Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Early Prep Number Sense

The very first post I made here on 'Teaching Outside of the Box' was all about building number sense in little learners - Pretty much my favourite time of the day in my Prep class! With the beginning of the 2016 school year fast approaching and many more teachers entering the world of Prep, I thought I would put together a quick post with some ideas of how to get started with Number Sense Warm-Ups early in Prep. 

Before I start with the games, I would like to share a few words of advice from my own experience :)
When you start with warm-ups, the idea is to build fluency and understanding (and do it in a fun, meaningful and engaging way!) All these games are super quick and mean that multiple rounds can be played within a 10 or 15 minute session.

When you begin, it is really important to use your judgement to decide how long a session you need. In the early days I have found that 10 minutes is more than enough given their very short attention span (if you have not experienced Prep before, you will understand exactly what I mean in a few weeks!).

It is also great to use any opportunity to have all your students involved at the same time. This may be doing a count down while a race is on, helping to sequence numbers, showing numbers with their counting fingers, writing numbers on whiteboards or with their *magic pointer finger* or building collections with a few blocks or counters.

Anyway, onto the fun!

Apple Picking

This is our absolute favourite this year! You can read all about how I started with this game HERE in my Number Sense post. All you need are some cardboard cut out trees, scrunched up red paper for apples, and whiteboards and markers or some paper plate numbers.

To start with I would throw 8 apples around the trees and build a numberline to 5 with the plates. Then just have 2 kiddies race to collect as many apples as they can and count them. You can then tweak the game to suit your needs by either having the kiddies stand by the number in the numberline, or write their number on a whiteboard.

Fish 'n' Build

This is another game I have previously posted about which is super easy to tweak to suit your focus. Kiddies just take turns to pick a fish, read the number and build it.

To start with I would only draw out five frames and use fish with numbers to 5. As your kiddies become more proficient with number recognition and counting turn the five frames into ten frames and increase the fish numbers.

Mixed-Up Numberline

A mixed-up numberline is a great, sumple way to introduce number ordering to little learners. The kids especially love it when you choose some of them to hold up each number and then help them to get into the correct order.

Number Hop 

Again, this is a game I have previously posted about. I used Zip-Lock bags and sticky taped them to a Twister mat for an interchangeable playing mat. I would simply call out a number and have a student 'hop' on it. We also play 2 at a time using fly swatters which is great for a larger class. I liked beginning with the different ways to show the numbers to allow those students unfamiliar with numerals at the beginning of the year a chance at success.

Subitize and Build 

Subitizing is such an important skill for little ones to learn, and the earlier you start the better! In this activity, one child at a time hops up, flips over a card with 1, 2 or 3 pictures on it, and identifies the number shown.

From here, it is great to have all your kiddies engaged by setting up each child with 3 blocks or counters, and a five or ten frame. Alternatively, as shown above, you could draw a chalk 5 frame and add in sports markers for them to show.

Subitize and Write

Using the same subitizing cards, have your kids take turns to flip over a card and then write the number. Again it is great for all the kids to have their own whiteboards to write on. If you do not have these resources you can always have them use their *magic pointer fingers* to sky-write the numbers.

Teddy Race to 10

I saw this activity somewhere on Pinterest and just HAD to try it out for myself! Paper plate numbers to 10, a pocket die with numbers 1-3, and 2 teddies and you are in business! Choose 2 kids to take turns to roll the die and move the teddies along. Have the kiddies identify what number the teddies land on each time.

Toss 'n' Build

More from earlier this year! This one could not be easier to adapt to the beginning of the year!

I would start off with five frames again instead of  ten frames and only use paper plate numbers to 3 or 5. This one is a sure-fire hit!

Toss, Turn and Read

Quick and easy and perfect for the beginning of Prep! Place some paper plate numbers face down (Start with 1-3, then 5 and increase as your kiddies become more proficient with number recognition) and have kiddies take turns to toss a bean bag onto a plate and read the number. I love how quick this one is as many kids can have a turn in only 5 minutes!

What's My Number? 

I swear, any time you can add teddies into a maths lesson, the kids will just adore it! In this game the kiddies will cover their eyes and you hide a number (turn it over and sit a teddy on top of it), then have the kids use math language to identify the missing number and explain how they know. ("The missing number is 3. I know because 3 comes after 2 and before 4" or "3 is larger than 2 and smaller than 4".) Again, as your kiddies become more proficient you can extend the numberline to 10 and beyond.

Where's the Bone?

One last really fun one. Find a toy puppy and cut out a bone. Have the kiddies cover their eyes and hide the bone under a number. Have your kids guess what plate the bone is under by pointing to and reading the numbers.

I hope this gives you a starting point for introducing number sense games and warm-ups with your Preps this year :)

Friday, 25 December 2015

Finger Gym Fun! - Fine Motor Activities


I know it seems a little sad to be writing a blog post on Christmas day, but I have been so preoccupied looking up finger gym activities the last few days, I thought that if I finally put it together it would relieve a bit of tension (not sure exactly how but I will try!)

It is about now that new graduates are starting to get the jitters - "Where do I start?"

One really important aspect of learning in an Early Years classroom is fine motor development. Handwriting is a very intricate process for little learners and their fingers need all the help they can get!

I have been doing some surfing for fun fine motor activities to set up a 'Finger Gym' rotation during my maths rotations throughout the year, and have compiled a collection of links to share with you all.

If you would like to see how I integrate fine motor skill activities into my math rotations with number work, you can check out my post on 'Beginning Math Centres' - with FREEBIES included! - by following the link below.

Now, onto the fun!

I have hyperlinked each picture to its original publisher where you will be able to read more about each activity.

Finger gym fine motor development with a superhero theme. (Missamyp):  

Lacing and threading are brilliant ways to build fine motor skills. My little darlings absolutely LOVED my Melissa & Doug lacing cards (below) when I brought them in this year, but you don't need to spend big money to do this. How cool are these superhero lacing cards?? Just choose your pictures (I just love the idea of using superheroes!) and print them onto cardstock - the larger the better, laminate them and use a hole punch to add holes around the outside of each picture. Cheap and easy, and you can personalise them to suit your students' interests.

Of course, you can easily integrate threading into your literacy rotations with letter beads and shoestrings, or throw in some colourful beads and practise making or copying patterns.

This is another quick and easy threading activity that doesn't require a great deal of prep. Clay or play dough, skewers or spaghetti, and pasta - Simple!

Similar again - this time as a colour sort. Coloured matchsticks and a bucket!

Fine motor activity- balancing marbles on golf tees! Children loved it!:

Another quick and easy one. The aim of this one is to have the kiddies balance the marbles on the golf tee's.

This example is from 'What Do We Do All Day?', and shows just how simple fine motor practise can be - just draw some lines on paper strips and add some scissors and a scrap bowl!

Little tip - ANYTHING WITH TWEEZERS! If you can add tweezers to an activity - go for it! You can pick them up fairly cheap and they are totally worth the investment. 

Vie pratique : Utiliser des pinces à linge (Nathaliell):

frises de gommettes et de quoi muscler les petits doigts!:

Oh - and pegs! Pegs are GREAT! :) (Links to image only - no host site :( )

Spinners on the finger gym. EYFS:

You know those little toys you can get in the $2 stores' party sections? The little spinners, and jumping frogs, and mazes - guess what? Use them! Like I said, anything that gets their little fingers moving is perfect!

By the way, how adorable is this Finger Gym set up from Jessica Webb?? LOVE IT!

Padlocks and keys - yep! This picture is from 'ABC Does' and I can just see lots of little kiddies keeping busy with this.

Copying patterns into a sand tray is always a winner like in this picture from Atendiendo Necesidades - and a great step towards pre-writing. (And if you have a spare hour this site is most definitely worth a look!)

And I just had to include this one from Hip Hop Hen! How many of your boys would go nuts if this was a 'learning' activity?!

Well I hope this has given you a few ideas of how to incorporate fine motor skills practise into your early years classroom. I have saved these pictures onto my USB as inspiration for my own 'Finger Gym' activities :) I promise I will post photos early in the new school year of my own set ups to check out!

Got your own 'tried and true' fine motor games and activities? I would love for you to share :) Or fellow teacher blog-authors, if you have a post along the same lines, please comment with a link for us to check it out!

Until next time...

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Beginning Math Centers

This time last year, I was seriously freaking out. I had been told I would be moving to Prep after spending my first 2 years teaching Grade 1. Yep - I was scared!

Where do I start? What do I do? What if I screw up? How do I know what to teach? 

And the worst, knowing what kids need to have to begin Grade 1... 

How the HELL do I teach these kids all they need to know... IN UNDER 12 MONTHS!!!!! 

I was extremely lucky when I started and had a fabulous mentor teacher who was very open and helped me out a great deal. So now, I would like to pay it forward and maybe help some new beginning teachers the best I can, starting with my favourite part of the day - Math Centers!

I know it can be very overwhelming, thinking about how to begin everything. Math Centers or Rotations are an integral part of my day. It allows my Munchkins to play, explore, and make connections with Maths. It is amazing to hear them talking Maths, and interacting with each other socially.

I have put together some resources I have created for you to access for free to use in your own classroom. All of these have been made with the very beginning of Prep in mind and are easily differentiated to suit different ability levels. Click on any of the images below to access the PDF for each game.

There are also some FREEBIES I have found very useful in the early weeks of school with links to their original pages.

Tens Frame Mats

When you begin Math Centers, make sure to include lots of number work - like, lots! Tens frame mats are a great way to start and you can find freebies all over the place! In the beginning, mats like these with a visual representation of each number are great. You can start my having the kids place a counter or manipulative over each picture, then move those into the tens frame - Don't assume they can count out counters straight away. I always start right at the beginning and move up from there. Make it fun - mix and match different materials, add in sensory materials like play dough or kinetic sand and let the kids play!

Fine Motor Tracing Lines

Another one kiddies need lots of - fine motor! Cutting sheets, tracing, colouring, threading - anything that gets those little fingers working! Cards life these can be laminated and then used with whiteboard markers as write and wipe cards. You will be surprised how engaged the kids get with things like this!

Paper weaving, bead threading, and even q-tip painting are great rotation activities to provide plenty of practise for tiny fingers.

Art For Kids: Paper Weaving:

Maths activity of counting beads on a pipe cleaner. Great for developing number and fine motor skills. Laughing Kids Learn:
Found on

Tons of Fine Motor Skill activities.:
Found on

Tower Mats

More number practise (plus add in a little bit of fine motor by using snap, unifix or multilink cubes too)! These mats come in a range of different themes, and in 3 different levels - Mats with numbers -3, 1-5 and 1-10. Easy differentiation, and great number practise!

Counting Clip Cards

Numbers - TICK! Fine Motor - TICK! See how easy it is to integrate??? These cards are great for early number and a good way to check to see if your kiddies can 1) subitize, 2) count with 1 to 1 correspondence, and 3) match collection to numerals.

Link it up!

Links are fantastic for working of fine motor skills, plus your kids will love them! These little cards come in 2 different sets - one with the numeral only, and another with a tens frame as a guide beneath each number. Kiddies just make a chain of the correct length and feed it through the holes in each card. Alternatively, if you do not own links, you could have your kiddies clip pegs to the cards instead.

Roll and Cover

 This is a great was to help kiddies practise their number knowledge. Just add a die and some counters (or blocks) and voila! A ready to go station.

Number Match 

Very straight forward, and this can be a great assessment tool to see how well your kiddies can recognise numbers in different ways. In the early days you might just use the fingers, tens frames, blocks and numeral, then slowly add in tally marks and number words as they are ready.

Show me!

Very basic cards which can be used in multiple ways. throw these cards in a tray along wth various manipulatives and see what your kiddies can do! Again, I have included a second set with tens frames on them to support those who need it.

The Measured Mom

The Measured Mum is a BRILLIANT home school site run by Anna. She is just fabulous, and loves to share her creations with fellow teachers :) The 3 products below are all downloadable from her site and have links embedded in the images, along with a zillion other resources - Seriously, check it out!


Pattern Block Puzzles are great for Math Centers all year round! Kate from picklebums has compiled a list of links to a huge variety of free pattern block puzzle templates. Click on the picture below to view the links :)

I hope this post has helped you out a bit, and that the resources here are well used!

If you are beginning your teaching journey in Prep I wish you the very best of luck. Remember, Prep is the introduction to school for your 20-something kids - make it fun, and do your very best to teach them to love learning!

I will also be making a post very soon about what the first few days looks like in my classroom with more links to FREEBIES. Keep your eyes peeled!

Until next time, enjoy your Summer break!