I love September for many reasons, but one very important one is I love the part of the year that is focused on the establishing of community, friendships, and exploring how we will learn together. After being a math coach at my school for several years, I returned to a classroom position this year as a kindergarten teacher. I have missed the creating of community and routines, and just three days into the school year I am in love with my class and remembering how powerful it is to build a new community from scratch with kids.
My kindergarteners begin and end their day with Explore (which I also wrote about here and here). Even in our math workshop has many of elements of Explore during this part of the year. We focus on working together, communicating with one another, and figuring out how we can investigate our questions.
Today I got the chance to have an impromptu math exchange with a few of my new friends as they played with some interlocking elephant toys.
“Look at all those elephants you have lined up!” I said as I sat down on the floor with my kids.
“It’s like a hundred of them!” yelled Sebastian.
“Is it?” I asked. “How could we check?” Just introducing this kind of “Really? How do you know?” question can push children in their thinking in a low-risk kind of way. I’m not insisting they do something, not assigning a project. I’m just being curious and encouraging them to be curious as well.
Luna, who was working alongside Sebastian, started counting the elephants right away. Her one to one correspondence wasn’t perfect so I encouraged her to slow down and point to each elephant, counting with her and guiding her fingers at time. Sebastian counted along with us, watching our pointing. After about twenty they no longer knew the names of the numbers, but I supported them in their counting. The task was beyond their counting ability, but when I helped them they joined in some with the sing-songyness of the counting. And more importantly, they understood the concept that we were approaching a large number.
“70! We have 70 elephants! And that’s not even a hundred!” they declared.
“Should we make a sign telling people that?” I asked. They were beyond thrilled as we got a sticky note and I helped them find seventy on a number grid in order to record it.
I know they’ll be back to those elephants tomorrow. They have important projects of their own to investigate. Questions to investigate (How many elephants will fit on the tape we use to line up on?) Planned math exchanges are very important, but in September, my focus is on building a community of mathematicians and creating strong routines. Nevertheless, I’m still having math exchanges everyday, all day. I’m finding ways to push their thinking as we learn to work and learn together.
How are you introducing informal math exchanges into your beginning of the year routine?