Monday, September 17, 2012

Squares, Stars, Scissors & Sensory...Table

After a few weeks in school I finally opened the sensory table. I don't usually open it up this early because it's normally filled with rice. For the first time in while, I emptied out the rice to make way for other activities. At a workshop a couple of years back, I heard a story about a teacher who brought in a hard-plastic kiddie pool - she filled it with nothing but paper (office paper, scrap paper, etc), attached several scissors with string to the edge of the pool, then let the kids sit inside and cut away. This sensory table activity is a modification that idea.

Today I thought I'd blend some fine motor scissor skills - and number work. It was pretty simple, and the kids had a great time cutting and chatting.  I lingered there for a little while to catch up on the latest gossip in kindergarten.

I gathered the supplies: scissors, 1 inch square graph paper, star-matrix grid (that I whipped up using a word processor) but this could be normal dot-matrix paper, and five random jars that I had in my supply cupboard. I labeled the jars numbered 1-5. Total cost...FREE!

I told the kids to cut out any amount 1-5 of the graph paper squares, or stars, and place them in the corresponding number jar.  And that's it! While they're working on number sense and simple counting - they get the benefit of working the muscles in the hand, and scissoring skills. It turned out to be a great "math-talk" activity. Some kids counted and cut too many (i.e., 6 instead of 5),  so we did a little problem solving. "Could you cut off some squares/stars so that you can put them in two separate jars instead?"  It was great to hear their thinking as they problem-solved.

I imagine a variation of these activities like cutting out colors in magazines and placing them in color jars (great to save for color collages later). Kids could also cut words or letters out of magazines and newspaper. Put different textures, and thickness of paper, for kids to cut and really work the muscles in the hand.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Guess-timation Jars

Today was the first day with the kids returning with our new math-ideas estimation jars. I wish I could say where I heard about the idea. It may have even been on Pinterest. I modified this activity to add to our daily math routine. It is a great way to encourage communication and math-talk. We estimate, make predictions, talk about the objects in the jar.  The discussion revolving around the jar and the items can easily be student or teacher led, and can serve as a great transition during your math time.

Here's how it works. Two students each get to take home an estimation jar (I bought these at the dollar store). They can fill it with any amount of 1 object (ex. 5 blocks, 20 pennies, 10 lollipops). Smaller numbers below 50 make it easier to count and compare. The kids return the next day with their jars and I display it on my desk - far enough away that they won't be able to count the items specifically.

At the end of our math-number routine I take out the jars. We discuss the items inside, and the estimation jar leaders tell the group why they chose those items. We compare jars and ask questions like:  How many items do you estimate are in this jar? Are there more that 10? Less than 20? Which jar holds more? etc.

This takes place at the calendar wall where I have number-lines, whiteboard, and other manipulatives on hand for visual reinforcement.  We sit whole-group and take a few minutes to draw conclusions and edit our thoughts - then we count the items.

The first day I modeled the estimation jars I had 11 small tiles in one jar, and 10 larger blocks in the other. When I asked them which jar they thought held more, the immediately pointed to the blocks - likely because they were bigger items and nearly filled the jar. When we counted them during the reveal, they learned that there were more tiles than blocks. We also discussed that just because something is bigger and may fill the jar, it doesn't necessarily mean there are more.

The kids love it so far - and so do I!

Monday, April 23, 2012


Guest post from Mrs. Davis - our University pre-service teacher - delivering a science lesson. 

It’s hard to pick one agenda item to share with you all because we had so much fun discovery and learning in the classroom this past week!  We read a book together called Messenger, Messenger and learned about escalators and delivering messages through a bike messenger.  The kindergarteners even received a special visit from a bike messenger. 

April is poetry month and Mr. Fines has been reading us some fabulous poems and teaching the kindergarteners how to write their own poems.  We break open words together and the whole class collaborates in sharing their favorite descriptive words.  We have had some marvelous poems about spring; Mr. Fines and myself have learned a lot about what each kiddo loves about spring and how they are experiencing the world around them.  Poems are challenging and our kindergarteners are rising to meet this new method of written expression.  They are learning to use all their senses to help them elaborate on their experiences; which brings me to the main topic of our blog this week, science!
We have just begun a new science unit; the kindergarteners are learning about properties.  Science can be such a fun learning experience at this age; Mr. Fines and I have embraced science to create a positive hands-on exploration of properties, as well as the states of matter.  Mr. Fines had previously read the students Bartholomew and the Oobleck, a Dr. Seuss book, which was a wonderful lead in to my introductory lesson on solids and liquids.  We listened to Solid, Liquid, Gas by Brad & Diana and learned some simple dance moves to help our kinesthetic learners associate each phase with a physical representation.  After listening to the song, the students learned about the differences between solids and liquids, and we shared some great scientific discussion.

The students then were able to delve into some fabulous, messy exploration of Oobleck.  I encouraged their scientific questioning by asking them if they could figure out if it was a solid or a liquid.  They were given “I wonder thoughts” by Mr. Fines and I to engage their minds to think about the Oobleck in multiple ways.  I was so excited by all of the incredible scientific exploration, and the discussions about the material with their friends, Mr. Fines, and myself!  Mr. Fines continued our science unit with a lesson on properties.  The students were comparing and contrasting random items and using their words to describe each object in multiple ways.  They even discovered that a sponge is hard and small when it is completely dry but when it is wet, it expands and softens so that it can easily be squished; a perfect example of how scientific learning can be done at home too!
Enjoy the pictures and video from our Oobleck solid or liquid science discovery!

Mrs. Davis

For more interactive activities with states of matter visit: