Monday, September 30, 2013

Counting Collections

We all know that counting is one of the best ways to help children develop number sense and other important mathematical ideas! Let's all face it...we don't do enough of it in our classrooms.  I attended a workshop recently where the idea of counting collections was brought up again.  I love the idea but wondered about how it would look and how in the world to organize it all.  I hope this post will be helpful in understanding how counting collections would look in your classroom. 

Why should I even count collections?

As kindergarten teachers, we all know that children need many and varied experiences when it comes to counting.  Counting collections helps them learn which numbers come next, how a number sequence is related to the objects in front of them, how to keep track of which ones have been counted, and which ones still need to be counted. To learn more about the benefits of counting on the article for a wonderful read!

Where do I begin?
It can be as easy as placing large piles of items on the tables and without any further instruction ask the students to begin counting!  I think I would start with maybe only two tables of students and set a few ground rules before starting.  This will be a great assessment of understanding where to begin your collections.  Once you decide to make counting collections a regular routine in your classroom you will need to start collecting baggies of "stuff." Make sure you have a variety of collections with different amounts so you can meet  all students' needs. In kindergarten, you probably will need to start out as low as ten in some collections.

What kind of items should they count?
Beans, pom-poms, buttons, cotton balls, rocks, marbles, bingo chips, shells, seasonal things, seeds, cereal, birthday candles, cards, golf tees, craft sticks, game pieces, crayons, pattern blocks, erasers, keys, straws, dice.... the sky is the limit!  A simple walk through a craft store will spark lots of ideas. Parents can even donate collections as well. Here is a "starter kit" of sorts that I found while searching the web.  

What is the teacher's role before, during, and after a counting collections lesson?
My opinion is that the teacher should let the students drive what she/he does as far as modeling/teaching with collections. Ground rules will need to be established but other than that...let the students guide their own learning.  As students work in partners, the teacher is observing, taking anecdotal notes, asking reflective questions, and selecting students to share with the whole group.  As you notice things like, student are not able to keep up with the amounts, you could share some organizational tools like in the picture above.  I would try to get students to first mention the need for things like ten frames, cups, paper plates, organize their collections.  After counting collections, be sure to follow-up with students sharing how they counting.  This is also a time to emphasize good techniques you noticed and correct any misconceptions.  Most of all...just have fun!! 

Why do my students need to record their counts? Most students will begin counting one by one with no strategy for grouping the items. Once some time has passed, interrupt their counting and ask them a question and then tell them to continue counting. Many students will forget where they were and have to start all over! This is a perfect time to discuss strategies for grouping items using things like ten frames or cups.  You will need a method for the students to record their thinking.

How often should I count collections in my classroom?

I think it would be great to count collections once a week.  Maybe choose a day like Wednesday and during your math or station time the students would count collections.  Wouldn't that be fun to have such a change up in your regular routine?  Counting Collections could be changed to once or twice a month later in the year. 

What does Counting Collections look like in kindergarten classroom?

Click on the picture to watch a wonderful classroom video

Other neat twist on counting collections
Try backwards counting collections. You give the number and they make the collection!  

Let me know if you have any other great ideas for counting collections!! Happy Counting!!

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