Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Place Value

The Math Work Stations Blog Party continues~
What an amazing collection of resources I have accumulated over the last month. Both my son and my laminator thank all the bloggers for all the free games and activities!

I am kind of feeling like a slacker though. Every other blogger is offering a free printable activity with their blog post and I've got nothing.
I sort of feel like the lazy lab partner that relies on everyone else's hard work, but since I'm not currently teaching K-2 I am not as motivated as the rest of this crew.

As for place value, I've had a lot of fun using the following ideas this week with my son:

Bean Stick place value work mat from the fabulous Fran

My son thought it was silly that the mat only had space for 3 bean sticks because who wants to only count to 30?!? So we improvised and made the mat work for bigger numbers too! I think he's ready to start working on 3 digit numbers but I continue to review 0-99 so that he has a very strong number sense. He starts Kindergarten in the fall so there is no rush to learn BIG numbers, except in his mind of course!

Popsicle Place Value ~ "How Many Popsicles Did We Eat this Summer?" is the question. Collecting the data is happening now. Currently we are at one group of ten and 7 extras.
I plan on making some sort of cute box or pocket chart to display the sticks but I haven't got it done yet. So far we are just bundling groups of ten and keeping the bundle and extras in a tupperware container.
Tip: Use the mini hair bands instead of rubber bands for bundling groups of ten. They are small enough they don't have to be looped, and they're stretchy enough not to break!

Place Value Pocket Chart ~ I bought a commerically made pocket chart to use in our mini classroom. The one I got was made by Learning Resources and was only $14 through Amazon. I knew I could make a homespun version of this but thought it would help my math corner at home seem more 'authentic'. So far we haven't used it too much but I know my son is eager to work on 3 digit numbers.

Hundreds Chart Puzzles~  I loved this idea from Debbie Diller's book. Cutting up a cardstock hundreds chart and rebuilding it is such a great idea. I prepped this activity for my son one night and planned on teaching him how to play when my daughter napped the next day. Much to my surprise he did the WHOLE thing while I was making breakfast. Next time I am going to give him a mat without numbers printed on it, so that he will have to think a bit more to assemble this.

I printed our hundreds chart puzzles from DeeDee's post at -

Two Generations of Bean Counters!

Grandpa was so impressed with the counting skills we've been working on! These little trays from Family Dollar, a bag of black beans, and a photocopy of a hundreds chart have gotten a LOT of use this summer!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Reading Log

We do a summer reading log every summer, but this year it's books that my son is reading to me! Though I am a Reading Specialist and I have had the privilege of teaching many kids to read....nothing compares to listening to your own child read. Especially when he re-reads a book and says, "Yesterday this was hard but today I know the words!"

This past week he has been reading to his Grandpa Joe. One day he read 17 books and another 21 books in one sitting. out. He's got the reading bug for sure!

I don't like to reward him for reading because I want him to be intrinsically motivated. I want him to want to read....I don't want him to read to get a sticker or a pizza!

I did make an exception this summer though. Every time he fills up one row on his chart (20 books) he gets to do a special activity. This is something that he chooses to do with either my husband or I. So far he has: caught minnows, played mini golf, and went on a canoe trip.

Yep, 60 books and we only started the log 10 days ago!

Proud Momma!

The log we are using was found at:

MWS ~ Addition & Subtraction

Hi Ho Cherry O ~ Addition Story book we are making this summer!

Being a part of the Math Work Stations blog party has been a great learning opportunity! Finding enough time to read the book, read all the blog posts, print some of the amazing freebies from my blogging buddies, and plan stations to use with my son at home has become a part-time job! Once the kiddos are in bed I get started and promise myself to stop at 10:30 or 11 or 11:15.....but this routine leads to a full night of math dreams! Anyone else dreaming of math?

Then during the day I keep seeing all these math teachable moments. Like on Father's Day when we were playing mini-golf. I thought, why don't they make each sign for the holes with dots & numerals? That would be great for the little golfers on the course. Oh, this score card would be perfect for talking about more or less, adding, & ordering numbers. Then on hole seven I saw an amazing teaching tool, the shuffle board score board that was near the course. I tried convincing my son to come over and skip count by 10s with me but he gave me this look and said, "Mom, I'm here to golf not count!"

Oh well....

This week's chapter is about Addition and Subtraction stations. The book is chock full of ideas and my blogging buddies have amazing suggestions and freebies. My head is spinning with ideas, and I don't know where to start. I think I'm still digesting all of the ideas from last week's posts and I'm not sure I can keep up this pace of one chapter a week!

My main thinking this week has been around the idea of how to help families at HOME to use these wonderful ideas. Currently I am a stay-at-home mom and my wee little boy will be a kindergartner in the fall. Being on the other side of the parent/teacher role has me thinking about how my child's school could be doing a better job educating parents about reinforcing early math & literacy skills at home.

A few important points & reflections from this chapter:

As children learn basic addition facts we need to help them connect what they know to related subtraction facts. I know with my son that he is quite fluent with addition facts but I've neglected to work on subtraction, so we will be starting this right away.

I also thought Debbie's suggestion that children need to have a strong beginning number concept first and then work on addition and subtraction. Also using the language (p.132) before using the abstract symbols of + and - is a really important tidbit to share with parents of our students. I know when I participated in math nights, parents often said flashcards were the way they practiced addition and subtraction skills. Workbooks were the other parent favorite. So we as teachers need to explain why counters, manipulatives, fingers, and other supports are essential in teaching beginning number concepts as well as addition and subtraction.

Sharing math talk cards with families would be a great way to connect what kids are learning in the classroom and practice at home. I know for myself that the Math Talk cards have been a great tool for ME, when working with my own son at home.

Another thought is that maybe teachers could also create a smaller version of anchor charts to send home as well? It would be great to also send home math materials for each child. Frugal materials such as bean sticks, rekenreks made from pipe cleaners, inexpensive counters would be a great too. Sending home copies of a student created "I Can" chart would even be better!

I think it's important to also share with parents WHY we are teaching what we are teaching. That's where math nights are great for sharing information with parents and families.

Okay, this has been way too long winded...thanks for reading & sorry I've got no freebie for you. Maybe the caption on this photo will give you a little laugh!

My son was making this poster for his Daddy's birthday. As he was making the cake he said in dismay, "Okay, Daddy is going to only get 20 candles this year because my cake is too small to draw 45 candles!"

Counting Games - Chutes & Ladders

Our board games are getting a lot more action these days! And I am able to work in a lot of math practice without my 5 year old noticing!

Chutes & Ladders ~ This is a great game for learning numbers to 100.  To get some addition and subtraction practice we used a homemade spinner that had four sections labeled: one more, one less, two more, two less. Each player would roll the dice and then use the spinner. I modeled for my son how to say an addition or subtraction sentence, "Four and one more is five. I'll move 5 spaces." (One obstacle that came up was when he rolled a one and then the spinner said two less. I showed him that he would need to move back a space but my explanation of negative numbers sounded more like I was cheating to his ears. So we decided that not moving anywhere and losing a turn would be a better solution!)
Other ways to play Chutes & Ladders:
  • use two dice and add the numbers together
  • use homemade dice so you can move using bigger numbers. I took a wooden cube and wrote 10, 20, 30. I am going to keep a hundreds chart nearby to reference and talk about number patterns.
  • use addition or subtraction flash cards instead of dice - whatever the answer is to the flash card is the number of spaces you move
  • play normally with one dice but find each number on a hundreds chart or number line as you play
  • each time we move to a new space, use bean sticks to represent the number. So far my son loves this type of place value work!
  • play normally but keep an abacus next to the board, move the beads after each turn and talk about what number you are each on

With all these ideas we will be able to play the same game all summer long but work on different math skills!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Morning Stations

My son is an early riser and the rest of the family isn't. So I have to find something (other than television) to keep him busy in the morning. Over winter break I found that leaving a "Surprise Project" in his room for him to complete in the morning is the perfect solution.

This summer my plan is to create new morning stations for him each day. The little bit of time it takes the night before to set it up pays off when I get to sleep in a bit longer. The bonus is that my son is also learning in the process!

My criteria for the 'Surprise Projects':
  •  my son needs to be able to complete the activity 100% independently. Otherwise he comes to my room for directions or advise, which defeats my objective of sleeping in!
  • needs to be a quiet activity 
  • little to no prep work for me
  • at least a wee bit of learning should occur 

 My son's criteria for the 'Surprise Projects':
  •  has to be a surprise, "it's no fun if I know what it's going to be" 
  • should come with a morning snack, preferably the mini boxes of cereal that I never buy.


This week our surprise projects included: 
  1. Alphabet puzzle that is self checking
  2. Geo board wtih LOTS of rubber bands
  3. Card Making Station for Father's Day ~ smelly markers and alphabet stamps for added interest
  4. Coupon clipping - possibly my son's favorite task so far!
  5. Crayola Activity Center with dry erase markers and a sheet of animals to learn to draw
  6. Dot-to-dot (with numbers 1-50)
  7. Estimation game and bean counting ~ who knew he could count to 235! (using 2 hundreds charts of course)

I've had a lot of fun coming up with the projects, but I wonder if I am creative enough to make something different every morning. Your suggestions are welcome!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Beginning Number Concept

Giving children a strong start in beginning number concept is like building a strong foundation when constructing a house. I can remember my first year teaching first grade and thinking, these kids can count to at least 20. They learned number concepts in kindergarten, so lets move on. Why waste time on 10 frames and dot cards? Lucky for me our school's math lead teacher was right across the hall and she was quick to enlighten me to the need of explicitly teaching number sense (and reteaching it) to my first graders. Thank you Mrs. Phillips!

Debbie Diller has wonderful ideas for math work stations that teach beginning number concepts. I wanted to just jump right in and start doing them ALL with my own children (ages 2 & 5) this week. Then I realized that working through a couple of these games each week over the course of the summer would make more sense. So my plan is to take the 17 activities that she listed from pages 73-85 and do at least two each week. I plan on blogging about each of them and writing those posts geared to other parents. My plan is to use materials that could be found at home or a dollar store, so that parents could use the ideas with their children. Hopefully I will even figure out how to attach Google Docs correctly so I can offer parents some free printables to go along with the activities. So check back throughout the summer, if you can use this type of activities or want to share them with your students!

This past Saturday I was able to attend a great training called Mother Goose Cares about Math. This group has a wonderful website that teachers and parents may find useful in finding literature & activities to connect with math concepts. Go to their website:  
Click on the search button, type in your topic (i.e. counting), click on books and then a wonderful list of quality children's literature will come up. They also have free activities that would be good to share with parents, as well as articles for professionals to learn more. This group also offers free webinars and has archived all their previous ones!

So Fran in her AMAZING post this week ( suggests some retail therapy. I was one step ahead and spent an hour on Amazon making some important decisions. I knew that I wanted some fresh math materials to use this summer with my own kiddos, so I invested in some unifex cubes, tangrams, linking shapes, geoboard, and a Crayola Activity Center. I also got a full ream of card stock and pack of 50 of laminating sheets, which basically could be used up just on Fran's freebies this week!

If you aren't familiar with the Crayola Activity Center it's a great tool. Basically you slip a worksheet into a clear plastic sheet and insert it into the tablet. Then the child uses dry erase markers to do the activity and the worksheet can be used over and over. It is going to help cut down on my photocopies at home and it apparently is LOTS of fun and the kids both love to use it. One tip though, use Expo markers since they erase easier than the Crayola!

Yippe! New teaching materials to use with my kiddos this summer.

It's like Christmas....lots of free materials & books from my Mother Goose training.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Common Core Math Skills Checklist?

I am on the hunt to find a math skills checklist that is based on the Common Core Standards. I am hoping that someone in the Math Work Stations blog party has already created one, or knows the link for one.

I saw that Primary Graffit, in the Chapter 4 linky posts,  had a link to a document called "Mathmatics Concepts and Skills Checklists" (for grades K-5).  I would like to have a similar document based on the Common Core. The link she gave was:

Thanks in advance! And thanks for all the amazing freebies this week!

Math Vocab Cards

Being a part of the Math Work Stations Blog Party is amazing. I have read more blogs in the last two weeks than I have in last year.
The only problem is that there are SO many good resources that I am having to decided, "Is this worth printing?"
One resource that I found that is definitely worth printing is the Math Vocabulary Cards for grades  K-5 (see  link below). These are large enough that they could be used as a math word wall, but print two to a page so it wouldn't use too much card stock. I think the images are very clear & would help support an emergent reader.

Now to go order more ink!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Math Work Stations - getting started!

I've continued on my quest to implement Debbie Diller's "Math Work Stations" into my summer "Kinder Camp" at home. Getting started with this project is much different than planning for a classroom so some of the tasks for this chapter don't apply.

I can see the importance of a management board to keep a classroom full of kids on task and have enjoyed reading other's blogs to see how they are implementing them into their classroom. Here at our house it won't be necessary, but  I do plan to use a checklist to see which math work stations my son is using most often.

One idea from this week's reading that I really liked is to create 'anchor charts' WITH the children. This helps to reinforce what the kids are learning and serves as an on-going learning tool. I plan on using these regularly with my children. Thanks to Mrs. Parker for sharing a link on her blog that show wonderful examples of anchor charts:
I have started a list of supplies to buy and poster board will definitely be on there! And copious amounts of card stock, laminating pouches, & ink for all the great on-line printables!

I also plan on utilizing the math talk cards. It is so important to model math vocabulary and these will be a great tool. Another link that I discovered this week from reading the MWS Blog Party was one that had great math vocabulary cards that could be printed for free. Once on the site click, look under the listing,  Grade Level Vocabulary Cards, then click on the grade level of interest to you. There is K-5 available.

My big project for the week is going through my math paper files, cleaning out the old, and making room for the new. That whole PURGE step is hard. Knowing that there are so many better resources than worksheets has made it slightly easier.
I was hoping to post a link to my own Google Docs that had math labels formatted for file folders. I thought others would appreciate this if they too were cleaning out their filing cabinets but I am still a novice. {The dilemna: The document saved on the PC is formatted correctly and prints in the margins of an Avery label sheet, but when I upload to Google Docs the words are there but the formatting isn't. Hmmm...any thoughts my blogging Google Doc fanatic friends?}

Another area that I want to learn more about is the Common Core Standards and how to organize my materials around them. I hope others will post how they are using these in their teaching. Being a stay-at-home-mom I don't feel like I'm in the loop of current eduational trends, but I know that my state (Vermont) has adopted the Common Core and want to be knowledgeable about them!

All of this MWS blogging seems less of a party and rather hard work. I love professional learning and this group has given me a kick in pants to get in gear. Seeing what you all are doing this summer to improve your instruction is inspiring!

As a reward for all my hard work, I am taking a day off from being a SAHM and going to a full day math training. Saturday will be spent at a Mother Goose Cares about Math workshop! I'm so excited to chat about math with other primary teachers! And the hour drive there and back will give me some quiet think time!

Can't wait for our next installment....Beginning Number Concept! See you then!

Google Doc, perhaps?

I'm new to this whole blogging thing and I am learning through trial and error. Tonight my task was to figure out how to upload a Word Doc on my PC to Google Docs, make it a shared file, and then link it into a blog post.
If I did this correctly, when you click on my link should be a page with theme names that can be printed on labels.
Did it work?
If so, my next question is how can I link to the google Doc without the whole URL. Anyone know?

Monday, June 6, 2011

2D Shapes - Tot School

This week we have been exploring 2D shapes! My plan was to introduce shapes to my 2 year old as I reviewed some basic geometry concepts with my 5 year old. The plan worked beautifully, and my son really enjoyed the 'tot school' time and did much more of the 'teaching' than me!

Here is our shelf at the beginning of the week. We have lots of shape activities but I didn't want to overwhelm the little one with too many choices.

Trying to pull a button through a felt shape. We have squares and circles to sort and then put onto the "snake" ribbon. This idea came from one of my favorite blogs, Counting Coconuts! This is more than my daughter can do independently but it's great fine motor practice when we do it together.


We practiced "using basic shapes and spatial reasoning to build things and do puzzles". That sounds pretty fancy huh! These are great foam shapes from a Mother Goose training I went to a couple of years ago. My son asked for a certain shape for her to find. As she went searching for the shape, he continued to build. They worked so well together on the this project and when they were done we decided to keep it set up until Daddy could see it!

"We're going on a shape hunt"...we're going to catch a big one! Several times we went hunting for shapes and then matched the shapes to pictures in a book or to a puzzle. I was amazed at how quickly my daughter picked up the names of the basic shapes! And the way she says triangle is enough to melt your heart!

Even in the crib she was practicing trying to match shapes

Our shape exploration will continue next week. I will get out the 3D geometric solids and we will work on finding objects in the house that match them. We will go on a triangle walk in the woods to see how many naturally occurring triangles we can find. We will sort shapes into groups and continue to build interesting shape pictures with the foam shapes and will make some paper shapes to glue onto card stock. Hmmm....maybe even make our own shape book! 

Have any great shape ideas for us? I'd love to hear them!

Bean Sticks!

A bean stick is simply a popsicle stick with 10 beans glued to it! Easy right? I love frugal teaching tools!

I decided to use tongue depressors with lima beans that I had spray painted green. To attach the beans I used white Elmer's glue. Hot glue would likely make a stronger hold but I wanted to do this project WITH my son, not FOR him. So I opted for the white glue so he could make these independently.

We will be using the bean sticks for counting, place value, adding & subtracting. I will post activities as we do them!

Extra beans that are spray painted on just one side will also be used as counters. We've been using these this past year to play a fun game called "bean toss addition". I will try to track down the link from Heidi Songs that has printables to go with the game!

One great resource to go with your bean sticks is the "Count Your Beans" mat that Fran over at Kindergarten Crayons has posted. (In the last week I have spent countless hours reading her blog. I even had dreams one night I was in her classroom!)

This other blog post by Fran explains how to use the mat:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Math Work Stations~ at home!

This summer I will be reading, implementing & blogging about the book, "Math Work Stations: Independent Learning You Can Count on, K-2.

Since being a stay-at-home mom I truly miss being part of a professional learning community. I am SOOOO excited to be a part of the online 'blog party" for this book that is being hosted by Mrs. Wills!   Click this link for more info:

I am a licensed preschool teacher and reading specialist. Currently I work part-time at a nature preschool for 3-5 year olds in Vermont. I spend the rest of my time savoring every moment with my family: my wonderful husband (who's a middle school math teacher), 5 year old son (who loves to skip count and add really big numbers), and 2 year old daughter (who believes everything is 2, and that Elmo should be watched at all hours of the day).

My motivation in reading this book & blogging about it is to get fresh ideas for teaching math to my soon-to-be kindergartner. He loves math and has a great foundation. I know he is ready to soar and I'm ready to spend some time learning how to help him do just that. Years ago I read Debbie Diller's Literacy Work Stations book and loved her approach and ideas, so when I saw this online- group study I jumped at the chance!

I've recruited one of my son's friends and will be hosting a 'Kinder Camp' this summer. Once a week we will have a mini lesson in reading and math. I plan on using math work stations throughout the week to reinforce what we learn during 'camp'. To say my son is excited is an understatement. Every night since I told him about my plan he asks, "So when does that camp you're teaching start?"

Well enough background info, onto the book study questions for Chapter 1 & 2:

1. How do you (or will you) differentiate your math stations?

My 'classroom' is really my children's playroom. I have been reworking the set up in there so that it's still fun to play in, but functional when we are doing school work. I've spent the last few days sorting, purging, reorganizing materials into containers, and labelling everything.
As I set to work on this task, with just math materials in mind, I realized that I had procrastinated long enough on finishing the labeling of my leveled library and themed set of children's books. (Seriously, I started on this project five years ago and I told myself I couldn't go 'blog partying' until my old project was done!)
One of the most helpful tips from the Diller book is, "Stay put while you sort!" Several times I left the room to go put something away and while in the other part of the house I got involved in an unrelated task. Luckily I had some childcare this morning and I actually finished the book labeling~~~after 5 years of procrastination I got it done in about 2 hours!

Now that I got this task done I can allow myself to go 'blog partying'! Woohoo!

With 3 years difference between my 'students' I have some serious differentiation to do in my room. I like the idea of 'exploration stations' and plan on modeling for my 2 year old how to use the same materials that my son is using. He also enjoys being a teacher so he will get to re-learn something as he teaches her skills.

2. How and where do you keep your math stations?

Our math stations are going to be stored in our playroom. I plan on using numbered plastic totes that the kids can easily access. Since my two year old has to do everything that her brother does, I will be sure she has some of her own activities in similar totes. Unfortunately she is still very oral in her math explorations, and therefore I am extra vigilant not to have small pieces in her reach. This has been an on-going problem but my son knows to put things away as soon as he is finished with them and I also keep a close watch on her where abouts.

3. How do you keep your math materials organized.?

The Math Corner in our playroom has the materials that we are currently using. Extra materials are stored in another room so the space is less cluttered and there is less to clean up. 
I do have large tote, tucked way under the stairs, filled with math materials from when I taught first grade. I am itching to get it out, but I wanted to get the math corner established first before I take on this daunting task!

One of my other 'off task' projects was to reorganize & label our building materials! Who knew I'd get so much done during this book study!

Now I'm off to read the next chapter about getting started implementing the Math Work Stations!

Oh and thanks to Mrs. Wills for the freebie math materials labels. You might want to click on the link above to find them for yourself! Now Mrs. Wills said, "Don't forget to grab my button to add into your post." but I have no idea how to do that!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Welcome to Primary Learning Logs!

Hello and welcome to "Primary Learning Logs"!

I decided to start a blog space to reflect on all the wonderful projects and learning experiences that I create with my children. This summer will be filled with time in the garden, swimming in lakes, hikes on our local trails, playing in the backyard and finding quiet moments to read aloud to the kids....all perfect opportunities for teaching and learning along side my 5 year old son and 2 year old daughter!

Over the last year I have enjoyed reading a variety of home school blogs. I found out that reading homeschoolers blogs gave me a bad case of "blog-envy", so I have now created a space to blog to my hearts content!

Currenly I have one other blog,, which journals my escapades in nature with my own kids. "Primary Learning Logs" on the other hand will highlight more of the academic work we do.Though our children will attend public school, we believe strongly that education is a partnership between the school and home. Many of my posts will focus on kindergarten level activites but I also have been inspired to start regular 'tot school' posts that highlight all the wonderful learning my two year is experiencing!