Bridges Grade 1 Advice for Unit 6

I hope the geometry unit went well and that you are now ready to tackle your second integrated theme unit. I loved doing My Little Farm. It is work - you’ll have kids spread out all over the place, gluing, calculating, helping each other, and becoming more independent. You’ll also get some glue spots on the floor – one of my first lessons is what to do when you get white glue on the carpet! (Have wet sponges readily available and wipe up right away!) This will be the longest blog entry as there is so much to see.

You should be close to starting My Little Farm now. Most planning guides show it starting at the beginning of May, but I once started it 1 1/2 weeks into the month and still got it done by the last day (literally).

If you’ve become used to going to the website to find the Unit Materials List, for this unit it is in the book starting on page 782.

On page 784 are complete directions on how to cut and fold the large sheets of paper for the farm. This is a good project for parent helpers. The lines do not have to be perfectly precise. One teacher told me she put masking tape down on a table in a 24" square, marking it off in 3" increments. Then she took a yardstick and marked the papers with a marker.

What do you do with all those 2 ft. X 2 ft. farms? The first year I put them in a big pile. Big mistake. The one a student needed was always on the bottom with the fences squashed in. I thought for a long time about ways to hang them but nothing clicked. Consider this idea. Take oaktag or some sort of heavy paper and cut it into the triangular shape pictured, using a coat hanger to guide you on the size. Only staple or duct tape this triangle to the large farm map on the diagonal edge. You’re going to have to gather up twenty some coat hangers too. I got an old chart stand and found a dozen would hang on it. The rest were hung on all the coat hooks and cupboard door handles throughout the room. I knew a teacher with a wire strung wall-to-wall - she lowered the wire so kids could reach to hang their maps.

If this is your first time “on the farm”, try doing each of the activities yourself at the same time as the children are working. Here is my farm I made the first year. (It’s gotten a little raggedy over the years.) I know it seems hard with so many needs, but you’ll learn tricks yourself, like how to glue down fences and make them stay. You need to use white glue, not gluesticks! Again, a lesson in gluing is in order before setting off to work. I would work on the floor and “think out loud”, posing a problem to myself, working it out. “I think I’m using too much glue. It’s oozing out at the edges.” This kind of modeling can demonstrate to children how to approach work in a problem solving way, plus you can give instant advice as you discover new things yourself. The children will respect you, listen to you and probably bother you less than you think they will. “I’m figuring out how to do this myself. How do you suppose you could solve your problem?”
One teacher I know dealt with the fence-gluing issue by giving the students toothpicks to glue down instead of the tabbed fence pieces

Day 1, Preparing the Farm Folders: The first year I used a two-pocket folder to hold all the papers. The next year I stapled two folders together to get four pockets, labeling the contents of each pocket. I still wasn’t happy with the organization. For me, I found the solution to managing all that paper is to have the pages bound into a book. There is not a lot of space to glue money down on the Payment Worksheets without “stacking” the money. In a book you can have the Payment Worksheets on the right hand page with the left hand page blank (back of the printed page before). Then the payment money can be stretched across the page. The pages are in order so the kids can find their place more easily. Don’t bind the fact boxes for the sorting worksheets in the book, as they must be cut up. Here is a PDF showing how I organized my book.

What do You Already Know About Farms? Here’s what my kids came up with.

Days 2, 3, 4, & pigs, chickens, horses, and fences: When you run off these Land-Use Planning Codes, give them to children who finish early and have them color them. Mount on construction paper, laminate and you’ll have them ready for next year! Just don’t forget where you stored them!

Days 4, 7, 11 & 14: Mapping the big map onto a 8 1/2 X 11 paper will be easy for some and quite challenging to others. The one experience that vividly stands out in my mind is the child who had colored in his map exactly reversed from the full-size one. I had quite a time getting him to see how he had gone wrong. There will be mistakes, so have 13/16” squares of white paper cut to use as “Band-Aids”. This makes the mistakes seem less disturbing!
Day 4, The graphic organizer: Having taught the farm unit for a few years I found myself thinking about how to make my job easier. Making that big graphic organizer each year became tiresome. I made the labels to go across and down on strips of paper, then laminated them. That way next year I could staple them right onto a bulletin board and write on the bulletin board paper.

Day 8: Here is the farm quilt my children made the first year. Notice all the comments. I always tried to get something down from every child. Here are three observations. (PC - right click. Mac - Apple click to enlarge.) The next year all three first grades got together and made a giant quilt made with the animal of their choice instead of just sheep. We offered felt and cotton. Children can actually cut felt with their school scissors, with occasional help (not safety scissors though). Felt colors were available in white, brown, tan, gray and yellow. It came out beautifully. Unfortunately, I have no picture of it. If felt seems daunting or expensive, do it with construction paper.

Day 14, Farm Animal Pocket Riddles: This can be tricky. Try writing several as a class first to demonstrate the process. Here’s Haley’s (edited for spelling):
Raised for:
For their meat,
Hooves make glue

other grains, corn

This animal:
Has something special about it:
Hooves are like 4 toes
Snout is like a shovel always
Days 15 & 16: The Farm Story Problems take a different twist from the previous pattern of Picture Problems, sharing solutions, creating problems, solving problems. This time you start by solving a problem on the overhead, illustrating many different solution paths. Then 6 problems are offered to the children in whatever way you feel is best, given the complexion of your class. They can be solved together, in self-chosen or assigned partners, in small groups, or individually. Please read pages 944-946 on collecting a problem solving work sample and how to interpret children’s work. Here is a sample of one child’s solution. Another twist on these problems is to have the children create their own, then let others solve them. Here’s and example: 3 horses, 5 chickens, and 4 pigs. How many feet and tails?
Day 18: We brainstormed our own questions for our Buddy Class and parents to ask. (Here on a PDF if you need it.) If you have “viewing hours” from, say, 1 hour before the end of school to maybe 1 1/2 hours after school, parents will usually come. I just had them tell me whether or not to put their child on the bus. Then send the farms home with the parents!

At the end: Here are two final activities you may choose to do. First is a reflection. I had to work on the wording of the questions, because in my first version almost all children marked the work as “easy”, when in fact it was the way the unit was designed that made it seem easy.
The second thing I’m offering is a mini-version of the graphic organizer. I used these when I offered the children the opportunity to do some research on another farm animal or a specific type of animal within a species (like Guernsey cows). Fortunately, our Media Specialist had ordered lots of new farm books. Before Bridges came to our school, all the farm books were so dated with no incentive to buy more. You will find a lot of well-illustrated and informative books on farms available now.

I hope your kids love it as much as my suburb-raised ones did! I have heard that some teachers in “farm country” report that there really aren’t any farms like this anymore!

I hope you feel your class has had a productive, enlightening, and fun year your first time through Bridges. I promise next year will be easier! You’ll get more sessions in, know more ways to make your preparation more efficient, plus you’ll probably find that you feel you are a more effective teacher of mathematics!


Thank you so much. I am just starting my student teaching and the farm animal unit is going to my work sample. Thanks for the tips!