I was a middle and high school English teacher for eleven years. Little ones were foreign to me, and that fact was compounded by the fact that I don’t have children of my own. How to teach them was a mystery. However, since my transition to Instructional Technology in the last four years, I’ve been working with elementary-schoolers more and more…and their teachers. What I’ve seen with the little ones is that it takes more repetition to teach them something, but they can do it. What I sense with their teachers is tremendous fear over allowing them to do things on the computer. Of course that’s not a universal truth, but I see that fear as pretty widespread. Thus, I made it my mission to “con” the teachers into trying some different activities with their little ones.
Since we are a Microsoft district, I began launching templates that they could use with their students via our learning management system, Canvas. These templates are inspired by Christine Pinto’s work with Google templates and are adaptable for different age levels, although I have focused on K-2 here. Let’s walk through some of the templates I share in the resources link below.
Activities Ready for You to Use Tomorrow with Primary Grades
- First of all, if you’re a teacher with Excel fears, you’re not alone. I hear more than any other software that this spreadsheet-making machine makes teachers shake in their boots. However, I have little ones graphing already. One of the templates that I share at the bottom of this post is one that allows students to decorate a picture either of the beach or of a leprechaun’s lair. They drag items into the picture and then count and graph those items. The graph is powered by conditional formatting so that the students see bar graphs start to appear as they graph. I have done the same activity with kindergarten through 2nd grade, and all have enjoyed it. For a twist, and this was suggested by first grade teacher, I added a challenge tab where students count the items by twos, fives, and tens and then graph that way. It’s elevating the learning but still allowing them to have a lot of fun.
- In addition to Excel, I have several PowerPoint activities the kids really enjoy. One group of second grade teachers said that they really wanted to use a self-paced center in our learning management system, but they needed help designing it. Since I love lesson design, I asked them to send me some ideas and materials, and I would build the activities for them. Thus, I learned that there are three strategies for subtraction with regrouping. Who knew? When I was in second grade, we just wrote down the numbers and figured it out;) I created three different subtraction activities for them. In one of those activities, students use a number line to help them solve an addition or subtraction problem that involves regrouping. I created a table with jumps that they can fill in to help them do the math along the way.
- Another activity involves the traditional algorithm or what some students cause stacking. It’s the method we all learned as a child. However, there’s a twist. Students are taught the “rhyme rule” to help them decide when and if they should borrow. This activity is a choose-your-own-adventure where students decide which part of the rhyme rule applies and click a button to select it.
- Finally, I gave them both an addition and subtraction activity with base ten blocks. The students represented two different numbers with the base ten blocks, which were digital on PowerPoint, and then they were able to count and arrive their final answers for each of ten problems. I’ve also adapted this activity for first graders. Instead of adding the digital blocks, they simply count how many are represented and write that number both as tens and ones and as a final answer.
- I love when a teacher is inspired by a lesson and feels like she can adapt it for her own use. After I created this series of math lessons, I had a teacher reach out to me and asked about the best tool for making a coin sort. She wanted her students to know the fronts and backs of the coins and also how much they were worth. I was able to create that for her, but the idea was hers.
- Any of these templates can be used as inspiration just like that. Let’s talk now about some activities for kindergarten. These students not only need to know how to use technology but also need to be able to apply it to real content from their classes. With that in mind, and with Christine Pinto’s inspiration (site linked above), I was able to create several activities for them. One of them, which is iPad-based, has the students go around and take pictures of items that are representative of a certain color word. They are learning to match the color with the word itself and also to find items in that color. I did this one was kindergartners recently, and they really liked it.
- Another activity I created involves number sense. This template is best for the computer, although you can certainly adapt it for the iPad. Students were given a number on a slide and had to know what that number was in its written form in order to add that number of shapes to the slide. In PowerPoint, it’s really easy to go to the Insert menu and add shapes, and those directions are included on the template. Though I did not get to this part, having them also fill the shapes with color would have been a fun extension.
With inspiration from the activities I’ve discussed here, I hope you feel empowered to create activities for your own students. You can always reach out and ask for help, and I will be glad to help you make any templates. There are lots of Google resources out there, but I’ve struggled to find many created for Office 365, so I’m proud to have these activities join that movement. Your little ones can do technology, and they can use it to do more than just play. I would love to hear from you what your favorite activity is from my resource folder and what you wish I would create. Leave a comment below; I love sharing and receiving great ideas!
With Tech and Twang,
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