Monday, September 30, 2013

Math Workshop Monday {9/30/13}

Welcome to my weekly series where I try to share what has worked (and hasn't worked) in my classroom as I explore the wonderful world of Math Workshop:
This week's topic:

I've received several questions about whether or not I teach whole group instruction at all.  Yes, I do.  I still enjoy teaching whole group.  It gives me a chance to incorporate Whole Brain Teaching strategies.  It gives us a chance to include singing/dancing/active participation.  So, how do I manage both whole group instruction and math workshop?  It's simple.

When introducing a new unit of study, I always start off with whole group.  We discuss the new unit, create flipbooks for our interactive notebooks, discuss vocabulary and complete an activity that incorporates the major skill for that unit.

For example, we recently began a unit on place value.  Yes, we completed the addition and subtraction unit before place value.  Why?  Because with years of teaching place value during the first weeks of school, my teammate and I have found that our students just aren't ready for this concept.  Now that we have waited a few weeks, our students are breezing through this unit.  Sorry...off topic a little.

Back to my example~To start this unit of study, I completed an activity with my students to launch the place value unit.  I taught the vocabulary terms, we created a new flipbook for our notebook and then we completed a great activity from my friend, Bridget from Little Lovely Leaders.  Please head {here} to see the awesome activity on place value.  I did have to adapt it for my students (I took off the tenths, hundredths and thousandths clues).

Here are a few snapshots of my cuties traveling the room to create multi-digit numbers:
Once I help my students build a lot of background knowledge while teaching whole-group, we are ready for Math Workshop.

On average, I am able to incorporate Math Workshop at least 3 days a week.  It is usually Tuesday-Thursday.

There needs to be a balance among whole group and small group instruction.  Both methods hold value in my opinion.

In the next 4 posts in the series, I will be breaking down each of the 4 rotations in greater detail.  Next week, I will be sharing information about our "Math Facts" rotation.  If you have any questions about that rotation, please ask :)


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Workshop Wednesday Linky

I'm linking up with my friend, Jessica at Ideas By Jivey,  for her Workshop Wednesday Link Up.  She's been focusing the last two weeks on Workshop Set Up, so I thought that I'd link up the last several posts from my Math Workshop Monday posts:


Click on the pictures and they will take you to the original posts.
Post 1: Basics:

Post 2: Setting up Interactive Notebooks



Post 3: Station Set Up

Post 4: Scheduling

If you are interested in reading more, stay tuned on Mondays.  I'm blogging about Math Workshop each Monday (mainly to help me stay focused), but also in hopes that I can help others tiptoe into the wonderful waters of Math Workshop ;)  Corny?  Um, that's me.

Now, go head on over to
Ideas By Jivey
to read all of the wonderful Workshop ideas!  They aren't all math, either.  She has categories for Reading and Writing.  Consider linking up!


Monday, September 23, 2013

Math Workshop Monday {9/23/13}

Welcome to my weekly series where I try to share what has worked (and hasn't worked) in my classroom as I explore the wonderful world of Math Workshop:
This week's topic:

I've shared how I had scheduled my Math Workshop when I first started {here}, but since then, I've made some simple modifications that have worked for me.


This year (and last year), I have the luxury of a 90 minute math block.  I'm going to share my schedule using that amount of time.  However, I will also share how it can be completed within 60 minutes.  I know that it is possible with that time restraint because I made it work with 60 minutes two years ago.

I am going to use my second class as a model because I do not have to break up that class period with any interruptions.

10:15-10:25~~~Math Moves: Daily Spiral Review
10:25-10:40~~~Mini Lesson
10:40-10:52~~~Rotation 1
10:52-11:04~~~Rotation 2
11:04-11:16~~~Rotation 3
11:16-11:28~~~Rotation 4
11:28-11:45~~~Lesson Wrap Up

As you can see, it's a choppy-weird-like-time schedule.  Do I stick to these exact times? No, not really.  One group working with me may need a little more time while another group might not.  I just make sure I keep an eye on the clock and allow myself time at the end to go over any work completed in the "At Your Seat"/Independent Work time.

During the 10 minutes "Math Moves" time, I am going around the room checking that homework was completed.  Then, we go over the 4 Common Core questions for the day using my Math Moves file.  I love this time of the day because we can review skills that we have been practicing and I can "gently" introduce new concepts, too.  To me, this is probably one of the most important things that I do.  I just simply can't wait until May to teach geometry because our pacing guide dictates it (and so does the textbook).   During this time and right before my mini-lesson, I also go over the homework from the night before.

During the 15 minute Mini Lesson, I teach the concept that the students will be completing during their "At Your Seat" or Independent practice time.  I use this time to teach, teach, teach using videos, songs, foldables, etc.  We may go through one or two guided practice questions if I am teaching a procedural (vs. conceptual) skill.  I love this part of my day, too.  I can get up and move with my kiddos, we can dance a little (sometimes), we sing and act goofy while learning a new concept.  I also can use this time to practice and utilize Whole Brain Teaching strategies.  Since this is a whole group time, I try to make every minute count and be exciting :) Is it exciting every day?  Well, let's be real.

Then rotations begin.  You can read more about how rotations work in all of my other Math Workshop Monday posts {here}, {here}, {here}, and {here}.  Or, you can always find the "Find It Fast" widget on the sidebar and type in "math workshop" or "math stations" or "math rotations" and find more posts about rotations.  Also, I'll be breaking down each rotation in the weeks ahead, so stay tuned ;)

Finally, during the last 15 minutes or so, I have a "Lesson Wrap Up" time.  During this time, we go over the Independent Practice work and Calendar Math.  I use this time to do a quick "check in" with my students, too.  One of the easiest ways that I like to do this is by having students hold up on their hands a number 0-10.  I teach them to keep their eyes on me and not each other so that they don't look at each other's numbers to determine their number.  I tell my students to raise 10 fingers if they feel like the are a pro and could teach the class today's skill.  If they need more work, they will be closer to a zero.  I write down some notations of who I need to make sure I assist during the next day's small group lesson.

Now, how do you make this work with only 60 minutes...or even shorter times.

Rotations can be shorter.  During my first year of implementing Math Workshop, I had 7 minute rotations.  It worked. Does it work better with more time, sure.  Can it work with less time? Yes.  Another thing that I would change would be to add Math Moves (or any spiral that you might use) to a rotation.  You could still review the questions during the lesson wrap up time. Last year, I also printed out the answers to the homework and it was waiting on my students when they first came to "Teacher Time"/Small group time.  It only took them a second to check and then I'd only go over any questions that they might have had.  One more simple modification is to only have 3 rotations.  You could combine "Hands On" with "Math Facts" and just have larger groups.  All of these simple changes will save you between 15-25 minutes.

Have you started Math Workshop?  Do you have any specific questions I can try to answer?  I'd love to hear from you :)  Comment below or feel free to email me!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Math Workshop Monday {9/16/13}

Welcome to my weekly series where I try to share what has worked (and hasn't worked) in my classroom as I explore the wonderful world of Math Workshop:
This week's topic:
Last week, I shared with you my station boxes.  I found some tubs to use for my groups this summer.  Last year, I had two tubs per group, but I found that it just caused confusion.  This year, I scaled down to one tub per group.  Inside I have the "hands on" materials they will use for the week.  You can see that the tubs are all different based on what that particular group needs to practice:

The last thing I want is for the "Hands On" time to turn into "Play" time.  I know that sounds a bit harsh, but when we are trying to cover a gagillion standards (yes, I made up that word), I don't want even this 15 minutes to be filled with students "playing".  This is why I spent several weeks (yes, weeks) "practicing" rotations before letting them loose with our rotations.

Let me back up.  No, we didn't just practice.  Yes, there was instruction going on at the same time.  I was teaching whole group for the first 3 weeks of school. And, I was tired with a capital "T" at the end of the day.  My students work better in small increments of time.  Don't you find that to be the case these days?  This is why the workshop model works for me.

Back to "Hands On" time~During this "leg" of their rotations, students work in groups and/or partners with different tasks I've given to their group.  Based on performance tasks, pretest, etc., I have determined what skill a group needs to practice.  Does it work out that every single student needs practice with that particular skill.  No.  Does it matter?  Not really.

For example, my "Group 2's" needed to work on subtraction with regrouping.  Did everyone in Group 2 need to work on that skill?  Not really.  Several students were pros already.  However, when I send my students to their Hands On time, those who are the pros typically will take on the leadership role in the group and be the facilitator during their time.

In a perfect world, yes, everyone would only work on the skills that they need to practice the most.  I'm not Super Woman and I just don't have the time, energy or money to buy all of the necessary materials for each student to only work on the skills that they need to practice the most.  That comes later...during Teacher Time.

So, what do I put in the tubs?  The million dollar question, right?  Basically every little thing I've bought over the last few years~  I could give you a link to every single TPT store who I buy from, or a link to every single product I've made, but that would be silly.  Besides, what my students need will be different than what your students need.

What I can give you are a few hints for some easy and free resources.  You can go shopping later :)


Simple.  Last week, I taught my students how a pair of dice can be used easily for practicing addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  Simply take 2 dice, roll them and multiply the two numbers together.  Challenge yourself:  Roll the 2 dice, add them together for your first number.  Roll the 2 dice again, add them together for your second number.  Next, multiply the two numbers together.  Easy. Fast. Fluency Practice!  Yay!
The same thing can be accomplished with a deck of cards.  I pull out all of the face cards and teach my students that the Ace is equal to 1.

One more hint about "Hands On" time.  Have your student in a close proximity to your small group table.  I know this sounds like a no-brainer.  But, I learned by trial and error that having them closer to my small group table helps me control the volume in their group and it also helps me control the volume of my small group.  I can also take a quick glace up to see who is on task.  If they are not on task, they go to their seats.  No questions asked.  Harsh? Yes.  Does it work? Yes.

Happy Workshopping!  {Yep, I made that word up, too.}  Got questions?  Shoot me an email or comment below.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

300th Post...Wow! And a Pin to Win :)

Happy Sunday everyone!

I wanted to share a new file that I just uploaded and realized that this is my 300th blog post.  Wow...where did the time go?  I say that a lot with my children, and now my blog?  :)

I just finished a new lapbook!  We started the year with addition and subtraction strategies.  I created this lapbook mainly for all of the flipbooks I needed inside.  As many of you already know, I've been a big fan of interactive notebooks for years.  Since time is always a factor, I've been using the flipbooks in our interactive notebooks instead of making lapbooks each time.  Usually towards the end of the year, I will make a lapbook or two, but when we are busy, busy, busy, I usually don't.

However, I've continued to sell these as lapbooks because I want to give all of you the option, too.

Here's my latest:

And, just as I have done in the past for all of my other lapbooks, I'm giving you a chance to Pin It to Win It :)

Just leave me a comment with the URL link to your pin below. You may pin to this blog post or directly to Teachers Pay Teachers at the link {here}.  I'll pick 5 winners on Wednesday night!

Good luck!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Math Workshop Monday {9/9/13}

Welcome to my weekly series where I try to share what has worked (and hasn't worked) in my classroom as I explore the wonderful world of Math Workshop:
One of the questions I receive the most is the following:
Last week, I started with this question, too.  I shared a few lessons on setting up procedures and routines.  Read more {here} first if you didn't catch it last week.

Today, I'd like to share some "housekeeping" tips with you on how to stay organized!

In order for my classroom to run as smoothly as I like, I have to have everything organized.  Surprised?

One of the ways that I try to help my students stay organized is to help them keep up with their materials in a tidy little spot.  Each student received a gallon sized bag that could then be decorated with colorful duct tape.  The tape on the edges will help the zippered bag last a little longer.   This is the example I used to show my students:


Inside this lovely zippered bag, my students keep their math textbook and interactive notebook.  We spent one of our days the first week of school decorating our bags.  Check out one of my student's bag:


Cute, cute, cute!

I'm going to keep a "Bag Hospital" basket on my counter filled with more cool Duct tape for when some bags need some TLC.

On to the contents of the bag...

I use interactive math notebooks in my classroom.  During the first week of school, we spent one day making our notebooks with "The Numbers of Me".  This lesson is so fun! I've seen this lesson shared in many different ways, but I use it to create our notebooks. Basically, we decorate our notebooks using different numbers that have meaning for us. For example...on my notebook, the big "4" is special because I belong to a family of 4 and I teach 4th grade.

Check out one of my student's notebooks:
I'll be sharing a lot more of how I use interactive notebooking later, but here is a sneak peak inside our notebook.  By the way, as you can see, I am creating one for myself as the year progresses. I use it as a model for my students.
Our textbook has a page of vocabulary for each chapter.  When I used Social Studies interactive notebooks a few years ago (when I still taught SS), I came up with a way to keep the flashcards secure in the notebook so that students wouldn't forget them when they needed to study.  Simple fix...zippered bag taped on the inside of the back cover of the notebook.  I use mailing tape and it lasts all year.

One last way that I stay organized is with our "Hands On" materials.  I found some tubs to use for my groups this summer.  Last year, I had two tubs per group, but I found that it just caused confusion. This year, I scaled down to one tub per group.  Inside I have the "hands on" materials they will use for the week.  You can see that the tubs are all different based on what that particular group needs to practice:

Do you have any other questions that you would like for me to answer?  I'd love to hear your questions and also any suggestions that you might have.

**Update**
If you have recently found this post and have more questions about how I ran Math Workshop, please go to the "Find It Fast" tab on the sidebar and search "Math Workshop".  If you have even more questions, feel free to email me, too!  Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Wise Decor Giveaway!

I can not believe that I have reached this many followers on Teachers Pay Teachers:


I feel so blessed.  

To celebrate, I'd like to offer a $75 gift certificate to Wise Decor!  Last month, I was contacted to review one of their wall words decals and I am so glad that I said yes!

If you saw my post about my new door {here}, you will see why:

I am so happy with they way this turned out.  And it was SO EASY!  Wise Decor is offering you a chance to win a $75 gift certificate to spend on their site.  You must go and check out their Classroom Wall Decals where you will find a collection of inspiring and humorous quotes and designs specifically tailored for educators and their classrooms.

They have so many choices and knowing how easy they are to hang, I'm heading back there soon for some more quotes!

This giveaway will be open until next Tuesday.  Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 2, 2013

Currently and Math Workshop Monday {9/2/13}

I'm having to double up on this post since I've been a "once a week-at best-blogger" lately. First, Currently...and then Math Workshop Monday :)

Listening: I love, love, love that my kids get along.  I am truly blessed.
Loving: Wouldn't it be nice to have 3 day weekends at least once a month?
Thinking: I really have a lot on my list today!  I have left all of my chores to today while playing all weekend...
Wanting: Tieks...have you heard about them?  I really feel like I must have a pair...not so badly though that it has turned into a need :)
Needing: Open House is Thursday and I have got to get ready!!
Me: OK, the three things for me:
1. Juicing- My husband and I experimented with juicing this summer.  I didn't lose any weight (boo...he did...double boo), but I really felt so much better.  Last week, we didn't juice at all and my body was blah.  I was tired, more irritable, etc.  It obviously was my food intake and I must do better.
2. I haven't been out walking/jogging in 3 weeks or more...I must get back out there.
3. Time to reflect- I really want to start taking time to reflect each day in a personal journal.  I know that when I have done so in the past, I always have a better outlook on life.

Make sure you link up with Farley!

Now, on to Math Workshop Monday:

Most of the questions I receive in my inbox are related to Math Workshop, so I thought I'd take some time each week to cover a lot of the questions and to blog about what I am (of course) most passionate!  So, I've started a new series:


Each Monday, I will blog about what works and also what DIDN'T work for me for the last two years of implementing Math Workshop.  As a full disclaimer....you must find what works for YOU.  I don't have all of the answers~just some ideas of what I have tried in my classroom.    I hope that you can find some tips and tricks that you can use!  Click {here} for last week's first installment.

One of the questions I receive the most is the following:

First, you start small.  Baby steps to be exact.  For example, I am beginning week 3 tomorrow and I will only start implementing Math Workshop later this week. You have to establish procedures and norms before you can fully implement Math Workshop.

One of the ways we establish the norms of how to use math materials properly is with a lesson called "Math Tools vs. Math Toys".  I begin by placing tubs of math tools (electronic flashcards (like Math Sharks), flashcards, dice, center packets, task cards, etc.) on the group tables.  Before opening the boxes of math tools, we discuss the difference between a math tool and a toy.  What do you do with math tools?  How is that different than a toy? Can I "play" with math tools if I wanted to? (Yes) Should I "play" with my math tools? (No)  I have students write what they see as the difference between the two on a sticky note and bring it to our chart.  We discuss the students answers.  Then, we begin working with math tools "correctly" and then I model in a over-the-top silly way using them inappropriately.  I usually pick the student who can really "ham it up" with me.  We toss the dice at each other pretending to have a war.  We take the flash cards and deal them out like we are playing a game of cards and throw them in the air a bit.  You get the idea.

Then, the students practice working with the tools.  I walk around monitoring how they are working. I praise the students using the tools correctly.  I also tell them that I have to be able to trust them during the time that they are working in "Hands On" using these tools so that I can work with my small groups.

One more thing that I do is tell them that I do (luckily) have 3 iPads and 2 iPods in my classroom and that they will not be pulled out for "Hands On" until I can fully trust them.

This lesson takes one class period, but I sometimes have to revisit it when necessary throughout the year.

The second lesson on "Set Up" is showing students how they will be rotating.  It is very important to be specific about this so that students rotate correctly.

I use interactive math notebooks in my classroom.  This year, I am trying to organize them a little better by creating title pages for each new unit.  (Sometimes by chapter in our textbook, sometimes just by the unit of study...as we all know even with a brand new textbook, everything that we need to teach won't be covered in the book.)

We are starting the year with addition and subtraction (and Chapter 2 in our book), so I had my students create this title page:

That big number 1 that is circled is that student's group number.  Then, I have the students write down the order of their rotation.  This way, they always have a reference on hand of where they need to go.  One more item that I've decided to add is a list of all of the students in the group.  I'm going to print these on address labels and have the students stick them on this title page, too.  Why go to this much trouble?

Well, inevitably a student (or even more than one) will not know where to go and we would waste too much time trying to get students where they need to be that I would lose valuable teaching time.  I teach my students to look out for the members of their team and if someone is missing from their location, then they need to go and fetch them before I find out ;)

As you can see in the picture below, the student above is in group 1 and follows this rotation.  First, he would go to Math Facts.



On Friday last week, I spent time "practicing" the rotations.  I gave them things to "pretend" to be doing in the rotations when heading there.  I use "Class-Yes" from Whole Brain Teaching to get my students' attention when it is time to rotate.  Once I get their attention, I just rotate my two pointer fingers (like spinning).  Then, I count backwards from 10 until all students are in their new location. I am happy to report that with each of my groups (75 students), I only had 2 students head to the wrong rotation during one of the transition times.  Yay!  I have given those 2 students a "buddy" in their group to help them this week.

Next week, I'll be explaining where students "go" during the rotations.  I'll also be explaining in more detail what they "do" during those times.

Do you have any other questions that you would like for me to answer?  I'd love to hear your questions and also any suggestions that you might have.

And if you have read all of this (bless you)....I have a little surprise....come back tomorrow for a chance to win this (or something else from the company):