Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Running the Math Block ~ Part 4: Organizing

This is the last part of how I run my math block. You can catch up with part 1, part 2, or part 3.
This is all about how I organize it all!

(Although, to be honest, some days I'm more on top of it than others! :)

One of the key pieces of my math rotations is task cards.
Some of the task cards I get off of Teachers Pay Teachers (Teaching with a Mountain View, The Primary Gal, and Jennifer Findley to name a few), and some I make myself.

When I make them myself, I make them in PowerPoint, and I use papers from I Teach! What's Your Superpower? and clipart from Melonheadz (when I can add them in! :)

Right now, I'm storing my task cards (all of them-literacy included) in a shoe box, but I forsee them being divided into chapters/skills and stored in Sterilite latching containers (with pretty labels, of course!)
 When I'm prepping for the week, (and I'm actually prepped ahead-which doesn't always happen because I like to take it day by day), I store everything in a bucket on my desk-exit slips and task cards.
This way, it's easy for me to access and find, and I can quickly set up.

For rotations, I store the task cards in another bucket, with the recording sheets underneath.
If we are working on more than one set (and we do, since some of our skills build upon one another, I'll leave the cards out for most of the chapter-this also allows kids to work on what they need to throughout, and they don't feel rushed), I just add another bucket!
Sometimes the kids will need manipulatives to work, and they can easily pull what they need from my new and beautifully fixed shelves ;), since I've made toolkits for the major sections (here and here)

Just in case, you missed a look at my new, beautiful shelves ;) (ICYMI, they fell off the wall last year-and needed to be reanchored-it took some time, but they look so pretty now!)

When we do an exit slip, I don't have the kids turn it into my in-bin - since sometimes I leave things in there for awhile (plus, I don't want them to get lost!), I have them turn it into a bucket.
They fit nicely into the bucket, and it is easy for me to grab and sort through to see what I need to address.

Hopefully/Eventually, I hope to get some iPads or Chromebooks (we have both in my district-but in limited amounts), and work them into our Math block as well (and find some nice storage for them!)-but they're not quite ready for us (plus, I don't know how many we'll be getting for the school)

So that's my revamped Math block! I'm definitely happier with the way it is going, and how I'm reaching more kids. It's taken a few years, and a lot of thought, but I got it to a happy place. :)

Smiles and Sunshine,

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Math Strategies-A Quick Round Up

This month's Together We Are Better is all about Math-which fits in perfectly with the mini-math series I'm doing!

Check out Lucky Little Learners and  Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd for more!

So if you want to read about my new and improved Math block, you can check out here, here and here. There is one more post left-how I organize it all!

For now, I leave you with some highlights of things I do!

First and foremost, we are a BIG task card classroom.
 I love using task cards because it's easy to differentiate (not only with the problems when I make them myself, but by how many each kid needs to complete.), we can use it as a scoot game, a write the room, independent work or a journal entry.

I make some of my task cards-to tailor it to our math program, but I also buy plenty as well.

We also try to have some fun notebook entries-using our notebooks as a resource!

I've also started doing Math Journal entries this year as part of our rotations-we'll see how it goes!
And, I try to make use manipulatives and games to help us learn our concepts.

If you're looking for a great decimal game, Ideas By Jivey has a GREAT one (I blogged about how we play it here) that is FREE!

We have some tricky concepts to learn in 4th grade, so I try to make it as fun and interesting as possible. Hopefully I succeed in some way-and they remember it for 5th grade!

Smiles and Sunshine,

Friday, October 2, 2015


Happy October!
Smiles and Sunshine,

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Running the Math Block ~ Part 3: Practice, Practice, Practice

Welcome to Part 3 of how I run my math block-click on over if you missed part 1 or part 2.
This post is going to be all about how I introduced the students to the tasks.

I started by introducing their Math Journals.

We talked about how sometimes they would do an entry with me, and sometimes they would be doing an entry on their own.

(Our first entry was Math About Me-which is always good for the first few days of school!).

To get them used to what the journal entries would look like on their own, I created a little prompt slip!

I helped scaffold how I wanted them to answer by giving them sentence stems to use. (This mirrors how I taught them to respond to reading-what's good for the goose is good for the gander!)
Then, I let them loose!

I walked around, helping focus kids, and having them elaborate on their ideas, but with the sentence stem help, most of them were able to do it on their own!

Of course, some of their answers were funny!

I also wanted to introduce them to task cards- something that we use a lot of in my room!

I grabbed a set from Teaching with a Mountain View that was on Back to School Math {free!} 
I spread them around the room, and had the kids wander around with a clip board to answer the questions.

While 'writing the room' isn't how we normally do task cards, it was a good way to introduce what they were, and get the kids used to working off them. It also had them get out and about, and for some of my wiggly friends, it was perfect!

I didn't introduce them to their workbooks-I figured they could handle those :)

Each activity took a math period (the journal entry took a little less), but the time I took helped introduce the kids to some of the things that we'll be doing during our math block, and left me free to observe them the first few day.

I'd like to think that it also help set the tone-that math can be fun, and there are going to be lots of different ways to practice and show our work!

Stay tuned for part 4-how I organize it all!

Smiles and Sunshine,

Monday, September 28, 2015

Running the Math Block ~ Part 2: The Daily Grind

Welcome to part 2 of how I run my math block! Part 1 is all about why I needed the change, and some things I did about it :)

For my daily math block, I start off each and every day with my calendar. We do calendar during snack time, but kids are expected to pay attention and participate.
Common Core-Aligned SMART Board Math Calendar for Grades 4-5
You so totally need this calendar if you have a SMART Board-it's amazing. She also has it bundled for the year, and one for the lower grades as well (which our 3rd grade team has after seeing me use mine during walkthroughs!)

Starting off with calendar, we do the number of the day by finding the factors, deciding what type of number it is, and then I have the kids come up with 3-5 ways to get that number as an answer and we share out (which I love hearing about, they try and make them complicated, and I often remind them that simple ones work just as well. It's naturally differentiated to them, and they can make it as hard or as easy as they need!:)

We record all of this in our Numbers Notebook, and then work our way through the rest of the calendar, and the daily component as well.

Next, I do (or try to!) the lesson of the day. I stick to the Math in Focus structure for this, but I try to keep it short, so I have more time to meet with students, and they have more time to practice.

Sometimes, it'll be a longer lesson because of manipulatives, but I try to keep the main lesson under 20 minutes (less if possible!), so they have at least 30 minutes of practice time.

After I finish the lesson, I put up the work schedule.

Students are allowed to work on whatever they choose, as everything is practicing the skill we are learning.

Some kids go straight for the task cards-

While others go straight for their workbooks.

We haven't done an independent journal center yet-but that may become the '1st choice' once we do. Right now, I use the whole class lesson for journal instruction sometimes, until we get a little more comfortable with it.

While students are working, I'm either floating around the room, or pulling students to the back table to work.

How do I know which students to pull?

Well, there is where my masterpiece comes in!

Usually, skills will take us a few days (most MiF lessons are 2, if not 3 days). I give an exit slip at the end of the previous lesson, and look them over.

I check to see which ones need practice and where, and they go on my list to work with.

I'll also throw an entrance slip at them for morning work if it's a one day lesson, and do the same thing.

Once we're at the back table, I model the skill, and then we work through it a few times. Once they've shown me that  they can do it independently, I release them to choose a center.

I then use Google Spreadsheets (again!) to record who I worked with and what skill we hit-so I have the data to back me up if needed. (Students also have their own Evernote notebooks where I take notes)
Each cell is a different time I've met with them-sometimes we cover more than one skill in a lesson!

When there is about 5 minutes left, I hand our the exit slips and have them start cleaning up. I do have them turn in the exit slips into a different bucket than my turn it bin-just so they don't get lost! :)

Stay tuned for part 3, how I trained the kids!

Smiles and Sunshine,

Friday, September 25, 2015

Running the Math Block ~ Part 1: Needed Changes

Hi! I've made some major changes to the way I run my Math block, so I thought I'd do a little mini-series showing how it evolved and what I do now. I hope you enjoy it!

When I first started teaching in my current district, I did Math Workshop-and loved it! I felt like I was reaching the needs of all my kids, and they were able to learn and practice at their level.

But since our math program was so old (they didn't even make it anymore), and with the new Common Core standards, we looked into purchasing a new program.

So my next year at the school, I was piloting Go Math! (which I didn't hate-but I didn't love it either).

Well, as things go, our district decided to go with Math in Focus (the choice came down to that or Envision-Go Math, was 'disqualified' due to test scores).

Now, all through the Math Committee meetings, I had been opposed to Math in Focus, as I've found that it often goes above and beyond the Common Core, and if we're going to teach the Common Core, I think that we need to teach it well before trying to build upon and extend it (and ironically enough,  I told my old principal this, and he was all like 'No, it's totally Common Core' at the meetings, but when I had my end of year meeting with him last year, he was all like 'Where's the Common Core?' Can I just say-I told you so!).

We did have some trainings toward the end of our pilot year (when we knew what we were going to pick), and at the beginning of the school year that made me feel a little more comfortable with Math in Focus.

Last year was our first year with it-and towards the end, I hated the way that my math block was running.

I wound up doing a lot more notebook entries to teach the kids, as everything had taken so long (what with snow days and delays), and I needed to at least expose the kids to things.

I thought long and hard about how I wanted my math block to look like last year, and with a little bit of inspiration from The Primary Gal, I came up with an idea.

First, I wanted to have entrance and exit slips for each lesson, so I could easily pull groups based on need and skill.

Second, I also wanted a quicker way to assess-as the tests sometimes took 2-3 math periods.

Third, I wanted to make better use of time and workbooks, and meeting the kids needs better.

And last, but certainly not least!, I wanted math to be more fun for the kids, as well as a little more interactive.

Since Math in Focus didn't come with any of the things I needed/wanted, I came up with the idea to make it myself!

So I put together a PD project to make what I needed.

Note: I have not yet made the videos-I wasn't sure if I was going to get the tech I needed (not yet), and I wanted to get the main part done first. If and when I get iPad and/or Chromebooks, I'll start on the videos. 

After a couple of months, and almost a 100 hours, I finished!
Inside, I have quick checks (1 page assessments) with two types of data recording sheets.

Entrance Slips

and Exit Slips

Each chapter is divided by a Chapter sheet, and even the back cover is pretty!

As I don't have a TPT shop, this will not be for sale.

What's all this have to do with how I run my math block?

Well, let's get into {some of} the good stuff!

I start off each chapter with a quick check-which I then grade and keep them on my desk until we're done the chapter and the last quick check.

This way, parents (and kids!) don't freak out because of the low scores, and I send them home with the second quick check so they can see the growth they've made. We also graph our results in our Data Notebooks.

The quick check allows me to see who knows what, so I can get an idea of what we may need to spend more time on, and what we may need to spend less time on.

I also record their scores in a Google Spreadsheet, so I can keep track of their score changes (and use it for my evaluative purpose-using assessment to drive instruction-yada yada, blah blah blah ;)
Even the kids who started out high made some growth! The numbers in parenthesis represents the number of points the check was.

I got that idea from the SLO my team did last year-I was fascinated by giving the same test twice and seeing a huge difference in scores from beginning to end-which I think is much more helpful than the pretest from Math in Focus, which has little to do with the end of chapter test.

So, I have my newly made and beautiful products-and what do I do with them?

Stay tuned for part two!

Smiles and Sunshine,