Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Organizing Math & Reading Rotations

After seven years of teaching, I finally found the best way to organize my small group rotations. I'm going to share with you how I organize my rotations. Keep in mind this is what worked for my students and my classroom - you might adapt or change these ideas as you see fit!

First: Rotation Charts
I've tried multiple ways of making sure my students knew where they were supposed to go during rotations, but I always encountered a problem... Poster/Chart on the wall = not enough wall space; Rotation chart displayed on my interactive whiteboard/screen = technology is never on my side and won't work OR I have a sub and he/she can't log in so students don't know where to go... SO. MANY. PROBLEMS.

Soooooo... I finally decided that EVERYONE gets a chart! For math, I had 3 small groups and named them different fruits. For reading, I had 5-6 small groups and named them different animals. Every group had their own chart (see picture below), and every student kept their chart in a sheet protector. (I also kept master rotation charts in my guided math & guided reading binders for my reference).
Next: How many rotations do students have?
In math, I had my students in 3 rotations a day.

  • Teacher Table: students work at the carpet with me
  • Independent Work: students go to this station AFTER teacher table & complete a few practice activities that we learned about during teacher table (also a good time to get in district mandated math curriculum work)
  • Games & Centers: students complete differentiated math centers that include card games, board games, puzzles, fact practice, and more.

I differentiate my independent work each day by putting appropriate work in the folders for each group. When students go to independent work, they pull their work out of the correct folder.  
Here's a sample math rotation chart:
In reading, my students go to 3 rotations a day; however, they will only go to teacher table a few times a week (so they'll have 5-6 total rotations). I always have my lowest group meet with me every day (ex: they start their reading rotation at teacher table everyday). My highest reading group meets with me 2x a week (ex: they meet with me on a Tues/Thurs rotation). My on level groups meet with me 3x a week (ex: they meet with me on Mon/Wed/Fri).

Here's a sample reading rotation chart:
Last: How long do students spend in each rotation?
For math, I begin with a 10-12 minute whole group lesson. This includes a number talk and a short mini-lesson so I can be sure that EVERY student is getting grade level instruction. Then, we start rotations and students spend about 20 minutes in each rotation.

For reading, I usually have a read aloud (10ish minutes) and mini-lesson (5-6ish minutes) before starting rotations. Student spend about 15-20 minutes in each rotation. I do not include read to self time as a rotation; we ALL do read to self at the same time together later in the day so that I can conduct one-on-one reading conferences.

I hope you've found some of these ideas for organizing your rotations helpful. You can create your own rotation charts here!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Morning Tub Ideas from Oriental Trading

I'm so excited to share with you some amazing resources I've tested out from Oriental Trading that are PERFECT for your morning tubs!

This year I wanted to give my students a morning that was less stressful (for them and for me) when they arrived in the morning, so I decided to give morning tubs a try. It's been a HIT, so today I'm going to share with you some awesome resources I'm putting in my tubs from Oriental Trading.

First, let's talk about the bright baskets. :) I knew I wanted my tubs to be medium-size for a groups of 3-4 students, and these are perfect. They come in these 6 neon colors, and I love that I can easily see what's in them.
One of my favorite resources we've used so far are these fun, sentence building dominoes. The various parts of speech are all color coded, and students use them to make silly sentences! I even had one student build a silly sentence house! I put these in our morning tubs during the first week of school, and students loved them. Later in the year I'm going to add them to our word work center, too! Did I mention they're also really sturdy? They're wooden, so you don't have to worry about these getting worn out by frequent use!
I also love these contraction puzzles! We aren't quite ready for these yet, but I'm saving them for when we really hit contractions later in the year. I KNOW students will love them! Plus, they're on a sturdy, thick cardboard, so they'll last for awhile!
Last, I have a few items that I absolutely LOVE but the kids were so busy with them that I couldn't get a good picture! We have these big, foam word family dice where students can make words. I also put small whiteboards and markers in the basket so students could write down words they made. Students had great conversations about whether or not the words they were rolling were real words or nonsense words.

If you're looking for hands-on, worksheet free ideas for your morning tubs, I highly suggest taking a look at some of the amazing resources on Oriental Trading. You won't be disappointed!

*I was provided these products from Oriental Trading for review purposes, but all opinions expressed are mine. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Organizing Your Math Rotations

The organization and planning/prepping that comes with math rotations can sometimes feel daunting, so today I'm going to share with you a few different ways I plan my math rotations every year.

If you're just diving into math rotations for the first time, I suggest choosing starting with only three rotations (two centers and one for teacher table). I've found it easiest to split my class into three groups (low, medium, and high levels). I have done this in primary grades AND when I taught 6th grade math.

I am all about keeping it simple. As you can see on my cart, I just label my centers #1-5. The bottom half of my cart is for ELA. My math rotations are very simple: teacher table, math center/game from one of the drawers, and math practice on iPads.
One year I tried doing interactive notebooks with my kiddos, and it just wasn't working for us. Students couldn't do them independently, and I felt like they spent a lot of time cutting and gluing. Don't get me wrong, I know we need that practice too, but it just wasn't a good fit in my room. AND THAT'S OKAY! Don't force yourself into doing something just because you feel like you should. Plus, it can be a lot to prep!

One of my favorite storage solutions are these colorful, plastic 4x6 photo boxes from Michaels. Every time I prep a center, I add the cards to one of these boxes. They're also the perfect size for holding dry erase markers! Also from the picture below, you can see the bins that used to hold my math centers before I got my colorful cart. I really liked these bins, but I ended up needing the table space, so the cart was a better fit for my classroom.
If you missed my other guided math posts, you can find my posts on Number Talks here and Math at the Teacher Table here. To celebrate the end of this wonderful series, we're giving away $75 to Amazon and 2 Magnetic Ten Frame sets! Enter below!

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Find even more guided math posts below!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Math at the Teacher Table

I'm so excited to share with you all my favorite time of the day... Math at the Teacher Table! I'm not even kidding, it's the best 15-20 minutes of my guided math because this is where I truly get to know my students as mathematicians! So today I'm going to tell you all about how we spend those 15-20 minutes together and how I plan differentiated activities for our time together!

FYI: While I meet with my small groups, my other students are completing different math stations and activities using a rotation I display in a pocket chart. The management of that is another post for another day. :)

When I'm setting up who I'm going to meet with, I start by looking at pre-assessment scores from my district's assessments. Truth be told, I don't always love the assessments from my district, so if needed, I make adjustments. Sometimes it will be a quick formative assessment ticket, and I'll group students based on those results.
Quick, 5-minute exit slip that I used as a pre-assessment to form small groups
I try to place my students in groups of 5 or less. This year I'm lucky to only have 18 students (my lowest EVER), so it's been easier for me to make smaller groups! Because we follow our mandated curriculum, Bridges, I do not meet with every student every day due to time constraints. However, I still always meet with at least one group of students per day.

When students meet me at teacher table, we rarely do worksheets. Depending on the needs of my given groups, I pull out games and centers that we work on together and differentiate through those activities. For example, when we were working on telling time to the 5 minutes, I had the same center cards for all of my groups; however, I differentiated them. The activity I chose called for students to read the clocks and put the clocks in order starting at a given time. For my lowest group, I pulled out the times to the quarter-hour and half-hour and only used those cards. For my middle group, we were able to complete the center the way it was intended with all of the cards to the 5 minutes. For my highest group, they put them in order as well, but we learned to talk about how much time had passed between each of the cards as we put them in order.

With the counting coins sticks below, each sticker represented a different level. Some students were simply identifying the coins and their values, some were counting dimes, nickels, and pennies, and some were counting sets of coins over $1.00! And a few students were even making change! Honestly, differentiation doesn't have to mean have a million different activities planned. It's all about carefully choosing activities and small group lessons that can be easily adapted for the needs of your students.
Counting Coins Differentiation: Each sticker represents a different level! 
Often times when students are at teacher table, we have manipulatives everywhere! You name it: dice, base 10 blocks, uni-fix cubes, hundreds charts, number lines... we've got it all! We spend so much time exploring and learning through the use of these resources. In 2nd grade our students have to learn to add and subtract within 1,000, and it's big stuff! Some of my students want to move away from using blocks and models too soon, so I spend a lot of teacher table time working with students on using these resources to persevere and solve problems. The best time is when I see those same students working independently later in the day or in the week and they're using the manipulatives we've worked with!

Remember, your time with students at the teacher table should be meaningful, engaging, and hands-on! It can seem daunting if you're setting up small guided math groups for the first time, but I promise you it will be worth it! I truly feel like I know my kids as mathematicians better because of our teacher table time, and you can too!

Check our more Guided Math tips & tricks here: