Using Sentence Frames to Talk about Math

As I talked about in my earlier posts, I am really interested in learning about the Japanese methods of teaching math concepts. As I was exploring a 1st grade Japanese textbook that Phil Daro recommended, I noticed something I wanted to field test. The textbook had the students placing counters on top of the pictures to help them count. Brilliant!! This would help the students keep track of what they counted and keep their hands engaged–which is very important, especially in kindergarten. So I connected with two kindergarten teachers and wrote an activity for a center.

Here is the gist of the center:

1. Students look at a picture and find something to count.
2. Students count and place counters on the object they are counting.
3. Students move the counters to the ten frame.
4. Students fill in the sentence frames to support communication about the number.

The Japanese textbooks didn’t use the five or ten frame, but I find the frames to be great tools to help students build number sense in a visual way. As I field tested the center, the teachers and I realized that we needed to scaffold more for their students that still struggle with one-to-one correspondence and number names, so I quickly tweaked my ten frame to a five frame. Wow, was I so glad I did! They were able to follow the activity, and still spent time counting with the numbers that didn’t take them into the “frustration zone.” Nobody likes to go there. Hence my first lesson learned:

Lesson 1: Students need multiple access points.

All classrooms have diversity in students’ prior knowledge and ability to process the lesson. In order to challenge those that need challenging and scaffold for those who need scaffolding, we have to create different access points for students.

As I worked with the students they were slowly starting to see the pattern with the ten frame. They had never used them, so at first the students were just counting the counters and then counting the empty spaces to answer the questions. It felt like they were just filling in another blank. I wanted them to be able to communicate about the ten frame, so I made a second adjustment. I wrote the questions as sentence frames with blanks to fill in. This was a great adjustment because we would read the sentences together and now the students were building their math, language, and reading! This was my second lesson learned.

Lesson 2: Students need to be given sentence frames initially.

Getting students to talk about math doesn’t always come naturally. A great way to support reading and math is to write sentence frames. The students fill in the frames and read them! Click on the Ten Frame to download your copy.

I love being in classrooms and watching how students think! Common Core is asking us to be so much more thoughtful about how we communicate and develop the math for students. It needs to make sense and be full of connections so they see the beautiful patterns all over mathematics. It can no longer be magic. It needs to make sense! Join me as I explore these early number concepts with Kindergarten.