This year we have to teach counting by 5s in kindergarten. This was something I was use to teaching in the beginning of first grade, but it is new to our K curriculum (along with fractions...). We taught it, practiced it, played games with it, and chanted it. But to be honest, we didn't spend the quality time on it we normally do on math lessons. It wasn't one of our best units and we knew the kids weren't quite getting it. Still, we needed to move on- (to teaching fractions) . One of those 'bad teacher' moments where we slap ourselves on the wrist, sigh at the situation, and proceed through the curriculum.
To assess their skills even after we'd moved on we put up a poster that said, "Hey Mrs. Lipstick, I can count by 5's!" and told them that when they felt ready to by 5s independently they could write their name on the poster. Then when I got a chance I would call them over to listen to them count.
Simple stuff. Looking back at it now we were basically taking the ownership off of us from teaching the material and putting it on to them to learn it. We weren't really sure how it would go, but hey, it was worth a try seeing that we had to move on anyway.
Somehow the motivation of signing up on a poster has been everything. They've all taken it very seriously. They went home and practiced their counting, coming in the next day and heading straight for the board to sign up for a chance with me. When I've called them over many of them have counted correctly and quickly, clearly showing off their practicing from home. Some just miss one number and some start with 25, but regardless those that miss are up for trying again the next day. No one has gotten upset or discouraged. There is something about it that has become a game. They go home and practice to try again. When they come in the next day they KNOW they'll get it that time. (Some do and some don't, but that hasn't seemed to change their motivation- the ones on their 3rd or 4th chance are still coming in to try it- and they're getting closer every time. They even practice with one another and although they only have to count by 5's to 30 many of them can now count to 100.
We were surprised at how much it motivated them. Funny how something as simple as signing up on a poster has made them go home and independently practice school work. We never assigned it as official homework, we never said they absolutely had to sign up. We just presented it as a possibility. What I like about it is that it doesn't discriminate against kids who are having difficulty. Anyone can sign the poster. It hasn't become a list of the smartest kids in the class, silently mocking those who are working hard but still having trouble. Instead it shows who is working hard. It's a cross section of the class that is motivated to test themselves and take a risk. Some of the ones working the hardest on learning to count by 5s are the ones who struggle the most. Yet their names are still on the poster and they still proudly come over to my table to show off their skill.
Hopefully it's teaching them some self-study skills and independence. Hopefully they are learning to set a goal and then to work toward that goal. And if not, well, at least we know they're still practicing counting by 5s when we shamelessly pushed on to the next sequence in the curriculum...