Becky and Bart Build with Blocks-An Introduction to Base Ten Blocks

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Students will be able to represent a number using base ten blocks.

Big Idea

Understanding place value is a key concept in the Common Core Standards. This lesson is an introduction to place value through the use of Base Ten blocks.


10 minutes

For this part of the lesson, you will need the class book, Becky and Bart Build with Blocks. Download and print the book with a color printer.  I suggest you laminate, and bind with a comb binder, rings or even staples for durability and future use. The last page of the book includes blocks that need to be cut out individually for use in the lesson.  Follow the directions for placing Velcro on the backs on the blocks and in places in the book. 

I gather the students around my big chair and I ask them, Do you like to play with blocks?  This helps to activate prior knowledge and create a hook into the story.  I have a story about two kids who like to build with blocks.  Their names are Becky and Bart.  The title of my book is Becky and Bart Build with Blocks.  Let's read this story to find out more about Becky and Bart.

Page 1:  This is Becky and Bart.  They like to build with blocks.  They want to organize their blocks by color. Speech bubble:  Let's stack them in groups of ten.  Can you help them organize their blocks?  Ohh..organize.  I remember hearing that word before in a story that we have read.  Do you remember Organizing Olive.  Do you know know what it means to organize something.  That's right. It might mean putting together things that are alike.  Are you ready to help Becky and Bart organize?

Page 2:  Let’s organize the red blocks.  I’ve started the stacks, can you help me finish? I remind the students that there cannot be more than 10 blocks in a stack.  I invite a student to come up and move the blocks over into the stack.  I show them how to stack the extra blocks next to the first rod of blocks.  It is very tempting to count all the blocks here, but I need to remember that my focus is just on teaching the students how to work with base ten blocks and building that foundation of 10 blocks to a rod.  The only counting that should take place is checking to make sure there are 10 blocks in a stack, no more, no less.  Counting all the blocks will come later.

Page 3:  Can you help me with the blue blocks? Another student comes up to organize the blocks.  We double check to make sure that there are exactly 10 blocks in the stack.

Page 4:  Now it's time to do the green blocks.  Another student is called up to organize the green blocks with the class checking her work. 

Page 5:  Aah-Aah-Aah-Chooo!!  I exaggerate the sneeze and make it very loud.  The children scream!

Page 6:  Bless you!  Speech Bubble:  Do you have a Kleenex?  The children think this page is quite comical. 

We then move over to the SmartBoard for the next part of the lesson.


15 minutes

For this portion of the lesson, I use the Introduction to Base Ten Blocks on the SmartBoard.  If you have a different type of interactive whiteboard, you can still use this lesson by opening the file in Smart Notebook Express. There are also slides you can use to recreate this part of the lesson.

This is a foundational lesson designed to expose students to the concept of Base Ten blocks.  I caution you not to skip this lesson.  It really helps the students build a strong understanding of place value.

 I gather my students in front of the SmartBoard and use cards with students' names to select who comes up to interact with teh board.

The lesson opens (Smartboard Slide 1) with the lesson objective stated in "student friendly" terms.  There is a content objective and a language objective to help focus on vocabulary expansion for my English Learners (ELs) to be congruent with SIOP instructional techniques. I read these objectives aloud for my students.

Content Objective
I can represent a number with place value blocks.

Language Objective
I can tell a friend how to show a number using place value blocks. 

We then continue with the remaining slides.

Slide 2:  We build with blocks all the time, but did you know we can use blocks to show numbers? That sounds like fun!

Slide 3:  When we use a ten frame, we have to start another one when there are ten spaces filled.  Showing numbers with blocks is the same.  When there are 10 blocks in our tower, we start a new one.  These are full.  Time to start a new one!

Slide 4:  I need you to help me stack up these blocks.  Start a new stack when your stack has ten blocks.  Put the new stack right next to the other one.  I invite a student up to the Smartboard to arrange the blocks.  We check their work by counting the tower to make sure it has ten blocks.  We do not count all the blocks.

Slide 5:  Now let's stack the orange ones.  Another student is invited up to arrange the blocks.  Again we count the stack to make sure there is exactly ten blocks.

Slide 6:  Now we will do the purple ones.  We repeat the process from the other slides.  

Slide 7:  It is now Turn and Talk time.  This is an opportunity for the students to practice their academic language.  The students hold the hand of their assigned Turn and Talk partner high in the air.  I check to make sure everyone has a partner.  I then ask them following questions:  How may blocks should there be in one stack of blocks?  What do I do when I have that many blocks in my stack?  I give them time to talk.  When they are done, I call on a couple students to share the results of their discussion.  I repeat their answers for the class and then have the class repeat after me.  There are ten blocks in a stack.  When a stack has ten blocks, I start a new one.

We return to our seats for guided and independent practice. 

Guided Practice

10 minutes

For this part of the lesson, you will need snap cubes.  Each student is given two rods, ten cubes each, each rod is one color and the two rods are different colors. You will also need a set of the Hanging Number Tags 0-10 included with this lesson.  These tags were also used in several lessons in my Working with Numbers 0-10 unit.

After passing out the rods made of snap cubes, I have students break the blocks apart so they have a pile of orange blocks and a pile of yellow blocks.  I tell the students, "We are going to practice making towers of ten blocks.  We will always start with the orange blocks.  I will hold up a number.  When you see that number, I want you to take that number of blocks and snap them together.  I will hold up another number and you will do the same thing.  When you have a tower of ten blocks, you start a new tower.  Your clue will be when you use up all the orange blocks, you will need to start a new tower with the yellow blocks."

I hold up the number six.  The students count out six blocks, snapping them together.  I hold up the number two.  They add two more blocks to their tower of blocks.  The next number is a 5.  They start snapping blocks on and then start a second rod when they run out of orange blocks.  Many of the students forget and continue adding the yellow blocks to the orange blocks.  I remind them that they have to start a new rod or tower when they get to 10 blocks.  They unsnap the blocks and we repeat the activity, using different numbers.  We do it three more times.  By the fourth time, it seems that the students are getting the idea of starting a new rod when they reach ten.  The colored blocks provides scaffold support for students who are a bit unsure.

You may wonder why I don't just say a number, rather than show a numeral card. This lesson may be an introduction to Base Ten, but I take every opportuity to continue to practice the skills we have learned. In this case, students are practicing reading the numeral and determining what quantity it represents.

As we finish the activity, I have them snap the blocks back into two rods of 10.  I collect the blocks, but leave them together for further Base Ten work.

Independent Practice and Informal Assessment

10 minutes

You will need a copy of the Roll A Die Activity Sheet included with this lesson and a 10-sided dice for each student. 

I distribute the activity sheet to the students and have them write their name at the top of the paper.  I have them put their pencils down to listen to instructions. 

We are going to practice representing numbers with Base Ten blocks.  We will do a couple together and then you will do some on your own.  I point to where I want the students to start.  We are going to start with this first set right here.  We ALWAYS color from the bottom u with our Base Ten blocks. 

I take a die and I roll it.  I ask a student to tell the number to the class.  The student says, "five". We need to color in five blocks.  Start at the bottom and color in five blocks.  I circulate around the room and check to make sure the students are coloring the blocks in.  I roll the die, and another student tells the class, "I rolled a one".  Now we need to color in one block.  We continue, as the die is rolled again.  The student announces 9.  Ooooh...9Start counting the blocks and coloring them in.  When you run out of blocks, you need to got to the bottom of the next rod and continue coloring.  Again, I circulate through the room, checking the students' work. 

Did you go into the second rod or tower of blocks?  Yes!! So now we stop.  It's time to start with a new set of blocks.

We repeat the process with me rolling the die and asking students to call out the number for the class.  Again we stop after the students color in blocks in the second set.  I explain that they will now use the dice that I am passing out to do the same thing on their own.  As they are working, I walk around the room, making sure they are starting at the bottom and stopping after they have colored in blocks in the second rod.  This entire activity is designed to give them a level of comfort working with the blocks.  Once they understand what to do, I have them continue working on their own.

As the students finish, I check their work and have them put it in their mailboxes.