Arts in Education · Math and Book Arts · Math and Paper Folding · Math with Art Supplies

Peek-a-Boo Skip Counting for First-Graders

Peek-a-boo skip counting
What number is under the heart?

For weeks I’ve been burning through piles of papers and ideas trying to work out an engaging skip-counting project to make as part of a math-activities folder for first graders. Having just done a math activities folder with kindergarteners, which went really well, I’ve been wanting to do something similar for first graders. As I’ve also been doing math-with-art-supplies bookmaking projects with second graders, I’ve been keen to design something for the next grade up.

What I’ve  needed to get me going on this is a school to want me to create a project for them. A couple of weeks ago, late in the season, a school called me, asked if I had any time for them, and we struck a deal. We’re doing the project that I’ve been wanting to create.

There will be four hands-on projects in a folder that the students will be making. This post is about just one of the projects, one that supports skip counting, reasoning, and attention to numerical patterns.

Show me what under the butterfly, Oh, it's a 14.
Show me what’s under the butterfly, Oh, it’s a 14. Still not sure what’s under the heart.

Skip counting is a big deal in first grade. Not only does it set the stage to understand multiplication, it also is helps with learning to count money.

My work with second graders has piqued my intereste in skip counting. The projects we’ve been doing, which is making designs with “coins” that add up to $1.00, has been interesting in that I’ve noticed that even though a student can count by fives, you know, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40….,, they have a really hard time doing this same counting by 5’s when you ask them to start at any number other than zero. So, if they have 25 cents plus two nickels they are at a loss as to how to proceed.

Show me what's under the flower. Oh, it a 6, Now can you tell me what's under the heart?
Show me what’s under the flower. Oh, it a 6, Now can you tell me what’s under the heart?

 

Maybe by now you’ve guess what is under the heart in the photo above. Maybe not. If you need more hints, I can reveal that there is an 8 under the star. This will likely finally be enough for you know know that there’s a 10 under the heart.

We’re not just counting by twos here. I’ve made a paper that slides under the windows that helps with counting by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s.

I consider this to be an elegant design. One piece of folded paper for the holder, with a one piece of paper for four different number series. The little designs on the peek-a-boo doors are cut with paper punches, which I’ve collected over the years. The rhombus shaped window are made by folding the paper and cutting triangles on the fold.

One of my thoughts with this project is that  it can support students in practicing with going both forward and backwards with their skip counting. For instance, if they see two numbers, say 80 and 85, can they tell me the number that is before the 80 and after the 85? This takes some practice, some thinking, and reasoning, but if they can figure out what number is behind the hidden door, I anticipate the pleasure at solving this puzzle will delight them when the peek-a-boo door reveals the answer.

I do plan to share the template for this after I try it out with some real live first graders. To be continued.

Addendum 6/11/2019

Two classes of first graders made this with me. It went really well! To teach them to use it, I do the demonstration on the board, drawing doors that they could “look” behind for clues.

Here’s a video of what playing with this looked like:

Here’s a template so you can make these yourselves: skip counting first grade

Arts in Education · folding

Swing Card for Fifth Graders

elebration Swing Card, condensed
Celebration Swing Card, condensed

I recently spent a short amount of time with a fifth grade class. I wanted to create something dynamic and memorable with them. I knew I’d be meeting with these students during their social studies time, so it made sense to do something that would reference what they’ve been studying in class, which has been the United State Constitution. My thought was to created a moveable card, not exactly a pop-up, that would, hopefully, delight these kids, but that would be pretty straightforward to assemble.

I decided that it would be fitting that the theme of the card would be a Fourth of July Celebration card, celebrating an amendment to the Constitution that the students themselves chose to highlight.

Celebration Swing Card, expanded
Celebration Swing Card, expanded

When you pull the sides of the card out the paper expands and the middle section flips.

It looks like WordPress is going to let me embed a little video of the movement of the card. This is a new feature here in WordPress? If this video doesn’t play for you, let me know. This is the first time I’ve tried to embed a video that isn’t linked to YouTube.

This project may seem, tricky to decipher at first, but it’s actually super simple to construct. It’s something I’ve been meaning to try out for quite a while. I got the template from this book by Trish Witkowski , who is one of my paper-folding heroes. She is one of those people who makes the whole world feel better to me because she’s in it.

I needed to modify Trish’s template to use with my fifth graders, to make it fit on standard copy paper.

Swinging Card Teimplate,
Swinging Card Template, Click here for the PDF

The students just needed to score the dotted lines, cut the solid lines, then fold the scored lines like a zig-zag. The cut-out in the middle swings freely.

If none of that made sense to you, just try it out. You’ll see.

Scoring on the dotted lines
Scoring on the dotted lines

First step is to score the dotted lines. Scoring means to press the lines, not cut them or draw on them, but, instead, to press into the paper. An empty ink pen works well for this. I showed the students that they needed to put a soft surface under the card, so that there’s something soft to press into.

Cutting on the solid line
Cutting on the solid line

Cutting on the solid line was a bit tricky, since there’s no way to start the cut from the edge of the paper. At home I use a craft knife (razor blade) but, obviously, can’t hand out razor blades in schools. Instead, the students curled the paper, made a snip on the curve….

Continuing the cut
Continuing the cut

…then uncurled the paper and continued cutting. Watching these students, who were doing a great job, it was obvious to me that these kids don’t cut with scissors much, so I was doubly happy to be doing this project with them.

In progress
In progress

I think you can make out the zig-zag folding in the photo above.

The students seemed to really like this project. It was fun for me to see that they were super surprised and delighted at how the scoring helped to make the folds fold so easily.

Since we had so little time, I showed them a quick cut paper design method. I call it an exploding paper strip. I give them a paper strip, ask them to a bunch of glue on the back, then they make snips and lay the pieces down in the order they were cut, leaving a little space between the pieces that were cut apart.

Swinger Card Celebrating the Constitution

One last detail: I asked the students to write something personal, something about their own thinking as to why they chose a specific amendment to celebrate.

His Favorite Amendment
His Favorite Amendment

The lines and dotted lines were printed on cover weight (67lb) paper. The writing here is printed on a contrasting color, regular copy weight paper (22lb).

Fun project!

 

 

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Arts in Education

Constructing Names in Pre-K

Allie
Addie

After making beautiful letters with a pre-K class we used popsicle sticks to create symmetry. In our last short session each student built their name from materials.

Eleanor
Eleanor

This is not an activity I had originally planned. It grew out of watching the what they had been doing with the some of the materials we had used in previous sessions.

Erik
Erik

I might have missed thinking about encouraging them to construct their names, but I heard their regular classroom teacher remark on how hard it is to write their names, but they seemed engaged in trying to create their names with sticks. So the next time I saw them I showed up with colorful foam sticks and harvested some other materials from the classroom.

William
William

Okay, some of them had trouble making their names with materials too. But what a great effort!

Ella
Ella

It was really interesting for me to see their sense of spatial relationships on display.

Jack, with his brother's name too (Liam)
Jack, with his brother’s name too (Liam)

An advantage to this activity was that they were so easily able to self-correct when things wouldn’t fit.

Marie
Marie

Kids with “i’s” in their names invariably dotted them.

Michael
Michael

I have a copy of the handwritten version of their names. There’s a remarkable similarity between the handwriting and the constructions, such as Michael makes the H in his name oversized when he writes it, just like he’s done here.

I love that I get to do these projects with kids, This summer I will work with Pre-K students once a week for six weeks. I hope to do projects like this repeatedly and see how or if kids sense of construction develops.

For now, this is the last of my pre-K photos. I think I will next be writing about what the fifth grade project.

 

Arts in Education

The 2019 Pre-K Alphabet

C-alphabet-2019
C-alphabet-2019

Yay! For the third year in a row I’ve been able to lure 5 year-olds and their teachers into a room with the outlines of letters, and then cajole them into filling them up with natural materials as well as objects from around their classrooms.

KLUV Alphabet letters 2019
KLUV Alphabet letters 2019

There are so many things going on with this project. Kids have to work their spatial relationship muscles. They use fine motor skills. They make decisions. They bond with the letters that they create. If you have more time and talent than I have with this sort of thing, you get to use these letters to get kids to talk about shapes, curves, angles, enclosed areas, diagonals and more. OH, I just read a post that I recommend, modelling ways of getting kids to talk about shapes and relationships: https://jennalaib.wordpress.com/2019/03/18/mathematical-connections-in-a-kindergarten-science-unit/

IJK
ILK

This is a remarkably beautiful project.  Still, it helps to keep certain things in mind.

If you’d like to try out doing this, here are my main tips:

  • Don’t use fill items that are white or that are black
  • If you are going to try to remove the backgrounds in Photoshop use a solid color background around the letters. I use a white background. Don’t use things with feathery edges (like feathers) as part of the fill material
  • Usually, the more stuff that the kids pile on within the outlines, the better the final letter looks. Nudge them into remembering to mind the outlines.
  • Pre-K can do this independently, but it’s great to have a number of adults around
  • Have students sort materials into appropriate piles when done.
Using a tripod shooting raw files
Using a tripod shooting raw files

The picture above show how I do the photography: I use camera that can shoot raw files, with a table top tripod. Kids have to stand back so that the table doesn’t shake as I shoot with something like an f-stop of 18 and long exposure. Of course you can use a phone camera, but I am crazy and I want the end product to be awesome as possible. The very first time I brought this expensive camera into a classroom I cracked the screen in the back. Oh well. It works, has character and now I am more careful.

J
J

I like having the children work in pairs, though there’s generally someone who wants to do this activity solo. That’s okay too. Seems to me that these young people can fill in two letters before they start to lose interest. They love the natural materials. We absolutely spend time just talking about, touching, smelling and hearing something about the items we’re using before we start. This year I walked around the yard with my husband collecting little frozen pine cones, taking cutting from spruce trees, and harvesting wild cucumber and milkweed pods, I also snipped away at our indoor mint plant and picked some geranium flowers. Then I went to the grocery store and bought about $20.00 worth of flowers.

N
N

After all the letters have been photographed I go home and spend way too much time fussing with the images so they will print out well. At this particular school I work closely with the librarian, who has a great color copier on her desk. She helps with printing out and collating pages which is really great because I’m always pressed for time by now, not to mention somewhat brain-impaired from having had too much screen time fussing with photos and layout.

Rubber band bound alphabet books
Rubber band bound alphabet books

Everybody gets to take home a book! Teachers get full-page copies of each letter. From what I’ve heard, in the past they’ve even shared the letters with the French teacher for when she’s teaching letters to her students.

Now, finally, just for the record, I’ve made a video of how I isolate the letters from the background in Photoshop. This is not one of those slick Photoshop tutorial videos that people in the know know how to do. Honestly, it’s just to remind me of what I’ve figured out works best so that, when I do this next year, I won’t have to, once again, start from scratch figuring what buttons to press.