Guided Math

I thought I was going to share an update about what’s been going on with our math rotations, but when I went back to look for the posts to link to, I realized I haven’t actually done it yet.  So now I will.  🙂

I will remind you of how I’ve been learning and reading about math lately.  You can read about that here and here and here.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.  Hee hee….

One of the biggest changes that can be seen in our room during Math Workshop is the use of rotations and small groups.  I guess I have always done groups of some sort, but I’m not usually a follow-this-strict-time-frame-and-schedule kind of person.  They usually happen spontaneously.  After a mini-lesson when kids have questions, or when some need review of some part of a concept.  We might just meet once or twice to meet a specific need and then move on to the next one.  So the whole idea of planning strict, timed math rotations with a predictable schedule and routine was a big rigid for me.  Believe me, there is structure and routine in my room, but many would say it’s a more relaxed version.

Well, hearing how great it was working in some other classrooms around my school (and especially in my neighbor Pam’s 5th grade next door!), I decided to try it.  So now, at least during math, we have a schedule.  It’s built on a 4 day cycle of rotations, with days 1 & 3 and days 2 & 4 being the same (thanks again to Pam –this was not my idea.  She TOTALLY created it and shared with me.  Gotta give major credit where it’s due. 🙂 ) The schedule looks like this:

Now, I am lucky enough to have another teacher push-in to my room for math support during the second half hour of our math time, so she takes one group and meets with them, and I spend time with the others.  We get to do double duty and it works really well.

Every 15 minutes, kiddos rotate through stations and work on something math related (I know, duh, right?):


We have a laptop cart that is shared by my teammates and I, so we grab 5 and set them up in a mini-lab situation during math.  Most days we play games on, which my kids are absolutely in love with (again, a find by my ubersmart friend Pam).  I love that I can set up which skills they work on.  Each kid has their own username and password, and it keeps track of how they do.  I get periodic emails about what’s happening there, so I can keep up on what’s going on when they’re in that station.  Double nice for all of us.



I’m pretty sure that it’s meant to be called Active, like with an E on the end, but since our interactive whiteboards are ActivBoards, I thought that name was catchy.  I know, it’s weird, but that’s what I do.  So, at this station, students work on something I’ve got ready for them on the ActivBoard, and it usually related to the unit we’re studying.  The one they’re doing in these pictures is one I found from Promethean Planet, and has word problems about decimals.  I just made a flipchart for next week, however, that has sudoku puzzles.  I’m excited to share that one.  The take turns in their group working at the board–“sharing the pen”–and then work out the problems on their own when it’s not their turn.  Of all of our rotations, this is the one that seems the hardest for us for some reason.  We’re working on making it go more smoothly.



This is a basic math game station.  When kiddos come here, they play a game with their partners that is about a concept we’ve already learned about.  Usually it’s from the last unit we just completed, or is related to basic facts or operations that most everyone needs practice with, like multiplication and division.  Usually I tell them which game to play, but everyone in a while they have a “free” day where they can play a game of their choice.


I don’t have a picture of this one–probably because it would just look like a bunch of kids writing in a notebook.  During this rotation, kids work on problems that might require writing, or that are an “extra” thing we’re not directly doing in our math unit.  They are usually higher level, and are meant to stretch them a bit.  One group was working on problems related to whether or not the Harry Potter franchise was successful at the box office (this one was a big treat for some MAJOR HP fans in my class!), one group solved problems about conversation hearts, and then there was one related to volume of chocolate Valentine’s candy. These were all found on


So since I was taking the pictures, you get a glimpse of my teaching partner, Ms. Rose.  She’s pretty great, and this is the group she works with on most days.  Whether they are meeting with her or with me, these times are used to meet the specific needs of the group, based on info from a pretest (in the beginning stages) and the work we do together (which I use to know where we should go and how fast).


Sorry.  Again a pretty boring picture, but it’s of kids practicing.  Makes sense, right?  This is a station they go to after we’ve learned something together.  The work they do here helps me know where to go the next time our group meets together.

We are in week 4 of this whole Guided Math math rotations thing and I think it’s going pretty well.  Check out what my kids had to say about it the other day by reading what they wrote about it on their blogs.  Their words speak volumes to how beneficial it seems to already be for them as learners.  Can’t wait to see where it goes!

***MAJOR SHOUT OUT:  I’ve mentioned all over this post that these ideas are not mine.  They are not original to me, and come from some really hard work shared with me by my colleague and teammate Pam LeSeure.  She found the whole Guided Math framework to begin with and then ran with it!  I have been lucky enough to benefit from her blood, sweat and tears as she figured it all out. She’s been an amazing support to me!  Thanks again, Pam.  🙂 ***

Save the Last Word For Me

I love my job.  I love my school.  I love my principal.  She has such a great way of making meetings so relevant and useful, usually showing us strategies that we could replicate in our classrooms the very next day.  There are actually many meetings I go to around our district that are like that.  It’s kind of refreshing.  So when we were taken through the protocol for discussing an article called “Save the Last Word For Me” on Friday, I decided that this time I would try it with my class.  I teach 5th graders, after all–and amazing ones at that–so I knew they’d do great things with it.

Here’s the big idea:

We were using the article that’s in the picture here, which is about cloning.  It gives some background and then highlights the pros and cons of the issue.  As a means of ever more deeply discussing the topic, we tried this protocol in our small “heads together” groups this afternoon.  I tried it with a small group of friends as an example first, and then sent them to work.  I wish the video I had taken was of better quality, because it’s the kind of thing that makes more sense when you see it, rather than just read about it. Sorry.  Maybe next time. 🙂

Overall, most groups did a great job, and most were able to dig a little deeper by hearing other people’s perspectives on what they had individually read first.  Once we were finished, we debriefed and they shared what was hard for them about trying something like this for the first time.  I heard them share the very same things that were hard for me as an adult reader and listener the first time–talking for the whole minute when it was my turn (that’s a lot longer that you realize when you aren’t sure what to say!),  stopping when the minute was over (it’s a long time unless you have a really good idea to share, and then it’s AMAZINGLY short!), and only talking when it’s your turn (which is only once during each cycle of sharing).  That last one didn’t surprise me, because I have a class of talkers.  Or maybe I should call them arguers.  No, debaters.  And during this protocol, you are not allowed to comment on other people’s ideas unless you’re the next one in the circle.  Anyway, they have important things to say and we’re all working together on finding the appropriate times to share our important thoughts.

Like I said before, I am always learning new things in my job as an adult learner, and when I can share those experiences and ideas with my kids, it’s a double bonus.  We’ll use this one again, for sure, and I’ll be excited to share with you how it goes.

And so I’ll end with a short shout out to Mrs. Sisul and Mrs. Ford for using this protocol with me.  Love that I learned it from you. 🙂

So have you heard of protocols before?  Have you tried this one?  What other ways do you use in your classroom to facilitate conversations around a text?