I love teaching math. And every year it is a little bit different. This year I have a challenging math class because I have some boys with strong personalities. The way I have my class running right now is absolutely amazing and I had to share it. Even though my blog will eventually be about my 1:1 iPads, I do not have them yet. So I am currently making 6 iPads work.
The main focus on third grade is multiplication and division, so we spend a substantial amount of time on it, something like 3 or 4 months. I teach the accelerated math class, so they pick up on the concepts pretty quickly, and the whole second half of the unit is really review and extra practice.
Because I have only 6 iPads I am conducting my class in centers. I put the kids in 4 groups of 6 and each group starts at a different center and rotates through all the activities. Each center lasts for 15 minutes and the kids know when my timer goes off to clean up and get working on their next activity. The green center is doing their homework workbook pages. The blue center is multiplication practice, usually a worksheet or game. The purple center is where they work on a challenging word problem packed I ran off for them. And the red center is iPads. That might be an iPad math game like Motion Math (http://motionmathgames.com/), a problem solving game like simple physics (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/simplephysics/id408233979?mt=8), or Moby Max (http://www.mobymax.com/) which a is differentiated mini lesson and practice website that has aligned games. My kids love Moby Max. I also have a lot of kids working on Rubik’s Cubes in their spare time after they finish their work. I encourage this as a critical thinking puzzle. They’ve even found 2×2, 4×4, and dodecahedron Rubik’s Cubes to class. They really are all the rage in third grade right now.
Hopefully you have noticed that I am not chained to any of these centers. Running my class in this way leaves me free to pull and work with small groups or individual students. I can check in with kids who are missing concepts, and teach extension lessons for my gifted kids. This looks different in a unit where I have new concepts and lessons to teach, but not drastically. Usually I park myself at the green center and teach a mini-lesson there and everything else stays the same. But then I really have to trust that the kids are staying on task because I circulate around the room less.
When I started doing centers I required the kids to move as a group and sit and work all together. While the teamwork approach is a good idea, there were too many social conflicts. I had too many kids to separate and not enough groups to put them in, some kids had a hard time working with other kids, some kids were doing all the work, and some weren’t getting anythingdone. Here was my solution: giving the kids choice in where they work. The centers do have designated spaces in my room and they do have the choice of going to that space and working with other kids in their group, or they can work independently.
When you walk into my room it looks like chaos. There are kids all over the place, doing all different activities and the volume is consistently a low to medium hum. But they are working! They are recognizing what they need in order to be successful and they’re doing it. IT IS SO COOL! I am amazed by these kids.