The First Day of Kindergarten - Scary and Strange? More or Less!

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Students will be able to sort pictures that are alike.

Big Idea

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn is a beautiful story about starting school and facing separation. Images from the story can also be used to create a simple math sorting and graphing activity that is perfect for the first day of school!


5 minutes

Prior to teaching this lesson, I printed out the “Kissing Hand” Graph from  I make additional copies of the pictures at the bottom of the graph to use as sorting cards.  I put the graph and the sorting cards through my school’s poster maker to make them larger and laminated all of the pieces so that they were more durable and could be reused.

I teach this lesson after a literacy lesson on The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.  I read the story during our literacy block and follow it up with a writing activity about how students feel on their first day of school.  

To begin the math lesson later in the day, I gather the students on the rug.  I have the students sit on the edge of the rug.  Since our rug is small, I tell the students to sit with their bottoms on the wood floor.  When their legs are criss crossed, only their knees and feet should be on the carpet.  We sit like this during math lessons when we are doing an activity on the floor so that everyone can see.  I start by reviewing what the story was about using the picture cards.  First I show the picture of the raccoon and ask students, “Who is this?”  Answers could include:  the raccoon, Chester or Chester’s mother.  I then show the picture of the hand.  I ask, “What does a hand have to do with the story?”  Answers could include:  Chester’s mother kissed his hand, Chester kissed his mother’s hand, or the story is called The Kissing Hand.  I then show the picture of the lips and ask,“Why do I have a picture of lips?”  Answers could include anything about lips being related to the kiss.  Lastly, I show the picture of the heart.  I ask, “What does this heart represent?”  Answers could include: Chester’s love, Chester’s mother's love or just love.  I tell students that each of them is going to get a picture to look at.  As I reach out to hand the students the pictures, I drop them into the middle of the circle of children and say, “Oh no!  My pictures got all mixed up.  I am going to need some helpers to help me sort them so that we can finish the activity.”

Presentation of Lesson

20 minutes

I say to the students, "To sort the pictures, we need to find the ones that are alike.  Alike means the same."  I pick up a raccoon card and a heart card.  I ask the students, “Are these cards alike?”  Some students may say yes.  If so, I reiterate that alike means the same.  I say, "These cards are not the same so they are not alike."  I call on a student to come up and pick a card that is the same as the raccoon card.  I continue until all of the raccoon cards are sorted into a pile.  I ask another student to come and find a card that is the same as the raccoon card.  If the student picks up a different card.  I ask, "Does that picture look like the raccoon?  No, so they are not alike."  I then ask, “Are there anymore cards that are like the raccoon card?”  When the student says no, I have him pick another type of card to sort.  I continue having students come to the middle until all of the cards are sorted into four piles.   

Next I introduce the graph.  I hang the graph on the board and have the students with their backs to it turn around so that they can see.  "Now we are going to put our picture cards up on this graph.  It will be easy to do since we already sorted them!  The graph will help us see which picture we have more of and which picture we have less of."  I show the students how to tape up a picture card starting at the bottom of the graph.  I give each student a picture with a tape donut on the back to add to the graph.  When the graph is finished, I ask, “Which picture do we have more of?  The group that has more has a lot.”  The graph will vary depending on how many of each picture you decide to use.  In my class this year, we had more hearts.  Next I ask, “Which picture do we have less of?  The group that has less has only a little bit."  In my class this year, we had less lips.  At this point we are just introducing the words more and less, which will come back later in the unit.

By this time the students will need to get up and stretch.  Before having students move back to their seats for practice, we do a movement.    We did Wiggle Willy by Dr. Jean. This song is on the album Better Bodies and Brains which you can download here.


15 minutes

I tell students, "Now you will have a chance to do some sorting of your own."  I show students plastic trays filled with pattern blocks, and say, "You can sort the pattern blocks just like we sorted The Kissing Hand pictures.  You need to group the blocks that are alike."   

I introduce manipulatives in trays during the first week since they will be used for math centers throughout the year.  I like to use pattern blocks for this first sorting activity since they are different shapes and colors, but the students can create groups of pieces that look exactly the same.  I discuss the rules for group work.  I model following and not following each rule.  These rules will be adjusted slightly to become the rules for math centers later in the month.

Share the materials in the tray.
Materials are to be pulled out as needed. (The tray does not need to be dumped out.)
Talk in quiet voices. 

I remind students that when the clean up song comes on, they need to put all of their materials back into the tray and put their heads down.  We practice this throughout the day whenever it is time to clean up.  Having a consist clean up routine helps shorten the amount of time it takes to clean up.  I have students return to their seats and give each table a tray of pattern blocks.  I circulate throughout the room to ensure that students are sorting.  I continue these beginning of the year sorting activities as long as students remain interested and engaged.  If students are working well, this time could be used to pull one or two students aside for any beginning of the year baseline assessments that need to be completed.  To clean up, I turn on the clean up song.  I use Dr. Jean’s Tidy Up.  This song is on the album All Day Long with Dr. Jean

There are many wonderful transition songs to be found, for free, online if you'd like to use music for transitions too.


5 minutes