Math block for 1st and 2nd – December

In this math block, I introduced addition, subtraction and multiplication to the first graders through the story of three characters. The stories we tell in math are designed to give a moral quality to our math operations. Children can easily get carried away in math – numbers climb higher and higher and more and bigger quantities are desirable. We want to foster a sense of responsibility with numbers and eventually money – as well as a desire to help others.

We began with addition and the story of Happy Addy the baker and his friend May who bake hot cross buns in their little bakery. Happy Addy overwhelmed himself with buns, tried to eat them all, and got very sick. Ask your child about all the places he hid hot cross buns when the doctor came over to his house!  Although we’ve been doing addition with our manipulatives all year, now we are using the words “add” and “plus” and we are writing simple number sentences. We always try to practice taking the whole to parts, so we quickly went into regrouping numbers after I introduced addition. Happy Addy and May had carts with shelves to stack their baked items and each cart held a certain number of baked items per shelf. So the children had to figure out all the different ways to make 7 such as 5 and 2, 3 and 4, and 6 and 1. We did this with many numbers between 1 and 10 and drew it in our main lesson books as well.

Next, first grade heard the story of Minus Miner, a generous and solitary man who lives at the base of a beautiful mountain. He gives to the animals in the winter when they are hungry and never takes too much for himself. He mines for little slivers of gold in the creek in front of his home. Old Man Mountain shares a secret gift with Minus Miner – a cave full of quartz crystals laced with gold. So Minus Miner shares his bounty and “gives away” what he doesn’t need. His long chisel becomes known as the “minus” sign, and from this the children learned to write subtraction sentences. We continued to use manipulatives and then showed the work on the chalkboard, which we then put into our main lesson books. We reviewed and practiced recognizing all of the numbers 1 – 10. We reviewed our numbers 11 to 20 as well, both in gem work and on paper. We continue to count, to memorize our addition verse, to practice counting on our fingers, and to work rhythmically within all of this.

Finally in the third week, first graders were introduced to Multiplication with a story about Mul de Plier – a little girl who finds the Tree of Life, takes two twigs from it, and realizes that when she crosses them together they multiply items before her. She uses these sticks to help a village in need, whose crops have failed and whose people are hungry. She multiplies seeds, potatoes, pots of soup, squash – you name it! The children loved the story and loved using our birch branches in the classroom to multiply items. They also learned how to write multiplication sentences with the “times” sign (two sticks crossed). We reviewed Happy Addy and Minus Miner, continued rhythmic work, counting, work with manipulatives, and we played a math board game.

In this math block, the second grade class learned how to tell time and how to use a calendar. We began with a story about Alma, a farmer’s daughter, and the 12 tasks she had to do each day. Alma had a hard time fitting all 12 of these things into her day because she couldn’t manage her time. She visited Prince Divide (a character we learned about last year) and he showed her a clock, which allowed her to divide her 12 tasks into the 12 hours of a day. We drew these tasks associated with the clock so that the children could learn morning, noon, and night hours. Then we drew a big clock in our main lesson books with all 60 minute marks. We watched our own clock in the classroom and counted out 60 seconds for a minute, and learned that 60 minutes make an hour. This went with a verse in our morning circle.

60 seconds make a minute, Put a bit of kindness in it.

60 minutes make an hour, Work with all your might and power

12 bright hours make a day, Time enough for work and play

12 dark hours through the night, Give us sleep till morning light.

7 days a week will make, This we’ll learn if pains we take

4 to 5 weeks make the months, Remember this or be a dunce

12 long months will make a year, In one of them your birthday dear.

Then second graders made their own clocks that we used for the next two weeks as we practiced telling time. As the children became more comfortable with the clock, they learned a bit more about how the hour hand slowly moves to the next hour as the minute hand travels around the clock. This is a bit confusing for the students, so they need lots of practice. It’s hard to know whether it is 4:50 or 5:50. We’ll get there. The children love using the clocks they made and I hope they are practicing telling time at home, both with an analog and digital clock!

Second grade also made their own 2015 calendar. We learned (as an entire class) two new songs – one for the days of the week and one for the months of the year. I apologize if these are stuck in your heads – they are certainly catchy tunes that you will recognize. Second graders enjoyed coloring pictures for each month of the year and connecting the months with the season. I hear, “Ms. Knapp-Weber, what is the weather like in March?” or “Is it still cold in February?” They are filling in days of the week and dates for each month. It’s great hands-on work for learning to use a calendar. We also wrote in our classmates’ birthdays. Many of the children want to put in their family members’ birthdays too – so you can help them with this at home. We practiced finding dates on our calendar. For example, I’d say, “Find June 20th and tell me what day of the week it is.” We will review all of this work when we return in January, and hopefully the children will follow their calendars at home throughout next year.

In Circle we sang “Jingle Bells,” “Do you see what I see?” “The Shepherd Song,” and “Santa Lucia.” The children sing so beautifully – we have a singing class and I’m so happy about that!

Outdoor Fridays were busy this month.  We spent a lovely day at my house. We made beautiful popcorn and cranberry garland and pinecones covered in peanut butter and bird seed. We then decorated a tree with them at Peace Park – our winter gift for the animals of our park! We also heard a few stories of St. Nicholas and how he helped those in distress, and that it is tradition for him to come and put treats in children’s boots/shoes when they are left out on St. Nicholas day. Miraculously, when we went outside to put our boots on, there were small candy canes and clementines in our boots! St. Nicholas had come and the children were thrilled!

Popcorn Garland

Our Decorated Tree

Our Decorated Tree


On Santa Lucia day we made and delivered Santa Lucia buns to the kindergarten and sang our beautiful song to them. It was truly special and hard not to tear up. We also gathered cedar boughs for the Winter Spiral from our family’s property just south of town – and got to ride on a huge zip line. It was quite the experience for some. We came back to Garden Gate Preschool to set up the Winter Spiral for the evening’s festival.

Winter Spiral

Winter Spiral

As a class, we finished reading aloud the book, “The Princess and the Goblin” by George MacDonald. The children were rapt with attention and couldn’t wait to find out what happened at the end. It’s a story rich in language and imagery and was perfect to finish our days filled with math.

During our reading time of the day, the first grade reviewed their letters and sounds and worked on reading short words from the flash cards I made a few years ago. The first grade is so wonderfully excited to learn and they love the pictures I drew on the cards. “Fat” is by far the most funny word to read. They are thoroughly delighted when the card comes up from the pile – big belly laughs all the way around.

Second grade did silent reading of a story I chose for them and then helped the first graders begin to read our simplest “Bob” books. I grouped the children into 2’s or 3’s and the older children helped the younger ones. The second graders were so helpful and sweet!

Multi-age reading time

Multi-age reading time



We celebrated Hanukkah as a school on December 16th. Ms. Pickus told the story of Hanukkah and we lit the Menorah. Many thanks to Julie for bringing in latkes for all of us. It was a lovely and sweet celebration.

Hanukkah Celebration

Hanukkah Celebration

We painted twice in the last three weeks. One painting was “A light in the darkness” and the other was a beautiful spiral. We began the spiral from the outside toward the center, just as we tend to turn inward in the winter months.  These were hung on the bulletin board.

A Light in the Darkness

A Light in the Darkness

On our last day of school, both classes came together for circle to practice our caroling songs. Then Ms. Pickus and I gave the children candles to decorate with beeswax that they brought home for the holidays. We went to Lenoir Health Care Center to carol and the children did wonderfully. Thanks to Elizabeth for driving us there and back! We walked all through the center singing and stopping occasionally. The residents and care staff were delighted that we had come. Then we came back for our little performance at the Holiday Party. Big thanks to all of our families for celebrating with us, for all the delicious food, and for all they do to make our community warm and loving. Below are some photos of a snowy recess!

winter recess 1

winter recess 3

winter recess 2