Half-Way Day: Teaching Fractions on the 90th Day of School
I think it is safe to say that most primary teachers celebrate the 100th day of school. We celebrate it in my classroom, but we also make a big deal out of our half-way day through the school year – the 90th day of school. I use this day as an opportunity to begin teaching my students some basic fractions, introducing the concept of 1/2. Every year it's a huge success and it inspires my students to want to learn more about fractions – which is not even a kindergarten standard! Our half-way day this year is Friday, January 15. Here are some ideas you can use to celebrate your half-way day.
My students run in the door so excited about "Half-Way Day", but they have no idea what it means. By the time they leave, all of my students have a firm understanding that 1/2 and 1/2 makes one whole, along with the basic concepts of fractions.
Here are some fun 90th Day Fraction Activities:
In the morning, introduce the number 90. Share how the school year is 180 days long and 90 means we are half way through our school year. Take out a cookie or a candy bar and break it in 2 unequal pieces. Ask the children if it is fair if I give someone the small piece and I keep the big piece. Discuss how it needs to be the same size to be fair. Continue saying this is half of the cookie and this is the other half. Together they make one whole cookie.
Give each child a paper square and ask them to fold it in half. They most likely will be able to do this from experience in the classroom making cards or folding paper. Show each child how to fold the square in half. I display the paper on our document camera and have each child color one of the pieces. We talk about how half of the square is red and the other half is white. Now we write 1/2 on each side. Continue this activity by giving each child two more squares and showing them how to fold it in half the other way with one square and diagonally with the other. Again color 1/2 and write the fraction. The whole time you are repeating that one half is one color and the other is white. Together they make one whole square.
I love this next activity because our Half-Way Day coincides with Martin Luther King's birthday. In the Scholastic book, Follow the Directions Art Activities, there is a paper plate peace dove activity. This activity is all about cutting the paper plates in half. We do this as a whole class and then write about how we can help make peace in the world. The kids love this activity and are so proud to see them displayed flying above their heads in the classroom.
What kid doesn't love cupcakes? This next activity gets my students so excited and really helps to solidify their understanding that two halves make a whole while making their mouths water with excitement.. Prior to school I make or purchase vanilla and chocolate cupcakes. I precut them in half and make sure to have an icing container for each table. Without saying a word I give each child a half unfrosted chocolate cupcake. They typically look at me confused at this point. Now we talk about how they have a half of chocolate cupcake. Then I pass out the half unfrosted vanilla cupcake. A discussion follows about our cupcake halves and how together they make a whole cupcake. Students are now able to frost their cupcake together and following the discussion they may add frosting to the top and enjoy. This activity is such a delicious way to explain halves!
Students love art and drawing pictures. One of our activities includes finishing the symmetrical side of pictures. I have pictures of half the side of ice cream cones, flowers, and butterflies and have students draw the other half to complete the image. In the past, we have painted symmetrical snowflakes. We used pattern blocks dipped in white paint to make half of their snowflake and then folded the paper in half to make the other side.
During the 90th day of school I will also have my students rotate through fraction centers. The centers include activities such as, putting shapes back together that were cut in half, a 1/2 fraction book, making a simple hat that is half one color and half another, and creating a picture with two halves of a shape. One example would be taking a heart, cutting it in half, and using the two pieces as the bottom of sailboats in the ocean. Students draw and color the picture, then glue on the shape. Another quick idea is to read half of a story today and to finish the other half the next school day.
I hope you are able to try out some of these great ideas in your classroom. Our preschool and kindergarten students can get a good grasp of beginning fractions with these fun learning activities. I would love to hear your lesson ideas or activities, along with your thoughts on the ones I have presented.
Happy Half-Way Day!