Math Small Groups and Centers

This year I decided to change up how I teach Math and use my small group and center time more effectively. I have always tried different things throughout the years so that I can reach all my learners. I think this year I found something that works really well for me.

Before Each Math Unit:

I assess the students using various resources I've aquired. Many times I just make up my own assessment. I use the results of the assessment to form Math partners and groups. I simply create a chart in powerpoint and plug in their names so I can have a chart to reference. They will stay with their Math partner throughout that Math unit. That way I know they are equally matched in their mathematical abilities. I try to have 3 groups so that two of the groups can meet with me and the Title 1 teacher, and the kids in the higher group can work with their partner. More on this later in the post. Here is an example of a pre-test I gave. This is a quick assessment I made up. Click on the pick if you'd like to download it. 

Whole Group Lesson:

I start each math block with the main lesson of the day. The kids come to the carpet and sit in front of the screen with their Math partner. Using the document camera or penpad (a device that allows me to write on the computer screen) I model the concept I am teaching. I also have the kids help me do a few problems together as a class. Sometimes during this part, the kids are using whiteboards or their Math notebook. I also have them turn and talk with their Math partner to discuss a problem or question. It is important to keep this part engaging and I try to keep it to about 15 minutes so that students can stay focused. Many times I will use props to change things up and keep it interesting. This past week we used hoola hoops to make human equal groups for multiplication. 

Small Groups:

I have the blessing of having a Title 1 teacher come in for Math small groups. Usually after my whole group lesson the kids that scored the lowest on the pre-test go with either the Title 1 teacher or myself for the lesson. This block of time is where the students will have extra guided practice and independent practice on that day's lesson. In small groups the kids play a game or do some type of practice in their notebooks or on whiteboards. It just depends on the concept. Once myself or the other teacher sees that a kid "gets it", they send that child off to math centers. We keep the kids that are still struggling for more practice. Small groups are 25 minutes and there are usually kids that stay the whole time. 

The kids in the high group that scored well on the pre-test, work with their partner on the same activity that the rest of the class is doing in small group. They usually have to record something and show me so that I can see evidence of their understanding. I usually assign them less problems because they are usually the ones that don't need a lot of practice. If I see that they are not getting a concept, I pull them into the small group. I also like to meet with the kids that scored well on the pre-test every once in a while to make sure they are on track. Once they finish the indpendent practice, they can go to math centers. 

Math Centers

Math centers in my class is used for practice of previous and current skills and the kids may not get to them every day. In fact they may not see center time at all during the span of a week. Many kids will use most if not the entire 25 min. of small group time to practice the concept we're working on. So sometimes they may only do their center for 5 minutes. The most important work is done in small groups so centers is always a treat if students get to them. 

I use  a small pocket chart from the dollar spot at Target to keep track of which students go to centers. And honestly I just type student partner names and center numbers on pieces of paper each time I switch them out. It's nothing fancy at all. Does it look cute? No. Does it work just as well? Yes. And that's ok! I don't change their center numbers every day. There are many days when the kids don't even get to centers so I just leave the center numbers up until there are kids that are able to get to centers. I don't worry about kids not being able to do a particlular center because it's all review from previously taught skills.

I keep my centers organized in this 10 drawer cart that a wonderful coworker friend gave to me. There are 8 centers plus a technology center. We use a program called iReady and that is usually what the kids do in technology center.

My centers start off very easy so that my 3rd graders are able to do it with little assistance. As I introduce games and activities throughout the year, I add them to the center drawers to practice concepts we are working on. But I don't change them often because since we don't go to centers daily I can keep the same ones for a long time. Here's a multiplication game we'll be playing in small groups this coming week to practice repeated addition. I'll add it to the center bins after we play it.

I try to do small groups and centers as much as possible. There might be a day during the week where we do a whole group activity such as a review game like one of my Scavenger Hunts or I'm assessing before starting a new unit. It is very flexible and I just let the Title 1 teacher know ahead of time which days I will be conducting small groups that week. 

My system is not perfect but I hope I've given you some practical ideas for teaching math. If you need resources for math centers, small groups or whole group games check out these resources I've created for my own classroom. How do you teach math? I'm always looking for new ideas so I'd love to hear from you!