Tools for Beginning Number Sense – How to Draw a Ten Frame


Here are my tips for teaching students how to draw a ten frame so that it can be used as a tool throughout the year to show groups of ten and when composing and decomposing. I am laying the foundation for all of that now by teaching them how to draw it… I learned the hard way last year that this has to be taught explicitly if I want them to use it (and not have it be a gazillion frame).

We are on day seven of our new school year, and we are laying the ground work for guided math groups. Not yet. No way. They are not ready to be independent… yet. That’s why I said ground work. However, this year I am capitalizing on the fact that I know where we want to go and am doing a better job of rolling “math” out in general this year.

How to Draw a Ten Frame - Tool for Beginning Number Sense

We have read Monster Numbers at least four times and used our feet, elbows, nose and pointer fingers to skywrite the numerals as we are developing numeral recognition and    learning the concept of gathering for a mini-lesson before we go to do independent work. We’ve read Monster Numbers (TpT), The Pond and Ten Black Dots to begin the year. These books help me to bring the concepts of 1:1 and number identification in through literature. When we read Ten Black Dots I modeled drawing a ten frame. I passed out black construction paper dots and we added them to the ten frame on our easel as we read.

I”m teaching this skill early, while we work with 0-10. We do a lesson about finding something in our world that is the shape of a rectangle which goes, “down… over…up…over” (in my kindergarten sing-songy voice) and draw that in our math journals. Its our first math prompt and it helps me to see where are we even starting.

I use that rectangle lesson to build into modeling the frame for a ten frame.

Then I model drawing four dots (roughly evenly spaced) and model drawing the four lines down.

We discuss that it looks like 5 doors… just like the door from our journal prompt.

But, what if I try to put all of my dots and lines all close together? Well… french fries just doesn’t cut it!

After drawing the final product we erase and I model spacing the dots out again and show the completed ten frame.

Onto reading of the story and adding dots… So, why a ten frame? Because it helps lay the ground work for seeing patterns in numbers and grouping even better than tally marks! See where we use ten frames later in the year by reading a guided math lesson flow and why does 10+6=16.

I’m not sure why I didn’t teach the strategy of using starting dots for lines to create a ten frame right from the start last year, but I hope that this tip helps if you have your kinders drawing and using them! If you like what I do here on KindergartenWorks, then be sure to subscribe today. I look forward to sharing ideas with you weekly.

Resources we’ve used so far to practice numbers:

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More on Ten Frames