Monday, February 23, 2015

MATH groups: setting up, [M] and a freebie!

MATH groups!

What are they? How do I start? How do they work? Are they time consuming? Are they worth it?

In this post, I hope to answer all of those questions and MORE for you about how start your own small group rotations in math, Daily 5 style!

To start, a bit of a disclaimer - I started these stations about halfway through the school year. I started them at this time because all of the activities I will be describing in the post relate to multiplication. They fell right in perfectly with setting up stations, but I already am thinking through how I will be able to implement the stations year round with all math concepts! The halfway point is also a great time to start for two reasons: 1. Students are very familiar with behaviors and expectations for the Daily 5 and this has a very similar set up. 2. They are also excited to try something new (and you probably are too!)

Another small disclaimer - I am more of an "on my feet" and "just wing it" style teacher. I like to jump in and start something, even if I haven't thought it through completely. Wow, that sounds horrible now to type it out and read it, but what I mean by it is that if I try and think it all the way out, I may never get to it. You can't plan for every little thing that could or could not happen. Sometimes, you just have to jump in and figure it out as you go. It's a bit of what I did here, but I still had most of what I wanted to do mapped out. I told you that to encourage you to GO FOR IT! If you've been thinking about starting MATH groups, or anything new in your classroom, if you've thought through it for the most part and have a good idea of what you're doing to get started, just go for it! You can do it, and you'll figure out the rest as you go! It's part of teacher DNA, I just know it!

Okay, enough of that... let's start talking about MATH groups!

I have been snapping photos for a few days, trying to document eevvvverything I could to show you how I set up my groups. Short of videos and walking around my room talking (which might actually be worse for you - I'd probably make you dizzy!) I wanted to show you all I could in how I run MATH group time so you could feel confident in setting yours up too! Since I took sooo many pictures I'll have to break up this post into a small series of posts, within my larger series of posts about multiplication, so you can see it all. Can we say Inception?

So, MATH groups. I capitalize them for a reason. Each letter in MATH stands for what happens in that station. I saw a posting on Facebook somewhere and that was how I got the names for each of them, I didn't come up with them myself.... oh, how I wish I was creative enough to have done so, though! Here's what they stand for: M - math facts, A - at your seat, T - teacher time, H - hands-on. I know there are many options out there for naming your math stations, but I liked that I could still call them math groups and they stood for MATH. My students didn't have to learn another new term for something we were doing - math makes sense to them and is one less thing for ME to get used to as well. :)

I have about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes of time set in our schedule for math. So, I try to make sure that every student gets at least 12-15 minutes in each of the stations every day. That means 4 stations at 15 minutes each is an hour, plus a few minutes to transition between all 4 stations and a few minutes at the beginning for me to explain their assignments. So, I highly recommend an hour and fifteen minutes into your day if you can. If not, you can shorten the time in each group to 10-12 minutes, or have students rotate through 3 a day instead of all 4. At that point, it's completely up to you and your schedule.

So, I made some simple cards to and laminated them so I could post the "assignments" or expectations for each station each day, like I do for my Daily 5 stations, in dry erase marker. They look like this and you'll be able to download them free below, with some other items I will mention too :)

I also made a simple layout of how I wanted to my multiplication unit to generally go, with some of the topics I knew I needed to cover. I am also going the Ohio RESA for my license renewal and have to submit a task about assessment, so this helped me organize those thoughts too. It is a work in progress and has already changed, but it helped me keep my thoughts and lessons organized. Like I said above, I did think through it, but also just jumped right in, too!

If you read my post about introducing multiplication, you can see above that those are the lessons for days 1 and 2. Then, I slowly introduced the centers and what we would be doing in them, one day at a time. On day 4 I introduced the set up for At your seat time (the M.S.) and the rules for the x1 and x0 facts. One day 5 we talked about making flashcards and made the first set for our x1 cards together as a class so I could lay out my expectations, which you'll read about tomorrow. One day 6 we did the lesson together as Teacher time, more of the At your seat activity together, and the Math flashcards together too. They were beginning to see how each group would be run, like in Daily 5, but with less choice. On day 8 I had a parent volunteer come in, so we jumped into full rotations for the first time since I had an extra set of hands, and it was beautiful! Of course there were kinks to work out when I wouldn't have a parent helper (which is most of the time) but it was great to just jump in and let my students see how it would all work.. and it was worth it! Remember - sometimes you just need to GO FOR IT! Have faith in yourself AND in your students - you've got this!


I track my students' rotations with post-it notes and highlighters. I decide before we start who is in what group each day. I didn't want to set groups and leave them for every day, week, or even month. I wanted them to be completely flexible so if a student or group of students was struggling with one concept over another, I could put them together for a day or so. I could also separate my struggling students and match them with higher students for particular concepts. I could completely differentiate each day. But you can have permanent groups, if you'd like. It's completely up to you. I have seen a lot of posts about rotation boards so students know where they are going each rotation, but I always tell my students during that transition period, so they are always aware, and it helps me remember who is where and what they are doing and who they are with. It takes that extra few minutes, but I'm okay with that. This is where you do what works for you!

Each station is a different color, and I just highlight when students go to each station every day. It was a bit confusing to start since I am assigning choices, but it is also how I track their choices for Daily 5 groups, so this system was easy for me to continue using. You'll get the track sheet with 30 student name slots so you can track student choices too when you download the MATH labels from above!


Today's post will also focus on the M of MATH groups - math facts. [The next 3 will be the letters A, then T, then H. Make sense? Okay, good!]

Math facts. Obviously, I am focusing on multiplication here. So, to begin my students make their own multiplication flashcards. My next post in the multiplication series will be about that entire process, but for now I'll let you know that I used this time for making those flashcards, all the way through the x12 facts. Each day, they made a different set (Monday: x5s, Tuesday: x10s, and so on). When they finished making those is when I really needed to stock up on activities... which we started last week.

I wanted them to have a variety of options, not just say "study your flashcards." That's when goofiness and shenanigans begin! So, here's what I came up with..

I have a bin I bought from Thirty-One at a party a while ago. I was using it to basically store guided reading items I wasn't using this year, so I rearranged some things, purged a bit, and put all of our MATH group items in here. This encompasses both Math fact time and Hands-on time, which I will get to soon, but shows you the variety I have provided. I'll dig inside it below too, as I describe what I'm using for student options and assignments.

In the picture above you can see the Roll, Multiply, and Color activity. It is from Blair Turner's January Just Print Club. Tomorrow, my students will be playing that game to practice rolling facts and coloring the product. A much more fun activity than just flipping through flashcards for 15 minutes!

I also have a bunch of other activities they can choose when they finish that activity, which include the following. Some also double as game choices for Hands-on time:

These activity sheets come from Light Bulb's and Laughter's Multiplication Memorization Tool Kit. I put them in worksheet protectors and students can use dry erase markers on them. It saves paper and I don't have to keep checking to see if I need to make copies!

I also have some oooollllddd self-checking flashcards from Tupperware my mother-in-law gave me. They are a favorite every year, for some reason! I also have write-on dry erase cards from the Target Dollar Spot, and a self-checking poke game I have in my set of Math Pokes on TpT.

I made few dice games last year. They roll two dice, multiply, then cover the answer with a marker. Simple and easy. They can play alone or with a partner, or even a group of three.
 The dice are foam cubes I drew dots on with a Sharpie, so they are silent :)

These are some games from a teaching company. I forget who makes them. I'll check and come back to update it! But there are two that focus on multiplication facts, one is a partner game. I keep all the materials in baggies inside the folder. They grab a folder and go play!

This is another Blair Turner January Just Print Club printable they can play; spinning to solve facts and graph the product as even or odd.

I made this file folder game about 5 years ago. It came in handy! I think I got the templates from an old Carson Dellosa file folder game book. Yep, I colored those owls :) it's definitely old school style, but still effective!

These are math spinner games I made. I have several options for multiplication and addition, so a few folders of these are included. Spin the spinners, multiply the two numbers, and color the product!

The bin also has some Multiplication Wrap-Ups I got from Lakeshore which are a big hit too. LOTS of options for lots of different learners!

I have also used this time to have student practice facts in other ways, as you saw with the Roll and Cover game for tomorrow. Last week, right after Valentine's Day, they practiced matching broken hearts to practice facts, which you can find here:

I took one of Blair Turner's Test Prep Centers and turned it into an interactive activity instead of a center I had already made. Students made fact families with ice cream cones and scoops another day. I had them put it onto construction paper so I could assess their understanding, but I think it would work well in an INB too!

What ideas do you have for this section of MATH stations?
Are you feeling a bit more like you could jump in and try it? I hope so! 
Share your thoughts with me below.. I'd love to hear your brilliant ideas and how you've implemented MATH stations in your classroom! I'm itching to plan them out for year-round use!

Click the photo below to get the **FREEBIES** I mentioned above, plus another you'll hear more about in a future post!

Have a blessed evening, and thanks for staying through that of all - whew! time for bed... :)

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