Small Group Math - First Grade Spies

Monday, March 25, 2013

I recently posted about my FAVORITE block of the day - Math Workshop! My new bloggy friend Laura at First Grade Spies also runs her math block in a very similar way! 

I have a nice, long 80 minute block for math every day, but Laura shows us that even if you only have 60 minutes, small group math is VERY possible and extremely effective! 

She begins with a short, whole-group lesson. Then students move into math stations, each lasting for 12-13 minutes with a 1 minute clean up time between stations. The stations are very similar to the ones I outlined in my previous post.

One thing she does differently, that I LOVE and will be trying out in my classroom ASAP is having students bring the math practice pages to the teacher group each day.  Until recently, I was very fortunate to have a wonderful aid in the room during my math block. She would help the kids with their practice page and I would check them during my prep to see who needed more intervention. I no longer have her in my room and I've been trying to figure out how to make sure my kiddos are getting immediate feedback and intervention! This simple solution will definitely help me with that!

For teachers who have a smartboard, Laura has created a Monster Math Stations slide show that projects the kids names at each station and automatically rotates through each station. This is perfect for teachers, like me, who tend to lose track of time! I'm so sad that I don't have a way to project this! As soon as I get a classroom with a smartboard I am using this great tool!

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Math Workshop

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Well, I have ANOTHER snow day! Today makes 8. Yikes. I heard on the radio yesterday that my city is the winner of the snowiest city in the US this year, with 101 inches of snow this season.. and it looks like another 8-12 out there right now. At this rate we will be in school until July! Hopefully this is the last storm!

The good thing about this snow day is that it has given me a chance to check out some awesome blogs and finally write about math workshop. I mentioned how amazing it was in a previous post.. here is my experience with it so far!

Prior to being in 3rd grade this year, I taught 4th grade, but I ONLY taught reading, writing, and social studies. When I got the 3rd grade job, I was ecstatic! I wanted to teach 3rd grade so bad. When the excitement settled, I was horrified! I had NEVER EVER taught math. EVER!

So, I took to the internet to research about math workshop. I came across this article on Scholastic and it sounded just like what I needed. Check the article out at the link below..  I run my math workshop a little differently but this is where I got started! 

How Math Workshop Looks in My Classroom: 

We have an 80 minute block of time each morning for math. 

20 Minutes - Whole class mini lesson
  • During the mini lesson we discuss the objective and our goals for math that day. We typically make an anchor chart together focusing on our topic. The anchor chart below is an example. I am also able to complete quick formative assessments by having the kids practice on white boards. 

    Anchor chart about perimeter.

    60 Minutes - Math Centers
    • We have 4 centers. Each group rotates through the centers in 15 minute intervals. I am very lucky to have a great class size (20 kiddos) so I put them into 4 manageable groups of 5 students. 

    Teacher Group: I am able to review the concept from the mini lesson with the students. The small group size allows me to work closely with the students and give them a little intervention or enrichment if necessary!
    Teacher Group - Working on perimeter with shapes!

    Computers: The kids obviously love this center! I scour the internet looking for fun games that reinforce the objective for the day. I try to find 3 games for them to choose from. 
    Perimeter games at the computer center.
    Practice Page: Students work on the assigned page. We have a practice book that goes along with our math series, but it's not necessary. I occasionally use worksheets I create or find if I don't love the practice page from the series. I encourage the kids to help each other and use the resources available to them.
    Practice page focusing on perimeter.
    Math Game: I create all of the math games. I love to create them myself - but you don't have to! There are a lot of great resources out there. These games are very hands on! I have a math game box ready for the students each day. This box includes the directions, recording sheets (so I can hold them accountable!), and all the resources/manipulatives they'll need to play! Here's an example of a math game I used recently. You don't have to change your math game every day, there are times when I use the same game for an entire week. It depends on the topic

    Math Game Center - Creating shapes with various perimeters using task cards.
    Heterogeneous or Homogeneous Grouping? 
    • This was something I struggled with early in the year! I wanted students to be successful in the independent centers, but I wanted time to work with students who needed some of the same skills reinforced or extended upon. I settled on heterogeneous groups for math centers Monday through Thursday and I would run homogeneous groups on Fridays. Fridays are our "catch-up day" where we review the skills learned during the week, finish all unfinished work, and work on challenging performance tasks. 
    Does anyone else run their math block in a similar way? I'd love to hear how other teachers set theirs up! 
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    Planning a research project? Stop here!

    Sunday, March 10, 2013

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    At the end of the school year, I like to do a research project about a social studies topic. I know it's not the end of the year (we still have 68 days left.. but who's counting?) but I have just started brainstorming some ideas about what to focus the project on.. the American Revolution perhaps? I wanted to share with you a fantastic resource I came across last year which was perfect for elementary students.

    It's called Kids Infobits - A database designed especially for students in grades K-5. It can be used to research ALL subject areas and topics of high interest, such as sports, entertainment, and technology. It's very kid friendly and easy to navigate! If you send your precious kiddos searching the internet on their own, you never know what they might manage to come across... and they WILL come across it. They always do. On Kids Infobits there are no ads, and you can rest assured that all of the content is appropriate for children!
    Kids Infobits Home Page
    You can find the website. However, you will need to buy a subscription. I did see a link for a free trial, but it's very likely that you can get unlimited access and won't need to pay a cent!

    I think we can agree that we all payed a pretty penny for our undergraduate and graduate degrees. With that money, our colleges and universities do a number of things, one of them being subscribing to an online database for students through the school library. I use these databases to write research papers. Last year while writing a research paper for a class, I stumbled upon Kids Infobits and thought it was great!

    *I cannot guarantee that your school will have purchased this exact journal. I did a search of schools around my area with an education program. All the schools I searched had it, but I cannot assume that your specific college will! I hope they do

    How you can find it: If you know how to do a research paper, you should already know where to find the databases! I have access to the library databases with my school email. I cannot walk you through how to locate the databases at your college, but I can explain the steps I took, which are most likely very similar

    1. Go to your school's website. 
    2. Go to the Library page
    3. There should be a list of options available. I click on Articles and Databases, other links might be: E-Databases, Search Databases, or Databases A-Z. It will likely be similar to that.  

      4. They should be listed alphabetically. This database is listed under I -  [Info Trac] Kids Infobits. Click the link and it will take you to the database!

      Need more info about the database? Check these out!
      Kids Infobits Packet
      Kids Infobits Facts

      I Hope this is helpful! Does anyone use any other free databases for research projects? Please share them!

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      Geometry Center Activities - 2D and 3D Shapes!

      Tuesday, March 5, 2013

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      My kiddos and I started our geometry unit recently. Geometry is my FAVORITE unit to teach in math! The kids love it and there are a lot of really fabulous and  F - U - N hands on activities to do! 

      We had an absolute blast today! I run my math block in a workshop format, where students rotate through 4 centers after a mini lesson. I promise I will do a future blog post all about math workshop centers, because wow! wow! wow! My math block is a teachers dream! I'm talking ZERO behavior problems ever most days. But that's a post for another day! 

      Today, our focus was on 2D and 3D shapes and the relationship between them. 

      Here are the activities we did: 

      Marshmallow Shapes: I bought a bag of marshmallows and some toothpicks. The kids started by making 2D shapes (like the squares pictured below) This helped them to grasp what corners and sides were in a shape because they could easily differentiate between the corners (marshmallows) and the sides (toothpicks). 

      Once the 2D shapes were built, we turned them into 3D shapes! This really helped them relate the two. It also helped with counting vertices and edges - something they struggled to understand yesterday! They were easily able to see that the marshmallows represented the vertices (corners) and the toothpicks represented the edges! 

       The best part for the kids was eating the marshmallows after!

      Geoboard Task Cards: The kids has a great time with this center also. They even asked if it could be added to our Friday game shelf! Who could say no to a kid who wants to practice a math game?!

      There are 18 task cards in this game. Students have to create different shapes by name, by the amount of sides, or by the amount of corners.

      Make 2 different sized rectangles.
      Make your own shape. How many sides and corners does it have?
      Make your own shape with more than 4 sides.

      I had dreams last night (I'm not even kidding) that my kiddos got a little rambunctious and were flinging elastics at each other during this center. To my delight, they were very mature and able to play with the geoboards and elastics without any issues - love when that happens! 

      Interested in the geoboard task cards or other 2D and 3D shape activities? They are included in my 2D 3D Shapes Bundle on TpT! Check it out here: 2D 3D Shapes Bundle - 6 Activities

      Activities Included:
      -2D Shape Creature                      -Geoboard Task Cards (2D)
      -Shape Detective (2D and 3D)                  -Sorting 3D Shapes
      -Vocabulary (3D)                                  -Hunt for Shapes (3D)
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      Technology Center Idea #1 - Listening Center

      Monday, March 4, 2013