“It’s Tuesday, All-About-the-Number-Day!” I announce with extra enthusiasm.
“You have already learned some numbers. Who would like to write one number that we know on the white board?” I ask.
I pass a white board marker to a student, who writes a 1.
Another student gets the marker, who writes a 2 or a 3. (Numbers may be backwards, but the goal is to get the numbers, 0, 1, 2, and 3 written down.)
“Yes! We have learned 0, 1, 2, and 3! Who knows what comes next?!”
Usually I discourage students blurting out, but this is one of those moments when it’s totally okay if they all yell, “4!”
“Let’s talk about how to make a 4,” I say. “Here’s our poem to help us remember how to make it.
“Down—across—and down some more. That’s the way to make a 4,” I say as I write a large 4 on the white board.
“Let’s practice together: Get our your magic white board fingers. Remember to start up high. Down—across—and down some more. That’s the way to make a 4,” I say, as I model writing 4 backwards in the air.
We practice a few times, reciting the number-writing poem each time, with all of us writing our invisible 4’s in the air. I ask a couple friends to write their 4’s on the white board, as well.
“Let’s get practicing!” I announce.
At the “teacher table,” we work on the All About the Number 4 Practice page together, focusing on proper formation and matching the quantity 4. We go through each portion of the practice together.
Of course, we also need independent practice opportunities, so one station is the free play dough practice mats, this time for number 4. Variety is the spice of life, so even though we have worked with play dough number practice before, I bring in the novel concept of creating numbers with Wikki Stix. Then, after there’s a 4 on the mat, I create 4 small play dough cubes to put in the 10-frame portion of the mat. (Before we go to this activity, I make sure to model it clearly for the class.)
Bumpy Boards is another independent practice station. We have practiced tracing on Bumpy Boards since back at number 1, so this activity is very familiar. Students use plastic needlepoint forms from a craft store to place under their papers to create a bumpy texture and effect. (It's also possible to make bumpy boards using squares of masonite, screening, and duct tape to tape the screen onto the middle of the boards. I have both in my class, but the needlepoint forms come ready to use!) The stipulation this time is that students need 4 colors traced on each 4.
Finally, the 10-frame quantity mats with labels is located on the floor. This activity, though familiar, really begins to take off this week, as I introduce 2-sided counters.
I model building 4 on the 10-frames and labeling each mat with a number 4, but just before I get ready to send the work groups to their first stations, I mention that the counters have 2 sides, and that students who finish early can find different ways to “make” 4 on each mat. I quickly glance at my 3 fastest finishers, and leave my suggestion at that, ever hopeful, but not too dependent on a perfectly executed extension activity.
We work at each “job” for roughly 10 minutes, with the All About the Number table setting the pace. (I know that one of my heterogeneous groups has a mix of slightly slower paced students than others, so I anticipate that at least 1 work period will extend to 12 minutes.) We rotate through these activities, a total of 4 in all.
My personal ADHD comes in handy this afternoon, as I’m working mainly with the All About the Number kiddos, but I’m watching the 2 independent tables with encouragement or knowing “mom looks” as needed, to keep kiddos on track. I am lucky to have my student teacher helping with the kids on the floor with their 10-frames, but I am so excited about seeing a student or two actually extend the activity to decomposing numbers that I keep glancing over there, as well! What a busy, fast-paced 42 minutes!
At the end of our very intense math session, we meet for just a few minutes. We are exhausted—teachers included!
I ask about our changes, like the Wikki Stix, and I will use the feedback from the students to help make decisions for next week.
Next, we talk about 2-colored counters on the 10 frame labeling activity. The few students who took the activity to a higher level and actually decomposed 4 talked about the fun of showing 4 in different ways. We are also quick to say that it is 100% okay to show 4 without “mixing it up,” as one student notes.
I ask how students felt writing 4, and they are surprisingly confident. Mission accomplished!