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using games to build number sense

Freckle Juice and Number Sense!

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Have you ever had a practically perfect day of teaching?  You know what I mean… the kind of day where the kiddos are right on point. The conversation is academically juicy, kiddos are engaged, and you’re wondering why your admin isn’t picking today to come do their observations! 😉 It’s been a while since things have gone so smooth for this teacher. But this week, folks, it happened! (Thank goodness too, after 4 weeks, I was beginning to worry…)
Here’s how it started…
Like I mentioned earlier this week, I noticed my kiddos struggled with number sense of larger numbers, especially with showing numbers in multiple ways. When you’re trying to teach multiple strategies for multi-digit addition, it’s essential the kiddos know multiple ways to show a number.   So, I took a morning to review using an activity
(you can check those out here!)
But, instead of just placing it in a center and “hoping” my kiddos were doing it right, I used the number cards and recording sheet for the Kagan partner structure,  “Quiz, Quiz, Trade”.To play, I gave each student a number card and asked them to spread around the room. Once the signal is given, students move around the room to find a buddy.

Once students found a partner, they clapped hands…

and set to work “quizzing” each other with their number cards.

Students had to show the number 4 different ways on their recording sheet.

After the box was completed, students confirmed their answers with their buddy. Then,  we  thanked our partner for playing and moved on to the next person. We did this for four rounds and the kiddos had a blast!

Notes for SUCCESSFULLY implementing, “Quiz, Quiz, Trade”, in your classroom:

1. Don’t expect it to be perfect the first time (or third, fourth, or fifth…) ! This structure takes time, but once your kiddos are familiar with the routine, you’ll be glad you stuck with it!
2. Model! Model! Model! Model how to find a buddy, what to do once your with the buddy, how to complete the activity, how to finish the round, and move on to the next buddy.
3. If students struggle with finding a buddy after they’ve completed their first buddy session, create a “parking lot” for students to meet. I use the middle of my room and have the kiddos stand with their hands up (our sign for “I NEED A PARTNER”). Then, as kiddos finish and are ready to move on to the next friend, they come to the parking lot. To monitor, I stand in the middle and help pair up kids. It takes a while for the kiddos to get used to working with “anyone and everyone”, but when the activity is fun, it A LOT easier to implement.
Want to know more? You can check out more on Kagan Structures here!
I was sooo impressed with how well my kiddos moved through the structure, I HAD to pop a compliment fuzzy in the jar! You can read more about that here. Positive reinforcement for a job well done!
Now, after that successful activity, I could have died and gone to teacher heaven, I was sooo proud of my kiddos, but then we moved into Reading.
This week, we’ve been reading, “Freckle Juice” by Judy Blume.
freckle juice
To help bring more meaning to the text, I used it as a close reading opportunity to teach the ever tricky idea of theme.
Now, I know in close reads you’re supposed to read the text a bazzillion times… but I knew my kiddos couldn’t handle that structure of reading for this long of a text, so instead, after reading a chapter as a class, we re-read shorter bits and pieces to comb for deeper meaning. This worked sooo much better for my class of busy bees!
I followed the structure and routines suggested in, “Close Reading in Elementary School” and outlined beautifully by Lindsey from,  “A Year of Many Firsts”.
Close reading steps for theme
Seriously, head over and grab this FREEBIE!
After each chapter, we’d complete a step.
Once, we finished the first chapter, we looked at the characters and ID the problem and a possible solution.
Book chat sheet, story structure
I love this book talk sheet from Lyndsey’s  post!
We also wrote a short summary, and made some predictions in our Reading Response Journals
freckle juice writing response
another one…
freckle juice writing response
Love their responses!
By Weds, we were ready to discuss the idea of theme in a text and I introduced my new interactive anchor chart.


theme interactive anchor chart

When we finished the book on Thursday, we were ready to ID the moral of the story and use text to support our answers.

I’d loved to say my kiddos just “got it” and we had a fabulous theme lesson, but in all honesty, I had been building the moral of the story to them all week. Through-out our read, we discussed the reasoning behind Andrew wanting freckles and if they would truly solve ALL his problems. This ground work made for a powerful discussion on the author’s use of theme, and as we filled out our anchor chart, it was a #proudteachermoment for sure!

So, to use the chart, we first identified the lesson Andrew learned in the book. I loved the wording of their lesson, so I used it, just as it was said to me! 😉
interactive anchor chart for theme, siting evidence
Once we had the moral figured out, we set to work finding evidence to support our answer. I gave each student one sticky note (didn’t want to overwhelm them on our first time around) and asked them to find a quote from the book that supported our moral of the story.
This is definitely one of the trickiest things to do as an 8 year old. You have so much text to look through it can be overwhelming! To help minimize the stress, I discussed how to search the text using chapters and pictures as guides. Then, zero in the characters and what they’re saying and thinking.
This lead to answers like this…
siting evidence


BOOM! Talk about evidence! Folks, to say I was proud is an understatement. My heart swelled with joy! Not only did we understand the theme, we could also support it! What a great introductory lesson to theme!
Now this lesson did have a teacher tear…and I have to share this moment with you! As fellow educators, I know this will touch your heart the same way it did for me!
One of my students is on the spectrum and struggles with wanting to complete work. Upon receiving his sticky note for this lesson, he crumpled it up and tossed it on the floor (along with other distracting behaviors- like taking off our shoes). I’m a huge believer in students finding their own way to learning… so I ignored the behavior for the moment and kept the lesson momentum going. As students put their sticky note evidence on the chart, they sat on the carpet. Once everyone had their’s up (except our little friend) we began reviewing everyone’s evidence.  We discussed each sticky note and grouped them together if we could. I gave high-fives when they did an exceptionally well job siting evidence (which was SERIOUSLY everyone!) . This peaked our friend’s interest and he asked for a new (non-crinkled) sticky note to jot down his evidence.  #teacherwin.
But what happened after made me cry…
Once he brought it up and placed it on the chart, we read it and discussed. His answer was right on point so I gave him a high five. Then the class cheered, clapped, and gave him high-fives! People: MY CLASS cheered and clapped for him! I literally choked up and a big ‘ol tear rolled down my face! We’ve worked sooo hard to be encouraging and kind to one another and at the fourth week of school, I was seriously doubting that these kiddos had it in ’em. But they do! It was truly one of the best lessons in my teaching career.  Not because of the content, but because we were able to be kind and encouraging members to everyone in our classroom community.
And that people… was my practically PERFECT day of teaching!
To continue the our work on theme, we used our interactive anchor chart as a reference and on Friday completed this fun little writing craft.
freckle juice writing craft
(You can grab this freebie here!)
Students used the details we discussed the previous day to write a paragraph explaining the lesson learned or theme of “Freckle Juice”.
We ended our “Freckle” journey by sampling some homemade freckle juice!
freckle juice
(Made from my secret recipe of course!) 😉
Overall we had a blast this week! It was a mountainous journey, but this week has seriously given me hope that the rest of the year can go well! (Fingers, eyes, legs, and toes crossed!)

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Hi, I'm Leigh.

The Applicious Teacher is all about creating hands-on and engaging lessons that align with the standards while still having time for your life. This is your place for ideas, tips, and resources for the REAL teacher!


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