I start the lesson with a problem of the day to help students review skills and concepts from prior lessons and develop their ability to problem solve. I call the students up to the carpet. The students find their spots while saying this chant with me.
Criss cross, applesauce, hands in your lap, eyes on the teacher, you've got to show me that.
I tell students, "We have been doing a lot of fun things with the story The Polar Express. For math today, we are going to practice the numbers to 10 while we make a book about Santa and his reindeer."
Prior to this math lesson, we do activities in reading and writing for The Polar Express. We read the story, and as we read we look carefully at pictures, predict what may happen next, and infer on occasion as to what the narrator might be feeling or thinking. After reading it talk about the characters, setting, and important events. We fill out a story map and use it to retell the story. In writing, the students write about where they would want to go if a train pulled up in front of their house.
Prior to this lesson, I print the Santa Identify and Count books off of MakingLearningFun.com. I cut the pages apart and staples the books together. I also print several copies of the reindeer pictures and cut them apart as well. We have a lot going on during Polar Express Day, and I only want this activity to take a few minutes.
I show the students a copy of the Santa Identify and Count book and say, "Each of you will get one of these books. The book is already created for you. You will need to turn to the first page and look at the number." I hold up the book so that the students can see the first page. "What number is this?" (1) "So we need to glue on one reindeer." I model how to glue one reindeer to this page. "Remember this is a book, so you have to be careful how much glue you use. If you use too much your pages will stick together. Just put a little bit of glue on the back of each reindeer." I continue modeling up to page 3. "When you are finished, remember to go back and make sure you have the correct number of reindeer on each page. Once you have checked your work, you can go back and color your Santas and reindeer."
I then give each student a book and have them take it back to their seat. I already have a basket of reindeer in the middle of the table for the students at that table to share. I circulate to help students who are struggling with counting and recognizing the numbers to 10. After about 15 minutes, I count down from 5 and say "Freeze." I have the students put their books, in their mailboxes to take home and we get ready to watch the Polar Express movie.
Along with our Polar Express Day, this was also our school's Breakfast with Santa Event, so it was a super busy day! Trying to fit everything in on these special event days can be a challenge. I knew ahead of time that I probably over planned, but on these days when the students are excited, it is better to have too much to do and cut some things out than to plan too little and have down time. This math activity ended up being one of the activities that I needed to cut at the last minute due so changes in our schedule.
We still did the Problem of the Day, but instead of making the book, I explained it and sent it home as a fun activity to do over winter break to practice numbers to 10. My return rate on assignments given over long breaks is normally low, so I offered a reward for students who returned the book completed on the first day after break!
This short math activity leads up to our viewing of the movie Polar Express. We set the chairs in our classroom up in rows to resemble a train. Each student gets a Polar Express ticket which is clipped with a hole puncher during the movie. We also distribute cookies and hot chocolate to the students as they watch the movie. It is a great way to end the last day before winter break!