Math Rotations, STEAM, Student Choice

Math-Or-Treat (Embracing Halloween on a Wednesday)

This year, Halloween falls on Wednesday. I decided to embrace it. I always teach math in the morning so I thought I would try out this Math-or-Treat idea that I had been seeing on Pinterest a lot lately based on I Heart Teaching Elementary‘s blog.

I downloaded her bag templates and purchased cheap treat bags at Walmart.  I also loaded up on things like Halloween pencils, erasers, plastic skeletons, to use as prizes because they will be getting enough candy tonight, right?!

Since I have seven tables in my room, I decided to have seven stations. I introduced the idea to my class about a week ago and asked them to apply to “run” one of the stations using a Google Form. I got about 15 applications so I had to choose students based on their responses to the math problems in the application and their response to the question about why they wanted the job. These students would get the answer keys and check their classmates’ work. They would also give out the prizes.

I created or downloaded seven Halloween math games and activities from TpT for each station. I chose skills we have already covered this year (place value, rounding, multiplication, and division). Here are a few that would work well:

Division Bingo
Multiplication Riddles
Rounding Scavenger Hunt
Multiplication & Division Sort
Coordinate Grid Holiday Graphing
Halloween Division
Halloween Rounding 
Halloween Word Problems
Spellbinding Division 

I created a quick smartboard with some Halloween pictures on it and let the kids pick where they wanted to go.  I only had a few rules:
1. They could choose any table they wanted (with a limit of 5 kids)
2. They could move tables at any time
3. It was up to them how many tables they visited (ie how many prizes they earned)
4. It was over after an hour and a half (we had to be somewhere at 9:30)

I continued with the holiday theme for the rest of the day. We made Halloween masks with our kindergarten buddies. We completed the Candy Corn Challenge (Freebie!) during social studies time, and worked on the Mystery Science lesson “What is the biggest spider in the world?” Finally, my class mom came to host some games, crafts, and snacks for our Halloween Party and we settled in to watch Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. You can teach in spite of it being Halloween, or you can embrace it. This year, we nailed it!

Digital Citizenship, Digital Teaching Resources, Flexible Content, Flipped Classroom, Math Rotations, Personalized Learning, Uncategorized

Flipped Classroom

I have been intrigued with the Flipped Classroom for a while. (The general idea is the reverse of the traditional learning environment: delivering instructional content like videos, primary source documents, reading assignments– outside of the classroom. It moves activities, including those that may have traditionally been considered homework, like discussion questions, projects, and activities based on the readings for school.) This video is a great overview.


At the beginning of the year, I promised my kids and parents that I wouldn’t assign homework. I was nervous to try flipping my classroom because I was afraid there would be backlash when I started sending work home. I think I will fully embrace the flipped classroom next year, but for now I’m experimenting with the “in-class flip.”

It was easiest for me to start thinking about flipping my reading and math lessons. I created this choice board with different activities for the students to work on (their choice) while I pulled small groups for differentiated instruction. My students all went straight for the games, and not much else.

Version Two: This math choice board works so much better! There are three choices in dark blue. The students must complete two days in the dark boxes, before moving to the lighter boxes. They spend two days in the medium blue boxes (or they can go back to dark blue). Finally, they can choose the game on Friday or any of the previous activities. I made a similar version for reading but is a little more flexible.

This took a bit of time…I had to link up the videos, Padlet boards, skill sheets, etc., but once they are created, I’ll have them for years. Another issue is that YouTube is blocked at my school. I had to link up BrainPop! videos (students have passwords for this site), and explained that the other videos can be watched at home.  While it’s not a full “Flip” it is definitely a start. Here are the links to my Padlets. It’s so easy to make your own.

  • Padlet Examples:

          Social Studies

Here are some additional resources that have helped me or that I have created to help others in my building.

Digital Teaching Resources, Math Rotations, Personalized Learning, Uncategorized

Personalized Learning: Math Rotations

I have been trying to get my math lessons to be completely personalized for years.
(See previous posts one , two and three).

I’ve finally got a system in place that works for me.

  1. Give Pre-tests. I usually give the students 3-4 pre-tests at a time. (For example, Fractions standards 4.NSF.1, 4.NSF.2, and 4.NSF.3 all at once since they are related.) I will create them on Google Forms and attach the links in Google Classroom. I use Forms because they are graded for me. I also always include an a “?” answer and encourage my students to choose it if they don’t know the answer. Since it is a pre-test and not for a grade, they students understand that it is more helpful to choose the “?” than to randomly guess.test2
  2. I establish the stations. Some teachers do specific rotations, but I just give my students a list of things that need to be completed and the due date. It looks something like this:

During your math rotations from now (3/2) until  Wednesday (3/6) you must complete the following:

  • Time Goal on ALEKS
  • Math by yourself: Independent Practice – (Performance task sheets).
  • Math with a Partner – Error Analysis (upload video here)
  • Math with Me: either small group time,  Padlet time, or a math game (be sure to turn in evidence) 

My error analysis sheet looks like this:
((Learn more about how I use Error Analysis sheets and Doceri app for uploading math problems in a future blog post.))


3. I use the pre-test data. I write each standard on the board, and where the student
falls (level 3 = mastered standard, level 2= needs some assistance, level 1= needs
more assistance/doesn’t understand. Students fill in their tracking sheet with the level
they started the unit. I then pull students from level 1 and 2 for small groups or
independent help.


My level 3 students are either working to become level 4 (going above state
standard) or are working on another standard ahead of the class on the tracking
sheet. This is if they have completed the tasks listed above.

4. I let students post-test when they’re ready. Just like my error analysis Google
Doc, I have one for Pre-tests and Post-tests as well. When a student feels like they
have mastered the material, they can take a Post-Test. If they want to pre-test for
the next standard, they know where to find the sheet (on Google Classroom in the
About page). I added a paper calendar, too, where students initial when they take a              post-test, so I can make sure everyone is completing each standards.

5. I collect evidence. Once a week, they turn in their tracking sheet (via a Google
Doc) and any evidence (task cards, answer sheets, etc) to show they’ve done the
work they recorded on their tracking sheet.



Math Rotations, Personalized Learning, Uncategorized

Year Three: Personalized Learning

My school is the academic magnet elementary school for the county. There are entrance tests, standardized test requirements, and grades to maintain. The majority of my class is identified by the state as “Gifted & Talented.” I always have a bright group of students, but this year I have one student who is exceptionally bright, especially in math. He was getting into some trouble for classroom behavior issues, and ended up in the principal’s office for detention. He wrote me an apology letter but at the bottom, he added, “…but can you imagine what it is like for me sitting through your math lesson?”  And it hit me like a ton of bricks because I do know. I was that bright kid bored out of my mind while my teachers in school “taught to the middle.” I knew I needed to do something different in my class, and I was going to start with math.

I participated last year in a pilot program to use this web-based math tool called ALEKS. Students worked at their own pace and I received really good data to see each student’s weaknesses, strengths, and pacing. This year, it was not offered to my school but I begged my principal, the school foundation, and even the Technology Department at the district level. Eventually, my principal purchased a school-wide subscription. Two days later, I heard from the district they had some extra licenses and they would go to my school! We cancelled our school order and got started:


Each student takes an initial knowledge check. They get a pie chart with each 4th grade standard. The more full the pie slice, the more they know. Unfilled portions of the slice are things they still needed to learn. Each kid can work at their own pace (they call it a Path). I can see the problems they are working on, the time spent on each standard or problem, and how to group students for small groups and interventions. When students are prompted for another knowledge check (after about three hours of time spent in the program), I get an email report for anyone mastering 85% of the material. I can move them on to more challenging material. I currently have 28 students in my 4th grade class and 17 students working on 5th grade math, and two working on 6th grade math.

The student who was bored during my math instruction recently wrote me a separate note for the Great Kindness Challenge and it was little different:



Digital Teaching Resources, Math Rotations, Personalized Learning, Uncategorized

Year Two: Personalized Learning

Around October, I began feeling the itch to try Personalized Learning again. I already had the placemats, data binders, and tracking sheets, so I thought about what I had seen the previous summer at the Google Summit. I saw a presenter who used digital tracking sheets. She used a Google Doc and posted it to Google Classroom. Each student received a copy and they could turn it in at the end of the week. I stole her form and tweaked it a bit for my class and it looks like this:

This digital copy made me happy because I had set a goal to “go paperless” this year and use Google Classroom to post everything I could. So I ditched the data binders and went for the Google Doc. It took me two tries to get this form to work for my class. The second version added the standard column because not all students were working on the same goal/standard at the same time. Hellllooo, PL. If you are in Charleston County, you can grab the link here. Feel free to make your own copy. My students still got a hard copy of the road map tracking sheet I posted in the previous blog post, but I felt like I saved a tree or two.

We stop math class a few minutes early, and every student fills out their form before we move on to another subject. I was happy to be doing some PL things again, and I’ll share what else is working in a future blog.


Digital Teaching Resources, Math Rotations, Personalized Learning, Uncategorized

Year One: Personalized Learning

I feel like the edu-blog niche is pretty full but I’ve begged for, borrowed from, or flat out stolen some really amazing ideas from other teachers. Here’s what’s going on in my class.

Beg, borrow, and steal away:

I’ve been interested in Personalized Learning (PL) since I first heard about it when I attended the Charleston Educators Symposium. I saw student data notebooks and was interested in having my class track their own learning. I also liked the idea of letting students work at their own pace. I spent all summer creating these “placemats” for every 4th grade standard in math–including proficiency scales, anchor charts, and spaces for pre- and post-test scores.


I created this roadmap for the students to color. I wanted the students to be able to follow the path throughout the year.  I spent two math periods explaining what the standards meant, how teachers were supposed to use them, and what a proficiency scale was. (I wasn’t super clear either, but I used the same bike analogy that I heard during the symposium).


Level 4 – Going above and beyond (a person doing wheelies on a bike)
Level 3 – The standard–what a fourth grader needed to be able to do (a person riding a bike)
Level 2 – A student can do the skill with help or support (using training wheels on a bike)
Level 1 – The student doesn’t know how to do the skill (cannot ride a bike, even with training wheels)

My guinea pig class was in to the tracking sheets, but I was having a hard time keeping up… especially printing them and having the copies ready for the kids who were moving fast. I also stole the idea from the presenter at the symposium to have a “Must do/May do” list on my board. I was also having trouble coming up with activities for the may-do list without doing drill-and-kill sheets or easy to print math games from Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) that in the back of my mind I knew were busy work.


Pretty soon, I got overwhelmed, and long story short, I gave up. I was literally waking up in the middle of the night thinking about math. It wasn’t healthy, and when I almost fainted and ended up in the cardiologists office, I realized I had to do something different. For the rest of the year, I did mostly whole-group math instruction, with a day of rotations and small groups thrown in here and there. But I was always thinking about how I could get back to that feeling of excitement and intrigue I had during the symposium when I first heard about PL.