These games to easy to teach, active and collaborative. Just mix outdoor with play and a dash of nature’s loose parts and you have a recipe for fun!!!

Balancing Rocks
Estimate the number of stones you need to build the stone cairn. Collect stones and then stack. We watched a You tube video to help with prior knowledge before building and then began practicing with small stones at the seashore moving up to small boulders in the forest. The children were making what I thought were wild guesses but they were actually very close!! Then I set up a math provocation in the classroom to extend their interest with rocks of different sizes.

This active partitioning games does not require any materials but does require space. For our purposes we usually play this math game in the meadow adjacent to our forest. The "caller" calls out a number and the children move into groups. If they need more group members then they hold out a hand show the number. The "caller switches to a different number and the children rearrange themselves. I wish I had a video of this game but hope that you can imagine how much fun it is!!  

We also play it as a partner game using loose parts indoors and outdoors. This very flexible game also lends itself as 1:1 for assessment, build fluency or as an intervention.

In small groups of 4-5 students, assign numbers to each participant and have them hunt for nature's loose parts to sort and count using a grid format. Follow-up with a gallery walk so that groups can compare and contrast their collections.

This could be a partner or a small group activity. Ask students ask them to choose a tree for their measurement task. Then working together with a string (any non-standard item will work) they measure the circumference of the tree, it's shadow and any loose parts like seeds or leaves which have fallen. They can also sort the loose parts from the tree by size, shape or colour.

This can be done with a paper bag if you plan on combining collections to make a larger number otherwise just asking students to work on a number line in small groups works well and is fun for the children. They collect nature's loose parts and then build the numbers along the number line together. When we are at the seashore I draw in on a long log using sidewalk chalk. This would also work at school on the patio if you have nature loose parts in your classroom or nearby on the school grounds.


Math Fluency In An Outdoor Program

This past year I focused on the core concepts in Kindergarten math using three primary access points; counting jar routine, daily math partner play and story problems. Our circle times were also infused with opportunities for the children to build numeracy through games, songs, read aloud, small group work and math talk.

Although I do reference many math and literacy activities in my book Outside Our Window: developing a primary nature program I wanted to share some new activities that we do outdoors and a few of our indoor math activities.

Counting Jar Framework provided the children with regular opportunities to count objects, develop counting strategies like organizing, skip counting, touch and count, conservation and adding on. The children had access to counting mats to help with organization, subitizing and skip counting. Some examples were five and ten frames, repurposed milk cups, egg cartons, dot cards and hand prints. I provided jars with different numbers of objects and time to count. Over the year, I added more jars and increased the quantity while increasing the amount of time dedicate to counting each week.

Math Partner Play is a regular part of our kindergarten day and easily flows inside out. While providing the children with experiences to build social skills they also work on fluency in the core concepts; patterning subitizing and partitioning.

The children copied, extended and built their own patterns during math play with the materials being refreshed regularly.  In the forest the children used leaves, sticks, stones, shells and seeds for pattern play. The forest pattern play was so open ended the children began to used the same object but positioning it differently to create the pattern encouraging flexible thinking.

To build fluency with subitizing, many of the math games included using dot patterns like Find It & Dot Bingo from Carole Fullerton, domino games as well as board games which used dot cards or dice. We would bring our dot cards to the nature classroom and the children would collect nature loose parts to play the game or we would bring a basket of loose part with us to ensure that we had lots of resources.

We had so much fun with partitioning found it one of the easiest to adapt for the forest or seashore. Some of the math games included hand and cup games where the partner had to guess how many were missing from Math Their Way,  adding towers, number bags (from Suzanne Dodd, SD68) and number challenges which required the children to roll a die or turn over a number card to compose/decompose the number of objects i.e. blocks, pine cones, shells, stones... 

Nature Books to Inspire
Summer Reading Suggestions for the Nature Teacher 

Summer arrived a couple of weeks ago and by now you are probably rested up from the busyness of the year end school fun and ready for summer play. My home is tidy, the fridge is full and my beach basket is beside the door ready for summer play. Because I love books, I have already visited the library and have a short stack of favourite re-reads, a cookbook to experiment with and a couple of new authors ready for my summer reading pleasure. I also like to include a few professional books related to teaching and nature education. I find it inspiring and breathes new life into my energy for nature teaching and with a little luck a few of my nature teacher friends will be reading some of the same books.

Whether you read some of these books on your own or with a friend you’ll find them an easy and informative read. I chose a few books which were inspiring, easy reads and packed full of good ideas for a nature program.

This book is formatted for easy reading with beautiful photographs and dozens of child-friendly, inexpensive outdoor playful science and art activities.  I found many of the activities easy to organize and were class favourites, repeatedly enjoyed by the students. This could be a family book but is a good fit for the nature classroom.

This was my first nature book purchase and I still carry it in my pack back. I love that it is a well-made soft cover pocket sized book. It is organized by season and is intended to capture the family nature experience as it happens. In easy to read script it is well organized and shares simple to implement activities that transfer easily to the nature classroom.

Now in it’s 2nd edition this book comes with a wealth of ideas on how to foster creative play and learning in a nature-focused environment including bringing the outdoors in, the role of the adult and fostering academic goals. 

This book is a practical guide to developing a nature primary program. If you are at the beginning of your journey in bringing your students outside, or well on your way, this book will guide you, set you up and even enrich what you already do ( written by Wendy deGroot). Of course I love this book as I authored it. Peer feedback consistently references this book as a user friendly and comprehensive guide to developing a primary nature program.

What are you reading this summer??

Conferencng 1:1Writing Samples

Scaffolding students requires you to have a solid understanding of the writing continuum, on-going assessment as well as establishing writing routines which include time for conferencing with students in small groups for guided writing as well as 1:1 conferences. 

My writing program is inspired by the work of Lucy Calkins and her amazing team of researchers which I have integrated into my Reggio Inspired Kindergarten Program. It includes writing around the room, mini-lessons, interactive writing and daily independent writing. During writing the children always choose their own topic and use kid writing to write their story sentence. Juxtaposed with the writing program we do a systematic phonics program, read about five books each day and play literacy games including lots of rhyme as well as create a word wall for circle games (mid year). The children have opportunities to talk throughout the day which includes play such as exploration or partner literacy/math, story play, storytelling, guided talks and turn and talk during group activities.

The children begin with learning how to create a story picture. We decide upon criteria together and then co-create an anchor chart for reference to encourage independent work. To support their drawing we work on step by step drawing almost every day in the fall to strengthen these areas and build confidence. The drawing program is also a pre-printing program that teaches circles, downward stroke, straight lines and curves.

It is the guided writing small groups of 3 and 4 students as well as  1:1 conferences which enable me to differentiate instruction for my young writers. The child selects a picture story from the journal and we collaborate on the sentence usually 3-5 words and count the words in the sentence. If needed we can draw a line to represent a word and then the child can write the word, beginning and/or ending sounds. We may work on sound work, letter formation, sight words and/or spacing. To support the writer we may use an alphabet chart, magnet letters or a dry erase board. For some writers they may have other goals like adding more words, using a describing word, using our word wall or matching the sentence to their picture. 

By mid-year often the children who arrived in Kindergarten with a good knowledge of letter names and sounds are writing independently using kid writing. I believe that it is important to acknowledge kid writing and  encourage the children to write the sounds they hear in a word. 

As the students build writing stamina and skills they gradually move from a blank page to word boxes and then interlined writing boxes in their journals at their own pace. We also create lots of classroom books which have writing prompts such as "I like ... or I can... or My friend and I like to... A ______ can... With the classroom books I like to select a topic which they are interested in such as animals, seasons, field research or friendship but lots of times they suggest a topic. These books provide an opportunity to highlight sight words which have been recently mastered and are some of their favourite choices during friendly reading.

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