Getting Nonreaders to Read


In January I gave the midyear Directed Reading Assessment to my students. Most of them did well, but a few of them really struggled. Despite all that we had done, they were still not looking at print, and leaning too heavily on the strategy of using picture clues.

I needed to come up with a plan of attack and this is the result. I wrote a set of books containing only sight words and CVC words. There are no pictures in these books. Instead, I made the pictures separate, and then included them, plus the letters needed to make the sight words in the book, in a baggie stapled to the back.

Each week, my target kids work on these books. A typical lesson goes like this: First, they review their alphabet sounds. Second, they practice the sight words that will be in the book by first building the words with the die cut letters in the baggie and then writing them.


Next, the child dictates a sentence to the teacher using one (or both) of the sight words from the book. The teacher writes the sentence, the child reads it, the teacher cuts the words in the sentence apart, the child puts the sentence back together and then reads it again.


Finally, we spread out all the pictures and the child reads the book. All of the sight words in the book have been practiced, and when they come to a CVC word they are required to sound it out using the "tap method". For each sound the child taps on their arm, then they slide the sounds together. For example, in the word "fat" the child makes the /f/ sound on their shoulder, the /a/ sound on their elbow, and the /t/ sound on their wrist. Then they say the sounds at they slide one arm down the other, blending them together. After they have decoded the word, they find the picture that matches the story and place it on the page.


This has really been working for most of my kiddos! I've really seen a lot of progress in them. They are actually looking at and through print now!! We'll see what happens come spring DRA :)

I have also used this set as a take-home book and allowed students to glue in the picture at its completion.

I know you will love this product, I do!!


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Fabulous sight word readers! Unique! Thank you!
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Love having the kids adding pictures after text is read!
I’m always on the look out for sight word books. These look like good ones. Thank you!

Increasing Vocabulary in Early Learners

Picture books are a great way to introduce new vocabulary to young children. During the second and sequential readings of any great book I stop as I am reading to discuss a new word that may be unfamiliar to my students. I then use the word in several sentences, ask the students to use the word, and even act it out if the word lends itself to action. 

Each school year, one of my favorite activities is building Vocabulary Books.  After we have practiced a new word from our literature selection, I next ask the students to tell me the meaning of the word, using their own words. I then write the meaning on a sheet of paper and illustrate the word and its definition (modeled writing). I then send the students to gather their own Vocabulary Book, write the word, and draw a picture that represents the word. (As students are ready they can add the definition). At the end of the year the children take home their vocabulary book as a dictionary representing some of the words they have learned over the year.

For example, once we read a book by Joy Cowley that contained the word "fierce" and the children wanted to know what it meant. I asked them what they thought and they decided that (because of the context) the definition of fierce is "mean". After we finished the book and had our vocabulary discussion, the students recorded the new word in their Vocabulary Book.




Using Music With Young Children

I often feel that it's my responsibility as an early educator to combat the barrage of music children are exposed to. Nothing against the pop stars that our kindergartners adore,  but listening to such pop music is not going to help them develop and strengthen their musical abilities. Not that I think there's anything inherently wrong in young children listening to pop music, it's just that I feel it's the job of the educator to be aware of what kind of music should be incorporated into the classroom.

Appropriate Music for Young Children

The most appropriate music for young children is unaccompanied. When you sing with children without the distraction of an accompaniment they are better able to hear your voice and their own and make necessary adjustments in order to match pitch. If an accompaniment is needed it should be a simple one. The guitar is actually a better instrument than the piano for a young child to sing along with (and it's easier to learn how to play).

-Music for children should be free of embellishment. It drives me crazy when I buy a CD of music for children and the singer slides around from note to note and adds unnecessary flourishes. Young children are still learning how to match pitch. Embellishments are distracting and confusing.

-Children's music should be played slowly. Music with a fast tempo is fun for dancing, but when children are learning to sing, they need to be able to hear each note clearly. When singing with children, slow down and let them hear each individual pitch.

-Appropriate music is of an appropriate range. There is research that has determined what that range is, but I hesitate to post that here because I have noticed a great variety in children's abilities. Some children have command of a whole octave and some have trouble moving up and down in a two note song. So here's my suggestion: don't use songs with a large range for whole class--keep the songs simple and the variety of notes small--for individual children, sing songs in which they can match almost but not all of the notes, thus expanding their range without going to far outside of what they can do.

Musical Exercises for Children

The two major areas for growth in children are: matching rhythm and matching pitch. Here are two exercises to practice both.


Clap out a small rhythmic beat and ask the children to copy you exactly. For example: tah, tah, tee tee, tah. This is a fun and easy exercise that doubles as a classroom transition.


Hold your hand out in front of you and have the children do the same. Tell them that their hand is a car on a roller coaster. Sing a note and have the children match your pitch, move your hand up and down like you're going over bumps on a roller coaster and make your pitch match the up and down motion. Have the children copy your hand movements while matching pitch. This same exercise can be done by moving the body up and down while changing pitch. Both exercises give the children a visual cue of what the voice is doing.

Artists I Love

There are many appropriate musicians that support the foundational growth of young children. I love, love Nancy Stewart, Jim Gill, and Dr. Jean. These artists understand young children!

The Wizard of Oz, that is available below or at our TPT store is a great way to add the joy of music into your children's life.

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About Us

The Kindergarten Kiosk Team

Kathy has been teaching young children for over two decades. She believes that young children should be active participants in their own leaning and uses hands-on-games as the core of her thematically designed, child-centered classroom. She holds an M.Ed. in Reading Instruction and is the co-author of eleven teacher resource books published by Teacher Created Materials. She works as a freelance author for two national reading companies and provides published assessments as a Friend of ESGI.

After spending 10 years in the classroom, Lyndsey is now a stay at home mom with 3 little tots. Check out her blog Mamma's Tots. In her spare time (LOL), she is pursuing her PHD in Early Childhood Education.These new perspectives, mom of a kindergartner, and doctoral candidate, have further increased her desires to provide quality, developmentally appropriate early learning activities to the educators of young children.

Kathleen enjoys focusing on kindergarten kids and their needs. After a short stint teaching third grade in Wyoming, she has spent almost three decades teaching kindergarten in Idaho. She holds a National Board Certification in Early Childhood Education and a M.Ed. in Reading Instruction. She was named as the Idaho Phi Delta Kappa and Walmart Teacher of the Year for the state of Idaho and is the co-author of eleven teacher resource books that have been published by Teacher Created Materials. She is currently teaching kindergarten half-day and spending the other-half serving as a district Instructional Coach.

The Development of Mathematical Representation

According to the research of David Sousa, children progress through three stages of mathematical understanding as they develop an understanding of concepts. The stages are Concrete, Representational (Pictorial), and Abstract. It will be important to remember that each of our children will be in a different stage of development for each concept that we are teaching, and, therefore, it is important to differentiate the method by which the children are allowed to work with problems. Differentiating in this way is sometimes known as the CRA (or CPA) approach. First, let's define the different stages of development:


All children must start here when learning mathematical concepts. Concrete models tie mathematics to the real world and include anything that the child can use physically to represent a problem.


The representational stage provides the mental scaffolding for children to move their mathematical understanding from concrete to abstract. In this stage, children are able to use visual or pictorial representations to represent concrete examples. Teachers deliberately help children see how pictorial representations tie to concrete examples.


The abstract level of thinking represents mathematical thinking symbolically. It is important to realize that this is the final level of understanding for children, and that we must help each child through the first two stages before they will be able to grapple with abstract representations. "Numerals were developed to signify the meaning of counting. Operational symbols like + and - were constructed to represent the actions of combining and comparing. While these symbols were initially developed to represent mathematical ideas, they become tools, mental images, to think with. To speak of mathematics as at mathematizing demands that we address mathematical models and their developments. To mathematize, one sees, organizes, and interprets the world through and with mathematical models. Like language, these models often begin as simply representations of situations, or problems, by learners... These models of situations eventually become generalized as learners explore connections between and across them" (Fosnot and Dolk, 2001)


Many lessons in kindergarten can be specifically designed to move children from one stage of understanding to another. For example, one lesson could ask groups of children to count out objects from a bag and then draw a picture of the objects they found (Concrete to Pictorial). The teacher could then write the number each group found in their bags on the board (Pictorial to Abstract). Lessons can also be designed where each stage of development can be used to answer the question.

Here is such a lesson: The teacher places a container in view of the children and tells them their are five bears inside. Some of the bears are red and some are blue. How many of each color could be inside? Children can use their own sets of bears to answer the question. They could draw a picture. They could use numbers and equations. The important part of the lesson is that each child is developing an understanding of the part/whole relationships of the number 5, and allowing each child to work within his own stage of understanding will better strengthen his mathematical knowledge.

Number Sense and the Common Core: Compensation, Unitizing, and the Landscape of Learning

In Part 1 of this series I discussed how important number sense is to a child's development along with early number sense skills and how they relate to the Common Core. In Part 2 I discussed the importance of hierarchical inclusion, magnitude, and subitizing. In Part 3 I discussed part/whole relationships (a concept which will probably fill the entire kindergarten year). The whole of the math Common Core (except for geometry and measurement) fall under the umbrella of number sense, and today we will discuss some of the concepts of number sense that are on the horizon for kindergartners.


Compensation is the ability to play with numbers. It is the understanding that if 5+5=10 then 6+5 must be 11 because 6 is one greater than 5 and so the sum must be one greater than 10. Or that if 5+5=10 then 6+4 must also equal 10 because 4 is one smaller than 5 and 6 is one larger than 5. This is a complex skill that some kindergartners will not be ready for, but some children may begin to use compensation, and teachers should feel free to conduct Number Talks introducing compensation.

The following video is an example of a 2nd grade Number Talk involving compensation. Number Talks involving compensation in kindergarten would obviously be less complex.

Compensation strategies can be used in the following Common Core standards:

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.1 Represent addition and subtraction with objects, fingers, mental images, drawings, sounds (e.g., claps), acting out situations, verbal explanations, expressions, or equations.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.2 Solve addition and subtraction word problems, and add and subtract within 10, e.g., by using objects or drawings to represent the problem.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.3 Decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each decomposition by a drawing or equation (e.g., 5 = 2 + 3 and 5 = 4 + 1).

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.4 For any number from 1 to 9, find the number that makes 10 when added to the given number, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record the answer with a drawing or equation.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.5 Fluently add and subtract within 5.


Unitizing is a child's ability to see numbers in groups. It is an ability they use to see that there is simultaneously 1 chair with 4 legs, to count by 2's with understanding, to hold one number in their head when counting on, or to begin grouping numbers into tens.

Grouping numbers into tens is especially significant, because "A set of ten should play a major role in children's initial understanding of numbers between 10 and 20. When children see a set of six with a set of ten, they should know without counting that the total is 16. However, the numbers between 10 and 20 are not an appropriate place to discuss place-value concepts. That is, prior to a much more complete development of place-value concepts (appropriate for  second grade and beyond), children should not be asked to explain the 1 in 16 as representing "one ten". The concept of a single ten is just too strange for a kindergarten or an early first grade child to grasp. Some would say that it is not appropriate for grade 1 at all. The inappropriateness of discussing "one ten and six ones" (what's a one?) does not mean that a set of ten should not figure prominently in the discussion of the teen numbers"  (Walle and Lovin 2006).


(This book by Walle and Lovin is one of my very favorites for teaching mathematics. You can get it through this affiliate link)


In kindergarten, the goal is not to formalize unitizing, but to begin to help students see numbers in groupings. The following standard requires unitizing:

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.NBT.A.1 Compose and decompose numbers from 11 to 19 into ten ones and some further ones, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each composition or decomposition by a drawing or equation (such as 18 = 10 + 8); understand that these numbers are composed of ten ones and one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine ones.

Let's dissect this standard to figure out exactly what it is and what it is not asking you to evaluate. According to the standard, children should compose and decompose a number in the teens into a group of tens and some ones. Nowhere in the standard is it required for the teacher to use place value language (as Walle and Lovin discourage) but to make representations of the teen numbers using objects and drawings. Although the language of the standard includes the terms "ten ones and one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine one" this vocabulary is there for the teacher, the standard itself specifically requires "understanding" from the student.

Watch the following videos, if kindergartners can see the images and identify the teen number that is represented, then they have met the conditions of the Common Core Standard.

The Landscape of Learning

We should keep in mind that these concepts of number sense do not describe a linear progression of understanding. 

"Historically, curriculum designers... analyzed the structure of mathematics and delineated teaching and learning objectives along a line... [f]ocusing only on the structure of mathematics leads to a more traditional way of teaching--one in which the teacher pushes the children toward procedures or mathematical concepts because these are the goals. In a framework like this, learning is understood to move along a line. Each lesson, each day, is geared to a different objective, a different "it." All children are expected to understand the same "it," in the same way, at the end of the lesson. They are assumed to move along the same path; if there are individual differences it is just that some children move along the path more slowly--hence, some need more time, or remediation. As the reform mandated by the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics has taken hold, curriculum designers and educators have tried to develop other frameworks. Most of these approaches are based on a better understanding of children's learning and of the development of tasks that will challenge them."  (Catherine Twomey Fosnot and Maarten Dolk 2001)


(Cathy Fosnot is an excellent resource for mathematics teaching. Here is her book in this affiliate link.)


According to Cathy Fosnot, a child's development of number sense looks less like a line and more like the following chart, developing in a way that she describes as the "Landscape of learning".


"The paths to these landmarks and horizons are not necessarily linear. Nor is there only one. As in real landscape, the paths twist and turn; they cross each other, are often indirect. Children do not construct each of these ideas and strategies in an ordered sequence. They go off in many directions as they explore, struggle to understand, and make sense of their world mathematically... Ultimately, what is important is how children function in a mathematical environment (Cobb 1997)--how they mathematize." (Fosnot and Dolk 2001)

Because number sense development is nonlinear, the best activities we can use in our classrooms will weave together different components of number sense and engage children on multiple planes of development. Many of the links in these posts will lead you to some excellent books with activities in them, that do exactly that. 

But we must be honest, many of the textbooks that have been adopted are more concerned with checking off the Common Core standards than developing the understanding behind them, much less teaching in a non-linear fashion. Therefore, we, as teachers need to be more discerning lesson planners using textbooks and workbooks only as a resource to teach the Core in the way we know best, instead of letting textbook companies dictate to us how the Core should be taught. 

In our next post we will discuss the development of mathematical representation. Be sure to check it out!

Number Sense and the Common Core: Part-Whole Relationships


In Part 1 of this series I discussed how important number sense is to a child's development along with early number sense skills and how they relate to the Common Core. In Part 2 I discussed the importance of hierarchal inclusion, magnitude, and subitizing. The whole of Common Core math (except for geometry and measurement) fall under the umbrella of number sense, and today we will discuss the aspect of number sense that should be the major focus of any kindergarten math program.

Part/Whole Relationships

"Count out a set of eight counters... [a]ny child who has learned how to count meaningfully can count out eight objects as you just did. What is significant about the experience is what it did not cause you to think about. Nothing in counting a set of eight objects will cause a child to focus on the fact that it could be made of two parts. For example, separate the counters you just set out into two piles and reflect on the combination. It might be 2 and 6 or 7 and 1 or 4 and 4. Make a change in your two piles of counters and say the new combination to yourself. Focusing on a quantity in terms of its parts has important implications for developing number sense. The ability to think about a number in terms of parts is a major milestone in the development of number" (Walle and Lovin 2006).

All of the following Common Core standards involve an understanding of part/whole relationships. Notice that the word equation is mentioned in only three of these standards, and in those standards it is only one option that students can use to represent addition and subtraction. In actuality, using an equation may not be developmentally appropriate for most kindergartners. What they should be doing in order to meet the standard, is show addition and subtraction in terms of the part/whole relationships of numbers. 

For example, if you ask a child to show combinations of 10 with colored plates, as shown in the previous video, and he/she can tell you all of the different combinations that make ten, they have just solved a problem involving addition to 10 or subtraction from 10 using a drawing. This meets Core Standard K.OA.A.3 without solving any abstract equations.

"To really understand addition and subtraction, we must understand how they are connected... By modeling addition and subtraction situations and then generalizing across these situations, children are able to understand and represent the operations of addition and subtraction... Children who commit the facts to memory easily are able to do so because they have constructed relationships among them and between addition and subtraction in general, and they use these relationships as shortcuts. When relationships are the focus, there are far fewer facts to remember, and big ideas like compensation, hierarchical inclusion, and part/whole relationships come into play. Also, if a child forgets an answer, she has a quick way to come up with it" (Fosnot and Dolk 2001)

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.1 Represent addition and subtraction with objects, fingers, mental images, drawings, sounds (e.g., claps), acting out situations, verbal explanations, expressions, or equations.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.2 Solve addition and subtraction word problems, and add and subtract within 10, e.g., by using objects or drawings to represent the problem.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.3 Decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each decomposition by a drawing or equation (e.g., 5 = 2 + 3 and 5 = 4 + 1).

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.4 For any number from 1 to 9, find the number that makes 10 when added to the given number, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record the answer with a drawing or equation.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.5 Fluently add and subtract within 5.

It would be difficult to overstate how important part/whole relationships are to a kindergartener's mathematical development. I highly recommend looking into the books that I have used as sources in these discussions if you would like more information as well as some great lessons on teaching part/whole relationships. Our Interactive Math Worksheets for March  and Interactive Math Worksheets for January also include some activities designed to develop this skill. Tomorrow we will discuss some of the number sense skills that are on the horizon for kindergartners.

Number Sense and the Common Core: Hierarchical Inclusion, Magnitude and Subitizing


In Part 1 of this series I discussed how important number sense is to a child's development. In fact, number sense could be considered the most important part of the kindergarten year. I also discussed early number sense skills and how they relate to the Common Core. The whole of the math Common Core (except for geometry and measurement) fall under the umbrella of number sense. Here are more of the components of the Core and how they relate to an understanding of numbers.

Hierarchal Inclusion

Hierarchical Inclusion, as explained in the following video, is the concept that a number contains all of the previous numbers. Imagine a number as a Russian nesting doll, if working with the number 4, imagine the largest doll is 4 and inside that doll are the smaller dolls, 3, 2, 1. Without this understanding a child will think that, when counting, the number he points to and names "3" is "3" in of itself without the other objects and when you ask him for "3" he will give you only that object. 

Hierarchical inclusion also helps students understand other number sense concepts, such as part/whole relationships and compensation because a child cannot understand that 4 can be broken up into the parts 3 and 1 without also understanding that the number "4" contains 3 and 1.

In order to complete the following common core standard, a child must understand hierarchical inclusion:

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.CC.A.2 Count forward beginning from a given number within the known sequence (instead of having to begin at 1).


Magnitude is a child's ability to compare groups. Even children who cannot count have the ability to judge the relative size of groups of objects, but as a child's number sense develops, so should the sophistication of her understanding of magnitude. The following Common Core activities depend on a child's understanding of magnitude:

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.CC.B.4.C Understand that each successive number name refers to a quantity that is one larger.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.CC.C.6 Identify whether the number of objects in one group is greater than, less than, or equal to the number of objects in another group, e.g., by using matching and counting strategies.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.CC.C.7 Compare two numbers between 1 and 10 presented as written numerals.


Watch the following video. In it, groups of objects quickly flash on the screen. Can you tell how many objects there are in each grouping?

As explained in the following video, subitizing is the ability of a child to quickly recognize a number visually. Children do this by mentally grouping the objects they see (and you probably did this too, for example, seeing a group of 3 and 3 and 3 and knowing that there were 9 objects).

"Looking at a quantity for a short time and then being able to tell how many are in the group(s) without counting each object in the group begins to develop from small sets of two, three, four, and five objects, to parts of sets of six up to twenty. Generally, this development begins between ages 2 and 6. Later, the subitizer sees objects as groups of 10s and 1s and, combined with an understanding of place value, is able to see the numerosity of a large group of numbers quickly." (Copley 2010).


Subitizing strengthens a child's understanding of what numbers mean, and how they relate to one another. In fact, when children are taught to subtize, and their attention is drawn to the groups and patterns they see, it becomes a visual representation of addition and subtraction, as seen here

When strengthening a child's subitizing skills, we are teaching the following Core standards:

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.1 Represent addition and subtraction with objects, fingers, mental images, drawings, sounds (e.g., claps), acting out situations, verbal explanations, expressions, or equations.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.2 Solve addition and subtraction word problems, and add and subtract within 10, e.g., by using objects or drawings to represent the problem.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.3 Decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each decomposition by a drawing or equation (e.g., 5 = 2 + 3 and 5 = 4 + 1).

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.4 For any number from 1 to 9, find the number that makes 10 when added to the given number, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record the answer with a drawing or equation.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.5 Fluently add and subtract within 5.

It is important to note that the word equation is present in only three of these Core standards, and in those standards it is only one option for representing addition and subtraction. In actuality, representing addition and subtraction with equations in kindergarten will not be appropriate for most of our students, but if we have the children participate in a subitizing activity where they are shown a variety of images with a quantity of 5 arranged in different ways, and a child can state that each group contains 5 because they saw a group of 1 and 4 or 2 and 3, they are fluently adding and subtracting within 5, and in a way that is more appropriate than asking them to solve 2+3=__, because instead of working from the end result backwards, we are building their foundational knowledge. In fact, testing a kindergartener's understanding of addition and subtraction by asking her to solve an equation, is like testing her phonemic awareness by asking her to read a story!

Tomorrow I will discuss the rest of the components of number sense, including the concept that the majority of your kindergarten math lessons should be focusing on. See you tomorrow!

Number Sense & Rudimentary Math Skills

Number Sense is King

A child's development of number sense is of utmost importance. Not only does it predict a student's future success in mathematics, it may also predict future success in literacy. Because of it's importance, early Number Sense should be one of the primary focuses of any kindergarten program. "Unfortunately, too many traditional programs move directly from [the rudimentary concepts of math] to addition and subtraction, leaving students with a very limited collection of ideas about number to bring to these new topics. The result is often that children continue to count by ones to solve simple story problems and have difficulty mastering basic facts. Early number sense development should demand significantly more attention than it is given in most traditional K-2 programs" (Walle and Lovin 2006).

One benefit of the Common Core, is that we, as teachers, do not (and should not) have to depend on textbook companies to interpret the Common Core for us, we can use the Core itself as the basis for our teaching, and all of the concepts listed on the Core (except for measurement and geometry) fit squarely into one or more of the areas that constitute Number Sense.

Rudimentary Math Skills


Counting is not a component of number sense, but I mention it here because it is one of the rudimentary concepts that a child needs to develop before they begin to work with numbers. I am referring here to counting by rote, or memorizing the number names and their sequence. The following songs teach rote counting.

The following Common Core standard refers to rote counting:

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.CC.A.1 Count to 100 by ones and by tens.

One-to-One Correspondence

A rudimentary concept, one-to-one correspondence (as explained in the following video) is a child's ability to match their rote counting sequence to one and only one object that they are counting. Some children arrive in kindergarten with this ability, but many do not.

This Common Core standard is referring to as one-to-one correspondence:

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.CC.B.4.A When counting objects, say the number names in the standard order, pairing each object with one and only one number name and each number name with one and only one object.

This Common Core standard involves one-to-one correspondence, however, it is important to remember that standards like this include writing skills, and, therefore, are not wholly mathematical. A child's fine motor development should be taken into account, and the methodology of teaching writing skills should be used:

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.CC.A.3 Write numbers from 0 to 20. Represent a number of objects with a written numeral 0-20 (with 0 representing a count of no objects).

Conservation of Number

Another foundational skill is an understanding that the organization of a group of objects does not change the amount of objects. The following child is struggling with conservation of number:

"What children see plays an important part in their understanding of the world... When adults watch a child count out eight objects and then say that there are more than eight when the objects are spread out, it is often difficult to understand how the child is thinking. However, imagine some situations in which we adults are also fooled by our perceptions. Thirty adults in a room may seem, even to us, like more people than if we saw thirty children in that same room. If we don't actually count, our estimate of the number of people might reflect that general impression. Our experiences over long periods of time have taught us to check our perceptions and trust our logic when perception and logic contradict each other. Children, however, are still tied strongly to their perception. They need many different experiences, along with maturation, before they understand what we describe as conservation of number" (Richardson 1999).

When we involve children in activities that develop number conservation, we are working the following Common Core standards:

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.CC.B.4.B Understand that the last number name said tells the number of objects counted. The number of objects is the same regardless of their arrangement or the order in which they were counted.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.CC.B.5 Count to answer "how many?" questions about as many as 20 things arranged in a line, a rectangular array, or a circle, or as many as 10 things in a scattered configuration; given a number from 1-20, count out that many objects.

In the next post, we will discuss the components of number sense and how they relate to the rest of the Common Core. Stay tuned!

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The Wizard of Oz: A Musical Play or Reader's Theater


Did you know that in 1902 Frank Baum's book, The Wizard of Oz, was adapted into a broadway musical, and that Frank Baum, himself, helped to write the lyrics to some of the songs? It's true! Although you might be surprised by the content of the musical itself. In the early 20th century, musicals didn't really have much story, they were a series of songs strung together, and the 1902 adaption was more of a way to feature the vaudevillian performers playing the tin man and scarecrow, than an accurate representation of the story. In fact, Dorothy isn't accompanied by Toto in this version... she has a cow.

But Wizard of Oz songs written by Frank Baum himself! That's a gold mine! The songs from the musical and the book itself are now public domain, so I've taken the songs, edited the lyrics to take out anarchistic terms and to fit the story of the book better and put them together with an easy to read script. You can teach the songs to the children as you read them the book. You can perform the script and songs a a musical theater. You can add lines for higher grades or subtract for lower grades, and if you decide to go all out with costumes, props, and scenery, and use this as a class play, I promise it will be what your students remember about your class!

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Why is Place Value Important?

When I was a child learning mathematics, the emphasis was on memorizing facts and algorithms. When I was taught place value the lesson went something like this: a number in this location is in the tens place, a number in this location is in the ones place, remember that, there will be a test.

I never understood the purpose of place value, and it was only when I became a teacher myself that I came to understand the invaluable tool that it can be when solving mathematical problems and in understanding our number system!

It is not an understanding of the labels “tens place” and “ones place” that are important when teaching place value, it is the concept of exchange that they represent. In our number system there are only 9 numerals, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. In order to represent any quantity larger than these numerals we “reset” one column and start over in the next, creating the number “10”. Our number system is a base ten system because that is the amount at which we run out of numerals and must start in another column.

Young children often confuse large numbers like 19 and 91; this is because they do not have an understanding of the exchange that has taken place to create the numerals. 19 is really 10 + 9 and 91 is really 90 + 1. Once a child understands what the 1 and the 9 mean, depending on where they are located, they will have no trouble distinguishing between large numbers. Understanding what a numeral means in context will also serve children well when they add and subtract digits with more than one numeral. For example, if a child needs to add 31 and 42 and knows that they are really adding 30 + 40 + 1 + 2, the solution becomes more apparent. If a child needs to add 48+32= and they understand that they are adding 40+8 and 30+2 they can "borrow" the 2 from 32 and add it to 48, making the problem 50+30, a much simpler problem to solve!

These place value lessons are designed to increase a childʼs understanding of the number system and how context determines the meaning of a numeral.

In order for children to be successful in these lessons they must first understand the concept of skip counting and be able to count by tens. The lessons are organized in order of difficulty, progressing from the earliest concepts of place value to those that develop later. Ideas have been included at the end of some lessons of ways in which you can extend a lesson if your students need more practice on a particular concept. I hope they will be helpful in your classroom and will help your children not only be able to improve
in mathematics, but to think more like mathematicians.

                  ----Submitted by Lyndsey

The Development of a Child's Brain

A longer childhood equals a smarter brain, take the African Honey Badger, they live 14-18 months with their mother, an unusually long time. In fact, Honey Badger juveniles are usually still with their mother, learning from her, when they have reached or surpassed her in size. This is so unusual that when they were first observed, it was assumed that Honey Badgers hunted in mating pairs. The result of this long childhood is an amazingly smart animal. Just how smart are they? Well, just watch:

The long childhood of the Honey Badger is nothing compared to the long childhood of Human Beings. Childhood is a gift that has been provided for the development of our brains. Playing, pretending, building, and all of the activities of childhood are necessary for the development and growth of the brain. These things are the work of childhood.

Most children are going to have a great childhood, but what about the children who will not have that chance? What about the child who has delayed speech? What about the child who has been exposed to too much technology at too young of an age? What about the child who doesn't have adequate nutrition? What about the child who doesn't get enough sleep? All children can benefit from a classroom that supports their social and emotional growth, but for these children, it is essential. 

Now, to address the elephant in the room: the Common Core. There is a movement that is very against the Common Core. I am not against the Common Core, I do not believe that expecting academic rigor is the problem, but, I know where this movement is coming from. In the same vein, I am against Charter Schools (because the system is deeply corrupt) but when a parent wants to take their child out of public school and place him/her in a charter school, I absolutely know where they are coming from. 

You are worried about the emotional health of your child, aren't you? I am too.

Kindergarten can be a place of academics, but that should not and should never be it's main concern. I recently saw a post by a fellow Kindergarten teacher that read something like this, "I have a child who constantly needs praise. It's interrupting my teaching! What do I do?" Do you see the problem in this statement? A child who needs to be taught intrinsic motivation, a child who has an emotional need, is interrupting the teaching. If we are truly doing the job of early educators, teaching a child emotional and social skills should always be the primary goal of our teaching it should never be secondary to academic goals and it should definitely never be thought of as an intrusion to them.

The most encouraging thing about a child's brain development is that it is not set in stone. Neurological development is capable of fixing past deficiencies and of forming new pathways at any time, if given the right experiences. There are children who desperately need us to give them those experiences, but if we are not consciously focusing on their needs, if we are only focused on the things that can be measured (by those who make money off of measuring), then we will never give those children the experiences that their brains really need. 

Because the truth of the matter is, that every child is born with the same exact brain capability as Albert Einstein, Ada Lovelace, Steven Hawking, or Emilie du Chatelet. The only thing that sets us apart is the experiences each of our brains is fed. So if we are really concerned about the academic growth of our children, we shouldn't be concerning ourselves so much with what level a child can read at, or how far he can count. What we really need to concern ourselves with is this question:

How rich are their experiences?

Every Child Deserves a Developmentally Appropriate Education

Yesterday while listening to the radio a commercial for a local school came on the air, this was there selling point:

"Our students read at 3 years old!"

Excuse me while I tear my hair out. Setting aside the fact that there is no research or evidence to show that early reading has any kind of tie to academic success, is this really what we want for our children? There was a time when early education was about learning to play, about exploring one's environment, about painting, and singing, and growing socially and emotionally. When did we decide that this kind of learning wasn't important anymore? When did we decide that pushing strict academics on younger and younger children was the most important thing? And in this world of children who are lost, who are bullied or bullies, who are lonely, who are struggling, can we really say that we are better for it?

I think this story told to me by a friend, using her words, sums things up nicely:

"I have a lot of friends that have kids in preschool and kindergarten and their biggest focus is their kid's knowing all their letters and sounds and their ability to read at an early age. They talk as if a kid isn't reading by kindergarten they're behind! I went to (_____) School when I was little. That was where I learned I was dumb. It took 'til I was in high school to realize I wasn't. I worked hard and did great. It was hard to be so young and feel like everyone else was so much better than me.
That's one thing about this system that is so bad. These kids that are just as smart as everyone else go through school thinking they're dumb because they couldn't read well in kindergarten and first grade.
Because I was given the title "not as smart" I really did stop trying because I felt like I couldn't do it anyway. I don't exactly know what changed in me. I do know there were a number of teachers I had in high school that knew better and expected more of me. I'm sure they played a big part. I actually graduated on the honor roll. It starts young. If only people knew how important it is to build a kid up in those early years. It effects EVERYTHING!!!"
Sample...The frustrating thing: We can do both!! We can teach necessary academic skills and do it at the appropriate level for each child and in the appropriate way. Children are only young once and deserve a childhood. They deserve the chance to learn through the guidance of caring adults that value the importance of early childhood education and value the proven developmental techniques of play, scaffolding, and discovery.

Using Rock, Paper, Scissors for Classroom Management

It's important for children to be able to have the skills to monitor their behavior and solve disagreements. It's not unusual for children to want an adult to solve their interpersonal problems for them, but what they really need is an adult to teach them a strategy to use to solve the problem on their own. Strategies like, "Let's roll a die to see who will have the first turn" or "Whomever can throw the ball the highest gets to play with it first".

One strategy my students always enjoyed was playing "rock, paper, scissors" but many of them had difficulty making the hand gestures and many more had trouble with the timing (and not changing the gesture according to what the other player is doing). Using a card deck to play the game solves these problems.

The Rock, Paper, Scissors card deck is available for free at our Teachers Pay Teachers store. You can use the cards in several ways. The teacher can keep copies of the cards that the students can access when they need to solve a problem or each child can keep a set in his/her desk. We hope they help you empower your students to solve problems on their own! The beginning of the year is a great time to start teaching them how.

Writing Center: Quick Kit

Create a great writing center this year that is easy to use!

*You will love this kit! it includes everything you need to set up your classroom writing center (Art can be easily scaled to fit your space). 

   -Writing Poster (Why Write) Remember to make this poster size if you wish!

   -Writing Titles: Books, Stories, Letters, Lists, Notes, Cards, How To, Labels, Recipes, Alphabet Letters, Sight Words, Important Words, Poetry

   -Writing Samples Posters for every title.

   -I Can Poster Activity Instructions for titled categories of writing

   -Blackline Activity Sheets For Independent student work.(Can be used as independent worksheets, or scaled to fit into an interactive writing journal).

Teaching Rhyming: Common Core Standards

This packet includes four lessons and a worksheet to help your students understand the concept of rhyming.  The lessons vary in style and format. Some lessons are scripted, others are designed for independent practice. Some lessons can be used with small groups while others can be completed with a large group. All lessons can be adapted to support struggling students or to challenge high-achieving students.

Rhyming Pairs: Matching rhyming words
Rhyme River: Producing rhymes
T-Shirt Twins: Matching rhyming words.
Home Sweet Home: Producing rhymes
Match a Rhyme: Matching rhyming words.

Teaching Syllables : Common Core RF.2b

Learning to read is crucial to success in school. Through research, educators have identified many skills that impact the reading process. These skills form the foundation for reading. 

The Common Core Language Arts and Literacy Standards address these early reading skills in the Foundational Skills strand. This strand begins in kindergarten and continues through fifth grade. Areas that form the foundation for reading are: Print Concepts, Phonological Awareness, Phonics and Word Recognition, and Fluency. 

One of the goals of Phonological Awareness is to help students understand sounds found in spoken words. Syllable, rhyme, and sound identification activities help students notice, isolate, and manipulate sounds, preparing them for phonics work as well as beginning reading.

This packet includes six activities to help your students understand the concept of syllables.  The lessons vary in style and format. Some lessons are scripted, others are designed for independent practice. Some lessons can be used with small groups while others can be completed with a large group. All lessons can be adapted to support struggling students or to challenge high-achieving students. 

Off To see the Wizard: Segmenting Syllables
Family Fun: Blending Syllables to Make Words
I Can: Sorting Syllables by Count
Syllable Sale: Counting Syllables
Animal Sort: Sorting Syllables by Count
Counting Syllables: Syllable Worksheet