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Math Monday–Visual Instruction Plans

One of my favorite classroom activities is to have the students play games. The children are having so much fun they don't realize they're working and a game provides an entertaining context for applying new learning.

But teaching with games is not always so fun for the teacher.

It seems to happen every time: I've gone through all the rules and all the little groups are busy playing. Then I notice the two in the corner who are seeing how high they can throw the dice and while I'm dealing with them, three other groups have suddenly forgotten what they're supposed to do. And by the time I get the first questions answered a new set of students is off task…

You know how it goes.

One of the best tips I've found is from Fred Jones' Tools for Teaching. Jones recommends using Visual Instruction Plans or VIP.

"Think of a VIP as a string of visual prompts that a student can refer to at will. The VIP guides performance just as you would if you were tutoring the student. The student refers to the VIP as needed and, when it is no longer needed, quits referring to it. The student becomes more independent, and you are freed from tutoring."

You can read more about Fred Jones and VIP in this article.

As I'm explaining the rules to any games, I distribute a VIP to each student. This helps eliminate a vast portion of the confusion and off-task behavior during game time.

Here are the VIP for two of my favorite games: Tens Go-Fish and Turn-Over-Tens. So much learning jammed into such a fun package! I've made specific math cards (with numbers 0-10 and Wilds), but a regular deck of card with the face cards removed works great. Uno cards work, too.

Click here to download tens games VIP.

If you expect children to write as part of a game, it's helpful to provide a specific record sheet. I used to give each child scratch paper, but something about the empty, white space is just too tempting. Instead of a paper full of equations, I received a stack of lovely sketches. So here are the record sheets for both games.

Click here to download tens games record sheets.

Happy playing!

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After a combined 14 years in 2nd grade, sisters Heidi & Emily are passionate about helping simplify life for other teachers!

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