Monday, April 22, 2013

Thinking ahead to year 2 with Guided Math/Math Workshop

Happy Monday! I can't believe it is almost the end of April. The end of the year is rapidly approaching, which has me thinking ahead to little tweaks I'd like to make next year. Of course, there is a pretty high chance that I'll be making a change of grade level for next year, which could be fun and exciting, but, at least for the time being I'm going to ignore that possibility and pretend I'll be teaching 3rd grade forever.

I have been so happy using Guided Math in my classroom this year. I think it has been really beneficial to my littles and I have been really pleased with the amount of time I've been able to spend working with small groups and differentiating. When I think ahead to next year, I know there are a few minor adjustments I want to make, though.

Currently, these are my stations:
M - Math fact practice
A - At your seat journals
T - Teacher Group
H - Hands-on learning

Here is what I'm proposing for next year (and a preview of the posters from the Guided Math pack that will be making its way to my TpT shop very soon):
Math facts and problem solving. These will be my math journals. This past year, I gave my students a weekly prompt and I feel that it really helped their problem solving skills. I plan to continue that this year, but will add fact practice as an early finisher activity.

I'd really like to do differentiated math folders next year, where I can give each student worksheets or activities to do that are more tailored to their individual needs. I have some students who really, really need extra practice with their multiplication facts because they have not been practicing outside of class. I have other students who need to be challenged with some enrichment activities. 

Of course, I will be keeping my Teacher Time center. This is my favorite aspect of Guided Math. I love working with small groups and this is a great time for me to reinforce or reteach skills when needed, elaborate, and challenge students depending on what they individually need. 

I will be keeping my Hands-on center. This is where my students play math practice games. I'll also be adding some of the fact practice games, such as beat the clock multiplication, here.

This is very similar to what I did this year except that I am wanting to eliminate the computer fact practice center and replace it with the differentiated folders. I love incorporating technology, and I think that sometimes I'd like to put a computer pass or task card in the folders but I also don't think that this center fully maximized learning this year. It was fun and certainly good practice but not always what my students needed most.

What do your Guided Math/Math Workshop centers look like?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Managing Guided Math (Math Workshop)

If you've ever done any kind of guided reading/math, or tried out any of the workshop models, or done any work with centers then you already know that management is everything in making these types of activities successful. I already gave an overview of how I set up guided math in my classroom for the first time but today I want to share specifically how I go about managing it.  

This is what my original guided math poster looked like. I have very limited wall space so I made a long and tall poster to hang in a gap between two of my windows. I've made a much cuter, polka dot version for next year.  
(I can't believe I'm even sharing this poster as my new polka dot version totally kicks its butt. This was before I put in any effort for graphic designing things for my classroom.)

The four colored strips of paper have velcro attached on them for my students' names. The groups change with each unit. I rotate the corresponding dots (also attached with velcro) so students know what center they go to. This is our visual management for guided math.

Now, let's get into some specifics.

Week 1

I strongly believe in gradual release of responsibility when it comes to being successful with any center activity. When I first announced that we would be starting a new way of doing math (Monday of week 1), I described it to the class and showed them some of the fun and exciting materials we would be using. Then, we came up with a list of expectations together.
  • Get started with your activity right away and try your hardest.
  • Be respectful and responsible with materials and put them away in the proper place.
  • Work cooperatively with your partner and ask "3 before me" if you have a question about your activity.
  • Work the whole time. If you finish early, start a early finisher activity from the folder.
  • When you hear the timer, stop working and clean up your materials. Return, quietly to your desk.
The following two days (Tuesday and Wednesday of week 1) after the whole group lesson, everyone chose a partner and partners played math games from the hands-on learning center. I monitored the groups, answered questions, and redirected as needed. Thursday is my class's Tech lab time so we spent the period exploring and learning about the Math Fact Practice sites. My favorites are and During our math center time on Thursday and Friday my kids chose a partner and worked briefly in their problem solving journals (my at your seat center). Then, the following Monday (week 2) I felt confident that my students were ready to work independently and I started pulling groups. 


My students change math groups after every topic. On the night of the topic test, I send a short pre-assessment home with students for the next unit. I have emphasized with my parents how important it is that they don't help their child with this as it will hurt them in the long run. I then check the pre-assessment and consider how the students did on it as well as how they did on their previous topic assessment to modify the groups for the next unit. I try to group students based on what they need. I have a lot of kids this year who are really advanced so they need enrichment and some extra challenges. I also have some kids who need extra help with the basics. Grouping the kids likes this makes our time in groups more valuable. 

High Expectations

I have really high expectations for behavior during our guided math stations. I expect the voices to be at a whisper and I expect everyone to be on task. My fact practice center works independently and they are expected to be silent and working the whole time. Because my other two centers require partner work, I always require that a finished product be turned in. I expect my students to be kind and cooperative and consider guided math a privilege. I haven't had to "take it away" from a student but I think it would be acceptable to give an alternate activity to a student who was not being cooperative on a given day. I also expect my materials to be treated with respect. My sweet husband and afternoon parapro helped me put together so many file folder games. I made and laminated them and we spend hours cutting them out. I told my kids about this. Then, one week I found some of my game pieces scattered on the floor. I took the games away for the following week and replaced them with another activity. We haven't had a problem with this since.

These are just a few considerations for managing guided math or math workshop in your classroom, but I think they are good to keep in mind when getting started. What management suggestions do you have for math workshop?   

Sunday, April 7, 2013

I Pick poster for Daily 5

Do you use the Daily 5 in your classroom? I've just uploaded a cute, brightly colored (perfect for spring) I Pick Good Fit Books poster to my TpT store and it needs some ratings. Download it for *free* here

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener

If you follow my lifestyle blog then you have already seen this post, but I wanted to repost anyway for my teacher friends because if you are a teacher and haven't heard about this yet - you are just going to love this product. I was gifted a new pencil sharpener from Troy at Classroom Friendly Supplies to review. I was beyond excited to review this sharpener because pencil sharpening in my classroom was about to drive me completely crazy.

A pencil sharpener may not seem like a big deal to those of you who don't teach, but if you are a classroom teacher then I just know you understand where I'm coming from. Pencil sharpeners are loud and the sound resembles a dentist's drill so every morning as we start our morning routine, I hear fifteen minutes of grinding as everyone prepares their pencils for the day. Then, despite having a set time/routine for sharpening pencils, there will undoubtedly be a "pencil emergency" in the middle of a whole group time, which will distract everyone. Not to mention social sharpening - I have girls who will chit chat as they're sharpening their pencils until only a teeny tiny nub of a pencil remains. And to put the cherry on top the electric sharpeners that cause all these problems range from $40 - $60 and I'm lucky if they last more than a year.

Enter the Classroom Pencil Sharpener. You guys - this thing is awesome! It is cute with a fun, retro look and I chose blue to match my classroom. This sharpener is manual, not electric like what I've always had, which had me skeptical at first. It was really easy to use, though. You just pinch the black clamps together and pull out the metal plate in the front. Then, insert your pencil and wind the arm. When the pencils are perfectly sharp, the pencil sharpener stops working. Goodbye social sharpening!

Another thing I love about this sharpener is that it is really quiet. Its not silent but it is much, much less disruptive than other sharpeners I've used. This is music to my ears - I am over the dentist drill like sound of most sharpeners.

My sharpener arrived over spring break so I sharpened every single pencil in my entire apartment. They all came out perfectly. When I got back to school, I introduced it to my kids, who all thought it was cute and were dying to try it out. I showed them how to use it and we watched this video together. It took a day or two for them to get the hang of it but so far so good!

The only thing I didn't like was the clamp that comes with the sharpener. It slides into a hole on the bottom and is intended to anchor the sharpener to a bookshelf or table and hold it in place. While it does keep it sort of steady, you still need to hold the top while you crank. I'm going to use sticky command tape (like what goes on the back of a command hook) to attach it to the bookshelf in my room and we'll be all set.

I definitely recommend this sharpener to other teachers, moms, students, or really anyone who writes. It comes in four cute colors (blue, green, red, and black) to match any room.

The very best thing about this sharpener is the price tag. It is only $24.99, making it half as expensive as most classroom sharpeners! Hurry on over to Classroom Friendly Supplies and get one for yourself.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Getting started with Guided Math (Math Workshop)

Back in October, our district math supervisor held a workshop introducing guided math (also called math workshop). From about 3 minutes in, I knew I wanted to start this in my classroom right away. My district uses EnVision by Pearson as our math program resource, which I do think is a great program and very aligned to Common Core. Since I am new to my district this year, I had been really careful to make sure I was teaching math in the same way the other 3rd grade teachers were, but once our supervisor recommended guided math - I knew it was perfect for me and my class. I later attended a 2 day workshop to learn more about guided math and have been using it in my classroom ever since. Today, I thought I'd share how I went about organizing my stations and the flow of our math block and then another day I'll write about managing guided math.

Our Math block is a full hour long and I've divided it into four parts.

15 minutes
Whole group lesson. This is our time for introducing a new skill and practicing it together.

20 minutes
Guided Math stations. I have four stations, one of which is a station that meets with me. I only meet with one group a day but we get very in-depth into the topics we are discussing throughout the week. I am able to add some enrichment activities for the students who are more advanced and target the needs of those students who are struggling.

15 minutes
Independent Practice. This is an on-your-own time where my students work independently to practice the skill of the day. Sometimes I take this time to circulate the room and work one-on-one with students. If (from my observations during whole group or the first few minutes of independent practice) I think a group of students is having trouble with the skill, I will pull a second group to the back table in my classroom to get some extra practice while working with me.

5 minutes 
Closure and discussion. Sometimes I will do a ticket out the door or a brief game like multiplication around the world.

*Note that these times only add up to 55 minutes. No one is perfect and undoubtedly 1 section will run over every day.

Now let's talk about those math stations. This year I am using the four that were recommended to me during my workshop but I've already decided to make a few tweaks for next year. I have 4 stations and the students just go to one station each day. By the end of the week they have been to all 4. This works really nicely if there is a test or assembly because we can still make it to all four. On a typical 5 day week, the students will go to one of the centers twice. I try to organize this so one of my groups that really needs extra help will end up meeting with me twice. I've seen guided math done where the kids rotate through several centers a day but I find when I've done this in the past I felt like my rotations were too short to delve deeply into the topic and my last group was inevitably rushed for time constraints.

My four math stations are:

M -  Math fact practice. Here the students use flash cards, beat the clock games, matching, or go to websites such as or to practice their basic math facts.

A -  At your seat math journals. In this station, the students glue the weekly problem solving prompt into their math journals and then work to solve it with a partner. They turn their problem solving journal into me to check and I will journal back to them, noting things they did very well and things they maybe overlooked and can try next time to successfully solve the problem.

T - Teacher's Group. This group meets with me to work on the topics we'll be discussing throughout the week.

H - Hands-on Learning. In this center, students play math practice games with a partner. There are some cute games that came with our math program and I've made dozens and dozens of file folder games that I found on Teachers Pay Teachers.

My kids just love that the stations spell out math! I have loved using this model - especially having that designated time to devote to each small group. I also have noticed my students' thinking evolve through their problem solving journals. There really is never enough time to devote to problem solving - especially in my current math program - so this model is so helpful with that.

This is just an overview of getting started for those of you who may not know much about guided math. I'll post more about managing on another day as well as changes I plan to make going forward.

Have you tried guided math / math workshop in your room? What do you do that is the same or different than me?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Somebody got a makeover...

Well, my blog did! I have been toying with the "theme" for a while. I knew I didn't want to invest in a custom layout seeing as how I'm not consistent with posting here (bad, bad blogger.) I switched up my original layout to a cute owl theme, which I liked because owls are all over my classroom - this is a throwback to my Kappa Kappa Gamma days. As cute as it was, it wasn't really me. I came across this cute, free background on and then designed a new header and sidebars using a combo of MyMemories Suite (love this!) and....Microsoft Word. I used the same cartoon-y girl I purchased for my lifestyle blog design and even incorporated lipstick and a Starbucks latte. Maybe the cute, new design will get me motivated to post more regularly?

One can hope. :)

Original header

Take 2

That's more like it. :)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A little shameless self promotion ;)

Hi all! If you follow my life blog, then you know I have recently started my own store on Teachers Pay Teachers. With only a few months left of school, now seemed like the perfect time for a little shameless self-promotion. I really love creating digital posters and worksheets for the littles in my class and was thinking I should pay it forward and share these with other teachers - while earning a few dollars for our little family. If you use Teachers Pay Teachers, I would just *love* if you could take a second to follow my store. Maybe I'll post something that would be perfect for your classroom?

If you're not already using Teachers Pay Teachers, you MUST sign up right now. It is just the most amazing resource for teachers. Period. Plus the money goes to other underpaid teachers just like you - not some big company that mass produces materials. Win-win.

Here are a few items from my store. Its just a baby right now but I'll be growing it throughout the spring and summer.
This is such a fun alternative to boring, monotonous spelling homework. The littles choose an activity from each course to complete during the week - the possibilities are endless. Both spelling and word study titles included. 

Read to Self, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, Word Work, Work on Writing, and Work with the Teacher included. Each activity has a different color polka dot background, child-friendly explanation of the activity and a cute graphic. 

Cute cover, OWL binder "Do's" rules list, and table of contents included. This is such a cute way to get your kiddos organized. 

The spelling/word work menu is my current freebie. If you're a teacher, I would just LOVE if you could check it out and rate me since I am just getting started. If you have a TPT store, leave the link in the comments so I can follow you too. I just love getting resources from other teachers and supporting them! 

Thanks a million!