I demonstrated how to draw a plate, fork, spoon, knife and napkin AND six delicious meatballs.
Next, I told them: "I invited you to my house and made dinner. You each received six meatballs on your plate. You ate two." They erase two meatballs and THEN write the math sentence: 6 - 2 = 4. I model the first math sentence. After that, I expect them to demonstrate their own understandings. This is a great time to make notes on who has the understanding and who does not.
I continue my story: "I offer you a wonderful roasted tomato basil sauce to put on your meatballs. " (The children draw sauce on the meatballs.) You decide to try to eat one. Only one."
They erase one meatball and then write the math sentence." I go on like this.
This great fun and the children beg to do it. You can use it for both addition and subtraction stories. I call them my Plate Stories because one little girl came to school one day and asked, "Mrs. Haughey, can we do the Plate Stories today?" Brilliant! Yes!