Math Rotations: Teacher Time

Thank you all so much for your feedback and great questions to how I start setting up Math Rotations in my class! I am planning on doing quite a bit more in this series, including a post on each of the rotation options as well as some Q&A, so if you're ever interested in reading all of the series, be sure to click the icon above and/or the new button on the top sidebar.

Teacher Time

I wanted to start with the simplest rotation choice, Teacher Time. This rotation choice for me was the easiest to prepare, since it was what I was going to teach anyway-- it required very little additional prep work.

I began preparing for Teacher Time by splitting my kids into three groups based on a quick pre-assessment before our unit. The results, paired with what I knew of them as learners, gave me the info I needed to sort them into a low-medium-high kind of system.

I always begin math by immediately pulling my first group. We used to start with an all-class warm-up, but we were running out of time for the last Teacher Time group, so now we just come in and get straight to work on Rotation 1 of our bookmarks:

Students need to come to the carpet for Teacher Time with their math journals, any Lesson Work from the day before and a pencil. They can grab clipboards and we gather around my small white board to get to work.
I received these items from a Donors Choose project and L.O.V.E. them! I know it's marketed as a "Big Book" holder, but the height is perfect for small groups and it's much more manageable than a large easel. I use half-sized chart paper or a dry erase board that I got on the cheap that fits on the ledge when I meet with kids for Teacher Time.

Our new warm-ups in Teacher Time involve going over some or all of the Lesson Work from yesterday. I want to make sure kids are getting immediate feedback on how they are doing and I found that when I collected Lesson Work and graded it later, it wasn't helping them as much as if we graded it together. It also gave me the chance to switch-up the lesson last-minute if I realize the group is missing out on a concept or, on the flip-side, has already mastered what we are doing.

After we are done going over yesterday's Lesson Work, we delve into the lesson for the day. I have each group for about 20 minutes, so after checking over our Lesson Work, it leaves us with about 12-15 minutes. I love this, since that's about how long their attention span is anyways ;)

My general premise for any lesson I teach is: I do. We do. You do. The 12-minute lesson encompasses the "I do" and "We do" part, then I send them off to the "You do" part for Lesson Work.

I love these smaller groups for so many reasons:
  • They are smaller ;)
  • I can see and immediately interact with each of them-- no hiding in a group of 8!
  • I can peek at their work at any time without getting up and walking around
  • They are shorter-- attention span is maximized :)
  • Everyone is around the same ability, so I can tailor the lesson to fit their needs
  • Manipulatives can be divvied out to everyone and less people have to share (Try getting 30 sets of anything math related without spending an arm & a leg! But 8? Not too bad.)
  • Groups are fluid as the units change, so they are still getting to work with lots of people
I pull my groups in this order: low, medium, high. Immediately after Teacher Time, they move onto Lesson Work, so I wanted to make sure that my low & medium kids could practice as soon as they had learned something. I meet with my high group last, which is tricky, since they will need to retain what we learned over a 24-hour period before they practice it at the start of next math class, but I have found that with the notes we take and sample problems we do, they have been up for the challenge so far.

If you wanted to switch the low and medium group, I think you could easily do so, since they will be starting with Math Centers and that's always a self-directed, independent activity that does not depend on Teacher Time. I may do that for my next unit, that way the kids who have been doing Teacher Time first for a while can feel they are mixing-it-up a bit more :)

Last thing, I have found that doing Teacher Time in Math Rotations works best on a Monday-Thursday schedule. We will typically do the first picture on Friday only so my high kids will have the chance to finish Lesson Work (without having to wait a whole weekend), my middle kids can work on Math Centers, and my low kids can work with me to get additional support on any of the concepts we worked on that week. We will then spend the rest of the time playing games, doing scavenger hunts like Multiplication Monsters, or going to a website to practice what we've learned.

I hope this has made Teacher Time sound a bit more clear. What questions do you have? I will be back next with information on how I do Lesson Work, then Math Centers, and lastly, Fact Practice. Thanks for joining me on this series!

*UPDATE 2/18/13: The chevron poster set (all 106 pages) 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 :) :)


  1. I love doing math in smaller groups:) It took some pushing from one of my best bloggy buds, but I changed to Math Workshop this year and love it!!!!

    4th Grade Frolics

    1. I totally agree!! I was so nervous to get started, but I am sososososo glad I did! It's just another example of how awesome teacher bloggy buddies are, bc there is NO way I could have done this without all of you amazing teachers out there inspiring me and leading the way :) Thank you!!

  2. Don't you just love the idea of teaching math in small groups? I don't know what ever took me so long to start. I know my students benefit from this type of instruction. Congratulations on finding a system that works for you! I love your set up for teacher time, too. I feel like I might NEED that easel :)

    Fun in Room 4B

    1. You DO! It's awesome and there's TONS of storage behind it since it's meant for the little guys-- I love it :)

      I completely agree that small groups are the best and I don't know why it took me so long to take the dive into math, but wow, it's so much more fun for both me and my students :) Gotta love that!!

      Thank you so much for inspiring me on this journey, Elizabeth- you are awesome!!

  3. Hi Stephanie, Love your blog! Thanks for sharing all the amazing things you do! :o)

    I've been tempted to move towards Math Workshop for the last year or so. I'm most concerned about my strugglers. Many years I've had kids who are well below grade level and therefore struggle to work independently on what I've taught that day. If I'm teaching 3 separate groups, I won't be able to give them any support while they're working independently. I understand that the three groups will be differentiated, but I traditionally have 2-3 kids who are substantially below my "strugglers," and I don't always have in class support.

    Have you had any issues with this? How have you worked around it?

    1. I TOTALLY understand your concern and I am incredibly fortunate to have a math specialist help with those 2-3 lowest kids during this time. You're right- they are the trickiest ones to help move along :( I love Fridays for touching base with my lowest kiddos, and I have also had kids hang out in an extra Teacher Time now and then, so they are "double-dipped" for the day when there was a tricky or new concept. You could also have them work with a buddy during Lesson Work time, maybe? It's definitely a challenge, but you could also increase the size of some of the other groups to make sure that the strugglers are in the smallest group and can get the most out of their lesson with you. Lots to chew on when it comes to those kiddos, I know :)

  4. I'm so glad you posted this. I just made some rotation signs and want to start on Tuesday. (We're off Monday). I am so excited! Thank you so much for your great ideas!!

    Pennants & Polka Dots

  5. Thanks so much for this tutorial! I have been wanting to try rotations in math, and you've convinced me it's well worth it! I'm looking forward to your future blog posts about this topic.

    Thanks so much!

    Across the Hall in 2nd Grade

    1. I'm so glad to hear this! I think you'll love it and this is the perfect time of year to try things out :) Thanks!!

  6. I am also a huge fan of the small group math instruction. I only have two groups, but really want to try and get one more in. I am going to be following along to see how you incorporate it all in...and draw some inspiration.

    Teaching in Room 6

  7. Thank you so much for answering my question about the group that meets last! I am definitely bookmarking all these posts and *might* work up the courage to try it with our next chapter. (It is measurement. Metric AND customary length/weight/capacity, because one on its own is not enough for a seven year old, apparently!)

  8. Great post! I agree about the idea of I do, we do, and you do. I have mini computers in my classroom, so I like having student access that during one rotation. For teacher time the middle level kids are first, since I want to make sure they are on a more solid footing before they work alone. Then my low group. I agree that the last group should be the high.
    Have you ever tried 4 groups? I know people talk about it in blog land, wish I could, but time is too limited.


  9. Great inspiration. I have made signs and lessons for three mornings of math rotations. I would love to know what you have in small print on your activity signs - I could read the one for "teacher time," but not the others.

  10. I'm student teaching this semester and I can't wait to start these math rotations in my 4th grade class! The class doesn't do any small groups so I really think they'll love getting more individualized attention!

  11. Hi Stephanie! Your math workshop seems to be set up wonderfully and have great flow. As a second year teacher, I am always look for ideas and resources to better reach my students. Luckily, I have a supportive team teacher and staff! Within the past few months I have been researching and trying to set up a math rotation and move away from whole group instruction. Its just not as effective. However, with a large class of 28 it has proven difficult to group them properly. What resource do you use to pretest your students for grouping?

  12. I found your blog on Math rotations and fell in love. I shared it with my co-workers and they liked it as well, but we have one question. If your high kids do their independent work on Friday, what do they do for independent work on Monday since their first rotation is independent work?

  13. I love this idea and it makes math groups seem a lot less scary. Do you give homework also? Every year I have a large group of my class that is really low in math and do not get any support at home so having some extra practice is good for them. How long is your math block?

  14. I switched to small group instruction for the last 6 weeks of the school year. Morning rotations based on Daily 5 with a teacher time focused on writing. Afternoons were split with teacher time for math (new material). I threw in independent work on social studies and science reading, brain pop videos with corresponding worksheet, and project work time. The students LOVED the change of pace, personal attention, and shorter activity based centers. While other teachers complained of behavior spiraling out of control at the end of the school year, my kids were engaged and well-behaved!

    I LOVE how you have simplified the math time, and am very excited to adopt your system this year! Thanks so much for sharing!

  15. I have 30 students, one hour to tach math and no extra help. How do you do this?

  16. I'm really hoping to get started on math rotations this week. I've been trying to get the courage up since the beginning of the school year, but I'm so nervous. I was curious if you had a curriculum map you went by based on common core standards. I was thinking of purchasing your fall math centers, but it covers measurement and shape which we don't get to until spring. Let me know if you have any advice! :)

  17. I have been trying rotations and they haven't been going all that well. I think it's because I started with a whole group lesson, so I had already lost the low kids, and we NEVER reviewed our lesson from the previous day. Thanks so much for giving me a different perspective. I will definitely be trying it this way come January.

  18. I was wondering, how do you manage passing out Lesson Work (which I'm assuming are worksheets) and where students store them for the following day, especially your high kids that need to keep up with them until the following day before they can work on it?

    1. Our workbooks hold the lesson work, which are stored in their cubbies so it's easy for them to use and keep track of. If it is a sheet of paper, I pass it out at Teacher Time and they keep it in their folders. Hope that helps!!