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Math Game // Closer to 20

“Closer to 20” is a problem solving math game that promotes:

  • part-whole relationships
  • fluency in adding and subtracting within 20
  • magnitude



1) Draw 3 cards and display on table.

2) Strategically choose 2 cards whose sum would be closer to 20.

3) Record the chosen addends, the sum, and the score- which is how far away your sum is to 20.

A sum of 19 will have a score of 1 and a sum of 23 will have a score of 3.



  • Which 2 cards will you choose? Why?
  • How can you make sure these 2 addends make a sum that is closer?
  • What kind of numbers do you hope we draw next round?
  • Can you explain how you figured out the sum?
  • Which round had the best score?

3) The game is complete when they have rolled all rounds and reviewed the scores of each round.




*If your first grader feels ready, you can try the more difficult version of drawing 4 cards and choosing 3 addends.









February Update


In reading, have been reading poetry from collections and anthologies.

Some elements of poetry first graders have noticed are:

Rhyming Words

Repetition of words or phrases

Shape and Direction

Use of color and illustrations

Text Size & Font


How Poems Create Feelings

Here are a few that we have read together as a class:  









In February, first graders worked on completing their how-to books.

They worked hard to include elements into their writing such as:

  • A list of materials and supplies
  • Numbered steps
  • Transition words like first, then, next, after that
  • Introductions and conclusions
  • Detailed illustrations and diagrams
  • Helpful hints for their readers


Here are just a few of the great pieces of writing the kids used when teaching someone how to do something:


In How to Ride a Bike by Marcy //  “Try to keep your feet off the ground as long as you can.”

In How to Make a Fort by Oliver //   “Get a blanket and put it on the table and couch.”

In How to Make a Speaking Ball by Evan // “Now you can make it any time. You can play with it but do not throw it at people.”





In February, we used geometric puzzle pieces to learn about the composition of shapes. First graders tinkered with the puzzle pieces to learn more about sides, angles, and how shapes are composed of other shapes.

By challenging them to use the puzzles, to create shapes, first graders noticed that trapezoids can be different shapes and sizes, but look similar.



They also worked with matching sides together evenly to create other shapes. Here, first graders used 2 triangles and a trapezoid to make a hexagon. They matched the sides altogether but also combined the triangles to form a new trapezoid below.




January Update


In reading, we have been studying punctuation and phrasing; taking a close look at how punctuation changes how a reader reads a book and experiences a book.

Some points of punctuation and their uses we have been exploring are:

.     Period- say something

?     Question mark- ask something

!      Exclamation Point- say something excitedly 

–       Dash- stop suddenly 

…      Ellipsis- continue on 

“__” Quotation Marks- show someone is talking

When reading with your first grade, have them practice reading with punctuation in mind. You can also go on “punctuation hunts” where they look for a certain type of punctuation and share that sentence.

Sentences should be read fluently, similar to how to speak rather than what first graders call “robot voices” which read words one-by-one.

Also, when a character is speaking, some things to consider are:

  • What type of voice do they have? (mouse vs. monster)
  • How do they say what they are saying? (shouted, whispered, cried, bawled)







In January, we learned all about how-to books and how to create one. How-to books are a way for experts to teach a reader how to do something. Kids dived into writing books that taught readers how to ride, play, cook, or create things. There were many important parts of how-to books such as the supplies we need, the specific steps we need to follow, as well as any tips

or warnings to make sure that the reader can do their best and safest job.

The kids also worked on adding introduction and conclusions.

Some introduction ideas were:

  • “Have you ever ______?”
  • “You can make ____! It is so fun!”
  • “Do you know what ______ is?”

Some conclusion ideas were:

  • “Yay, now you know how to ______!”
  • “You’re done- now you can show it to a friend!”
  • “Now you can make one any time you want!”

Once the how-to books are published, the kids will get a chance to celebrate by having their classmates read their how-to books!




In math, we have been working closely with the rekenrek math tool (explained in the last post) to become familiar with number combinations and relationships within 20.

Some strategies and big ideas that have come out of our rekenrek work and shares:

  • We can count on from 5’s and 10s, instead of by 1’s
  • 10 + 4 is the same as 4 + 10, they are just switched (communative property)
  • 10 + 4 is like 9 + 5, you just move 1 from 10 and give it to the 4, so then it turns into 9 + 5 (compensation)
  • 9 is like 10, just 1 less (part-whole relationships)

They are also beginning to rely on their known facts, now being called “helper facts” to help them solve trickier problems. Once they know these facts, they can begin compensating and regrouping numbers that seem similar or close-by.


Social-Emotional Learning


This month we spent a lot of time reflecting about the world around us and how we can help others. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was on January 15th and the days following it- we talked about all the changes Martin Luther King worked towards to make the world a better place. Then, first graders also started to think of some things they wish they could change in the world. They started to think about others and how a little kindness and the power of words could change people’s minds as well as the world, even if in little steps.


Also, in preparation for our Peck Slip drive for the City Rescue Mission, first graders decorated the bags that will hold the hygiene kits we are sending in. The kids were all very excited to help out and have a chance to use their artistic skills to brighten up someone’s day.



Math Game // Compare the Sums

“Compare the Sums” is an interactive game that promotes:

mental addition strategies

fluency in math facts (doubles, 10 and, ways to make 10)




Number Cards 0-10



Compare the Sums is a two player game. It can be played verbally using mental math, or with paper to jot down each rounds scores.

1) Each player draws three cards.

2) Players have to use mental strategies to add up the 3 addends to find their sum.

3) Players compare their sum and decide who has the greater sum.

4) Players continue playing several rounds (as a modification, you can record how many more each player had in each round, and count up all the rounds scores at the end)


Printable Number Cards

Follow this link for printable number cards. It doesn’t have to be printed in color, but it is helpful to make 2-3 copies to form a complete deck.

You can use the blank card as a “free pass” if you want to play a version where if you get the blank card, you can choose the number you want.

December Update

December was such an exciting month in the classroom; our bean seed plants sprouted, fiction stories were published, and vacation plans were buzzing in the room.



In December, as a class we began practicing slowing down when reading to deepen our comprehension. During a class read aloud, students learned to stop and share things they noticed and wondered. These stop and shares allowed students to recap any important events that occurred in a story as well as pose some questions when they were confused or curious.



Image result for after the fall

In the book “After the Fall,” Humpty Dumpty faces his fear of climbing the high wall once again after being cracked to pieces. Here are the stop and share notes that notes the different types of thinking kids are doing during a read aloud story.

  • On one page, the airplane was flying in the sky.
  • He made a paper airplane that looked just like a bird.
  • The airplane got stuck on the wall so now he has to climb the wall.
  • Why is he making so many paper airplanes?
  • Why is he sweating?
  • Why doesn’t he go up the ladder instead?
  • How did the egg turn into the bird?



In December, first graders looked back on their writing collection, and chose their favorite fiction story to edit, revise, and publish. Once the fiction stories were completely published, they found their place in our class library in a bin labelled “Written by Class 1-308.”

Here are some of the captivating fiction stories in our classroom:



As we move on, first graders will look closely at the non-fiction texts as inspiration for their own non-fiction writing pieces. They will get a chance to write about a topic they know very well, seeds, as well as think about a procedure they know well and are able to teach others about. These procedural how-to books will help kids to think about an author’s purpose and important questions like “What is important for the reader to know?” and “Why would someone reach for this book that you’re writing?”



This month in math, we worked on our problem solving skills. Students were presented with a wide range of real-life problems that addressed situations of combining, taking apart, finding the missing part, as well as compensation. This problem-solving unit was an opportunity for students to slow down when approaching a problem to understand what is happening, what are they trying to figure out, and how can they use the information they know.

As first graders became more and more comfortable tackling these problems, they began creating their own real-life situations. They also further developed their mathematical reasoning skills during class discussions with phrases like:

“We know _____, so we can figure it out by ______.”
“I used a different strategy but I agree with that solution.”
“I found a different solution. Instead, you can _______.”

We have also been working on using our known-facts to solve more difficult addition problems. Using math tools as well as classroom visuals, students are beginning to quickly connect their known facts to similar problems.

When presented with the problem:


students are noticing, “7+8 is kind of the like the double, 7+7, so it won’t be 14, but one more which is 15.”

They are also beginning to use compensation with numbers, like in the problem:


students are saying, “If you take 1 from the 9, and give it to the 7, then it will be 8+8, which I know is 16.”


Next month, we will be working closely with the rekenrek tool to further strengthen their addition skills within 20. The rekenrek tool shows 20 beads, with 10 on the top and 10 on the bottom. It highlight the 5 and 10 structure within our number system as well as provides a visual reference for all the complex number work that is happening mentally.

Related image



Seed Study

In December, after much waiting and anticipation, the kidney bean seeds the kids planted finally sprouted. We monitored their growth closely and journaled any changes every few days.

Here are some wonderings about the bean seeds:

“How come some grow faster than others?”

“How do I know if it is getting enough water?”

“What will happen later? How will they change?”

Some noticing they shared were:

“The seed hangs from the stem and then later they fall off into the soil.”

“It starts with two big leaves.”

“They grow really fast and tall- just a few weeks.”

“If it grows too tall and the stem isn’t strong, the plant will break and fall.”


In the next few weeks, we will be wrapping up our seed study. The kids will complete their final journal entries as well as get a chance to bring their bean seed plants back home. They will also reflect on what they would like to teach someone else about bean seeds and contribute a piece of their writing to a class book all about kidney bean plants. Some topics being covered in our class book are:

  • How do you plant a kidney bean seed?
  • How do the plants look?
  • What do the plants need?
  • How to grow a healthy plant.
  • Diagram of a kidney bean seed / plant


Math Game // Add It Up

The game “Add It Up” helps mathematicians fluently add numbers within 20.

Playing this game often should help first graders strengthen their fluency by reinforcing known facts (5+5), doubles (7 + 7), and challenge them to find strategies to solve more difficult problems like 5 + 7, where they may use the “making 10 strategy,” for example: I know 5 + 5 is 10, and 7 is 5 + 2, so I’ll add back the 2 I left onto 10, so 5 + 7 = 12.





2 dice (or for increased difficulty, a deck of number cards labelled 0-10 [you can also make them at home!])

Paper and pencil (optional)


Game Directions:

  1. Roll 2 dice or draw 2 cards
  2. Solve for the sum of the two numbers
  3. Writing down the number sentence on paper may help visual learners & help develop number formation
  4. Simply playing without writing will encourage quick, mental math





Math Game // The Greatest Number

“The Greatest Number” is a hands-on math game that promotes:

  • understanding of magnitude (less than, greater than)
  • place value
  • the order of numbers from 0-1000
  • correlation between digits and place value


  • “The Greatest Number” game board (may be inserted into a sheet protector to re-use)
  • Pencil / dry erase marker
  • Numbers cards (0-9)


1) Draw 3 cards and display on table.

2) Choose 2 cards and rearrange their order to create the greatest possible number.

3) Record the 3 cards you drew and the greatest 2 digit number possible.



  • Which 2 dice will you use? Why?
  • Is that the greatest number you can make?
  • How come you put ____ here instead of there?
  • Can you talk me through every round?
  • What is the greatest number you made out of all the turns?
  • What is the name of the number you made?

3) The game is complete when they have rolled all rounds and found the greatest number in all the rounds.




*If your first grader feels ready, you can try the more difficult version using 4 cards to create a 3-digit number- found   here.









Math Game // Doubles Troubles

“Doubles Troubles” is an interactive game that promotes:

fluency of doubles facts



Doubles Troubles Game Board (may be inserted into a sheet protector to re-use)
Pencil / dry erase marker

First Edition – one number die

Second Edition- cards numbered from 0-10



“Doubles Troubles” can be played taking turns or independently.

1) Roll a number die or draw a card from the deck.

2) Double the number.

3) Find the number on the game board and circle.

4) Continue until entire board is filled.



Doubles Troubles Game Boards

November Update

November was an extremely exciting month as our class dived into new study subjects and invited 7 classmates into our community! The kids were warm and welcoming to our new classmates and the transition has been smooth and easy!



In November, first grade readers looked closely at non-fiction texts. As the class read more and more non-fiction texts, kids noticed recurring features and tried to figure out purpose of these texts.

Here are some noticings from first grade readers:

  • “A table of contents shows you which sections are on which page.”
  • Photographs are taken with a camera and show you what things really look like.”
  • Illustrations are used for things you might not see like echolocation.”
  • “A life cycle goes in a circle and shows you how things grow.”
  • “A glossary tells you what the words mean.”
  • “An index has words you can learn about and their page numbers.”

First graders have also been consistently reading independently every day in the classroom for up to 17 minutes! During this time, first graders have a chance to read from a choice of fiction or non-fiction books that they book-shopped for. Sometimes, we may also end independent reading with a share. During our non-fiction unit, several students got a chance to share a non-fiction book they read and some features they noticed.

When reading non-fiction texts at home, you can preview a book by asking “What do you already know about the topic? and What do you hope to learn about?

You can also use the features like the table of contents and index to reread a specific section that is of high interest to your first grader.





In November, we began writing fiction stories. First graders began with creating an interesting and unique character- whether that was a monster, superhero, or magical creature. Then, they thought about where the story would take place, the setting. Next, first graders brainstormed what type of problem or situation could happen to their character, and how their character may react to that situation. First graders began thinking of what their character might say or how they may act. Then, when first graders felt done with their first fiction story, they continued writing! Many students wanted to create a series, where “book two” featured the same character, while others wanted to begin new stories with brand new characters, settings, and situations. Here is a sneak peak at some of the exciting fiction stories!




After publishing our non-fiction stories, we will move onto informational non-fiction writing, as well as writing how-to books.




This month in math, we used a set of 30 different shapes to explore attributes of 2-dimensional shapes. These sets were organized by three colors: blue, red, and yellow, five shapes: square, hexagon, rectangle, circle, triangle, and two sizes: small and big. Using this set, first graders brainstormed efficient ways to organize all 30 as well as started noticing the differences and similarities between shapes.

In a game called “Guess the Missing Piece,” one partner hid a piece while the other partner used questions to collect clues and make an educated guess about which piece was missing. At first, first graders asked questions like “Is it a big blue triangle” but then quickly realized that if they asked more general questions such as “Is it blue?,” they could gather more information as well as eliminate several pieces from the set, rather than one piece at a time.


After this shapes and attributes unit, we will move onto problem solving and using known math facts to solve addition problems.




Seed Study

Late November, we had a chance to visit the GreenMarkert at the Oculus Plaza. First graders got a chance to learn about how farmers bring fruits and vegetables to local markets in New York as well as learn a bit about the growing process of several food plants.


Also, first graders had a chance to each plant a kidney bean in a pot. They have been observing carefully- hoping for the seed to grow roots and then a sprout. Many first graders have estimated around 9 days or 2-3 weeks for the seeds to sprout. Every few days we will be tracking the growth of our kidney bean seeds using journaling- which includes a detailed illustration as well as writing down any noticings or questions.

Soon, we will closely examine the life cycle of a bean seed.