Sunday, September 4, 2016

Weekly Math Rotations Solves the Problem of Fast Finishers

For a long time I thought of work after kids were finished in Math, only as Centers.  I worked long hours switching out materials and keeping those centers up-to-date, only to stay frustrated that it took so much of my time.

One day, it dawned on me to try things a different way... Math Rotations!  With Math Rotations, I still use centers, but they are just a small part of the big picture, which reduces the prep time that usually goes with setting up centers for a classroom full of kids.

With my Math Rotations, I usually have  4 math stations or rotations, because I have 4 days to teach math.  We are assigned S.T.E.M. Lab on Tuesdays this year.

  1. Math with Mrs. H.
  2. Math by Myself
  3. Computers
  4. Centers

1. Math with Mrs. H. is a opportunity when I remediate or enrich a group of students based on earlier work or prior assessments.  There are times that I need to pull individuals to assess.  For these times, I will replace the words "Math with Mrs. H" with another activity like "Counting Bags".  Doing that, gives all students something to do, and I can just pull individuals as needed.  Above is  picture of my rotational chart prior to completing the assessments that determine student placement in Fluency Folders for Math by Myself.

2. Math by Myself is a opportunity where students work on their math fluency.  I assess kids independently to see which number (1 through 10), they are fluent at,  in other words... which number combinations they know with automaticity.  For each student, I design a math fluency folder with activities based solely around their target number (5 for example).    They have a small "toolbox" with manipulatives of that same number as well (5 two-color counters, 5 red squares, 5 yellow squares, 5 beans, etc).  At the start of the year, before I have their fluency folders created, or when they complete their fluency folder but I haven't re-assessed them yet, I will use this time to give them application material from lessons in class.

3. Computers - You probably already have this one down!  I am fortunate to have 4 student desktop/laptop computers and 3 iPads in my classroom.  If you do not, maybe you have enough for students to play as partners.  I sign them three math sites they will log onto:  Ten Marks, Sum Dog and X-tra Math.  On my iPads, there are other math apps as well.

4. Centers - Now, having kids only rotate through this once each week, centers are so much more manageable!  I feel successful leveling my centers and having it stocked with activities that address the specific skills we are currently working on in the classroom.  All I really need is one activity per level.  Depending on how you plan to level your groups, that could be just two or three activities. (low and high, or low, medium and high)  Once they complete their "required" activity, they are allowed to work on the other one.  I set up colored folders in the center tubs, which are color-coded to match the students' level.

5. Counting Bags - I mentioned this activity above.  If you have 5 full days of Math, and need a fifth rotation, this would be the one I would choose.  From Oriental Trading, I purchased an assortment of little fun-shaped erasers, which we do not use as erasers.  We call them counters.  We have soccer balls, footballs, balls of every sport, puppy dogs, ice cream cones, starbursts, fish of every color, smilie faces, owls, turtles, and more.  I sorted them and put the like shapes in a baggie.  During this rotation, a student chooses a bag of counters and finds a spot on the floor to spend time counting.  As time goes on, I have them begin to record their count on a small post-it note and then verify their count using a hundreds board.  Later in the year, I have them write their prediction first, then write their count, and finally verify.  Before introducing this activity,  I model how I want them to count, which is to make ten-frame arrangements using their counters.  I have found this dramatically improves their accuracy for a number of reasons, the least being that if they get interrupted or loose their place, they can count by tens more easily, to find the number where they left off.

Here is a link to pick up your free Math Rotations Classroom Management Chart for yourself.  There are text boxes provided so you can edit names and activities.  I've used a common font found on most computers, but you can change it to whatever you have that you like.

If this is something you found helpful, I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.

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