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Thematic Teaching with a Reindeer Subitizing Activity

Teaching about reindeer this December? Let me make that easier for you with a thorough and engaging thematic unit and a fun reindeer subitizing activity!

an illustration of a girl holding up four fingers as she plays a kindergarten reindeer subitizing game

A Reindeer Theme for December

I love teaching about animals! I love watching kindergarten students’ curiosity and interest grow as they investigate and soak up new knowledge, and animal themes often seem to spark that kind of enthusiasm. During the month of December, it can be really fun to teach about reindeer. This can tie in with Christmas if that’s something you do in your school, but can also just be an animal unit with no holiday integration. You can read more about how this unit can lead to a really fun winter party in this post!

In my TPT store and here in my webshop, I have a Reindeer Unit with a nonfiction PowerPoint slideshow and lots of vocabulary and writing resources. The PowerPoint (which is also included in PDF format) makes a great read-aloud and can be used across several sessions, as it is packed with beautiful photographs and information.

image of materials included in a reindeer unit for kindergarten and first grade: informational PowerPoint slideshow, vocabulary posters, reindeer shape craft, anchor charts
This informational reindeer unit includes a beautiful slideshow to project and share, lots of teaching tools, and many printable activities (books, worksheets, crafts, and more) for students!

Reindeer Antler Facts

Before teaching your students the reindeer subitizing activity, here are some fun antler facts you can use to impress your kiddos and build context for the math game:

🦌 Antlers of a male reindeer can measure up to 51 inches tall. That’s taller than most kindergartners!

🦌 Female reindeer antlers are usually smaller, measuring up to about 20 inches.-Reindeer shed their antlers once a year. Males lose their antlers in the late fall or early winter and grow new ones in the spring. Females lose their antlers each summer.

🦌 Reindeer use their antlers to dig for food in the snow and to protect themselves from predators. Male reindeer also use their antlers to impress female reindeer.

🦌 Antlers are made of bone.

🦌 Antlers grow out like branches and each tip is called a point.

Reindeer Subitizing Activity: A Math & Movement Game

Integrate math into your reindeer theme with this fun reindeer subitizing activity! This game is open-ended and allows your students to get up and move around while developing their number sense. This game can be used as part of a larger lesson on composing numbers, but also makes a great (and simple) transitional game or movement break.

an illustration of a girl holding up four fingers as she plays a kindergarten reindeer subitizing game

Here’s how to play!

After teaching students about antlers, invite them to use their hands to make antlers on their own heads. Have them practice making different numbers of “points” on their antlers using their fingers.

Depending on your students’ levels, you can start simple with directions such as, “Show five (or three, etc.) points on each antler.”

Then move to bigger numbers that will require students to use both hands. You might say, “Use both antlers together to make seven points.” You can then have the students walk around and stand beside a reindeer who is showing seven in the same way they are (or a different way). For example, some children might be using four and three, but others five and two. Continue, using other numbers between two and ten, letting the children roam to explore the possible number combinations.

The first time you play this game, you may want to jot down the combinations students discover on chart paper to reference during a follow-up conversation.

Other variations to try:

Here are some ways to mix up this reindeer subitizing activity!

Have students choose their own number of points on their antlers. Have them search for and stand beside other reindeer that are showing the same number of points. This is a great sorting activity!

Once the students have had time to practice this activity, you can speed things up. Try having the students stand up and quickly show the number of points you call out. Scan the group each time to check for accuracy.

After they have shown several numbers, say, “migrate,” and have the students move to a different part of the room (you could have them move from the carpet to their seats or from one side of the room to another). This gives them a chance to move around while giving a little vocabulary practice. Then have them show several more numbers quickly before migrating again. Depending on the dynamics of your classroom, it may help to have a child who has trouble peacefully “migrating” stand beside you to help call numbers and watch for accuracy.

That’s it! So simple (nothing to prep!) and easy, but such an effective way to integrate number sense into your reindeer unit this winter!

I hope these ideas help you keep your students engaged and busy this December! Please feel free to share your reindeer teaching ideas in the comments!

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