Increase student engagement with unicorns and get them excited about learning with these fun math and literacy activities.
The Struggle bus to Increase Student Engagement
One of the things I have struggled with is how to get my students excited about practicing their math facts. Reading is a little easier for me because it’s something I love so it’s not so hard to share my passion with my students. Math is not something I get excited about. I admit I have struggled over the years to find a way to teach math with enthusiasm. Especially with a boring curriculum that teaches students to regurgitate facts by writing down their facts on a worksheet with absolutely no personality.
THE SOLUTION TO INCREASE STUDENT ENGAGEMENT
It might seem simple, but I took those boring practice sheets and added graphics (like unicorns, for example) to jazz them up a bit. And let me clarify…by unicorns, I also mean all of the other fun things kids like to learn or talk about (sharks, mermaids, pirates, dinosaurs, aliens, etc.). I switch them out based on the unit I’m teaching, and by switching out the same worksheets with different pictures and changing things up a bit, my students get excited all over again about doing the activity. They continue practicing the same skill, but also know what to do when they see the activity because of consistency.
And that’s they key with anything…consistency. We get better at what we do consistently.
What you do every day matters more than what you do every once in a while.
INCREASE STUDENT ENGAGEMENT TO BUILD FLUENCY MASTERY
And although I get tempted to try lots of different activities and switch things up every week during our math warm up and centers, I have learned to choose a few activities my students enjoy and know how to do consistently, and that’s how they become successful at mastering their skills. Whether it be addition and subtraction facts or writing, I want to spend less time giving them directions on how to do the activity, and spend more time on actually practicing the activity.
Not only does this help them become independent learners throughout the year, they gain confidence in what they are doing, and I am able to spend more time working with my small groups and focusing less on management during independent work times.
HOW CAN WE TEACH FLUENCY?
Whether it’s math or reading, the important thing is to practice, practice, practice. And if your students are struggling, it means they need that much more practice to learn these skills!
This means students should practice DAILY to develop fluency. There are many ways students can develop their math or reading fluency:
- Oral drills
- Computer games
- Written practice drills
- Small group or partner games
- LOTS of reading
All of these can be done during different parts of the day:
- Morning Meeting
- Math Meeting
- Morning Work
HELP MAINTAIN FOCUS AND INTEREST
Behaviors start to happen most often when those struggling students have lost focus.
The reason we are encouraged to break our schedules up into smaller blocks of time (rather than 90 straight minutes of us teaching) is because young students cannot maintain that amount of focus for long. Struggling students can only maintain approximately 15-20 of focus on reading before they need to move on to something else. Whereas, higher level learners can focus for approximately 30 minutes. And we know this applies to other areas of learning as well.
This is why a workshop approach tends to work better. I’m not saying we all have to adopt the Daily Five or Daily 3 method. I know some amazing teachers that do it, they do it well, and they love it. I tend to do something similar with 1-2 center rotations each day, but have found doing all 5 stations over 2 1/2 hours just doesn’t work for my teaching style.
But, what it does mean is that we teach a new concept for 10-20 minutes and then students work independently or in groups to practice the skill. Students can complete an activity and then move onto another activity when they are finished as an early finisher. I tend to choose reading or math fact fluency through games.
TEACHING FLUENCY THROUGH GAMES
Now on to the FUN stuff! While teaching kindergarten, I came across the game Kaboom. It was a sight word practice activity to build reading fluency. Once my students learned the game they knew exactly what to do every time I switched it out. They looked forward to hearing the new name and how the bonus cards changed.
How to Play:
- Spread the cards out into a pile.
- Choose a card from the pile
- Read the card. If you can read the card, keep it. If you can’t, put the card back. (Playing with a partner or group? I suggest having them help the student read the word if they missed it so they can learn it for next time). 🙂
- Special Cards
- Oops! – Put all of your cards back into the pile
- Magic! – Draw another card
- Lose a turn – If playing with a partner or group, you lose a turn
- Skip – If playing with a partner or group, you skip the person who has a turn after you
Each time I switch out the cards, the only thing that changes are the pictures and the bonus cards. It takes less than a minute to explain it and move on. That means more time to practice the skills we want them to learn!
I created several versions of the same game with EASY PREP that your students will absolutely love to play all year long! But, I also decided to create a math version with addition facts to 20 and subtraction facts from 10. Same game practicing a different skill!
I WANT IT! NOW WHAT?
You can find my Math Fact Fluency activities and games here.
Check out my Sight Word Fluency games here.
If you’re interested in reading more about increasing student engagement, I talk about how I use fiction and nonfiction text for exactly that in this post.
I also share 7+ engaging activities to use with Dr. Seuss’s ABC Book here.
Interested in my Unicorn Math Fact Fluency pack with double digit addition and subtraction activities? You can find it here OR even better…Do you want this Math Fluency Pack, along with other FREE resources (including my St. Patrick’s Day Math & Literacy pack)? Just fill in your name and email address at the bottom of this page in the box where it says You Don’t Wanna Miss This! to receive access to my library of teaching resources or click on the picture below to find out more.