Guided Math {Chapter Six}

In the last two weeks, the Guided Math Book Study has taken us through whole group and small group instruction.  For chapter six, we move on to thinking about what students do during Math Workshop.  Math Workshop can be called many different things however these components can be applied to any period of time where you are working with small groups and students are working on other tasks in small groups or independently.  

Review Previously Mastered Concepts:
We all know that math is a process in which students need repeated practice over previously mastered skills.  They need this practice because they will be continually building off of earlier skills in order to move on to more difficult tasks.  Throughout the school year, you may need to factor in centers or activities into Math Workshop that allow students to practice skills that were once mastered.

Practice for Math Fact Automaticity:
Oh math facts!  As a special education teacher, I see students struggle with these and it is so frustrating both for them and their classroom teacher.  I have many students who work and work at them and STILL can’t master them.  Poor memory skills are often common in lower achieving students.  As teachers, we know that students who have not mastered math facts struggle in so many mathematical areas because they are lacking a solid foundation and require their working memory to be focused on solving math facts versus solving complex math problems.  When possible, we need to provide students with resources to practice math facts during Math Workshop.

Use Mathematical Games to Reinforce Concepts:
I think that times are changing in the educational world.  The use of games in the classroom is growing more and more popular in order to practice skills in all subjects, especially math.  When I was in school, we did book work or worksheets.  Games were a reward and were rarely used.  Thanks to TeachersPayTeachers and other online resources, I see more and more teachers using these in the classrooms.  We are competing with computer and video games, a textbook full of math problems is not going to be engaging to them! Bring on the games!

Practice Problem Solving:
Students need a LOT of practice with problem solving and isn’t that the goal of math in general?  To solve problems and apply them to real life?  We need to provide students with the procedures and strategies needed to solve problems and then allow them the time to practice it.  Sammons suggests having the problem solving center stocked with “markers, chart paper, graph paper, stickers, glue, and scissors to create representations of the problems.”  If these materials are available to them to use while solving problems, they can show their understanding in journals or response sheets.  I don’t know about you, but I’m adding that to my “Summer To-Do List.”  She also suggests assigning jobs to students working in problem solving groups together.  One person could be the leader who is in charge of reading the problem and leads the discussion about how to tackle the problem.  While another may be assigned to gather and clean up materials used in solving the actual problem.  By assigning roles, this eliminates students arguing over how to approach or solve a problem.  They can just get to work!

Investigate Mathematical Concepts:
This is something that I am so excited to implement into my classroom.  I am working on finding and creating various investigations that allow students to investigate math in real life situations.  During Math Investigations, you provide students with a task relating current events or the time of school year.  Some suggestions from Sammons were to have students research election data and analyze it, planning classroom purchases of materials, planning a classroom garden, or researching types of transportation and the costs and time frames associated with travel.  Depending on your grade level, you could create many investigations for students to complete throughout the school year.  You could make them as big or as small as you wish based on the time you have to dedicate to it.

Write in Math Journals:
Writing + Math = Difficult for students!  I remember my first college class where I had to write a paper about math concepts.  Can you say difficult?  By the end of the semester, I was a master at it.  Did something change about my mathematical understanding?  Not really, I was just presented with opportunities to where I could practice my skill and receive feedback.  Overtime, I became a better writer about math concepts.  Students need this practice as well.  They need opportunities to “record mathematical observations, meanings of vocabulary words, write about conjectures they have made, to log steps they used in solving a problem, and write about their understanding of mathematical concepts.” (Sammons, 196)  I can’t wait to implement Teaching to Inspire in 5th’s Math Journals in my classroom next year!

Complete Computer-Related Work:
Just as mentioned with using mathematical games to help reinforce math skills, you can do the same with computer games.  By aligning them with the current curriculum or skills that need continual practice and teaching them how to use the properly while working independently, they can be an extremely effective use of independent work time.

Complete Math-Related Work from Other Subject Areas:
Since math is rarely used in isolation, math workshop is a perfect time to tie in other subjects to allow students to see real life applications of concepts you are working on.  Find engaging activities that allow students to relate what they are currently learning to other subjects!  Plus, you kill two birds with one stone!  ๐Ÿ™‚

Complete Work from Small-Group Instruction:
So let’s say you begin working with a small group.  You do a quick lesson.  You get them started on an assessment or assignment.  They are doing pretty well independently.  Do you have to hover over them until they complete it?  No!  Send them off to work on their own during Math Workshop time.  When they have completed the assignment, they can turn it in to a predetermined area.  This allows you to move on to the next group and be more productive during the allotted time.  Just remember, there isn’t a rule that says ‘What happens in small-group stays in small group.’  It is ok to branch off and allow them to finish on their own.

What do you do during Math Workshop?

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Math is Real Life! {July}

I’m joining up again with 4mulafun, The Teacher Studio, Miss Math Dork, and Teaching to Inspire in 5th for the Math is Real Life Linky!
This month, I want to share a little secret with the bloggy world.  Those who are closest to me have all witnessed this confession.  I am an addict.  It’s hard to admit.  My math post today is to share how my addiction relates to math and puts a financial strain on my family.  
It’s just a polar pop, what were you thinking?!?!  ๐Ÿ™‚  Just kidding.  My husband says I’m an addict…..I’m still in denial.  

Just for fun, I decided that I would use my love for Diet Coke in a real life math problem!  During the school year, I stopped for a Polar Pop each and every day on my way to school.  The morning shift ladies at the local Circle K know me by name!  I stopped in the other day and the manager said she missed seeing me every morning and that a couple of the girls had been worried about me.  Pathetic, huh?

Take a look at this math:

180 days of school x $0.85 per Polar Pop = $153!
Oh my goodness!  Want to know the scary part?  That doesn’t count all of the times that I stopped ON MY WAY HOME!  I don’t stop every afternoon, but at least two days a week.  Or the times when I would head to work in my room on a Saturday…..or during the breaks…..Ahhh!  I have to calculating… makes me depressed… ๐Ÿ™‚

Check out Miss Math Dork’s page for more great Math is Real Life Posts! 

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Independent Work Time: How I Differentiate Effectively

So if you have followed my blog for long, you have heard about my use of what I call a “Bubble Page.”  With moving from the special education setting, where I used this in strictly reading, I had to find a way to use this in general education math.  As I worked my way through this, I decided that this is something that could take differentiation to the max in any classroom.

Differentiation is something that is a passion of mine and something I feel is a great strength in my daily routines.  Maybe it’s the special education teacher in me, but I believe that you have to meet students where they are, not necessarily where we want them to be.  So I introduce to you, the Bubble Page!

What is a Bubble Page?

A Bubble Page is a list of tasks which remain the same throughout the entire year.  These tasks are selected based on grade level standards, common weaknesses in students, and providing a spiral review for students throughout the entire year.  Bubble Pages are completed during independent work time as part of Guided Reading or Math.  During this time, students work to complete their fifteen tasks as I pull small groups.

1. Make a List of Key Skills for Your Grade Level

Select a set of daily activities that range in levels of difficulty.  For example, in my fifth-grade general education classroom, I know that my students will need constant practice in:
  *Word Problems
  *Explaining Mathematical Processes
  *Math Facts (for some students)

2. Find Activities to Align with Key Skills

After you have made a list of critical skills for your grade level, it is time to dive in.  This is the difficult [but fun] part!  It is time to find activities, resources, and practices that will address your needs.

Math Fact Practice

Since I teach fifth grade, many of my students have already mastered their math facts.  However, it would be foolish to pretend that I won’t have a handful of students who still need this skill.  To address this, I utilize my Mastering Math Facts program to provide a quick and meaningful way of practicing math facts.  I also have a math facts template, where I have my students work to repeatedly say and write their math facts.  It is not fun, but my kids do progress through their facts over time.


I wanted my students to be fluent in anything computation.  In fifth grade, we have to be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide any whole number, fraction, or decimal.  Whew!  That is a mouthful, and difficult for my students.  My goal for them is to not see a multiplication problem, after spending weeks working on division, and freak out.  You know what I’m talking about!  In my TpT store, I have so many printables and task cards to address basic computation concerns.

Word Problems

I have seriously tried to create word problems for my students, but it a struggle to force myself to do! Because of that, I searched TpT for something amazing! I found the perfect product in The Teacher Studio’s store!  She has a bundle of word problems addressing mixed operations, multi-step problems, measurement, and fractions.  

Math Journals

It is somewhat of a pet peeve of mine, but I just can’t stand when kids cannot explain why or what they are doing in a mathematical process.  If they cannot explain it, then guess what?  They don’t fully understand it.  To help solve this problem, I created Math Journals for my students to complete after each skill.  They are fabulous for integrating writing into math instruction.  I have a full blog post about it {here}.

3. Find Activities to Practice “Weekly Skills”

Now that you’ve covered your spiral review type of activities, it is time to focus on all of your other grade level standards.  For example, although my kids will be practicing multiplying and dividing decimals all year, they still need to practice other units, such as graphing and area of rectangles.  Begin looking through your files for centers, games, or activities that will help address your grade level standards.  

Weekly Centers

For me, I have two centers that I call “Weekly Centers”.  These centers vary depending on what we are working on that particular week.  I might use task cards, centers, or other games that I’ve found online or created myself.  These are really the only centers that require intense planning on my part.  

Choice Boards

I have also LOVED having Choice Boards as a center that remains the same nearly all year.  Teaching to Inspire with Jennifer Findley has an amazing bundle that includes all fifth grade standards.  I simply pull out the choice board that coordinates with the standards we are currently covering.  It requires very minimal planning on my part, and my kids really love it!

I Can Game

Another product that I use all year long, is from One Stop Teacher Shop.  She created I Can Games for each fifth-grade standard.  These are so engaging for my students and are self-checking!

4. Create Bubble Pages

For this section, I try to organize my “Getting Started” list of least to most difficult.  For example, I would love for every student to be able to walk into fifth grade with all of their math facts mastered, but they don’t.  I would also love for students to walk in a be able to subtract using regrouping, but they don’t.  Some students need additional practice.  If I ignore this need, I am hurting my students.  On the flip side, other kids are able to memorize facts quickly and easily and do not need daily practice.  They need to spend their independent work time working on more challenging and enriching content.

I then develop three to four levels based on the needs of my students.  I always tell teachers to think of their highest student and their lowest student from the past school year.  Would it be fair to make them do the same activities all day, every day? NO!  So create bubble pages that will allow each and every student to work at a level that is perfect for them.  In my opinion and experience, this has been extremely beneficial for allowing independent work time to actually be meaningful, not just busy work.

5. Create a Practice Bubble Page

For the first weeks of school, I have my students complete a “Practice” Bubble Page.  During this time, EVERYONE has the same Bubble Page.  This allows me to properly teach expectations and procedures, while making notes about strengths and weaknesses for students.  I typically do not pull small groups during this time and instead spend the time really making sure that everyone understands and can complete my expectations for each task.

6. Assigning Bubble Page Levels

In my classroom, my students never know that some bubble pages are more difficult than others.  However, they are always motivated to change bubble pages.  They love exploring new activities or being able to decrease the number of times that they complete one task in order to increase other tasks.  This is generally very motivating for students to work and do their best.  If they find themselves stuck on something, they are great about seeking out help in order to not be held back by their work.

Generally, I use the following guidelines:
  *Finishing the fifteen tasks early in the week—–>Move them to a more difficult bubble page.
  *Being unable to finish the fifteen tasks within the week—–>Move to a less difficult bubble page.
  *While working hard throughout the week, seem to complete all tasks with ease—–> Stay on the current bubble sheet.
  *Finishing the fifteen tasks, yet not being able to do them accurately, possibly due to rushing—–>Depending on the student, I may discuss this issue with his/her parents or move to a less difficult bubble page.

7. Grading Bubble Pages

Although each of these Bubble Pages have different tasks, they all include the same number of tasks.  For some reason, I have been stuck on the number fifteen.  Each student has fifteen tasks, all meeting them at their level, that they must complete in one week’s time.  I like this number because that requires the students to complete three tasks on each of the five days of the week.  Generally, as long as students come into my room and get started right away, this is done with ease.

There are occasional kinks that must be considered when grading:
  *If we do not complete bubble pages due to schedule interruptions or tests, each student receives three points for that given day.  This number of points may vary depending on your total number of tasks.
  *If students are pulled to a small group for a particularly long period of time, I award them 1, 2, or 3 points depending on the amount of time in which they were in my group.  This sometimes comes when difficult skills are being discussed.
  *If a student has an excused absence, they are granted three points for that day.

Perks of Implementing Bubble Pages

What I have grown to LOVE about using these bubble pages, is the flexibility on my part.  It allows me to be the teacher I want to be by:
  *Having good routines and procedures that are conducive to learning.
  *Allow me to pull small groups with ease.
  *Provides a continuous spiral review of critical skills for the grade level.
  *Allows for the use of technology if/when available.
  *Gives students choices in their on learning.
  *Enables learning to still take place when a substitute is in the room or interruptions occur.
  *Encourages students to learn time management and being responsible, independent learners.

Feedback from Students

Interested in the product?  Check it out by clicking the image below!  ๐Ÿ™‚


Eight Ways to Use QR Codes in the Elementary Classroom

Number One: Differentiate Instruction
By using QR Codes in the classroom, you can link students to work that is tailored to their level.  Whether you are thinking about instruction in reading, mathematics, social studies, or science, all students walk into your room needing different things.  As the teacher, you can use QR Codes to link each and every student or small group to something that is tailored to fit their needs.  Have a reading passage in three or four different reading levels?  Perfect!  Link a QR Code to a PDF version of each of the different passages.  Your students won’t know who has what or the differences between the passages given.

Number Two: Engage Students
By using QR Codes at the beginning of a lesson or center, you instantly engage your students.  Maybe you want students to write about a given topic at the writing center, but you need to engage them in the topic or subject.  BAM!  A quick video that can usually be found online quickly about that topic and your students are quickly ready to write!

Number Three: Provide Background Knowledge
Need help building background knowledge for unfamiliar experiences?  QR Codes can be a great solution by allowing students to scan the QR Code and take you directly to an image, video, or short reading passage that you have selected.  For example, you are beginning a new unit or text that may be difficult for them to visualize or understand, a quick video or image can help your students better understand the setting or experiences being discussed.

Number Four: Save Time
Need to have web addresses, pdf files, documents, or other important materials at your students finger tips?  This is possible through the use of QR Codes.  Students can be viewing the website of your choice within seconds of scanning.  Image how much time you would save without saying to your students, “Ok, type in, http…(pause)… ://…(pause)…www……”  After five minutes of spelling out each and every part, you still find yourself telling three or four students, “OOOOOOH goodness!  You didn’t type it correctly…..let’s see what might have been left out.”

Number Five: Reveal Answers
Can’t help each and every student at once?  Shame on you!  (*sarcasm*) Allow your students to receive instant feedback through the use of QR Codes.  In math or other subjects where work can be shown, you can even insert images of YOUR work to allow students to not only see the correct answer but the process in which you found that particular answer.

Number Six: Listening Centers
Tired of your kids wasting time by messing with your CD or tape player?  You can create audio recordings of your favorite books and link them using QR Codes.  This can easily be done by printing out the QR Code and using clear packing tape to secure it to the book.  Then, when you place a series of books at the listening center, everyone grabs a device with a QR Code Reader and they are ready to hear your beautiful voice fluently read aloud to them!

Number Seven: Provide How to Videos or Directions
Tired of repeating the same thing multiple times?  Have a student who needs something repeated multiple times?  Create a QR Code with the link attached to your video and students can replay your directions or steps to complete a problem as many times as needed.  You make your life easier, and allow students to have access to everything needed to be successful on that given assignment.

How do you use QR Codes?  Comment below so others can see!

Want directions on how to make them yourself?  Click the image above for a free download! 

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