Activities for Teaching Place Value in First Grade

There are two types of teachers in this world – Teachers that love to teach place value and teachers that don’t.  Ok, there’s definitely more than two types of teachers, but you get what I mean. Show of hands of those who love teaching place value in first grade? Show of hands that don’t? See what I mean? Definitely a house divided.

One of the most vital foundational skills to teach is place value. There are so many concepts tied to place value across grade levels, so it’s essential to build a solid foundation from the start. After all, you can’t have the roof of the house without building the floor first.

Place Value is introduced in kindergarten with basic teen numbers but really takes off in first grade.  In first grade, students begin bundling ones to make a ten and bundling tens to create decade numbers. Students also begin building/decomposing numbers into tens and ones combined.

It is essential for students to use lots of manipulatives during the introduction of place value. Manipulatives that students can physically group into a ten works out best in the beginning. This could be anything from gluing beans on a popsicle stick to grouping popsicle sticks themselves. As long as students can physically count out ten objects and unitize them into one group of ten is really what matters.

Ok, now that we know the how and why of teaching place value, let’s talk about some activities to use.

1. Place Value Chart

While counting out ten objects to unitize into a group of ten, also associate those manipulatives with a place value chart. Students need to be counting on objects (ones) as they place them in the ones column of the chart. Once the students hit ten objects, they move those to the tens column and group them together as one ten. From there, students can count tens and start progressing to writing the number or digit that represents the amount of tens and ones in the number. Abracadabra! There’s the basis of addition equations!

When teaching place value 1.NBT.B.2 , utilize a place value chart to help students move from ones to tens to hundreds.
A place value chart is a great activity to help students progress from ones to hundreds!

2. Use Music for Teaching Place Value in First Grade

Using music and movement can help almost any skill stick, but it’s especially important for those that are a little more essential than others. Students can remember songs years down the road and what more can you ask for when this skill will be built upon for years? Music is a must.

Music and media will help retain concepts and vocabulary for teaching place value 1.NBT.B.2
Music and media will help students retain concepts and vocabulary.

3. Use Visuals and Charts

Having an anchor chart up in your classroom while the skill is being taught (and even soon after to keep it fresh) is something that students will constantly look at and reflect on. Trust me, they’ll be looking for it if you take it down and it provides visual support for all of your visual learners. Don’t forget to laminate your anchor chart if you want to save it and use it again next year. Less work for you to do later on.

4. Lots of Practice, Practice, Practice!

Practice with teaching place value is essential in the beginning but also throughout the year. Students need a lot of repeated exposure multiple times to gain mastery. Practice can be done through mini-books, center or station work, scoot games around the room, or partner work.

Games, centers, and station work are some great ideas for teaching place value 1.NBT.B.2
Lots of various practice throughout the year can help students master place value.

If you’re feeling a touch overwhelmed with all of the lesson plans, activities, manipulatives, and all of the things.. check out my first grade place value resource. Just click, print, and organize by day and voilà! Teaching place value is ready and in the making. Now, maybe you’ve transformed from a teacher who doesn’t like to teach place value to one that does. 😄

  • Place Value : Tens and Ones 1st Grade
    Place Value: Tens and Ones 1st Grade
    $7.00

Looking for more tips for building number sense? Check out this blog on How to Help Students Build Number Sense.

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