“Hey friends,” I begin, “Remember when we did that big test for our report card, and it was really confusing?”
“I thought we could maybe use a little practice before we try that big test again. Even as a teacher, sometimes I forget stuff when I don’t practice.”
A few students looked shocked that a teacher would admit forgetting things, but it’s important to be honest with the kiddos, and a long time has elapsed since we were decomposing numbers back in January!
“So… before our big end-of-the-year report card, so long after we practiced this stuff of decomposing numbers, let’s practice something important that we may have forgotten. Now, who here has a daddy, uncle, cousin, or neighbor who works here?” I ask, projecting a picture of a favorite local restaurant. [Any local, neighborhood restaurant would work for this example. For my students, we all know a local Mexican restaurant, which is just a few blocks down from school and employs a bunch of students’ family members.]
Hands shoot up, as is so often the case in kindergarten. This time, though, I know that there are family members who work at the restaurant I mentioned, and I intentionally use student experience for our math.)
Students tell me family members who work at the restaurant, and they mention a little bit about what their dads, uncles, cousins, and neighbors for their jobs.
Next, I lead them to talk about when their relatives work, and as suspected, the family members have the morning shift. (This works well for our math today!)
“Okay,” I say, ‘We are going to show the morning shift of workers when we work to build 6 today. But, like your family members and neighbors who come home after work, we need to have a night shift to fill in so the restaurant can stay open for dinner!”
Heads nod. I let them know that we have done this before. Some students will remember and may be inspired to do the “Teacher, we already did this…” reminder, so I beat them to it.
I show them on “the big screen” with the document camera how we use Unifix cubes to represent the workers. I show my recording sheet, which is so similar to the sheets we used back in January. This is intentional, as I’m trying to activate prior knowledge and, to some extent, align our practice with the assessment coming up. I ask the kiddos if they’re ready to practice with me, and a swarm of “Yes”es and nods come my way.
We pass out recording sheets, and everyone gets their “morning crew” of Unifix cubes, which we all set on the recording sheet squares. (Some kiddos actually name their cubes on the squares, which, unless they get so wrapped up in naming blocks that they’re not keeping up with the group, I smile and focus on kids who may be needing some assistance getting their cubes set up.)
My recording sheet remains projected on the document camera onto “the big screen.”
Next, we each set out our “dinner crew” a different color of squares that we carefully break apart and set to the right and slightly below the row of 6 squares. The restaurant “story” is new, but we will work in a very systematic manner to replace our cubes, one at a time.
As we move our first cube “out,” (sending it home to be with its family, someone notes), another student begins singing our old song from months ago, “There were 6 in line, at the end some time—flip over! Flip over!” we have a chorus going before I can take a half a moment to think, “Wow! Some of them really do remember the silly songs!”
We move the far left cube back from the row, similar to our systematic move-out & replace decomposing that we practiced months ago (MP.8). We talk about the importance of maintaining control of our math tools, and of course, our counting cubes are tools! (MP.5) We also discuss and model “flipping over,” flicking or sliding our left cube back (but still on the paper to establish control of our math tools).
We talk about how the restaurant always needs enough people to work in the kitchen—there must be 6 at all times. We count the cubes from the morning crew getting 5 as our total.
Knowing that many students have done this before, I let a student tell me to use the dinner crew—the different-colored cubes that are slightly to the right and below the row—to “fill in” the missing spot so we can always have 6.
We sing our song together, and note that the dinner shift comes to fill in so that there are always 6 in the kitchen (MP.8).
We record—with my paper serving as the giant model on “the big screen.” A student is selected to fill in the numbers in the equation. (Especially since many of us have done this before, I fade out of the practice as much as I can. Another difference from our earlier practice is that I don’t actually color the recording sheet to pictorially represent the decomposing process, although this is certainly an option for classes who would benefit from that extra level of representation.)
We do the next two combinations of six together, singing our little song, flipping one over and “filling in” with the second color (or dinner shift). It is very process-oriented, very systematic, so that students will benefit from the procedural skill (MP.8).
Students complete the remaining four combinations for the number 6, singing their songs, moving Unifix cubes in and out of the grid on the recording sheet, and recording numbers.
I circulate during this period, asking clarifying questions when a student skips a step or struggles with any part of this relatively complicated process. By hearing questions such as, “You sang your song, you slid out one of your first color cubes out, now what do you do?” students can be prompted to do the next step of the process if they seem “stuck.”
Carefully constructed questions can cue students to correct their own errors, which is so powerful. The students feel in control of their work, (and in fact, they are in control!) but questions can guide them to notice and correct their own errors. It can be very empowering.
Enough kiddos seem confused on the last combination, 0 + 6 = 6, that I jump back over to the document camera, and we do this last one together, singing our song. Sometimes flexibility is key, but as long as the kiddos get the support they need to be successful, independent practice can occasionally get a little more... guided.
After students put their Unifix cubes back into two rows, (one of each color) and our supplies are returned, we begin talking about our practice.
The closing is really important today, as I sense that our review lesson was helpful, but student input is critical. Sure enough, students say they loved singing their song again and note that it helps them stay on track. One student even mentions the “process” of bringing the new crew in, and I almost do a backflip. I highlight the use of the precise term, (MP.6) and note that we are using a process or procedure with our tools to show the combinations of numbers to make 6.
I ask the kiddos if they feel ready to take their assessment for their report card, and they honestly tell me, “Almost.” (Some kids, of course, insist they are ready, and while some of those kids who are saying they’re ready actually seem prepared. Some of my students who needed the most prompting during our independent practice are insisting they are ready for an assessment, and I grin in recognition of the kindergarten viewpoint. Kindergartners are up for anything, it seems.)
In response to student feedback (and my careful observations), I inform the kiddos that we will likely have one more day of practice before our assessment. One turkey asks, “Then can we go on a field trip to the restaurant?” Oh boy—I’d say we are done with math for the day!