I love collaborating with the 5 other teacher on my first grade team. They are warm, thoughtful, and inspiring women. They push me to do my best every day, but also help me to relax and recharge. Our team is very cohesive, and our methods mirror each other beautifully. As ideal a situation as this is, sometimes it is nice to “shake things up” a bit and find outside sources of inspiration. This is why I look forward to my monthly math meeting. I opt to meet with a group of math specialists, kindergarten and first grade teachers from other schools in my district once a month to compare experiences, share ideas and reflect on our practice.
I always leave these meetings excited and rejuvenated, but this time I also left feeling tongue-tied! While speaking to another first grade teacher, I felt as though I could not effectively articulate how I structure my math centers, or how I determine what to teach each group and when. Although it was frustrating, I thought, “Why not try writing it down?” So here I go…
Building a Library of Independent Centers
I am very comfortable admitting my obsession with organization. I think it stems from my poor ability to remember where I put things, but this is not a therapy session. Basically, it is fair to say I am highly organized, and it seems to greatly benefit my students and the structures I put in place during centers.
I keep all of the routine materials out for students to take independently. Below are some photos of what this looks like in our classroom:
Activities like Bean Drop (pictured above), can be found in their math center bins. For Bean Drop, students select a zip lock back from the bin marked with their group’s shape. The bags contain the correct amount of dual colored beans, and a small cup. Recording Sheets are also included in each bin.
Each group has bins for 2 activities, 2 games, 1 journal prompt, and 1 extension pack to put in their math folder.
Finally, how do students know where to go? Well, the work board below tells them based on their current grouping. Our math block is 60 minutes, so each center is 30 minutes long. I used to try three rotations of 20-minute centers, but it always felt too rushed. Now we have 5 days of different centers. Each group sees me at least twice a week. I also have the luxury of having our math specialist support two groups on the days she is in our classroom.
I have a big index card organizer that is filled with work board choices. This actually helps me remember what activities I have available (because EVERY year I forget how many I have created!) as well as reminds me to spiral back and review previously taught centers.
Here is a look at the work board. The group names (the pattern block shape) is at the top. They are arranged in no particular order, because I am very conscious of students comparing themselves to their peers. The activities for each group are placed below the group name card. We have recently been given 4 iPads per classroom as part of a technology pilot for the first grade team. The impact these have made on my math and literacy centers will have to wait for a later post!
Now that I have most of it down, perhaps I can get a “re-do” of my last math meeting! Thanks for stopping by!