Guided Math: Using Guided Math with Small Groups

I was happy to spend some time reading and digging deeper into this chapter.  Assessment has always been an important part to driving my small group instruction.  However, with that being said, much of my summer "to-do" lists revolves around creating and figuring out how to better implement meaning assessments to keep my guided math groups more fluid.  

How does using flexible, needs-based grouping affect student learning?  How can it affect teaching strategies employed by teachers?

By keeping groups flexible it allows teachers to best meet the needs of students.  It allow us to differentiate better.  Teachers can group students based on their strengths and needs.  Educators are then able to customize their teaching to challenge all students.  By using flexible needs-based grouping students are all able to learn the common core strategies and skill but teachers are able to teach each group in different ways to help them better understand.  

What data do you have that can guide you as you create small groups of students guided math practice?

I use an assortment of data to help create small groups amongst my first graders.  However, with that being said I am always looking for more because I know that both formal and informal assessments weaved throughout my instruction can help me to make the most of my time with each of the small groups.  

As an educator, I find myself always wanting more time.  It is the one thing I can't change but yet I find myself always wanting more of.  This portion of the chapter I found extremely useful and beneficial to me as I strive to make every minute during my small group time count with my first graders. 

In my teaching career I quickly learned the significance of differentiating instruction for my students.  This is because I had with 28 first graders sitting in front of me every year.  I learned as I tried to teach to the "middle"  I was only really reaching a few students.  Every year my class, just like all classrooms across the country, have a range of abilities, a range of strengths and a range of struggles.  Students simply learn differently from one another.  Differentiation allows us to best meet each child's individual learning goals.  Creating small groups of students with similar learning needs allows us to target specific areas that promote growth in students.  Small group structures allow all students to learn the core mathematical concepts while varying the way in which they learn them.  

Next year will be my eighth year teaching first graders.  EIGHT YEARS?!  How crazy, but I must say I do love these little ones.  With eight years comes knowing and understanding "mathematical hot spots" for first graders.  Hot spots are those concepts that are tricky each and every year you teach them.  No matter how many different ways you address them and how well planned out your lesson is...students still struggle with the concept.  By addressing a "hot spot" concept in small group, teachers are able to closely monitor student understanding.  When teaching a "hot spot" concept you can quickly send away students to their independent centers when they demonstrate their understanding.  If students are struggling, you can work with them to help each child better understand the mathematical concept and help alleviate any misconceptions.   

Assessment is a very important part of teaching.  We need to know and understand each student's strengths and struggles to truly meet their learning needs.  Small group structures give teachers a wonderful opportunity to informally assess students' learning needs.  In small group instruction teachers have the chance to interact closely with students so that meaningful informal assessments are not only possible but also taking place on a regular basis.  In small group structures assessment can take place in a variety of ways: with whiteboards, through teacher-led conversations, through peer interactions, etc. Again, small groups give teacher the opportunity to understand a student's strengths and struggles which then allow the teacher to better meet each child's learning targets.  

The majority of my teaching career has been working with excited, energetic six and seven year olds... so perhaps this changes as students get older...?  Teaching with manipulatives is hard, challenging, extremely difficult when trying to do it whole class.  Even if students have time at the beginning to "explore" with manipulatives when they are given base ten blocks or unifix cubes to use for math you best believe they are wanting to stack them and watch them fall (every...single... time.)  Using manipulatives in a small group setting is much more manageable.  

Using manipulatives is an important part to helping students become involved in the learning process.  Research continues to show that what we say and do helps us retain information better than simply seeing and hearing a concept being taught.  Therefore, in order to promote long-term learning it is important to engage students in hands activities. If we simply model using one set of manipulatives to the class it does not give children the opportunity to become fully engaged in their learning.   Also, when using manipulatives in a small group setting teachers can better facilitate conversations and ask guiding questions to all students to dig deeper with their understanding .  Giving children the opportunity to manipulate objects and discuss learning with peers is extremely beneficial to all involved.  

The common core is insisting students dig deeper into mathematics.  Students are no longer just required to "know" an answer but they also need to be able explain their answer.  Children need to understand the process.  Mathematics is complicated and there are a lot of pieces to every skill students are expected to learn.  "To achieve full competency in mathematics, students must also learn to problem solve, offer mathematical reasoning and proof for their mathematical ideas, communicate mathematically, make mathematical connections, and represent mathematical ideas accurately" (Sammons, 2013.) 

As teachers, we need to fully address process skills in order to help children become successful mathematicians.  By working with small groups of students, with similar learning needs, teachers are able to address the process skills in their small group instruction.  Through well thought-out questions, teachers can challenge students as well as offer support. Small groups give children the opportunity to take risks and talk about mathematical concepts in a safe environment.  Students can work through math process skills with peers and teacher guided questions.  As children share the strategies they use to solve their problems, teachers can guide them to better explain their ideas as well as guide them to form a deeper understanding.  

Here is an editable freebie that I use to help structure my small group time each week.  Please click here or the picture below to grab a copy!   

An InLinkz Link-up

Happy Thursday!


Literacy Centers and the Common Core

I love using centers in my classroom. I love how my little friends get so excited to see what we are doing. However, I do not love how much time it takes to come up with centers, prep the centers and set them all up. So, over the years, I've ended up settling on a few centers that I just rotate through with a little variety based on themes, seasons, materials used, etc. The centers I use with my little friends all address the Common Core Standards which is one reason that I keep repeating what I'm using! I think centers are a great way to ensure that students are practicing what they have learned while working in a more interactive, engaging manner. are a few general ideas for literacy centers to use throughout the year- hope you find something to add to your rotations! 

Reading: Literature & Informational Texts

In CCSS, whether reading literature or informational text, the main purpose of all the standards is that students are reading and responding to what they are reading. The key to this for me is students MUST be reading and responding every single day! This can be done in a variety of formats- you read a book to students, students read on their own, read with a partner, listen to reading, etc. No matter what format you choose, students just must be reading to become better readers. After they have read, they should then be responding to what they read. I personally love using graphic organizers with my little friends because it gives them a chance to both draw and write. Plus, they can be done on their own in centers- you don't have to be right there with them. Graffiti tables are also a lot of fun for kids because it is just a huge excitement to "draw" on a table! :)

I also love using post its...especially on our story map.  My little friends draw a picture or write on the post it and then stick it on the right spot on our story map.  Afterward, you can always refer back to the story map with your students and discuss the text. Next year, I think I'm going to create a Story Map that is more specifically for Informational Text for my little friends to use as well.

I also make sure to include comfy options- pillows, carpets etc, make reading that much more enjoyable for students. And of course, magnifying glasses or any little object that will keep students engaged while reading is a worthwhile thing to include as party of your center materials.

Foundational Skills

Foundational skills are a major part of our centers for the entire year because really the concepts addressed within the CCSS in this section are so important to develop little readers. FCRR has lots of center options, including the ABC Arcs shown below. I also use our magnetic letters and board to practice any type of skill. Bingo chips also make finding letters exciting. :)

If you have them, iPads, are so wonderful for keeping kids engaged. I usually include some sort of hands on activity within the iPad centers so they are doing something first and then following up on the iPad- making words, searching for vowels, etc. Puzzles are also great for little learners- I have a variety of puzzles that cover so many different topics that we have gone over and my friends love using them.

Again...I try to make centers fun! I love using our colorful buckets for any sort of sorting centers- I use sorts ALL the time with my friends. We focus on digraphs, blends, sight words, word families, etc in the sorts- I generally always follow the same format with my sorts, so each time I'm just focusing on what type of words they will be looking for rather than managing how the center is run. Also, my phonemic awareness basket is full of all sorts of materials so that I can switch up what we are using often, but keep the content we are covering consistent.

Of course this depends on the grade level you teach, but with CCSS Writing Standards, basically students need to be writing different types of texts and incorporating a variety of details.  This starts with labels for early kindergarten and moving on to actual sentence/story writing as they progress.

One of the keys here for me is that students are practicing writing (just like reading!). To keep this exciting for my students, I just include a variety of materials, such as- labeling pictures, writing on white boards, using fun scrapbook paper, responding to prompts, responding to pictures and using sight words to make sentences.

Thanks to Hazel Owl, Lovin' LitZip-a-Dee Doo-Dah Designs for all the fun graphics!
One of my goals for this upcoming school year is to make sure I am addressing the CCSS Standards within Speaking & Listening and Language. There are a lot of important points within those standards, so I'll be working on incorporating those daily next year!

Have a great day!

Trying out new technology- Management Tricks!

I went to a tech workshop this week where I learned some great new tech ideas to use in the classroom.  I love having the opportunity to learn new tech ideas and see how other teachers integrate iPads/Smartboards/laptops into their daily classroom routines.  So, of course, I wanted to show you some new tech ideas to try out! Today, I'm sharing two free apps that are helpful for classroom management.

You know how it can be a real challenge to choose who goes first for activities, no matter what the activity? Well, I generally go with the "I'm looking for a friend who is sitting the quietest and that friend will get to choose first" method...however, sometimes the excitement to sit quietly wears in comes, Tap Roulette! This free app will definitely make students way more motivated to get quiet and have the chance to get picked to go first! It's a great use of an iPad/iPod...especially if you only have one in your room...and super simple to use- your little friends can definitely even be in charge of this one. Steps are listed below- it really only takes a few seconds and you'll know who is going first. All you need is a few friends' fingers on the iPad and one person (probably you) to click "pick finger" and then one finger is randomly selected and you and your students then know who is going first. 

I think Tap Roulette would be super for centers -- instead of always resorting to something along the lines of, "if you have the longest hair, you can go first" each group can put their fingers down and just a second later they'll know who is going first. Or, for partner activities, both partners can put their fingers down and then a second later they will know who is going first and that it was totally randomly more arguing...hopefully. :) For larger group activities, this also can be used in combination with my "looking for a quiet friend"- I can choose three or four of the quietest friends to come up and then use the app and go from there!

Another free app that I learned about that is also great for choosing a student, especially with an entire class is iLEAP Pick a Student. This would be perfect for picking an order for who is sharing something first, who gets to choose a book first, etc. It is also quick to set up where you can list all your students by name or simply have their number listed and then it is ready to use. There are two options for how you can pick students. Turn based- each student gets a turn before anyone else can have a 2nd turn OR random- names are selected totally randomly each time. Again, I think my little friends could even be in charge of this when it comes to clicking the buttons and choosing students- it really would make picking students that much more exciting. :)

Have a great day!

Summer has arrived!

We are officially now on summer break and are finally ready to link up with Mrs Jumps Class for her fun Ten Things I Want to do this Summer

Clearly we have more on our lists to do this summer...but this pic pretty much sums it up! Summer is here!

1. Hang out by Aylin's pool! Pools & beaches just make us so very we are very ready for this to begin!

2. Organize and clean up our homes- this isn't quite as exciting as being at the pool, but definitely needs to happen and will be worth it when it's all done!

3. Relax!

4. Workout- Working out first thing in the morning without it being the crack of dawn is such a wonderful thing- ready for that to happen a lot this summer..started it off today!

5. Spend time with family and friends!

6. Read!

7. Catch up on TPT creations and blogging- these last few weeks of school are so exhausting- it'll be nice to have time again to get going on our blogging & creations to do lists!

8. Watch some good tv shows/movies-- Netflix is just the best thing ever...especially during the summer! We have so many shows/movies we want to watch...any recommendations on the very best ones that we absolutely have to see??

9. Cook Book a Week! So excited to get going on some real good, healthy cooking this summer-- we're going to try out a "cook book a week" to try out some new recipes! Yum yum- I love cooking...and eating!

10. Yummy Zoku Treats- I'm also going to tackle making some of these super fun Zoku recipes-- we always make the simple ones, but this summer I want to make the fancy ones! If you don't have one of these, I highly recommend the purchase- you can make yummy frozen treats in just a few minutes!

Happy Summer!!!

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