How I Start Centers At The Beginning of Kindergarten

If you teach Kindergarten, centers are probably a part of your day. When I taught Kindergarten, I incorporated centers into literacy, math, and free play, as well as occasionally during science and social studies.

Centers are a great way to get students actively involved in their learning. I’ve heard that Kinders’ attention span is about 5-6 minutes, which is incredibly short! That means that we need to try to minimize whole group sitting and listening time. In turn, we need to maximize hands-on, independent learning time. Having students work in centers gives them important independent practice time, and it also allows us to give children more individualized attention as they meet with us in small groups.

Although centers are a great addition to your Kindergarten daily schedule, getting them to work (and work well) is challenging. Something that has always been difficult for me is getting the kids who are working independently to…well…do their work!

I think that lots of routine-teaching and patience at the beginning of the year are essential for getting Kindergarten centers to work. My students have typically not attended preschool, so I always ease them into centers very slowly at the beginning of the school year. In this post, I’ll share with you a 6-step process that I use to introduce centers at the beginning of the year. At the end of the post, please comment with any additional ideas or suggestions that you have!

How I start centers at the beginning of Kindergarten

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Rido

Stage 1: Sitting and completing “pencil-and-paper” work.

Depending upon the population of students that you work with, it may or may not be a big deal for your kids to have to sit in chairs, stay put, and work on their own. For my kids, it was somewhat of a big deal.

At the very beginning of the year, as I introduced each alphabet letter, I had my kids complete handwriting sheets to practice forming the day’s letter. Having all students sit and complete the same worksheet like this is not something that I did often. However, at the beginning of the year, it was a simple activity that served a purpose: teaching students to stay in one place and complete work.

And honestly, I wasn’t really that concerned about their letter formation at that point in time. I viewed the handwriting sheets as a means to an end (having students work successfully in centers). We spent time discussing how to remain in one spot, use a quiet voice, independently use the restroom if necessary, etc. Although it was a good chance for them to practice letter formation, the main goal was to teach students basic procedures for completing seat work.

Stage 2: Sitting and completing “hands-on” work.

During Stage 2, we focused on the same skills (staying in one spot, working independently, solving problems with peers), but with hands-on activities rather than worksheets. The majority of my centers involved manipulatives of some kind, so I needed students to learn how to use materials appropriately.

Again, the activities in this stage were very simple. Every child in the class was doing the same thing, more or less. Some of the activities I used included: playing with pattern blocks or using them with pattern block mats, making letters/numbers/shapes from playdough, sorting magnetic letters, etc.

I was very intentional about what materials and activities I used during Stage 2. The activities I chose would ultimately become centers that students visited during the next few stages. That way, when it was time for the kids to begin physically rotating through centers, students were already familiar with the center activities so that they could focus on learning the routines.

Pattern Block Sorting Mat

Stage 3: Working without any interference from me.

During Stage 3, students were still completing either “paper-and-pencil” or “hands-on” work at their seats. However, I challenged them to work just like “big kids,” without any help or support from me. I stood at the back of the room and watched them work, but I expected them to solve minor problems on their own. If you have spent time during Stages 1 and 2 teaching independent work skills, transitioning into Stage 3 should not be difficult at all.

Stage 4: Rotating through non-academic centers.

Finally, in Stage 4, I set up different centers around the room and had students rotate through them. When you start Stage 4, it’s best if you have already decided how you’ll group your students, so that these groups can remain the same for a little while. Your groups will change, of course, as the year goes on – but it’s helpful if you can provide a bit of consistency at the beginning.

I’ve used a few different strategies to show students what group they are in and/or what center they should be working in. For a couple of years, I used kids’ photos on a pocket chart. I’ve also used photos on an interactive white board, including photos of the actual center locations and activities.

An important part of Stage 4 is teaching kids how to rotate between centers. Many teachers use two timers: one to indicate that students should clean up, and another to indicate that students should move to the next center. To maintain order, I only allow my students to switch centers when the entire classroom is quiet. Students must be sitting, pointing with one finger to the center where they will go next, and keeping another finger on their lips to show that they are quiet. When the entire classroom is ready, then they can switch centers. This procedure takes a while to teach, but it’s time well spent because it will save you instructional time later on!

During Stage 4, I placed one center activity at my small group table, so students would get used to working at my table as a center. However, I did not sit and work with a small group yet – I was rotating between groups and observing (though trying not to interfere unless it was absolutely necessary).

I also think it’s important to keep the centers relatively simple at this point (non-academic tasks like in Stage 2), so that students can focus on learning the routines.

Stage 5: Rotating through simple academic centers.

Stage 5 is pretty simple – continue practicing switching centers, but introduce academic activities into the mix. I prefer teaching students how to use one new center every couple of days, so as not to overwhelm them.

Stage 6: Rotating through academic centers, including a teacher center.

Getting to Stage 6 is the ultimate goal – having students rotate through academic centers, including a teacher center! However, something I had to remind myself was that just because our class got to this stage once did not mean that they would always be ready to remain in this stage.

In other words, during different times throughout the year, I had to back things up and re-teach. If students needed to go back to practicing center rotation with non-academic tasks, then that’s what we did. Sometimes I got a little peeved that we had to backtrack, but it saved instructional time and frustration later on.


I wish I could tell you that using these stages works like magic and you’ll never have any problems with behavior or work completion in centers. 🙂 However, that was certainly not the case in my classroom (kudos if it is in yours!).

If I noticed that my kids were having problems during centers, I tried to find the root cause. Here are some possible reasons why students are not following routines or completing their work:

  • The work is too difficult
  • The work is too easy
  • More practice with routines is needed
  • Students are having difficulty working together
  • Students don’t feel that they are being held accountable for their work
  • Students are only 5 years old 🙂

Although I don’t think that we should lower our expectations because our students are young, we do have to keep in mind that immaturity can play a role in behavior during centers. I definitely don’t mean that we should give up on our kids or let inappropriate behavior slide! But I do think that we need to give them time and lots of explicit teaching so that they can be successful.

What are your thoughts about introducing centers? I’d love to hear from you! And if you’re looking for a complete literacy centers system for Kindergarten, click here or on the image below:

Why and How to Do Number Talks in the Primary Classroom

Early literacy is, without a doubt, my #1 love in teaching. But during my last year as a classroom teacher, teaching math to my 2nd graders was actually my favorite part of our day!

The reason why I loved teaching math so much was because of a daily routine that I implemented at the beginning of each math class. The routine is called a “Number Talk,” and it was extraordinarily helpful in developing my students’ number sense. Starting off each class with a 5-10 minute number talk improved my students’ abilities to communicate about math, use a variety of strategies to solve problems, and think flexibly with numbers. Plus, it was just plain fun.

So how do you implement a Number Talk, you ask? Keep on reading and I’ll walk you through exactly how to do Number Talks in your classroom!

Number Talks are an amazing routine that will help improve students' number sense! This post has step-by-step directions for implementing this simple routine in your classroom.

Why implement a Number Talk?

To start with, I think it’s important to understand why I chose to implement this routine. For about a year or so prior to the beginning of that school year, I had been learning a lot about developing number sense in young children. Number sense is the ability to understand numbers and quantities, use numbers flexibly, and perform calculations mentally.

According to research, students in the United States lack number sense. Traditionally, students have relied on rote algorithms to  complete math problems, without really understanding what they are doing.

Here’s an example of a problem that many students would use a traditional algorithm to solve:

Here's an example of a problem that many second graders  might get wrong.  Read this post to find out how to use Number Talks to develop students' understanding of foundational concepts in math! - Learning At The Primary Pond

Let’s say that a second grader was trying to solve this problem. A common error would be for the child to do this:

Do your students sometimes solve problems this way? They likely don't understand what they are really doing when they are carrying a ten.  This blog post describes how to do Number Talks in your classroom, to help students avoid these kinds of mistakes!

If a student makes this error, it indicates that she likely does not REALLY understand what multi-digit addition is all about. You and I know that solving this problem requires forming a group of ten out of the ones (6 + 4 = 10), and then adding that group of ten to the others (30 + 10), for a total of 5 groups of ten (50). However, a student who makes the above error is relying upon the algorithm she has learned (and learned incorrectly).

The purpose of developing number sense in students is so that they understand the underlying concepts of the operations they perform (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division). Students who have strong number sense can solve problems in more than one way, and check that their answers make sense.

How do we develop number sense in primary students?

All math lessons and activities can (and should) be used to develop number sense. But it’s also helpful to dedicate a specific portion of your math block to developing number sense.

When I taught Kindergarten, we did a lot of subitizing activities. The purpose of these activities was to teach students to rapidly recognize quantities. I used my interactive white board to quickly “flash” groups of dots to students, and then they would have to tell me how many dots they saw. I also had them explain how they got that answer (i.e. by counting, or seeing a group of 2 and a group of 3, etc.). To read more about subitzing, you can check out this article.

Number sense exercises looked different for my second graders. We used number symbols (0, 1, 2, 3, etc.) instead of quantities of dots. Each day during our Number Talk, students practiced solving different math problems mentally, using a variety of self-selected strategies. They also explained their strategies to each other and to me. These mental math problems increased in difficulty throughout the year.

What materials do you need to implement a Number Talk?

One of the (many) awesome things about Number Talks is that they require VERY little prep and materials! All you need is a chalkboard, dry erase board, or interactive white board and a writing utensil. You’ll also want the board to be right by a place on the carpet where students can sit. Students do not need whiteboards, pencils, or paper. They solve all problems mentally.

To prep for a day’s number talk, come up with 2-4 math problems that you want students to solve mentally. I used Sherry Parrish’s Book Number Talks to choose my math problems, which made planning super easy! At the back of this wonderful book, there are lists of mental math problems for K-5th grade. I chose problems based upon what we were learning in our current math unit, and what strategies I had taught in the past.

How do you implement a Number Talk?

Every day at the beginning of our math block, I gathered students together on the carpet, in front of the white board. Then, I went through the following procedures:

1. I wrote a math problem on the board. I often wrote problems horizontally, rather than vertically, to discourage students from relying upon traditional algorithms. I wrote just one problem at a time.

2. I gave students time to think. Giving your kiddos enough time to solve the problem is essential! I taught my students to give a thumbs-up (low, in front of their bodies), when they had solved the problem. Then, their job was to come up with other, additional ways to solve the problem. For each strategy they came up with, they would hold up another finger. This procedure served several purposes. First, I could see who had solved the problem and who had not. Second, I could gauge when the class was ready to talk about the problem. Third, it kept students thinking at all times, challenging those who solved the problem quickly to come up with additional strategies. Also, when students “show it low” (give the low thumbs-up symbol in front of their bodies), instead of raising their hands high in the air, this is less intimidating for students who require more time to solve the problem.

3. I called on a student to share the answer and a strategy. I would choose one student to share their answer and explain how they had solved the problem. While the child was talking, I was absolutely silent. I wrote on the board exactly what they were telling me, without indicating if the strategy/answer was correct or incorrect. If we were doing a Number Talk with the problem 34+16, here’s what a student might say, and what I might write.

Student: “First, I broke the 34 up into 30 and 4, and the 16 up into 10 and 6.  I saw the 4 and the 6.  I know that if you add 4 and 6 together, they make a 10. There were already 3 tens from the 34, and one ten from the 16. So I took 3 tens + 1 ten + the ten from the 4+6.  That’s 5 tens, which makes 50.

My writing:

How to Do Number Talks in the Primary Classroom - Learning At The Primary Pond

4. I opened things up to the class to determine if the strategy worked or if it didn’t work. Sometimes I asked another child to orally summarize the strategy of the child who had first given the answer. Sometimes I did a “Turn and Talk” and had students summarize the strategy to each other. Then, I asked the class to determine if the strategy worked and if the solution was correct. To prove that a strategy did or did not work, a student had to solve the same problem in a different way. Again, I recorded that strategy on the board, just as I had with the first strategy.

5. Once the kids had come up with one working strategy, I invited students to share additional strategies. Each time a child shared a strategy, I again asked the other students to verify if it worked or not, and to explain why. We had a running anchor chart of different strategies, and if a child came up with a new strategy, we added it to the chart.

Depending upon how long the problems took, we did anywhere from 2 to 4 problems a day. I only put up one problem at a time.

To see this in action, you’ve gotta check out this video. Notice how the teacher really relinquishes control to students. She serves as a recorder of their ideas, not a judge of right/wrong answers!

How do you get students to come up with strategies independently?

When I started our Number Talks at the beginning of the year, students had NO prior experience with this routine. They were not used to solving problems mentally or having to explain their answers. It was definitely a challenge at first, but here are some things that I did to make our Number Talks successful:

  • I did some modeling, but only at the very beginning. I provided a lot of support and prompting during the first few weeks of Number Talks. After that, I relied on the kids to model strategies for each other.
  • I kept a running anchor chart of strategies handy. On our math bulletin board, I had an anchor chart that we continuously added to. When I taught a strategy during our regular math lesson, I added it to the chart and mentioned how it might be helpful to use during our daily Number Talk.
  • I gave them no other option than to come up with strategies and answers on their own. Even if the kids struggled with a problem, I did not intervene. I never provided a correct answer or told a child that their answer was wrong or right. I placed full responsibility on the kids to solve the problems, and they rose up to this challenge. If a problem had given them a lot of trouble, I would have dropped it and returned to it later – but I actually never had to do this!

Go try it!

Without a doubt, our daily Number Talk was my favorite part of our day. I loved giving up control to the students and putting them in charge of their own learning. It was also really neat to hear the different strategies the kids used (and invented!). They often shared ways of thinking about a problem that I had never thought of!

Do you implement Number Talks in your classroom? If not, you have to try them out! I strongly recommend purchasing the Number Talks book. It will give you problems that are ready to go AND it comes with a DVD with Number Talk videos like the one I shared above.

Happy Number Talking!!

Spring Centers for Kindergarten and First Grade (and a FREE spring math activity!)

Spring is one of my favorite times in the school year.  The kids are finally able to get outside and burn off that extra energy, and I feel like I personally have more energy to put into teaching.  The kiddos can, however, get a little squirrelly from spring break and all that fresh air, so I have to make sure that whatever I put in front of them is super engaging!  That’s where my Spring Math & Literacy Centers for Kindergarten or First Grade come in.

Both of these packs have games and activities for centers/partner work, as well as printable sheets that you can use right away or send home for homework.  Here’s a little peek inside!

Above is the “Birds on a Fence” game from my spring centers for Kindergarten. The kids draw cards, figure out what goes in the blank, and then use a counter to cover that number on their game sheet.  The first person to cover all of her birds is the winner!
This “Flower Fractions” game is from the first grade pack.  Kids draw one fraction card at a time, and then fill in that fraction on their flower.  The first person to fill up both of his flowers is the winner!
This game is also from the first grade pack.  Kids draw two cards and if the long vowel word ending is the same, they write them on their kite sheet.  
This is a literacy game from my spring centers for Kindergarten.  Kids draw two cards – a word beginning (onset) and a word ending (rime).  If the onset and rime form a word, they get to add a piece to their puzzle! 

If these look interesting to you, but you need only one subject (math or literacy), click here for Kinder math, here for 1st grade math, here for Kinder literacy, and here for 1st grade literacy.

Last but not least, I have a freebie for you!  During the spring, in any grade I’ve taught (K-2), I’ve tended to focus a lot on word problems.  It seems that my students always struggle with the language of word problems, and by springtime, I’m thinking, “Eek!  We have got to master this before the end of the year!”

So I developed these “make your own word problem” activities with a spring theme.  These are a set of word, number, and picture cards that kids can arrange and rearrange to create different word problems.  I like having students work in partners – one person creates the word problem and the other person solves it.  This is much more fun than doing lots of word problem worksheets!

Here are some of the different ways that you can use the cards:

Give your students number cards, picture cards, and operations cards as shown above.  Have them create simple number sentences for each other and then use manipulatives to solve.

This word problem is a bit more complex.  Students can use simple language to create “how many in all,” “how many are left,” “how many more,” and “how many fewer” problems.

In this last example, 2-digit numbers are used to increase the challenge of the problem.

This free set lends itself to differentiation in so many ways!  First, you can determine which students get which set of cards (there is a “beginner” and “advanced” set included).  Students will also self-differentiate, because the lower kids will stick to creating the same types of problems that you model, while the higher kids have the freedom to be a bit more creative and make different types of problems.

Click on the image below to download for free.  I hope you enjoy!!

Valentine’s Day Learning and Printable Valentines for Students

Looking for some fun Valentine’s Day activities and freebies? This post has some of my favorites!!

Let’s start with a craft! One year in Kindergarten, we did this adorable heart panda craft – it looked something like this:

This photo is from Crafty Morning.  Click on the image above for the link.  The craft is super simple and perfect for PreK, K, or first grade!

In addition to fun activities the day of Valentine’s Day, I like to use Valentine’s Day themed literacy and math activities for a couple of weeks leading up to the holiday.  Here are some photos from the different activities I’ve created:

This word family spinner game has kids use a paperclip and pencil to spin twice – once for the first letter of a word and once for the word family pattern.  When a child is able to make a real word from the two parts spun, she writes it down on the recording sheet.  The first player to fill up their recording sheet is the winner!  This game is from my Valentine’s Day Literacy Pack for K-1.  

This pack has 4 different centers games/activities (actually 8 total, because there is a Kindergarten version and a first grade version for each game).  In addition to the centers games and activities, you get some print-and-go, no prep literacy sheets.  Click on the image below to find out more.

I also have a math activity pack for Valentine’s Day, also for K-1.  

The game shown above has kids use printable heart dominoes to find different ways of making a number (you can use any number up to 18 as the target number).  For example, if you want kids to find ways to make the number ten, they might pull out dominoes that have 2 and 8 on them, and 4 and 6 on them.  Students write a number equation and draw the dominoes they find that make the target number.

Like the literacy centers, this pack has 4 games (each game has a different version for K and 1st), as well as print-and-go, no prep math sheets for each grade level.

You can also buy the literacy and math centers together, for a discount!

Last year we had a lot of fun playing Valentine’s Day BINGO during the weeks leading up to the holiday.  

The pictures above are from the 2nd grade version.  You use an interactive white board or other projector to show the math questions, and then the kids cover the corresponding number answer on their Bingo cards.  There are two ways to play the 2nd grade version – mixed addition and subtraction within 20 (top photo), or Common Core math practice (bottom photo).  The Common Core math practice covers time, graphing, word problems, number patterns, place value, money, simple fractions, and more (we used it to get ready for our spring MAP test).

I’ve also created Valentine’s Day Bingo for Kindergarten and first grade.  The Kindergarten version has 4 ways to play:  addition within 5, subtraction within 5, mixed addition and subtraction within 5, and number sense fluency (subitizing).
The first grade version also has 4 ways to play:  addition within 10, subtraction within 10, mixed addition and subtraction within 10, and number sense fluency (subtilizing).
And now for the free Valentines!!  I tend to be a little picky about what Valentines I give my students, so I just decided to make my own.  Click on any of the images to download a set for your own students (there’s even a set in Spanish!).

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Winter math centers for Kindergarten and 1st

I have a little freebie to share with you!  It’s a math center for K or 1st with a winter theme. Math centers are one of my favorite resources to make!  Kinders and firsties need lots of repetition to learn counting, addition, and subtraction skills.  Themed math centers can be a fun way to help them get that repetition in, without it becoming boring. 

Here’s a photo from my winter math centers for K and 1st.  Both packs have a version of this penguin spinner, but the spinner in the photo is from the first grade pack.  In the first grade game, each player spins twice – one digit goes in the tens place, and the next digit in the ones place.  The players compare their numbers with the <, >, or = sign on a recording sheet, and the larger number wins!



I also have some printable board games that just focus on teen numbers – I found that with my Kinders, this was a topic that we really had to work hard on during the winter.  
These teen number board games give kids a chance to practice reading and writing teen numbers with a partner or small group.  They also get practice counting/recognizing teen numbers in ten frames, and working with teen number equations.  
Click on any of the images above to read more about the centers.  And now for the freebie!!  
This game is called “Penguin Sums Steal.”  Kiddos roll either 2 or 3 dice and find the sum.  They get to steal that penguin sum card from their partner!  There’s also a recording sheet involved, so that while one player is counting or doing mental math, the other player is writing down the equation to check the first player’s work.
Click on the photo to download the instructions, number cards (in either color or black and white), and recording sheets!  This game is great for either Kinder or first grade.  
Happy teaching!

Geometry Posters Freebie!

Hi guys!  Just a quick post for today – I made these black and white, no frills geometry posters for my second graders.  The posters should be helpful for kiddos in K through 4th grade!  They include 2-D shapes, 3-D shapes, line segment, line, ray, perpendicular lines, and parallel lines.  Click the picture below to download for free!

Click on the picture below for a fun 2-D and 3-D shape BINGO game!

If you happen to teach K and are looking for more geometry activities, check out my geometry pack.  There’s tons of cut-and-paste activities, no prep materials, and some activities for centers.

Enjoy the freebie, and happy teaching!!

Quick Tip for Skip Counting & Counting Money

Happy Monday!  Were you as tired as I was today with getting up an hour early?!  Yikes.  This post is going to be short because my brain is ready to go to sleep again and it’s only 4:30. 🙂

We are working with counting coins right now, and one of my struggling second graders can’t count by 5s yet.  We were counting nickels today and she needed support, so here’s what I came up with:

I gave her a hundreds chart and a pile of nickels.  Then, I modeled how to place a nickel on 5, then another one on 10, one on 15, 20, etc., until I had covered all the multiples of 5 through 100.  While I was placing each nickel, I counted by 5s out loud.  I had her do this a few times by herself (she was able to read most of the numbers off the chart).

Once she had some practice with this, then we worked on some problems, like, “If you have 5 nickels, how many cents is that?”  She would take 5 nickels and place them, one at a time, on the multiples of five until she figured out how many cents that was (see photo above).  

Even if your kiddos can’t yet read all the multiples of five, you can still have them do this to reinforce skip counting and the value of a nickel.

Happy teaching!

Tackling word problems in partners!

Happy Tuesday!  The temperatures where I live have plummeted…once again…but I am still in a great mood today!  First, Teachers Pay Teachers is having a sale this Thursday and Friday, and I am looking forward to shopping!

Graphic by Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs

Second, we worked on word problems today in math, and the partner strategy I tried out actually worked really well!  I say “actually” because some of my kiddos have really struggled with word problems this year.  Really struggled.  It’s more of a reading comprehension issue for them, so I wanted to figure out a way to help them break down and understand the problems.  I’ve recently been thinking about implementing reciprocal teaching for my readers who struggle with comprehension (read more about reciprocal teaching HERE), and I started wondering if I could make something similar work for math.  I came up with this set of procedures for 2 math partners.

You can click on the picture to download it for free.  Here’s an example of what it would sound like.

Sample word problem:  Sally goes to the market.  She buys 23 pieces of fruit and 12 vegetables.  How many fruits and vegetables did she buy altogether?

Student 1:  Reads the above problem out loud.

Student 2:  Says, “Sally goes to the store and buys some fruits and vegetables.  The problem is asking us how many fruits and vegetables she bought in all.”

Student 1:  “I agree!  I think we should add 23 and 12 together to solve the problem.”

Student 2:  “Good idea!”

Both students work on the problems on their papers.  They then check their answers together before moving onto the problem.  The students switch roles for the next problem.

I hope that all made sense!  I am really happy with how this turned out for my kiddos.  It helped them avoid the “blank stare at the page” habit that some of them had developed when it came to word problems.  I’m looking for a catchy name for the strategy…if you think of one, comment below!!

Happy teaching!

Making Independent Math Time Count

Welcome, blog hoppers!!  I’m super excited to be participating in the Bright Ideas blog hop for math.  Thanks for joining us, and I hope you find some great new ideas to try out!

My blog post today is going to focus on making independent math time count.  I teach a second grade math class, but the ideas are definitely applicable for any grade.

I used to teach Kindergarten, and I would set up math centers for my students every day.  Setting up centers and getting my little ones to actually use the centers correctly could be kind of a challenge.  When I started teaching second grade math, I realized that math centers just weren’t feasible for our schedule and curriculum.  We’re using a new math curriculum, so I never know exactly how long a lesson will take.  Students’ independent time varies from day to day, and they also have more seatwork (math worksheets / problems to solve) than my Kindergarteners did.  So I scrapped math centers.  Instead, students complete their work independently or in partners, and then they go to the math “bin” and take out a game to play.  The game is like something you would use in centers, but I really only ever have 1-2 games in the bin to choose from at once. 

The reason I only have a few games is because I want students to really understand how to play the games I have in there, and I don’t want to overload them with too many sets of rules to remember.  To teach them a game for the math bin, we play it as a class (they love a girls vs. boys challenge!) and then I play it with them in small groups as time allows.  I try to play it with them a few times before asking them to play it independently.

Since students don’t have a ton of time for the games, I have to really make that time count!  I try to incorporate multiple skills and critical thinking into every game I put in the math bin.  Click on the picture below to download an example of a math partner game I created.

To play the game, a child draws 4 number cards (0-9; these can be as simple as numbers written on index cards, or from a deck of playing cards).  The child uses those 4 digits to make 2 different numbers.  Then, the student has to decide if she will add or subtract those numbers.  She tries to get as close to 50 as possible.  Then, both students write down the number sentence on their recording sheets.  The child’s partner takes his/her turn, and the pair circles the number sentence that got closer to 50.  Here’s an example:

1.  Sally draws the number cards 1, 6, 4, 2.
2.  She makes the numbers 64 and 12.
3.  Sally and Ethan write, “64-12 = 52” on their recording sheets (Sally is the one who comes up with the number sentence, but Ethan can always help her).
4.  Ethan draws the number cards 0, 0, 7, 3.
5.  He makes the numbers 70 and 30.
6.  Ethan and Sally write “70 – 30 = 40.”
7.  Both children circle Sally’s number sentence on their sheets.  They continue playing until the sheet is filled up, and then count up the number of rounds they each won in order to determine who the winner is.

As you might imagine, it takes some practice for the kids to really understand how to play this game well!  That’s why I recommend practicing it beforehand, in a whole group and in small groups.  When they do understand it, it’s a great math exercise and they enjoy playing it over and over.  

If you teach first grade or are teaching a group of second graders at the beginning of the year, you could play a similar game where students have to roll 3 dice or pull 3 number cards and get as close to the number 10 as they can, by adding and/or subtracting.

Hope you enjoy the freebie and idea!  Thanks for stopping by!  Click the button below to hop on over to Happy Teacher Heaven and grab your next bright idea and freebie!

Valentine’s Day Bingo Games

Okay, guys…I cheated.  It’s not even February yet and I brought out the Valentine’s Day Bingo games already!  Can you blame me, though?  It’s been freezing cold and snowy here, and my littles needed something fun to perk up their day!

Here’s what the Bingo cards look like (there’s 30 different cards):

After I passed out the cards, I just pulled up the problems on our white board.  Couldn’t be easier!!  The kiddos solved a problem, and then covered it on their cards.  We did mixed addition/subtraction and the general Common Core math review questions:

They loved it, even though I was a little early in pulling out the Valentine’s Day stuff. 🙂  I have Valentine’s Day Bingo games for 2nd (the one we were playing), 1st, and Kinder.  The 1st grade and Kinder versions have addition, subtraction, mixed addition and subtraction, and a number sense game that you can play with the same set of Bingo cards.  Click on the pics below to check ’em out!




 Happy (early!) Valentine’s Day!

Shapes Galore!

Oh, my – am I glad it’s Friday.  I think I have just as difficult of a time adjusting to school after spring break as my kindergarteners do!  This week we did a lot of work with shapes, and I wanted to share two activities and freebies with you.

#1:  After teaching about hexagons (how many sides, vertices, etc.), I gave my kids a sheet of paper with 6 hexagons on it.  Their job was to use different pattern blocks to completely cover the hexagon, and then draw the different ways they found.  The drawing part was a bit difficult for some of them (I probably should have just had them take a photo of their work with an iPads), but they enjoyed the block part.  

#2:  As an independent math center, I created super simple shape printouts and laminated them.  The kids used play-dough to create the shapes.

Click on the picture of each document to grab it for free (one of the sets of shape printouts is in Spanish, so choose carefully when you download!).

I also have this 2-D & 3-D geometry pack with lots of sorting mats and some accompanying activities:  

Happy weekend!

Fun way to practice sorting

Working on sorting with your kiddos?  Here’s a quick and fun way to practice – have the kids sit in a circle and each remove one shoe.  The kids can practice sorting by one attribute (i.e. color, size, athletic/dress shoe, etc.) or two attributes (i.e. color + size, color + type, etc.).  Let them decide what categories to sort by, and point out that you can sort the same group of shoes in different ways.  Prompt them to sort by more than one attribute, too.  You can also sort the shoes yourself and have the kids guess your “rule” (the criteria you used to sort), or have one child sort and the others guess their rule.

The kids think it’s hilarious that they get to take one shoe off, and it makes for a memorable lesson.  Happy sorting!