Math Monday: Guided Math Q & A

Last Monday I posted about how Guided Math and how I make it work in my own classroom. 
Today I wanted to answer some questions about Guided Math.

Do you change stations every week?
I have six stations in all. But Mondays we have library during our math time so my stations really get changed once every 7 days.  One station is work at the computer on a math game. Another station is iPads. I just have four math tubs for partner games. 

Of course you can adjust the number of stations/math tubs to fit your needs.

How long is my math block?
My math block is only an hour long. It takes a little practice but keeping to a short mini-lesson is so important. In ten minutes you can absolutely review vocabulary and teach new steps to a skill. I did have a little more leeway with only three math groups. I was able to spend a little more time with groups as I needed. The down side was having larger groups. I keep myself on track by using the timer on my iPhone. We use text tones to rotate with. Our current tone is We Were Us with Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban. The kids love it! They just sing, clean up, and bounce along to their next station.

What do you do to keep kids engaged? Do your kids get restless mid-week?
My students only get to do each center one time unless it's one I feel they could repeat. Since they only go to one partner game per day they usually do well. It took lots of practice and acting out good and bad scenarios at the start of the school year for my students to understand my expectations. I go over my expectations frequently. For students who don't follow instructions or don't behave as a partner they have a consequence. Sometimes that consequence is not being able to go to math stations. Instead they just have seat work. I use Mel D's warm fuzzies system in my classroom and I love it! It's an easy way to enforce great behavior for kids that are doing an outstanding job.

 *Students don't want or need to do a worksheet at every station. Sorting odd and even numbers is an important skill. Greater than less than stations are great too. I made a hot cocoa themed greater than/less than station in my North Pole Math Centers and my kids loved it. Of course some stations have a recording sheet and that's ok.

How do you make sure your students are doing the math stations correctly?
I keep my stations simple, simple, simple. Although I have a small carpet in my room I only allow one set of partners to be on the carpet at one time. The other partners spread out. You KNOW when students are fooling around...they aren't good at hiding it! With students that I know will struggle with new stations I find time to call them over and do the station with them and their partner prior to putting it in our rotation. Then they feel special because they already had the chance to try it out. If you are lucky enough to have parent volunteers this is a great way to involve them! Parents can monitor groups and feel good seeing what their child is expected to do at school.

Do you do assessments during Guided Math?
Our chapter tests are really short. I do those assessments during Guided Math but the stations are not timed during assessments. We switch stations when my groups are done with their test. Students who finish a partner game are supposed to play it again. If they finish their independent work they can work on other work that is unfinished, or read a book. Again, I talk about my expectations frequently. Students who are misbehaving during this time go to time out, sit at their desks, or owe me a fuzzy. I make note of who is following instructions and in between rotations I reward students who have done well and met my expectations. "Thank you Kelly, Amy, Jack, and Joey for working so hard with your partners. Thank you Angie and Mike for working so quietly while we finished our tests!"

*During math benchmarks students do NOT have Guided Math. I give my tests in small group because test taking is a skill and they don't have much experience in taking big tests. I usually give my students some options. They like some type of word search and math color by number activity.

Involve your students in your decisions!
I speak to my class like they are little adults. They want to feel important and your classroom is their classroom too! Being a part of the decision making process goes a long way in having your stations run smoothly. We discuss how noise can effect concentration. I encourage my students to help each other without giving someone an answer. We model what that looks like. When we have big tests or time crunches I give my students options about how we can proceed. Do they want to do two lessons since we have an assembly and double math stations on Friday? What would they like to work on during our math benchmark? One of their favorite rewards is math races or read-a-thons. "Wow! Y'all did an amazing job at your stations today and yesterday so we will spend the last ten minutes of the day doing math races!" Our read-a-thons are simple. Kids can bring in as many books as they want. They can share with their neighbors. We spread out and "lounge" around the room reading. Lounging is not different than sitting around the room except lounging is way cooler. {wink!}

Mystery Writer

Ok y'all.....who has punctuation problems?!
How about capital letter problems?

If I had a dollar for every time I reminded my lovelies to capitalize the first word in their sentence I would have a serious Sex in the City movie type closet full of Brian Atwood shoes!

I have a couple of solutions that might work for you kiddos! 
1) Ask your students to highlight the first letter of each sentence and circle the punctuation at the end of each sentence. My students LOVE to use my highlighters! 

2) or you could try having a Mystery Writer!

How does the Mystery Writer work? It works just like having a Mystery Student. Last year I saw on another blog {I can't remember which one!} about having a mystery student as a behavior management tool. You keep the mystery student a secret and just drop hints. Ex: "Ooh! My mystery student has already put their name on their paper!" You reveal the mystery person at the end of the day or the time chunk. SO why not try having a Mystery Writer?! 

"Ooh! My mystery writer has punctuation at the end of their sentence!"
"I hope when I look at my mystery writer's paper I see a capital letter at the beginning of their sentence!" Then make the rounds and peek at EVERY paper in the classroom.

Truth: I seriously just thought of this when a friend asked about getting her kids to capitalize and use punctuation. But I'm feeling jazzed about it and can't wait to try it out tomorrow!

Math Monday

This spring I have a student teacher and I've been showing her the ropes in my classroom. I am very passionate about the way I do math so I thought I would share!

A few years ago  I decided to try guided math. After all, I was already doing guided reading and that was going really well. I started with very simple games in my stations. Oldies that I'd had in my stash for years. I had just three groups that were based on ability and I just jumped right in. 

I've shared before how I rotate my kiddos. When I had three groups each group rotated to 
1) Meet with Teacher
2) Independent Work
3) Partner Games

This year I have four stations. I just wanted to try it since I usually wind up with one really big group.   Their rotations are:
1) Meet with Teacher
2) Independent Work
3) Partner Games
4) Calendar Questions/ 100's Chart Questions

*My groups are smaller but with four groups it takes me longer to get through the groups. I love having just three groups so I may go back to that next year.

Mini-Lesson: I introduce the skill for the day. Our math series has a book online so I usually have the lesson from the student math book projected. We talk about the vocabulary and the examples. I show the students how to work through the problems. Then they will try a few on their own. We check them then try a few more. I walk the room and peek at the kids work and take note of who is struggling. My mini lesson is only about 10 minutes long.

Meet with Teacher: For my group of kiddos that struggle with math concepts I reteach the lesson and skill. Often I use manipulatives or draw it out on an iPad. Then the students practice again in their math books. Sometimes you have one or two students that are still struggling. That's ok. Then you know you can pull them again for another reteach. But 95% of the time that reteach in small group is what they needed! My groups that are average math students still get a reteach. It's brief and I can check for understanding as they do additional practice in their math books. But since they usually grasp the concepts well I may pre-teach the lesson for the next day or I take the lesson a little further. For example, when I taught place value in the Fall I only needed to teach place value to the number twenty. The groups that had mastered place value to twenty I went on and taught higher numbers. My highest group does independent work as their first rotation so we check their independent work. Sometimes I reteach the skill because I know it's a tough one. (Time and money are always difficult so those lessons get retaught to all groups.) I challenge my highest group as much as I can. Sometimes we take lessons further and other times we do brain teasers. 

Independent Work: Most of the time it is work from our math book. But I also use other items that I have made or purchased from TPT. I view my low and average groups at the end of our math block. I quick glance and I can see who "gets it." I don't allow my students to ask me questions when I'm working with a small group. They can ask each other for help. It's wonderful actually because they often reteach each other. 

Partner Games: I always have a math tub with a game that reviews a skill, one that covers our new skill, and a dice game because students need to be able to recognize groups of numbers. 

My whole team uses the guided math approach and we have had the highest math scores in our district for the past three years because of it. We have a 99% success rate! Yeah baby! 

I'll be doing a math post every Monday to share more of what works in my classroom.

First Day Back

Is it just me or did our winter break JUST begin? Now it's over! 
I really blogged only a couple of times and had a whole to-do list that I never got to. We travelled to South Carolina for a wedding and of course made it up to Seattle for a few days!

Gorgeous sunset

REALLY gorgeous sunset

Date night!

It's safe to say I'm not quite ready to go back to school. So much travel makes for a messy house and a tired ME! 

Last year when we returned from break I had my kiddos do a "Did You See Snow" graph. I really like to have my students do an activity that allows them to talk with their friends and move around the room when we return from a break.  You can download yours here.

I REALLY AM trying to finish my January and February poetry pack, but I'm about beat y'all! 

Those of you stuck in the polar vortex stay safe and warm and love on your pets!
If tomorrow is your first day back with kids have a great day back!