It’s October, and it’s our first day back from fall break. We recite the finger play, “5 Little Pumpkins” with lots of energy—I mean, when we say “OUT went the light, we slap our hands together for a BIG, LOUD SMACK! Heck, it’s so much fun, (and so new to 98.7% of us) that we do it one more time, or maybe even two more times.
I tell the kiddos that we are going to do some “really big kid math,” and that we are going to be using our 5 little pumpkins—and our great listening—to do something really cool.
Now, as much as I love to talk to the little turkeys and spell everything out in terms of content, objective, and all that good learning stuff that I can’t talk about without smiling, I leave this one open. There’s a reason for that, but I’ll explain later.
At this point, I focus on our first challenge, which is convincing the kiddos that they can draw a background scene.
Before we start adding, we "create" our adding workspace! This gives the students ownership of what we're doing, as the kiddos actually create their working environment. We follow directions to make sure everyone has some key elements: a fence with a gate, a ground, and a tree. (We will use these elements when we start adding, for instance, "2 pumpkins on the fence and 1 pumpkin on the ground.")
I pass out sheets of plain, white, 9 X 12” construction paper, and I remind students that they want to keep their papers in a horizontal position, “That means the papers are w-i-d-e from side to side, and not tall up-and-down like most papers you work on,” I say, in an attempt to clarify. The most important thing is, honestly, to put the papers on the table in the correct position, and then watch to see that the papers don’t get moved.
“You are going to have to listen very carefully. I will tell you and show you what we’re doing, each step as we go, but when I’m talking, you must have nothing in your hands and eyes on the big screen. What do you need to do when I give you directions?” I ask to clarify. I may repeat the question, asking students most likely to have difficulty following the direction.
I go through the directions on the “Steps to Making a Background for Pumpkin Addition,” drawing on a paper myself, which is projected with the document camera, to help support visual learners. I provide encouragement and support as needed. If a student begins to say, “I can’t draw that,” I just reaffirm, “Yes, you can! Your drawing will be one-of-a-kind, just like you!!!”
After the directed drawings are complete, I set out a container of orange paper pumpkins on each table. (If you have volunteers, this would be a great job for them!)
“Please get 5 pumpkins—exactly 5—and put them near your picture.” I say.
“Put 2 pumpkins on your fence.” I check to make sure every student has followed this first direction, and again, I place 2 pumpkins myself on my projected paper for students to see.
“Now, place 1 pumpkin on the grass,” I continue.
“How many pumpkins do you have?” I ask. (Don’t be surprised if some kiddos say “1.” It happened to me… It’s just a reminder that this is our very first addition lesson!)
“Let’s count the pumpkins. 1-2-3! 2 and 1 is 3!” I declare enthusiastically. “Let’s say that together, ‘2 and 1 is 3!’”
We repeat the process two more times, with 1 and 3 and again with 2 and 3.
As we move into more independent practice, I only update my addition mat from the document camera when we are going over the final equation.
For instance, I will call on a student to pick 1 or 2 pumpkins, and then I tell the students to put the specified amount in front of the tree. Then I will ask a second student 2 or 3 pumpkins, and I will ask where we should put them. (My addition mat is not updated at all during this time.)
Then we put them all together and count the pumpkins to get a total. Finally we repeat a number sentence to sum it all up, which is when I show my addition mat.
We repeat this at least 3 times, each time with different students, different places to put the pumpkins, and boy, to the kids get silly! “4 pumpkins by the moon!” one of my goofballs says. We place 4 pumpkins up by the moon!
Before our last practice, I tell the kids to turn some pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns. (If you are at a school that does not celebrate Halloween, skip this step, for sure!) In the progression of our practice, I allow for things like silly pumpkin placement near the end, and I plan to make jack-o-lanterns to keep student interest intact.
After our last grouping with pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns, we use glue sticks to secure them on our mats.
I ask students to tell me what’s on their mat, and some successfully say “3 and 2 is 5.” Other students struggle a little bit, but we practice saying “3 and 2 is 5” together.
Then the fun part starts. “So, in our ‘5 Little Pumpkins’ song, what happens at the end?”
I call on a student who says, “They roll out of sight!”
To make sure everyone understands completely, I say, “So what does “rolled out of sight’ mean, exactly?”
A kiddo says, “They rolled away!”
“So they are gone at the end…. Oh! That’s why your hands go behind your back!” I say… beating the dead horse. Again. I do that so often in kindergarten.
“Hmm… So the pumpkins go away in our song. But our math is different. What happened in our math?” I ask.
I call on a student who has that “light bulb” look, (one of my truly favorite things to see), who says, “They get together!”
“So when we put things together, what is that?” I ask, not too confident in what I might hear.
One student says, “Glue! We glue them together!” I affirm that yes, at the end of our math, we did glue them. “But when things are joined together, there’s something mathematical happening…” I hint, always slow to give up.
Another kiddo—with a big brother—gets that “light bulb” look and anxiously raises his hand. Of course, I call on him, and he says, “Add! We added pumpkins!”
Hallelujah!!! “Yes!!!” I exclaim. “We added!!! We joined 2 groups of pumpkins together! That was our first time practicing adding. We will have lots more practice with addition, or adding! You tell me--what did we do today?”
"We added!!! WE CAN ADD!!!" the students exclaim.
One little guy says to his neighbor, “I didn’t think I could add!” Which is exactly why—exactly why—I didn’t do the prominently displayed objective at the beginning. My trickery paid off, it seems!