Plan Your Math Centers for an Entire Year in 1 Hour

Plan an entire year’s worth of math centers in an hour?!? Yes you read that right! I have always dreaded planning math centers. So, I have made it my mission over the years to make planning my math centers easier while still providing rigorous and differentiated instruction. Keep reading to find out how I plan a year’s worth of math instruction in just 1 hour!

Before you Start

Before you start you are going to want a few things in front of you. 

  1. You will want your pacing guide that shows what skill you are teaching with approximate dates. If it doesn’t already have dates assigned to each skill go ahead and take a moment to put the start and end dates of when you plan to teach each skill based on your schools calendar.

2. Pull all the resources that you plan to use for the year. I like to use resources that are year long resources so that I am using the same types of activities throughout the year I am just changing out the skill. Not only does this make it quicker to plan my math centers but it’s easier on the students as they know what to expect and how to complete the center. Below are the activities I use each week in my math centers.

  • Math Word Problems
  • Skill Practice
  • Error Analysis
  • Assessments
  • Number Sense/Hands On Math
  • Digital instructional programs provided by our district
  • Teacher Groups

Start Planning

When planning I like to use a Google Sheet™ to organize what resource I will use each week. Click here to grab a copy for yourself to use! (NOTE: Tab 1 is an example of the first 3 weeks in my classroom (5th grade). Tab 2 is blank for you to add your own content).

First, in the first column put the all the dates for each week (make sure you exclude weeks you are not in school. i.e. Winter/Spring Break). Then in the second column put in the skills you plan to teach during your whole group instruction that week.

Next, choose 1 of the year long resources you have and start choosing what activity or page you want them to work on each week. For example, if I grab my year long error analysis resource I will start putting the numbered worksheet I want them to work on every week. This is where having your pacing comes in handy, I don’t want to assign them a skill on a week if I haven’t taught it yet. I fill in the error analysis resource for every single week until the whole year is filled and then I move onto the next resource.

Complete each column/resource one at a time until you have filled in the entire Google Sheet™ with activities for the year.

Throughout the Year

While I have done a lot of the work upfront there are times I have to make changes due to schedule changes or pacing changes. This is why I don’t print/copy or assign anything until the Friday before. The Friday before I check my Google Sheet™ and pull out the applicable pages, make necessary copies or assign digital items to Google Classroom™. I organize my centers in a 20 drawer cart. Then I take my math centers Google Slide Presentation™ and update the activities as well as the drawers students can find the resources.

To Summarize

The key to making your math centers quick and easy to plan is to find the right resources. As I stated before I highly suggest you find high quality resources that will last you the whole year. If you are in need of math center resources, check out the resources below for some things that you will love for your math centers. These are resources I use in my own classroom each year!

Math Centers Organization

Word Problems

Error Analysis

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6 Ways to Prepare for the Science EOG

The 5th Grade Science EOG is coming quick, are your students ready? Here are some ideas of activities you can do to help prepare your students for the upcoming EOG.

1. Vocabulary Practice

If you have been teaching 5th grade science for any amount of time you already know how much new vocabulary there is. For students to be successful on the EOG knowing the vocabulary is going to be critical.

I work hard all throughout the year to provide constant vocabulary review but at the end of the year I still continue that practice. One of the activities I love to do is review a couple vocabulary words each day and challenge students to write a definition in 3 words or less.

For example, the definition of convection is “the movement of heat through liquid and gases”. If a student were trying to simplify that word into three words or less they might say “moving heat in fluids”. That example technically has 4 words but I don’t count like “is, the, in, and, etc”. If the word is really challenging I’ll let them go up to 5 words. It’s a great way to get them thinking about what the word means and having them focus on the key characteristics.

To specifically prepare for the EOG, about a month prior to the EOG I give students a science vocabulary book with all the vocabulary words we have learned that year. Each morning leading up to the EOG I assign one page of vocabulary words where they will write that 3-5 word definition. If they don’t know it (or aren’t 100% sure) they should just skip it. After giving students some time I will then ask the students to tell me what words were challenging that they weren’t able to get a definition for. We will see if any other students came up with a good definition and then students can write down that definition if they need it.

We will pull out this booklet any time we are doing any kind of test prep that might bring up these vocabulary words. Students can quickly refer to it to ensure they really understand the question.

Daily Review

A quick daily review that includes test type questions is a great way to review a lot of information in a short period of time. About 20 days before the science EOG I start to give my students a daily countdown in Google forms. It includes 3 questions a day of science EOG style questions. I try to include questions with a variety of DOK levels. When students finish we can review the results as a class and clear up any misconceptions students might have had.

Study Guides

I love study guides! I love study guides because it pushes the responsibility of learning back on to the student and really shows them what they already understand and what they still need to work on. I give ample class time for study guides and give students a list of resources they can use to find the answer. I prefer to use digital study guides because it saves paper and allows me to include great visuals to support students comprehension.

Games

Whole class review games are a fun way to break up all the hard work and thinking students are doing. It’s also great to help improve those teamwork skills. Here are a list of some of my favorite online review games that you can make for your class. 

  • Quizalize
  • Kahoot
  • Quizizz
  • Blooket
  • Quizlet Live 
  • Gimkit

Choice Boards

Who doesn’t love a choice board? Students are much more engaged with their work when they are given a choice. I design choice boards very carefully. I typically include 9 options with students having to choose at least 3. I make the first row very simple and straightforward activities, the middle row is a little more challenging and the last row is usually a small project where they must create something. I do this to ensure students are practicing activities of various DOK levels.

Small Group Instruction

When you think of small group instructions you are probably thinking of math or reading; but they can definitely be done in science too! As we approach the EOG I love to do small groups 3-4 days a week. During those small groups I do a variety of activities including vocabulary practice, multiple choice questions, error analysis and opinion/justification type questions. I do group students by ability based on how they have performed in science so far during the school year.

To Summarize

Preparing for the EOG doesn’t have to be hard. I hope I have provided you with some ideas to help you prepare your students for the EOG. If you are wanting to implement some of these ideas but don’t want to take the time to make your own resources you can click the links below to find resources available for purchase that will fit the activities mentioned above. Wishing you and your students a great rest of the school year!

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5 Reasons You Need to Use Digital Notebooks in Science

Digital notebooks became very popular when the pandemic hit 2020. I have been using digital notebooks in my science class since 2017 and have loved using them ever since. Here are 5 reasons you need to be using digital notebooks in science today!

1. They Save Time

When you use paper interactive notebooks you have to first create the foldables and interactive pieces you want students to glue in their notebook. Then you have to make copies for each student. Then during your lesson you have to stop for what feels like an eternity to give students time to cut, glue and fold the papers in their notebook.

With a digital notebook much of the work has been done for the teacher and the student. Teachers just need to assign the notebook in their preferred learning management system (Google Classroom, Canvas, etc) and students focus on putting in the content rather than cutting and glueing.

2. They Include Visuals

Science is a very visual subject. Teachers can always print out images for students to cut and glue into their notebook, but unless you have access to a color printer 100% of the time you will likely be left with black and white images that are grainy and difficult for students to see.

With a digital notebook you can insert high resolution pictures that increase students understanding of the content. This is perfect for your ESL students who rely on visuals to improve their comprehension of the information you are teaching.

3. They can be Personalized

With a typical interactive notebook, students can’t add much of their own content. They can certainly write down anything they need to; but they can’t print out more images and glue them into their notebook. They certainly can’t add a video into their paper interactive notebook.

With a digital notebook students can do all those things and much more! You can ask students to find and insert images from the web that represent what they are learning about. They can also take a picture of the activities they are doing in class and add it to their digital notebook so it not only includes the content they are learning but shows what they have been doing in class. Finally, that video you showed them Monday morning…they can add that to their notebook so that they can rewatch it anytime they want!

4. They can’t be Lost

With a paper interactive notebook, they are so easy to lose! In fact one year I wouldn’t let students take their science notebooks home because they kept losing them or forgetting to bring them back to school. Even if students don’t manage to lose it, their notebooks can turn into a mess after long. Papers come unglued and are spilling out the side, papers are torn out, the pencil writing gets smudged and you can no longer read the text. The list of what can happen to the notebooks are endless.

If you have digital notebooks in Google Slides like I do it is so hard for students to do permanent damage to that notebook. First, everything is auto saved and housed in their Google Drive. Even if students happen to accidentally delete it, it will be in their trash for them to recover. Second, the revision history feature has saved my students so many times. If students delete slides, or make some other big changes they didn’t mean to, they can go to the revision history link next to the help button. It will show every single change they ever made and at the exact day/time they made it. If students need to revert their notebook to what it looked like in the past they just have to click 1 button.

5. You Don’t Have to Worry about Helping Absent Students get Caught Up

If you use paper interactive notebooks and a student is absent; the next day you have to try to quickly get them caught up with what they missed the previous day.

If students had a digital notebook, the pages would already be in their notebook. They can work with a peer to get the information to get their notebook up to date.

Summary

I’ve been using digital notebooks in science for several years and they have taken me a lot of time to make but if you are ready to try digital notebooks in your science classroom you can check out some of these notebooks I have created for 4th and 5th graders.

I love using digital notebooks in science and I don’t think I will ever go back to paper ones. Have you been using digital notebooks in science? If so, tell me what other benefits there are that I might of missed in this post!

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Ideas for Teaching Ecosystems

Teaching ecosystems is one of my favorite units to teach my students and it’s usually the something they love as well. Here are some ideas that I use in my classroom that you can take to your own!

Introducing Your Lesson

Usually the first time I introduce students to ecosystems I start by taking them outside. I ask them to collect something small while we are outside. Then we will go back in the classroom and I ask them to sort them based on if they think they are part of nature or not and if they are living or not. Students love the change of scenery of going outside and love discussing what they found while outside. It leads to a good discussion on what resources are part of nature and if they are alive or not.

I like introducing the each day’s lesson with a question. It’s a great way to get students in the right mindset for the day but it’s also a quick and easy way for me to quickly gauge my students knowledge on a subject. Then I can adjust my lesson based on the knowledge they seem to have (or don’t have). Sometimes my questions are very direct to see what the students know and then sometimes they require students to analyze and think critically.

Allow for Exploration

I am a firm believer that before being explicitly taught, students should be given an opportunity to explore the content and try to learn the material themselves first. This give students ownership of the process and allows the teacher to focus on clearing up misconceptions. Students also tend to learn the content better when they can teach themself and learn from their peers. Below are a list of some of my favorite go to resources for articles and videos relating to ecosystems.

I like to give my students a list or resources and have them conduct their own research on the topic. Typically I let them work in groups. This allows them to practice their research and technology skills as well as practice working in groups. Give the students a list of resources and a graphic organizer and send them on their way!

Explicit Teaching

After my students have had an opportunity to learn about a topic I like to discuss it as a whole group. It not only gets them engaged but it helps me to understand what they understood well and what they need more support with. I’ll let this conversation lead to the direct teaching portion of my lesson. I personally choose to use digital notebooks in science. I have been using digital notebooks in science since 2017 and find that it’s not only easier for me and students (no cutting and glueing) but it provides amazing visuals for students that I couldn’t normally provide with a black and white copier. In my direct teaching portion of my lesson I review key vocabulary words and make sure to explain my teaching points for the day.

Practicing What They Have Learned

Hopefully at this point students have learned a lot about a topic and are now ready to apply what they have learned. There are a ton of different ways to have your students apply what they just learned. Here are a list of my favorite ways.

Sorts– I love to do sorting activities, but when I do them I tend to do them in Google Slides. First it saves time and paper since we don’t have to cut and glue. Second it allows students to see real images. Finally, they can add their own photos from the search function.

Create a Food Web – I love to give students some pictures of different organisms from an ecosystem and have them create a food web on their desk using them. I let them use their dry erase markers and write right on their desk! Even if you don’t have pictures handy, they can simply write the name of the organisms right on their desk. Increase the rigor of this activity by asking your student to create a few questions related to their food web that another student could answer.

Venn Diagram – Venn diagrams can be a great way to help students make sense of a lot of information, but have you tried a triple Venn diagram? They are great for comparing and contrasting biomes. The first time your students do them they might need more support making sense of all the inner pieces; but you will find these to help your students to really solidify the new information they have learned.

Be the Teacher – Allow students to be the teacher by creating their own test questions based on what they just learned. I always tell students if their questions are good enough I might just really use them on a future assignment.

Formative Assessments

Every good lesson has a way to track how well students understood the lesson. Here are some of my favorite ways to assess students understanding.

Exit Ticket One of the simplest ways to check for understanding is to display a question and ask students to write down their answer on an index card. You can make it easy on yourself and just re-write the lesson’s objective in the form of a question. I like to collect students cards as they walk out the door and then I review the answers right as they walk out.

Google Forms I like using questions in Google forms because when students finish I can show a summary of the class results (without showing their names) and we can review any misconceptions there might have been.

Writing – Writing is a great way to see what students understand about a topic while allowing them to be creative as well! You can take almost any topic and turn it into a writing assignment. When teaching ecosystems my favorite type of writing is personal narratives. To show what students know about a biome have them write a personal narrative in which they end up in their favorite biome for 24 hours.

I hope you have found some ideas to help you when you teach your ecosystem unit. These resources come from my personal ecosystem lesson plans that I have been using for years. If you would like them for your own classroom, check out the links below.

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