Teaching Estimation in First Grade!

Looking for a fun way to get your students to practice estimating? I use a take-home assignment called the "Estimation Station". It's pretty simple and very engaging- my students love it!

Before I send this home with kids, I do a lot of modeling and practice in the classroom. The main strategy I use to help students learn to develop their estimation skills is determining a benchmark. The following image is very popular on Pinterest (I assume the original source is Teacher Created Materials. The pins did not take me to the exact source.), probably because it explains the strategy very well- help students determine a part or layer, a set of 10 or 20, for example, that they can then use to form an estimate.
We used different math manipulatives from the classroom and followed those steps- For example, "If this is what 10 cubes look like in the container, now estimate how many it holds when it's full."

After a couple of months doing the Estimation Station together during our daily calendar math time, I decided to make it a home activity.

I typed up directions for parents and made some cute labels for both the folder and the container. Then I found an extra library bag (supplied by my school) to use as a way to transport the items to and from school. If you'd like a copy, just click on the image below for the shared doc.

I explained to my class that I would pull two names a week (that way a couple kids get to do it each week without it losing as much novelty). Each student gets two night to prepare, so if they take it home on Monday, they need to bring it back by Wednesday to share with the class.

Since I love to use songs to teach concepts and/or signal transition times, I also set out to look for a cute estimation song. I found the following from Heidi Songs on Youtube. I changed the lyrics slightly to say, "Estimate, estimate, I use my best thinking and then I estimate." We leave out the part about "you're close, but I'm closer." That just made estimating sound competitive- why? For movements, the kids move their hands and gently tap their head like they are thinking deeply! After all, we are a "thoughtful" classroom ;) When I start singing this song, my kids know to make a circle on the carpet and get ready for the share.

During the share, the Estimation Station Supervisor shows the container and tells us what item is inside. He/she walks around the circle showing the container briefly to the students to allow them to judge a benchmark from which to base their estimate.

Then I collect estimates on the white board. I don't bother recording names as they usually remember what they've said, plus, I don't want to make the estimate "personal." Early learners can still be quite sensitive about being "wrong" and I try to encourage a growth mindset with this activity. I remind them that no one is always correct when estimating!

Finally the "supervisor" counts out the items into sets of ten so we can check the actual amount.

So far, students have shared legos, origami paper cranes (yes, she made each one!) candies and marbles! My class LOVES it and it gives us the opportunity to discuss how to come up with reasonable estimates- lots of great thinking and math talk!

How do you teach estimation in your class?
Thanks for stopping by,


Opinion Writing in First Grade

Do you use the Lucy Calkins' units as a resource for writing workshop? They are brimming with ideas and detailed teacher scripts, which can make them a bit cumbersome, if not intimidating. Today I'm sharing how I have used Lucy's first grade unit for persuasive writing. Hopefully you can get some helpful ideas for your classroom.

Before we started writing, we explored facts and opinions. One fun way to do this is with a taste test! I used Cheetos and Pringles- not so nutritious, but YUM! Of course, we graphed our opinions (sorry no pic!) and then wrote only an opinion statement using the word <because>. I felt like this would be a good way to scaffold for writing more details later on! Here is the writing paper I used. Click on the picture to get a copy. 

I loved Lucy's suggestion to ask students to bring in a collection of favorite things to write about because it's concrete, authentic and meaningful for your kids! I drafted this letter and sent it home to parents a few days before I wanted my kids to bring their collections to school. Feel free to grab a copy by clicking on it!

Whenever I plan for writing, I read Lucy's lessons and pull out what I think will work for my kids and my schedule. Time is often tight, so I don't usually follow everything in the units, but that's ok- Lucy wants teachers to make those units their own, so don't be afraid that you are going to mess anything up!! Add your own ideas and personality to it!

I find it helps me to outline the unit so I have a general sequence to follow, but I can still modify what I teach a long the way to meet my students' needs. Here are my notes after reading up through the "first bend".

Opinion Writing Unit for First Grade, 2016, 6-7 weeks

  1. Review checklist for students (kid friendly?)
  2. Discuss prompt: how will we word it?
  3. Give pre-assessment
  4. Norming meeting- score a piece together, then score by self using rubric
  5. Assign writing partners for kids

Week of Jan 3rd
What’s the difference between fact and opinion?(an opinion is a judgement)
  • Taste tests (use <because> to share verbally)
  • Class graphs
  • Position teams for debate
  • Read picture books, “The Best of Show”
  • Letter to parents about sharing a collection

Week of Jan 10
1) Make judgments
People talk and write about their opinions- Share your own collections of items and explain “judging” connection.
Students bring in their own collections
What do judges do (anchor chart)
Students judge their collection and write/support opinion
Model: paper with award ribbon: color blue, red or yellow

2) Write to explain judgement/opinion
Model: reread and revise to elaborate on the reasons
“For example” and I think that because”
Use half sheets of paper to add on (revision tabs)
Add details that tell how the item is special
Fishbowl share: what did you DO as a writer to improve? (reflect)

3) Form- What is the format of opinion writing?
Intro checklist/rubric
Analyze and evaluate student exemplar
Students self-assess personal piece
Begin revisions for missing components
Set goals

Weeks: Jan 17-31 (3 weeks)
MIni-lesson ideas
  1. What are HFW for this genre that we should spell correctly? Create a word bank with students and give a copy for their folder
  2. Brainstorming Ideas- our favorite/best in show
  3. How to write a lead
  4. Organizing - 3 parts/pages
  5. Using Transitions
  6. Elaborating with details
  7. Writing an ending
  8. Spelling by onset-rime, syllables/word chunks

Weeks of Feb 7 & 14
Pick a piece to edit and publish
Celebration on Feb 11th????
(My team and I decided to keep on with the next bend and then have a celebration!)

I then reworked her checklist to better match what I would be teaching and what my students would need. For example, I don't use a word wall; my kids have their own high frequency word (HFW on the checklist) folders that they keep with them at their seats along with their writing folders. Click on the picture below to download!

I made some paper that would go with the "best in class" or "blue ribbon" idea. I left the ribbon blank so my kids could write in it, and then color it to match the item's ranking; many wrote about the 1st, 2nd and even 3rd best items in their collections! Click on the picture below to download! You'll find different kinds of pages as well as revision tabs. By the way, the circle at the bottom right is to help kids remember to number their pages. (I like to teach them to write their beginning, middle and ending on separate pages- I think it helps them with the trait of organization.)

So, here's the fun part! Sharing collections! I shared a collection of earrings as a topic for my modeled writing- my kids loved sharing their opinions about which pair was the best.

Sharing cars and lego creations were very popular!

When they brought in their collections, they each shared with a partner and discussed their opinions. I modeled the writing a lot more than Lucy suggested and used some of the lessons from "bend 2", like "Writing Catchy Introductions and Conclusions" because it just made more sense.

I felt that my students would need to see examples of how to write beginnings and ending NOW, not during the next part of the writing unit!

 After the mini-lessons, they would write about their collection. I'd say this lasted about a week, and then it was time to send those collections home, and write about other opinions.

Sea shells get two thumbs up!
This friend brought in a collection of shells and "fossils". Knowing that they will need to rewrite some terms over and over throughout their piece, I often write topic-specific words on small post-its so my kids can spell them correctly.

After our collections, we wrote more developed opinion pieces, and now we are ready for "bend 2", writing reviews. Now we will focus our efforts on being more persuasive!

I'd love to hear how you teach your students about opinion and persuasive writing in the comments below!

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