Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Games for Early Number Sense

Games for Early Number Sense, A Yearlong Resource by Catherine Twomey Fosnot and Antonia Cameron is a collection of games to help children develop number sense and a valuable resource for primary teachers. I've already used the first game, Bear Tracks in class today and then used it as my family math game for the week. Bear Tracks helps young children think about the number as a quantity, the cardinal number. I have used games in my classroom since I began teaching and believe they are beneficial. I found myself reflecting and having some new learning while reading the overview for this book.

-Games are more than a tool to practice skills. If designed carefully they can be open-ended providing opportunities for strategies and rich conversations.

-"...young children often have little understanding of the role of chance in games and they experience losing as a personal failure. "

-"when competition is replaced with collaboration, the result is often an increase in conversation on the math involved."

-Sharing, after playing a game can be as simple as, "What did you notice?" and often leads to inquiries with important math ideas emerging.

-Allow different strategies.

I've learned I like to collect professional books and I know I enjoy reading them. However, lately with number of books I have been purchasing I'm trying to use something from them right away and with this book I did just that. This will become one of my favorites this year for kindergarten and I think one that easily extends to second and maybe third grade.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Name Jar

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi is a book I always used early in the year with my third graders to talk about names, community and relationships. I wasn't sure if it would work with younger learners and was thrilled it did! The text is quite a bit longer than that you would use for a shared reading with emergent readers but was a great read aloud and kept their attention for duration of the reading.

Unhei is staring a new school after moving with her family from Korea. While riding the bus to school, the children riding with her have a hard time pronouncing her name and make fun of it. The result of these first interactions with students from her new school lead her to tell her new classmates she is still choosing a name when the teacher tries to introduce her. Unhei explains to her mother she needs a new name because hers is too hard to pronounce. When she returns to school the next day her classmates present her with a glass jar filled with name suggestions Ralph suggests Wensdy because she came on a Wednesday. Some of the names suggested are precious coming from young children. She tries them out and nothing fits for her. The curly hair boy helps her on the first day find her classroom and then again help her discover her own name is just perfect. As he does this you learn more about her Korean name, friendship, and acceptance.

The children enjoyed discussing how we should treat others and the origins of their names.

Monday, December 14, 2009

More, Fewer, Less

More, Fewer, Less by Tana Hoban is just the book I needed the other day when I was talking about these concepts with my class. It was the perfect book to launch our discussion and math workshop. Tana Hoban is famous for her photo illustrations and wordless books and this book is at the top of my favorite list for mathematics. The photographs are full size and have many discussion points per page. The first page in the book is a photograph of some chickens inside and outside a coop. You could easily begin with are there more outside or inside? You could also ask are there fewer inside or outside and where are their more? On a two page spread you have a couple of options. You can compare and discuss these concepts within one photo or compare something from one page to another. You can also make the decision to talk about quantity of objects or the space of something. For example, about midway through the book there is a photograph of a building. One door is blue and the other is green but the green is extended along the brick wall.

The wordless text has been an extra bonus for my emergent readers.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

count and see

count and see is written by Tana Hoban and was just the book I needed to kick off talking about early numeracy with my students. The book is a photo essay for the numbers 1 - 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 100. The numbers are shown symbolically on the left page in written form, numerical form and then through the use of a dot arrangement to show the quantity. The photo on the right shows the quantity again with a full page black and white photo from the environment.

Children learn to recognize dot patterns found on die through the use of games they play. However, recognizing dot patterns in various arrangements instantly can develop relationships between numbers. If the quantities for numbers 1 - 10 can be named without counting then this can help children with counting on, combining sets, spatial relationships, and flexibility with problem solving. I found count and see a good introduction for dot patterns besides the arrangements found on a die.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Me First

Me First is written by Helen Lester and Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger. It's interesting how two classes of kindergartner's can be similar, different, and then within a day of each other need the same story to help foster community. Me First is a great book to read when your class needs to discuss being first for things, especially in a line to travel places.

Pinkerton is a pink, plump, and pushy pig who is first for anything. First to be mean to other pigs, first on slide, first in the lunch line, first to get on the bus, first off the bus, and more. His scout troop takes a trip on Saturday to the beach and his behaviors to be first are in full action. In the far off distance he hears a voice call, "Who would care for a sandwich?" His is interested and wants to be first for food. The author spends a full page describing the sandwich he is dreaming of as he dashes off to be first to get this sandwich. Of course as he is dashing, he is calling, "ME FIRST!" Only to discover a small creature, a sand witch! I wasn't sure my kindergarten students would get the play on words but they did right away with the great support by illustrator Lynn Munsinger.

The sand witch does a great job having Pinkerton be the first to care for her and the jobs he has to do are a bit funny and silly to think about, especially combing her toes! The ending has what every teacher needs, Pinkerton returning to his scout troop and bus willing to be last. It's important to show students at any age that when we travel places together with the same destination it doesn't matter who is first or last but that we all stay together and arrive prepared to do new learning.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Dick and Jane, Saved Us!

While I was out for an afternoon with A and B on Saturday, on our after the play performance traditional routine which leads us to The Book Loft in German Village, Ohio. B was on a mission in their children's section to find a book SHE could READ! B is in first grade and an emerging reader. She picked up a few books, sat on a stool and described how she looks at the cover to see if it would be a book she would like and then opened the book to see if she could read it. After several attempts, you could hear and see a bit of frustration coming. I thought Mom better start helping. Th Book Loft has 32 rooms of books and the children section is packed with books, a few front covers showing and a lot of spines showing, so I began to see what I could find.

I thought maybe a holiday book would be good for her with the holidays here but she wasn't too excited. The front cover didn't really make her jump with joy but when she opened, Dick and Jane A Christmas Story and began reading, there was a difference. She was doing her goal and stopped to announce, "Mom I can read it!" She was so happy and proud.

I knew what to look for to help her, but it wasn't easy to find a section of books that were good for emerging readers to feel independence. She needed repetition of text this book provided, she needed the use of basic sight words, she needed the characters to remain the same. Maybe she needed the same things I did back in first grade. I remember reading and reading Dick and Jane. In my basement, I still have homemade certificates for each book I read in first grade with the title and foil star sticker from my teacher. I think Dick and Jane is a frequent title on those certificates. Maybe my own reading life just came full circle.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

That is Nature

After our author visit with Jeanette Canyon or with any author I always hope the children come out of the experience inspired and interested in literacy. I had one student who went home and wrote an entire book, just like Jeanette Canyon. He didn't have polymer clay on hand but had some great playdough to use as his media. When he showed me his work, I just beamed inside and out, our work at school combined with the author visit had made an impact on a child's life. He was inspired and interested in literacy. His phrasing didn't resemble Jeanette Canyon's but I felt his written words was a collection of things we had read this school year.

The book was saved in a pdf. format and you can find it here at This is my first time attaching a pdf. format and using I would recommend selecting full screen and then view 3x3, you get to see the whole book at one time.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christopher and Jeanette Canyon, local gems!

Christopher and Jeanette Canyon visited our school last month and what gems we have living right here in the Central Ohio area. They are a dynamic two person show. I don't know if I've seen so many smiles and happiness radiate off two presenters. They obviously enjoy what they are doing and spending time sharing their work.

Christopher's drawing table was purchased at a garage sale for ten dollars when he was in third grade! It travelled with him to college and he continues to use it now. I thought this was an important message for children, things they try and do now can become something of passion and purpose later in life. Christopher's work is done by drawing, painting, and music has been a big influence. He has had the opportunity to illustrate a few of John Denver's songs and through this opportunity has illustrated connections from his own life within his work. In "Take Me Home Country Roads", the barn and truck were like the ones his family used and his dad played a banjo. While talking about this piece of work, he told the audience he was constantly reminded of home and home is a special place. He also travelled to West Virginia and shared several photographs he took, guiding his work for his illustrations. Illustrators conduct research too and I think this was important for the children to think about. It's not always the written word that gets researched. Christopher plays his guitar and engages the whole school in singing along, it was quite moving to see and hear a school of 730 students united through song.

Jeanette works and creates with her hands with the media of polymer clay. Her presentation included video clips of her actually working with the clay in her studio showing different ways she created things for her books. Watching an artist, in their studio actually working, is inspiring. She had some important messages for the audience also. She doesn't always know she is going to make something and figures it out along the way. She loves to experiment and it's important. Her tools were interesting to learn about, kitchen gadgets. How simple is that? A pasta machine, food processor, and even a mesh bag from the grocery store. Another important thing for children to think about. The use of everyday objects in new ways. However, she did warn the children to not use their kitchen gadgets for food and polymer clay. I'm holding off buying a mini food processor just for polymer clay myself. She too researches her work and showed how she took pictures of the coral reef and then used these photos in her illustrations. She finds inspiration in everyday things she sees, for example sushi inspired a cane of clay.

Both Jeanette and Christopher keep sketch journals and this is where all their work begins. They have lots and lots of journals. "A journal is a place to explore ideas, test them out, and do whatever you want. You can sketch, doodle, collect, or write. Sketches are beginnings" These two dynamic individuals really gave our students inspiration to work like them in realistic ways. I would highly recommend a visit with them if you have the opportunity. You can find them at their newly designed website.