Counting in a Circle (Sparkle)

Learn the engaging "Counting in a Circle" or "Sparkle" activity from teacher leader Kara Holtzman. This versatile routine is perfect for practicing counting and can be adapted for all elementary grade levels. Discover how to use it for multiplication, skip counting, spelling, vocabulary, and more. Keep the pace fast and fun to boost fluency while building classroom camaraderie.

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Kara Holtzman is a third grade teacher at the National School District in San Diego, California.


 Hi, my name is Kara Holtzman. I am a third grade teacher in the National School District in San Diego, California. And I’m also a teacher leader with the California Reading and Literature Project and the San Diego Area Writing Project. Today’s routine that I’m going to teach you is called “Counting in a Circle”, some people also call it “Sparkle”, and hopefully it will be helpful for you in math, and I’ll also show you some other areas that you can use it in.

This is a really good, easy, engaging routine for kids to practice their counting, and it can be used at all elementary levels and just depending on whatever your counting needs are. It doesn’t require any materials, so it’s really easy to do at any time in the classroom and hopefully, this will be a helpful routine for you.

So the way that it works is, you have all the students in your class standing in a circle facing each other, and beforehand you’re going to pick the counting sequence that you want to use. So it’s a ten-number sequence, then the students will go around the circle saying the numbers in the order of the counting sequence. So for example, if you’re just doing one through ten, then they would start with one and then two, and then three, and so on.

If a student gets the number incorrect, or if they’re not paying attention and they don’t know what number you’re on, they will sit down in the center of the circle and the counting sequence will start again at that same spot with the next student.

So you go around the circle counting the sequence, when they get to the last number in the sequence, whatever student that is, everyone claps, or if you’re calling it “Sparkle”, they would say sparkle, and that student will sit down in the center of the circle.

So, and then you’ll just, then the counting sequence will start over again from the next student, and it’ll keep going around the circle again until the end of the sequence and then again, we clap or sparkle and that student sits down and we keep on going around the circle, starting over with the counting sequence each time until you get down to one student left, and that student is the winner of the game for that time.

So some of the ways that you can use this in math, like I said, it’s good for all grade levels, if you’re a primary teacher, like K-1, maybe you’re just counting one through ten or backwards ten to one, maybe you’re counting teen numbers, or maybe you’re starting in a random number, like thirty-two to fourty-two, just depending on the needs of your class.

Also in the upper grades you can use it, I teach third grade, so I use it for skip counting for multiplication practice. So if today we’re learning about our twos, we’ are going to go around the circle, skip counting by twos, two to twenty. You can also count by fours, four to forty. You can also use it with fractions or decimals. It really is good for all grade levels. The teacher would pick the counting sequence and the students go around the circle following that sequence until they get to the last number and sit down, and then it just repeats.

This is mostly used for math, but you can use it in other areas too, for example: “Spelling Lists” are a great way to practice with this game, you might use your spelling list for the week, and the students would be practicing spelling out those words one letter at a time, when they get to the last letter of the word, they sit down, or if they don’t know the letter, they sit down. You can also use it for “Vocabulary Words”, if it’s another language that you’re teaching or just language practice. A list of “Vocabulary Words”, they would go around the circle saying the words until they get to the end of the list and sit down and just keep repeating.

The thing to remember is that you want to keep it fun and fast paced because they’re practicing something that they already know. They’re working on fluency. So because it’s fun and fast paced, it can tend to get a little bit loud, so you have to make sure that you’re maintaining control in the classroom, that they know that they have to remain quiet so that they can hear for their own counting sequence, for their turn, and the others can hear. If you have a student that’s getting too loud or making silly voices, not able to control themselves, you can have that student sit out or, if it starts getting too much in the whole class, you can always stop the game and then start it again at another time.

Hopefully, this will be a helpful routine for you. Thank you for listening.

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