Another year is well underway and this year I’m teaching grade 6 in a middle school. To see what my classes have been up to check out their blog divy.missyounger.com. This year I’m trying something new with my math classes. I have 56 students all at varying levels. I decided to try something different this year and jump into guided math. This lets me work with students exactly where they are at. The process works similarly to guided reading or Daily Five with students getting time with the teacher, and working on individual stations to build their skills. I currently have 5 groups and they rotate through 5 stations. Currently I am using the following stations:
- Math with the teacher
- This is when students work with me on mini lessons tailored to their needs. They get a chance to show their learning and dig deeper into math concepts. At this station we also work with manipulatives to show concepts.
- Math journals
- In their math journals students have the chance to write about their understanding and show what they know. This also works as an interactive notebook using various foldable and activities. Students document the steps to solving new types of problems and the key information for new concepts in their journals. Math journals do not leave the classroom, I keep these at school so that they do not get lost and I have them as a tool to document students learning. This station is completed after students work with me so that they can record their learning right away and cement it. This way I am also able to give directions for the students at my table.
- Math Games
- Math games are students chance to practice their math facts, they do so through a variety of printable, dice and card games. Students work in groups of 2-3 to play the games. This not only works on student’s math fact knowledge but also builds social skills and team work skills. The games are chosen so that students have choice of which game to play or numbers to work with but are reinforcing a specific skill. Currently we are reviewing addition and subtraction strategies and are introducing working to three decimal places. So our math games are working addition and subtraction facts to twenty.
- Math by Myself
- At the Math by Myself station, students complete more traditional activities, typically a worksheet or a textbook page. At this station activity are colour coded by group so that students can easily find their activity and get started. Students are encouraged to seek help from others in their group as needed and work together to solve problems before seeking help from me. I discourage the use of calculators at all times unless the students IEP calls for the use of one. I do not want students to rely on the calculator before they understand the process of what we are working on. The calculator is a tool once students understand the concept. at the math by myself station students practice the concepts and the computation skills that we have been practicing in small group sessions.
- Math challenges
- Our final station is math challenges, students complete task cards that contain various word problems and deeper challenges to extend students understanding and help them to apply the concepts to the real wold. Currently I have colour coded task cards for the students to complete. Again students work on these in pairs or individually.
To get through a set of rotations takes my classes approximately two hours or two class periods, our schedule alternates between 40-minute math periods (2 rotations) and 80 minute periods (3 rotations). A typically lesson includes starts with 5 minutes of whole group directions and settling the class in including directing students to their first rotation, then 2-4 15 minute rotations before a 5-10-minute finish up and clean up time at the end of the class period.
So far I am getting positive feedback from parents and students, many saying this is the first time they’ve enjoyed math or felt successful in math class! My students enjoy the regular change in activity and workspace. Students do not just change activity they also move around the room, which helps them to stay on task. I am also finding that students stay focused on each station because they know that they only have a few minutes to complete the task. Having only a few minutes on each task also helps me to limit the number of problems I expect to be completed, typically I have them completing 8-16 problems in their math by myself. I find that if they can show they understand the concept in 10-16 questions that that is all they need to do. I do ask students to make corrections to incorrect work so that they can show that they know what worked well and what went wrong in their first attempt.
Overall I am pleased with how students are reacting to the new program and enjoying what they are doing. I am also seeing growth in student’s skills across all groups because they are getting the instruction that they need when they are ready for it.