Saturday, September 20, 2014

23 Kids and Counting

This year has had an interesting start.  As usual, I've been trying out some new strategies and organizational techniques in my classroom.  The beginning of the year is always very demanding, but I really love that it is a fresh start and a chance make positive changes.
My resolution for this year is to incorporate more opportunities for student choice during our day to day routine.  My plan involves allowing more choice into our literacy centers, our math centers (now Math with Someone), and our Daily 5.  Before the school year started, I thought long and hard about how I planned to structure and organize this choice with my 18 new first graders.
Then the first bell rang and we were off.  By the end of the first week, my 18 had grown to 20.  At the conclusion of week two, we were up to 21.  Fast forward to week six and add a set twins to the mix, my class is up to 23.  I've never had 23 first graders in one class before (and I've been teaching for a while).
All sorts of new (I don't want to call them challenges, let's just say) conditions occur as a result of having 5 more students than usual in a classroom.  Things certainly take longer.  You name it . . . getting backpacks, handing out papers, going to the restroom, grading papers, making copies.  Multiply all the little daily happenings by 5 more students and time ticks away even more quickly.

Despite having these new conditions, my goal of increased choice remains the same.  One way I've added more choice is during our Daily 5 time.  In the past, I leveled groups and created a rotation schedule for each of the Daily 5 activities (Read to Self, Read to Someone, Work on Writing, Listen to Reading, and Word Work).  Since I needed to meet with small leveled groups and everyone was doing all five activities everyday anyway, I figured a schedule was fine.  However, after reading the new edition of The Daily 5 this summer, I discovered the authors have a new attitude about the number of rotations students should complete each day.
They now suggest two to three rotations each day.  This reduction in rotations helped open my eyes to a way for my students to choose their activities and to be able to mix with different groupings of students during their rotations.
I started out by creating a weekly student tracking sheet for the Daily 5 rotations.  (You'll notice Work on Writing is not on my tracking sheet.  That is because I choose for everyone in our class to write at the same time, everyday.)

When students check in with me before each rotation, they color the picture for the activity they are about to complete.  I also keep a clipboard where I mark the students' choices and I track the times students meet with me.  I call the names of the students that will read with the teacher before any of the activity selection takes place.
Students keep their tracking sheets in a journal in their desks.  We have used this system for the past few weeks and so far it has worked out great.

If you are interested in reading more about how I organized student choice during math center time, click here.

One unexpected condition I came across this week, resulting from my rather large class, was my write the room activities are going to look a bit different this year.  Meaning, I'm going to have to find new places to hang cards so that I have enough for everyone to write the room at the same time.
We did an addition write the room and a short vowel sort write the room on Wednesday and Thursday.  I guess in the past I've not introduced write the room quite so early in the year, because Wednesday's attempt was a bit of a train wreck.  However, we practiced going around to all the cards and staying in order a little more.  By the time we wrote the room on Thursday, everyone (pretty much) knew what they were doing.

Our short vowel write the room was differentiated with word/picture cards for students that need that extra support and word cards for the students that do not.  I printed the cards on red and yellow paper.  I  put a red or yellow dot at the top of the each student's recording sheet so that he/she would remember which color of card to read.
The students loved it.  They are all about getting up and moving.
If you would like a FREE copy of this write the room activity, click on the picture below.  It is available at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Thanks for stopping by.  I'll be back soon with some more fun from my crowded room ;) .
Have a great week.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Math Daily 3, How We Started

When the second edition of The Daily 5 came out earlier this year I was thrilled to see the authors included a chapter about math.  The ideas in the first edition of The Daily 5 really changed my classroom for the better by helping me create independence with my young learners, which allowed me to more easily work with small groups and individuals.
A few years ago I tried to implement the Math Daily 5 that was outlined on the authors' website (  At that point there were five components to their math block.  I found that I did not have enough time to get to all five activities each day.  So, that year I toned it down a little and did my version, which by coincidence was three parts (math by myself, math with a partner, and math with the teacher).  We stuck with that structure for the rest of the year, but I didn't love it enough to continue on that same path the next year.
Fast forward three or four years and finally, Chapter 8 of the second edition of The Daily 5 is published.  Hello Math Daily 3!  
Math Daily 3 includes:  Math by Myself, Math with Someone, and Math Writing.  

Of the three elements, Math Writing was the one I was most concerned about implementing with my first graders.  After a lot of thought and some research, (checking out what other bloggers are doing with their Math Writing) I decided to use a couple of resources that are ready to print and go.  No point in reinventing the wheel, right?
I took advantage of Jennifer Whites' Math Question of the Day Pack and Reagan Tunstall's Math Journals, to get my students started with the Math Writing portion of Math Daily 3.  Both of these packets have printable pages that students can glue into their math journals and then write their responses.
We spent a good couple of weeks doing Math Writing together as a class.  I wanted my students to understand the quality of responses I expect to see. 

My main concern with Math Writing was (and is) that students will complete it much sooner than the other activities going on during the Math Daily 3 rotations.  So I'm working on some early finisher tasks.  I plan to use math centers (that do not require recording sheets), simple games, and puzzles.  Of course, students may not need additional activities during their Math Writing time, but it doesn't hurt to have them ready just in case.

Math By Myself, in my class is a time for students to work on their math assignments independently and a time to meet with the teacher.  I meet with a leveled group of students and we do some work on the day's skill.  We use might use white boards, counters, activities mats, and so on.  After we complete our hands on activity, I'll give instructions and answer questions about that day's written assignment.  Students will return to their desks to complete their assignment, I will be available to them if they need my help.
For example, this week we worked on Touch Math addition.  During their time with me students used white boards to practice drawing the dots and circles on the touch numbers.  They also practiced writing touch math addition equations and solving them.  After our meeting students completed their assignments independently.

While Math by Myself may not be totally "by myself," it does give students some time to work on their own and it gives me some time to level instruction for the diverse needs in my classroom.

For Math with Someone I am mainly using math centers.  Most of these centers are review and some of them lay the groundwork for upcoming concepts.  
Each day students choose a partner and then a center they would like to complete.  In the past I assigned partners and setup a schedule for our math and literacy centers.  However, after reading about a simple idea to keep track of math center completions, I knew I had to try giving students a little more autonomy.

Here's how it works . . . I printed a list of student names for each center and then laminated them.  When students complete the center, they mark their names off the list.  Love it!  It's less on me and the students actually get to have some choice.   (Thanks for such a great idea Cara Carroll.)
The centers we use during Math with Someone include center pieces and recording sheets.  Each student is responsible for completing a recording sheet.  If students finish their center before the rotation time is up, they mix their cards up and match them again.

Student usually love Math with Someone.  They get an opportunity to work away from their seats and to work with a partner.  I love math centers for because they provide that constant review students need to stay on top of math skills.
For a free copy of the math center in the picture, click on the picture below.  Ten Frame Apples on Top is a ten frame/equation matching center inspired by the book Ten Apples Up on Top.  It is from my September Smarties {10 Math Centers} packet.

If you are looking for more activities like this one, click on the picture below.  I have ten sets (sorry I couldn't fit them all in the picture) of monthly centers available at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Math Writing, Math by Myself, and Math with Someone is the rotation portion of Math Daily 3.  I've not even mentioned the mini lessons.  The mini lessons are also very important to your math time.  Mini lessons are your whole group instruction time.  The lessons should be kept very brief, ten minutes at the most.
Mini lesson content is not laid out the second edition of The Daily 5.  The curriculum is up to you.  Math Daily 3 gives you a basic structure for your math time, it does not determine what you teach.
Below is my basic schedule for Math Daily 3.  The rotations are 15 minutes each and the mini lessons are ten minutes or less.  I am flexible with the last mini lesson.  I like to go over our Math Writing during this final mini lesson.  But, if we are short on time, that lesson can be omitted.

Although I am not following the book to a tee, so far Math Daily 3 has been working well in my classroom.  There are so many resources out there that have made it fairly easy to implement.  I'm sure I'll have some new insights and ideas about it as we progress through the year.  But, for now things are up and going, so I'm pretty happy.