# Using picture books to introduce maths problem solving to little learners

I love using picture books with young children, not only because they are brightly coloured and highly engaging (if that wasn't reason enough!) but they can give you simple ideas for structuring lessons.

In fact, I often will structure a whole lesson around a picture book when teaching because there is SO much you can do with them!

I love this Pete the Cat book Pete the Cat and his four groovy buttons.

This book has a simple story of Pete who loses his buttons on his coat. Read it aloud and count the buttons back with Pete as they pop off until he has none left (except his belly button!).

This simple story is the perfect example of an everyday maths situation (apart from the talking cat of course!) and a great introduction to maths problem-solving for little learners.

After you have read the story you can model an activity where you draw a cat with a coat and rub out the buttons as they pop off. What you're doing is introducing a countback strategy with maths and you can switch to a count-on to show the reverse. You can build a whole maths lesson around this story and students could even try writing their own story.

Here is how I extend the use of this book with students:

Introduce or reinforce that early maths vocabulary of 'add', 'more', 'some' etc.. because comprehension skills are essential in any maths problem-solving activity. Read the question aloud and write it on the board. Ask the students "What does this question want me to do?" and when they answer ask them "How do you know that?". Get students into the habit of identifying and circling the keywords in the question (in this case 'add').

Observe what strategies students use. Do they throw the buttons on and then count? Do they count first and add them together? Do they use the count-on strategy - starting with the button that is already on the coat? This will tell you a lot about their counting and problem-solving abilities.

The most important part of the problem-solving steps, checking. Students frequently overlook this step but it's essential they learn to check their answers, even when they are sure they are correct!

Now move your students from the concrete to the abstract by getting them to write the sum down. So they can make those important connections.

Extend your students by giving them new maths problems (make sure they are everyday style questions to help students make those connections to the real world) or see if your students can create their own maths problems. Get students to design their own worksheets and pass them to a friend in the class to solve! You could even get them to mark them and give feedback!

If you'd like a copy of these worksheets, you can subscribe to my freebie library and access these and lots more free teaching resources at www.techteacherpto3.com/freebies.

# Teaching halves and quarters made easy

Teaching fractions is actually my favourite maths activity because you get to CUT STUFF UP!

Concrete materials are the way to get kids engaged in maths.

Today we did a revision of halves and quarters. Firstly, we reviewed what a half and a quarter was by playing with manipulatives (this wooden pizza set came from Kmart and is so handy for pulling apart and putting back together with the velcro attached).

Then I told a maths story where we bought pizza and wanted to share it between two people. How could we do that? Making equal halves. Reinforcing the 'this is 1 whole' and when cut 'these are now 2 parts of the whole'.

and again with quarters

After that, we reviewed what a fraction in maths actually means by using my fraction poster from the Food Fraction Pack and kept referencing back and forth between the concrete items and the abstract fraction on the paper.

Next, we started to cut some pizzas up by again using a maths story to bring in real-world problem-solving strategies - these sheets come from the Pizza Fractions Pack.

Kids love designing their own pizza and even the most stubborn child will start to engage here!

Again, more cutting. 'Show me half of a pizza'. Here you are checking to see they understand that both parts need to be equal.

Keep referring back to the concrete materials when students seem stuck.

Then 'show me a quarter'. Here you're looking for folding to check it's equal before cutting. If not ask students 'how do you know it's equal?'.

Lastly, connect the abstract fraction to the concrete fraction by getting students to write the fraction on each piece. Pull apart and return together - whole/quarter, whole/half again and again. Keep pulling students back to the denominator and the numerator. Why are fractions written the way they are written? Make that your final 'check and see' question for the lesson.

# Teaching Plant Life Cycles

Studying plant life cycles is one of those lessons that students can get some great hands-on real-world life-experience from. This is where you see learning in action!

You can do the plant life cycle activities whenever you want in the school year but it does work better in spring or autumn (when it's not too hot or too cold).

What you will need:

• seeds (I have found beans the best option as their seeds are big and don't get dropped/lost on the floor as easily and they do grow well under most conditions)
• Soil
• A container of some kind
• Water
• A sunny place where students can place them each day or a window sill that catches sunlight
• Count down to see germination chart
• Recording sheet

I got these little jars from Kmart. They come with a lid you can screw down to keep the moisture in (creating a temporary terrarium for the seed).

I also love that they come with a blackboard lid so you can write each student's name on the top of the jar (comes with chalk as well!). The lid kept the frost out and the moisture in but soon the plant outgrew the top of the chair so we had to remove the lid altogether eventually (so put an additional label on that jar with the child's name on).

Get the soil ready and soak it with some water (warm water if you're in Autumn so this can start the germination process a bit quicker). Then place the seed inside (one per jar).

Get students to cover the seed. Screw the lid on and then write the process they took on the recording sheet.

Keep coming back to the recording sheet each day and counting down the days to germination (this will help impatient kids to pace themselves while they wait).

Soon (for us it was around the 9th day) we saw the first shoots appear from the soil. It's important to explain to students what is happening under the soil prior to the first shoots popping out of the soil.

Don't forget to keep the countdown going till the plant has fully emerged from the soil.

Remember to water them a little each day and to record the features of the plant in the seed diary.

It won't be long till the seed is fully grown.

Then what? Well, students can take the seeds home and plant them in their garden (you could rehome them in a plastic container if you want to keep the glass jars to use again).

You can get all the printables for the plant life cycle in my TpT store here or on my website here.

# 5 Ways to Teach Animal Habitats to Keep Kids Engaged

Exploring animal habitats is one of those engaging elements of the curriculum and is actually fun to teach. Students love learning about new creatures and it's one of those teaching units where you can hear students saying "Cool!' - how often does that happen in your classroom?

Recently we started a study on animal habitats and as we live Queensland I thought, why not study creatures that inhabit the reef? I know my students would love learning about sharks and clownfish (Finding Nemo anybody?). Lots and lots to explore... so here are the little tips I did to keep the learning fun while still achieving learning goals.

Connections to the curriculum:
ACARA Year 1 Science
• Living things and basic needs including food and water
• Living things live in different places where their needs are met

1. First, we made sure we had a good solid understanding of the word 'habitat' and then built up some keywords on our learning wall for 'shelter', 'predator', 'burrow' and 'hollow'. The time you spend unpacking these words will help your students build upon that knowledge as your lesson progresses.

2. Next, we watched a video on the Great Barrier Reef and aimed to answer the question 'what is a reef?' with the help of a worksheet containing definitions of the different types of reefs.

3. After that, I divided the class into groups and gave them one creature each to study. However, as the shark was everybody's favourite we did that one first as a 'we do' example. We studied the fact sheet for the Whitetip Reef Shark and looked at some pictures. Then each group took one of the remaining sea creature each and did a group read of the fact sheet.

4. Each student then completed a recording sheet on their animal and the groups presented their findings to the whole class. We used the slides to show the class what each animal looked like and discussed their findings.

5. Lastly, students put their own diorama together. Each student brought in an old shoe box and we used the templates to cut out the creatures and place them into the box, remember first to paint the background (or use the background sheet if you want to reuse them). We used fishing wire to hang the fish in place and used bluetak on each end because we needed to keep reposititioning them (plus it means we can use the box again by not making holes in it). This was THE most exciting part of the lesson and students love hands-on activities to demonstrate their learning.

All the material for this activity can be found in my TpT store or over on my website

# Using Fairy Tales To Teach Grammar

Teaching grammar to young students can be difficult because of the abstract nature of some grammar concepts.

Using fairy tales can make your English lessons fun and will certainly engage your students better than a stand-alone grammar lesson.

Here is how I use fairy tales in my classroom to introduce the basics of pronouns, nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs.

BUILD CONTEXT

With all students, regardless of age, context is everything when learning a new skill. What is a pronoun and why do we need to know what a pronoun is? It's very difficult for young students to learn a set of grammar rules if they don't understand why it's important.

KEEP IT SIMPLE
Explore one grammar element at a time and build on previous knowledge. It's tempting, as a teacher, to say 'oh look and there is an adverb!' unless your students really understand what an adverb is and why it is necessary. Pulling texts apart, sentence by sentence, allows your students to highlight relevant grammar elements that have been used by the writer and how they elaborate on what is happening in the story. Extension activities can involve getting students to re-write sentences to improve or change them to a different point-of-view.

KEEP IT FUN
Learning grammar rules should be fun for both the student AND the teacher! Keep making relevant connections to the real world. Take words from the page and turn them into a dramatic play. Students will soon make connections to the power of verbs and adverbs to describe what the character is doing and how they do it. Adjectives and noun groups help the audience paint a picture in their mind.

USE VISIBLE LEARNING TO HELP SOLIDIFY LEARNING

Posters, signage and student work. All should be on display in the primary classroom. Keep learning walls relevant and put connected work samples up there.

I encourage my students to walk around the room and use the signage and posters to help them with their writing. Remember, this is not 'spoon-feeding' as students are still learning. They need scaffolded learning in order to demonstrate what they know and understand.

You can find all of these fairy tale literacy packs in my store