Math Rotations – Initial Set-Up


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.

Check out my YouTube Video for more info on the Rotation Process. Click HERE to watch.

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…

FREE Math Rotations Planner

Photo of Math Rotation Planning Page for teachers to use to plan out their math block.

Math Rotations can seem a little overwhelming at first especially when you are trying to differentiated to meet the needs of all of your students. To help make this easier, I’ve created this digital or printable planning sheet that you can use to plan out your whole rotation for the day – standards, mini-lesson, rotation activities, and differentiated small group activities. This is a FREEBIE that you can sign up for HERE. Happy math planning!

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