They always say you spend the beginning of the year setting up routines that will allow your students to thrive throughout the school year. While establishing routines can be daunting it does not have to be! Read on to see how I use simple no prep activities to help my students fall in love with math while mastering our class math routines!
Click here to read all about (and get a freebie!) my "no prep" beginning of the year packets for Kindergarten, First Grade, and Second Grade Math!
Let them Explore!
What kid or adult can resist tinkering with new objects put in front of them? I sure can't! We know that if we want kids to use the manipulatives to solve math problems in a specific way, we first need to give them opportunities for open ended play with the same materials.
Students are inherently interested when they see math manipulatives. While an adult might look at a pile of unifix cubes and think they are for counting or learning math concepts, kids see so much more. I have had kids try to build towers taller than a friends, sort the cubes by color, build a "staircase" of rainbow cubes, and so much more! All of this "play" is actually the foundation of many math concepts.
By investing a small amount of time into open ended manipulative play you are allowing students to explore so that when they need to complete a concrete task with the manipulatives they can, the novelty has worn off somewhat.
Open ended play is also a great opportunity to practice classroom routines like cleaning up, answering to a call and response, moving around the room. It also allows for practice of social emotional skills like sharing and problem solving!
Moving On to Paper and Pencil Tasks
While kids can learn so much from manipulatives the reality is they also need to be able to complete paper and pencil tasks. However, these don't have to be boring worksheets filled with endless equations. I like to start the year with beginning of the year themed worksheets that are accessible to most students. I find that by giving them math worksheets that they can successfully complete I am building up their math confidence! This plays dividends as harder concepts are introduced throughout the year.
I like to use math centers or rotations so I can pull small groups. As my students become more comfortable with math manipulatives I start dividing the class-- some completing paper and pencil tasks and some exploring manipulatives. This allows kids to keep practicing their independence and the classroom routines and leaves me to float around helping anyone who needs it! I rotate activities so every student gets to experience both sides.
Eventually, I will add a third group- one working with me! At this point the paper and pencil group and math manipulatives group are working independently. This allows me to start on the formal math curriculum, knowing that my students have mastered the routine. Throughout the year the manipulative and paper and pencil tasks get more complex but the structure stays the same!
Check out my seasonal math worksheets here!
Read more of my tips for center organization here!
Check out how I use digital math centers for virtual and in person learning!
Click here for my Eureka Math centers!
Miriam taught kindergarten and first grade for 5+ years in New Orleans.