In my home, for what ever reason, counting and math skills has always been our first education item of the day. Engaging their minds with movement, we counted as we: clapped our hands, did jumping jacks, hopped on one foot- you get the picture. Counting started our home school day with the realization that God is a God of order as is evidenced in numbers and nature. Yet, how do we get them going?
My conviction in teaching has always been to teach the way they learn and keep it real...what is the purpose? In order to show purpose in counting the kinders need to see the meaning of the counting: what it stands for. My student my recognize the number five, but does she know what it stands for- what it represents? The number five stands for five fish, or five apples, five children or balls or five different items together in a box. As my children learned to count, we also learned what the numbers represented.
Ten ways I taught counting concepts:
1. Flash cards: these are invaluable! Numbers on front, dots on back- in order or mixed up, the cards were part of every lesson and stored neatly in their pencil box.
2. Flannel board: again- invaluable! Put shapes on the board- they count them, match the number- switch it around by giving them a card and they add the amount of shapes.
3. Manipulates: buttons, beans, pennies, foam shapes, sea shells, farm animals- the possibilities are endless. Using the same basic pattern above, cards and manipulatives work together for active learning.
4. Movement: hop, step, clap. When we are having a wiggly day, movement engages that energy in a positive learning environment. A game of Mother May I works wonders on energetic learners.
5. Hidden treasures: a box of packing peanuts became a counting game when my kids stuck their hands in the "ice" and "dug out" different hidden items I had placed numbers or directions on (example, take five steps, count to three hopping on one foot)
6. Play store: pantry items with "prices" and simple strips of green "money" become a game and a lesson.
7. Feed the animals: stuffed animals with numbers on their tummies need the right amount of "food" (cheerios or goldfish are great). Be creative!
8. Dominoes: count the dots and find the matching flash card- my kids loved this.
9. Games: Uno and Go-Fish are great to start with. They also introduce the concept of taking turns and good sportsmanship.
10. Life: it's amazing how much counting shows up in our daily routine; setting the table, picking up the toys, sliding on the slide.
Imagination and creativity flow naturally in the heart of the kinder years. Connecting those hearts with creative and interactive learning sparks a desire for knowledge. It always amazed me how long my kids could sit still and "study" when our classes were filled with interactive learning activities.
We are far from those simple days of counting concepts, but the foundation remains. Lessons taught in creative interaction have stuck with them- often bringing them to reminisce about those early days. Precious are the memories of the days when my little ones would count with me.