One Month Down… Forever to Go!

One Month Down… Forever to Go!

Implementing Flexible Seating

As I said in my last post, I started implementing flexible seating since the beginning of the school year. I had a few options that kids could choose from to spread out in the room but every student still had a desk to go back to if necessary. A few weeks ago I got rid of about half my desks in the room because I didn’t feel it was necessary for everyone to have their own. However, I still have table/desk space for every student and I believe this is important. There are certain activities where the kids just need to be at a table spot. Here are photos of my classroom before and after the desks were removed.

Seating Options

Another important thing is that you have more seating options than you do students so that there is less to argue over and always lots to choose from! I am going to share with you some of the options that we have in our room.

Standing Desks

Removing the desks created SO much space and I love it! All my first grade team members were instantly jealous! When I had them removed, I also had four of them raised to become a standing area. I was unsure how popular this space would be but my kids love it! It is definitely one of the most popular spots in the room. They loved it so much I added another standing area with the triangle tables. We also have some extra stools around  in case they want to pull up a chair to those areas. Here is a photo of our standing areas.

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Floor Table

I got these triangle tables from another teacher at school and removed the legs to make a floor table. I bought seat cushions for the kids to sit on when they are at the table. This is another popular spot. I put cups of markers, pens, and colored pencils on two of the desks which makes these spaces a little more fun.

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Scoop Rockers

I got my scoop rockers from Amazon for about $50 for 6 of them. They are definitely worth it. My kids are always using them and they seem very durable. They use them to read, write, and pull up to our floor table too! I was excited when they came because I thought I was getting an assortment of colors (like 6 different ones) but they were all blue and green which are my classroom colors. YAY!

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Wobble Stools

The wobble stools are the most expensive thing I’ve bought for my classroom. They are $70 a piece. I bought 6 of them to use at my kidney table. I wouldn’t recommend these if you are planning on buying them yourself, but if you have the funding for them, go for it! They are a fun way for the kids to get their wiggles out. If we are doing an activity that doesn’t include teacher time, my kids will pull them around the room to use. I struggled with them a little bit at first at the teacher table because sometimes I felt like the kids were distracted by them while I was teaching. But now I’ve taught them that it is okay to wiggle on them as long as you are looking at me while I am teaching. When the box was delivered to our class my kids FREAKED OUT and we had to stop what we were doing to open the box. They didn’t know what was inside but someone did guess stools! We even kept the box as another seating option!

Choosing Their Spots

I have seen a lot of great management systems to use with flexible seating but I did NOT want to create something that was going to be more to manage for me and for the students. So for each activity my kids pick a new spot. They can always choose the same spot that they did before, if that’s what they want. I have a few kids that always go to the same spot because they know that works for them. Others, like to switch it up a lot. Both are fine with me as long as it is a Smart Spot for them!

Managing Materials

My kids keep a lot of their materials in their book bin. They have their pencil box, books, and a few other things that we use for reading and math. I keep their notebooks in bins in the front of the room. If they have work that doesn’t get done it goes in their Fix and Finish. When we are transitioning to something new, they know that EVERYTHING must be picked up and put away.

Effectiveness

With this project I have been collecting data on how often I have to move my students and how many kids have fix and finish at the end of the day because they did not choose a smart spot. This has helped me focus in on the kids that need guidance choosing a spot that is smart for them. My next step is creating a survey for my students to find out which seating options do they like the most. So far, I would say that my students are VERY motivated by choosing their own spots. It makes them feel independent and driven to complete their work.

Just after this short amount of time that we’ve had with flexible seating, I definitely plan on doing it for years to come!

As always, if you have any comments or questions please leave them below!

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @4nfirsties to see more of our Flexible Seating journey!

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Flexible Seating

Flexible Seating is a hot topic in education right now. Teachers around the world are ditching the classic desk and chair and giving their students alternative seating options. Their reasoning? Kids need options! They are more engaged and focused because they aren’t forced to sit in a desk all day. I’ve given my students some flexible seating options but not many simply because it is expensive. Which is why I decided to do an ACP (Alternative Credit Program) project on Flexible Seating. I am going to implement flexible seating in my classroom and share how it is going. I will share the seating options I am offering my students, how well my students are able to stay on task and how I manage it all.

Smart Spots

In the beginning of the school year I taught my students how to choose a Smart Spot. Whenever they are working independently on a task, they can choose a spot where they focus, make good choices and be smart! They can sit at their desk, on the floor, or at our little table. I just ask that they spread out. If they choose a spot that is not working for them, I choose a spot for them. I have set clear and high expectations for my students. This is very important if you are going to allow students to make their own choice of where to sit. Most of my students are able to choose a Smart Spot on their own without a problem. Of course, there are times that they will argue over options and I ask them to “do the kind thing” and offer it for the other student. If they can’t come to a solution quickly on their own, I step in and tell them to find a different place to sit. This doesn’t happen often because they know that there are LOTS of opportunities to use all of our flexible seating options.

Seating Options

Many of the options I have right now are for sitting on the floor. We have rugs, lap desks and pillows. We also have laundry baskets to sit in or a work area if you flip them over. I love the laundry baskets because they also double as a place to store our pillows.

Here are some photos of my students using our flexible seating options.

I plan on introducing our new flexible seating options slowly, a couple weeks at a time. That way all of my students can have the opportunity to use the new options and learn the new expectations. That way it isn’t overwhelming with so many new things at once.

Have you implemented flexible seating? What are some of your dos and don’ts or must haves? Leave me a comment below!

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram: @4nfirsties

ENVoY… it’s a way of life!

Almost three years ago, I was introduced to ENVoY (Educational Non-Verbal Yardsticks). I was in my first year of teaching and I was very interested in taking the course. What I knew of it was that it was going to help me save my voice for curriculum and reduce verbal clutter. I was in. I felt like all I did was talk and manage my students ALL. DAY. LONG.

A few months later, I took ENVoY 1 and I could not wait to start implementing it in my classroom. I was even dreaming about it! I knew it was going to help me become a better teacher but I had no idea how life changing it would be.

Because of ENVoY I am able to get through so much more content because my students are able to be independent. I have a stronger relationship with my students because I don’t spend my day constantly managing them. At the end of the day I am not as exhausted as I used to be because I haven’t been zipping around the room trying to get to everyone or repeating myself all day! I even find myself using some of the strategies outside of school too!

Here are a couple examples of things I use in my classroom that help my students with their independence:

I always, always, ALWAYS use my exit directions board when I give my students an assignment that they are going to complete on their own. The other picture is of my entry directions that I keep on my kidney table so my kids have something to do while they wait for me to come to my table.

I am so thankful that I have gotten the opportunity to take ENVoY 1 &2, Healthy Classrooms, and Cat in the Doghouse, and receive coaching from our ENVoY Coaches. I plan on using ENVoY for the rest of my teaching career and I wish every single teacher out there could be offered the same opportunities.

If you ever get the opportunity to take an ENVoY course, I strongly recommend it because I can’t imagine my life without it!

“I can’t believe I ever taught math whole group”

Wow, how time flies. The last time I blogged I had only been doing guided math for 2 weeks and now it’s almost been 3 months. This time of the year always just flies by with Valentine’s Day, the 100th day of school and now our “spring break” coming up. It is so easy to push all the extra things aside and focus on surviving rather than thriving. Well, here I am, finally reflecting on how guided math has transformed my classroom.

The past few days we have been reviewing Unit 6 before we finally took our math test today. We reviewed together as a whole group.. and holy buckets I was quickly reminded of why I started guided math in the first place. I felt like I was teaching a brick wall. After 30 minutes no one seemed like they were listening and half my class was fidgeting and squirming around on the carpet. If this sounds like your class… you need to try guided math!!

Oh and I’ve had multiple kids ask me when we were going to do guided math again after only two days off. They absolutely love it. I distinctly remember my students NOT liking math when I taught it whole group. Now I would say almost all of my students not only like math, but LOVE it. Sometimes when I am teaching at the table I like to scan my room and see every single one of my students engaged in what they are doing. They are so independent and successful.

Here are some pictures of things I use during guided math.

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Here is an updated picture of my rotations chart. I added the star at the top as a visual for them to see what rotation we are on. Sometimes they don’t finish their skills review during that rotation and have to finish it before they go to math games. So instead of hearing, “What rotation are we on?” or “Where do I go?” They can just look at the star and know right away.

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This is a picture of where we keep our math games, math tools, math books and the skills review basket. I switch out what they do for skills review every day and it is usually a worksheet or something that is in their curriculum math journal. When they get done they can choose a math book and quietly read it at their desk. The most important thing to remember is to choose something that you believe they have MASTERED and can do independently. This was something I struggled with for a while and I felt like I was always searching for things last minute for them to do. So I bought a bundle of worksheets that meet first grade standards that I can use.

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I have this little note by the math games as a reminder for them. I have number spots around the room that they can take their game to so that they will spread out and not distract others. They play the game with their assigned partner which  is who their picture is next to on the chart. If there is an odd number then someone is the “floater”.

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When they come to the table I have this sitting there for them to keep them busy while I wait for all the other kids to be on task and have stamina.

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They write on these wall pops I got on Amazon and they are AMAZING. As long as they don’t pick at them… 🙂

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By all my technology options I have these little stickies to show them how many kids can be at that station at a time. They get to choose who they want to play with for this station. On any of the computers the kids know to use ABCya.com and play any game under the math section.

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For the iPad I have a folder that says Guided Math and they can play any of those apps.

That pretty much sums it up! If you are thinking about implementing guided math, I HIGHLY encourage you to do so. If you are nervous, don’t really know where to start, or have any question at all please contact me and I would be glad to help you figure it out!

Implementing: Weeks 1 & 2

I think I deserve a prize for starting to implement Guided Math the last two weeks of school before Christmas Break. Although, I have to say, it went WAY better than I thought it would. I am already seeing the benefits of small group instruction vs. whole group.

The first couple days were the hardest. The first day was full of information of what to do during each rotation and my expectations for all of it. I think the biggest challenge was the noise level. My kids were used to using a level 2 or 3 voice during math games because I wasn’t working with kids, I was just walking around and monitoring. Whereas now, I NEED them to be at a 0 or whisper 1 so that I can teach at the table and keep my sanity. So after a few days they are really getting the hang of it. We talked about practicing perseverance because it is really hard for them to keep their voice level down but we can “keep trying and don’t give up!” Many kids got warnings and a handful of them had to sit out because of their noise level or behavior during the first week but during the second week it was not as many!

Something that I am struggling with is finding the right activities for Skills Review. Lately, the things I’ve chosen have been too short, too long, or not exciting enough. This is something that I think I will get better at with time. I’m also thinking I might need to level the assignments I give here because most of my kiddos have been able to finish what I give them but my low ones have not. I will keep you updated 🙂

Yesterday, I received some ENVoY coaching during Guided Math. (Thank you Marilyn! <3) I plan on adding little exit directions in the technology area and math games so I can eliminate extra questions before we get started and while I’m teaching at the table. I will post pictures when I get them done 🙂

I can already say that I LOVE using Guided Math. Here is a list of reasons why:

  • My students get to use manipulatives on a daily basis so their learning is HANDS ON. Which is exactly what they need.
  • I am not correcting behaviors constantly like I was during whole group. I’ve noticed that my squirmy kiddos are so engaged because they get to move around the room and work with other students.
  • I can really see what level all of my students are at. After meeting with groups at the table I know right away who understands and who doesn’t.
  • My students LOVE Guided Math too! At the end of the day when we share what our favorite part of the day is, so many of them share that Guided Math was the best. When I ask them what rotation they liked the most it is usually technology or teacher time! 🙂 Before guided math, they hardly ever shared that math was their favorite.

 

Guided Math with Angela Bauer

Yesterday, Darla and I made a trip down to Bloomington for a Guided Math training with Angela Bauer. It was absolutely AMAZING. I am so thankful that I was able to go and bring her with me! We learned so much and it was great to have such a wonderful presenter. She was so personable and funny. It made the time absolutely fly while we were there! It was so nice to have Darla there with me so I had someone to collaborate with about how this would work in our classrooms.

Here is Angela’s site: https://guidedmath.expert/

If after reading this you still have more questions or you would like to see some of the resources I got or the notes I took please feel free to stop in or send me a message 🙂

Questions/Concerns about Guided Math

Here were some of my big questions about Guided Math that you probably have too:      How am I going to fit my students’ math journal into guided math? Do I have to differentiate the games and activities? How often do I need to switch out games and activities? I have the answer now to ALL of them!

Here are the rotations that Angela suggests to use and this is what mine look like:

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Yes, I was a total nerd and came to school after the training so that I could start setting it up. I was just so excited to start it! We are going to try it on Monday!

Skills Review

This can be a worksheet (Math Journal pages!!) or an activity. Whatever you choose, it has to be REVIEW so that students can do it independently. This was such a DUH moment for me. Obviously we want our students to be successful and we want to give them things that they can do on their own so that we have as little interruptions at the table as possible! Skills review is always right after teacher time.

If the students are doing a worksheet/math journal page she has them correct it when they are done, using an answer key that she keeps close to her kidney table. She keeps red/blue pens by the answer key for them to correct their work. NO pencils allowed near that answer key or they will be tempted to cheat. If she catches them cheating she just tells them that you didn’t “show me what you know” and she has them choose if they want to do it over at recess or during the Math Games rotation.

What do they do if they get done early? It’s up to you. If it’s an activity- play it again. If it’s a worksheet/math journal page they should correct it and if there is still time I am going to try having a bucket of books about math available for them to look at while they wait. In reality, try to choose things that will last the whole rotation.

What if they don’t finish? Then they need to finish it during the Math Game rotation which is always the next one.

For you ENVoY people, I am going to use exit directions mainly just for this station. To start out I will probably have exit directions for all of them till they get the hang of it.

Math Games

For this rotation I am starting out with only two options for my kiddos. They are two games that they have played quite a bit this year and enjoy. As the year goes on I will add more as I find time to teach them. You can switch them out as often as you want, have as many options out as you want– do what works for YOU! Same thing goes for differentiating. Angela says that the differentiating is happening at the table with you for guided math so you don’t have to differentiate games if you don’t want to. Up to you!

Set high expectations for your kiddos for their behavior during this time. If they are doing something they shouldn’t they get one warning. After that they have to clean up and sit at their desk.

Math Facts/Technology

Angela Bauer uses the term Math Facts for this station, but I decided to call it technology because my kids will be practicing their math facts at this station with the technology we have in our room. For right now, they are only going to use the smart board or our student computer. They LOVE playing math fact basketball on abcya.com so I am going to have them do that during this station. Eventually, I will give them more options to choose from.

Teacher Time

The first thing I am going to do is teach any part of the Math Expressions lesson that is hands on. After that I plan on using my resource from Reagan Tunstall’s TeachersPayTeachers store. If you haven’t checked out her bundles, you need to because they are incredible!

http://www.tunstallsteachingtidbits.com/

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Reagan-Tunstall

Grouping

1 is low and 4 is high in my class but you can use whatever you want. I used pictures of my kids in case I want to switch people around but for the most part it will stay the same. I also put them in partners/groups so when they are playing a game they know who they are with.

That pretty much covers most of it… Please do not hesitate to ask me anything!

 

Guided Math Bundle

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This is what I’m up to on this FREEZING Tuesday night. Laminating, Gilmore Girls, and more laminating. I just bought an AMAZING guided math bundle from Reagan Tunstall on Teachers Pay Teachers. I am so impressed with how organized everything is and how well it matches up with our math curriculum, Math Expressions. She also has bundles for K, 2, and 3! It is pretty spendy, but well worth the money if you ask me. I also recommend checking out her blog, Tunstall’s Teaching Tidbits, where she shares all her great ideas.

Here is a link to her TPT store: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Reagan-Tunstall

And a link to her blog: http://www.tunstallsteachingtidbits.com/

Stay warm, friends!