2017 | Teaching in the Tongass

Thursday, August 3, 2017

surviving the first week of school

I want to tell you a story. Imagine a bright-eyed, can-do, I'm-a-Stereotypical-Gonna-Stand-On-Desks-And-Change-The-World-With-My-Teaching attitude, with fresh ideas and materials, pencils sharpened and books leveled teacher. First day. Parents leave. Just the kids and me. I was born for this. I have wanted to teach since I was 7 years old (some people called me "bossy" and others called me a "leader"...you know what I'm talking about). This day was going to be one to remember. I went through my checklist of "get to know you" activities and icebreakers (thanks to some helpful friends on ProTeacher--remember Proteacher?!) and my notes from student teaching. I had attempted several of the activities and quickly figured out a few were too difficult for this group of 2nd graders. Aaaaand then I looked at the clock in horror. It was only 9:30. After I walked my class out to recess, I FREAKED out. I had nothing else planned. I wanted to bawl my eyes out. I calmly walked across the hall to one of the literacy coaches and told her my situation. She laughed and calmed me down. She brought over some "choice" activities (I had student taught in 4th grade and had never heard of "choice time" until right then) and easy literacy games (dry erase boards, sight word dice, etc.). I was nervous that I'd be in trouble for letting the kids play until I could figure out what other activities to do at lunch (totally oblivious to the fact that I had an old-school principal that was a huge proponent of centers and a more hands-on approach anyway). The kids were fine, and I don't even remember what I ended up doing the rest of the day. When my mom and former host-teacher came in to visit at the end of the day I burst into tears (I cry very easily...pretty much at any confrontation or ounce of discomfort and tears come to my eyes--super cool when you're trying to be professional). I remember feeling like I had made the biggest mistake someone could ever make and was in the wrong career because it was SO MUCH HARDER THAN ANYONE CAN IMAGINE. They reminded me that if I still felt like that at the end of the year I could try switching to an intermediate grade if one opened up (it did, and I stayed because, turns out, second grade is actually where my heart is!). I went home with that in mind and trudged through the rest of the fall and things certainly got better.  

I can laugh about it now of course, but back then that fear and anxiety and pressure was VERY real.  On my first day, I had a rude awakening. Teaching wasn't what I thought it would be. It wasn't even what my student-teaching self thought it would be. I remember thinking, "Gee, when my classes end and all I have to do is teach it will be so much easier." I was so naive. Soooo naive. If you're reading this, you are probably a teacher and you likely know what I'm talking about. So, my hope in this post is twofold. 1.) I want to remind myself what it's like to be a new teacher (which, we basically all are every fall) and 2.) help other teachers prepare for the day they are most likely to go home crying (not parent-teacher conferences, that's another post for another time). Even if new kids are added to your roster after you've labeled and alphabetized it all. You'll be okay. Promise. 

Activities and ideas for the first day of school

For the first 2 weeks of school, I like to make sure I have PLENTY of activities (see the above story). From the minute they walk in the door, they have something to do. Each desk is ready with a sharpened pencil, Play-doh mat, mini can of Play-doh, and a drawing/writing page (word search on the back). Throughout the day we work on other FUN things--my goal is to get them super excited about the rest of the year.  You can find my First Day of School Activities pack here.
first day of school activities
I keep these conversation dice (is anyone else as obsessed with foam dice like me?!) handy so we can do some pair share, whole group and table group get-to-know-you activities. These natural moments are perfect for setting the stage if you need to practice sitting "EEKK" style, whole body listening, or whatever you know you'll be working on.
Another thing I make sure to have handy are books. LOTS of them. I am a book hoarder, and something tells me I'm in good company. I collect them like some women collect shoes or purses, and I value them just the same. I keep a tub of back to school books right by my teacher chair where I do my read-alouds and anytime I feel like there's down time or we just need a break from learning about a new procedure or whatever...I read a book. The beginning of the year is crazy, not just for you either. Kids like listening to stories. It's that simple. Read to them and you can even teach them your "listening to a book" expectations, whatever they are. Waiting until the end to ask questions? Make a "C" in the air if you make a connection instead of telling me about it while I'm reading? Criss-cross applesauce? Assigned spots on the rug? So much of a successful day can be attributed to early classroom management, which starts on day 1 and is present throughout every single second of your teaching day. So, read some fun back to school books and teach some expectations while you do it. Easy peasy.
(this post contains affiliate links)
back to school read alouds
This one kinda goes with the profession. No matter how long you've been teaching, you'll get to the point where you realize it's pretty much inevitable that the longer you plan for a lesson plan, the more likely it is to not go as planned (#truth). So, just as I learned on my first day of teaching, you may need to change it up a bit if something you are trying to do isn't working. I had planned all kinds of games that we played in my 4th grade student teaching year, only to quickly realize that 2nd graders are still very much 1st graders on the first day and it just wasn't going to work. Time to move on and do something else. This is why #1 is so important (make sure you have other things to do if your plans don't go as planned!).  Use your gut teacher instinct and....write what you noticed down so you remember it for next year (assuming you'll be teaching at least the same grade level)--good teachers are always reflective AND actually doing something to make their lessons better. After 7 years of teaching 2nd grade, I still don't type or write my plans in anything other than pencil, simply because I know something will need to change (it's very common for me to think something will only take one day and it actually takes two--especially if I'm talking about math!). You can find this weekly planning page here.
first day of school activities

Set up your classroom just a bit rather than worry that it's not completely decorated. You can decide how you want to handle supplies-I prefer to keep them in the backpack until closer to the end of the day when I ask them to put everything they brought into one giant pile so I can sort them into shared table supply tubs and put any extras in the cabinet after they leave--this helps alleviate the awkward, "But my mom labeled each of MY crayons with MY name and I have this pencil box and I want to keep it in my desk so I can get into it when I'm not supposed to" situations....tell me I'm not alone!). It's also a good idea to leave some bulletin boards empty so you'll have places to put anchor charts and student work when you're ready.  You can arrange desks/tables depending on the type of work you want to do those first few days (cooperative, independent, paired) and really, you'll likely need to change it up as you find out where to place students anyway (a science none of us master until May each year, right?).  I like to create a welcoming environment that isn't too distracting. I make a giant "U" with student desks on the first day, and then quickly create table groups so we can start working on some of the group projects I plan. Also, I've learned that if you're asking for help with moving furniture (whether it's your custodian, husband or mom--thanks, Mom!), make sure you are ready for them to actually help so they aren't stuck sitting around waiting for you to clear an area first. 

Classroom management starts the very first second they arrive. There's a reason Harry Wong's book is a staple (did you know you get the Kindle version now?! #allmypaperbooksarenowebooks) in so many classrooms. I use this checklist during the first 2 weeks rather than my planning guide because different subject areas throughout the day aren't quite ready for instruction yet (specialists aren't pulling out/pushing in right away among other things). Throughout the first day activities, I am using classroom management because it's really not something separate from your lesson, it's just part of your instruction. Whether it's your nonverbal "teacher stare," shoulder touch, "stoic face" or your direct, "It is respectful to listen quietly while I'm reading," it's something you do throughout your day. I intentionally leave out teaching classroom procedures until the 2nd day, which is hard because it's not easy for me, but my hope is that they go home on the first day with nothing but happy thoughts and are nothing but pumped about the upcoming school year. I added some editable pages to my checklist so you can type your own in. Grab the FREE download below.
One thing I love about teaching in a PBIS school is that students (after a few years), should already be familiar with the language, expectations and procedures. BUT, that doesn't mean we can skip review (and if we have students that are new to the school, this is also new to them). I go over this behavior matrix with the whole class (it's made with velcro so we can assemble it together) and we watch the Think Time powerpoint and practice it until I know they're ready for it. 
pbis behavior matrix
And here's a little video of me going through my own back to school binder:


It's of course important to look professional on the first day. But, hopefully you don't have to sacrifice comfort for style! I don't know about you, but I get up and down a LOT on the first day. I am playing games and doing activities with my students, so I need to be able to sit on the floor without worrying about crossing my legs properly. I also don't wear heels or shoes that would make my feet hurt even a tiny bit. If you wait to wear your new school shoes until the first day....hello blisters.  Also, every school has a different dress code. Some are super formal, some are a "Jeans Day" sorta school and some (like mine) are pretty relaxed.  I had never heard of "Jeans Day" until I started blogging, but I imagine it would be difficult. I'm at the point that I refuse to even wear "regular" jeans anymore (I've had 2 kids, don't judge). If I could buy stock in Jag Jeans I would. They're AMAZING. I have them in skinny, bootcut and flare. But, you know what's better than jeans? Leggings. Or yoga pants that look like dress pants. Or even stretchy ponte knit. I have about 10 pairs of Lularoe leggings (just search on FB for a sales group and you can shop directly in there--my favorite way to shop is on my couch and the shipping is usually $4/pair) and reach for them on a regular basis. Sidenote: leggings aren't meant to be worn like pants---cover that tushy ladies! So, if you don't already have one, start a Pinterest board and begin collecting some comfy/professional looks as inspiration (you can follow mine here) or make use of that Amazon Prime free shipping already. 

I'm going to be blunt here because this one is actionable TODAY. Lock your door to avoid interruptions during prep. If you share a room with another teacher, have an honest conversation so you aren't chatting the whole time. This might be something you do all year, but it's especially important that first week of school. If your goal is to go home at a normal hour, whatever you consider to be fair to yourself, family, etc., then you need to prioritize your time at work and keep in mind that, yes, it is WORK. Of course it's important to maintain relationships and continue having conversations, but if you find yourself talking more about The Bachelorette at work than your writing workshop, then you likely need to refocus and get some stuff done. My husband doesn't stay an hour after he's done getting paid and he constantly reminds me about that (thanks honey!) when I start having "teacher guilt" or feel like I'm getting sideways glares from colleagues as I walk out at 3 p.m. (if you are a person that complains when someone leaves at 3, check your attitude ASAP--we're on the same team). If someone tries to schedule a meeting after your contract hours (assuming you have them), politely decline and suggest a different time you're available DURING contract hours. Yes it might be easier for a parent to come to a meeting when they're off work, but you know what? This is your job and that's their kid...you aren't the one that should be making it a priority and rearranging your schedule, they are. And if you know there's a certain time of day that the copy machine won't have a line, make sure to make your copies then if you can (or enlist a parent volunteer--they do exist if you really try--to do it for you). If you dedicate your prep time to actually prepping, you'll likely have a feeling of confidence and not one of resentment for having to stay until dinner time every day. 

First impressions are an important life skill, and they're easier said than done. I try suuuuuper hard to be accommodating, shake hands, be extra smiley and have less RBF on the first day of school over any other day. I think of it as an interview with both kids and parents and I'm the high school cheerleader with a ton of pep and enthusiasm that this year will be grrreeeeeat! They want to know their kid is in good hands and generally happy while they're at school, and you have to make a point to let them know you can do that. So...smile and be peppy and you're likely to have made a good first impression that will carry over when someone is upset about some policy or something their kid is accusing you of later ("She said we can't eat candy at school!" will go over much better if they remember you as smiley vs. stern, I promise).  

You can also send home a little personal welcome Meet the Teacher letter page--this is an editable version (it comes in a few template choices, each version is available in color and black/white). You can check it out here.
This is, again, sometimes easier said than done. In most areas of my life, I am a planner. However, I ALMOST ALWAYS FORGET to bring something to eat at lunch (you know, that 30 minute break you usually are prepping during?). Peanut butter and a loaf of bread in the cupboard and jelly in the minifridge are super convenient. So is a can of soup and you can store one of these mugs that microwave it up in a jiffy without the mess. And once you've taken care of your food needs, just like we tell our students, make sure you remember to USE THE RESTROOM during your breaks. Lunch is actually a great time to catch up with colleagues, especially if they have the same lunch time as you. Make it a regular thing and you'll find more of a happy balance between work and relaxing for a few minutes during your breaks. If you put yourself last in every situation throughout the day, you won't be a better teacher for it, so take care of yourself and your own needs and remember to just BREATHE. This is the hardest job in the world, and you will. rock. it.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

math workshop part 3

This is the third post in my Math Workshop series.
Tips and ideas for organizing your math workshop

You can read the first post here and the second post here.

Another important element in any elementary (yes, 3-5 too!) math curriculum is Routines Time (aka Calendar Math).  My district implemented Everyday Counts when we adopted Math in Focus last year, but I like to incorporate lots of other activities.  I think it's important to remember that your wall space for math is just as critical as your ELA space...even if you don't like to teach it as much as you like to teach reading/writing (I know that's not you though)! I divided my large bulletin board straight down the middle (one side is a word wall, the other side is my Math Focus Wall) and although most of it stays put all year, there are a few things that change as students learn the concepts and we move on to other things (i.e. CHANGE IT UP! If they have the months of the year down, don't need to sing the song every. single. day.).

I made sure my kids had 200s charts on the back of their DEBs (dry erase boards). I've done both laminating/taping and just using page protectors, but I have to say the laminated versions last a lot longer and don't fall off...currently, I'm having a parent volunteer help cut out new ones so I can laminate and tape them on to the whiteboards.

Right after we have Roll & Write and Drops in the Bucket, students put their binders away and bring their DEB and marker to the floor (I have assigned spots for Routines Time...those who need lots of support sit right up in front so I can keep them engaged).  I used to cut erasers into thirds, but I found these dry erase markers with erasers on the caps two years ago and they. are. awesome. I convinced our school admin to purchase a bundle of them so that every classroom could have them. Seriously, if your students use dry erase markers and you haven't invested in a set like this, I highly recommend you do.
Students can answer a quick question of the day and be seated. I made it editable so the question can easily be changed each day (or week if you'd rather do it that often). You can find it here. Mine are printed on these magnetic sheets (the dry erase board is magnetic). 
Question of the Day
I write anywhere from 1-5 questions on the board (depending on how much time we have left/difficulty of the problems). The problems are usually finishing a pattern, adding coins, input/output (function) boxes, identifying shapes, fractions, and telling time.  As students make their way to the floor they start working on the problems. I do this for a couple of reasons, but the main one is that I need something productive for my kids that get seated quickly.  My kids that take a long time to put their binders away might get to the floor and only have time for 1 problem. My intention isn't for everyone to do each problem, so that doesn't matter. After only a few minutes everyone should be seated and working quietly.  I begin Routines Time by showing how to find the answers to the problems on the whiteboard.  Students don't get to change their answers or add anything, whiteboards remain on the floor in front of them. This is SO HARD for so many of them.  But, eventually, they get over it.  Also, I've decided against students showing me their answers on their DEB simply because I can see them from where I stand. Of course, I use what I see on their DEB to guide my instruction.  This whole DEB process takes about 5 minutes total.

After DEBs, we move on to the actual Routines Time. You might call this Calendar Math, but because it's so much more than teaching days of the week and months of the year, some teachers have learned to use the term, "Routines Time" instead.  I move through a variety of things and keep a "perky pace" to the best of my ability. I only have 15 minutes, and I use every precious second of it. No time to tell me about the time your grandma took you to the zoo and blah blah blah. Sorry, maybe later when we're getting in line for recess. The main idea that I keep in mind for Routines, is that if the class understands a concept, make it more challenging. Don't just keep doing the same thing over and over.  Remember to differentiate and keep them learning, not just reviewing. Of course, it's important to go back and make sure they remember the months of the year. But if all 23 students have it, I don't need to do it every day. Maybe I change the question about months to be: What month comes after February? Or what is the 5th month? I'm constantly differentiating and changing the questions to fit the needs of my students.

First, I call all students to the floor. We practice basic skills like sitting on the floor and participating a LOT at the beginning of the year. I feel really strongly about classroom management, and for what it's worth, it can make or break student learning and engagement.

We make a lot of use out of the calendar. It's not just up on the wall for reference about what day it is. We study it. Students don't come into school knowing how to use it. They have to be taught everything from what the month is and how it correlates to the season, to how many days until that special holiday they've been waiting for. My holiday/event cards slide right into the pocket charts and fit on top so you can still see the numbers. You can find black pocket charts here.
 We quickly go over what today is, yesterday was and what tomorrow will be. We keep a perky pace as we're trying not to go over 20 minutes. I try not to "quiz" students too often during calendar time as this tends to slow the whole thing down (i.e. I just tell them and have them repeat or say it along with me rather than "Bobby? What's today? Marcus? What was yesterday?").
We have a number of the day, but it doesn't correspond to how many days we've been in school. I intentionally don't do that. I want to be able to change that number to reflect what I want to focus on (for instance, the next day I might write "74" and have a quick talk about the importance of place value). The daily pattern can be numbers, shapes, and even a nonverbal pattern that I don't write like, "clap, pat, snap, clap, pat, snap, clap, pat, ___." 
These 2d and 3d shape cards aren't all up at the same time usually as I like to introduce only a couple of them at a time. By the end of the year, they'll know all of these though. They can be used like flash cards, for reference or even in discussion about shape properties (lines, angles, 2d/3d, vertices, etc.). I like to print off a couple sets so I can keep them handy by the door when we're lining up so when we're waiting for a few friends to get in line we can do a quick little review.
 And of course, days of the week, months of the year and weather are all important components of calendar time. Again, these are SUPER QUICK and we don't spend a ton of time on them in 2nd grade. You can easily use clothespins to identify which day/month/weather/season.
Teaching money is one of the very first things I start the year with. We play a lot of Coin War. For practicing during calendar time, you can do a variety of activities and change up whether you're asking them to show you how to make an amount (i.e. "Show me how to make 32 cents") or whether you're showing them 32 cents and asking them to count it. If you don't have magnetic coins already, you can print a set from my Calendar Kit on these magnetic sheets
I stuck this clock visual in a page protector and write on it with dry erase marker. I like to end calendar time with this activity. I simply excuse students back to their desk by having them answer what time it is when I change the minute hand. When they struggle, I help them along and can keep a small handful with me to review and practice for a few minutes while everyone else is getting to their independent work.
I love this 0-200 chart. I printed it poster size so I could do my "count up" and "count back" with the whole class and everyone would be able to see where I was pointing. You can of course print it regular size for students to keep or tape onto the back of their desks or dry erase boards. You can find it here.
 I use the questions in this pack as a guide for my instruction during Routines Time, but I don't stick to it like a script, so if you use this, please make sure you are changing the numbers/questions for what your kids need. You can also find the Winter edition here, and the Spring edition here.
What do you do during Calendar Math? If you have any questions or thoughts, please comment below! 

You can find the next post in this Math Workshop series here.
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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

math workshop part 2

This is the second post in my Math Workshop series. 
Tips and ideas for organizing your math workshop
You can catch-up by reading the previous post here.  Last time I wrote about individual fluency practice using Roll and Write.  It's also very important to do whole group fluency practice.  This can be done in a variety of ways. 

Probably the most common thing I do in class to practice fluency is using ten frame cards. We practice with "ten frame flash" randomly throughout the week. I hold up a card for a brief moment, and the class responds with the number. I recommend you keep a set of ten frame cards around the area you line up so you can do a quick review while you're waiting for students to get in line. 

When students are ready, I can make it a little more difficult. Depending on the skill we are working on, I could be flashing a card and then asking them to tell me "the other part of ten, double or double plus one" (etc.).  For instance, I hold up a 6, the class says "4" if we are practicing tens partners.  Or I hold up a 7, the class says "14" if we are practicing doubles.  You can find the cards I use here.
Another easy way I teach whole group fluency is with ten frames and a deck of jumbo display cards. If you have a deck of cards or even index cards with numbers on them, you can practice whole group fluency. You can find jumbo playing cards here.

If you've heard about subitizing, chances are you've seen a Rekenrek.  This is a fantastic tool to use in addition to ten frames.  If you don't already know what or how to use this tool for math instruction, I highly recommend that you  READ THIS.  You can purchase a class set of Rekenreks and a display Rekenrek here. If you don't have the funds to purchase your own, you can make some using red and white pony beads and and pipe cleaners. 
These can even be turned into "Rekenrek bracelets" so students can take them home.  
My 2nd graders this year will be needing the extra support and visual aid.  Thankfully, I bought a great curriculum set a few years ago that goes really well with the use of Rekenreks. It even comes with big books (these are my favorite part) that introduce the mathematical concept you are working on! This helps students visualize and put numbers to a context (like a story problem), which I have found is really important for these younger kiddos.

Number lines are a huge part of my daily math instruction. We use them all year long. I keep one magnetic number line on my dry erase board for whole group minilessons. This one has the tens shaded yellow and the digits that help round up shaded blue, which is really helpful when we begin to learn how to round up. At the beginning of the year, I like to construct and deconstruct a hundreds chart using the number line to help build that bridge and show how they're different tools, but really the same concept. You can find the number line I use here. You can find magnetic printer paper here
I like to have enough number lines for students to use during their independent practice and when they're playing partner games. 
I've also added a small piece of velcro to each end of the student number lines so it will stick to the carpet when kids are playing math games. 
I hope you've found something valuable in this post! Please let me know if you have any questions by commenting below!

You can find the next post in this Math Workshop series here.
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Monday, May 1, 2017

math workshop part 1

This post will be the first in a series about how I run my Math Workshop.  There are just too many elements of balanced math to put in one post!
Tips and ideas for organizing your math workshop
Teaching in the Tongass is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. This post contains affiliate links. 

So let's just dive right in!
A couple of years ago, our district had a great professional development opportunity for teachers.  They contracted someone I consider to be pretty knowledgeable in the education field, Nancy Norman.  Among the many elements that make up a balanced math program, she focused on giving us several strategies for creating great "mathers."  Although our district has now adopted Math in Focus as a program (last year was our first year), I continue to use several of the strategies I learned from Nancy (if you have ever worked with her, you know how awesome she is and can consider yourself one of the lucky ones).  I was lucky enough to be one of her lab teachers and learned so much from that experience (other teachers taking the course come and watch her/I teach a strategy in my classroom).  Thankfully, I learned to think for myself. I've come to understand that no matter what the publisher (or the contracted person representing the publisher) says their PRODUCT can do, trust that teacher instinct you know you have and include lots of different strategies in your instruction.  In my opinion, no curriculum program has it all and is perfect.  Teaching only using the 1 program you are given is like going to an all inclusive resort and not ever leaving during your stay. Yes, you go home and can now say you've been to that vacation destination, but did you really experience the place you visited?  Because most boxed curriculum lacks in the area of daily and differentiated fluency, as well as daily social knowledge review, I knew I needed to keep that in mind.
Math Binders
First, let's talk logistics. My students keep their books and binders directly in their desks for quick access, but that's just my preference. You can find the editable binder cover here. Just type student names and print.
Math Binders
Each Math Binder includes a zipper pouch (for cards, dice, dry erase marker, etc.), math games, reference sheets and their math spiral review. Basically, everything they use for math goes into that binder. They keep them in their desks and I don't send them home.

At the start of the school year, every student gets a few things that they'll keep in their binder all year. We keep all loose sheet resources and games in page protectors.

I give them this Number Words reference sheet, as well as a copy of Coin War and coin war cards. This is the default game for my Sub lessons and whenever there is a need to keep them busy for a moment while I deal with an issue.
Coin War Free Math Game
This is what it looks like when they play. Sometimes I have them use a number line and game marker pieces to show where each amount on their card falls (this can be really helpful for some students that have trouble deciding which amount is greater).
Coin War Free Math Game

math fact fluency
One element that I use every day (and am a huge advocate of), is fact fluency.  Now, this may be a lengthy explanation, but stick with it.  Here's how it works:

Roll and Write (Math Fact Fluency) Materials:
Some teachers use lined paper (notebooks) for students to do their fact fluency, but I have come to prefer these packets that I made.  I actually like students to write in a lined notebook (is that crazy?), but for some reason, this fits my brain better lately....The Roll and Write packet is stored in their Math Binder.

They pull out their Roll and Write, open it to a new page, write the date, and wait with pencils in the air (a management trick I started that keeps them from writing before the timer starts) for me to start the 5 minute timer. You can find the FREE math fact fluency packet here.
math fact fluency
I love these yellow foam dice. We use both dot and digit dice (to differentiate, we begin with dot dice so students can count the dots when adding). If you have hard dice, you can invest in some pieces of felt for students to roll on (so it's not too noisy), or you can use these PHENOMENAL foam dice. Best. Idea. Ever. You can find the 1-6 dot/digit dice here and the 1-6/6-12 digit dice here.
math fact fluency using dice

I've learned that not all timers are created equal. The timer I use is PERFECT for me because:
a.) it is big enough to see from the back of the room
b.) it has a light to make it stand out
c.) it gives a 1 minute warning
d.) it visually counts down by the second
e.) you can choose to have the audio (this one is a "beeper") or not.

You can find it here.
math fact fluency using dice
Roll and Write Daily Fact Fluency Directions:
At the beginning of every year, I give explicit instructions on what Roll and Write should look/sound like. Students need to hold the dice in their hands, put their wrist down on their desk and open their palms.  I've discovered there is no reason to roll or shake the dice (sometimes kids like to shake dice for 30 seconds...time wasting). After the dice are rolled, they ARE NOT ALLOWED TO TOUCH THEM. For some reason, I've noticed lots of kids that like to adjust their dice and make them side by side or perfectly aligned so the number isn't upside down.  Doing this each and every time adds up.  I demonstrate why we don't roll dice, drop them from above, or waste time making them 'look pretty' (I make a show of it, dropping dice all over, acting silly...acting is such a big part of our job, isn't it?).
math fact fluency using dice
After students have mastered how to quickly roll their dice, I start the timer and students get to work.  They roll and write, roll and write, roll and write.  While they are working, I roam the room with a RED pen (I know, I know, I'm a terrible person).  It could be a different color, as long as it isn't the same as what they are using (a pencil).  If I spot ANY mistakes (number reversals, digit reversals, incorrect answers, sloppy writing, etc.), I underline the mistake with my red pen and WALK AWAY.  That part is really important.  Students need to be able to identify their own mistakes, and I've learned that if I stay there right next to them, they tend to argue or get in a discussion of "what I meant to write was a ...." instead of just fixing the problem.  As soon as I underline, students need to fix their mistakes.  This is really important as I don't have time to look over each roll and write every day (repeat: they don't turn this in to me, I don't grade these), and I don't want them practicing something incorrectly.
After the 5 minutes is up, the timer goes off and students get to finish the equation (and yes, that is the word we use) they are working on. Then, they count up all of the equations they were able to complete and write their total at the bottom of their page. Each student is working right where they should be at (i.e. they'll all be working on different types of equations with dice that are right for them).  And because they're working at their independent level, they should be getting at least 15 problems done in the 5 minutes.  If  a student wasn't able to complete 15, I keep them in at recess and have them do it again for 5 minutes, but not as a punishment. Read: I do this so that I can watch to see if it's something like they are wasting time adjusting dice or need a minilesson on a math facts addition strategy (for instance, how to "count on").  At this point, I've discovered students will sometimes cheat and start writing on a previous day's page to make it appear they have completed 30 that day. So, to combat that, I've added a "you must get the teacher's initial at the top of the page the same day you get 30/30" rule.  That way, if they try to show me a 30/30 that isn't signed from a previous date, I know they were combining two days of work. Also, we write the date in pen for the same reason.

Motivation plays a big factor in a successful Roll and Write implementation.  I sometimes use Matthew Cando (get it? Math-you-can-do!) as a motivator.  I got him at a district training a few years ago and the kids LOVE him.  He has a cute robot voice and likes to sit on the desk of someone who had a CAN-DO attitude during Roll & Write.
We also have a discussion about "not announcing your score" and how they are competing against themselves rather than their peers.  I want them to beat their best score and not worry about anyone else's.  For the most part, this isn't a problem after the first day.  On some occasions though, I have used competition to get a couple of students who were unfocused to get the job done. Worked like a charm for them (sometimes people just need a lil competition to get motivated).

When a student completes 3 days (does NOT have to be consecutive) of 30/30, I move them on to the next set of equation types on my checklist and write the date they started the new skill.  I put names in alphabetical order to make it easier to find them when updating their set.
math fact fluency using dice
Math Spiral Review
Another element of balanced math should be spiral review that's done independently.  After students finish Roll & Write, they get out their review packets. Again, kept in their Math Binder. I use Drops in the Bucket (many teachers in my district do as well). I like that there isn't a day (i.e. Monday) written on the page, which can be confusing if you're asking them to do as much as they can and not worry about what "day" they're on. I also like that they have different levels (in my 2nd grade class, I use levels A-C with various students). I personally like Drops in the Bucket because it has such an extensive selection of types of problems and I love that the different levels are really differentiated while the format stays the same (which is super helpful when students use it in the next grade level). I should mention that the company is NOT compensating me in any way (and they have no idea who I am for that matter) for promoting them, I just like their math resources that much :)

The idea behind this time is that it is REVIEW (not new learning) and students should be working INDEPENDENTLY.  That means, if a student doesn't know how to do a problem, I do not use the packet to teach them.  That doesn't mean I don't help them with a minor issue they are stuck on, but if they are totally lost on a problem, I don't sit down right then and there to show them how to do it: they skip it.  I will teach the concept later during a math minilesson or during Calendar time (this is a great way for me to see what things I need to add to my minilessons).  Basically, this means I don't stand in front of my projector going through each problem with the whole class and using it to teach new skills/concepts.  Each student works at their own pace, and at their own level.  I use levels A, B, and C for just 2nd grade.  I set the timer for 5 minutes.

IMPORTANT: While students work, I roam around with that red pen I was just using during Roll and Write. I underline or circle mistakes and walk away so they have to figure out what they did wrong right away.  If a student reaches the bottom of the page before the 5 minute timer goes off, they TURN THE PAGE and keep working.  When they finish their whole packet, they turn it in so I can have a thorough look at it.  I correct any other mistakes I wasn't able to catch during my roaming, and write which page numbers they need to fix on the front of the packet.  They might turn that packet in 2 more times before all of their corrections are done, but it doesn't ever go home with uncorrected mistakes in it!

I store all of my Drops in the Bucket masters in binders for easier packet-copying.  Each packet has the level and range (Page numbers 1-20, 21-40 or 41-60) so when I give a student a packet, I can quickly see which one they are working on. You can grab the daily review packet covers I made here.

Hopefully, this post was clear on how I use math binders, what we do to practice daily math fact fluency and how I manage math spiral review. If you have any questions, or do something similar, I'd love to hear about it. Feel free to comment below.

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Ready for the second Math Workshop post? You can find it here.
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