Estimation in the Primary Classroom

How often do you make an estimation?  Chances are, it's probably more often than you think.  We often estimate how much we're spending as we shop, we might guess how many people are in a room, we estimate the size of things, or how many items are on a shelf or in a box. Estimation is  a part of our daily lives, so why not start exposing your students to this skill?


Not only is estimation a life skill, but it's fun! Kids love to make guesses and see how they did.  Even if their answers are way off, they always enjoy the process of guessing and checking.  Here's a peek at how I cover the skill of estimation in my second grade classroom.

While estimation can take many different forms, my philosophy is you have to start somewhere, so when I cover estimation, I like to work with a jar filled with objects.  It's a great tool for teaching and giving students practice with making reasonable guesses.  I bring the jar out every few weeks.  So, let's start with the jar.


As you can see, it's nothing fancy.  It came from Dollar Tree.  It's what you fill it with that makes it fancy and fun!  But more on that in a moment.


My jar is really a canister.  ;)  It isn't huge either.  It's a 32 ounce canister (quart) and it's plastic because sometimes I let the kids handle it and I don't want to worry about glass shattering all over the place.


I like to fill the jar with like sized objects.  But, I also like to expose my students to objects of varying sizes.  For example, one day we may estimate spider rings and the next time around, we might estimate marbles.  This gives the students practice with using their reasoning skills while they make educated guesses as to how many given objects are in the container. 

You can fill an estimation jar with just about anything!  Sometimes I buy cute little seasonal trinkets I see, and other times, I use what I have on hand.  In the past, I've sent the jar home with a different student each week and let them fill the jar.  I've even asked parents to send in items that could be used to fill the jar. 

Need some ideas for filling your estimation jar?  Here are a few you might like:




When it comes time to estimate, my students record their estimations in an estimation journal.  Before we estimate, I have the students fill in the basics like the date and the name of the object we are estimating, and we talk about making reasonable estimations.  I give a few examples and non-examples after I show them the objects outside of the jar.








I like to remove one object and show them what it looks like on its own. I walk from table group to table group so they can see this.  Then, I grab 10 of the objects and show them what that looks like.  As I walk from table group to table group, I talk about how seeing this amount can help them to make a reasonable guess if they take the time to think carefully.

As time goes by, I share the trick of roughly counting the number of objects in a row (they need to see the bottom of the jar to do this) and then using repeated addition to approximate the total.  For many, this skill is pretty advanced and often ignored, but it's a great way to reach all your learners and to encourage a new level of thinking/reasoning.



We spend some time talking about how our estimations are guesses, and that we might be wrong, and that's OK.  We also talk about making a guess that makes sense (is reasonable).  For example, it does not make sense to guess that there are 900 spider rings in a jar this size, but it might be reasonable guess that there are close to 100.


Then, it's time to estimate. I walk from table group to table group and show them the full jar, up close. I make sure each student has a chance to get a good look before moving on.

When my students are ready to record their estimation, I have them do so with a crayon. Crayon is hard to erase and is a more permanent means of recording their estimation.  Using crayon prevents them from erasing and changing their estimation if it is "wrong."  In the mind of many 7 year olds, if their guess doesn't match the actual amount, it's wrong.  I want them to understand that it's a guess and therefore doesn't need to be changed.  I remind them that if their guess was way off from the actual amount, it just means they need more practice with making estimations.


NOTE: When students make their estimations, they are usually pretty far off target in the beginning, and that's OK.  Over time, most of them get better at this skill.  Just remember, it's an exercise in reasoning and exposure to a skill.  I don't grade my students on this nor do I put any pressure on them. It's a fun way for us to practice a skill that will eventually translate into their everyday life.


Once everyone has had a chance to make their estimation, it's time to count up all the objects!  I leave this to the kids.  I place a tray at each table group and dump some of the objects from the jar onto the trays.  The students have to work together to figure out how many objects they have.  I teach them to group the objects into tens for quick and easy counting.


When the groups have figured out how many objects they have, one student reports the amount to me and I write it on the board.  Once all the totals are written on the board, we add them up to determine how many objects were in the jar.  This is a great way to expose them to adding multi-digit numbers.

Then, we talk about how close/far away our estimations were.

Finally, the students spend a few minutes drawing the contents of the estimation jar in their journal.


You can grab a copy of the journal HERE.  Simply copy as many blank student pages as desired and staple them together to create a journal for each student.  :)

The great thing about estimation is you can cover this skill as often as you want.  Any amount of practice is going to be beneficial, and it's always lots of fun for the kids.  Happy estimating!

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Halloween Made Easy

Looking for some fun, low key activities for Halloween?  Fun and low key are my jam.  I like to keep it simple, but I also like to make sure that my students have a great day. 

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I've found that it's best for my own sanity to keep my classroom activities fun, but simple.  The students are riled up because it's Halloween, and they are wearing costumes, and they are looking forward to the school parade.  And, of course, they are pretty psyched about trick or treating later in the day.  So, I like to keep it as mellow as possible because we are cooped up inside a teeny, tiny classroom.

Every year, our school hosts a school wide costume parade.  The parade takes place in the afternoon, so I've found that if I have my students write first thing in the morning I can still get some quality work from them.  By the afternoon, they are too excited about the parade, and asking them to complete tasks that require a great deal of focus just doesn't work.  I love using these Roll a Story boards.


Not only are they easy to prep, but they guide the students' thinking, and encourage my students to get creative with their writing.  I like to photocopy the boards on colored paper, and on special occasions, like Halloween, I also like to copy the writing paper on colored paper too.  It's a simple way to add a little more spice to the activity.



On Halloween, you won't find me teaching the regular math curriculum.  Instead, we review skills by playing math games.  A few of my favorites are  Five in a Row (read all about it HERE) and Boo Bump by SunnyDays. They are both high interest and give extra practice with addition.  

I usually let the students rotate through the games every 15 minutes.  This get us through a good chunk of our math time.


Another fun math activity are these festive characters I purchased from Pink Cat Studio.  I was going to save them for Halloween, but after a big test last week, it actually became the perfect "chill out activity."



Throughout the day, I like to read aloud a various Halloween books. These are a few of my favorites.



Monster Trouble
This is such a cute story!  I don't want to give it away, but the little girl has a sweet, but hilarious solution to her monster problem.  Perfect for problem and solution!
Fright Club
This is such a funny story and the illustrations are great for practicing interpreting character reactions and emotions.
Little Boo 
Just a sweet story all around.   
Creepy Carrots
I read this book for the first time last year.  I love it!  Jasper the rabbit is constantly eating carrots and they are fed up.  Soon, Jasper begins seeing the carrots everywhere.  Again, I don't want to give it away, but it has a great ending!
Room on the Broom
This is a fun read that my students always enjoy.  I'm not usually a fan of witches, but this one is at least nice.  ;)  This book would work well if you wanted to work on sequencing.  
Crankenstein
The text in this book is super simple, but it's still high interest.  It's a great way to explore emotions and could be used to facilitate a discussion about controlling and diffusing negative feelings. 

You could easily use any of these books to cover the standards, but I usually read aloud just for the heck of it.  Yep, I'm a rebel like that.

There may not be any Common Core standards that directly address art in the classroom, but we all know that it is valuable.  Maybe even more so on a crazy day like Halloween. Ha!  Directed drawings and craft projects are always my favorite go to projects.

Last year, my students made these adorable Frankenstein faces from First Grade Blue Skies.  It was a quick and easy craft that kept my students engaged.  You could use it after reading Crankenstein and have your students create a face that resembles the character.


This directed drawing is so stinkin' cute and would be a fun follow up to a read aloud about a witch (like Room on the Broom).  Original Source: Art Projects for Kids.



Whether you like Halloween or not, it is a day for kids to have fun. I love to bring out Halloween Bingo. It's a great way to have some fun. It is always a hit with my students.  Always. 


My students always have fun playing this game.  It's the perfect activity to use as we wait for our parade time to roll around.  The students get to make their own Bingo card, and that's half the fun!   You can download this freebie from my TPT store.  :)

Prizes certainly aren't necessary, but handing out privilege cards makes for a super easy prize.  You can grab these for free by clicking HERE.  :) 


I also like using fun game board markers.  You could have your students cover their squares with candy corn, wiggle eyes, creepy felt eyes, mini erasers, or even marshmallows.


Don't worry, math counters work just as well.  There have been many years where mine used those red/yellow counters to mark their spaces.




When Halloween falls on a school night, homework is out of the equation for me.  I usually just don't assign it, but this year, I'll do even better than that.  Not only will I not assign homework, but each student will also get a homework pass to use whenever they want.  No tricks in my class, just treats.  Hehe.  Best of all, it's a treat that costs nothing!


You can grab this freebie by clicking HERE.

I hope you'll be able to use an idea or two from this post!  Happy Halloween!

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