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Saturday, January 23, 2016

1.23.16: Best of the the week + a little bit about math stations

This week was a great week in first grade, although it ended on a crazy note! We were out on Monday and that always makes the rest of the week seem a little strange.

First, this week was the hundredth day of school! Such a big milestone...although we are going to have a little bit of fun this year on Day 120 since our counting standard is all about the big 1-2-0. This year I toned down my hundredth day stuff...some years I go all out, but this year I got done planning for the week and then realized, "Ooops, the hundredth day is on Thursday!" We did make hundredth day necklaces during indoor recess and we did lots of counting...I will try to up the ante next year.

One of my super sweet parents made me a shirt as a surprise...here is a pic:

It says "I survived 100 days with my first graders!" And she made a shirt for her child that says "First grade survived 100 days of me!" LOVE it. And she stuck my monogram on the front pocket. So awesome!

One of the things we did this week was work on our Dr. King writing pieces. We started the pieces last week and went through editing and publishing this week. Then I let the kids self-assess their own writing. Here's a pic of one of my little sweeties self-assessing in a writing conference with me:
I just happened to be observed while we were working on these writing projects...on the hundredth day, no less! Luckily the kids were engaged in what they were doing and SO excited to share with the principal their writing...but man, what a wild day to get my observation done. PS: If you want a copy of the informational writing rubric, let me know! I made it and can post it if you're interested.

I was kind of hoping she would come in during math centers, because I feel like we've been doing an amazing job in math lately. Before this year I would have said "PLEASE don't come observe math!" because math is just not my favorite thing. Part of the issue is our district resources are all over the place and no one can ever explain exactly what they want to SEE in math. But this year, I think I have finally hit my groove when it comes to math centers and guided math. I thought I would explain a little bit about how I'm managing it all this year.

First, I do math workshop daily. Opening, work period, closing, the whole shebang. We start on the carpet each day and we chat about the standard and learning target for the new math that day. Some days we make an anchor chart; some days we play a game in a math circle; some days they get whiteboards and we do something related to the standard on the whiteboards. This takes us about 10 minutes. Then I spend 5 minutes or less explaining what's new in math stations that day and put them into their groups.

(Side note: How do I group them? Sometimes I give them a quick mini-assessment the week before on the new skill that's coming up. Some weeks I pull from other data I already have to group them. For example, next week we're moving into 2 digit addition and I have some AIMSWeb data from the schoolwide screener on addition, so I used that to put my groups together. I almost always do ability grouping because I am seeing kids at my table and want them to be grouped similarly. The groups change up every week or two since our instructional focus changes about that often.)

Then we spend 45 minutes-1 hour in math stations. Yes, I rotate the groups through! My goal is to see at least 3 groups every day and if I can fit all 5 in, awesome! I set the timer for 14 minutes and we get busy.

This is my vantage point for guided math. I am always at my kidney table working with 4-5 students. This past week we were working on comparing numbers, so you see my kids here are putting a string of number cards in order from least to greatest. Earlier in the small group session we worked with the symbols and practiced using them to compare. One epiphany I had this year about small group time is that differentiation does not always mean something different for every group that comes to me. It can be the same activity, just scaled up or down as needed. With this particular game, I pulled out all of the numbers less than 20 for my lowest group and we worked together as a group to set up the comparisons. My highest group was given a stack of 4 cards and challenged to use both their greater than and less than symbol cards to set up true comparisons. (It took them a minute to realize that they could switch the NUMBER cards around the symbols to make the comparisons true.) The groups in the middle did a couple with me to get started, then worked with their own stack of cards.

So, I'm sure you're wondering "What are the other kids doing?" They are in their own small groups working in math stations. I set up 4 activities beside the one at my table each week.


Here is one of the activities we had in stations this week. It's a missing number station from my January math centers pack.

I ran one copy of the center and then split up the cards into rings. Each student grabbed a ring of cards and filled in the missing number on their ring. Then they began working on the recording sheet. If they finished their recording sheet before time was up, they could grab another ring and fill in those missing numbers. In this center they got to practice counting on, counting back, and skip counting!

The planning stage for centers happens the week before. This the planning sheet I use:
TT stands for "Teacher's Table," "IN" is Interactive Notebook, and "PV" is for Place Value. You also see that the opening is blank for Wednesday and Thursday...I wasn't sure what I wanted to do yet when I put together the planning sheet. I make some things up on the fly. :)

I plan around the same basic 5 activities: math tub related to the math standard we're working on in small group with me, math tub related to a review standard, cut and paste activity (can be either the new standard or a review standard), and interactive notebook. A lot of the math tub activities come from the sets I make or from a set I got from TpT. (Latoya Reed has an amazing bundle for first grade!) For interactive notebook, I use activities from Reagan Tunstall or Blair Turner. They both have amazing sets! They are a little expensive, but I use them all year long!

We also have laptop carts in our building and I get one whenever possible during math workshop. We don't have a student set of computers in our classrooms anymore and the laptops are what the school got to replace those. When I do have the laptops, I take out one of the other centers to allow them to work on our school's math software. (There are a million great websites out there that you could use if you don't have a program purchased by the school.)

The big thing is I don't try to see all my groups every day unless it just so happens we can fit them in. On this week's schedule, you can see I set time aside on Friday to wrap up any centers we needed to finish from Thursday. We actually didn't need that time, so the kids did a quick formative assessment on place value and then spent time working on the laptops while I pulled students who didn't do well on the assessment to go over tens and ones with them. As you can see, there are some centers that stay out all week long so they should have plenty of time to visit every one 2 or 3 times.

My last thought is about accountability. We are being encouraged by our district to include recording sheets in all of our centers so we can make sure students are "accountable" for their work. I have mixed feelings about that, but I do try to make sure there is something written for the kids to do in almost every center. If the game that is in a tub is going to take up the whole center rotation, though, I don't sweat it. I put the accountability piece (written work) in the FOLLOWING center. For example, in my counting center above I could have chosen to put the counting practice in the next station that would follow the missing number rings. Also, sometimes I put a laminated copy of the recording sheet in the center the first few times they do it. Then, when they've had time to work in the center 2-3 times I will put an individual paper copy in the center for them to do and turn in. A quick tip about managing those paper baskets in centers: Teach the kids to put their completed paper at the BOTTOM of the stack. The fresh papers stay on top, the completed work goes on bottom. I used to put 2 baskets in the station and that worked okay, too, except it took up table real estate!

I don't put a numerical grade on every last piece of center work, either. I don't have time to! I have started passing the recording sheets from one center back out to the kids during closing for us to go over together. They can make any changes if they made a mistake or we can talk about what was hard/easy about that skill. For the rest of the recording sheets, I glance through them to see who finished them, who struggled, and who did really well. This gives me feedback about what we still need to work on. (I put stamps on those, in case you were wondering, and they do go in sign papers!)

I hope that is helpful to someone. Math centers used to be my least favorite time of day-now, it's one of my favorite. I jokingly say that I feel like a "real teacher" when I look around and see all of my kids engaged with their math center. The benefit is huge: I feel like I really know where my kids are in math! As a class, their midyear data showed that we are on target at this point in the year. I think I can attribute that success to doing math centers faithfully this year and seeing my students in small group for guided math.

If you have any questions, do ask!

Hope everyone has an amazing week! I know a lof of East Coast teachers are snowed in. Down here in middle GA we got the lightest dusting of snow that you ever did see, but it's enough to thrill Little Miss! She wanted to go out and play with the handful of snow that accumulated on her play set last night! LOL!

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