Get Organized and then Explore

As I write this we are about to start our fourth week of the new school year. It’s always an exciting (and hectic) time for any grade but in kindergarten it can be downright crazy! A thing I did over the summer and something that I blogged about that really has proven successful was getting all my math manipulative organized and stored in way that is accessible to the kids. These first few weeks are all about getting our routines down, lots and lots and lots of behavior management and just overall getting used to being in school. The kids in the beginning undoubtedly see all the math manipulatives as toys. Instead of immediately pushing against this idea by explaining what we can and will use them for, I let them approach them as such. During the first few days of school when we practiced our centers I would have manipulatives at each center. As the kids got used to rotating and the attention signal and all that other stuff they had time to freely explore the manipulatives without direction or explicit instructions from me. For the record, the manipulatives they were exploring were: counting links, unifix cubes, dominoes, counting bears, pattern blocks and number magnets. This gave each child time to use and handle all these new “toys” and allowed me to make observation about this new group of little people I will be spending the majority of my day with. Naturally the children counted, sorted, made up stories and built with them.  All the things we will eventually do with them in a more formal and purposeful way. All the things we want them to do as it relates to the common core as well. By allowing them to approach the manipulatives each within their chosen way, while also being able to see how their peers chose to use them we are simply capitalizing on what young children do innately without the need for explicit direction from the teacher. Obviously the direct teaching will follow but in these early days of our new kindergarten classroom it is so important to allow for exploration and discovery. Lastly, something else I discovered by allowing the students this time with the manipulatives was that it removed their stigma in a way. What I mean by that is in past years they were taken out during math and put away when we were done and not readily accessible to the children and therefore the kids didn’t really have ownership of them. Having this early exposure in the beginning will also save time when it gets down to lessons where the children need to be using them and not “playing” with them. It really is a great investment of your time as a teacher and for your students to allow them the exploration they so readily need and desire in their new classroom!

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