Although we have already touched on fractions in a variety of contexts (most recently when we were working on telling time), I'm planning to begin our fractions unit with a great idea from Adventures in Guided Math. I'll be taking in lots of different items, some of which are complete (an unopened box of cereal, for example) and some of which are incomplete (a half eaten package of biscuits). And we'll sort them into items that are complete (1 whole) and items that are incomplete (fractional parts - although it might be a bit tricky to determine exactly what fraction of the whole each thing is).
Exploring this idea of 'whole' versus 'part of' something is important, and we'll link this to finding fractions (part of 1 whole thing) on a number line. I've been reading the book 'Beyond Pizzas and Pies', and that is one of the foundational concepts about fractions that kids often don't grasp - that a fraction is a number on a number line (albeit a number that falls between the whole numbers that we have focused on up to now).
So my full box of cereal is 1 box - we can place that at '1' on the number line. But my partially eaten packages of biscuits is less than 1 - I'm hopeful that will generate some good conversations about approximately where on a number line we might place a mark to indicate 'how much' of 1 package we have. We shall see (and I'll let you know how it goes).
We'll then need to look at the idea of fractions as 'equal parts' of one whole. When we know 'how many equal parts' 1 whole is split into, that allows us to find where a given fraction falls on a number line. We can split our number line into the right number of equal parts (our denominator), then count how many parts we need to jump to get to the right one (the numerator).
Depending on how quickly we are comfortable working with these concepts, we'll eventually be moving on to using the 'fraction foods' pictured above (if you click on the link, it will take you to a post from 'Adventures in Guided Math', where you can download your own copy). I've blown these pictures up, and made 3 sets of them; hopefully this will give us some flexibility in how we use them (Having done a pre-topic assessment, I have a few maths whiz kids who are ready to start looking at mixed numbers, etc).
I'll hopefully find the time to continue posting a bit about how we are exploring the concept of fractions - fingers crossed that my class can concentrate for long enough, despite the time of year and sunny weather, to take some of it in!