Teaching and practicing number formation in Kindergarten can be a daunting task. If you’ve never had 20+ five-year old students in your care who could barely hold a pencil, you may not fully comprehend that statement. If you are on the struggle bus along with me, you’ll love me for what I’m about to tell you (and give you). I am ready to share one of my favorite number writing practice routines with you and give you everything you need to implement this routine as soon as today.
Through my own struggles with this skill- I have created a fun, engaging and FREE number formation writing activity that will help your students master number formation through daily practice. Your days of endless number writing worksheets are over. You’ll toss them out the door when you discover how engaged your students can be wit this LOW-PREP and fun activity. Although I specifically designed it for Kindergarten students, this practice is certainly appropriate for higher-level Preschool students or struggling writers in First or Second Grade. The best part? This multi-step, easy process is completely FREE for you, my new Teacher friend.
Why is number formation important?
Before we get to the resource that I mentioned above, let’s first find a “WHY” for practicing this skill daily. When we find a leveraging purpose for doing something, we are more inclined to well… you know.. do it. Do you know why proper Number Formation is important? Honestly, I had no idea! All I really knew is how completely annoying it is to see a child try to form a number five from the bottom line going up. (I thoght it was a personal pet peeve. 🤣) This information came as a surprise to me- and it may to you as well.
Learning proper handwriting techniques- including letter and number formation– can prevent distraction and loss of focus on other tasks at hand. Knowing how to form a number correctly is more deeply important in math procedures than what meets the eye.
Think of this example: A Kindergarten student is provided with a simple word problem to solve. (Ex: There was 1 cow in the barn and five more came to join it. How many in all?) This requires the student to write down the equation 1 + 5=. If this particular child isn’t sure of the proper way to form a number five, it will require a brief lapse in focus to get a number 5 written on a page. It is like a miniature challenge within the greater challenge, stealing vital moments of focus away from the task at hand. This simple, momentary delay may seem trivial to us, but could be a mighty-feat for a primary student whose attention span isn’t great in the first place.
This article from LD Online (a resource for educators for students with disabilities and ADHD) summarizes the importance of proper letter and number formation beautifully.
The author writes, “…. labored handwriting creates a drain on mental resources needed for higher-level aspects of writing, such as attention to content, elaboration of details, and organization of ideas.”
Although I’m back in Kindergarten now, I briefly taught 2nd Grade and witnessed this very problem even at this level. Students were still guessing where to put their pencil on a line during writing activities. Now that I’m back to K, I feel more responsible and motivated to focus on formation. If we Kindergarten teachers could provide our students with proper number formation mastery during their time with us, we could prevent years of struggle for our students in this area- removing another barrier that could be holding some students back.
So folks- our reason for doing this daily? It can make a big difference in our kiddos academic abilities- that’s WHY!
Let’s Practice Every Day!
I am a routine fanatic. I love routines in my own life (they make me feel safe and satisfied) and I love giving my students this same result through modeled and practiced routines. Actually, I go as far as to say that effective classroom routines are what create a truly Happy Teacher. (Are you one of those? Read more here.)
With that out of the way, of course I had to make number-formation a routine in my classroom. If it is that important, I know I can spare five minutes of my day, EVERY DAY, o make mastery happen. Here is how it works.
It all starts with a song- an AWESOME, time-less song by the master of all things Kindergarten- Dr. Jean! If you teach in the Primary Grade Levels and aren’t familiar with this child-crazy, educational POWERHOUSE- exit this post immediately and stalk her on her BLOG for the next several hours. You need her in your life friend, TRUST ME! I was so blessed to see her in person several years ago at a LIFE-CHANGING conference and may or may not have this photo in a locket around my neck that I wear during hard times.
Anyhoo, back to reality here—– The song is called “The Numeral Song” and it runs on replay at random times. I could almost hate it for that- but can’t deny it’s magical abilities to help students recognize and form their numbers correctly. I have this song on CD, but found this handy video on YouTube that adds a visual component to the song.
The great thing about this song is that it repeats the formation directions three times and the repetition really helps students recall this information. I display this video on my projector during our practice in case students need to reference which number they should be writing.
So, I paired this song with a number formation practice sheet that requires the student to write each number three times (as the song repeats the direction.) Along with each number, there is a visual representation of the number to help students see the quantity each numeral represents.
Scaffolding Number Formation Practice: Easy through Independent
This routine progressively gets more challenging. In the beginning of the year, I had very few students who could write ANY numbers, so this process starts out easy and each step gets a little more challenging until your students are completely independent in writing their numbers.
The progression looks like this:
- Step #1: Easiest Level. Student trace only one time along with song.
- Step #2: Students trace three times and must keep up with the song.
- Step #3: Two times tracing, one time independently.
- Step #4: One Trace, Two independently.
- Step #5: No Tracing but Beginning dot still available.
- Step #6: No Beginning Dots, COMPLETELY INDEPENDENT.
All all steps include a beginning writing point except for Step #6, at which students should be completely independent in their number writing.
If you want this to be a fluid, student driven routine (like I have created in my classroom), you’ll need to:
–Model Extensively. It is extremely important that you model each step of this process. I have students sit on the carpet and model the ENTIRE activity from start to finish before providing any materials. I even turn on the song and show them how to stay along with it. Explicit number formation modeling is ESSENTIAL here. Each time they graduate to a new level, do this again! You will not regret showing them EXACTLY what to do.
–Material Preparation and Organization. Decide before implementation how materials will be printed and accessed. Make this as simple as possible. Personally, I have one of each step placed in sheet protectors for re-use. I pass out the activity while my students are at lunch and have it on their table upon entry. My students store their markers/erasers at their desks so they automatically get them out when they enter. I start the song and we’re set to go!
–Circulate and Direct. This is an independent student activity that will free you up for a few minutes. During this time, I often find myself being distracted with tidying my desk or completing a quick task. Truthfully, my time is better spend circulating around the room and directing students who are not successful with this skill. To make it truly effective, use this time to focus on your needy students and demonstrating proper technique at each opportunity.
When to Level-Up
Although this routine could certainly be used in small groups to be more student specific, I practice this routine as a whole-group activity. Deciding when to introduce the next step in the process can be tricky but through close observation, you’ll know when the majority of your students are ready for the next step in the process.
During the routine, circulate through the classroom and notice these key elements of number formation:
–Proper starting point. Are students starting on the provided starting dot?
–Stroke Direction Are they going from top to bottom?
–Stroke Size. Are their numbers over-sized?
If you are redirecting students in their writing pretty often, stay on that specific level until you notice improvements in these areas. I would say three to four weeks on each step is appropriate for most of my students. Extra practice on any skill will not harm a student, but not enough practice certainly can. If we’re going to do this, let’s do it right friends.
Watch this Routine in Action
This is what the routine can look like in your classroom. Notice how my students are all working independently? This did not come naturally, friend! It took me about a week of guided practice to get to this level of independence and focus, but it was totally worth it.
Get your free NUMBER FORMATION Here
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Teacher Friends, chime in here!
Help the Teacher community by giving your BEST advice. What do you do to help your kiddos master number formation? I can’t wait to see your ideas and routines!
Please leave your advice for other Teachers in the comments below!
I hope this resource and information brings more happiness and hopefulness in your classroom!
God Bless you, Teacher friend!