I remember the first experience I had with differentiating in a classroom and man was I horrible at it. Three weeks after graduating college I was put into a second grade inclusion classroom with students who had already had three...yes three teachers before me. It wasn't easy and I got a lot of support from my team. In those six months that I was there, I learned that differentiating isn't easy but is necessary for every child.
Now enough of that, what I'm sure you want to know is how am I making it work now? Now differentiating is easier for me, while it is still not flawless, I have developed a system that has worked for me. Be forewarned, we don't do math rotations every single day. If my kids are struggling with a concept, we do it whole group and just nix the rotations.
Back to the rotations.... I'm sure that most of us have heard of the Daily 5 Reading and if you haven't, it is essentially a different way of looking centers and you let the students have their own choices. Really cool stuff if you ask me. I use the ideas from Daily 5 Reading to create my own version of Daily 5 Math. As you know, I am super geeky so of course there is technology included.
When first starting out, I assessed my students using a variety assessments; AIMS Web M-Comp, 3-minute math quiz, Discovery Education Assessment, and my own simple observations. Once I had decided where my students were at when it came to math, I created the sacred chart. Students were grouped depending on their scores from all of these different assessments. Once the groups were made, the fun began!
Typically, we do a Number Talks for the first part of our math session. My kids sit on the floor while I write a problem for them on the board for them to do mentally. After that, we usually go into a mini-lesson of what we are learning this week. This can range from 5 minutes to up to 20 or so. I just gauge where my kids are at and some days we end up skipping our math groups because I feel that they need more time.
On the days that we do our math groups my students have four rotations: Meet with Ms. Boucher, Sumdog.com (Computers), Math Worksheet/Math Facts, and Math Games.
When going on Sumdog.com (Computers), the students get to play for 10-15 minutes participating in contests, reinforcing their core skills, or practicing the standards that I have picked for that lesson. I can go onto Sumdog and decide how long I want my lessons to last as well as what standards I want my students to work on.
Meeting with Ms. Boucher is the most flexible of the four rotations. We will usually do a math problem in our math notebook (and more recently using the Educreations Application- Free on iTunes) and then reinforce the mini-lesson that we did that day. My students in the past two sessions have learned how to use the iPad and have even recorded their own math problems. (If you would like to see examples, please feel free to contact me).
Math Games come from K-5 Math Teaching Resources and are easy to use. Each game is linked to a standard, has instructions, and even has the materials needed for the games. The kids love to play these and have 2-3 games to pick from each week.
Math Worksheet/Math Facts can be done independently or with a partner, this is really when the students show what they know. The math worksheet is whatever we have learned about that day and should only take 5-10 minutes. I wanted to keep all of my rotations under 15 as I have 11 boys who are bored after that amount of time ;)
When they are done, my students do Math Facts which is just flash cards that I have made out of construction paper. They get a new set every 2-3 weeks, one to keep at home and one set to keep at school.
After I have rotated with all of my students, they get ready to transition into the next subject. I have found this system to work much better than typical lecturing and doing everything with the students. When learning a new skill like we did this week, I kept the students at their desk majority of the time and we used manipulatives and went through each problem together.
I am not opposed to doing this when needed, but I have found that I can really see where my students are struggling when they come back with me that I never want to go back to the old way. I love my math groups, I love the technology used, and I also love the independence that my students are learning.
How do you structure your math time? What works for you and what doesn't?
I would love to hear what you use in your classroom!
Have a great rest of the week and
Sara Boucher is a Robotics and Computer Programming Teacher in Los Lunas, NM who is developing her own set of super geeks.