Thursday, December 12, 2013

Math Centers

Two years ago, I started doing math centers with my kiddos. After some wrestling with logistics and timing, I came to really love this time of day and so do my students. They are seriously devastated if something weird comes up and we can't do centers. I store all my centers in gallon zip top bags labeled with the name of the activity and the skill. It is really easy to find what I need and see if the contents are all there. It also makes clean up (a student responsibility) a breeze.

Here's how I set them up:
I have 5 color-coded table groups plus my table, which makes 6 rotations. This means there is always one empty station. My table is almost always intervention/enrichment or a chance to introduce a new game that will eventually be in rotation. There is an activity assigned to each table that lasts about 10-12 minutes. We go through 3 rotations each day so a set of centers lasts 2 days. I ring a bell and the students rotate to the next group.

If they haven't finished their task, they need to "pull over" with a clipboard and finish it. I try to cover fluency, word problems/test prep, the skill we're working on for that unit, and mix in some fun and games. I usually alternate games and practice pages so there is some measure of accountability and the kids are motivated to finish their "work" so they can play the "game" that is next. I took a few quick pics the other day while my station was empty.

iPad station

Promethean Board station

Game station
My kids really love Addition and Subtraction Battle, which is a game using a deck of cards (minus the face cards). Each kid flips over a card on the count of 3 and then the first person to quickly add or subtract the two numbers keeps both cards. It has really helped to improve their fluency! I also have 3 iPads for kids to play math games on. In addition, I try to have a QR code station if possible. This week we used my Snowy Addition center. They are so motivated to complete their work with accuracy when there is a QR code involved.
You can grab my Snowy Subtraction and Addition Task Cards with QR Codes at my TPT store for just $2!

Finally, all the work is turned in as they finish. I grade it and on Wednesdays we spend some time correcting their work. We call it "Fix It Wednesdays". I started doing this because some kids were rushing through their work and not caring about accuracy. Now, they are much more conscientious about making sure their work is correct so they don't have much work to do on Fix It Wednesday. The kids who finish their corrections can play math games on the computer or iPad, play some of our other games or be "helpers" to their classmates while I work with struggling students. It provides accountability during math centers, helps students learn from their mistakes, and gives me a chance to work with students who needed more instruction.
One of biggest challenges I have come across is finding activities that can be completed in about 10 minutes, don't need a ton of prep, or that don't require my assistance. I have a bucket of math books that the fast finishers can read if they have time before the next rotation. The other challenge is teaching students appropriate procedures for rotation, playing the games or completing the activities, clean up and keeping kids on task and relatively quiet. The first 4 weeks of school, I don't even have a group so that I can walk around the room and monitor the kids. After the initial training, things pretty much run like clockwork and it is well worth the extra time spent up front training the kids. 

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