In preschool. we use non-standard units (blocks, unifix cubes, footprints, etc) to practice measurement.
Before we teach a child to measure, we must introduce him to the concept of size. When a child can put things in order by size, he is ready to learn how to use non-standard units to measure things.
We made these "measurement cards" so that children could practice lining the blocks up from one end to the other.
These children are measuring various objects on cards and then recording their answers.
When we do an activity with this many things to measure, we usually take more than one day to complete the activity.
Non-standard measurement can and should be practiced with length, weight and volume.
We know that a child has mastered a concept when he spontaneously begins to do it by himself during learning center time.
Skip Counting: Tens
One of the ways that we teach children to count by tens is through song. Any child can be taught to do this; it is simply memorization. There is not necessarily any mathematical understanding involved.
This is why it's important for us to spend time working with groups of ten to give children the understanding of WHEN we CAN count by tens.
Each child in my small group made a group of ten unifix cubes. When they were done, I asked how many cubes were in each stick. "Ten!" They shouted.
"How do you KNOW?" I asked.
"Because we counted them...?" One girl responded.
"Yes! Now that we know there are ten cubes in every group, we can count by tens!"
Each child got a turn to be the "teacher" and point while we counted. It's interesting - the first time we do this every year, the children's one-to-one correspondence goes down the drain. They haven't yet associated each separate number (ten, twenty, thirty) with a separate group of ten. They regain this quickly. It's quite fascinating to watch.
We made necklaces to get some practice recognizing the numbers and putting them in order.
Again, we practiced making groups of ten.
The next day we found another fun way to practice making groups of ten.
We practiced putting our numbers in order again, too. The more we practice, the easier it gets!
A short psychology lesson for early childhood educators and parents:
One of the arguments AGAINST positive reinforcement is that it can only be used to improve rote learning (memorization), not creativity. This is simply not true.
Positive reinforcement is GREAT for teaching creativity; you just have to learn to reinforce the creative!
Example: In the first photo, the child used the unifix cubes in a way I’ve never seen them used. Unifix cubes only attach together ONE way, but Alex figured out a way to build a three-dimensional elevator with them! This may not seem like rocket science, and it’s not. But it IS CREATIVE. Alex chose to use these blocks in a way that he’d never seen anyone else use them!
Okay, so… He did something creative, how do we reinforce that? We’re going to use our words, and we’re going to point out IN PARTICULAR what we like about what he did.
Alex, that’s really creative!
What a great idea you came up with!
I’ve never seen anyone else build like that with the unifix cubes; that’s really neat how you did that!
That’s a really DIFFERENT way to build with those cubes, neato!
Photo 2 is probably the kids’ favorite way to build with the unifix cubes - as LOOONG as possible (also very cool, and deserving of positive reinforcement)!
Wendy Joy Yohman
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