Monthly Archives

April 2017

End of the Year A-Z Countdown

I have been doing an A-Z Countdown in my classroom every year for a few years now. It’s my FAVORITE way to end the year!

What is an A-Z Countdown?

In the last 26 days of the school year, you celebrate a different letter of the alphabet by doing something special. I love using it in my third grade classroom because it’s the first time my students will have end of the year testing and it’s a stressful time of year! The A-Z Countdown lets them have something to look forward to each day in between all the test prep and allows a little extra fun in our room. I have seen a lot of people do an A to Z countdown over the years but I’ve tailored my A to Z countdown to be the most exciting it can be for my class and now yours too!

Why Do It?

It’s FUN for everybody involved! My students and I both love doing this. It also makes the last 26 days of the school year so special for us and lets me treasure the time we have together a little bit more.

How to Get Started

I have a FREEBIE in my TPT store to help you get started! Download it for free to see what I use for my A-Z Countdown and then change it to what you need in your own room!

Want Details on Each Day?

There is a detailed guide on what I do for each A-Z Countdown Day in my own classroom here!

Every day of the countdown you get:
-A poster to display what day it is
-parent reminders to send home each day
-a page that shows how I’ve implemented that countdown day in my own classroom! This includes tips and pictures to make the most out of each day!

The A to Z countdown has been used in my classroom four years in a row. This packet gives you the tips to make each day the best it can be!

I hope you have a happy end of the school year!!

Uncategorized

April Math Centers

These are the centers that I am putting out for the month of April. These April Math Centers are spiraling what my students are working on as we get closer to state testing. We are working on measuring with rulers and making line plots with fractional amounts.

April Math Centers Whole Group Lesson:

On Mondays, I do a whole group lesson on whatever school we are learning. To practice measurement, we glued this interactive lesson into our math notebooks during our whole group time.

At Teacher Time:

When students come see me at the back table, they are working on basic, on grade-level work. This week, they were given a packet of measuring worksheets to help them practice measuring to the nearest quarter inch. It’s difficult to use real rulers to practice this skill since a real ruler goes up to 1/16 of an inch. This packet I made perfectly aligns with what third graders need to know. You can find this packet HERE. 🙂 

At Free Choice:

When students go to their Free Choice April Math Centers station, they get to choose what they’d like to work on. All of the centers shown in the picture above are what we have on our Choice Chart this month. Each time they complete a center, they X it out. My students get to go to Free Choice for one of their three centers each day.

I am a big fan of puzzles so I’ve put my Spring Math Puzzles for Third Grade as the first six centers on my kids’ choice chart .

Next, to help them practice with rulers, I have them practicing measuring sand castles to the nearest inch. You can find this here. 

I’m also a big fan of brain teasers! There a lot of great ones on TPT. Here’s the one I have in my math centers for April. Emojis are great!

Each month, I also put a math sort in my free choice centers. These are great cut and paste activities that I require my students do each month. Their easy to use as a quick check and my kids really enjoy them too! This month, my students are doing the one that has them practice finding the measurement to the nearest inch, half inch, and quarter inch.

I am literally OBSESSED with these color by number pages! There are SO many to choose from on TPT but these are my favorite (from Inspiration 4 Education) for three reasons. First, they are reasonably priced. Second, you can’t see what the picture is until it’s colored in. Third, the questions and answers are all on the same page which means less copies for me and easier to follow directions for my kiddos! The picture above is from the Easter set I have!

Next up, I put my fractions as whole numbers game in my centers. Students glue each fraction next to the correct picture. It’s an easy way to practice this tricky skill for third graders. A lot of my students still mix up the difference between 4/4 and 4/1 at this point in the year. This is a great spiral review for them. Find it here. 

Teacher Choice Centers:

Teacher Choice centers are the centers I choose for my students to do each day. These are all of my Teacher Choice centers for April Math Centers.

 

I have a couple of Hungry for Peeps games out this week. My students have to sort the peeps into the correct mouth! It’s great for the month of April and is adorably cute:) The Hungry for Peep games I have out right now are identifying fractions, equivalent fractions, and division facts but I have over 30 of them in my TPT store. 

My students are also making Bunny Line Plots using this fun game from my April Monthly Math Centers pack. They have to practice making a line plot based on how tall each bunny is as a fraction.

This April Fool’s Game is also at my Teacher Choice centers this week. It helps students practice finding the area of rectilinear shapes and plays along with the April Fool’s Day theme.

My students can also ALWAYS use more practice with telling time. This game called Grab It! is perfect for practicing that skill. You can find it here.  It’s perfect for April Math Centers.

In addition to the games above, I have an Earth Day game out right now too where students learn about recycling and also practice measuring to the nearest quarter inch. I have a lot of these in my store. Here’s the link to the measuring to the nearest quarter inch and here’s the link to all of them. 

These Easter egg puzzles are a great racing game for up to four students. The kids each take a different colored egg and race to put all of their egg pieces back together again. Whoever does it the quickest wins! Find it here.  Great game for the month of April!

This QR code game is also a big hit in my classroom. Each time they solve a card, they scan the QR code and find the letter that matches it. They are able to solve the Mystery Phrase using the cards provided. You can find it here and this one practices identifying fractions.  These April Math Centers are perfect for Teacher Choice.

I love to use this game with four students in my classroom at a time. Each team gets a different set of cards that line up in a different order. This month, the cards practice breaking up equations using the distributive property. Find Line Them Up here!

This game is called Easter Egg Collector! Students have to sort the eggs into the correct basket based on the answers they provide. I have my students playing the Comparing Fractions version but you can find over 30 versions of it right here. 

Another skill my students always need more help with is creating and answering questions about bar graphs and pictographs. I put out this game this week that has students create questions about silly bar graphs and they had a blast with it! When a graph is silly, the kids are so much more engaged while learning at the same time! Here it is. 

Last but not least, my students are also practicing measurement with flamingos, unicorns, and dinosaurs! Sorry the pictures above are a little blurry. I quickly took some snapshots of them when they were already in their bags ready to go! I have my students start with the flamingos (measure to the nearest inch), then do the unicorns (measure to the nearest half inch), and then to the nearest quarter inch (dinosaurs). Find it here. 

That’s a wrap! These are all of the centers I am using in the first two weeks of April! I’ll be back in a few weeks to tell you what centers I’m putting out next! The picture above is is the homework I’ll be sending home to go along with measurement.

Let me know if there’s anything else you’d like me to blog about!

Math

Math Center Tips and Tricks

Here are ten math center tips and tricks that will help math centers flow more smoothly in your classroom!

#1:  Choose games that are easy to repeat. 

Anytime you choose games that you can repeat each week (but with a different skill), you spend less time talking about rules every time you put out new centers.

Some of my favorites include:

-Math Mysteries

-Color by Number

-Line Them Up

-Holiday Themed Games

-Puzzles

 #2: Take advantage of parent volunteers!

If you have parents that are willing to help out in your classroom, have them come in for math centers! I have a few that are a HUGE help to my students and do a great job making sure my lower ability students get the practice they need and my higher students understand the enrichment activities that I assign.

#3: Assign student helpers to assist you 

I use something called Teacher Clips in my classroom and they are a HUGE life saver!! I give a “teacher clip” to the four friends who I think would be the best teacher helpers during math that day. Anytime a student has a question about something during math centers, they have to go ask at least two of my teacher helpers before coming to interrupt me with my group at the back table. My kids and I both LOVE this concept. I typically choose my teacher helpers based on which kids were the most on-task the day before during centers or the kids that do a good job in the morning during morning work before we start math centers.

#4: Laminate EVERYTHING!

Anytime I can laminate something to reuse again the next year, I do! Now that I’ve been doing this a few years, I just have to pull out the centers that I used in previous years and am ready to roll!

 #5: Make math center time with your small group longer when necessary.

I always meet with my low group FIRST. That way, these students can get a little extra time with me if I need to extend their center time. These students benefit from the extra time with me while my high group won’t miss those few extra minutes.

#6: Circle the room while working with high kids.

When students come to the back table to work with me, I  assign each of my groups the same center work. To learn more about why I do this, click here. My high kids typically pick up our independent work much easier than my lower group. My high group is normally able to complete their Teacher Time activity with very few directions from me. During the time that my high group is with me, I take an opportunity to circle the room and also check in with my lower students while they’re working on their other math centers.

#7: Use photo boxes from Amazon or Michaels to organize your games and task cards! 

These amazing little boxes are great for keeping you organized when you have to change out your centers. I have tried manilla folders, paper bags, and plastic bags but the photo boxes are the BEST investment I have ever made!

#8: Have clear expectations how to clean up each math center.

I have my students complete math centers for about 18 minutes at each station. They also get about 2 minutes to clean up their center and move onto the next one. They know exactly where the centers need to go back and how to clean it up properly. We have a lot of discussions at the beginning of the year about how to NOT throw all of the pieces back into the box, how to make sure you have cleaned up all of your pieces, and to make sure you put the box back where you found it. A  lot of reminders and practice drills at the beginning of the year talking about this helps them stay on track the rest of the year.

#9: Give your students CHOICE in what they want to do!

When you give your students some choice in what math centers they can go to, they are more invested in their own learning. I use something called Choice Charts that allows my students some choice in what they’d like to practice. You can read more about them here and download them for FREE here.

#10: Do what works for you!

Math centers are not going to look identical in every classroom! Do what works for you! If you want to do three math centers a day, do it! If only two math centers a day is good for you, that’s okay! Some teachers like to have 20 centers to rotate between each cycle and some only have five. No matter what you choose, don’t overwhelm yourself. Choose what works best for you and your students will also appreciate it!

I hope these math center tips and tricks helped you prepare to start math centers in your own classroom! Let me know if there’s something else you’d like me to blog about relating to math centers!

Want to learn MORE about math centers? Check out these blog posts!

Part 1: Making Math Centers Work in Your Classroom

Part 2: Math Center Organization

Part 3: Math Centers Tips and Tricks (this post!)

 

Math, Uncategorized

Math Center Organization and Set Up

I set up my math centers in the same way each week. Math center organization can be overwhelming if you don’t have a plan.  Since I started using math centers in my classroom four years ago, I have tried a lot of different ways to set it up and make it run smoothly. The way below is the best way I have found.

Step 1: Choose how long your math centers will last.

I have tried setting up math centers on a weekly basis, a monthly basis, a biweekly basis, and on a daily basis. The way that causes me the least amount of stress is on a biweekly basis. When I did them daily, I felt like I had to explain new things each day and I took too much time going over directions. On a weekly basis, I was constantly changing out my math centers every weekend. On a monthly basis, I would run out of centers for kids to do or have to prepare 40-50 centers to last the whole month. It was too overwhelming.

On a biweekly basis, I change my centers every two weeks. I only have to worry about changing out all of the math center boxes every two weeks and it gives me a break every other week. By the time two weeks have passed, I am excited about new math centers and so are my kids. It’s the perfect amount of time for each rotation to last in my classroom.

Step 2: Write down all of your math centers. 

 

I keep a list of what math centers I’m going to put out each time I change my rotations. I write my centers down in my plan book so I can’t lose the list either! I decide which stations are going to be my Teacher Choice Centers and which are going to be my Free Choice Centers. To learn more about Teacher Choice vs. Free Choice, click here.

Step 3: Put Out All of Your Centers

My Free Choice Centers are always Centers 1-10. I store them in a ten-drawer cart I got from Amazon. It’s easy to load and unload each time I need to change the centers. It’s also easy for my students to identify and put back things appropriately.

Students know which centers they want to go to during their Free Choice station by looking at their choice chart! My students are given a blank choice chart each time we start a new round of centers every two weeks. I tell them what is in each drawer of their Free Choice Stations and they write it down on their Choice Chart. Having them write it down ensures that they are paying attention while I am explaining the centers. It also helps with math center organization because the kids know my clear expectations. The box at the bottom shows the kids how many dojos they can earn by completing each center too! Each center is worth a certain amount of dojo points to encourage students to complete their centers and challenge themselves to be the best mathematicians they can be! You can find a FREE copy of my Math Choice Charts on TeachersPayTeachers HERE!

All of my Teacher Choice centers are put into Sterilite bins. These are the centers that I choose for my kids to complete each day.

Step 4: Decide Which Centers Your Students Complete

I use all of the items below to help me stay focused and keep my math centers organized.

I use three items when I’m deciding which centers each child will go to. Each day, I pull out my list of all my math centers (shown below),

,

 

A blank sheet of paper with all my students’ names on it (shown below). I use this to keep track of which centers my kids have been to every day. Every day, I write down the Teacher Choice Center I choose for each of my students. That way, I know which centers each kid has been to and where I still need to send them within each two week period. It’s a great way to track each kid’s progress. I don’t keep up with which Free Choice centers they have been to on their choice chart. Just the Teacher Choice centers.

and a whiteboard that I write their centers on daily (shown below). I put the whiteboard under my document camera and project it on the Smartboard so they can quickly write down their centers without me having to call out which centers each child will go to each day. You can see in the picture below that where it says “me” is when each student will come to the back table to work with me, the number shows which Teacher Choice center they were assigned, and the blank spot is when they get to choose which Free Choice center they’d like to do that day.

I hope this helped you learn more about math center organization! To read more details about how centers run in my classroom, click HERE 🙂

Want to learn MORE about math centers? Check out these blog posts!

Part 1: Making Math Centers Work in Your Classroom

Part 2: Math Center Organization

Part 3: Math Centers Tips and Tricks (this post!)

Classroom Organization, Math, Uncategorized

Making Math Centers Work in Your Classroom!

Math centers are, by far, my students ‘FAVORITE part of the day! I look forward to it just as much as they do! If you’re interested in trying math centers out in your classroom, please keep reading!

How My Weekly Schedule Runs:

I do math centers every week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Let’s first talk about what I do at the beginning of each week.

   

On Mondays, I like to introduce the new skill I am teaching that week in a whole group setting. I am a big fan of interactive notebooks. My students get out their math notebook, record the new skill in their table of contents, and we glue the lessons into our notebook step by step. Students can then use this notebook as a reference during math centers and at home while completing homework. After we finish our notebook lesson, I have students complete a worksheet independently. This allows me to see who’s getting it and who’s not. I’m also able to plan who’s going to be in my high group, on grade level group, and below grade level group that week.

Tuesday: My math centers switch every two weeks. So every other Tuesday, I take about twenty minutes to explain the new math centers to my class. I try to explain the centers before our math block on these Tuesday mornings so students don’t lose any center time.

Wednesday: Students complete three math centers.

Thursday: Students complete three math centers.

Friday: Students complete two math centers and take a math quiz on the objective taught that week.

What Does Center Time Look Like?

My students complete math centers for an hour each day. I have my students complete 3 centers in that time frame. I typically set a timer for 18 minutes for each rotation(I leave a 2 minute transition time for changing to the next center/center clean-up). I always meet with my lowest group first, my on-grade level group second, and my highest students last. I do this because my lowest group normally takes the longest amount of time. Though I aim for eighteen minutes with each group, this isn’t always ideal. My low group needs my time and attention the most. So, having them meet with me first allows us to go over our time together if necessary. I can easily take a few minutes away from high group because they will finish their work much quicker as well.

What Are Students Doing During Math Centers?

All of my students have the “same” three centers every Tuesday-Friday. All of my students complete Teacher Time, Teacher Choice, and Free Choice each day.

Teacher Time

All of my students come to the back table to work with me during one of their three centers. They all do this every day. My students complete their on-grade level work during this time with me. I don’t differentiate this work. This is to see if they understand what the objective of the week is asking them to do. Sometimes we play a game. Sometimes we do partner work. Most of the time, my students spend this time completing a paper and pencil packet. My students don’t ever complete worksheets during their other two centers. Doing their packets during this time is a great way for them to get that daily practice in, have some small group/individual time with me, and I can clearly identify what their strengths and weaknesses are. My students look forward to coming to me just as much as their other centers! It’s a small group environment where they feel safe to ask questions and gain confidence in their abilities as mathematicians!

You may wonder why I don’t differentiate the work I provide to students during this time. I provide all of my students with the same work because it’s what works best for me. I differentiate my Teacher Choice center (more to come on that) so that my students are getting the enrichment/remediation they need during that time. Trying to keep up with three different packets, who’s done with what, which students are working on what, and how three different groups are reacting to different material is exhausting. I found myself getting extremely stressed out when I tried to differentiate the time I spent with kids at the back table. I had to prepare three different lessons for each day of the week and it just didn’t work for me. It makes my life easier and I’m a better teacher because of the way my students complete their work. So don’t try to do differentiated activities during your Teacher Time AND your math center time if it feels like too much! It’s okay to give your entire class the same activity! Just make sure you provide opportunities for differentiation in whatever way works for YOU! 🙂

Teacher Choice

Teacher Choice is a center I specifically choose for each student to complete. My students know that they won’t go to every Teacher Choice center, but only to the ones that I know they need practice with. Students complete these centers in partners normally but I do have some games for up to four people I like to use as well. During this center, students are completing a remediation activity, enrichment activity, or a spiral review game of some sort to help them practice a certain skill.

I keep all of my Teacher Choice centers in Sterilite containers in a corner of my room. I keep these separate from their Free Choice centers so students have no chance of confusing the two. Students grab the box they are assigned and get to work. I know that every student is getting exactly what they need during this center as well. I normally put out about 10-15 Teacher Choice Centers during each biweekly period. This allows me to have some choice on where to send each student. My high kids will complete the enrichment, critical thinking centers (things like project-based learning assignments, brain teasers, above grade level work, error analysis, critical thinking). My on grade level group normally completes centers that spiral review skills we’ve learned in previous weeks so they don’t forget those skills. My low ability learners complete the centers that reteach or remediate the skills I want them to improve upon.

Also, I always have a few Teacher Choice centers that all of my kids would benefit from no matter what ability level they are so that I can match up high and low level ability partners too! Collaboration is a huge part of my classroom and I never want any of my kids to feel like they don’t get a chance to work with everyone in the classroom. The high group isn’t always matched with the high group and the low group isn’t always matched with the low group. My students know that they are valuable and all have something important to contribute to our classroom. 🙂

Free Choice

Every student also gets to complete a Free Choice Center that THEY get to choose! All of my students get a choice chart every two weeks each time we start new centers. I load up the cart shown below with the centers they may choose from. We write the centers on our chart so that they know what each center is and can cross out each center as they complete it. You can get my Choice Chart for FREE here!

The number of Choice Chart centers in my classroom varies each biweekly period. Sometimes, there are ten Free Choice centers and sometimes I provide even more. When I provide more, it’s typically something like a project-based learning activity, a SmartBoard Game, or something interactive I have set up around the classroom like a race, a scavenger hunt, or a math challenge of some sort.

My Free Choice centers range from easy to hard. We spend a lot of time at the beginning of the year talking about making wise choices when choosing your Free Choice Center each day. If I see students dilly-dallying and not choosing a center immediately, they know that there are consequences for their actions. We also discuss choosing appropriate centers for yourself. I love that my students have the option to challenge themselves on a daily basis if they wish to do so by choosing some of the most difficult Free Choice Centers! Students who you don’t think would typically think outside the box or go above and beyond can surprise you. I love the opportunity this provides for them to shine. However, with that being said, working on a center that you truly don’t understand isn’t helping you grow your math skills. My students know this because we communicate and talk about it on a weekly basis. They know that they need to choose the center that is going to benefit them the most. For the most part, students do a great job of proactively choosing the centers that are appropriate for them. I also have rewards and consequences put into place to encourage these behaviors. It has worked well in my classroom!

Another thing I include on my students choice chart each week is a “Must Do” section. At the top of the choice chart, students have to write down which centers they MUST DO during that two week period. They can choose to do them right away or wait till the end of the two weeks but I expect those centers to be DONE by the time we start our next round of brand new centers. This teaches my students time management and they also know that there are consequences for not completing their work as asked (their center time is taken away!).

How to Start Centers in Your Classroom!

I have MANY math centers that are ready-to-go in my TeachersPayTeachers Store. I have recently started to create Monthly Math Centers that are great for third graders too! Check them out here. I also have some other GREAT blog posts you may want to check out if you are interested in learning more about math centers!

Want to learn MORE about math centers? Check out these blog posts!

Part 1: Making Math Centers Work in Your Classroom

Part 2: Math Center Organization

Part 3: Math Centers Tips and Tricks (this post!)

 

Math, Uncategorized