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Math Rotations – Wrap Up

Math

Today is my last blog post for my Math Rotations blog series!  I’ve had so much fun sharing how I implement Math Rotations with you and hope you have found it helpful.  Below I’m sharing a few more tips and a few resources from my TPT Store that I enjoy using with Math Rotations.

Tips:

  • Plan – Math Rotations move quickly. The more you plan and prepare ahead of time the more successful Math Rotations will be.
  • Model, Model, Model – I know I’ve said this in other blog posts, but modeling is key. Students need to know what to do and modeling is the best way to do that!
  • Differentiate – One of the biggest reasons why I love Math Rotations is it has made differentiation so much easier for me to do each day for each child.  Make sure you include this key part in your Math Rotation plans so you are tailoring your instruction to the needs of your students.

Resource Suggestions:

  • Themed Math Word Problems – I love using these as a part of my Seat Work Rotation. This Bundle includes 9 different sets of story problems geared towards second and third grade. Great way to practice math skills and word problems. You can also buy these story problems individually in my TPT store.
  • Learning About Line Plots – Includes practice pages and a hands-on activity where students are practicing their measuring and line plot skills. Great for Seat Work and Activity Rotation.
  • Patterns Task Cards – These task cards go great at the Seat Work Rotation. Includes practice building and answering questions about repeating patterns.
  • Subtraction Memory – Great game for Game Rotation. Subtraction Memory includes two different sets to help differentiate!

If you missed my past posts from my Math Rotations Blog Series, click below…

Math Rotations – Game/Activity Ideas

Math

The four components of my Math Rotations are Teacher Time, Seat Work, Tech Time, and Game. Today’s post will focus on ideas for the Game and Activity Rotation.  This rotation is important because it provides a chance for students to practice the skill, it is often a hands-on type of activity or game, and gives students a chance to work with a partner or group.

Math Skills Games:

On TPT, many websites, and math resource books you will find all kinds of games that you can use to help students practice and review math skills.  I like to use games that are easy for students to play (so they’ll be able to do it independently) and fun!  Here are a few examples:

Math Curriculum Games:

Most math curriculum resources also have their own games or center activities as a part of the program.  I have used enVisions, Investigations, and Every Day Math programs and all have games that you can use during this time.

Compare, Double Compare, and Triple Compare are all great adding and number sense games that you can play with a deck of cards.

Other Hands-On Activities: 

I also like to throw in other hands-on activities during this rotation.  One of my favorites is the Skittles Graphing Activity.  Students each get a bag of Skittles and have to create a bar graph based on the colors of the Skittles. After creating their graph they answer questions about their data.

I also love this activity when teaching area. I got this activity from Blair Turner and it’s her Dream House Activity.  Students get to create their own Dream House with their own rooms.  They love being creative on this one! Then, after creating their rooms they have to find the area of each room and the total area of their house.

Dream House Area Activity

Another great activity that my students have enjoyed is building 2D and 3D shapes with this kit. I got this kit from Scholastic in the teacher area a few years ago with bonus points and they love creating different shapes with it!

Games/Activities Tips:

  • Model – It is so important to make sure you model and show them how to do the game or activity.  This will make it easier for them to play it independently so that they are not interrupting your group with questions.
  • Directions – Leave simple and easy to read directions with the game.  This is helpful so that if they have a question or forgot how to play, they’ll be able to figure it out on their own.
  • Partner Skills – Prior to having students start rotations I would have a class discussion about how partners should work together.  We would talk about what it would look like and sound like and create an anchor chart so the expectations are clear. 

If you missed my past posts from my Math Rotations Blog Series, click below…

Check back Sunday for ideas for a wrap up post on Math Rotations.

Math Rotations – Tech Time Ideas

Math

The four components of my Math Rotations are Teacher Time, Seat Work, Tech Time, and Game. Today’s post is brief and will share a few ideas for Tech apps you could use during Tech Time rotation. 

Tech Time Set-Up

The Tech Time rotation is easy to set up and can use apps or math websites you already know about.  You do not have to be a 1-to-1 classroom to do this rotation. Since you have a small group at this station you’ll only need enough iPads, laptops, computers, or Chrome Books for your group size.

App/Website Ideas

Below are a few apps that I have seen used before during rotations. Many of these also have websites. I’m not going to go in to great detail, but wanted to give a few suggestions.  These obviously depend on your grade level, but there are many great math websites out there.

  • IXL – This app is my favorite since you can tailor specific assignments to what you are teaching and can see real time on your computer how kids are doing.  But, it does cost a pretty penny!
  • MobyMax – This has a free and a paid component.  Students will take a math test and then instruction will be differentiated for them based on their results – this can happen in the free version!
  • Math Curriculum Site or App – Students can work on the website or app that goes with the math resource your school has.  Many curriculum resources have computer programs with games or practice for students.
  • Xtra Math – This is free and a great way to build fact fluency skills.
  • Khan Academy – I do not know as much about this one,   but I know some people absolutely love it!

If you missed my past posts from my Math Rotations Blog Series, click below…

Check back Thursday for ideas for Game/Activity Time.

Math Rotations – Seat Work Ideas

Math

The four components of my Math Rotations are Teacher Time, Seat Work, Tech Time, and Game. Today’s post will share some ideas with you for activities and things I have my students do during the Seat Work portion of rotations.  The biggest key thing for me to stress is that seat work needs to be something that students can work on independently so that you are kept free to work with the small groups.  Below are a few ideas for activities I like to include as my options for seat work. I do not use each of these things every day, but pick activities based on the skill we’re currently covering and try to give some variety. 

Task Cards:

I love using task cards at the seat work station.  I try to make sure I have differentiated sets of task cards so that I am able to meet the different needs of my students when they are at this rotation.  Task cards are great because they can cover the current skill or be review for a past skill.  Students are held accountable because they fill out the recording sheet as they answer the questions.  After math rotations I look over the recording sheets and I’m able to see how they are doing with the skill.

Spiral Review Pages:

Constant review of past skills is important to do and spiral review pages help with that. I created the page you see below to fit the skills that we taught and needed to spiral and practice at my school.  Students would complete these problems during the seat work time and turn it in. Then, I would check them and give feedback on their page.

Story Problems:

As I mentioned in my past few blog posts I love story problems. They are a wonderful way to practice math skills and provide context for students.  I will often put story problem task cards at the Seat Work rotation. Students work on the story problems and turn them in each day for feedback.  These often take a few days to finish so I make sure to give feedback each day so students can go back to correct problems as needed.  Story problems can be themed and can also be differentiated for your students. 

Practice Pages:

Seat Work can also be a time to use practice pages from your math curriculum or other practice pages that focus on the current skill or reviewing past skills.

Seat Work Tips:

  • Seat work needs to be able to be completed independently.
  • Put seat work after teacher time in math rotations. Students will practice the skill with you in teacher time and then go off to seat work to practice it independently.
  • Start your highest group in seat work first.  They will either know the skill from prior knowledge or will pick it up quickly with the mini-lesson.  You do not want to start your struggling kiddos off at seat work.

If you missed my past posts from my Math Rotations Blog Series, click below…

Check back Tuesday for ideas for Tech Time.

Math Rotations – Teacher Time Ideas

Math

The four components of my Math Rotations are Teacher Time, Seat Work, Tech Time, and Game. Today’s post will share some ideas with you for activities and things I do with my students during the small group teacher time portion of Math Rotations. I do not do each of these activities listed below every day.  I do what fits the skill and standard I’m teaching, what fits the level of the group I am working with, and try to give teacher time variety so we’re not doing the exact same thing each day. The main goal of Teacher Time is to teach that day’s skill to each group with differentiated instruction at their level.

Before I get into my ideas I have to tell you that I love teacher time.  This is one of my favorite times of the school day. I love being able to work with a small group and have great math discussions with them.  I also love how I can modify the lesson as I’m teaching it to them to fit their needs.

Story Problems:

I love using story problems in general and have done many blog posts about my love for them and tips for using them. I also like to use them during teacher time.  Story problems can apply to so many different math skills and it helps give context to the skill.  I will often use story problems during small group for students to solve. Students will solve it on the white board or a white board table and then share their strategy with the group. This works well because it not only gives kids practice working on the math skill, but also communicating their thinking and strategies to others.  I will often use story problems with each group, but will differentiate the numbers to fit the needs of the group. 

CGI/Number Talks:

As I mentioned in my Mini-Lesson post CGI and Number Talks are a great way to practice math skills and get kids talking about math. I will sometimes do a Number Talk with my small group. I will follow the same steps as a whole group Number Talk, but the nice thing is each child in the group will be able to share their strategy (since there are only a few kids in a group as a opposed to the whole class in a whole group lesson).  Number Talks can also lead to great discussions about noticing similarities and differences with strategies.  It can also be a time to go over and discuss math misconceptions too.

Math Curriculum Resource:

Teacher Time is another time that you can use activities or practice from your math curriculum.  In the past I have taught with enVisions and Investigations.  I do not always use pages from their books for small group time, but sometimes they fit in very well.  The enVisions series is already differentiated a bit for you, so I would often use the re-teaching page with my struggling group, the practice page with my on-level group/s, and the enrichment page with my challenge group/s. We also had some awesome hands-on lessons and activities from the Investigation series.  Below you’ll see pages from their line plot unit that we did during small group instruction. 

Special Projects:

Special projects are always fun and math special projects are no exception. I would use these as a challenge for my students who were ready to be pushed and could work on it with me, but also were able to work on it a little bit independently.  I have found some great enrichment projects on TPT that the kids loved working on.  We would meet and go over it and then they would work on it with their group during Seat Work time. Then, the following day we would review their work and discuss.

If you missed my past posts from my Math Rotations Blog Series, click below…

Check back Sunday for ideas for Seat Work.

Math Rotations – Management Tips

Math

This post may contain affiliate links for your convenience.

Today’s blog post focus is on classroom management tips for Math Rotations.  For rotations to run smoothly, classroom management needs to be strong so that students know what is expected of them and can do their rotations independently.  A lot of this comes from how you set-up your Math Rotations which I talked about it my last post.  Below are some additional tips for managing Math Rotations…

Management Board:

There are a variety of management board options out there for Math Rotations/Stations and this is an important aspect of managing rotations.  Students need to clearly know where they are supposed to go and what they are supposed to do. I use the management board below. Each rotation is clearly listed, partnerships are clearly listed, and the activity is listed.  Teacher Time and Seat Work are both typically run by an adult, which is why there isn’t more information there.  Students know by looking at it what they are supposed to do on the iPads and what game they are playing for the game time.  Rotations rotate clockwise and always have so students get used to moving from station to station in the same order each day.

Management Board example

Timer:

If you are like me, you lose track of time easily especiallyduring small group time. I use the timer on my phone to help keep me ontrack.  Each day my rotations range from10-15 minutes long so the timing changes daily, but the timer keeps me on trackso I don’t spend too long with one group and not enough time with another.

Timer from iPhone

Wireless Doorbell:

I have done an entire blog post on my love for this wireless doorbell and this is another time I use it.  The chime or doorbell sound is what signals my students to rotate.  I don’t need to say anything; I just push the button on the remote, the chime sounds, and the kids rotate.  Now this is something to practice and model when you are introducing rotations, but after a while it should become second nature.

Picture of Wireless Doorbell

*If you are interested in purchasing a Wireless Doorbell, check out my Amazon Affiliate Link >>> HERE.

Those are three quick tips to help manage rotations.  If you missed my past posts from my MathRotations Blog Series, click below…

Check back Thursday for ideas for Teacher Time.

Math Rotations – Mini-Lessons

Math

Today’s blog post is focusing on how I use mini-lessons during Math Rotations. Mini-lessons are at the beginning of my math block and last between 5-15 minutes. The whole group participates in mini-lessons.   I use the mini-lesson to go over today’s math skill, review rotations, and more.  See below for ideas for your Mini-Lessons…

CGI Mini-Lessons:

CGI stands for Cognitively Guided Instruction and it has changed the way I understand and teach math (I need to do a full post on this at a later time).  When I start our mini-lesson with CGI it can include a few different things.  I often use number talks focused on the day’s skill. For example, if we are doing money I might pose a problem where students need to add the money amounts.  After posing the problem, students have a few minutes to think of their answer.  Then, they share their strategies and I document their thinking by writing it on the board.

I also use Choral Counting as another CGI Mini-Lesson. Choral Counting is a CGI strategy and great when talking about skip counting, multiplication, fractions, decimals, and more.  Below is an example where we were skip counting by 8 and discussing how the multiplication facts line up with skip counting.

I use story problems in my class all the time.  Sometimes I will have students solve one independently and then share their strategies with the class as a part of the mini-lesson.

Anchor Charts:

I often will use the mini-lesson to create an anchor chart as a class.  The anchor chart usually focuses on the specific skill and it is left up as a tool for students to use when they are at rotations.  I normally have a problem or two in mind for the anchor, but the kids help me fill it all in.  I’ve created anchor charts for math strategies, shapes, patterns, and more.  Anchor charts are amazing!

Math Curriculum:

The mini-lesson is a great time to include a whole group component from your math curriculum.  Last year my school used enVisions and I would often do the solve and share activity and show the video during the mini-lesson section.

Explain Rotations:

I would also use the mini-lesson time to go over the rotations for the day.  If there is a new rotation, I would make sure students understood what they were being asked to do. I might model a new game, show them how to use task cards, or show them how to use a math app on the iPad.

Now, I know you might be thinking…Jordan – that is a ton of things to cover in 5-15 minutes. Please know I do not do each thing I listed above every day.   If I did that would probably take the entire math block. I pick and choose different things each day to keep it fresh.  I also pick and choose my mini-lesson activities based on what fits the skill the best.  On Monday I might do a number talk and Tuesday we might create an anchor chart.  One thing I do make sure to review each day is the rotations.  By going over the rotations each day students know what they are supposed to be doing which leads to less interruptions when I am pulling small groups.

If you missed my past posts from my Math Rotations Blog Series, click below…

Check back Tuesday for more information about the Math Rotation process and management tips.

Math Rotations – Initial Set-Up

Math

Today’s focus is all about how I set up, plan, and start Math Rotations in my classroom.  The management piece and actual rotation ideas are coming in a later post.

Setting Up/Planning Math Rotations:

When I set-up Math Rotations I like to use the planning page below. Now that I’ve done them for a while I don’t always need to use the planning page, but it was definitely a good guide starting out.

Tips for Planning Your Math Rotations:
  • Pick a math unit.
  • Think of all of the skills your students will need to learn and divide that out over different days. (Example – Place Value.  Students will need to know how to read numbers, write numbers, write numbers in expanded form/notation, compare numbers, draw and count using place value model (base-10 blocks).
  • Plan your rotations with the set skills in mind (see more below for tips with rotation activity planning).*
  • Use the planning page to help keep your essential questions, vocabulary, and standards as a focus. It also provides space to plan your mini-lesson, homework, and what you would do with teacher time with three groups.  (I know you’re thinking – wait – I thought you said you pull four groups.  I do – but typically two of the groups repeat.  I might have two groups working on the more challenging things or two groups working on more of the on-level skills.)

*I will share ideas for the actual rotations later, but I always try to make sure it includes activities that are covering our current skill or reviewing past skills.  You also want to make sure you are planning activities that your kids will be able to do pretty independently.  You do not want them interrupting you a billion times when you are working with your small group during Teacher Time.

Starting Math Rotations:

Math Rotations are like anything new you introduce to your class.  When introducing something new, you always want to start slow and give it a chance.  My first day I did Math Rotations with my class it felt chaotic, we had a fire drill in the middle of it, and it didn’t go as I had intended.  I didn’t give up.  I gave it a few more days and as the kids and I both got into the routine it made my math block time more efficient and students were more engaged.

Here are a few tips to consider when starting Math Rotations:
  • Slowly introduce each step. I would not expect Math Rotations to be up and running fully day one.  Introduce each part of the rotation, what they need to do; what the expectations are….slowly.
  • Model, model, model, and model some more. I cannot say enough about this tip.  Modeling is the key to making this successful. Model how to go to your first rotation.  Model how to get the materials. Model how to transition to the next rotation.  Model how to clean up.  The more you model – the smoother this will go.
  • Do not pull groups right away. Obviously I know that the big reason to use this is to be able to pull small groups every day during rotations. But, I highly recommend you wait a day or two (or more depending on your kids) to pull groups.  Take the first day or two to go around while your kids are at the rotations and help make sure they know what to do.  Spending one to two days at the beginning to help get them started will make it easier in the long run for you to pull groups with fewer interruptions.

If you missed my past posts from my Math Rotations Blog Series, click below…

Check back tomorrow for more information about mini-lessons for Math Rotations.



Math Rotations – Creating Groups

Math

Today’s focus in my Math Rotations blog series is on how I group students for Math Rotations.  This post will cover how I group students, number of groups, and how I use flexible grouping for Math Rotations.

How I Group Students:

I group students for math groups using a pre-test.  Last year I created pre-tests for each large unit I teach, for example, place value, addition, subtraction, graphing, shapes, etc. and use that to form my groups.

Prior to teaching the standards and skills for a set unit, students take the pre-test.  When I give the pre-test out I explain that this is just for me to help teach them.  This pre-test does not go in the grade book it just shows me what they know.  The positive to using a pre-test is I get a read on where everyone is at prior to teaching the content.  I can quickly identify my students who have never seen the material before and also ones who have a solid grasp on it already and need extension activities.  This made my teaching life so much easier and made it even easier to form groups for Math Rotations.

After grading the pre-test (remember not for the gradebook, just for me) I could quickly identify what my students needed in regards to the specific skill.  I would then form my four groups for Math Rotations.  Some math units I would have two lower groups, a medium group, and a high group.  Some skills I would have one low group, one medium group, and two high groups.  (My Group 1 tends to be my struggling kiddos, Group 4 tends to be my high kiddos, and Groups 2 and 3 can depend based on the content and student’s needs).   Using the pre-test to help divide my class into groups helped ensure that I was tailoring my instruction to what my students actually needed.  I still teach the standards, I still make sure my students master the standards, but because of the pre-test I was able to quickly see where I needed to start for each child/group.

Another key thing to keep in mind and an advantage to using these is the groups are flexible.  Billy might be in Group 1 for addition because he really struggles with strategies, but he might be in Group 4 for geometry because he understands shapes.  We don’t want to pigeon hole kids into groups, but we do want to identify where each child is at for different skills.

Patterns Pre-Test

Number of Groups:

I highly recommend four groups for Math Rotations.  My rotations include: Teacher Time, Seat Work, Game, and Tech Time (more info and ideas to come on these later in the series).  Yours might differ depending on your math curriculum and class needs.

I also recommend at least four groups so that your group sizes can be kept as small as possible.  It’s ideal to have 4-6 kids in a group, but I do understand some class sizes make that challenging.  The smaller the groups, the easier it is to differentiate and tailor your instruction, but again I understand some class sizes are large so you may need to have larger groups.

Example of Math Rotations Groups Page

Example – Math Rotations Group Page

Flexible Grouping:

As I mentioned in the pre-test section, flexible grouping is key to Math Rotations.  My groups are always fluid.  Sometimes I will place a child in Group 1 because on the pre-test they struggled and didn’t understand.  Sometimes that child will surprise you after a day or two in groups and you might need to move them up to a different group. This can also go the opposite way. Sometimes a child might show that they understand it on the pre-test, but when working with them you don’t feel like they really grasp the concept.  Again – you can move them.  That’s the beauty of flexible grouping – no one is ever stuck in their group.

I also like that groups are dependent on how the child does with a specific skill.  A child isn’t in the low group for the entire year just because they struggled with the first math concept you taught or your beginning of the year assessments.  The groups are based on how each child does with each skill, which really tailors to the needs of the child – not just a one-time evaluation or assessment.

If you missed my past posts from my Math Rotations Blog Series, click below…

Check back Saturday for more information about how I set-up and start Math Rotations.

Math Rotations Long Pin


Math Rotations – The Why

Math

I am so excited to start this new blog series for the month of February.  This series will focus on all things Math Rotations.  Look for new posts each Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday during the month of February.

Blog header for Why Math Rotations
Introduction:

For today’s post I am sharing with you my why for switching to math rotations.  I have taught math the more traditional way for many years and made the switch two years ago to using math rotations.  I was finding that I was having difficulty reaching all of my kids during math lessons.  With the majority of the traditional math lesson being done in whole group with independent practice, I wasn’t able to reach my struggling learners or my learners who were ready for a challenge.  Due to that, students weren’t as engaged as they could be and weren’t really getting what they needed.  So… I decided to make a change.

Here are my reasons why I use Math Rotations:
  • Math rotations allow you to differentiate daily for EVERY group.
  • Whole group lessons still exist, but are more of a mini lesson with the majority of the instruction taking place at the child’s independent level during small groups.
  • Math rotations offer opportunities to review and fill in gaps for students who are struggling while also an opportunity to challenge students who are ready to be pushed.
Coming Up:

Thank you for checking out today’s introductory post for Math Rotations.  Stay tuned for information on:

  • Creating Math Rotation Groups
  • How to Start Math Rotations
  • Math Mini-Lessons
  • Rotation Process and Management Tips
  • Teacher Time Ideas
  • Seat Work Ideas
  • Tech Time Ideas
  • Game Ideas

Check back Tuesday for more information about how I group students for Math Rotations.

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