Subtraction can be a really difficult skill for kindergartners to master—even when you keep it simple—but I’ve got some ideas here that allow you to introduce or practice subtraction within five in a really engaging and age-appropriate way! If you’re a fan of thematic teaching, these “Five Green and Speckled Frogs” activities will fit perfectly into your frog (or pond) theme, but they can also be used anytime. Keep reading to find out how to implement these beginning subtraction activities in your kindergarten classroom and how to get the printable supplements for free.
Five Green and Speckled Frogs: Singing and Hand Motions
“Five Green and Speckled Frogs” is a traditional song that some of your students may have learned in preschool or before, but if not, it’s an easy song to learn. Before beginning the subtraction activities, you will want to make sure your students know the song and understand the “take one away” pattern within the verses. Using the hand motions that go along with this fingerplay song can help your students connect the lyrics to subitizing that they may have already been practicing! Here’s a video to show some hand motions that you can use. I’m also a big fan of letting children come up with their own motions–this can really build a sense of ownership for the activity!
You can find another video version of the song, other frog-themed sites, and videos in this post about web resources for your frog unit.
Introducing Subtraction with “Five Green and Speckled Frogs”
Once your students have the song down, you can help them connect what they’ve been singing to subtraction. Depending on where they are in their exposure to subtraction, you may be introducing the concept by saying things like, “Each time one frog jumps into the pool, we are subtracting a frog from the log. Subtracting means taking away. First, we had five frogs on the log, but then one frog jumped into the pool, leaving us with only four. We can say, ‘five minus one equals four.'”
To give students an opportunity to visualize subtraction and to manipulate objects to subtract, this pocket chart activity is great for whole-group practice.
To prepare the pocket chart activity, write the words to the “Five Green and Speckled Frogs” song on sentence strips. Cut apart one more sentence strip to make changeable numbers (you can use numerals or number words here). Print the free frog and log pieces as well as the equation/number cards on cardstock and cut them apart.
Start the activity with all five frogs on the log. As you sing the verses, have students come up to “jump” a frog into the pool and adjust the equation to match the words.
This activity focuses on the “minus 1” equations 5-1=4, 4-1=3, 3-1=2, 2-1=1, and 1-1=0. But, when students have mastered those, you can also use this activity to focus on ways to decompose 5 by comparing the total number of frogs to the numbers on the log and in the pool (such as 5-2=3).
Small-Group Subtraction Reinforcement
Once your students have had whole-group exposure to subtraction with the pocket chart activity, they are ready to practice what they’ve learned. This small group activity allows each student to manipulate objects for concrete subtraction practice and then to work on the more abstract skill of writing an equation.
These free subtraction mats give students hands-on subtraction practice while they sing. Provide each student with a mat (laminated or in a write-and-wipe sleeve) along with five counters (frog mini-erasers or any other small counters—*affiliate link* these erasers from Amazon are cute!), a dry-erase marker, and something to use as an eraser.
Have each child start by placing five counters on their log. Sing “Five Green and Speckled Frogs,” having the students act out the song by having one frog jump into the water. Help students record the equation that matches each verse of the song (taking away one frog each time). Students will write, 5-1=4, 4-1=3, 3-1=2, 2-1=1, and 1-1=0.
Help students observe that each subtraction equation begins with the number at the start of the verse—the total number of frogs on the log.
Independent Practice with a Subtraction Center
When you are ready for your students to get some independent practice with subtraction, this fine motor skills task box freebie will do the trick. You can add this activity into the rotation with other fine motor boxes, use it alone, or make multiple copies to have a traditional math center. If you are incorporating this activity into your frog theme, you might want to check out this life cycles fine motor freebie as well!
This task box activity allows students to sing and subtract on their own while building finger strength with the use of child’s tweezers. To prepare this activity, copy the frog card and equation card on card stock. Cut them out and laminate them. Include the cards, pompoms, child’s tweezers, a dry-erase marker, and an eraser in the box.
Students will set their frog cards up with five pompoms and then will subtract one using tweezers during each verse of the song. The included equation card helps students connect their subtraction to the “Five Green and Speckled Frogs” song.
I hope you find these resources helpful for working with your kindergarten class on beginning subtraction! Head over to my free resource library to download these printable materials for free. You will need to subscribe to my email list to get the password (it will come through right away). If you’re already a subscriber, you can check your latest newsletter for the password or simply re-subscribe to get a new email with the password. Thanks for reading!