a series of posts about how I do math in our classroom.  The first post was all about CGI and doing Math Mysteries {word problems} with my firsties.  As I posted about earlier, I do Math Mysteries in my classroom 3 times a week...usually on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

So what do we do the other two days?  I probably can't fit that all in one blog post, so I'm going to divide it up.  We do Counting Collections on Mondays and we do Fact Fluency on Fridays {which I'll post about later...}
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Last year was my first year to really do both of these things consistently.  And I probably didn't start until around October after talking to some other friends about it.  So I'm still somewhat of a newbie balancing Counting Collections, Math Mysteries, and Fact Fluency {plus a daily dose of Math Wall...}  It's not perfect, but so far it's working really well in my room and I'm excited to see what it's like this coming year!  You can check out my Counting Collections Packet here.  Everything you need to set up including pictures, materials, plans, etc is here!

So here was the problem: One thing I had noticed as a big problem with my firsties coming in last year is their inability to count and understand our system for counting.  They could rote count fairly well {MOST of them anyways! :)} and they could even "rote skip count" by 5s and 10s...but they just had no number sense or what skip counting actually means.  Plus, let's face it: almost 100% of my first graders coming in cannot write all of their numbers correctly.  Especially those darn teen numbers {anyone else have littles that think 13 is 30. every. single. time???}  And while some people might see rote skip-counting as an okay skill, I see it as "not enough."  Kids have to be able to understand that when I count by 5's I'm counting 5 more each time and that I'm actually counting in groups of 5.  When we practice rote counting during Math Wall, I make sure that we go over the groups of  language over and over and over because I believe it is what builds the foundation for multiplication understanding.

I have used Counting Collections in the past, but it's been a once-every-two-months kind of activity.  After doing it consistently on almost a weekly basis for most of the year last year, I'm convinced that Counting Collections has a regular place in the K-2 classroom. {I even have friends that teach 3rd-5th grade that use counting collections to count things other than whole numbers, like money and fractional pieces...can you imagine the awesome practice counting pieces of objects by halves or fourths??}

So what exactly is Counting Collections anyways?  Counting Collections is an activity in which students work in partners and groups to count a collection of something.  Yes.  It's really that simple.  They might count beads, pasta, q-tips, blocks, stickers, or anything else super el-cheapo that you can find around your room or house!  All I bought were the cheap ziploc tubs to store them in.  $16 total investment and I'll be able to use it every week year after year!  You can see in the picture below all of the collections I used.  And I didn't buy a single thing.  This was all old manipulatives we weren't using in my room anymore, or things from my house or pantry.  And this is really impressive considering I'm not even a pack rat.  So my friends who like to collect things *wink wink* will really have some fun things to choose from!

So what did you do to set it up in your classroom?  I spent several hours just counting. and counting. and counting.  Each tub has a certain color label on it.  Find the tubs I used here.  The tubs are color coded by number range.  My pink tubs have 1-20 objects in them. My orange tubs have 21-50. Yellow has 51-100 objects.  Green 101-120.  Blue 121-200 and white has 201-500 objects.  I made a key so I would know and remember how many pieces were in each tub as kids counted.  I gave my kids a counting assessment {that you can find in my Counting Collections Packet} which was basically an empty 120's chart.  I gave them 20 minutes to start at 1 and count/write numbers as high as they could go.  Then I was able to see who needed to be counting in what range.  Obviously, I have the most yellow and green tubs because that is the "on grade level" counting range for first graders according to Common Core.  And I had the most kids on my assessment that stopped counting somewhere in that range after 20 minutes.

Once I have my firsties grouped by color, I assign partners of kids with the same color.  This will be their Counting Collections partner during the entire quarter.  I reassess them each quarter so that I can change their assignments up as they grow...and it's a great thing I do because last year I had a kiddo that could only count to 7 on the first assessment and the next time--just 9 weeks later--he counted/wrote numbers all the way to 120!  I just about screamed for joy!!!  Counting Collections really, really does work!  I keep a color-coded record sheet of partners with a spot for me to record anecdotally how they are counting each week.  That's just another formative assessment for me to keep track of my kids...and it's great proof for parents!

So what does the first Counting Collections lesson look like?  The first time I did Counting Collections we did it as a whole group ONLY.  No one worked in partners.  I got a pretend collection and told them the goal of Counting Collections: I can count objects to 120.  I asked, "How could I count my collection of pop cubes?" Someone inevitably says, "1, 2, 3..." and will come up and count all of them.  We will count them all by ones together.  Then, I will ask, "Is there another way I could count them?" Usually, I will have someone that will suggest counting by 5s or 10s.  But you have to be really careful here because some kids will still pull one pop cube, but rote count by 10s.  This is what I was talking about earlier where kids can rote count but don't understand that it means groups of.  Once we have come up with several ways to count, I pick one way and model how to record it on the recording sheet {also included in the packet for kinder, first and second grade.}

Throughout the model lesson, we are talking about my expectations and goals for Counting Collections and we are charting those on our Counting Collections anchor chart...
At the beginning of the year, my kids are also becoming more familiar with our Standards for Math Practices so I always try to tie those practices back to our goals for Counting Collections.  You can find some kid-friendly posters I made for each practice here.  This Counting Collections anchor chart is posted and reviewed every single week before starting our counting time.  We focus a lot in the beginning on how to handle the collections, and honestly, I didn't have one issue with throwing, chewing, or using the collections appropriately.  They are just too engaged to mess with that!

So what does the daily grind of Counting Collections look like?  Once I've modeled sufficiently for a lesson or two, the kids start counting with their partners.  In my room, they have a specific counting spot they go to every week so they are not wasting time looking for a spot.

I start off each lesson with a goal of what I want for my kids {usually a math practice like "Attend to precision" or "Model with math" or even just "Cooperating with others."} It's especially perfect when I can use the same goal we are working on in Math Mysteries in Counting Collections that week too.  It really helps the kids make stronger connections!

Then I send the kids off to count with their partners and tubs.  They only get one tub for the day.  The first thing I tell them to do {and that we model together during the first lessons} is to make a plan for counting.  I walk around and ask each group, "How are you going to count today?  What is your plan?"  I'm wanting them to tell me, "I'm going to count by 1s," or "We are counting by 5s," etc...  That way I can watch for a little bit and see if they have that "group to group correspondence" {counting by 5s by counting a group of 5, not just rote counting.}  Each group counts differently.  In the beginning most count by 1s

and several of the ones that count by 5s or 10s don't count correctly {they rote count without counting groups}.  But that's okay because it's a great thing for me to walk around and conference with them about.  And it's also something we will talk about as a whole group later!

And there are always a few in the beginning that actually count the groups of 5s or 10s correctly...or by 20's as in this first picture! {Thank you, Jesus!}


 You can't get a better visual for grouping objects than this in my opinion.  It is so SO powerful!



As the year progresses, their counting gets more sophisticated and efficient.  It is truly remarkable!
These partners are counting by 100s later in the year...

When they finish counting, they record their total and fill out their recording sheet to show me how they counted.  For my early finishers, they recount their collection a different way on the back of their recording sheet.  This keeps them from going through tons of collections and it also keeps them in their counting spot and more on task.

At the end of our counting time {about 20-30 minutes}, we clean up and meet back at the carpet for share time.  Share time for Counting Collections is similar to share time in Math Mysteries.  I pick 2-3 people that did or did not meet our goal for the day and they talk about how they counted their collection.

I use highlighter to mark on their papers if I need to go back and model how to label counting or how to notate their thinking with equations.  Here are some examples from last April...


So how do you fit it in to your daily and weekly schedule?  Counting Collections takes a total of 40 minutes to an hour in my first grade room, depending on the length of share time.

Last year, I started doing Counting Collections in the Fall every single Monday.  That first semester my firsties really needed that counting practice every single week.  But by the second semester and especially the 4th quarter, we didn't do it every single week.  3rd quarter we probably did Counting Collections almost every week {maybe missing once a month for another math skill game} and in the 4th quarter we only did it every other week or so.  They just got so good at it that I felt I needed to focus on other areas for skill practice.  That doesn't mean they will be great in Counting Collections in their second grade classroom---because my second grade friends have their collections set up to count objects up to 1000 and beyond.  And just because they can count to 120 or 200 in first does NOT mean they can efficiently count and write numbers to and past 1000!  So I think it is definitely has its place in kindergarten, first grade and second grade!

Read the next few blog posts about setting up math in the classroom with fact fluency, number talks, and math story problems!

And check out my Counting Collections Packet for more details on my plans, pictures, lists of collections and keys, assessments, handouts and more!


Moving to first grade next year from an upper grade?  Coming back to teaching first grade after a few years at home or in another grade? First time teacher getting a job in first grade?  It can be a daunting task moving to a new grade level and setting up a classroom!

I remember my first year as a teacher moving into my new first grade classroom.  My parents had helped me move the stuff I had collected during college.  We piled it in my brand new classroom and it all fit in like a 5 by 5 square.  No lie.  My sweet, sweet principal came down to check on me and said, "Where's all of your stuff?"  I'm a minimalist by default, but I knew I had to get to shopping to fill up my classroom and be ready for day one.

So, after 10 years of experience in first grade, here is my list of things you just can't live without in your first grade classroom from a minimalist's perspective!

1. Easel

Easels are a MUST for any primary classroom.  They are great for an up close dry erase board on the carpet, a place to hang and write on current anchor charts, and perfect for holding big books during shared reading.

Even in this day of tons of technology, don't sacrifice the easel!

This is the easel that I got my first year teaching.

Now these were the days before interactive whiteboards (think teaching with overhead projectors and vis-a-vis markers...remember those??) so this easel was fabulous!  It has a ton of storage, a perfect holding place for charts and big books.

The down side?  It's huge.  It has a large footprint.  And even though it does work well for big books, the books sit lower on that than on a taller easel so the words can be difficult for everyone to read in the back.  If you are worried about these issues, try this easel that I have also taught with.

This one is great, but lacks the storage!  Whatever your priorities are, an easel is a must!

P.S. I know a lot of first grade teacher friends that have these short easels for small group/guided reading.

I had one and never used it.  Just didn't work for me because it took up space on my table or back counter. #minimalistprobs #iloveclearcounters

2. Rug

Ya'll!  Forget shopping for any old rug.  It won't cut it.  Trust me.  In my first 4 years of teaching I went through 4 rugs.  That's a rug every single year if your math is bad! :) Some were too small and a few didn't match my theme well enough, but all of them unraveled at the corners and were basically threads by the end of the year.  And I'm a carpet Nazi, ya'll.  Like, don't you even think about messing with my carpet, kids!  But it just happens.  They are 6 and the basic rugs just don't hold up.  Finally, 7 years into teaching (and 6 carpet rugs later) I bit the bullet and bought this carpet rug.  Yes, it's expensive.  No, it didn't match my western themed classroom.  But it was the best investment.  Hands down.  No messed up corners and roomy enough for all 25 of my firsties.  Plus, everyone had their own square already made on the carpet so I didn't have to tape off squares anymore! #winning

This rug lasted me 3 years and counting (I left the classroom temporarily to stay home with my baby after 3 years).

So, trust me.  Do yourself a favor and fork out the money for this rug.  You won't regret it.

3. Word Wall

So this isn't necessarily a purchase you need to make...just a space you need to reserve.  A word wall is a must and it's going to take up space.  I intentionally planned my word wall to be easily seen from all areas of the classroom and went out of my way to make sure it was right in front of my writing station in my classroom!  If you need some word wall alphabet cards and word cards, you can find tons of themed options here.

4. Big Book Organizer

You've moved down to the primary grade land...you know the land where everything is BIGGER!  Including books!  You're gonna need to find a way to organize your big books and poem charts if you still have those.  (I had poem posters when I first started teaching until our interactive white boards came along and I went completely digital with my poems!)

I was lucky enough to have my sweet daddy offer to make me this big book box organizer that I painted.

But there are other options you can find out there too!

5. Math Manipulatives

Yes, math manipulatives are important.  I'm a math junkie so I should know.  Math is one of my favorite things to teach.  I was blessed my first year because I opened a new school and our principal gave us a budget for purchasing math tools for our classrooms.  Our team got a LOT of stuff!

But what I learned over the next 10 years is that just a few, high quality math manipulatives are much better than having a ton of bug counters, dominoes and tangrams.

Here are my go to math tools that I use every single day in my classroom during Guided Math Workshop (read about my CGI math routines here).  I've divided them into tubs for each table group to make it easy for kids to get to quickly.  They are stored on their group shelves.

unifix cubes: I use these for 2 digit addition and subtraction in place of base 10 blocks...which I threw in the trash years ago.  You can read about that here. Also, I prefer these to pop cubes which were bought for me in my classroom.  Pop cubes allow you to make 3D objects...which might be good for a shapes project, but is super distracting during problem solving! :) (Allow about 50 per kid... really each kid needs at least 100, but during problem solving not all of my kids use tools so I have about 200-250 for a group of 4 kids and that works just fine.)
two sided counters: great for composing/decomposing numbers, using with ten frames and simple addition and subtraction to 20. (Allow about 25 per kid...kids don't use these for double digit problem solving, so even 25 per kid is very generous)
counting bears: These are good for the same reasons as the 2-sided counters, but they have more colors so it's an easy way to show intervention groups 3 addends or decomposing into 3 parts. (Allow 10-15 per kid and you will be just fine.  These are only used by my lowest babies it seems like each year.)
rekenreks: These are fantastic for math talks and making 10's to add and subtract. This set has 30 student rekenreks and one teacher.  It's perfect for sharing with a partner teacher.  (Having one available for each table would be sufficient for problem solving.  If you want to use them for math talks, it's nice for every kid to have one, but not necessary...I had 1 for carpet partners to share and it worked just fine!)

And here are a few others I use outside of problem solving:
pattern blocks: for geometry skills (Allow 200 per table group to share--about 4 kids)
colored squares: for measurement (Allow 200 per table group to share--about 4 kids)
Judy clocks: for time (one for each kid is ideal, but 1 for partners to share would work just fine too!)


6. Classroom Library

Every teacher loves books.  Finding books that are perfect for emerging and beginning readers can be a challenge though.  I've found that organizing books by topic is the easiest for my young readers.  You can find my classroom library tub labels here.

And here are just a few of my favorite easy reader series that I keep in my classroom library:

Scholastic non-fiction readers
I Can Read books

7. Browsing Boxes

Browsing boxes is the term I use for our book boxes.

Each kid has one and they store their library books they check out each week as well as abc and blends charts and readers they get from guided reading.  My firsties use these to read from if they finish early or during buddy reading or read to self during literacy stations.

My browsing boxes are ice buckets that I got from Wal-Mart for a little over a dollar each 10 years ago.  You can also find them here.

8. Calm Down Corner

After 10 years of teaching first graders and having lots of friends with special needs or emotional issues, a calm down corner became a must in my classroom.  This is a tiny area (yes, tiny is better) where any kid can go when he/she feels overwhelmed.  You can read more about it here.

This is my list of must haves in our calm down corner:

>>something soft like a stuffy to cuddle.  This is the one we had and we named him "Telly the Turtle" and shared all of our worries with him! :)
>>a mirror for looking at ourselves to determine our emotion
>>a great book about emotions like Today I Feel...
>>a chair...mine was just a normal hard chair.  It may have been more inviting to have a small bean bag or something that could "hug" an upset kid, but I found that anything that could be torn apart would be when an irritated child needed the calm down corner.  So I stuck with my wooden chair. :)
>>stress balls or sensory balls for squeezing.
>>Instruction posters on what to do so the child stays focused on regulating his/her emotions and returning to the group
>>sand timers to make sure my kiddos don't overstay their welcome!

9. Flexible Seating Options

These days, flex seating is all the rage.  I left the classroom on a temporary mommy leave just before the craze hit my area!  But, I think flex seating has always been a part of who I am as a teacher.  Yes, I still had desks and chairs (although I definitely want to try more flex options when I return!), but I also had other options around the room.  Here are some simple ways I incorporated flex seating without having to go "all in."  If you're wanting to dabble in flex seats, these are a great starting place:

>>stools: I found some of these on clearance and repainted them for our writing station table.  These were a kid favorite for sure!

>>pillows: perfect for our classroom library!  I had both throw pillows and floor pillows to choose from.

>>ottomans: I had teammates that swore by these for guided reading groups!
>>old student desks: I used this for my student of the week and during group or partner work, my kids flocked to this desk to be the first ones to be able to use it!

>>the floor: it's the cheapest flex seating option ever and what 6 year old doesn't love to lay around on the floor and work!

10. A Touch of Home

From even my first year, it was important to me to include parts of our classroom that reminded my littles of home--and reminded me of home!  I added curtains to our windows,

lamps around the room,

pillows,

touches of fabric,

and plants!

These plants were my favorite because it was a bit of the outside in our classroom which I loved!  Also, each group had the responsibility of keeping up with their plants which was fabulous!

11. Lots of LOVE

Above all else, you need lots of love in your first grade classroom!  There is a reason the Bible tells us "The greatest of these is LOVE."  It's your greatest asset.  It's the one thing you can't go out and buy.  And it's the single most important thing your firsties will feel and learn from in your classroom!

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