“Hey friends!” I begin. “Today you are going to get your very own apple to weigh, measure, and cut up, even! (Well, I’ll cut it up, but you get to get the seeds). We’ve talked about that star in the middle of apples. Today, we will SEE them!”
“This apple exploring will show us parts of apples, but it will also help us practice our numbers, because we will be filling out our “All About My Apple” pages and writing down all this great information.
Let’s go over what we will be doing.
I model what students will be doing in each of 4 “stations” for this activity.
I demonstrate how to use a balance scale, and we go over what it looks like when the scale is balanced, and how the blocks on the one side show how much the apple on the other side weighs. (I used really huge, old blocks so that we could practice writing numbers below 10. I intentionally wanted to keep the number low.)
“I’m going to write the number of blocks right here,” I demonstrate.
Over at the circumference table, I ask my goofy questions that I love so much. “We need to find out how big around this apple is. The big word for that is circumference! Let’s all practice saying circumference right now. Circumference!” we say together.
“Okay,” I continue. “Let’s wrap those unifix cubes right around my apple!”
Their little faces look concerned, confused even… “Um, Ms. Novelli,” a kid tells me, “The cubes can’t bend like that.” “Unless you have some bendy cubes!” another kiddo interjects.
“I don’t have bendy unifix cubes!” I announce with feigned concern. “What am I going to do? I need to use these straight, non-bending unifix cubes to measure around—the circumference, you know. Hmm… maybe I can use this bendable yarn here!”
I wrap the yarn around the apple, having a buddy hold the end steady on my apple, and noting that they should help each other out just like my friend is helping me.
Then I cut the yarn and show them how to straighten it out and put it right next to a row of unifix cubes. “I have to start measuring right at the end of the cubes,” I note, “and I stop counting the unifix cubes when my string ends. Let’s practice.”
I model using a row of unifix cubes like a ruler, where to start and where to end measuring, and I ask a few friends to demonstrate, as well. I ask 3 types of kids in particular: the diligent, careful little listener, the kiddo who rushes and makes careless mistakes, and the little kiddo who is trying not to listen to directions at all. We work together—with suggestions from students who weren’t selected to help demonstrate—until all 3 kids have modeled the measuring process as well.
I staple my string to the top of my paper and show where to write the number on the paper. (Even with the small, cheap apples that come in the bargain bags at the store, this number tends to be around 10… larger than I’d like, but it’s so fun to introduce circumference!)
Finally, we move to the seed counting table. (Each of these activities is stationed at a different table in the classroom.) I explain that this one has to be very last, because it’s hard to measure the circumference around an apple that’s been cut in half!
“Now, cutting open an apple is a big person job. I will cut it open, but you will get to have the fun stuff after that. Ready?!” I ask.
I cut the apple a little below where I measured the circumference, with the stem on the side. (If you cut it with the stem up, you won’t get to see the star in the middle of the apple.) I present the middle of the apple, and the kids say, “The star!”
Then, quickly, I take a couple of “digs” in the seed areas with the tip of my paring knife, but I pass it to a student, who has a plastic knife for digging around for seeds. The student pulls out the seeds, and we all count them together.
“That number goes right here,” I explain while writing the number on the page.
We walk to our last table, and I announce, “You get to choose how you draw your apple! You can draw the outside of your apple, or you can draw the star in the center, or however you want to remember your apple!”
Now, it’s good to have helpers for this activity. Volunteers are the best for jobs like this! I had my pre-service teaching student from the local university come help this morning, and I would ask for another volunteer or two if I had the option. Ideally, an adult for every activity works best.
The kids work in small groups and move from activity to activity. They have so much fun staying busy and exploring their apples. They’re getting good number writing practice, as well, but they hardly notice, because they are using numbers in their work!
As the students finish, I call us over to our meeting spot, and I have a few students show their pages. It’s fun to go over the different pictures, and then we talk numbers.
“So how much did the apples weigh?” Virtually every apple weighed 4 big blocks, but I call on a few friends to repeat “4.”
“Hmm… how big was the circumference?” Those tend to be 10, which we briefly discuss as a big number that we haven’t studied yet. I stress the importance of working with our friends, and I thank our friends who knew 10 and helped us at that job.
“Now—about those seeds! The other numbers were kind of the same, but let’s talk about seeds!” Students share a variety of numbers—all from 1 up to 12, with most numbers around 5, (which was my plan, of course!). It’s fun to go over the differences in numbers.
“So, we used what we know to measure and find out all about our apples. How did we measure again?” I ask. Students definitely recall the circumference, but they need a little prompting for the weight.
“How did we measure the weight of the apples?”
Students then remember the scale, and we note that we weighed the apples to measure their weight.
“What was your favorite part of our apple math today?” I ask. It’s fun hearing all the responses, everything from using the balance scale to working with a partner to measure around, (“the circumference?” I ask, trying not to be obnoxious, but I just love to highlight vocabulary!), to digging out seeds. One little guy notes, “My mom never lets me use a knife.” Another kiddo announced, “I’m planting my seeds!”