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Smashing Strategies for Guided Math: Planning For Groups Made Easy

Hi friends! This is the 3rd and final post in the Smashing Strategies for Guided Math series for the 2017-2018 school year! *Don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post to win a $75 amazon gift card OR Giant Magnetic Tens Frames for your classroom! 

So far in this series we have talked a lot about routines and structure that included a detailed post on Guided Math Center Rotations and Fact Fluency. Today we are going to get into the nitty gritty of differentiating your groups in a way that is not going to be so overwhelming that it makes you feel like you’re losing your mind!! Let’s be honest, as teachers our jobs at technically 8:00-3:00 but planning for 3 math groups, 4 writing groups, 4 word study groups, and 5 reading groups, plus social studies, science, character education, and parent communication, etc... is about 80 hours of work a week. We have to find the easiest way to be EFFECTIVE and EFFICIENT.

In college, do you remember all that talk about objectives and essential questions? I remember thinking I was going to die of boredom if I had to generate ONE MORE essential question… oye! However, when we are differentiating, it really is a huge time saver and here’s how...

Today I am teaching a lesson on arrays. I want to lay a foundation for my students to understand that multiplication is simply repeated addition. At the end of the day I want my students to understand that skip counting (instead of repeated addition) can help them find a sum faster, which is essentially the concept of multiplication.

However, I realize that about 1/3 of my students are still memorizing their addition facts and are nowhere NEAR ready to multiply. BUT, that doesn’t mean I don’t want them to be exposed to the concept that multiplication is repeated addition.

Another third of my students are doing well with their fact fluency but developmentally are not ready for multiplication yet... they're getting close though! Again, I still want them to be exposed to this concept. 

Then the last third of my class knows their addition and subtraction facts backward and forward. They are READY to multiply!

So, to keep myself from having to plan for HOURS, I am going to keep my lesson simple.

Mini Lesson: Before we start the math block, I tape three large circles (one blue, one red, and one green) on the carpet that we gather on for mini lessons. I tell my students that today we are going to figure out how to use skip counting to teach us to multiply. I ask for nine volunteers to line up next to our SMARTBOARD in front of the class. We work as a group to EVENLY divide up the kids into the three circles, which will result in 3 kids per circle. Then on the board I write:

3 + 3 + 3 = 9

We talk through how the first 3 stands for the three children in the blue circle (Michael, Nelson, Rashaud).

The red three stands for kids in red circle (Shantelle, Hunter, Kameron).

Finally, we discuss how the green three stands for kids in green circle (Moncia, Danielle, Zeke).

Our exchange is as follows...
Teacher: "How many circles are there?"
 Kids respond “3”
Teacher: "How many kids are in each circle?" 
Kids respond “3”

I write on the board:
3 x 3 = ?

Teacher: "How many kids are up in front?"
 Kids respond “9”

I then refer back to the board where the two statement are written:

3 + 3 + 3 = 9     AND     3 x 3 = 9  

Teacher: "Who can make a connection between these two math statements?" This then leads into a discussion about the connection between repeated addition and multiplication. 

After the mini lesson is over, kids break into their Guided Math Rotation Centers and I begin to pull groups.

First Group:

I have large 1” graph paper or printed out grids. On my white board, I tell my students that today we want to make a square with 2 across and 2 down. I write 2 + 2 = ? on my board and model for my students coloring 2 down and 2 across then cutting out the square

Together we record 2 + 2 = 4 on the array I cut out. Then the students try, I write 2 + 2 + 2 = ? on my board and students work to cut out a 2 x 3 array on their grid paper. They glue it on their large paper and record the repeated addition statement. 

Second Group:

I have large 1” graph paper or printed out grids. On my white board, I tell my students that today we want to make a rectangle with 3 across and 2 down. Each  I write 2 + 2 + 2 = ? on my board and coloring 2 down, 3 across and then cut it out. After we finish, I point out to my student that there are 3 across and 2 down, which would make a multiplication equation 3 x 2 = 6. We discuss the fact that 2 + 2 + 2 = 6 is the same as 3 x 2 = 6 (three groups of 2).

Then the students try, I write 3 + 3 + 3 = ? on my board and students work to cut out a 3 x 3 array on their grid paper. They glue it on their large paper and record the repeated addition statement. Once they have recorded their repeated addition statement, they create a corresponding multiplication equation as well.

Third Group:

These friends had have their addition facts memorized for month and are ready for MORE! I write out the equation 4 x 4 = ? on the board and tell them it means I have four groups of four. Then I give them grid paper and ask them to attempt to build an array that demonstrates 4 x 4.

As the children work, I come alongside any individuals that may be having a little difficulty, but for the most part, I have found these children that are “gifted” in the area of math, enjoy the challenge. The rest of the guided math group is spent discussing how multiplication is simply groups of the same number being repeated.

I switched up their next task by showing them a grid that looked like this asking if they could come up with a multiplication equation to accompany it. Each child recorded their answer on a sticky note! We love sticky notes for guided math!!! [Answer: 4 x 6 = 24]

After our centers are completed, the children gather on the rug to talk about arrays. I ask the children to whisper to a neighbor their definition of an array. We talk about how our addition strategies can be useful in getting us ready to multiply and how multiplication is simply multiple groups of the same number.

It is certainly not as easy to plan guided math lessons that are differentiated to your student’s needs… however, I would argue it is MUCH EASIER to TEACH. When kids are learning within their zone of proximal development, they thrive! You are able to give much more individualized attention, as well as provide  remediation or enrichment as needed, in                                                                        a group of 7 or 8 as 
                                                                opposed to 20+ students at                                                                    once.

The prep also doesn’t need to be as demanding as planning 3 TOTALLY different lessons, as you can see, I used the same tools, just adapted the presentation and approach for each group

The first group had a lot of guidance and much simpler problems.

The second group had modeling with slightly more challenging problems. 

The third group was given a challenge question to solve and then we talked through it when they were finished. 

Each guided math lesson was tailored to meet the needs of the students within each group. It probably takes me 5-7 minutes extra to plan for it, but is TOTALLY worth it when I measure student growth at the end of the units… they DO WAY BETTER when instruction is directed to meet their individual needs. Plus, they LOVE the centers and look forward to math block each day.

Don't forget to enter our giveaway to wrap up our SMASHING STRATEGIES FOR GUIDED MATH SERIES!

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Oh, and check out these posts from other leading teacher-authors!

Smashing Strategies for Guided Math: Fact Fluency

And we’re back… this is the 2nd post in the Smashing Strategies for Guided Math Series in which a group of leading teacher authors have teamed up to bring you creative and practical ideas for your classroom.

We talk a lot about flexibly grouping students in the classroom to keep switching things up, but in reality… is that really feasible? It’s a lot of work but I am here to propose a new idea to you today. Flexible grouping with your math groups, to practice fact fluency. In my classroom, I have developed a system that works smoothly and allows for a break in the normal grouping system every week. Let’s take a look…

Fact fluency is an absolute must at the primary level. Though I completely believe in students learning to use strategies and thinking about numbers flexibly is crucial, there must be some basic memorization in order for students to have a solid foundation. So the solution I came up with for this was creating fact fluency groups based off a quick assessment completed on Fridays.

The assessments are simple, the students are given 20 questions and have to complete them in 2 minutes. They must solve a MINIMUM of 18/20 correctly to move on to the next level (click on the image above to download your free copy).  

Here is our chart for the first three months of the school year… If you click on the image, you can use the editable template available for download from my teachers pay teachers page.
Using the data (students names have been changed for privacy) I split my kids into 5 different groups.

Group 1         Group 2          Group 3        Group 4        Group 5
Dallin            Aidan K          Peyton          Daniel           Hope
Kylee             Laila               Michael        Katie             Cam
Molly            Aidan T.          Joanna          Vanessa         Elijah
Thomas         Savannah                             Kieran
Quinn                                                         Ittai

Once the students were split, I could focus on their needs most directly. I focused on helping students with pneumonic devices, fact fluency songs, tips and tricks for memorizing different facts based off their individual needs.

For example if I was teaching skip counting by 3’s to my advanced group, I would teach them to sing the following numbers to Row, Row, Row Your Boat “3, 6, 9 and 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30, 33, last is 36.”

It was quite interesting, that our fact fluency groups did not align very closely with our guided math groups. The ability to memorize is very different than the ability to use strategies or think about mathematical concepts – yet another reason I am a fan of this model, mixing things up is always a good thing!! 😉

While I pulled groups, children would work at centers around the classroom. There were many different games that we play to reinforce fact fluency.

1. Computer Station – The students play math fact fluency games on the following websites (I set them up ahead of time on the computer, so all they have to do is sit down and play. The websites are also bookmarked on the computer and I have taught the students how to go back and find a bookmarked website if they accidentally click off the main page).


2. Go Fish – I leave a sign with a number to create and the kids play Go Fish trying to add up to the number they have been given. For example if the NUMBER TO MAKE was 7 an exchange might look like this:

Number to Make is 7
Molly: Do you have a 3?
Kieran: No, go fish.
(Molly picks up new card)
Kieran: Do you have a 5?
Molly: Yes, here you go.
(Molly hands a 5 card to Kieran)
Kieran: I had a 2 and now I got a 5 and I know 2 + 5 = 7.
(Kieran lays down 2 and 5 card next to each other and would then record 2 + 5 = 7 on his individual white board)

3. Roll and Record – Students are given dice and a recording sheet. They roll two dice and add the two numbers together and record on an individual whiteboard or  recording sheet. After ten rolls each, students add the total number up and whoever has the greatest sum wins.

4. Hopscotch – Tape out a hopscotch board on the floor, students roll the dice and hop as many spaces as the number that has been rolled. They roll the dice again and jump that many more spaces. The partner records the addition equations on an individual whiteboard.

5. Shooting Marbles – If you have students that are working on their subtractions facts, tape a large circle on the floor and a line of tape two feet away. Then have the students place marbles in the center of the tape and record the number on an individual white board. Then have students sit behind the line and roll a single marble toward the circle. Have students count the number of marbles that were knocked out of the circle, then have them create a subtraction equation. 

Student places twenty marbles in circle. Student sits on the line and shoots one marble at the circle. Six marbles roll outside the circle. Student writes the following equation on the individual white board: 20-6=14.  

Be sure to check out other Smashing Strategies for Guided Math from these other bloggers!!!

An InLinkz Link-up

There are hundreds of other great games for teaching fact fluency… what are some that you use in your classroom? Let us know in the comment section below!

Northeastern Regional TpT Meet Up #TpTFlock17

Oh my goodness, how is it already April 17th??? The weekend of April 8th I had the joy of attending the Northeastern Regional TpT Meet Up in Rochester, New York at the beautiful Woodcliffe Resort. This was the second time I attended and was no less blown away. The amount of effort and energy that went into cultivating the perfect environment for motivation and inspiration was incredible. Each detail, from the delicious breakfast, to the creative decor, not to mention the incredibly skilled speakers, was done with excellence. 

The keynote speaker, Art with Jenny K, was breath-taking. Kindness and creativity oozed out of her, for lack of a better description! She spoke about her journey on TpT, but never once did she make it about the money. It was about how honored she felt to be contributing to the education of students around the world. 

She spoke about how each time she sold a product, she viewed it as investing in the lives of 30 different students. I thought that was a wonderful way of thinking about it. Creating materials for my own students is definitely exciting to me, but having the opportunity to participate in something worldwide is humbling. 

She also gave us each a piece of paper with a design on it and colored markers and crayons. We were given a key as to which colors to use on the paper... again, her creativity is astounding (more details on why later...)

My first break out session was a Tax Seminar, which really isn't really my domain but interesting to listen to. My husband is our tax guy, so he sent me in with a bunch of questions. It is mind boggling to me how much extra income TpT provides for so many educators! So cool!

Next I had the privilege of listening to Tabitha Carro from FlapJack Educational Resources. She did a lecture on Smartphone Marketing last year and I learned a TON from her. Once again, she did not disappoint. She taught us how to do pinterest marketing using a smartphone. My takeaways were both exciting and overwhelming... I am actually going to go get a new smartphone this week so I can have enough data to hold all the apps she recommended. 

It's so interesting, I love pinterest, and use it mostly for personal things... I.E. millions of recipes and crafts for my daughter. However, I never really noticed that the most popular and attractive pin covers are vertical and sized 9 x 16. Tabitha showed us apps that easily size and allow for designing collages such as Adobe Spark Post. It's WILD... It takes completely artistically incompetent people, such as myself, and allows them to create something that looks like this on the first try! 

She also recommended a bunch of other apps like Word Swag, Phonto, InShot, Canco, PicCollage, and PicLab Studio. Incredible! Thank you, Tabitha!! 

The next session was perfectly timed... right after Tabitha's smartphone pinterest marketing, I attended Jamie Sears from Not So WimpyTeacher: Keys to Pinning Success. She has an outstanding amount of knowledge about pinterest and how it works. Basically I learned that everything I have been doing is wrong, haha! 

My new goals for Pinterest:
- Create new pinterest covers for my blog posts and create a separate board for my posts
- Create new pinterest covers for my products
- Reorganize my boards to have 40-50 total (by creating secret boards and repinning so as not to lose the work I have already done)
- Look into using Tailwind
- Do some more research on advertising on pinterest since it only charges per click, as opposed to per view on Facebook

Lots of work to do, but I am hopeful it will be worth it!!! 

The last break out session I attended was with the FAMOUS ERICA BOHRER. She is also very knowledgeable and has been with TpT since the very beginning. I have a lot of respect for her because she is killing it on TpT but she's still in her classroom and that's her first priority. 

My big takeaways from this session were to first, clean up my crumby instagram photos and second, and more importantly, find a group of people that can post for each other. She gave us this great organizer to get started so I am hopeful to execute this by the beginning of May! Oh, and I am looking for teachers that would like to use my products in their classrooms and send me pictures that I can post. I love being a stay at home mom, but it does put me at a disadvantage for posting photos! Any takers?!? You can have the products for free! ;) 

We concluded the day by hearing from TpT staff and Amy, the director of seller happiness (which she truly is). She talked about how TpT is an ecosystem, we all need to do our part for it to thrive. Then Jenny K. came up and showed us how all of our tiny pieces of paper we colored came together to make a beautiful poster. 

Overall, the TpTFlock17 conference was a great experience and I can not wait for next year! Thank you so much to all of the hardworking crew that tirelessly worked to make the day perfect for us all. 

Smashing Strategies for Guided Math: Workshop Rotations

Welcome to the first post of Smashing Strategies for Guided Math, a monthly-link up between 9 teacher bloggers! Each of us will share a guided math strategy, a teaching tip, and sometimes a freebie! At the end, you’ll have the chance to win a product that will assist you in your math workshop! 

Oh, how guided math has changed my life for the better! My Master's Degree is in literacy and I would teach reading groups all day long if I could... but what I discovered along the way is that I ACTUALLY do love teaching math, when I do it correctly! When I made the switch from 5th grade down to 1st, I began doing flexible grouping for guided math and it made all the difference. My only regret is that I didn't start doing it sooner (because as you'll read from several other bloggers in this link-up, it CAN be done well in upper grades too!)

So you have read from several other bloggers on this link-up about using data to drive your instruction and differentiating your groups. One thing I love about guided math is it gives you a chance to mix up your kiddos. Chances are the kids grouped together for guided reading will not be in the same group with students for guided math! If you haven't read other blog posts, you'll need to be sure to PRE-ASSESS for each unit and use that data to create your guided math groups. 

Now what can be overwhelming at first, in my opinion, is not only creating differentiated lessons to meet the needs of your different groups, but what to do with the rest of the class while you're pulling groups! DO NOT FEAR, it really is quite simple. Once you set up your stations, they run by themselves! 

 You'll want to create a visual aid for your students so they know exactly where to go. Our math block is 60 minutes so we do three rotations each day and I split the kids into groups of approximately 6-8 students... it's not ideal but you can only do what you have time for.

We have four rotations that the students follow on a odd/even day basis.

So each day, every student sees me for Guided Math PLUS two centers.

Then the following day they see me, PLUS the other two centers.

These EDITABLE POWERPOINT templates are available for download by clicking HERE  

Here is an example of a student's schedule that will be portrayed on the board as a visual reminder. 

Ex.  Day 1                                                     Day 2 

Rotation 1 - Guided Math                  Rotation 1 - Math Using Technology

Rotation 2-Math Partner Games         Rotation 2 - Guided Math
Rotation 3 -Write About Math            Rotation 3 - Read About Math 

Let's break it down...

The first station is so simple, it's too good to be true. How many of you feel like you're bending over backwards to provide your students with cross-curricular instruction? Well, here is a simple way to do it! Provide your students with books about math. They can be simple picture books that reinforce math concepts. I had a student teacher that made it her project to create questions and games to go along with the books, giving each book a folder... that is a BONUS and not necessary. These books do not need to be leveled, the pictures will often support the words and concepts.

If you do scholastic book orders in your classroom, you can get TONS of these books for FREE! Brian P. Cleary, Jerry Pallotta, and Loreen Leedy are great authors to get started with to build your library! 

The second station also incorporates literacy. The shifts in the common core requires not only solving math problems but articulating WHY and HOW answers are found. The Write About Math station covers both of these aspects. I created for my students several word problem prompts that review previously taught concepts during the year. The students glue the AND explain in written paragraph how they found their answer.

(Click on the image above for the link to this product)

I tell my students to explain their answer as if someone had NO IDEA how to complete the problem... pretend that I am a younger student and you are teaching me how to do it! At first, I have to teach this skill explicitly because it requires quite a bit of higher level thinking. But as usual, they catch on quickly and are able to think more flexibly and articulate their reasoning. 

Although school is most definitely academic, it is also social. Math Partner Games, the third station, allows students to work collaboratively and interact socially while reinforcing previously taught concepts. 

We have a math manipulatives corner in my classroom, in which students can find the tools they need to play the games successfully. Generally, I will leave out the items necessary to play the specific games and they will help themselves to supplemental manipulatives. 

Our school uses Math Investigations, which comes with several games. I found the maintenance of these games overwhelming, so over summer breaks I would copy the game boards and direction sheets and then laminate them. This way I could pull the file folder out with the game that went along with the skill I wanted to reinforce and not have to reinvent the wheel each day! 

As an added bonus, the storage bins served as seats at our guided math/reading table! Pretty neat way to save space and the kids LOVE them! 

Math Using Technology, the fourth and final station, is ALWAYS a favorite of my first and second graders! We are very fortunate to have four desktop computers in my classroom, plus I wrote a grant for two additional laptops. Our school had a laptop cart and an ipad cart that could be signed out for a portion of the day as well, and I definitely love to take advantage of that! 

There are several websites that are FABULOUS such as ixl.com -- which can be used without paying a fee, however you can not track your students work unless you subscribe. After a colleague and I used it in our classroom, we presented it to the administration and they bought a school-wide subscription. fun4thebrain.com, xtramath.com, and splashmath.com can all be used without subscriptions as well.

I have my students keep a simple log of what they worked on that day, so there is a form of accountability for their actions... as we all know that is sometimes necessary! Though the fear of losing the privilege of technology is enough for most kiddos to stay on task!

Do you have any additional websites you use in your classroom??? I'd love to hear about them in the comments section!!!

NOW, I realize everyone does not have access to computers and ipads in their classrooms... that is not the only form of math technology. Calculators are a great tool for kids to learn to use... or you could change the station to be the WILD CARD STATION in which some days kids do fact fluency practice, differentiated worksheets (blah.. as much as I hate worksheets, I do realize repetition in math is ESSENTIAL and sometimes necessary in math), games, word problems, etc. 

So as you can see, much of the work for the math rotations is front loaded. Once you do the following:

1. Create your visual schedule for the students. (CLICK HERE for the free editable version of the one I use in my classroom)

2. Gather your Read about Math books -- your school librarian should be able to be helpful with this as well. If you call and ask him/her to pull books for you, they generally have a good supply on hand! If you are interested, I have Leveled Reading Comprehension Passages with Math Concepts available for purchase that include math questions as well as written response questions that could be used for Read About Math or Write About Math)

3. Gather your Write About Math prompts -- They can be as simple as two step word problems, generated on your own or pulled from your curriculum. My Second Grade Math Story Problems and Math Review Bundle contains several word problems to get you started.

4. Organize your Math Games -- if you take a look at your manipulatives, you can make up several games just using Base Ten Blocks and Dice.

5. Set up your Math Using Technology or Wild Card Station with an optional form of accountability for your students.

**Hint: It's helpful to add frequently used websites to the FAVORITES column on the computers for students to find, without asking for your help.**

Want some more SMASHING STRATEGIES for GUIDED MATH?? Check out these other blog posts!