Although I always thought I'd prefer to teach older children, I've loved being in Primary 1. On Friday, I handed out all of the children's work (neatly organised into Literacy, Numeracy and IDL folders - pretty amazing for me!) for them to take home. Their most recent Daily Writing jotter will go to their new teacher, but all of their old jotters also went home with them. It was fun to watch the children look through their past work. They were all amazed and pleased at just how much they've learned this year. In no other stage is the progress so obvious and exciting.
Yet one of the most important skills they've begun to develop this year is something that can't be seen in a jotter. They are starting to become self-directed, or independent, learners. It isn't perfect, and many reminders are needed, but the beginnings are there.
As an early years teacher, I've encouraged independence by being consistent and continual repetition. Young children learn by imitating - so we need to make sure they have a solid foundation for 'productive imitation'. I also think they benefit greatly from some free time (we call it 'choosing time' in our class), where they are in the driver's seat and can choose what they want to do.
In the picture above, one of my kiddos is quizzing another on his volleyball words. The 'teacher' just recently passed volleyball words herself, so it was lovely to see her helping her classmate (while also having the words reinforced for herself). During reading groups, we always have flashcards with key words from our book, and the children have been practicing ball words with me all year. They have seen this teacher-pupil interaction repeatedly throughout the year, so they can take ownership of it themselves.
Similarly with our dot cards. The familiarity of the routine makes it easy for the children to reproduce it in their own play. In addition to this pair, another group of 4-5 children were gathered around another 'teacher' to guess how many dots. They can repeat these routines independently because they've seen and participated in them so many times.
As the year ends, I've been thinking a lot about how I teach number sense in maths. As I've been in Primary 1 (kindergarten) this year, that is my main job in numeracy. I want my kiddos to go up to Primary 2 with a solid understanding of early numbers and how you can combine and take apart numbers in different ways.
One of the resources I've loved this year (and which I think has made a positive difference to the numeracy learning in my class) is dot cards. I first heard about dot cards on Math Coach's Corner, and I bought her dot card set on Teachers Pay Teachers to get started.
Primary ones need lots of experiences counting concrete objects. But you also want them to start being able to subitise - to see groups of objects as a group, rather than having to count each one individually. Dot cards are a great way to develop this skill in a fun way.
As you can see from the side of one of my cupboards below, there are dot card rings available for kids to use in my class. I keep some rings out for the kids and some with me, that I use during our mental maths time. The kids love playing 'teacher' with these rings, and quizzing each other on 'how many dots' they see.
As part of our mental maths at least 2-3 times a week, I use a routine similar to the one found in Number Talks: Grades K-5 - Helping Children Build Mental Math and Computation Strategies. Using one of the sets of cards, I flash a card for a few seconds. My kids love the challenge of figuring out 'how many' when I've told them that they only get to see the card for one second!
When they know how many dots are on the card, they put a 'thumbs up' on their chest (so I don't have hands waving in faces and distracting others who are still thinking). I then have several kiddos tell me 'how many dots' they saw. Once we have several answers (or, when everyone is on the ball, only one correct answer), I get the children to tell me 'how they saw their number'. Hopefully, kids will see groups of dots and be able to add those groups together - for example, in the dot card ring furthest to the left, I'm pleased when my kids can tell me they saw 4 + 3 = 7, although someone else might tell me they see 6 black dots + 1 white dot makes 7 - also great thinking.
I always write up the sums they tell me they see, so we can see how many different ways there are to 'see' the groups of dots. When kids tell me that they counted all of the dots, we write up 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 7. Kids can see for themselves that counting gets the right answer, but that there are faster, more efficient ways to get there.
As I'll be moving to Primary 3 next year, I've been thinking about how to continue to use my dot cards to develop number sense in older kiddos. I suspect that some of my kids will benefit from some of the dot card sets I'm currently using with my almost-Primary 2s, while I'll need to have a think about how to develop subitising skills for older children who are working with larger numbers.
I'm an American living in Scotland. After a year in Primary 3 (2nd grade), I'm moving to Primary 5 (4th grade) in August (2016). Archived posts will offer ideas for early years teaching - more recent posts may tend towards middle years, as I get to grips with a new stage. I hope you can find something that will be useful in your own class here.