Why I NOW Love Teaching Math: Setting up Math Rotations


If you know me, you know I am in loooove with Daily 5! Ever since incorporating it into my classroom last year, I have loved seeing the variety of skills and strategies my students are working on each and every day. I also love that the segments are short, so we all stay motivated and the energy for learning stays high.

I have been wanting to redo how I teach math for a while. As a student, I truly adore mathematics, but as a teacher, I was getting bored. Our district was looking into several programs to adopt and I was piloting Everyday Mathematics. It was definitely a change from our old textbook, but I liked how it mixed things up and spiraled around to keep kids fresh on many math concepts.

The district ended up choosing Math Expressions (Please share your experience if you use this!) and this decision allowed me to stop teaching Everyday Mathematics "with fidelity" and monkey around with starting Guided Math/Math Rotations/Small Group Math/Math Centers/etc. for the remainder of this year.

I.am.in.love!

I know there are many ways of doing this, so I am just sharing what I have been trying and what works so far with my schedule. Some of my greatest inspirations are Elizabeth from Fun in 4B and Dana from 3rd Grade Gridiron. I also have TONS of wonderful links with pictures on my Math Pinterest board-- there are so many inspirational teachers out there :) :)

First up, the 3-4 rotations that I use:
  1. Teacher Time- spent with me on the rug in a small group, ability-based for the unit, learning a new concept.
  2. Lesson Work- practicing the new skill from Teacher Time (usually book work or a worksheet) independently at their table spot.
  3. Math Centers- this has been using some of my Word Work Centers as well as my Winter Math Centers.
  4. Fact Practice- this is the "I'm Done" center for those students who finish Lesson Work early. I also have Fact Practice as a choice for Math Centers. Some days students don't get to this at all, but I'm ok with that since Xtra Math is a part of our Star Homework each night.
Because of time constraints, I could only divide up my class into three groups, so that really limited my use of the cute M-A-T-H or B-U-I-L-D centers that are out there. I just couldn't imagine trying to have super-short Teacher Times or trying to spread one lesson across two days :( With three groups, I am able to meet with kids for 15-20ish minutes and that seems to be just right :)

I also tried to keep things aligned with how I do Daily 5 in my class. Because that is so successful, I knew it would be easy for my kids (and, to be honest, on me!) if we started it off the same and ran our math time the same, using some of the same activities as well as the same lingo (like Teacher Time).

I began by making an anchor chart of the four rotations as a class:
To make the smaller signs, I adjusted my print settings to print 2 signs on one sheet. 
We then practiced the bottom two rotations over the course of a few days. Because I started this mid-year, it was very easy to build stamina. I started by dividing the kids into two groups and they practiced either Fact Practice or Math Centers. We then reflected on what worked/what needed improving and tried again. I slowly added Teacher Time and then Lesson Work, so that by the end of the second week, we were in full swing.

To help things along, since the content does change much more often than in D5, I made small signs to hang on my side white board that listed either the learning target or question as well as the assignments and center choices for kids' reference:

This has been a lifesaver because now students have a quick reference point to not only know what we'll be studying in Teacher Time, but they can manage their own Center and Fact Practice time, therefore not interrupting me during Teacher Time (win!).

You KNOW I have bookmarks with these rotations, right?! :)

I need to go to Bookmarks Anonymous ;)
Each student has one and it makes it easy for me to say "Picture 2" and they all know where to go. To learn how to make your own bookmarks from PDF pages, click HERE. To be honest, now that we have been doing this for a while, we don't need these anymore, but I love them just the same and, when our geometry unit is over soon I am going to me remixing the groups, so these will come in handy again soon :)

As with everything, the devil is in the details, so prepping is the key. I spent a looooooong time making sure the kids had activities and trying to account for "dead time"-- thus, the Fact Practice option. I also wanted to make materials accessible and easy to get to, so there wouldn't be any excuse for not getting started right away.

I am currently storing all of the centers and flash cards in my lovely, colorful cart I purchased from Joann's (50% off and free shipping coupon-- woo hoo!)


I will be back soon for more details on how I have been doing Math Centers-- we are using a Bingo Board similar to Word Work and it has worked out well so far.

Do you use Math Rotations or something like it? How's it going?

PS- I don't have these chevron signs on TpT yet, but is it something you all would be interested in? Let me know and I can get all of the colors together for use in your own classroom-- it's the same chevron as all of my other products HERE.

*UPDATE 2/18/13: These are now available for purchase in my TpT Store HERE. All 7 chevron colors are included for every slide as well as a plain background option. Be sure to download the Preview to see an example :) Thanks for such great feedback- I hope you enjoy using these in your class :) :)


43 comments

  1. Amazing! I would love to use these cards in my classroom!!

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    1. Thanks, Annie! I am working on them this weekend and will let you all know when they are available :)

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  2. I love your idea of math groups. We are using EM, but as you know the pace is pretty fast...as in one new lesson a day! I am not sure how it works for the last group to meet with you. Are they doing the previous day's independent work? And what about that night's homework?

    I am a bit overwhelmed trying to think about how to tie this all together. If you need a blog post idea, this could be part 2!

    Thanks!

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    1. Hi Suzy,

      Thanks so much and I know how you feel about it being overwhelming! I read a lot over the summer and JUST started it about two months ago-- it's such a departure from how I used to teach!

      You're right about the last group doing Lesson Work the next day (they are my high kids, so they can handle it more).

      I have posts coming up about each of the individual parts, so hopefully they will help more.

      Thanks :)

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  3. Your plan looks great and I would LOVE to use the cards! I am doing math stations with my 2nd graders, which I love, but...with 30 kids partnered up, that is A LOT of activity around the room. I would like to transition into a format like what you are doing. I've considered it before, and now you have renewed my interest. Thanks for the inspiration! Please post the signs and keep us in the loop on your Daily Math plans. Thank you! cbwirfs@gmail.com

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    1. Thanks for the feedback, Cynthia! I will let you know when they are ready :) I will also be posting about each of the separate parts, so hopefully that will help.

      I have 27 3rd graders this year and so I know what you mean about craziness! I have found this works so well since the kids are engaged with more for shorter time periods, if that makes sense :)

      Thanks!

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  4. I love your plan, but when do you fit in time for kids who need intervention? I have tried all year to make this work. We adopted a new math series, My Math, this year and I can't make it work. I never have time to meet with kids who just didn't "get it" the first time. It's also hard to find time to look at the work they completed independently to make sure they are on track.

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    1. Hi Cherise,

      Thanks for your great questions! I haven't heard of MyMath, so I am not sure if I can help with specifics, but sometimes we use Fridays as our game day/I pull strugglers for extra support day. That way, my middle and high kids get a break and can practice what we've been leaning in a fun, new way, and I get that time free to review.

      I also think this style lends itself so nicely to differentiation, since I am working already with small groups-- I can extend in my last group (high group) and reteach and use more manipulatives, gestures, etc. with my first & middle group.

      I will be posting about each of these rotation groups separately in the upcoming days, so hopefully that will help more-- I totally understand how overwhelming can seem at first! I was exactly the same way :)

      Thanks!

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  5. I have the same question as someone above. For the kids doing Lesson Work before they meet with you, is it yesterday's information? How does that work?

    Do the kids go in the same order every day? or do you switch it up?

    Thanks!

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    1. Hi Jackie,

      Thanks for your question and you are exactly right- the kids who start the day with Lesson Work are the kids who scored highest on the pre-assessment before we started the unit. For the unit, the kids go in the same order each time, so it really gives our class a nice flow for the 60ish minutes we are in math :)

      I will be explaining each of these rotation options in upcoming posts, so hopefully that will help explain the specifics more. Thanks again!

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  6. I would love to have these, and similar ones for reading, or do you have those?

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    1. Hi Sydney,

      Thanks for your interest- I will have them up soon in my TpT Store (a link is on the top of my right sidebar). If you are interested in my Daily 5 signs, those are free (woo hoo!) and you can find them by either clicking on the TpT Store link, or my clicking on "Freebies" on the top of my page.

      Hope that helps and thanks again!

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  7. I love this! I LOVE this!! I keep telling myself to just jump in and get this going...I know it's well into the year, but I actually think I'm more ready now than ever to try. Thank you for sharing everything that has worked for you, I know I will be coming back to see this again soon. :) :)

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    1. Thanks Kristen :) I have found that I LOVE starting new things this time of year-- my kids know the routine and I know them, so we can try out new ways of doing things and it's much more manageable than during the craziness of August & September. Plus, it gives some much-needed pick-me-up this time of year ;) Thanks again!

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  8. I keep on thinking I would love to have this set up in my classroom. I love the bookmarks too. What an easy way to get the students into groups. Is it random or do you organize the groups yourself?

    Krystyn

    Ms. Richards's Musings

    msrichardssmusings@gmail.com

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  9. I'd love to incorporate something like this. I better get the hang of D5 first :)
    tania
    My Second Sense

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  10. Thank you so much for sharing! I teach 4th grade math resource room, and half of my students needed a lot of work on 3rd grade skills, and the rest could handle a modified 4th grade curriculum. However, I was only given the 4th grade Everyday Math curriculum. I like Everyday Math for general ed, because it does keep the kids working on all different types of skills, but for my special needs students, it is too overwhelming for them. They really need to focus on one skill at a time, and then I can spiral it a bit once they have mastered it. So once I realized that it wasn't working using the 4th grade curriculum, I started doing math centers so I could work with 2 different groups on different concepts and skills. It's working out so far, but seeing how you do is really helpful! I'm also now using Pinpoint Math for my lower students (it's from the same company as EDM) and I really like that because it targets one concept at a time.

    Ashley
    The Resource Room Teacher

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  11. This is the BEST BLOG EVER! I have been thinking about changing the way I do math and I believe this is the direction I would like to go too. I can't wait for your future posts and yes, I would LOVE the math chevron signs to math the Daily 5 and direction signs already in my classroom! :)

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  12. Great post! I'm featuring it on Bagels and Blogs tomorrow. :)

    Donna
    Math Coach’s Corner

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  13. Hey Stephanie! Thanks for the shout-out :) I am so happy that you found a system that works for you! I started about this of year last year. This is a perfect time of the year to work in a new system. It gives you time to "work out the kinks" with a group that already has procedures and routines in place. Again, so happy you found a system that works. I can't wait to hear more :)

    Elizabeth
    Fun in Room 4B

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  14. I saw this on Pinterest this weekend and pinned it and then got in the Bagels and Blogs too! Definitely interested in the cards when you get them made. Our district is going to the workshop model in math and I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to do my stations. Thanks for sharing!

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  15. Thank you for sharing your ideas and experiences. They are giving me ideas for next year's class, which will be a composite class of 3rd/4th grades with a wide range of abilities. I think this method could work really well for them. A couple of questions: do you find it hard to stick to the 20 minutes teacher time? Was it initially hard to get your class to settle into the routine and work quietly when not at teacher time? Any tips on how to manage the implementation of maths rotations.

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  16. I am interested in trying something like this. Do you only teach in centers now or do you still do large group as well?

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  17. Stephanie,

    After reading your posts and chatting with teacher friends at my school, I have been inspired to launch Daily 5 Math rotations in my classroom! Woo hoo!!

    Check out my blog post about how we're doing it... just a BIT different :)

    http://teachingmisslackey.blogspot.com/2013/03/were-taking-daily-five-math-dive.html

    Thanks :)

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  18. I have been teaching using a guided math approach for about 6 years now and will never go back! My kids love it and so do I as it really allows me to differentiate, and to see who gets it... It works so well with all grades that I have taught (1st, 2nd, and currently [and 2 times before] a 1st/2nd grade split class)! I have used EDM, but this year I am piloting Math Expressions with 2nd grade and fingers crossed we will have that next year:) I do it basically the same way that you do it: teacher table, paper practice, computer practice (xtra math/scootpad math which I LOVE!!! [http://www.scootpad.com/] and some other math sites if they have extra time), and math centers (game or activity). You can read more about how I do it on my blog if you want:)
    Primary Classrooms are Oceans of Fun

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  20. Hi Stephanie,

    We use Math Expressions in our district (and our 3rd grade team has nearly copied everything you do!!). We are going to attempt Math Centers in the next few weeks so we can work out the kinks for our kiddos next year. Any suggestions with Math Expressions (ME) now that you've tried it out?

    Do you do Math Talk in your small groups? What about the modeling?

    So many questions!

    Heather

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  22. I love your math rotations. I teach middle school and do rotations with my students. I really like the way you create an anchor chart. I am interested in the voice levels you refer to in the anchor chart. Could you provide some information on your voice levels?

    Thanks,

    Joan

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  23. Wow!! Great blog!! Really got me thinking about some adjustments I will make with my first grade math next year. We use Everyday Math in our district. I do find it too fast paced for about 1/3 of my kids, especially my strugglers. Happy summer everyone!!! Keep posting 😊

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  24. Wow!! Great blog!! Really got me thinking about some adjustments I will make with my first grade math next year. We use Everyday Math in our district. I do find it too fast paced for about 1/3 of my kids, especially my strugglers. Happy summer everyone!!! Keep posting 😊

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  25. Stephanie,

    I teach third grade and tried centers like this last year. It was really difficult for me to differentiate center work? Do you? As far as practice work I would try and find sheets on different levels. My students are always on such different levels. I also tried extremely hard to do this for teacher time. My questions is, I never had time to review homework or classwork. Any suggestions??? How do you keep the lesson fresh four times.
    Naimah Gooden

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  26. Hi Stephanie, I LOVE this idea of math rotations. I have seen it so many times around the blogging world and pinterest but just have not built up the courage to do it in my own classroom for a few reasons. Last year we were in the process of adopting a new math curriculum so it was brand new to me and I feel like I couldn't focus on getting to know the curriculum as well as trying to manage math rotations at the same time. One question I've always had is this: your group that meets with you during the last rotation.. they never have "lesson work" time, do they? I'd love for you to share with me how to manage this because that is the biggest concern of mine! :)

    -Allison
    Adventures in Room 204

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  27. I stumbled across the picture of your board on Pinterest! I've been doing math groups for several years but this past year we didn't get math workbooks, so I had the "freedom" like you describe to do my own thing. LOVE it. We start off whole group with a quick intro; I show them the task they will be doing in the independent center and then send them out. My three groups are independent, teacher's group, and technology (i-Pads/computers). The independent part always has some kind of accountability piece-a worksheet, recording sheet, or math journal prompt. I do like you and stick my enrichment group in the independent group first. They bring their work with them when they come to me and we go over it to make sure they understood it...if they did, then we do some enrichment activities and if not, we address what needs to be addressed. Also, sometimes if other students need more help in the independent station then I recruit the enrichment group to help.

    WOW! That was long! Love your blog!

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  28. Wow! I, too, am loving math rotations! I do use the MATH Workshop approach, it works for me and the time we have (FINALLY 90 minutes)! Is it geeky that I truly ADORE teaching math? Now if I could ONLY get my principal to departmentalize Third Grade (my dream come true)....

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  29. Hi I'm glad I came upon this page. We had our training using Math Expressions today and I think it will be great. I'm glad to hear of your positive experience!

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  30. Love this idea. I have a question about rotations. So what do the students do who start at the at the Lesson Work Rotation? They haven't seen you yet to work on the the TT work.


    Thanks!

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  31. I bought the fab TpT chevron kit. Love it but trying to get my head around how to organize the kids into a group structure that rotates and moves. Is there a way to swipe your bookmarks?

    I am going to have 4 groups of 6 and the 6 into pairs in the centers with three activities in the Math Center station.... AHHH!

    Start of the year panic!

    Thanks - Frazzled and Frizzy,
    Samantha Lehmann
    samanthaleh@aol.com
    Ordered as samanthaleh

    Feel free to email me! You have been a huge help in my return to the classroom after 12 years homeschooling and mommying my three kiddos! SOOO excited to be back in the classroom. Thank you!

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  32. Just saw this and wanted to say THANKS for the shout out! :) You're awesome yourself, my friend!

    Dana

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  33. I love this! I LOVE this!! I keep telling myself to just jump in and get this going...I know it is well into the year, but I actually think I'm more ready now than ever to try. Thank you for sharing everything that has worked for you, I know I will be coming back to see this again soon. :) :)

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  34. Love ALL of your Math Rotation ideas! I WILL be implementing them in my classroom this year!! I have purchased and downloaded all your seasonal centers from your TPT store and have them all laminated and ready for my students to use! SO EXCITED!!!

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  35. This is a great idea and will help me differentiate my math lessons so I can reach all of my students!

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Thank you so much for your comments! :)
~Stephanie

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