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:

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Number Talks

I am thrilled to be sharing about my favorite subject to teach... MATH! If you're just beginning Guided Math, fully implementing Guided Math, or simply thinking about diving into it, this series is for you!

This month, I wanted to share with you something I've implemented in my classroom that has been a total game-changer: NUMBER TALKS!
First things first: After you finish reading my post, head over to Amazon and order yourself a copy of the book Number Talks by Sherry Parrish. You won't regret it!

So, what is a Number Talk? A number talk is a way for students to talk and share their math thinking with classmates. No paper and pencils needed! I try to have a number talk every day, and they take us 5-7 minutes to complete. In 2nd grade, our number talks generally focus around addition and subtraction. However, before we ever begin number talks, we must set up expectations.
Just like any classroom procedure, number talk expectations are a must. When I pose a problem on the easel, I give my students sufficient think time before any sharing ever occurs. When students have an answer and strategy to share, they hold up one finger over their chest. As students wait for share time, they are encouraged to solve the problem using a variety of strategies. As they come up with additional ways to solve it, they hold up more fingers over their chest. It's important that students understand that their strategies for solving the problem are equally as important as getting the correct answer!
Peer conversations are VITAL for successful number talks. Once students have had sufficient think time, I record all of the different answers (yes, even the wrong ones) that students got. However, I do not indicate if they are correct or not! That's my students' job! As I call on a student to share their thought process for solving the problem, I record their thinking on the easel or chart paper as they indicate what they did. The rest of the class is NOT QUIET! They are allowed to respond to any misconceptions as needed. They don't need to raise their hands, either!
If a student shares something that's incorrect, I do not tell them right away. I always wait to see if another student recognizes the mistake, and then we're able to talk about it and work through it! Most of the time, students catch each other and help share the correct thinking. It's important to have students teach each other their strategies. My favorite thing to do is have my kiddos share with a partner, but then after everyone has shared, I call on someone to share how THEIR PARTNER solved the problem. It really makes the kids listen, engage, and ask questions of their partner to make sure they're understanding it correctly.
A kid saying, "Well I just knew the answer," doesn't cut it anymore. We know there's deep thinking going on, so as we share our strategies each day, students get the hang of what it looks like to show their work from our countless examples during number talks! In the picture below, you'll find an example of a number talk we had this year and how I recorded the strategies my students shared.
You can see that in the possible answers, I have an arrow by 52 (I know you'll all understand exactly why some of my students got this answer). But again, I let my STUDENTS share why that's wrong. My first friend that I called on broke apart the 25 and subtracted two tens and then 5 ones, and my friends who initially got to gave a collective, "OHHHHHH!!!!" Friends, THEY GOT IT! And it makes my teacher heart so happy to see class figuring these out together and teaching each other!

If you haven't implemented number talks in your classroom, I highly suggest giving it a try! It really has transformed the way my students talk and think about numbers, and it's the PERFECT way to start your guided math time!

You can follow the links below to read more awesome posts on strategies for guided math! See you next month for Smashing Strategies for Guided Math!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

February Favorites

I LOVE celebrating Valentine's Day in the classroom. Even though February is a short month, it can feel quite long! Today I want to show you some of my favorite ideas and goodies from Oriental Trading to make your February awesome!

My kids are OBSESSED with our new Valentine Spinner! I set it up while my kiddos were at specials one day, and they came back and had all sorts of questions! I left them hanging for a few days before I finally one friend give it a big spin.
A video posted by @simplycreativeteaching on
We have a jar of gems (drops in the bucket) that we use as a whole class incentive. Many times I'll just call on a friend to go put a certain number of drops in the bucket, but now... we SPIN THE WHEEL to figure out how many drops to put in the bucket! We go all out with drum rolls and cheering -- the kids LOVE it! I'm thinking of making it into a math center, too. The possibilities are endless!

I'm also excited to make these adorable Owl Valentine Card Holders! They come in easy, sticker foam kits for the kids to put together. I think they're perfect for 1st-3rd graders! Oriental Trading also has a ton of other card holders besides owls like sharks and unicorns and puppies! I mean... HOW CUTE!?!?! You can find even more crafts here!
My final set of goodies I received are these adorable Valentine ID badge holders! I got enough for each of my kiddos to have one, and I think I'm going to make a little card to put in them that says, "My teachers loves me!" or something equally as cute. Who knows?! There are so many possibilities!

What are your favorites for February? Check out Oriental Trading's Valentine page for all of the goodies shown here!

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

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Transition Superstars

Do you ever feel like it takes your kids FIVE BILLION YEARS to clean up and transition to whatever is next on your agenda? This year, my class is having the hardest time!

They've really been struggling with transitions when we're cleaning up math and literacy centers. Usually we have choice time during the last 15 minutes of our Fridays, but last week... NOPE. My class "cleaned up" math centers for their entire choice time. Natural consequences? I guess so. But I knew I HAD to implement something a bit more intensive for this little group.

I always call my kids my SUPERSTARS whenever I catch them doing something awesome (even the little things). When we've had class meetings to discuss how to effectively transition, I've had to tell my kids that I know they CAN BE superstars, but they don't always show it. So last night I decided that I wanted them to show me that they can be TRANSITION SUPERSTARS!
It's pretty simple. I made cards for every letter in Transition Superstars. That's 20 total letters, but considering how many transitions we have in a school day, we can earn multiple letters in just one day. I also set a timer on the board for transitions so that students know exactly when I expect them to be finished. Once we spell it all out, we will earn an extra 15 minutes of recess or choice time.

That's it. Nothing too crazy, but a simple incentive to help us. Download your free copy by clicking the picture below!