Thursday, February 16, 2012

Beginning to see a little light at the end of the tunnel

First off let me say thank you so much too all of you that have posted encouragement and ideas on my last few posts. One of the reasons I love to blog is that I have always been one to keep a journal and I work things out by writing them out. Its my way of "thinking out loud." I know most teacher blogs provide great ideas and I haven't been able to do much of that lately so I thank all my followers for sticking with me through my temper tantrums and melt-downs. I am sure they are not over, but hopefully they will be fewer and farther between.

 For the first time in a long time I can post that I had a good day today! I made the changes to my schedule that I posted about before. I changed my math time from being at the end of the day to the middle of the day, right between lunch and special areas. I told my students yesterday about the change in the schedule and I told them that we would be doing math rotations, like our reading rotations. All morning they kept asking me if we were going to do math yet. I told them we had to do our reading block first. After lunch, we have about an hour and 20 minutes until we go to our special area classes. So I did a 15 minute whole group lesson, and then rotated through 4 small groups of about 15 minutes each. The students rotated through the teacher table, where they did an activity with me, 2 centers that came directly from our math curriculum, and the computer, where they played a math game. The kids absolutely LOVED this way of doing our math instruction. I was able to work with 4 kids at a time and really see who was struggling and who was getting it. I did a center activity at the teacher table today, that went along with the whole group lesson so that I could get them started and then monitor the other groups as well. I had one group - my lowest group who had trouble at each of the 2 independent centers so I need to find a way to differentiate the centers as well. The lesson the students were working on was changing mixed numbers to decimals, working in the small group I was able to see that several of my students could do this mentally with certain fractions. I overheard one of my lowest math students say to one of her partners "I really like doing math this way, I think I am getting it better like this." That one comment made my day. My students were excited and yes there were kinks I need to work out but today was the first day they did this and they did a pretty good job. I had to clarify the directions on the independent centers a couple of times but the one good thing about our math program is that the centers all tend to follow 1 of 4 formats so once the kids get used to the formats then this should go a lot smoother. I really wish I would have had this revelation earlier in the year. I think my kids would have really done much better in math this year if I would have thought of using the same framework in math that I use for reading.

With the new schedule it means we have writing now at the end of the day and we only have 6 teaching days left until we have our state writing assessment. I am looking forward to that day being done, but then the majority of the day will be spent on math and reading to prepare for our state standardized assessments in those areas. Once those tests are over then we can begin to have a more traditional school day that actually includes Science and Social Studies instruction. I am going to continue reading and math rotations even after our testing so that I can get ideas for next year as well. I want to start math rotations at the beginning of the year just like I do reading rotations. I think that the 15 minute whole group lesson, then the 15 minute small group lesson, and then 3 more rotations to practice the skill is really going to help. I'll have to see what happens with the next few topics and the tests for those topics. I am really hoping to see the students grades on the topic tests improve.

I wonder if I should include an independent practice center, sort of like the seat work center I have during reading. We have what's called a "Quick Check" workbook that provides the students with 4 - 5 practice problems to work on their own and I usually take these for a grade. My concern is that with the rotations I do not have anything to take for a grade. Anyway, just more for me to consider and think about as I tweak this plan. Anyone else that does math rotations I would LOVE to hear how you do things. Please share!!


  1. I am so happy for you. I have felt the exact same way over weeks. Come on over to my blog and read about my same frustrations. I just started rotations in math, too, and found a resource you might be able to use.
    Fun in Room 4B

    1. Elizabeth, I am following your blog now too. I found the resource from Clutter Free Classroom and I LOVE it!!! I am totally going to download that package! I am totally excited and want to set it up in my classroom. It is exactly what I was thinking I needed to do, it includes basic fact practice which my kids can do on the computer and with flashcards, and I like that there is an At Your Seat section because I was trying to figure out how to work in the required workbook pages and mini benchmark tests that we have to do. I have a Seat Work rotation in my reading rotations for those same things so it make sense that my math rotations could have the same thing. thanks for following me and for sharing your blog with me too.

  2. You have to check out my post on the genius ladder for writing. It is awesome to use with fourth graders to review quick writing skills.


  3. Oh, Cindy:
    I am so sorry you have had to feel this way (I just read your last two posts). I have all but one of the kids (in sixth grade) who are struggling. My data never looks pretty on the data wall.

    However, I am elated about one kid who moved from far below basic to below basic. He won't be the one who gets us to AYP, but I'll know how hard I worked.

    Sounds like rotations may be a good choice for your group. How nice to have some happy kids. That must have melted your heart to hear a kid saying he was "getting it better."

    Teaching is really HARD work. (Sometimes I think that only other teachers understand that, but that's good enough for me!) I'm impressed you keep trying to find something that works for you and your students. AND you were honest about your feelings... I think that's the best way to make progress.

    So... YAY you! You're moving in the right direction. I'm happy that a few of the clouds have blown away.

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  4. Cindy, I am happy that things are moving in such a positive direction for you now. Don't feel like you are having temper tantrums or meltdowns - you were just having some bad times - nothing more. Well that's how I feel and I'm sure your other followers do too.

    1. Aww thank you! I appreciate the support. :-)