“Girls and boys, we are about to start something really amazing,” I say, with as much anticipation and excitement as I can muster. “We are going to become experts about numbers, and we are starting TODAY!”
“What’s the first number we say when we count?” I ask.
I call on students who say, “1.”
“Yes. Let’s all hold up 1 finger!” I suggest.
“Yes!” I affirm. “Now, when we write 1, we say a little poem that goes like this.”
“One is fun. BOOP!” I say as I write a large 1 on the white board. I stress that 1, like most numbers and letters, starts up high and moves down as it is formed.
“Let’s practice with our invisible white boards in the sky. We will use our magic writing fingers to make some awesome 1’s. Ready?” I ask, looking into the sea of confused students.
“Put your magic writing fingers up, now… I can’t see your writing if you’re not making your numbers on your invisible white boards,” I remind them. Someone whispers, “She’s pretending, guys!”
We practice writing our invisible 1’s in the air. I model, writing an exaggerated 1 in the air, with students writing their 1’s at the same time. We smile as we “erase” our numbers by waving our hands in the air and saying “Erase-erase-erase!”
I ask a couple friends to write their 1’s on the white board, as well.
“We will practice writing 1’s, making groups of 1’s, and labeling our groups.! Let’s get this number learning started!” I announce.
To provide a conceptual foundation for the number 1, we have an All About 1 page that we work on together at a teacher table—or a table where a teacher is seated and works with one small group of students at a time. We do each portion of the page together. Students may choose their own colors and pictures to draw, for instance, but we work on each section together. It encourages the speedy little guys to slow down, and it facilitates conversations about the number and why we’re doing what we’re doing.
We also need independent practice opportunities, so one station utilizes play dough practice mats that one of my team mates found free on Pinterest. These are great because they pair the number with a ten frame, so students are really working the standards and showing numbers relating to quantities. We roll the play dough into snakes and place it over the 1 printed on the play dough mat. Next, we roll one small ball to fit in the upper left corner of the 10 frame. I tell them they can show 2 friends when they are finished making their number 1 and the 1 for their 10 frame, and then they can make 1 thing they would really like to make with their play dough.
Bumpy Boards is another independent practice station. Students use plastic needlepoint forms (found at 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! We talk about putting our papers on top of the bumpy boards to get the fun texture and then tracing over each 1.
If students get done early, I tell them they can “rainbow write” their 1’s, and I model going over each 1 with multiple colors. (I let them know that as they get more practice with Bumpy Boards, they will have to put more than one color on them, so it’s good to practice.)
All of these activities are hands-on, but one activity is actually down on the floor in our “meeting spot.” I demonstrate how each of us will get a set of 10 frame mats and spread them out in our own space.
I show how we start in the upper left-hand corner, underneath the words “10 Frame Practice,” and I place exactly 1 counter on each mat.
Then I get a small white (1-1/2” X 1-1/2” square) of cut scrap paper to write a label for each mat. I model saying our number-writing poem as I write, “1 is fun. BOOP!” I say, each time I write a number.
Then I model how I sit quietly with my hand raised to get the attention of a teacher. “Do I yell for a teacher?” I ask, to answers of “No!” “Do I yell, ‘I’m done! I’m done!” I continue. “No!” is answered back again.
Next, I pretend I’m counting to a teacher, touching each counter as I count aloud, “1” for each mat. I stress one point, “You really need to touch each counter as you count.”
I also remind students that when they count to a teacher, they’re only counting the things on each mat. “So we don’t say, ‘1-2-3-4-5’ as we count from mat to mat, we touch the thing on each mat and say, ‘1,’ then you touch another mat and say, ‘1,’ and you do that for every mat until you are done. Let’s practice altogether right now.”
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.
Even though 2 of the jobs are technically independent, not much is really independent at the beginning of kindergarten! I get up several times to help students stay focused or complete their work.
After a 2-minute warning, we finish our activities and gather in our meeting spot.
“Let’s go over practice today,” I begin. “What number did we work on?”
I call on a student who says, “1.”
“Yes! Let’s all say and write 1! Let’s use our white boards in the sky, again. Okay, together: ‘One is fun. BOOP!’ You are already so good at 1!”
“So… What did we do to practice 1?” I continue.
Students share a variety of responses, including, “We drew it! We counted it! We made it with play dough!” One student says, “We bumpy-boarded it!” and I grin.
I sum it all up, “So we worked on 1 in a lot of different ways—writing, coloring, building, bumpy-boarding… It’s no wonder we are SO GOOD at 1!”