More on Math Stations

I have gotten more comments and questions on my Math Rotations than on any other post to date.  (Well, that's a generalization (kinda) because I'm not counting giveaways...working on generalizations this week, can you tell?

Anyway, I thought I would clarify some of the questions in a blog post rather than just responding by email.  It might help other people, too, who are trying to figure out how rotations work and just haven't left a comment.

Why Did I Start Math Rotations?

I started rotations at the end of January.  Click here to see why I wanted to start math rotations in the first place.

It took me a good month to get all of the kinks worked out.  I'm assuming it would take at least that long, if not longer, in the fall.  I'll venture to say longer because you are still establishing classroom routines/behavior, etc.

I also must throw a disclaimer out there at the beginning: I have a certified resource teacher in my room during the time that I do rotations.  Now, she is "primarily" there for her 4 resource students, but she has helped out a lot as far as how I manage disruptions.  With that being said, she is ONLY in the room for the first two rotations.  So, I know this works with only one adult in the room, too.

Questions I've Received About Math Rotations

1-How long do the rotations last?
2-Do I grade what they do in stations and when do I go over the work they do in stations?
3-How do I handle "problems" - talking off topic, too loud, early finishers, interrupting teacher at small group table, etc.?

It's probably best if I go through a step-by-step.  This may answer these questions and then maybe some more.

How do the groups work? I have 4 ability-based groups.  Groups have been established by me in advance.  These groups have not changed since our last MAP testing.  So, these groups don't change each week.  That would totally blow my mind and the minds of at least half of my students. 

Each group rotates together.  So, looking at the picture below, Group 1 would go to Math Facts first, then to Teacher's Choice (small group), the At Your Seat (Independent Practice work from the book) and finally to Hands On (iPods, Hot Dots, Cootie Catchers, etc.).

At the beginning (in January), I would stand next to the board and point to where they were going next at the beginning of each rotation.  I don't have to do that anymore.  They are well trained :)  Also in January, I would read off the list of who was in Group 1, Group 2, etc. at the beginning of math so that there weren't any questions about which rotation a student should be following.  A list of the groups is also posted next to the board on a sheet.{And if you read all the way to the end of this post, it's yours for FREE :) }

The kiddos know their group.  They know who is missing when the get to a rotation faster than I do.  They help each other make sure they are in the right station.  Lord help those that aren't!  (And not from me either...they love to set each other straight!)

Our Routine
Math is the first subject I teach in the morning.  When my students come into the classroom, they get out spelling homework and agendas which I check ASAP.  They "get settled" and watch our morning news.  While the news is still on {gasp}, I tell them to look at our rotation board to figure out what we are doing for the day:

We start rotations at approximately 7:45 each day.  Each rotation last for approximately 12 minutes.  That gives them plenty of time in each rotation to complete all the work assigned.  I also monitor and adjust that during the middle.  For example, if during the first rotation the group that is completing the Independent Practice (At Your Seat rotation) didn't get through the entire assignment, I will cut it down a bit.  Make sense?

When the students come back to me (Teacher's Choice) they do these things:

1- They check their homework.  I've printed off 6 copies of the answer key for the homework (from Pearson).  My students are able to check their work at my table while I am walking around making sure everyone is at their assigned station and know what to do.  This gives me about 2 minutes to monitor behavior, look over work (to make sure it is being done), answer questions about problems that they might have encountered up to this point.  (They know to wait until I am able to help-meaning don't interrupt me at my small group table...Heaven Help!)

Also during this time, those students who are in the "Hands On" station are coming up to me to get the iPod.  I don't currently have a system for this.  (I only have 3).  They just know that if they used it the day before, then it is not their turn that day.  They are pretty good about this.  This causes very minimal disruption, but I'm going to work out an even better plan soon. 

2- I start my small group instruction.  I tailor this to meet individual needs based on their instructional level.  For example, I will go into more detail and use higher-level questioning with my highest group.  I will pull questions from the "challenge" pages from the book.  For the lower students, I will pull from the "reteaching" pages for examples.

3-If I am introducing a new foldable, this will primarily be completed in small group.  I usually will get them started and they will finish at their seats.

Hands On-What Most People Think of As a Station or Center

Like I have said, I primarily use the iPods for my hands-on rotation.  However, I also use Hot-Dots and Cootie Catchers (Thanks Jen).  I haven't perfected the Hands-on portion of my rotations yet.  My kids love the iPods and I've downloaded several games for them to play. Currently, we are using these apps:

 I have them in a "math" folder on my phone and on the two iPods that I have in my classroom.  Currently, I am making them do the Math 4 Testing Prep app.  It cost $2.99 but is so worth it.  Here's why I have to hand it to them during the beginning of each rotation.  First, for every student, I click on Practice Quiz.

My higher students are able to complete 25 questions in 12 minutes, my lower students I only choose 10:

 Here are some sample questions:

See, I told you the $2.99 is worth it.  (By the way, two of my iPods are synced together so I only had to purchase this app once for those two devices.)  When they are finished, they bring it back to me to show me their score. 

What About Their "Work" During Rotations?

After all rotations are complete, we come back together as a whole group.  This is usually a few minutes before 8:45.  I have the students lay out (lie out...pleh) their Independent Practice and their Math 4 Today side by side on their desks.  I go around and check to see what was completed.  If I'm not satisfied, they go "on the board".  No questions.  I had to be tough about this to make sure they are not goofing off during their rotations.  If they go "on the board" then they re-do all work at lunch and/or at recess.  I RARELY have to put anyone on the board anymore.  They know I mean business.

We go over the Math 4 Today that they completed during the Math Facts rotation.  Then, we go over the Independent Practice Work.  {Oh, read here to learn more about how this is independent work from the previous day's small group lesson.}  I have them check their work with their own pen.  I go around and check student papers as we are going over the work. Do I grade their stations?  Simply: No.  We grade these babies to death as it is....My opinion is that my students know that I hold them accountable for the work.  They work hard.

Let me show you what I mean.  The other day, this sweet group (Group 2) didn't have the iPods, they were dead or something...and look at what they did ON THEIR OWN.  They formed a small group with one of them as the "teacher".  They were using Jen's Cootie Catchers and he was "quizzing" them.


He's the only boy in that group, so they were kind to him and "let" him be the leader (I guess). 

So, naturally, I went and grabbed the camera!  My teaching know the ONE.  Her words?

All together now:  Stop it :)

(Stacy that was for you...leave me a comment below...which means you have to sign up in Blogger or Google Reader...JUST DO IT!)

Anyway-if you made it

Here's your freebie for reading the whole thing.  OK, even if you didn't read the whole thing, you can still grab the freebie:
It's the Group Chart that I hang up next to our rotation board so Just In Case someone forgets his group, it's posted!  Grab it from TPT or TN.

Happy Monday!

I'm linking this to Classroom Freebie's Manic Monday!  You should link up, too!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Super-Size Me Giveaway from The 3AM Teacher

Did I have you with Super-Size Me? Or The 3AM Teacher?

Either one of those would have brought me in to read. 

Who doesn't love Michelle?  She's so great, generous, talented...I could go on and on, but I won't for now.

I'm here to tell you about a Fan*tab*u*lous giveaway that she is having:

Have you heard about this event yet?

I almost didn't want to share the news because the prize is so amazing!

Head on over to her blog and check it out!

I Think It's My Turn...and a Review Freebie

Several of my bloggy friends have been posting that they have been sick lately.  Could I have possibly caught something from them?

That would be weird.

I went to the most fabulous wedding last night for some dear friends' daughter.  It was beautiful, special, amazing.  Y'all they the wedding at a local landmark on the lawn in the back of the mansion.  Gorgeous.  Then, while they were taking pictures, they had lawn games for us to play (croquet, corn-hole...). Needless to say, my son had a ball! 

Oh- and before the wedding started, they served us lemonade in cute little glasses with fancy straws.  Precious!

I know what you are thinking...I celebrated too much and I'm paying for it...nope, not this time (wink, wink). 

I just woke up feeling yucky, yucky, yucky.  I really didn't even get going until almost 1:00 today and I have

On to teachery stuff:

This year (and for a few years) I have been in charge of the Social Studies planning for my pod.  Do you share responsibilities with your team-mates?  It's so great, because I don't know how I would get everything accomplished without some help from my teacher buddies.  Anyway, since I am in charge of SS- I wanted to create something for us to review this last week before THE test.  We have Coach PACT (our old name for the same state test) books and other review books, but the kids are going to probably die if they hear one more time, "Get out your PACT Coach book and turn to page _______."  I'm probably going to die if I have to do a week of this....

So, here's a preview of the game I made for my class: 

You may get that set for only $2 by going to my TPT or TN stores. There are 64 cards.  Now, I know most of you aren't in South Carolina or teach 4th grade in this lovely state, so you can pin this for people that may follow you.  I know that if I had found a set last week, I wouldn't have spent the time making one...gotta love TPT and TN! 

But, I promised you a freebie, too.  You can grab blank cards like this:

Just go download this freebie from my TPT or my TN stores. If you do, please give me some feedback.  I've got like almost zero feedback in my TN store and that makes me want to cry, especially since I feel poopy.  OK, I'm exaggerating, as usual.  But, you get the idea.

Hope you have a great week.  Wish me luck that I feel better tomorrow and won't have to call in...we have a new automated system that sucks.  (Just saying.)

Pinterest Exchange!

I can't tell you how excited I was when I arrived home to find this in my mailbox:

I know you know what I'm talking about...those of you that signed up for this Pinterest Exchange, wasn't it fun?

Thanks to Caitlin and Sarah at:

Here's the cute, cute, cute items inside:

Here's a closer look at the mouse pad:

And here's a closer look at the coasters...precious!!:

All of this awesomeness came from Monica:

Treasures for Teaching

If you haven't checked out her blog yet, you need to right now!  She's full of terrific ideas!

Here's a picture of what I gave to Michelle over at Apples and ABC's: Adventures in Kindergarten:

Her picture is better....why don't you head on over and give her a visit.  It's a very cute blog :)

This was such a fun exchange...I can't wait for another one!

Math Stations....Making It Work

Math Rotations or Math Workshop is a model of instruction where students are rotating between several "stations" throughout the math block.  These stations are work stations that include working on a specific skill, working on classwork, meeting with the teacher for small group math instruction and having time to work with math with a hands-on approach.

How do Math Rotations work?
I use the acronym MATH for organizing how students "rotate" from one activity to the next.

M-Minute Math
A-At Your Seat
T-Teacher's Choice
H-Hands On

How do students rotate through the stations? 
Minute Math- During this rotation,  my students complete their daily math spiral review.  This is a daily spiraled curriculum reviewing all fourth grade skills.  There are only 4 questions to complete, so when they are finished with that, they can start their At Your Seat work.
At Your Seat- During this rotation, my students complete the Independent Practice from the math book.  Prior to our math rotations, I teach a mini-lesson on the day's skill.  However, you could have your students complete any independent work that you need for them to complete.  Another option is to have your students complete the work with a partner or with a group of students. 
Teacher's Choice- This is my small group instruction time.  My students are grouped into 4 different groups based on skills they need to review.  I use the data from my spiral review to group my students based on the types of errors they have on the spiral review weekly assessment.
Hands On- This is what most think of as real "Stations" or "Centers".  I use this time to have my students work with a variety of materials.  I have ipads, ipods, flashcards, and games that I put in the station based on the needs of my students.  Each group has their own box of materials to use. Sometimes I use this rotation to give my students an opportunity to create a foldable or flipbook relating to the skill we are covering for that week.  They will then put this hands-on "creatable" in their independent notebooks. For example, for my most recent hands-on activity, my students created this foldable to help them with probability:

Click on the picture to download it from Google Docs.
As you can see in the picture at the top each group (Group 1, Group 2, Group 3, Group 4) all rotate through all stations during each math lesson.  For example, using the picture above, Group 1 will go to stations in this order:

1st- Minute Math
2nd- At Your Seat (Classwork or some other assignment)
3rd- Teacher Time (Work with the teacher)
4- Hands On

Can you differentiate instruction? 
Yes!  When I group my students, I am able to differentiate their small group instruction and their hands-on review work.  For example, if I see that a group of students is having trouble with subtracting, then their small group instruction will be geared towards providing them with some strategies they can use.  They will also practice this skill during their Hands-On rotation.

I use my Math Moves: Daily Spiral Review to help me group my students.  You can find the 4th grade version by clicking on the image below.  Currently, I have a 1st (partial year complete), 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th grade version of this Daily Review, in addition to bundles of these resources.  If you'd like to find the others, you can find them in the description area of the 4th grade version.

After several different attempts and finding the system that worked for me, I finally found one!  I hope that you can use this information to help you find a rotation model that can work for you.

It really did change the way I teach. Is this something that you might like to try?  Comment below and let me know if you have any questions.

Rock the Test!

"Oh, stop it."

Those are the words from my co-worker {who won't read this blog, so I'm going to talk about her...just kidding, she might read it. 

No she won't.  But, if she did, she would laugh.}

That's what she says when I've made something new or found something new to have my students make.

This is how she addressed me on Monday morning when she came in my room for math and saw the students with these:

"Oh just stop it."

"You and your fancy-pants self.  First you've been making all this fancy stuff for reading and now math?"  "Just stop it."

She says it all sarcastic-like.  Which is why I LOVE her and get along with her so well.

She's leaving my school next year and I'm sad :(

Anyway.  We made something else.  She might lose her mind.

I found this from Tiffany Gannon at The Lemonade Stand:

 and I knew I had to make them.  You can get your own copy of her craftivity here

I'm in full-blown testing mode.  And....

Look at how stinkin' adorable these came out:

What's you see how my kids put their own spin on the people?  They are so crafty and creative.  I just love it.  Look closely at this girl below...heels :)

And the boy in the top left below...he had his fellow actually hold the guitar by bending the arm.  Smart!

Gotta love that Mohawk. 

For the writing, I gave them a bit of freedom.  I've been PREACHING the RELAX strategy and told them they could either use that one, or come up with their own acronym/acrostic poem {we love those} or just list some ideas about what to do to prepare and get ready for the big TEST.

They are a bit blurry, but the one on the top uses STUDY:
Stay focus(ed)
Take a close look a the passage to answer the questions
Use your background knowledge----personally LOVE that one
Don't get distracted :)
You need to do your best

The other one is a list of suggestions:
Go to bed early, have a good breakfast, study, be prepared, pay attention, have faith (LOVE), do your best and rock the test!

Aren't they cute? 

The Rock the Test title in the middle was made with my Cricut.  I love that thing.  I just need to figure it out better.  I waste some much time trying to figure it out each time I pull it out.  Plus, I waste so much paper.  Any suggestions about tutorials for the Cricut?

Coding the Text and Great Reading Resources

As crunch time approaches, we are kicking it into high gear with REVIEW, REVIEW, REVIEW.


Don't leave.  I will try to make this enjoyable. {Pinky swear}

I've been trying to find reading resources to use in my room for "test practice".  I wanted passages that were the equivalent in length to what my students would see on our PASS test.  That's our FANCY-PANTS acronym for our state test here in South Carolina.

It actually stands for "Palmetto Assessment of State Standards".  I think.

It's changed from PACT a few years back...who knows or remembers what that stood for.  Who cares? 

At least it's not as bad as Virginia's SOLs. {Now that's funny}

I like to think of it as

'Cause we all hate the dern thing.  Don't you?

Anyway...we must prepare. 
As if I haven't all year.
But something in me takes over and I MUST PREPARE for the T.E.S.T. {I need to think of another acronym for that one.}

I went for a search with my dear friend, Google, and he helped me find a few passages.  I'd like to share a few sites with you in case you are trying to find passages, too.

First, Google told me about Super Teacher Worksheets.  She wasn't new to me, and only has a few freebies anymore, so I left her pretty quickly.

Next, Google introduced me to the NCSU's College of Education page on fourth grade reading passages.  They were pretty good.  I used one of the stories as my model...see the shark story below.

Finally, Google told me about a new friend:

I fell madly in love and allowed K12 Reader to buy me a drink.  I had two.  They were delicious.

These passages are FREE, people.  FREE!!!

Have you heard of this site?  If not, I highly recommend it.

Now, here's what we did in pictures.  Gotta love pictures:

Notice the NF in the corner?  That's the first thing I have my students do.  Before reading, we decide (based on the title, pictures, dialog, etc.) if the passage is non-fiction, fiction or a poem.  This one is non-fiction so we code the passage with a NF.

Next, we label the paragraphs.  All of the rest of the coding you see in the above picture is after we have read the questions and are finding our answers in the passage.  It's a mess.  It's supposed to be.

We discussed while I was modeling how some answers are "right there" while others are determined using background knowledge, our schema, and inferring. 

Then, I gave my students a passage from my new best friend boyfriend.   {Of course, I didn't tell my students about how he had bought me two drinks last night.  That would he highly inappropriate.}

 This partner group got brownie points for the NF and then clues of WHY it is NF.

Once each group was finished, we came back as a whole group to complete it as a class.  What I didn't tell them is that if they had used actual words from the passage to complete the short answer questions, then they would get to highlight the words in their answers.  They love to highlight special items!  I usually do this when they least expect it so that I can see who is actually doing what was taught.  I was pleasantly surprised in the results.  Take a look:

Also notice how they numbered their paragraphs and put the question number next to items that were found "right there" in the passage.  I was so proud!

What do you do to prepare for the TEST? 

My boyfriend is available if you need him.

Probablility Foldable Freebie for Manic Monday

I'm going to link up with Charity Preston's Manic Monday at Classroom Freebies.  If you haven't heard yet, this is the perfect way to share your freebie with TONS of people.

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

As a Classroom Freebies, Too contributor, I'm also allowed to link up one freebie a week on the original blog, Classroom Freebies. There are already 16 people linked up!  Exciting.

We started our last Topic (Chapter) in math this week!  Wow, I can't believe that.

This chapter is on probability.  Yesterday, I created this foldable for my students to use as a reference.  They added it to their math notebooks today. 

Here's a closer look at the descriptions:

And the cover:

If you run it front and back, all your students have to do is cut the "window" of the shutter flaps. 


You may download this freebie here.  {And if you are already a follower, are you proud of me?  I figured out Google Docs...kinda.} 

My students also added their own notes and examples to their foldable to help them remember the terms. 

Now, go link your freebie up!

Book Clubs Have Begun :)

Do you use literature circles?
I have utilized literature circles for years. Usually, I have started them in the spring once I'm finished with the basal.  This year, however, I've been teaching differently.  I haven't been using the basal as much and have been teaching using different methods. I use a little bit of Daily 5 mixed with a little bit of Reading Workshop.  This year, I feel as if I have been "finding my way" again after so many years of traditional teaching using the basal.

It's been a struggle trying to "figure it all out", but that is why I have turned to blogging so much over the last year.  Reading blogs and connecting with fellow bloggers has literally changed my way of thinking and teaching.  It's been a life-saver for me in many cases.

Book Clubs

I've been using my literature circles since the fall.  I call them Book Clubs because I wanted my students to love books like I do with my own book club.  At the beginning of the year, I told my students about how I am a part of a book club.  I explained how book clubs work.  We all read a book chosen by the next hostess and read that book.   I told my students that they were going to be a part of their own book clubs.  They were thrilled!

In the past, I used jobs in literature circles.   I'm sure you have seen them around:
*Discussion Director
*Vocabulary Finder
*Question Writer

Depending on the resource you use, there are different types of jobs.  If you are interested, you can go to Read, Write, Think and find many resources for job descriptions for using with literature circles.

However, I do not use roles anymore.

My students don't do a great job with the "jobs".  They all want to do each roll. Every.single.time.  I'm not upset about that, on the contrary, I love that they all want to have ownership in all aspects of the "book talk discussions".  It's as if they are at their own little book club dinner group.  {Just without the dinner}.

How do you run Book Clubs?

Just like with my own book club, we have a "host or hostess" each time that is the book talk leader.  I do assign one person to the be leader, but this rotates at every meeting.  Just like hostessing a book club would rotate, too. This leader is in charge of leading the discussions and posing questions when there's a lull in the conversation.

I group students based on their MAP testing and Lexile levels and I usually have 6 groups going at a time.  There are anywhere between 3-6 students in each group.  Once I see the dynamics of the group (based on Lexile) I start looking for books. I do give each group a choice between several books and they decide as a team which book to read.  I explain that this is how my own book club works.

Here's where my subscription to EdHelper has become invaluable.  (And, no, I'm not being paid to tell you this.)

EdHelper has a "Literature Units" database that is enormous.  Just looking under the 4th grade book list alone, there are hundreds of books that have story questions (and high-level, questions, not JUST basic recall information).  I don't want to limit my book selections to JUST the books that I've read. Therefore, I can use these questions and answers to help guide my students in their book talk discussions.  You can also find a wealth of book study resources on Teachers Pay Teachers.

How do you start?

I make a file folder with the questions printed from EdHelper.  I make one for each student.  I distribute these folders at the beginning of our Book Club.  Each student has the questions BEFORE reading that will be discussed during the Book Club's book talk.  I have my students look over the questions before reading, too, so that they can use this to guide their thinking while reading.

I have them get with their book clubs when I first assign the book so that they can preview the book and decide as a group how they want to break up the reading.  They know that they will have three weeks to finish the entire book.  As a group, they must decide how many chapters to read each week.  It works very nicely.  Then, students read their book during their "Read to Self" time of our reading rotations.  They also have the option to read the book at home, during free time, etc.

We meet to have our "Book Talks" each Thursday.  During this time, the students get together and start discussing the book first.  Listening to them talk about the book is my favorite time of the week.  I walk around during this time soaking up all the "book love".  At the beginning of the year, I modeled how this should be done.  I "pretended" with several student volunteers that we were sitting at my dining room table talking about a book.  We practiced with the read aloud that we had just completed.  We just talked.
*Did you like the book?
*What did you think of _______________?
*Why did this character do _________?
*Can you believe that he __________________?
*I was shocked when _________________.

I have given them "thinking stems" for their Read to Self letters and sometimes I tell students to pull these out if they are struggling with what to talk about.   I haven't had to do this the last two book talks! Yay!

When they are finished chatting, I tell them to pull out the questions from their folders.  They discuss these questions and where they are found in the book.  Sometimes, there is quite a debate over a question.  That is when I remind them that they must refer to the book and "prove it" to the other person.  When they are finished, they all go back to their seats and answer the questions independently.

I'm loving book clubs.  My students love them, too.

I can't wait until Thursday each week, now. 

Do you use book clubs?  How do you make it work for you?  I'd love for you to leave me a comment letting me know.

Poetry and Figurative Language {Freebie}

One final post on poetry and figurative language and then this bus is moving on.......
I'm about "figurative languaged" out, folks.

Ever feel like you've covered something to death?  This is where I am right now with poetry and figurative language. 

However, I really think the idea of using the lapbook helped my students feel like they had "ownership" in the learning. They were so proud of their lapbooks.  Not one single student lost it, either.  That says a lot!

Further, I know that my class understands all of the concepts covered and the time spent was well worth it.


Because I gave the final assessment last week and they rocked it.  Here's the test for you to grab up:

Click on the picture and I think it will take you to my Google Doc: (I'm still messing with that and trying to figure it out.  Let me know if it worked.)

I have no idea why it turns all wonky when you click on the document.  I'm still trying to figure it all out.  If you have suggestions, please let me know.

Now, off to watch my Everything's Intermediate Expo Videos!

 I'm not in my PJs like I said I would be, so maybe I should change first :)