Organisation and Routines

Classroom Routines: 15 steps for How to Achieve Counting Collections Success

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In front of me was a noisy, bustling, engaged classroom, and the students efficiently stepped right into the classroom routines for our counting collections.  Today was the day.  Anytime from this day forward, if I am deathly sick 🤢 and can’t plan, I can assign counting collections.  

This group of kiddos would know exactly what to do, and would happily get straight to it.  

However, I love hearing over and over that my class is a delight to teach.

Therefore . . .

I am a huge believer in the importance of creating classroom routines and procedures that  let students carry the day when you have to be absent.  Self-care means that sometimes we will need time off. 

Once you have created the classroom routines, counting collections is a no prep sub activity for the win!

Before we discuss classroom routines, let’s chat about how to use counting collections

Incorporate counting collections into your daily or weekly classroom routine, and  they can be used as a whole math lesson or as a warm-up activity. 

However, being mindful of developmentally appropriate attention spans, there will have to be a lot of diversity in the activities you assign within counting collections to use them for a whole class if your math class is longer than 20 minutes.

First create and establish a classroom routine for how to implement counting collections.

One key aspect of harnessing the full potential of counting collections is to first establish in your own mind how you want it organized. Have important classroom routines and procedures planned out, both for you and for the students.

Assessment is always a part of instructional classroom routines.

At the beginning of the year as a part of your classroom routines just as within all of your subjects, you will want to assess your students’ current counting abilities. 

Formal assessments may be required, but also informal assessments using observations, discussions, or simple counting tasks. 

This assessment isn’t about reporting, but it is about having a ball park for getting everyone started. 

I always started the year with a series of assessments, one of which included them filling in a 100s chart.  This definitely led to my planning.

Continuously assess students’ progress and adjust the complexity of the collections accordingly. 

However, this assessment can be as simple as taking notes of your observations as you drop in on and meet with each group. 

What is your classroom routine for grouping?

I used a variety of groupings. Sometimes I grouped students with similar abilities into cohorts. This makes it easier to tailor the progression to their needs.

However, at other times they worked with random partners, and this type of grouping definitely demands more time.

Regardless of your plan, differentiation can be an effective part of  your counting collections.

Begin any new classroom routine by starting simply.

Begin with straightforward collections. How do you plan to teach the collections? 

For example, start with collections that have objects sorted into egg cartons or onto some other sort of ten frame making rows and columns. This makes it easier for students to count systematically.

Creating a classroom routine supports your students as complexity increases.

As students become comfortable, introduce variations. You can have collections with irregular arrangements, different types of objects, or multiple attributes (e.g., counting both red and blue objects).  

What will be your classroom routines for this activity?

Do they need to sort the objects first, or just count the whole collection?  Sorting first and adding the numbers is more complex.

Do they skip count? Do they need egg cartons and 10 frames, or can they skip count just by sorting into groups and then skip counting out loud.

Identify ways to challenge your students, and build complexity as they become ready for it.

For advanced students, create extension activities that involve more complex counting tasks.

Have a list, or even a choice board, of extension activities your students always know what to do next.  This is one of your important classroom routines and procedures to simplify classroom management. 

As mentioned above this could be sorting larger collections and adding the counters together. 

Have them estimate the answer before counting, or even create arrays for students who are already comfortable adding groupings together. 

There are so many options.

Feedback and reflection can be a favourite part of your classroom routine.

Encourage students to reflect on their counting experiences.

 What were their strategies?

Did they discover something they wanted to share?

What was challenging for them, and how did they overcome it?

These discussions promote metacognition and a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts.

Always, the goal of creating a counting collections progression is to create an inclusive learning environment where all students can thrive. 

Counting collections counters – engagement is part of a successful classroom routine

In my classroom I had two large IKEA buckets filled with bags of everything from pompons to shells to feathers to little plastic teddy bears.

I have provided some suggestions to get started quickly. Many, if not all of these items have multiple uses in math class. 

These are affiliate links from Amazon.  I do not currently receive a commission if you purchase through these links.  They are solely here for your convenience.

You can probably see from this list that if you visit Amazon, or the Dollar Store your choice is almost limitles.

Of course, it is not necessary to purchase anything. 

Think pinecones, pebbles, bottle caps, pencil stubs that get left behind in the classroom, bead,  buttons and Q-tips.  

Adding colourful and engaging items is wonderful to level up the collections, but free simple things work too.  

The possibilities are endless! Be creative and use a variety of items to keep the activity fresh and exciting for your students.

Choosing containers that make cleaning up an easy part of your classroom routine.

Imagine this . . . 

Marbles rolling everywhere, and then writing yourself a note to remove the marbles from the collections. 😂

Containers can be as inexpensive as a flattened coffee filter or egg cartons cut to model a ten frame, or more colourful like the cardboard hot dog, popcorn, and candy treat containers  from the Dollar Store.  We even had red plastic cups.

Not only do these tremendous cups store your items beautifully, but they help to delineate and separate a group of 2, 5 or ten from the larger group of items to be counted.  No more losing count halfway through or forgetting which items were counted and which were not.

If you don’t have much of a budget, have the kiddos wash their yogurt or fruit cups from their lunches, or better yet ask them to bring in clean cups from home. 

If you want to be really swanky, have the kiddos decorate them with glue and tissue paper.  

Ta da!  Simple, affordable, beautiful containers!! 💐

Storage that creates a simple cleanup a part of your classroom routine.

Counting collections do take a little bit of room for storage. 

Everything that you can imagine in its own individual Ziploc bags. 

I found that bags conserve space more than the Dollar Store Tupperware. 

The students found the bags easier to rummage through for different sizes and types of collections,  and they really did have their preferences as to which ones they wanted to count. 

Students looking for less challenge may want the collection that had about 150 little red hearts. 

However, they learned pretty quickly that if they were ready to manage a smaller collection, they would look for a smaller collection that was more suited to their needs.

Students who are looking for more adventure dug in and took a bigger collection.

Of course,  I was also there suggesting collections based on the assessments, but overall I found the students were capable of working with the collection they had chose. 

I did find that having a wide variety of things made it appealing to all the students and these can be free things. 

You have the plan, now teach the classroom routine.

Having created  a clear and concise process for students to follow when you planned your progression, now implement it.

1. Have your classroom routines and procedures checklist that you have created nearby.

By creating yourself a checklist you can be consistent with your classroom routines and procedures which supports them as they try to work withing classroom expectations.

2. Establish classroom routines before starting the lesson.

Share your classroom routines for this process. Answering questions now with the whole group is better than answering the same question repeatedly later.

Do this as a part of your classroom routines for getting ready for counting collections until they are ready to tell you what is on the checklist.

Seriously! That is how to make classroom routines work for you.

3. Teach them how to do a counting collection

I like to use this video first.  Then I like to do a counting collection using our materials to transfer the concepts from the video to our context and collection.

4. Review your classroom expectations How do they choose the collection with their partner?

  • tools needed?
  • reasonable noise level?
  • what is appropriate if they are stuck?
  • choices when they are done?

5. Have them gather their tools as a part of the classroom routine.

Students will need a pencil and paper to record their count. 

I like to use counting collections recording sheets designed specifically for this to scaffold the students on the steps to take, and there are a ton on the internet. 

Unfortunately I can’t share mine because it is a part of a copyrighted book. 

Plain paper works too.

6. Have you created a classroom routine for how they are to choose their collection?

Communicate how they are to know which collection they are getting.

7. Send them to set up the workspace options you have decided upon when planning your classroom routine.

Remind them that they will need a quiet and comfortable place to work, and it will need to be large enough to spread out their collection.

8. Time to sort the objects (if this is a part of your classroom routine).

Instruct students to sort their objects according to where you are at in your whole class progression, or according to what you have them do at their place in the progression. 

I have used candy holders and hot dog holders from the dollar store. any colorful engaging or functional container will work and depending upon their skill level you will want your students to explore and experiment.

9. Time to count according to the classroom routine you have established.

If you have successfully taught the classroom routine and introduced the  progression you will see a multitude of activities as you meander through the classroom working with your beautiful, brilliant and dedicated students. 🥰  

10. Record the count. How will this look with your classroom routine?

One of the great benefits of counting collections is the relationship building. As students work together and plan their count together, they then are responsible for recording the count.

Are they doing this as partners, or separately? That may depend upon if your classroom routine calls for homogeneous or mixed ability groupings.  

Either way  now is the time to check in and guide them as they record their count and show you their strategies.

11. Repeat and explore.

You may have students recount the objects if you want to take this into a longer activity or some students are faster than others. 

Or perhaps their strategy was misdirected, and with a little nudge you have them off and running again. 

I would encourage you in this situation to set goals for the students, or even better have them set goals for themselves.  This is a part of the progression that you planned above.

12. Have them check their work

Once students have counted each group they need to check their numbers as you have taught them to do.

13. Weave time to share into your classroom to make the most of the what they have learned.

If students are working with a friend the hope is that they are discussing the collection and noting any observations.

Once they’ve completed their collection share with the teacher, or, if the teacher is unavailable, they could share with another group that is between collections.

14. Clean up – an essential part of the classroom routine.

Have  you taught them how to put things away and where to put them?  

Where do their recording sheets go?

What classroom routine have you communicated for clean up?

15. Celebrate counting skills is the way to make the most of affirming successful classroom routines.

Ask the students if they’ve had fun and have them share some things that they noticed and they learned. 

This supports a broader understanding amongst the classroom and creates a mini celebration because this is about so much more than math. 

This is about learning to explore and have fun with math.

Also, it is in these discussions that students will learn more about counting, sorting, using operations and so much more.

With the right classroom routine you will experience counting collection success

Perhaps it shows; counting collections are a personal favourite of mine. 

I love to see kids interact  with each other, enjoy play based routines are the best, independent activities are the best. 

Counting Collections are very powerful and they enhance math skills, and are easily differentiated. They support classroom community building and the development of social emotional learning skills.

If you create the classroom routines to manage the hustle and bustle, counting collections become a gift you give yourself.

Thanks for joining me today.  Leave a comment below about something you think would make a free or affordable but engaging counting collection.

Teaching is an art, and using your classroom routines to counting collections is one of the many colorful brushes you have in your artistic palette to create a masterpiece of learning.

Share an idea you have for counting collections classroom routine in the comments below.

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