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In Episode 2, of Rockin’ This Teacher Thing...

#002  First-grade teacher McKenzie Reyant,  joins us to talk about math instruction in her classroom. Then we’ll look at how Formative Assessment can be easy, fast, and informative in the kindergarten and first-grade classrooms. 

In this episode, we discussed (time stamped):

  • Intro (:05)
  • Interview W/McKenzie Reyant (:48)
  • Why Teach Math This Way? (2:31)
  • Game Types To Use (6:34)
  • Formative Assessment Intro (10:45)
  • Quick Formative Assessment (11:56)
  • Formative Assessment Printable (17:11)
  • Conclusion (20:05) 

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Hey teacher friends this is Angie and the Teacher Thing podcast show the cast for early primary teachers that brought their classrooms everyday.   Today’s episode we have McKenzie Reyant an amazing first-grade teacher who will be taking us inside her math instruction time. So much good stuff from Mackenzie. You’re not going to want to miss it. We’ll also be talking about quick and easy formative assessment. I know it sounds horrible. But I promise it will be great.   I will also be giving you a free printable that you can use in your classroom today. Lots of amazing stuff ahead so let’s start rockin’ today’s episode. Here we go.  


Hey teacher friends let’s jump right into this.  Today’s interview is with first-grade teacher McKenzie Reyant.  She’s going to be telling us about her math instruction time. Let’s go ahead and jump right in. Here we go.  

Angie: And she is the amazing first-grade teacher that I’ve had the very good fortune of being able to teach with. So she’s here and she’s going to talk about her math…

McKenzie: I guess math instruction. One of my favorite things that I do is teach math through small group instruction.  So I have my kids broken down into groups based on their ability, and their flexible, so I can change, if somebody’s really strong in money, but has poor number sense they can kind of fluctuate between groups.  But each group comes to me at the table and I teach them the skill there with manipulatives and white boards and if we’re doing coins, coins. If we are doing ones and tens we’ll use ones cubes and tens sticks. And then the other groups are doing a seat page that is reviewing a previous skill so they shouldn’t need a ton of assistance and then a game that is also reviewing a previous skill.  


So they do 3 stations everyday.  A game, seat work, we call it seat work but sometimes it xtramath on the iPad or a fluency thing or if I have a parent volunteer, sometimes their seat work game will be in the hall or the other game will be in the hall. But I have a parent, I’ll use parents a lot for it too.  So I’ll do 3 separate stations they’re about 15 minutes each, for our math time. 


Angie: Why do you do it this way instead of whole group?

McKenzie: When I was in grad school, one of the things that we were doing was looking at our kids and seeing what they needed. At that time I had a group of kids in my class that were several grades above grade level and then I had a group of kids in my class that were very, very low. So I was having a hard time teaching all of them.

So when I was in grad school I did a lot of research on games and the use of games and small group instruction and how it’s so much easier to differentiate. I did my whole action research project on small group instruction. The year I did it with one of my classes where we would do 2 weeks of whole group instruction and two weeks of small and two weeks of whole and alternated back and forth.  At the end of each week I recorded two things. One of the pieces of data was their performance and whether or not they understood the skill. Then the other thing I collected was I had them fill out a survey at the end of each week and it talked about their frustration. One of the questions was, “Did I feel frustrated” and it had a smiley, a straight face and a frowny and the had to decide their level of frustration.Then there was “Did I understand everything being taught. Did I feel like my questions were being answered? Did I feel like it was challenging enough? It was overwhelming that the kids prefered small group instruction.  The high kids felt more challenged, that they were doing something at their level and the low kids felt like their questions were being answered. They were doing something they could understand. They didn’t feel frustrated. 

I remember I had one boy in my class who cried during whole class instruction because he just didn’t get it.  He didn’t need to sit at a desk being taught with the teacher on the board showing him for 45 minutes, and here’s what your going to do 3 workbook pages was not how he could understand it. But when he had a whiteboard where he could write the problems or draw the picture or use the blocks to build his math problem or whatever we were doing at the time, he could learn that way.


So I did my whole grad school project on the difference and then I stuck with it after that.  

Angie: So what are your favorite tools you use during your small group instruction?

McKenzie: I would say, at my table we use white boards and markers almost everyday….

Angie: (small talk)

McKenzie: Depending on what we are doing, money, little fake coins. I have number lines laminated that they can use to help them solve problems.  Both hundreds chart number lines to help them to 10 more 10 less, 20 more 20 less. 1-20 number lines for addition and subtraction. I use a lot of the normal math manipulatives like the 10s sticks and ones cubes to build different number lines so we can do 10 more 10 less and we use those to do double digit to help them understand “why” instead of just…


But what probably took me the longest was building up a variety of math games.  

Angie: Are they basically the same math games or….

McKenzie: I have a lot of the same math games style. We have a lot of “Memory Games”. I have addition memory where one will say the math problem and one is the answer.  Place value memory will have 4 tens sticks and 3 ones and they have to match it to 43. So a lot of memory. A lot of addition “roll, spin, bump” type games. Puzzles or clips. Count the coins put the clothes pin clip on.  War style games like coin war, ones sticks- tens sticks games.  

So I tell them we are playing memory today. You are going to match the 2:30 to the clock that shows 2:30.  A lot of the same style of game.

Angie: You used to do a lot of “Walk Around The Room” games.

McKenzie: I usually do that for seat work. Where the search. I will hang problems.  So they will use a clipboard and do the math problems hanging around.  

Angie: How long has this taken you to build your library?

McKenzie: I started building games my first year so, six years. Every year I’m adding.  I have them organized by skills so if I’m doing shapes I have all of my shapes and patterns.

Angie: How do you organize them?

McKenzie: I have these little bins over here so I have all my place value games, all of my coin/money games, all of my time games all of my patterning games. 

So when I lesson plan… I pull out like…This week we are introducing the quarter. So my seat work and my games this week have been reviewing pennies, nickels and dimes. Because we’ve introduced pennies, nickels, dimes, so they are doing money games that don’t have quarters.  

Then after we have taught the quarter I will introduce those.  Then I also have a variety of games that I play with parent volunteers.  Mondays and Tuesdays during math, I have a parent volunteer so those days I will either have my seat station be in the hall and I will hang those problems around or I will have my game be in the hall. 

Angie: That helps with noise level and chaos.

McKenzie: I can also give them games that they need a little more supervision. To make sure they aren’t just…Yesterday they played math Jenga, where they play Jenga but they have to solve the math problem they’re not just playing Jenga. They have to solve the problem before they have to stack it.  


Angie: And that was our interview with McKenzie Reyant, unfortunately the rest of that interview, which was amazing was not usable, because I’m a newbie at this and I didn’t really know what I was doing.  She went on to talk about how she built her library instructional games. So McKenzie has very graciously agreed to come back on and tell us about how she built that library up and some of the basic games that she uses. That you can also use in your classroom.  Thank you McKenzie and we will have you back soon.  


Next up let’s go ahead and talk about formative assessment.  I know “Yuck” but you are going to love it. Hold on, here we go. 

Alright, let’s jump into formative assessment. Just the word “assessment” sometimes gives us a little cringe.  Because we are, as kindergarten and first grade teachers so into the growth and the journey of learning that when we hear the word “assessment” we think of it as kind of a “punitive” thing. But formative assessment it’s an amazing tool for the kindergarten and first grade teacher and we do it all day everyday with our students because we know that those skills that those kids are learning are skills that really need to be broken up into teeny tiny chunks. If there’s a hic-up along our journey, in teaching those and students learning them then we need to nip it in the bud right then. So today let’s talk a little bit about formative assessment, quick and easy so that you can make adjustments in your instruction on the fly.  


The first technique I have, which I love, I’ve seen this in kindergarten, first-grade, fifth-grade is the technique of “Put it in your hand and let it go.” The teacher asks a question and the students respond usually with a one or two word phrase.  These are lower level questions but sometimes we have to ask those right? It would be like, “What color is the bear? Put it in your hand.” And they lift up their hand and they whisper it into their fist and the teacher says let it go. It’s like “Frozen” they just fly it into the air and they say the answer out-loud.  This is done with whole group so that everyone is participating, everyone is answering the question. It’s amazing when they let it go you can hear some of the students, instead of saying “Brown,” the bear was brown, they day purple, it’s like whoa, wait a second, they aren’t comprehending this story or something is misfiring somewhere along the way.   Or you can see for some of your other students that they are kind of looking around and they are putting it in their hand and then letting it go but they are waiting until they hear their classmates response. It’s a way of them confirming. For those students what they are hearing is what they believe to be the right answer. You can observe it really easily because they have a quizzical little expression on their face. It’s like, “Oh, I have no idea.” And they are putting it in their hand and letting it go.  It’s called, Put it in your hand, let it go. I love that one. It’s the best. It’s very fast and students participate in it. Even the ones that are a little bit shy they love it because it’s not just them giving the answer.  


The next one is, that I love to do is a “Stand, Sit, Floor” This is when you have a big group question and you have three options. It’s like a multiple choice. If it’s choice “A” they stand out of their seat. If it’s option “B” they sit in their chair. If it’s option “C” they sit on the floor.  It’s super fun because sometimes you can see students look around, “Should I be sitting on the floor should I be standing up?” And if you really watch you can see how they are reacting to their environment to double check the response. So if you see a lot of students not responding quickly, to a question, you know that’s probably something in your classroom that you need to go over again, and again, and again.  That’s simply “Stand, Sit, Floor”.  


Similarly if you don’t want them up and bouncing around, it’s kind of chaotic and you think “Woooo, We need these kids in their seats.” Do “Head, Shoulders, Lap” and have them put their hands on their head, shoulder and lap in a similar way. Another way is to use formative assessment tools like the printable that I’m going to give you.   

So many times so much of our formative assessment has to be written.  Even in kindergarten and first grade. So sometimes a whiteboard is a great idea, but if you’re like me, sometimes getting out the whiteboards and getting the markers out is like “Oh, my word. This is a little bit more than I bargained for.” So what I have for you is a print out.  This printable I would copy off a gazillion of them and if you are teaching kindergarten and you have communal supplies, just put it in the middle of the table. If it’s first grade just have a stack you can hand out really quickly. It’s basically a printable with four shapes on it and an arrow path that leads from shape to shape.  Sometimes I would use a similar structure when I was doing math and I would tell a math story depending on the skill that we wanted so that I could double check the skill over and over and over again. Plus, then I would have evidence of evidence of the assessment that I did. I could check back and refer back to it.  


This printable has a circle as the beginning point so….. (Angie makes up math story) So as you can see that is how I would use this printable. Marissa would walk on and they would put the answer to the next question in the next shape.  Then you would have some sort of record of the assessment. I like the idea of the path too because students listen more and it’s a language experience as well when it’s put in a story form. Especially when it’s for math. That printable is available for you.  Look in the show notes, the link is there, free for you. There’s some formative assessments you can do. Quick, and easy, and done.  


That’s it for today, teacher friends. If you haven’t already make sure you grab the free formative assessment printable. The link is in the show notes.  A special thank you to McKenzie Reyant. If you guys have any questions for her, remember she is going to be back on again so go ahead and leave some questions for her on the website.  Link is in the show notes. Until next time, keep rockin’ this teacher thing.  

You’re amazing. You’re enough. God Bless!!!


Hey teacher friend I just wanted to say thank you so much for joining me today.  It means so much to me that you listen and share this podcast with your teacher friends.  I hope this podcast helped you today and found a place in your teacher heart. If you want to subscribe, that would be awesome. If you ever want to go back and listen to this as well as other episodes, go ahead and head to my website, Making The Basics Fun, and look under the tab “Podcast”, and there’s Rockin’ This Teacher Thing.  Also, tell us how you and your classroom are benefiting from this podcast, and how we can serve you better. Your input helps us get the podcast into the hands of other teachers just like you. Together we can continue to make teacher life fresh, full and blessed. Until next time, keep Rockin’ This Teacher Thing.  

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Angie K

Angie K

I love to help teachers create an amazing teacher life.
I've taught for 25+ years and I want to help you find joy and energy in each day.

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