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Guided Math Made Easy: Practice Path

We are almost to the end of of my Guided Math Made Easy series!

Practice Path is the last of my 4 stations and it's my favorite!  This is the station that gets totally blown out of control when it comes to management and set up.  To me, this is where I truly make Guided Math easy!

When students are working on Practice Path, they are working on math station games.  I have seen people make monthly station kits that give you 5 or 6 activities per week and I LOVED that idea.  I even bought one or two but I never ended up using them because of the amount of prep work and storage involved.  I would be prepping 20-24 stations per week for my 4 groups who are all at different levels.  That's 80-96 stations to print, cut, laminate, re-cut, and find homes for each month.  I don't have space in my room to store 800-960 math station games.  Not to mention the cost to print everything in color on card stock plus laminating pouches and storage containers.  Obviously, if you have 1 grade level, this is much more manageable for you!  Please don't be offended if you are someone who has made these!! I think it is a genius idea and I so wished it would work for me!

Since this is guided math made easy, I tried to keep things as simple as possible for myself, while still keeping it fun and fresh for my students.  My students all love my dice activities in my sub tubs so I decided dice are a must for these stations.  I wanted to mix it up and add playing cards as well.  So I set to work making activities that my students can do using those 2 items.

I bought both of these items on Amazon.  A set of 12 playing cards was $12 and the dice were about $4.  I love using these foam dice because they are colorful and they make no noise when the students use them.  Each group you see can get a bucket or a drawer in a 3 drawer cart.  Here is a sample of a station I put in their drawers:
The activities allow the students to choose whether they want to use dice or cards.  Each activity is one full page like the one above.  There are no small pieces to cut out...just print and laminate!  Most of the page is black and white to save on ink but the titles and a few graphics are in color (I did not make black and white versions at this time but you can certainly print them in black and white and on colored paper).  I've made about 12 different themes to keep everything looking fresh throughout the year.

These games are the foundation of Practice Path.  Once you teach the games, they pretty much stay the same all year with very little prep on your part.  As you see additional games on Pinterest and Teacher's Notebook or Teachers Pay Teachers, add them to the students baskets!  But if you are having a rough week/month, there is no need to add more games!  If you have a sub, the students are left wondering how to play the new activity in their baskets...they always have activities they know how to use.

The activities are open ended because the students can just keep making their own problems.  This means that there is no "I'm done!" because there is no end point.

Set it up:
You will need decks of cards, dice, wet/dry erase markers, and containers. And the games!
Print and laminate the games.
I store my decks of cards in these snack containers from the dollar store (2 for $1).  Number the containers!
Next, I had my aides (you could use parent volunteers) number the back of each card in the deck.  I made a deck for each student so I know who has kept their cards neat and who hasn't.  You could make a deck or two for each group.
While numbering the cards, we changed the queens to zeros and made the aces ones.
Then I just through everything in a few buckets (although, now the cards are in their drawers).
And the games go in the drawers.  Dice and card buckets are on top.  I use Martha Stewart whiteboard labels for the drawers so I can change their groups easily.  I wiped off some of the names before taking the picture.

Organize it:
I place my stations in 1 gallon Ziploc bags.  I have a bag per theme/month.  The bags get tossed in my monthly boxes.  When a new month rolls around, I simple gather all the old sheets, put them in a bag and back into the monthly box.  The new games get pulled out and tossed in drawers.  It seriously can't be easier!
For non-monthly games, I store those in bags or envelopes in my cabinet according to concept.

Using it:
The students can choose any activity from their drawer/basket.  It's that simple!  As with the Computer Cabin station, Practice Path has a no-warning system.  The students are explicitly taught that they are to work together to play the games.  If they are fighting, yelling, and not working on math, they are given a worksheet from "The Binder" and they must sit at their seat and complete it.  If they do not clean up their stations properly, the next time they also get a worksheet from the binder.
I get the worksheets from  

I love the simplicity of my guided math set up!  I was able to get the basics of each station up and running quickly.  After a few weeks, everything was running smoothly and I felt like I had the time and energy to make and add in some more games to the math drawers.  On the other hand, March was a crazy month and I didn't have time to include any additional activities.  My class didn't even notice because they still had a bunch of activities in their drawers that they know how to use.  I didn't feel bad because they were still practicing the skills they need to practice the most!

If interested, you can grab my games here or here.

I hope you found some part of this series helpful!  Is there anything that you do differently that you love?

Guided Math Made Easy: Computer Cabin

Welcome back to my Guided Math Made Easy series!  

Today's post is all about my Computer Cabin station!

This station can take as much or as little time and thought as you'd like.  If you are just starting out, I would do the bare minimum and come back to it after you are comfortable with the other stations.  Technology can be overwhelming because there is so much you can do with it!  You can't worry about everything at once so don't! 

Set Up: 
You will need computers or iPads (or some other technology) for this station.  Once you have that, I suggest finding a program that has students practicing their facts that they can do every day.  My district uses Reflex Math but this costs money.  
With Reflex Math, students can choose from a variety of games.  There is a little green light that comes on after they have been playing for an optimal amount of time.  Reflex keeps track of everything for you!  I really like this program!  Xtra math is free and people seem to like it (I've never used it).   
Set up your class and teach them how to use it. 

The next thing you will want to do is find apps and/or a list of websites that your students can visit to play math games.  Show your students how to get to the websites.

If you are using an iPad, you can add website links to your homepage: 

Here are the apps in my math folder: 

You can also lock students into apps using guided access.  You will need to turn it on in settings (under accessibility).  It needs a pass code (don't forget it!).  Then open the app you want students to use that day and triple click the home button.  A little thing will come up for you to turn guided access on.  This locks students into that app.  When they hit the home button, they will be prompted to put in the pass code to get out of the app...without the code, they are stuck :)  *Please know your students before using this!  I have some behavior students who would (and have) throw the iPad because they are mad.

Using it:
This station is pretty self explanatory.  Students use computers or iPads to play games online.  How do I keep my students playing math games?
With my red basket! 
If a student is not playing a math game, they are not allowed to use the iPads.  Instead, they sit and do flash cards.  I have ELA and Math flashcards in here because I use the iPads for both station times.  Call me mean, but I do not give warnings with this.  We discuss it a lot before we start math stations and I tell them up front, there are no warnings here! 

The first time a student was caught, he did flashcards.  They learned fast.  The whole class looked mortified and nobody ever made that mistake again.

Organize it: 
Here is the tricky part for me.  I have 3 grade levels with kids who need to work on a ton of different skills so how should I organize my math apps?!  You can organize them by topic and assign students a folder to work from.  Some apps cover many topics though...Currently, I have all math apps in a math app folder.  It's really not the best but with apps covering k-3rd grade material, I'm not really sure how to organize it a different way.  If you have ideas, please share!  

Also, share your favorite math apps in the comments!

Guided Math Made Easy: Adventure at your Seat

Welcome to the next post in my Guided Math Made Easy series!

This post is all about my Adventure at your Seat station.

This is where my students practice what they learned in our small group lesson.  Most groups meet with me then go straight to this station.  My highest group will do this before coming to see me.  This station is essentially seat work.  It is the independent practice portion of the lesson.

Setting it up:
Remember when you were setting up your unit packets?  You will want to find worksheets that align with each lesson.  My math curriculum had extra practice sheets for each lesson.  Hopefully, yours does as well.  I just copy those, staple the pages together and keep them in a folder for each kid.  I hand out their packet for that lesson at the end of the lesson.  This way, if you missed a group because of a fire drill or something, their seat work is not thrown off from your lesson. 
Using it:
For the most part, you just hand the students their seat work when they leave the lesson group.  There will be days when you do not do a lesson from the book...what do the students do then?  That's really up to you!  I have given them something to sort or organize for math, given them math books to read, let them explore manipulatives related to the topic, given them those solve the math facts then color the picture sheets.  You can make a small packet of review work that they can do when they are finished early with their seat work or when you do not have seat work for them.  Having a word problem book is good extra seat work as well.

Again, post any questions, comments, and suggestions in the comment section!

Guided Math Made Easy: Meet with the Troop Leader

Hi friends!  I have been working hard on making my life at school easier so I can have a life at home too.  One thing I needed to do was to create a strong foundation of basic systems that could carry me through those rough weeks without a lot of thought and prep.  I'm going to start by sharing how I did this with guided math with my Guided Math Made Easy series! 

Meet with the Troop Leader (Teacher) is the FIRST station you should set up!  Do it in the summer if possible.  Meet with the Teacher is where I do ALL of my direct instruction because I have 3 different grade levels.  I have my students between 10-25 minutes a day, depending on the lesson and their ability to sit and focus. 

Setting it Up: 
If you really want to make your life easier, you need to learn to love packets!  (Keep reading even if you hate packets...I promise it's not as bad as you think!)  I took the New York math outline of what to teach when and sorted my math materials into that order.  I'm combining a few left over curriculums from various grade levels to meet all the new Common Core Standards.  I was not given a math curriculum so I'm sort of left to make it up as I go...if you were given a curriculum, I'd use it (at least as a guide).  Remember, this is Guided Math Made Easy, not guided-math-so-complicated-you-immediately-give-up.  I'm keeping everything organized by chapter in my filing cabinet.  I have a separate folder for my lesson book & seat work.

After I sorted my materials, I made packets for each unit.

Packets mean no loose papers and everything is in order!  I actually combine about 3 units into one spiral bound packet so I'm not making copies so frequently.  The best part about having the packet system is that once you make your initial packets, all you have to do is copy them (or send them out if your district does that) and you are done for the year!  

You will also want to have math manipulatives at your finger tips!  I keep mine in these 3 drawer carts.  Each drawer holds a ton of manipulatives.  The kids can easily access anything they need. 

Organize it: 
I keep my units in a filing cabinet.  You could also store everything in binders.  I keep my daily materials in book bins: 
In each groups bin, I have the teacher's manual, the students math packets (which I call Lesson Books) and examples of any hands on things we might be doing during a unit.  On an un-related note, I really want to paint those...those colors really don't match my room! 

Using it: 
I hope you kept reading to this part because this is important!  Just because a worksheet is in your packet, doesn't mean you have to use it!  I skip a lot of lessons that are in the packets because we did a hands-on activity instead.  Sometimes we skip parts of a lesson and other times we do the whole thing.  It just depends on your kids and the lesson.  The packets are there as a guide.  

There are soooo many little details that go into teaching.  If there is anything else you want to know about this station, please let me know in the comments!  Also please feel free to share your tips for your teacher station! 

Super Easy Math Centers!

I am so excited to have my Super Easy Math Centers done!  I love teaching math in small groups but I hate prepping tons of games for the centers.  Anyone else with me?  I keep buying these cute math centers from some of the amazing bloggers out there and I so wish that I could use them but the prep work involved is just not realistic for me...
1. Print
2. cut out the pieces
3. laminate everything
4. cut out the pieces again
5. find some storage pocket to keep all the small pieces in
6. print out recording forms
7. pray that nobody loses a piece while playing the game
8. then pack it all up and store it...somewhere! 

I typically get one or two of those steps done and the month is over.  I needed something easier to prep...something I could realistically keep up with for multiple grade levels.

Enter my Super Easy Math Centers!
All you do is print and laminate! {This is part of the Spring/Easter set}

Each activity is on one page so there is no cutting (yay!).  My kids use dice or cards to make numbers for their problems so they will get different numbers each time.  That means they will RARELY be repeating the same problems with minimal work from me :) 

The games are all the same but they are in 12 different themes that will get you through the year and then some!  This way, you wont waste time introducing new activities all the time and when you are out, you know the class has a bunch of activities they know how to do.  I tried not to over load the page with graphics to keep it easier to print for you.

Here is a sampling from the different themes I made: 

{Fall, Costume/Halloween, Thanksgiving}
{Valentines Day/Presidents, Winter, Christmas}
{St. Patrick's Day, Spring/Easter, Summer}
{Rock Star, Kid Royalty, Zoo Animals}

The colors on the graphics are vibrant, my camera and the lighting don't capture it well..sorry!

These centers cover 2nd and 3rd grade skills like comparing numbers, place value, addition and subtraction with regrouping, multiplication, rounding, fraction id, and making coin amounts.

If this is something that interests you, check it out at either of my stores:

Teachers Notebook
Teachers Pay Teachers

I'll be sharing more this week about how I set up and run each of my guided math stations :)

Brain Beads

My students HATE answering questions!  It is always the same 2 or 3 students raising their hands.  Maybe it's because they got used to not being called on when they were in regular ed but now I need everyone to respond!  Enter Brain Beads!  They work like magic.  As soon as I introduced them, the kids hands started to shoot up. Basically, if you give me a relevant (not necessarily correct) answer, you get brain beads to wear for the day.  I store them in this old Target trail mix jar: 

I chose a jar with a lid because I can easily throw this in a cabinet in June and I don't have to worry about necklaces falling everywhere!  I grabbed the beads at the dollar store - $1 for 8 necklaces.  Cheap, easy, effective!

What do you use to get your students engaged?