Choral Counting in Kindergarten
Updated: Jul 27
Two of the most interesting responses to questions came from these questions: what do you notice about the hundreds chart and does anybody have any questions about the hundreds chart?
They had been paying more attention to the 100's chart than I realized! They started to notice on their own that if they look down the hundreds chart a one repeats the two repeats a three repeats both horizontally and vertically and they started to ask why is that what does that even mean by discussing it and working with it you can really start to lay the foundation for place value and making sense of larger numbers.
I had been counting collections for years but didn't ever dive into the choral counting section of Choral Counting and Counting Collections. With their interest in the 100's chart that needed to change.
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What is choral counting?
Counting as a group is something we do daily in kindergarten, and when learning to count to 100 if your kids understand that the number system works in a pattern it becomes really quick and easy for them to keep their count going because it repeats and especially if they know their decades are counting by tens.
There are always some students who notice this pattern right away but some might need it to be a little more explicit and a little smaller because a hundred numbers can be overwhelming especially if your students are just learning to count and understand that those numerals have value.
One way that I really like to discuss the number system explicitly is by doing a number sense routine called a choral count and writing down the numbers we are counting. I highly recommend the Choral Counting and Counting Collections book by Megan L Franke, Elham Kazemi, Angela Chan Turrou.
In a choral count, you choose a range of numbers that you want the students to count highlighting a specific concept or idea you want your students to explore and think more deeply about. As you count together, you will be scribing the numbers you say in a specific formation. Then have your students take some think time to tell you what they notice and you will underline, circle, and write what they say. This helps the class notice new number patterns, practice tricky number sequences, and build classroom community by listening and understanding that other people's ideas have value.
Why do we choral count?
Counting chorally without any recording helps students learn the number sequence in a low-pressure way because they can be part of the "choir." If they skip a number or get stuck, they can listen to other students until they begin to learn the number sequence on their own.
Planning Your Choral Count
When planning a choral count, either digitally or written out, you will want to decide what you want to call attention to, the direction of your written numbers, and the range of numbers you will count in one session. I use this planning sheet to plan my counts.
What to Count
When planning a choral count, it's important to consider where your students are and what your goal is with a choral count. Some ideas for things to highlight with a choral count are:
Crossing a decade
Areas of a count that your students may get mixed up or stuck (teen numbers)
Call attention to a specific number pattern
Counting beyond 100 (Difference between how numbers are written 2 and 3 digits)
Counting beyond 1000 (Difference between how numbers are written 3 and 4 digits)
Horizontal or Vertical, Start from the Top or Bottom?
Playing with how you are going to present the numbers when you count can greatly affect what your students notice about the numbers. I’ll use counting from 1-20 as an example, with the goal of students noticing that 1 always comes first in teen numbers since a lot of students reverse the order of double-digit numbers when they are just learning.
If I start at the top going horizontally with 1 and go to 10 then start with 11 under the one so students can see that numbers in the one's place repeat.
If I go vertical, the attention might be pulled to the 1 in the tens place and always coming first in teen numbers.
If I start by writing the numbers at the bottom, some students might notice that the numbers are getting bigger as they go up which is a reflection of the value increasing.
How Many Numbers?
A choral count can include as few or as many numbers as you want starting at any number, depending on the patterns that you want your students to see. If you start with a number other than one, you can prompt your students to think about what the next number will be before you begin counting out loud as a class.
Recording Student Thinking
Whether on chart paper, on a document camera, or digitally, it is important to record student noticings to support their thinking being understood by their classmates. I usually use a different color to underline or circle student ideas, and depending on the goal I might also write down their thinking under their counts. This helps students see the patterns their classmates are noticing and decide if they agree, disagree, or want to add to others’ thinking. Seeing and hearing other ideas can also generate new ideas and promote the mobility of information and ideas around the room.
How to you teach Choral Counting? An Example of Choral Counting
Choral counting can be used anytime, as a warm-up, mini-lesson, or at the end of a lesson/ or math workshop time as a reflection. I usually use Choral Counting as a warm-up with the class or a warm-up in small groups.
I start by telling the students the range that we will count to, and to think about what number comes next before we count together, reminding the kids that is it a choral count so we should be counting at the same pace and it may be a little slower so I can keep up with writing the numbers as we count. “We are going to be starting our count at 5 and stopping at 22. Think about the number that comes after 5 and remember that we are a team so we should count together, not too fast because I won't be able to keep up with you while writing!”
Then I ask if they notice anything about the numbers we counted. You can have students turn and talk about what they notice before sharing out or just start sharing. After each student, I try to change the colors of the marker to underline or circle what they notice and bullet points their main ideas. The notes serve to consolidate our noticing as quickly reflect on what we have seen. You can also as the students to draw conclusions based on what patterns they see. For example, if a student notices that 1 repeats in 11 and 2 repeats in 22, where would the next repeated number be? Where will 25 be? Where will 30 be? If your students have a background in patterns, this will be helpful for them to predict where certain numbers will be. You can learn more about how to teach patterns, pattern centers, and unique pattern math centers in previous posts.
Will you try choral counting in your classroom?