A few of the Facebook communities that I am a part of have been having various discussions about teaching math. Some teachers teach whole group, some teach in small groups, some have various technology resources available to them, and some have none. I have spent most of my focus this year and last year trying to find a happy balance of math instruction and meaningful independent work, and I think I've finally found something that works for me. I hope you'll find some tips in this blog post that will work for you and your students as well!

I'm not going to bore you with what I've tried previously, because that would be a waste of your time! So let's dive right in to my happy math place! My math block is right after specials, so before we dive into math instruction, we start with a math warm up. I made these math warm ups up off the top of my head one day after my students were WIRED when they came back from specials. I didn't want to do a regular brain break, because I wanted to get their brains in math mode. I compiled these warm ups into an interactive PowerPoint. My helper of the day clicks a shape and it brings them to a direction such as "hop on one foot" and then we do the action the same number of times as days we've been in school. I am working on making it available to you on TPT very soon!
Then, we move onto calendar. We do the normal calendar things: date, month, day of the week, number of days in school, place value, hundreds chart, etc. Once we are finished with calendar, we move onto our whole group journal exploration. I use my SmartBoard for this because the file that I created is interactive white board compatible. However, if you do not have an interactive white board, you can still join in on the fun!
I read the journal prompt and we turn and talk to a friend about how we can solve it. Then, I have some students come up to the board, and SHOW their solution. The file is completely interactive so that students can actually drag the counters onto the ten frames, use the pens to count and check, and move them to count and scoot. Here, you can see one of my students solving the problem using the "use a ten frame" strategy.
Then, we turn and talk some more about how we can PROVE our answer. I listen in for lots of math thinking. It's so important for students (even in kindergarten) to be able to explain how they got their answer. Yes, this was definitely messy the first few days, but now that they understand what math talk is, they've got it! I have a few students share what they would write in their journals, and some write their responses on the white board as an example. Now it is time for them to work on their own journal prompts INDEPENDENTLY.
The journal prompts that I give to my students are very similar to the one that we just explored in class. The only difference is that it has different numbers. In the file that I created, all journal prompts are in PAIRS with one version for whole group exploration, and one for student independent work. They are able to work independently, because they saw a similar prompt modeled by me and their fellow classmates, and got to participate in guided practice.
My kiddos get to choose what strategy they want to use to solve their journal prompt. I place table caddies on each table with glue sticks, scissors, manipulatives, and ten frames. Everything that they would need is right at their fingertips!
So what am I doing while my class is working independently on their journals? I pull some students who need extra instruction and work with them at my table. These students solve 1 journal prompt a week instead of 5 like the rest of my class. I meet with them every day to review concepts such as one to one correspondence, counting and cardinality, number writing, etc.
As the rest of my class finishes up with their journals, they leave them in a basket for me to look at later. Then, they go to their math stations. I assign everyone a place to go to (computer or practice bins) on my SmartBoard {sorry, don't have a picture!}. I also pull another group at this time for some higher level math activities and enrichment. I usually meet with these students every other day.
The rest of my kiddos grab the bin that they are assigned to, and get to work! This is where I store my math bins. I usually change out one activity on Fridays. The rest of the bins stay the same so that I am not constantly teaching new activities! I think the key to this is making sure that the activities you have in your math bins are open-ended enough that students can do them over and over and they will never have the same experience! Some of my favorite activities to put in here are I Spy, Write the Room, Roll and Write, and some partner games. You can check out some examples in my TPT store here and here.
I love seeing my students engaged and learning!!

So, can kindergarteners actually have a meaningful independent journal experience? Yes they can! Here are some examples of completed journals by my students.
"No. Used a ten frame."

"No. She has 18. I used a ten frame."

"No. I used count and check. She has 17."
I am LOVING my math block now! My students are working independently and LEARNING while they are working. I think that I owe this to working through a similar journal prompt before releasing students to work on their own. Especially in kindergarten, it is hard to expect students to go to a journal "center" by themselves if they cannot read the prompt!
How can you get your hands on these journals? I've just uploaded them to TPT {click here to buy}! BUT, before you buy, you can snag a free preview! The example from my blog post is just ONE of the many different types of posts in my teen number bundle. There are 3 sets: number sense, comparing numbers, and decomposing numbers. There are instructions on how to use this product as a whole group instruction and independent journals. There are even ideas on how to use this product if you don't have an interactive white board! What have you got to lose except your boring math instruction!?
Click on the image to snag your free preview:

Just what a I needed to help spruce up my math instruction. Thank you so much for sharing! :)

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Aah...I love this! I always struggle with implementing math journals in kindergarten, and this sounds perfect. Thank you so much for sharing how successful this is in your classroom!

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