Monday, January 20, 2014

Guided Math: What centers look like in my classroom

This is my last Guided Math post and then I'll leave it alone for awhile.  I'm walking through each center I have out right now, so this post is a bit lengthy with lots of pictures (promise?), a few links to products or freebies along the a lot of my activities don't take money and use minimal supplies, so they are easy to get together!

If you missed my four part Guided Math posts, you can start {here with part 1}, {part 2}, and {part 3}.

Let me start with.... I structure Guided Math and Guided Reading time extremely differently.  There's a lot of student choice in both, but reading is much more timed and structured in my classroom.  The biggest difference is that I time them very differently.

Here's a peek at what my students have been working on while I've been busy meeting with groups.  We've been practicing like crazy, because I give my students a lot of choice during center time.  A really mature group can handle it very well, a more challenging group takes a lot of practice, and with some classes, this approach just won't be as effective...

I let my students choose what they want to do during centers.  I don't do assigned rotations.

I know!  I let go of a lot of control during center time!

The idea behind not doing rotations was that students finish their centers at different rates, and if I have them in assigned rotations, some may finish "early" and then not know what to do and start messing around or being off task.  In Reading, if a student finishes reading early, they know to go back and read it again.  I'm not going to tell a student in Math to go back and start the problems over again.  So instead, they check into a center of their choice, and if/when they finish that center, they move to another.  Some centers take longer than others.

This frees me up in a couple ways.  First, it doesn't mean that I have to have their rotation up and ready for them to see.  I know that sounds silly, but there are so many weekly boards to change that I get behind super easily.  I started assigning them as student jobs, because they don't have enough to do already either....  Of course, I still plan who I'm seeing each day and what we are doing.

Second, if we are working on something that a lot of students are understanding, but some are not, I can check their in class assignments as they finish and tell them to go check into a center.  They can choose what they want to go do for the day, and it gives me plenty of time to check in with each student as they finish, plus the few that are really struggling will be left and I can have them all meet with me while we work through it together.  Even as I'm typing that, I'm not sure if it makes sense.  I wish I had a video to show.

This approach will not work in every classroom.  You have to do what works best for you and for your students.  Make it your own!


 When my students check in to their center, they have 60 seconds to get the center out and begin.  There are three centers they must complete each week:
 The "Must Do" centers in my math class are:
1. Fact Buddies: practice multiplication and/or division facts with a friend.  I also allow students to get on XtraMath as a replacement for this center to practice facts.

2. Number of the Week from Kristi Conwell from Learning's a Hoot:  {get it FREE here}  I use the blank page at the end of the file and then I made a bunch of numbers that I keep in an envelope.  Students draw a number and complete the page once a week.  I have a first semester envelope and second semester envelope so that the numbers get bigger as the year goes on.

3. Krista Wallden's Boggle Math:  I love this!  {get it here for $4} I copied each board on bright yellow paper and laminated them.  One board is out each week and a bunch of copies of the board for students to work on.  Students know where I keep the boards, so they grab the next one on Mondays.


If students have completed their Must Do's (time management!!), they can get out a Teacher's Choice activity.  These are the centers I rotate out every 6-8 weeks.  Here's what we have out right now:
 My Teachers' Choice Centers are:
1. 2x2 and 2x3+ Multiplication Dice Game: This is pretty simple.  Students set up a blank multiplication problem (standard algorithm or matrix; I let them choose which they are most comfortable with).  Roll the dice, students place the number where they want- not letting their partner see where they put it.  Keep rolling and placing numbers until your problem is ready.  Solve.  Whoever got the larger (or smallest- they play both ways) product gets a point.

2. Factors and Multiples Game:  I actually got this from this {online game} that we LOVED.   My teacher brain kicked in full time with "How can this be a center?" and I grabbed a bunch of hundreds charts and put them in my Smart Pals and suddenly I had a whole center activity ready.  First student picks a number between 1-50 and colors it in.  Their partner then has to pick a number that is either a factor or a multiple of that number.  Keep going like that until your partner can't choose a number (that number is prime!).  

3. Spoons Number Form Game: Students play spoons using numbers forms.  I use the Advanced Level because it has numbers in the hundred thousands and millions.  {get it here for $1.50}

4. Finally, {SuccessMaker}.  My school has a subscription to Pearson's SuccessMaker.  I have some students that I require to be on SuccessMaker at least once each day for Math.  Those students have an assigned time.  During centers, anyone can go back and get on it.  It is an awesome program that works at each students' individual math level and takes them from there.  This is our second year with it, and I love the data it gives me.


 Finally (thanks for sticking around...), here's what we are doing during whole group instruction:
I always teach the upcoming center during our whole group instruction or small group time.  I give practice during that time as well so that I know that students are playing correctly and know what to do.  Modeling and teaching each game is super important before giving students full reign of the activity.  Leftovers will become our next center when we finish our division unit.  If I have another division game, I will replace two of our current Teacher's Choice centers.  You can get the {Leftovers game here} for $2.

I keep all my centers in drawers for students to go back and grab when it is time.  They cannot do math centers at any other time of the day.


Finally, if you want to read up on best practices and Guided Math instruction, there are a ton of great books.  Links are below.  Here are a few:

Have one to add to the list?  Leave a comment and let me know!


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the insight into guided math. I have been struggling with starting. You have given me hope and lots of ideas.