This week, on our website, we are launching a new tab – video tutorials! We are pleased to finally be able to provide this much-requested feature, but first…
A Brief History of Deck o’ Dots
The idea for this project began about three and a half years ago (circa. 2015) when I started noticing how weak numeracy skills were in the students at the schools we were working with. I figured out why when I looked at the books that the students were using purchased by the districts, which almost seemed to be ignoring the concept of numeracy altogether!
When I first started consulting, we actually used to cut out dot cards in my workshops and we tried to create different games for these decks of dots. However, the goal of a face-to-face workshop is to provide as much useful, practical information that teachers implement in their classroom tomorrow. Cutting out the cards was taking up too much of that precious learning time! And even if we did get them cut out, it was only good for two students. I even tried printing the cards on five different colors of cardstock. Still not practical.
At that time, we only had the scatter level of cards. When I realized students were counting the dots, I realized we needed to make cards that had five- and ten-frames on them to make it a little bit easier for the kids. My knowledge and understanding of subitizing to help students develop the concept of conservation has transformed over the years as Common Core and the word subitizing have become more prevalent in math language.
Even from the beginning, I wanted teachers to separate the cards like we have Deck o’ Dots now into different “decks” based on the quantities they represented. We had cards with both scatters of five and scatters of ten, and I remember putting a red garage sale sticker on the back of some of them to indicate to the teacher that those were scatters of 0-5, and a green garage sale sticker on the back to indicate that those were scatters of 6-10. Kids quickly learned what the dots meant and were able to tell which kids were using lower cards, which defeated the purpose of the stickers.
The whole project of cutting out, stickering, laminating, and trying to make the cards function for a group of students was a challenge, and it wasn’t showing the results in numeracy development I was looking for. That’s when I decided to make my own deck of cards, my own “deck of dots.” We created the characters of Sally and Sam the Subitizing Superheros, and Deck o’ Dots was born! I found a printer that was new to printing decks of cards, ordered 10,000 decks and then had a pallet of Deck o’ Dots sitting there, making me wonder if this idea could ever take off. Three and a half years later, and here we are!
Deck o’ Dots Reimagined
I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of students using Deck o’ Dots, and it has been really eye-opening to realize that this is something that kids really need. Deck o’ Dots is a product that can really help teachers if they take the time to understand how to use it effectively.
As I worked in classrooms around the country, I began to see that teachers were struggling with how to implement and manage Deck o’ Dots. The cards would be all jumbled up, completely unorganized because teachers could never remember how many went in a deck. Teachers would say they were tired of playing Deck o’ Dot Duel because it was the only game they knew.
In the classroom, teachers are constantly trying to improve things and make it easier for students to understand the concepts. Similarly, it’s my job in the second half of my career being a teacher of teachers, to figure out how to make teachers’ jobs easier so they can pick up a product or an idea like Deck o’ Dots that is sound and based in research, and help them to be able to implement it with fidelity and ease.
So, it was time to make some changes. We re-examined the product to see how we could make it even better in classrooms. I really wanted to do a makeover for Deck o’ Dots and be able to make it so that the concept remained, but that it was more accessible to more students. Also, we were working on Math Mights at the time with our artist, Johnny Toons, and so we created Dotson to join the gang. Johnny Toons has been amazing at understanding the ideas of what I’m doing and being able to put it into play. New character, new deck!
I was also trying to figure out how we could enhance Deck o’ Dots further, so we began working with a graphic designer (who has been invaluable!) to design these game boards with directions for playing a regular game, but also how to have a challenge game so we can ramp up instruction for students with a wide variety of skills. These games are user friendly with explicit instructions, and game board features such as title cards for stations and accountability sheets to make sure the kids making the right connections to the standards you need them to learn.
We had a new deck with a new character, and new game boards, but I knew we needed to take it one step further. Teachers are really busy and we sometimes just need some “click-on” PD and a quick review of how to play a game or to even see the way that Deck o’ Dots could really be used in multi-faceted way to address so many standards. And there are so many ways to use Deck o’ Dots to differentiate!
I combined talents with Looga Productions to do a video shoot where I recorded the instructions for each game, me playing the games, and information about the directions and variations for each game. Each video is between five and six minutes so that they would be accessible to parents who could easily see how to play the a game with their child or student so as to practice a desired skill.
We worked very closely with one of our schools (Romulus Elementary) to get images and video footage for these videos and we had a blast! The students were so excited to receive a Deck o’ Dots t-shirt, and though they hadn’t all played all of the games, it was great for them to gain the experience with the different games and see what they could do!
We plan to add to this and feature videos from our different trainings. This first set of tutorials are the games we think are perfect for PreK and Kindergarten to use for beginning numeracy. All of the games have variations to make them more challenging, but these games are really easy to look at and a great place to start!
Deck o’ Dots Train helps kids learn how to subitize and use the different decks.
Deck o’ Dots Slap is a numeracy game where you’re just looking for that quantity and slapping when you see it. There are lots of different variations and challenges for that one!
Deck o’ Dots Less, Same, More has kids looking at a card to decide if it is less than, the same as or more than a target number and sorting into piles accordingly.
Deck o Dots Duel (if you play the regular version) is also looking at more or less, which is an early numeracy concept.