The first graders and I just finished the first week of our first numbers block. We were really in a groove with the letters and their stories, so I was a little reluctant to switch blocks, but of course, I’m enjoying this one just as much.
This math block has a similar feeling to the last language arts block, where I introduced the consonants via the fairy tales. In this block each day is dedicated to a number and we’re listening to stories and completing main lesson pages that feature the numbers.
At the Art of Teaching first grade summer conference, it was recommended that we return to the umbrella story we began in our form drawing block and use it to introduce the numbers. I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of going back to that story. I really felt like I found my groove with the first graders once I started telling juicy fairy tales, so I didn’t want to go back to a simple little story that was more of a vehicle for the number, rather than a thorough story of its own.
So, I sat down with my book of Grimms’ Fairy Tales and started searching for fairy tales that seemed to line up with the different numbers. I also turned to a resource that was recommended to me by many colleagues — King Maximo and the Number Knights by Howard Schrager.
The premise of the story is that King Maximo is on a quest to find the king of all of the numbers and he has many knights who, one by one, come to him and tell him why each number should be considered the king of all the numbers.
I really liked the premise, and it seemed like a good way to explain the journey through the numbers, but it still felt a bit like a “vehicle” for the numbers, without enough of a story of its own.
Ultimately, I decided to combine Schrager’s story with the fairy tales. We have four weeks to work through twelve numbers, so I can spend a little bit of time with some fairy tales, as well as the number stories. I’m using Schrager’s story as a jumping off point, but I’m varying things a bit so there is a wide array of advisors, townspeople, knights and wise women who speak with him about the numbers. (Though I know the girls in my class can identify with the king and knights just as much as the boys can, I’m mixing things up just to be on the safe side — there’s no reason not to, really.) I’m really pleased with the rhythm I’ve come up with, and I love that I still get to sink my teeth into a juicy story.
The one drawback, I would say, is that the fairy tales can distract us a bit from getting a true feeling for the qualities of the numbers. I need to spend a little bit of extra time making sure that part of the content really rings true for the children.
Here are the numbers, their qualities (which is ultimately our main lesson page drawing) and the fairy tale I’m also telling. (There isn’t a fairy tale for every number — I don’t have that much extra time.) I’m a little stuck for 11 — as were all of my resources. Howard Schrager’s book does a nice job of using it as a place value lesson.
1 — one golden sun, Thumbling
2 — day and night, Brother and Sister
3 — head, heart and hands, The Three Spinners
4 — the four seasons, The Four Skillful Brothers
5 — the five-petaled rose and five-pointed star, Star Money
6 — star of David, snowflake, The Six Swans
7 — rainbow, The Wolf and the Seven Kids
8 — spider, (no fairy tale)
9 — 3×3 tic-tac-toe, The King’s Son Who Feared Nothing
10 — introduction to place value, double-digits, sheep in a pen, (no fairy tale)
11 — another place value lesson
12 — months, zodiac, hours in a day, the richest number, The Twelve Brothers
The other thing new thing I’m doing this block is a little bit of mental math practice. Every day I tell a little story about my dog Toby who keeps a variety of toys and chewing bones in his corner. My other dog, Lula, brings the subtraction piece as she steals toys from Toby’s spot. The first graders have also used beginning multiplication and division to help me figure out how many bags of chewing bones I’ll need to buy and how long each bag will last. I’m having lots of fun telling the stories and describing the antics of Toby the Puppy. It’s nice to get so much mileage out of a simple little situation that I encounter every day at home.
Finally, I wanted to let you know that I’m working on putting together a little packet of information about first grade. This little packet will be similar to my other overview materials, giving the big picture of the whole first grade year. It will include . . .
- A detailed block rotation
- A curriculum overview
- My main lesson rhythm
- The songs and verses we use every day as part of this rhythm
- The First Grader — child development piece
- Student observation chart
- A list of recommended resources
One great thing about first grade is that many of the stories, poems and songs are traditional and in the public domain, so I can include them in the packet, rather than just referring to them and telling you where to find them.
I’ll keep you posted about when it’s ready to go!
Have you taught first grade? What are your can’t-miss, favorite fairy tales? Share in the comments.