My turkeys come in after lunch, and we are a restless, rowdy bunch today! I was going to make math all about using dominoes to add, but I shift gears on the spot.
“Girls and boys,” I begin as we make it over to our meeting spot, “We are going to do some pretending as we do math today! You are not kindergartners—oh, no! Today, pardners, you are cowboys and cowgirls! Let’s hear a ‘yee-haw!’” I holler. (Sorry, neighbor teachers…)
The kids say, “Yee-haw!” Now, I don’t know why this happens, but I get in this crazed cheerleader mode when I get working with my turkeys. So, like any good cheerleader would do, I urge the crowd again, “I said,” I repeat, “Let’s hear a YEE-HAW!”
“YEE HAW!” the kiddos holler.
“Now, that’s what I was talkin about,” I reply, satisfied. “I think we are ready for math at the Room 6 Corral.” Oh my, someone stop me. I think I am developing a twang as I talk.
“Does anybody know what this is?” I ask, as I project a domino up on “the big screen” using the document camera.
“A domino,” a kiddo says, after I call on him.
“Uh, pardner, I think you need ta say, “A domino, ma’am,” I correct with my drawl.
“A domino, ma’am,” the little turkey repeats with a smile. See! It’s not just me having fun!
“Why yes, it is a domino—usually,” I say with the twang. “Today, it’s a little corral, though, and those dots inside are little cows, that you need to round up and get together! (It’s what good cowboys and cowgirls do).”
“Our job today,” I continue, “Is to get the cows in each side of the corral all rounded up together so we can get them back to the barn!” I declare. (Thank goodness there are no actual farmer kids in my class. I have no idea what I’m saying in terms of cowboy jobs. It just sounds good for math!)
I notice the wiggle monsters are getting restless—again—so I get them moving to their tables. “Cowboys and cowgirls from the Purple Triangle Ranch,” I say, “Put on your hats, grab your ropes, and giddy-up to your ranch!” I say as I dismiss my Purple Triangle work group. I repeat the silliness as I dismiss each group, making the kiddos put on pretend cowboy hats and twist up imaginary ropes then gallop to their tables. I gallop around the closest table, just for fun.
“Are we ready, pardners?!” I ask with too much enthusiasm. “Let’s hear a ‘Yee-haw!”
“YEE HAW!” the kids yell.
“Hmm… I’m looking for a calm pardner, ready to work,” I announce. The cowboys & cowgirls sit a little straighter in their chairs.
“Daron, pardner, come on up and pull us some cows to round up!” I say.
One of my quietest “cowboys” comes up to pull a domino out of the bowl by the document camera.
“Can you put a dot on the paper corral for each of the little cows?” I ask my buddy up front, as I realize my mistake and quickly pass out papers as I state, “Oh! Cowgirls and cowboys! I need to get your paper ranches passed out to you! Make your ranch yours—write your name—and then copy down the cows just like they appear in the corral on the big screen!”
Daron writes 5 dots on the left side, and leaves the right side blank. “Way to mark those cows!” I compliment. “Can I hear a ‘moo?!’”
“MOO!” the kiddos happily oblige. Hey! This is fun!
“Okay… Lookin for a cowgirl to write some numbers… Let’s see…” I call on a little girl who is actually one of my wiggle monsters. This will get her moving for a second, and being up front will sort of force her to focus. I mention that she can gallop up front if she likes, and she gets a sashay going with her gallop up to the front.
She writes a 5 in the first box quickly, but she hesitates. We are beginning adders, for sure. I let her have her moment… these moments stretch us as learners… and as teachers. Wait time made me uncomfortable when I was a beginning teacher. Now, wait time is problem solving time. She hesitantly writes a 0—completely on her own—and I smile. “Are you right?” I ask, with my drawl.
She smiles and kind of shrugs… “No, you got this…” I encourage. “Are you right!” I ask again, with less of a question, and more of the deranged cheerleader sneaking out.
“Yes!” she smiles, with newfound confidence.
“Yes, ma’am!” I say, having too much fun. “Let’s give this cowgirl a ‘Yee-haw!’”
We all let out a “YEE-HAW” as our cowgirl gallops back to her table.
“Now, cowgirls & cowboys,” I say quietly with sudden drama, “It is time to get out our lassos—we gotta circle up the little cows and get them all together!” C’mon, friends, start swingin your ropes!” I encourage, as I dramatically swing my imaginary rope over my head in a circular motion. (I get the feeling that some of my little cowhands don’t understand this “cowboy stuff” at all, but they are happily copying their crazy teacher up front. Whatever it takes, right?!)
We shout, “Yee haw!” as we fling our imaginary lassos.
“Okay, we couldn’t see our super awesome lassos, but we can show what our lassos did on our papers. We’re gonna take our pencils and circle around both sides of the corral, just like this,” I state, as I write a big oval around the perimeter of the domino.
“Now, lasso ‘em up, pardners!” I direct, and quickly start walking to see their ovals, giving little pointers and reinforcements as I walk around.
Back up front, I wrap up this equation. “So, let’s count the little cows we lasso’ed up. 1-2-I can’t hear you—3-4-5. So, 5 + 0 equals…”
“5!” my partners declare with excitement.
“Let’s write our answer, or our sum, right here,” I say. I write a 5 fairly quickly and then cruise around the room to make sure the little cowhands are completing their equations correctly.
We repeat this silly process, complete with galloping up to the document camera, “throwing” our lassos to “round up” the cattle [dots], and “Yee-hawing” with vigor again and again.
Now, my class is having fun, our energy is properly focused, and this lesson is going well. Some of us are struggling with our addends though, so I choose to extend our guided practice with 8 to 10 lucky cowhands in a table in the back. (Otherwise, I would be trying to move all over the class, helping 1 kid at the time while another kid is struggling 10 feet away, and another kid is struggling at a different table, and one kid is trying to copy his neighbor…) I just lasso up my struggling buddies and bring them back to me!
The other half of the class is happily pulling dominoes out of bowls at each table, copying the dots, writing corresponding numerals, circling around the domino, and writing the sum. Most of them are doing really well! (I selected the dominoes ahead of time, so that the sums are 5 or less. I set a few dominoes with more dots on them aside so that my kiddos who are "ready" for more can stay engaged.) A few students are getting carried away counting dots and may skip a dot or count a dot twice, but the independent kiddos are getting good practice, and I will use their papers to analyze where they’re “at” with addition.
I really wish I had a cowbell to ring after a 2-minute warning, but the problem with changing lessons “on the fly” is that some details aren’t quite there. We gather back in our meeting spot and talk about the lesson. I really love this part.
When asked about their favorite part of the lesson, student responses run the gamut from “doing a lot of problems” from one of my little go-getters, to “swinging my lasso!” I listen to their responses, even the ones that get repeated a few times (like the lasso response).
I start pointing out key parts of the lesson, trying to draw the focus back. “Did it help to have the cow (dots) to count up?”
‘Yes,” students reply. One little turkey adds, “I don’t need dots. I know how to add without them.” I smile and add, “Dots are great for double-checking, too.” Acknowledge them all, but control the focus, I say!
“Did it help you know where to write the numbers that you’re adding together, and where to write the “all together” sum?” I ask, already knowing the answer from what I observed.
Again, plenty of positive responses are heard.
“Would you like to have another ‘Yee haw’ addition lesson?” I ask. Students, even the expert adder, respond “Yes!” One little cowboy asks, “Could we make some cowboy hats?” Aww… I love these little cowhands.
I tell him that I will look into that, for sure. Then I ask if we can get one last “YEE HAW” for some great math practice, and we whoop up a “YEE HAW!” again.