Inside a kindergarten classroom with Augustana students

Acuity Test Prep

This week was a little crazy and as a result we only got to work with Mrs. Peterson’s class. In preparation for their upcoming acuity tests, we decided to work with her students on a practice acuity test. The test has fifteen questions and covered topics such as comparing numbers, the number sequence, shape identification, and counting objects. For the most part, the children did well on the assessments and were able to answer the questions correctly. The problems that I saw had a lot to do with how the questions were worded and the vocabulary that they used. For example, on the questions that asked the students to compare numbers, the test creators used the words less and greater when the students have grown accustomed to the words bigger and smaller. In future instruction I will be sure to use the words lesser and greater so they begin to learn the academic language that they will encounter on tests and in future classrooms. Another aspect of the test that they struggled with was the shape identification question. The question had a picture of the house and asked the students to identify what the shape of the top of the house was. Several of the students could tell me that the shape was a triangle, but they were unable to read and find the word triangle in the answer bank. It was frustrating to see students getting the question wrong, just because they didn’t know how to identify the word triangle. The final problem that I encountered was the last question on the test. The problem said that David had seven roses in his garden and then planted one more. The students were asked to indicate how many roses David has in all. Along with the word problem, the question had a picture of seven roses. A lot of the students got this problem wrong because they were used to being asked questions that ask them to count the objects, so instead of listening to the problem, they were simply counting the roses and stating the answer was seven. If I covered the picture of the roses I found that the students were able to get the correct answer. The visual did not in any way aid the students in answering the problem correctly.
With finals and spring break approaching, it will be a few weeks until we meet with the students again. We are all hoping that they will use the flashcards that we have provided them to continue practicing their numbers.

Assessing Assessments

This week proved to be an unexpected one which came equipped with picture day and substitutes, so we only had the chance to work on math with Mrs. Peterson’s class on Tuesday. During the previous Thursday with Mrs. Carmack’s students, however, we had worked with the students to practice their math assessments they would be taking for the end of the kindergarten trimester. We hadn’t ended up video-taping any of the students while they took the assessment, but after having gone through it with numerous kids we realized that we had a few questions and concerns regarding the assessment itself. After our weekly meeting, we decided to go in to Mrs. Peterson’s class on Tuesday and work with her students on the same practice assessment, this time getting some good video footage.

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100′s Day Joy and Assessment Frustration

This week in Mrs. Peterson’s class we celebrated 100′s day with the students. For the number sense time we worked with the students on making their 100′s day fruit loop necklaces. Each student was asked to put on ten sets of ten fruit loops of alternating colors. It was interesting to see how different students addressed this task. Some students needed/wanted to count each individual fruit loop. While others wanted the process to move along quicker and wanted to go by twos or count out ten fruit loops and try to place them all on at once. There was a wide range of student ability in this one simple task. Some students did not understand the concept of groups of ten and how to count by tens, while others grasped the idea quickly. I can say that i do not want to see any fruit loops for a while:)
On Thursday we helped Mrs. Carmack give her students a practice assessment. This was a standardized test that offered little room for assistance without telling the students the answer. There were some errors by students due to the fact that they could not read the written answers. There were also some visuals that added to the confusion and resulted in errors. After assessing the students we talked with Mrs. Carmack and she agreed that some of the questions were not at the correct level for the students and would possibly give a distorted view of the student’s ability. After seeing this behavior I have seen how my research topic of the best assessment type for kindergarteners can start to take shape in the classrooms. I am excited to see what I can find from my research. As well as what I can learn from the rest of this experience.

And the cold presses on..

This week was yet another shortened one due to the cold weather. It actually ended up balancing things out, though, because this week the snow day fell on Tuesday so we got to work with the students in Mrs. Carmack’s room this week. Since this group of students has all demonstrated an understanding of addition as putting two quantities together in previous lessons, and have all been able to identify which two numbers they are to add when given an addition statement, I chose to work on addition with missing addends this week. I had different missing addend problems for numbers 1-5 written on popsicle sticks for the students to draw from a pile and solve. I chose numbers 1-5 since fluently adding within 5 is one of the objectives on the kindergarten report card. The majority of the students were able to solve for the missing addend, occasionally with the help of two color counters but some students also automatically answered a few of the problems. One student in particular had just moved up from the middle group during the last lesson, and he was the only student of the one’s participating in the activity to correctly solve for all of the missing addends on the first try without manipulatives. One student who had demonstrated memorization of the a few basic facts, 2+2=4 being one example, struggled to understand the missing addend. We used manipulatives on each of her turns to help her visualize the problem. Her biggest issue seemed to be that her familiarity with adding two numbers together was causing her to want to add the addend with the total instead of finding the other addend that would help solve for the total. After completing the missing addend activity, however, we worked on an addition and subtraction story problem app and she was able to solve many addition problems without the use of manipulatives. Something I found very interesting while working on missing addends was the concept of zero. The majority of students seemed to struggle with this. I was impressed though that after talking through the problem 5+ ?=5, one student in particular applied what we had discovered about adding zero to her next problem, which was 3+?=3.
The second activity we did was the story problem app. Two students I had in my final group did not work on missing addends and simply focused on story problems. The app asked various basic addition and subtraction story problems, and then provided a number line, ten frames, and a spot for drawing pictures as strategies for solving the problems. Some of the students were able to immediately answer subtraction story problems when 1 was taken away, which shows that their concept of subtraction is developing or developed. The student who had answered all of his missing addend problems also immediately answered a subtraction problem where 0 was taken away, which I found particularly interesting after all the questions adding 0 had brought up during the previous activity.
That’s all for this week, though!

Cold, Cold, Go Away

Once again, Longfellow had a shortened week this past week due to the cold, so we were only able to work with Mrs. Carmack’s class. Since I didn’t have the chance to work with those students the previous week, I repeated the same counting on activity that I had completed with Mrs. Peterson’s class the week before.
The students have been working on addition during their daily math work and it was evident when everyone in my group was able to read an addition sentence. Even though everyone could tell me what the addition sentence was I don’t think they necessarily knew what they were saying meant. For example, one of the students read me the addition sentence and when I asked him what to do next he said he didn’t know. With assistance this student was able to solve the addition problem, but he needed to be guided through each step. The biggest struggle that I experienced with this group of students was getting them to realize that the addition sentence that they are reading is telling them which two numbers they are supposed to combine. When I was working with the same student that I mentioned previously, we had the problem 3+4. First I instructed him to count me three two-colored counters. After he did that, I asked him what number we had to add to the three and he said he didn’t know. With a couple of these students I need to continue to work on establishing the meaning behind the addition sentence that they are saying.
Something else I noticed this week is that some of the students were struggling to compare numbers. For example, one of the addition problems was 5+3 and when I asked the student which of the numbers was bigger she said three. When I asked her how she knew that she said, “cause it just is.” To examine her claim I had her count me a pile of three counters and then a pile of five counters. When she finished I took the pile of five and gave her the pile of three and then asked her the same question. This time, with the addition of the visual element, the student was able to identify that 5 is in fact bigger than 3. I had several similar instances with students in my group, so I will continue to focus on comparing numbers with and without the use of manipulatives.

Making Strides Towards Counting On

This past week, we only had a chance to work with Mrs. Peterson’s class due to the cold weather that caused school to close on Thursday. The activity that I completed with the kids involved a worksheet that focused on comparing numbers and solving introductory addition. The students were given an addition sentence and once they read the sentence out loud then I would ask them to tell me which of the two numbers was bigger. The worksheet had hot cocoa mugs underneath each of the problems and when students determined the bigger number they were instructed to write that number in the mug and then count a corresponding number of two-colored counters to symbolize the other number in the sentence. Then as a group we would count up from the larger number that they had identified until we had as many fingers up as we had two-colored counters. I told the students that whichever numbered we stopped on would be our answer.
Something that really struck me this week was the students’ ability to compare numbers and the variety of strategies that students employed to find their answers. For some students I had to draw a number line in order for then to compare numbers, while some students were advanced enough to be able to use benchmarks and some would utilize two-colored counters to find their answer. One boy from this class was also able to use his knowledge of the number sequence to compare numbers. The addition sentence was 3+6 and when I asked him which of the numbers was larger he said six. When I asked him how he knew this he started reciting his number sequence for me starting at one. After he said the number six he said, “See six came after three.” This explanation indicates to me that this student has some sort of understanding or has knowledge of the rule that the numbers later in the sequence are larger.
Another incidence that pleasantly surprised me was how quickly students were catching on to addition facts involving adding zero or one. Several students were able to look at the problems and tell me the answer without having to use counters or the number line. When I asked a student why 2+0=2 she told me, “Miss Jackie, zero means nothing so my number isn’t going to change.” For the problem 4+1, I had a student tell me that the answer had to be five because “plus one means it’s just one more bigger.”
I’m very pleased with the progress that I have been seeing with my students and I think a lot of them, at a surface level, are really starting to understand the concept of addition!

Interesting Observations

This week was a shortened week due to the freezing winter and school being cancelled on Thursday. On Tuesday, however, we did get to go in and work with the kindergartners. This week the two objectives I wanted to work on were demonstrating addition as putting together and comparing #’s. For some of the students in my group who have had a lot of work with addition and were becoming fluent with their facts 1-5, I chose to work on story problems involving addition and subtraction with them instead of the activity that dealt with comparing numbers.
The first small group I worked with on Tuesday consisted of just two students. In order to work on addition, we used dice and the students had to roll and add. They had to figure the total, but also were asked to write the addition statement down on their whiteboards. The students in the first group had difficulty identifying which two numbers to write down as an addition statement in the beginning, but were able to identify the two quantities after a few turns. I had planned to use the roll and add activity to model counting on, but for some of the students, such as those in the first group, I decided not to introduce this next concept until they had more work with addition as putting two quantities together and were consistently able to identify the two quantities they were adding. One of the students, however, expressed timidly that her dad had told her that she didn’t have to add both numbers together and she could just count one, which I took as her having been exposed to the idea of counting on. I asked her to show me what her dad had taught her, but she was not able to show what her dad had said or she was not comfortable enough to show us. These observations support some of the research we have started reading that discuss the stages kids move through as they develop their concept of addition, especially in regards to counting on. The next activity we did was another game of bingo, further continuing to expose the students to the numbers 11-30. This time I placed two number cards in the middle of the table and the students were told to place a counter on their bingo card on the number that was either more or less than the other number.
For the group that was closer to being fluent in basic addition, counting on during the roll and add game caught on immediately. None of the students appeared to use it as a strategy for problems they did not know at first, but after modeling they all chose that strategy on their second try. During the word problem app, I observed one student using the strategy of counting back in order to solve subtraction. He would automatically go to the biggest number on the number line at the bottom of the screen and knew to count back the number of spaces he was subtracting in order to find the answer.
I was very excited to witness the different stages in understanding counting on, and hope to carefully observe how and when these students “move out” of one stage and into the next.

Back in the Swing of Things

This week was exciting because I have narrowed my research focus and so I had a chance to see what the kindergarteners knew in regards to addition and counting up. The activity that I completed with both classes this week was an introduction to addition, incorporating two colored counter manipulatives to aid in the process. To keep the students engaged, I took them in groups of two. In order to assist students that may struggle and to challenge students who have demonstrated previous knowledge of addition, I differentiated the groups so that pairs were at similar ability levels. In order to complete the activity, each student would pick a card from the deck that contained cards with a value ranging from two to ten. Following their selection of a card, the students would then count a corresponding number of two colored counters. Once both students had gotten this far, they would push all of the counters to the middle as a visual representation of combining two numbers. Finally, they would count the total numbers of pieces in the middle to find out the sum of the two numbers they had selected. Besides for addition, I also asked the students to compare numbers this week. After the students selected their cards from the deck I would ask them which number was larger and I would also ask them to explain how they knew the answer they gave me was true.
Since the kindergarteners have had limited exposure to addition, I did not anticipate that any of them would be able to demonstrate the ability to count on. During my work with Mrs. Peterson’s class I was gladly proven wrong! I was working with a pair of two girls and they were catching on very quickly to the activity that I had planned. When adding the two numbers together I noticed that one of the girls in the pair did not even have to count the total number of pieces to give me the sum. When I asked her how she was solving the addition problem she told me that she started at one of the numbers and then counted until she had the other number counted on her fingers. For example, when presented with 8+7 the student would start at 8, and when you asked her why she started at eight she said it was because it was the bigger number, then she would count up from eight until she had seven fingers up. I was completely shocked and pleased with this student’s ability to add and to count up. When I asked her how she learned to do that she told me that her older brother taught her how to do that at home. Another amazing thing that happened while I was working with that pair was their ability to compare numbers. When I asked the pair if nine or five was bigger, the same student who can count on said, “Nine is bigger because it’s closer to ten than five is.” Not only can this student count on, but she also uses benchmarks when asked to compare numbers.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the information that I was able to gather this week and I’m also very excited to find and utilize strategies that will help the other students be able to learn to add and to count on.

Back at It

This week was our first week back in the classroom after winter break. As spring break approaches, we are just starting to formulate some questions that we’re interested in researching. During my time with the kindergartners, I’ve been really interested in observing the students when they add two quantities together, and how they often have to count up both quantities to find their total, and occasionally will go back and re-count both quantities of objects if they forget their total. On the other hand, right before break I did an activity where the students were given a number on a sticky note and they had to place it on a piece of paper with a number that was two more than or two less than their sticky note number. In this situation, when the students were given a number such as 13 and asked to find the number that was two more than 13, they either went to the number line and counted up two numbers, or they simply counted up from 13 instead of starting at 1 and counting 13 and two more.
In both classrooms this week I decided to incorporate counting up into the activities we did. I also have a handful of students who still need work with numeral identification for numbers 10-30, so I wanted to find a way to incorporate that into their activities as well. One of the objectives on the students’ report cards is “decomposes numbers less than or equal to 10,” so the first activity we did was play the 10 Frame Fill iPad app. Although my main objective with playing this game was for the students to work on decomposing numbers, I also wanted to start introducing the strategy of counting on. In this app, a number of blue counters appears in a 10-frame and the students then have to identify how many more they need to make 10. Before the students went to identify how many more counters were needed, I had them verbally state how many blue counters were in the 10-frame. Before we had started the game, we had talked as a group about how many spaces were in the top row of the 10-frame. We discussed the fact that if our whole top row was filled with counters, we would automatically know that there were 5 blue counters there. At first, most of the students had to count each blue counter one-by-one if there were more than 5 counters in the frame. After they had finished counting on their own, I asked if they would like to see a quicker way to count the blue counters. I then pointed to the first row, and asked how many counters we had decided were in this row. When they said five, I then showed them how I could start by saying 5 and point to the first row, and then count up from 5 one-by-one for the counters in the bottom row. During this activity, there were a few students who could automatically identify the number of blue counters right off the bat before discussing counting on with me, and one student, “L,” stated that she knew how many blue counters there were because there were 5 in the top row and 3 in the bottom. Most of the other students, however, continued to count by ones unless prompted to do differently.
For my last activity, we played bingo to work on both counting on and numeral recognition from 10-30. For a small group of students we simply played bingo without focusing on counting on because they needed the most work just in identifying numbers. For the rest of the students, however, we played addition bingo. First, we all counted together as I placed 10 counters in a plastic bag. I chose to use the anchor number 10 so that the students could subconsciously start thinking about teen numbers as 10 and some ones. I then placed the plastic bag in the middle of the table and placed a certain number of counters next to the bag. I would then say that we needed to figure out “10+x” and mark that space on our bingo boards. The first time, I modeled the way I would count up from 10 to solve the addition problem. There were 4 students out of both classes that were doing the “10+x” addition problems on their own without having to count, but for the other students I saw them using the strategy of counting on from 10. A few students needed additional prompting after we did the first problem together, but many automatically counted on from 10 without any additional prompting. In one case, after 15 had been the total to one problem, I placed two more counters out on the table and had them add 10+7, and one student, “A,” said that she knew the answer was 17 because “15, 16, 17.” I hope to work more with counting on in future weeks. I would like to put the students in different situations to see if they continue to use the strategy of counting on and if they know which number they should count on from. For example, this week the fact that 10 counters were in a bag prevented them from counting out those 10. Next week, I hope to do an activity where students could count out the entire quantity if they wanted so that I can see if they still choose to count on. This week, the students were also told to count on from 10, but I plan to work more with them so that they can identify on which number they should count on from in different addition problems involving a variety of numbers.
But, for now, that is all!

New Year, New Adventures, and New Understandings

This was our first week back with the kindergarteners since winter break, and as usual there were some unexpected occurrences. This week my focus was to see which students are able to correctly identify numerals one through ten. To gain this information I used flash cards with the written numeral on one side and that same quantity of dots on the other. Out of the fourteen students that I worked with there were four students who were able to identify all, and seven students who made three or less mistakes! This is exciting for this group of students who at the start of Number Sense were not this far in their number identification and were in the ‘need/significant need’ group. Before break there were a few students who were able to write numbers but not identify numbers that they had written. This was very interesting to me and was going to be the focus of my research. Well, I was proven wrong…in a good way! :) All of the students who demonstrated this thinking when asked this week were able to identify all of the numbers they had written. Santa must have brought some number sense to these students along with all the goodies under the tree. One of my students was able to identify and write numbers from 1-19! at the start of the year when I worked with her through math methods she was struggling to know the numbers 1-10. There are still a few students who are struggling to learn and understand which numbers are which. Jackie, Jessica, and myself have decided to make number flash cards to send home in hopes of giving students that extra time to work on their number skills. I am excited to see if the students who do not know their numbers will come back after working at home with a new understanding. Only time will tell!