Using graphic organizers to help teach fiction reading and writing is so valuable.  This blog post has teaching tips for using graphic organizers to get students ready for written responses to reading and more.  Graphic organizer printables, graphic organizer worksheets, fourth grade reading, third grade reading, fifth grade reading, common core reading

As you know, the purpose of a graphic organizer is to help students (or adults!) make sense of information and organize it into a visible, usable fashion. Sometimes using an organizer is all we need from students—a way for them to represent the information we are asking for. Sometimes, however, we want students to organize information for other reasons…like to do a piece of writing. I wanted a way for my students to be able to track their thinking about the texts they read, but also for them to be able to use those notes to complete a short piece of writing to show me their thinking and depth of understanding about a text.

All year long I share novels, picture books...students read during independent reading, book clubs--you get the drill. There is never enough time to confer with everyone and get as much information as needed to see how deeply students are thinking so, part of the time, I do rely on some written work to check for that depth of understanding.

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to be able to be able to quickly consider what skill or learning target I wanted to focus on, and then have a low ink (or digital) way to get students thinking—and then writing about texts.

I have books and books of graphic organizers, but could I find what I was looking for?

Nope!

There are countless resources out there filled with different graphic organizers--none of which were going to do what I needed them to do. I decided to create my own for a number of reasons.

Graphic Organizers That Help Teach Reading

Using graphic organizers to help teach fiction reading and writing is so valuable.  This blog post has teaching tips for using graphic organizers to get students ready for written responses to reading and more.  Graphic organizer printables, graphic organizer worksheets, fourth grade reading, third grade reading, fifth grade reading, common core reading
•The organizers have teaching tips/mini lessons worked right into them! (see the image above!)
•This resource has the print AND digital versions of these organizers so you can use them either way.
Using graphic organizers to help teach fiction reading and writing is so valuable. This blog post has teaching tips for using graphic organizers to get students ready for written responses to reading and more. Graphic organizer printables, graphic organizer worksheets, fourth grade reading, third grade reading, fifth grade reading, common core reading, google classroom, digital activities

•This set also has a written component so students can use the organizer to jot down their thinking—but then can “write long’ about them to deepen their thinking and work on their writing skills in a meaningful way.
Using graphic organizers to help teach fiction reading and writing is so valuable.  This blog post has teaching tips for using graphic organizers to get students ready for written responses to reading and more.  Graphic organizer printables, graphic organizer worksheets, fourth grade reading, third grade reading, fifth grade reading, common core reading

•These organizers are meant to dig deeply into rigorous standards and get students really thinking deeply about texts, not just fill in the blanks.

Assessing Student Thinking with Graphic Organizers

Using graphic organizers to help teach fiction reading and writing is so valuable.  This blog post has teaching tips for using graphic organizers to get students ready for written responses to reading and more.  Graphic organizer printables, graphic organizer worksheets, fourth grade reading, third grade reading, fifth grade reading, common core reading

When I ask students to write about texts, I am looking for a few things:

•Are they able to find examples in the text?
•Can they explain clearly?
•Can they write coherently?
•What is their “depth” of understanding?
•How reflective are they as they read?
•How much scaffolding or “coaching” do they need to make sense of the text?
•Does their written work seem to match their reading level?
•What instruction needs to happen to support them as readers and writers?
•Do the texts they are reading seem to be a good fit for them?

When Do I Use Graphic Organizers?


The sky is the limit—but here are some ideas for you!
Using graphic organizers to help teach fiction reading and writing is so valuable.  This blog post has teaching tips for using graphic organizers to get students ready for written responses to reading and more.  Graphic organizer printables, graphic organizer worksheets, fourth grade reading, third grade reading, fifth grade reading, common core reading

•Use these to model your own thinking about texts you share with the class…read aloud novels or picture books. Show how you track your thinking on the organizer AND how you take that information and turn it into a piece of writing.

•Use this as “ready to go” work for book clubs where students can read, reflect, write, and then discuss!

•Use this as an assessment…either have students use these organizers to show their thinking about a book you have shared with them or their own reading.

•Have students work in partners to get them talking about books and finding those essential ideas and text evidence.

•Work to fill out the organizer as a class (or as a part of a small group) and then have students work independently to do the reflective writing.

•Use this as a way to get more writing instruction into your day. Teach about paragraphing. Show them how to use transition words to connect ideas. Show them how to write topic sentences and supporting details. Show them how to cite evidence from the text.

So if you think you might be interested in trying something like this...just click the link here to see my fiction graphic organizers or click the image below.
Using graphic organizers to help teach fiction reading and writing is so valuable.  This blog post has teaching tips for using graphic organizers to get students ready for written responses to reading and more.  Graphic organizer printables, graphic organizer worksheets, fourth grade reading, third grade reading, fifth grade reading, common core reading

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Using graphic organizers to help teach fiction reading and writing is so valuable.  This blog post has teaching tips for using graphic organizers to get students ready for written responses to reading and more.  Graphic organizer printables, graphic organizer worksheets, fourth grade reading, third grade reading, fifth grade reading, common core reading


Well, here we are...our final day of the summer math challenge!  I hope you have enjoyed the series and have made some plans to try some new things this year!
Math workshop is a big buzz word right now, but this post is geared toward helping you make smart math choices when it comes to planning your instruction.  Math workshop, guided math, math centers, math rotations, grade 3 math activities, grade 4 math activities
Today's final challenge involves asking you to do some reflecting on how you actually organize your math instruction.  I am constantly getting teachers asking me what my math block "looks like"--and it's just not that easy of a question to answer!  Mine looks different every day...because the math looks different every day.

There has been a lot of push to do "math workshop" or math "centers" in recent years.  Sadly, this has resulted in some unfortunate results.  I'm going to redefine some things the way I like to keep them in my mind...and I hope some of what I have to say resonates with you.

Here goes.

In my mind, I like to think of math workshop as being "ways to give as many students as possible JUST RIGHT instruction for as many minutes per day as possible".  Does that work for you?

If so, then we have to be mindful of how we do that. right?  Some of our best intentions often go south, so today I'm going to share with you 5 ways that you can plan your instruction to try to get students in that "math zone" as often as possible.  You will notice--each strategy has pros and cons.  We need to make professional decisions based on the math content, our students' knowledge, and countless other factors.  Let's see what you think.

By the way...if you want a freebie that has all the images from this post to help you with your own planning, here you go!


Whole Class Math Instruction

First of all, I want to give the disclaimer that "whole class" instruction is NOT the whole class instruction I had growing up!  There are no podiums or lectures involved!  Instead, students are given some meaningful instruction and then are immersed in a task or set of problems/activities.  The teacher then circulates and coaches.  Students may be working alone, in pairs, or some other collaborative combination.  In order to be successful, the task has to be within reach of all students or small groups--whether that be through the instruction, differentiation, tools (like calculators), or through intervention on the teacher's part.

This can also be an extremely effective strategy when presenting content that is new for all students...a new concept that students need to be immersed in as an introductory lesson or meant to trigger discussion.  A perfect example of an activity that is perfect whole class instruction is my math concept sorts.  My goal as a teacher is that I WANT to be the observer and coach so I can see what my students know and what misconceptions they have.

Math workshop is a big buzz word right now, but this post is geared toward helping you make smart math choices when it comes to planning your instruction.  Math workshop, guided math, math centers, math rotations, grade 3 math activities, grade 4 math activities

Splitting the Class in Half

There are times when trying to keep the attention of 24 students is simply impossible.  Splitting the class in half and teaching the lesson twice might be just the ticket!  The beauty of this is the flexibility.  You can teach the exact same lesson twice and just have a smaller, more focused group OR you can teach the lesson at two different levels so students are challenged at just the right level and just the right pace.

Remember, when doing two groups, there is no rule that says each "half" needs to get the same amount of time.  I frequently teach the lesson to my more capable learners in about half the time I spend with the other group.  You can also bring out different tools or scaffolds for the group who needs it--so a win/win for all.  Be mindful of what you have the students who are NOT with you do...we don't want to fill their time with busywork or off-level work.  It's a perfect time for collaborative problem solving, computation fluency work, or other "just right" practice.
Math workshop is a big buzz word right now, but this post is geared toward helping you make smart math choices when it comes to planning your instruction. Math workshop, guided math, math centers, math rotations, grade 3 math activities, grade 4 math activities

Math Centers and Stations

Well, here we go.  "Centers".  "Stations".  "Math workshop".  This instructional strategy involves grouping students (either by ability or not) to rotate through a number of different activities--one with instruction from the teacher.  Ideally, this instruction is tailored to the needs of the small group--or there really is no value in the rotations, right?

Here's the deal.  Whether we set up 3, 4, or 5 stations, the simple truth is that students are under direct supervision of the teacher for only a small percentage of the math block.  That means students need to be doing MEANINGFUL, on-task work for a large percentage of their math class.  This requires a great deal of planning.  We know we have many, many different ability levels in our classes, and creating meaningful "just right" centers for all of them is a challenge, indeed.

So if we can create meaningful work at these stations, we also do need to make sure that student behavior creates an atmosphere conducive to quality work.  Since students are only getting direct instruction for one rotation, the teacher must be completely free of managing those other groups.  This takes a great deal of time up front to make sure the groups function well, know expectations, and can manage them without teacher assistance.   When they work well--this can be a great way for teachers to really tailor instruction...but we must be mindful that students aren't wasting 75% of their math time doing centers that aren't "just right" or where behavior interferes with productivity.
Math workshop is a big buzz word right now, but this post is geared toward helping you make smart math choices when it comes to planning your instruction. Math workshop, guided math, math centers, math rotations, grade 3 math activities, grade 4 math activities

Math Minilessons and Focus Groups

This organizational strategy is a nice combination strategy...it allows the teacher to teach a focused minilesson to the class and then tailor the instruction AFTER that to different groups of students.  Here's an example...let's say I wanted to explicitly teach the strategy "draw a picture".  I could do some modeling with the entire class...show my thinking...maybe even have students work in partners to try a similar problem.

After that, I could pull small groups to work on that very skill--but at different levels.  Again, like with the "half and half" strategy...there is no rule that says that these focus groups need to be equal lengths of time.  For some of my better problem solvers, I might start with a challenge problem to watch them work, listen to strategies, coach on organization and precision issues, and then send them off to try some more on their own or in partners.

For a group of students needing more, I could use much simpler problems, walk through them more slowly, model in different ways, and keep the students much longer for extra practice and coaching.  Like with all the other structures, we just need to make sure the students NOT with us are doing meaningful, independent work!
Math workshop is a big buzz word right now, but this post is geared toward helping you make smart math choices when it comes to planning your instruction. Math workshop, guided math, math centers, math rotations, grade 3 math activities, grade 4 math activities

Math Menus and Checklists

When the instruction you really need to do is one on one or small group work...using a menu or checklist can be an amazing strategy to really free you up for an entire math block.  I especially like to use this toward the end of a unit when students are working toward fluency with the different skills and maybe even have some longer term projects underway like Project Based Learning Thinker Tasks which can be a meaningful way to spend some work time.  Sometimes I'll even have the students working on some of my alternative assessment options to keep them really doing meaningful work.  I can then circulate and coach...pull intervention groups...reteach...or whatever else I need to do to make sure all my students are getting what they need.
Math workshop is a big buzz word right now, but this post is geared toward helping you make smart math choices when it comes to planning your instruction. Math workshop, guided math, math centers, math rotations, grade 3 math activities, grade 4 math activities
So there you have it!  Although this certainly doesn't cover what my math block looks like EVERY day, it gives you a little glimpse into some of the deliberate structures I use to really maximize the time students spend working on meaningful math--and to make sure I feel as effective as possible with all the different needs in my class.

So....that's it!  Seven posts that I hope have given you some food for thought this summer as you move into your school year.  

Have you missed the other posts in this series?

Click HERE for the introductory post.
Click HERE for Challenge 1 (yearly planning)
Click HERE for Challenge 2 (math talk and mindset)
Click HERE for Challenge 3 (word problems and problem solving)
Click HERE for Challenge 4 (math organization)
Click HERE for Challenge 5 (math assessment)
Click HERE for Challenge 6 (meaningful problem solving)

Did you miss signing up for the FB group?  CLICK HERE
(And make sure to answer the screener questions!)

Want to pin this post for later?  Here you go!
Math workshop is a big buzz word right now, but this post is geared toward helping you make smart math choices when it comes to planning your instruction. Math workshop, guided math, math centers, math rotations, grade 3 math activities, grade 4 math activities








A few challenges ago, I talked pretty extensively about problem solving as it related to word problems with tips and suggestions and food for thought. Today I want to talk about problem solving "experiences" that are NOT word problems so that we can adjust our thinking and plan for meaningful math instruction.  So here we go...some ideas to get you thinking about problem solving!
Finding quality math problem solving experiences can be challenging.  We want students to have a growth mindset, be able to do activities and worksheets with rigor and deep thinking.  We want students to be able to solve real-world problems that get them making connections between math concepts.  Third grade math, fourth grade math, fifth grade math, problem solving, algebraic thinking, fast finishers, math challenge, math workshop, guided math

"Planning for assessment" is a phrase that we might not use that often.  PLANNING for instruction?  Isn't it just something we DO?  I think a proactive approach to assessment leads to better instruction, less stress, and more efficient use of our time.  I want to bring up some different topics related to assessment as food for thought.

Math Content Assessment

We all know that we need to measure how well students are learning the content we are teaching.  If our standards dictate that students need to be able to "round numbers through hundred thousands to a given place", then we have to have the tools by which we check for that math understanding.

Often math series, if used, have this type of assessment--in varying degrees of quality.  Here are some points to ponder!

  • Do your content assessments ask students to showcase their understanding in more than one way, with more than one or two problems, and in multiple attempts?  (So often series only provide end-of-unit assessments and many standards are measured with maybe one or two questions)
  • Are many of the questions multiple choice or matching?  Do students have to actually DO the math to get questions right or could your data be inaccurate because students can guess or narrow down the answers because of how they are written?
  • Do the assessments really tackle the content at the level or depth of understanding needed to really show they have learned it?
  • Are there opportunities to measure understanding throughout the unit or just at the end?
After you have studied what you have available to you to help you measure student learning, then you can begin to craft a plan to fill in the missing parts.  For me, I am not provided enough assessment to help me feel confident that I know where my students are with their learning, so I am always needing to supplement.

Math Practice Standards and Student Self-Assessment


Whether or not you GRADE the standards for mathematical practice (more on that later!), I do think it's important for us to be not only tuned in to our students' math content understanding, but the math practices as well--and that we are making that public to them!  Students can only hit a target that they can see, so we need to make these math practices visible and meaningful.

I have found a few things to be true.

  • Students often don't realize how important math "behaviors" and practice are to their learning.
  • They often feel that speed and accuracy are the most important components of math work.
  • Students often overgeneralize--they don't realize how complex math is and we need to help them realize their strengths and goal area.
  • Students need help finding ways to meaure their own progress and successes.
There are so many ways to help with these things...from full class discussions to 1:1 conferences with students, to anchor charts and checklists.  I spend a great deal of time at the beginning of the year to help students understand the standards for mathematical practice...to break them into student-friendly terms, and to work on math that allows them to practice them and reflect on them.  We make anchor charts, look at student work, and more!  I use these assessment checklists as well to help students understand how complicated the practices are--and to realize that they may, indeed, be doing PART of the standard and that they can they identify smaller areas to set goals and make improvements.  Just click HERE or the image below for more details.

Formative Assessment

As I alluded to earlier, I am huge believer in formative assessment.  I don't EVER want to get to an end-of-unit assessment and be shocked at how a student performs.  A few nuggets to think about as you plan for your formative assessment:

  • Formative assessment doesn't have to be all paper and pencil (see "Observation")
  • You do not need to only assess what you taught that day.  Bring back concepts from weeks earlier to check for understanding.
  • Try doing an "entrance" slip when students walk in the door and use that information to group students.
  • No need to grade and score all assessments...as students turn them in, sort them into "Got it!", "Maybe" and "Oh my!" to help you know who to work with later.
  • Thumbs up/thumbs down can give you a quick "check"--as long as you have built the culture where students are comfortable admitting that they are stumped
  • Student self-assessment can be formative as well!
  • One way to informally assess students is to make an optional "coaching session" for students wanting help...students can self-select (or be placed by you!) into this review group.
  • Be mindful that you don't simply mimic the questions on the end-of-unit assessment.  Present things in as many different ways as you can and make students really show they understand!
I use lots of different "tools" to help with formative assessment, but I seriously couldn't do my job without print exit and entrance slips.  I've use many from this bundle which has slips for 6 key math areas.  I try to print them before I teach the unit and use throughout the unit and then even AFTER the unit to make sure students are retaining the concepts taught.  Click the image below if you are interested.

 Sometimes I want to assess something in a different way (or in a different subject!), so I use these to make my own!  I make a copy of the page I want...write in my content, and then make copies!

Observation

I think it's really important that we realize that assessment doesn't need to be written down.  A huge percentage of what I learn about students happens as I watch, listen, ask, and notice.  In order to get good information about students and their thinking, we need to put students in situations where they will do the type of work we want to see.

If we want to see if they can compute accurately, we can give them a page of problems to do.  If we want to see how they think, how they process, how they explain, or where they go wrong--we need to get them doing rigorous work so we can see how they tackle it.

This work can be done as a part of a whole class activity...in a small group...as a center that we are facilitating, as we walk around and coach.  This is really the BEST kind of assessment because we can intervene at the time of difficulty rather than wait for students to struggle with misunderstandings that they then show us on paper later.

One of the trickiest parts about assessing in this way is record keeping.  There are a ton of different ideas out there for tracking your anecdotal notes--but before you stress out about how much work this is, let me just ask a question.

Is this information you will need to remember later?

If it is...then you will need to find a way to document it.  You can use sticky notes.  A Google doc.  A spiral notebook.  Whatever works for you...but keep in mind that good teaching involves constant assessing...so be mindful that spending more time writing down what you see than COACHING what you see isn't, in my opinion, the best use of time.  Instead, use your time and energy to refine your observation skills--and I hope the freebie I'm sharing with you below will help you with this!


Depth of Understanding


When we are looking to assess student understanding, I feel I would be remiss if I didn't ask you to do some reflecting on the types of problems, questions, and tasks you are giving your students.  If we ask students to fill in the blank on a problem like this, does this tell you how well students understand equivalent fractions?  If they can answer 2 of these?  8 of these?  Will you be convinced that they understand the concept of equivalence?  What other questions might help you really determine how deeply they understand equivalent fractions?
What about a question like this:
There were two pans of brownies at the baseball picnic. P The coach cut each pan of brownies into equal portions.  Jamal had 2 portions from one pan, while Daniel took 4 portions from the other pan. They both took the same amount of brownies. How is this possible?

Or this:
Write two fractions that are equivalent.  Prove they are equivalent using at least three different methods.  Explain your thinking with words and pictures.

Or this:
Sam said 4/5 and 9/10 are equivalent because each fraction is one piece away from a "whole".  Is he right?  Explain your thinking.

Or how about a combination of all of them!  My point is this...if most of your assessment tasks are asking students to fill in a blank, generate an answer, or come up with a computational response, it might be time to do some research about how to assess students at a deeper level.  (NOTE:  Many students will put the number "6" in that white box because it is a logical guess...it doesn't in any way guarantee they understand equivalency.)

Another way to assess the depth of student understanding is to give them a much more open-ended assessment option.  I use these throughout the year...and it really helps me see if student understanding is superficial or more in depth.  I have a blog post where I show more about if you are interested--just CLICK HERE.  The image below will take you to my fourth grade assessment set if you want ot check them out!

(Or click HERE for third grade or fifth grade

Assessment and Grading

I just want to preface this section by making it clear that assessment and grading are related but not equivalent.  I think the terms are sometimes used interchangeably--and shouldn't be.  We use assessment as teachers to help us understand how our students are doing--and for students to assess how they are doing.

We also need to be cognizant that we DO have to report out--in some format.  Whether we have to be ready to talk to parents at conferences, do report cards--or even just send parents an email, we must be able to take the information we observe and collect to make our decisions, to communicate to families and students about how students are progressing.

A few hints:
  • Remember that finding "averages" of scores doesn't necessarily show where students are NOW.
  • Often, scores mean very little to parents, so finding ways to EXPLAIN with comments, checklists, or other more clarifying examples.
  • Getting students involved with their own assessment and grading makes a difference in how students understand why their grades are what they are.
  • We want students to understand that grades are a VERY small representation of who they are as students and people!

I hope this post has gotten you thinking a little bit--and might give you inspiration to make your assessment practices more in-depth and varied.

Want to grab the freebie to help you with some assessment planning?


Looking for more guidance?
Want to read a post about observation in math class?

Want to read a post about student self-assessment?

How about a post with some formative assessment tips?


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Today I want to talk to you about mindful classroom design and organization--organization that leads to efficient teaching and learning. We often get so caught up in planning lessons and activities that we forget that the space we teach those lessons in can really impact our teaching--and student learning!
Classroom space planning and classroom organization are critical parts of helping teachers be more efficient and to help students learn.  Use these classroom organization tips, anchor chart ideas, math manipulative storage ideas, math game storage ideas, and more!  third grade math, fourth grade math, math workshop, math stations, math centers, teaching math, guided math

Space Planning

Every classroom is so different--it's hard to give clear direction on this one!  I have a few tips to keep in mind.
  • Consider the role of your teacher desk.  I use mine as storage and a place to put my document camera.  I don't sit at it.  Ever.  The last thing I want is to have my students have to interrupt their thinking to come find me--I am moving around to coach THEM.  Some people can live without a teacher desk to free up space in their room.  I wish that were me.  I have too much junk.  #truthbomb
  • Consider carving out multiple "floor spaces".  I want my students to have multiple floor spaces to work--whether they are in pairs, trios, or larger groups.  When I do a new desk arrangement, I seriously count the number of work spaces I have on the floor to make sure we all have room to function without getting up into each other's business.
  • Desks in small groups--always.  I switch up the number of desks in each group and how they are arranged (last year I had a challenging group, so more students were facing forward in their groups than usual!).  I use cooperative grouping nametags to help me quickly form groups when I need to.  We work cooperatively ALL.  THE.  TIME.
  • Consider where to put math supplies (more on this below!) to make sure students have easy access.
  • Make sure all students have easy view of your main teaching area(s) and key anchor charts and displays.
  • Consider traffic flow.  I am huge on transitions (like we practice them) because I cannot stand wasted time.  If there are hard-to-navigate areas in the room, streamline them.
  • Make sure to avoid "hidden" areas where students might get off task when you are working with small groups.
  • Consider having a crate, bin, cart, or table where you keep your intervention supplies and notes so you aren't digging for things all the time.
  • Find an easy storage system for games.  Bins, crates, those fun rainbow carts--whatever the system, make sure students know how to use it and that it won't interrupt others when they access it. 
  • I'm sure you will have tons of other ideas to share as well!

Anchor Charts, Walls, and More

Streamline your walls

One thing I have done more and more as I've gotten more "seasoned" is actually pared down what I put on my walls. I want the items I have posted to be USED, so I don't want a lot of distractions. In the hallways, the sky is the limit! That's where I put student work, projects, and so on--but in my classroom, I keep the walls as learning tools. I have even stopped hanging things from the ceiling to make sure my students can easily refer to my walls. 

Create anchor charts you and students use

I firmly believe that anchor charts are meant to be created WITH and FOR students. That being said, I want them to be useful as well. For that reason, I work with students on a "rough draft" anchor chart...then we group things together, cross things out, and so on--and then I recopy it in a neat (well, relatively!) fashion so it's easier to read and understand. I want students to use these charts independently, and I want to be able to send students to them--both for content information AND for expectations on how to function in my class. Here are a few examples of charts that hung in my room last year...and each year I "remake" them with my new group so they are a part of the process--and they evolve along the way!
Classroom space planning and classroom organization are critical parts of helping teachers be more efficient and to help students learn.  Use these classroom organization tips, anchor chart ideas, math manipulative storage ideas, math game storage ideas, and more!  third grade math, fourth grade math, math workshop, math stations, math centers, teaching math, guided math
Classroom space planning and classroom organization are critical parts of helping teachers be more efficient and to help students learn.  Use these classroom organization tips, anchor chart ideas, math manipulative storage ideas, math game storage ideas, and more!  third grade math, fourth grade math, math workshop, math stations, math centers, teaching math, guided math, precision, math practice standards
Classroom space planning and classroom organization are critical parts of helping teachers be more efficient and to help students learn.  Use these classroom organization tips, anchor chart ideas, math manipulative storage ideas, math game storage ideas, and more!  third grade math, fourth grade math, math workshop, math stations, math centers, teaching math, guided math
Classroom space planning and classroom organization are critical parts of helping teachers be more efficient and to help students learn.  Use these classroom organization tips, anchor chart ideas, math manipulative storage ideas, math game storage ideas, and more!  third grade math, fourth grade math, math workshop, math stations, math centers, teaching math, guided math
Be mindful of bulletin boards and take advantage of that real estate

Bulletin boards can be great reference tools for our students!  I keep up my growth mindset bulletin board all year and add to it as we learn new things.  I refer to it often--as do the students.
Classroom space planning and classroom organization are critical parts of helping teachers be more efficient and to help students learn.  Use these classroom organization tips, anchor chart ideas, math manipulative storage ideas, math game storage ideas, and more!  third grade math, fourth grade math, math workshop, math stations, math centers, teaching math, guided math, growth mindset
Even displaying the Standards for Mathematical Practice posters (in kid-friendly language) is a great way to use bulletin board space--IF you actually use it as a teaching tool.  Simply hanging up the posts (or any anchor chart, for that matter) does nothing...we need to refer to these tools, talk about them, and encourage students to use them.  Click the image below if you want to check out this poster set (I have several versions in my store to match different room decor!)
I'm sure you will think of other great bulletin board ideas that can make a difference in your teaching...whether it's for math or other content.  I love displaying other work too--but I want to make sure my classroom is a place for learning and inspiration as much as possible!

Math Manipulatives and Supplies

We want students to be independent "users" of our supplies

One thing that I constantly talk about is the need for us, as teachers, to get out of our students' way.  We do too much!  We think for them...we make decisions for them...and we need to learn to let go.  Here's an example.

Let's say I'm going to be doing a lesson on elapsed time.  To help, I put a few Judy clocks at each desk group to help them model their thinking.  Great, right?

Wrong.  I did the thinking for them.  I essentially said, "This is a problem you need a clock to solve."--but really, it is not.

Students could draw a sketch.  Or make a number line.  Or get counters out to represent minutes.  Or use a ruler to measure out passed time.  Or use fraction circles where a "whole" represents a whole hour.  Or maybe they will use tally marks or some sort of computation where they "trade" hours and minutes.  It doesn't matter--by giving them clocks, 9 times out of 10--they will use the clocks.

So...the moral of the story is this.  Have a bounty of resources in your classroom.  Have them at student-height.  Have them available--not in a closet.  Teach the students where they are and how to use them.  Create the climate where students know they can go grab whatever they need whenever they need it.

Consider small storage containers or toolboxes


One way I help make this happen is to store math manipulatives in easy-to-use containers.  Snack sized plastic storage containers are great for individual sets of counters--easy to grab and take back to students' desks with no fuss or hassle.  You can use little cubes, fun mini erasers, bingo chips--whatever you can find!

I also love my toolbox as pictured below:
Classroom space planning and classroom organization are critical parts of helping teachers be more efficient and to help students learn.  Use these classroom organization tips, anchor chart ideas, math manipulative storage ideas, math game storage ideas, and more!  third grade math, fourth grade math, math workshop, math stations, math centers, teaching math, guided math
Each drawer pulls right out and students can take it right to their desk.  I fill the drawers with different counters so students can pick what they like!

All other supplies...pattern blocks, base 10 blocks...rulers...Judy clocks--ALL of it--is on open shelves and ready for students to use when needed.  

Teach students about where things go and how to access them


Because of this easy access, I do make sure my students know how to use the tools, where to get them, and HOW TO PUT THEM BACK!  This takes some training at the beginning of the year, but it saves so much time eventually because when students find dice on the floor or a ruler--they can just deal with it without interrupting me.  #timesaver #sanitysaver


via GIPHY

Have stacking trays of different types of paper


It's not just math supplies either!  Get a stacking tray and fill it with lined paper, white paper, different grid paper, dot paper, blank number lines--anything!  Students can realize that paper itself is a tool...and it may inspire them to solve problems in different ways.

Don't assume students have supplies 

One thing I didn't think about when I was a younger teacher was that some students may not have supplies.  Our supply list has things like rulers, glue sticks, and protractors--but I know not all students come with them--for a variety of reasons.  I always have this type of supply on hand in my math area so there is never any embarrassment or need to ask.  Again, I want students to be independent and to have access to any tool they need.

Other Organizational Tips and Strategies

There are other people FAR more organized than I am who can write a better post about classroom organization.  That being said, I thought I'd share a few more tips of things that actually seem to improve the quality of instruction (or efficiency) for me.

Colored paper in hanging files 

I like to use colored paper to shake things up sometimes...for problems that I have students glue in their notebooks, for directions at stations, or for headings for math sorts.  I used to have to go foraging, but by biting the bullet and buying some hanging folders, my beeyooootiful paper is easily within reach at all times.
Classroom space planning and classroom organization are critical parts of helping teachers be more efficient and to help students learn.  Use these classroom organization tips, anchor chart ideas, math manipulative storage ideas, math game storage ideas, and more!  third grade math, fourth grade math, math workshop, math stations, math centers, teaching math, guided math

Zipper bags for math games

I like to use gallon zip bags for my games most of the time because they are so inexpensive and easy to replace.  I like that you can write on them--and I even will write what supplies are needed, how many people can play, or other directions.

For the games I use for interventions, I do put them in these nice bags from Seat Sack.  I like that they are oversized, super durable, and have a spot to put a label.  These are all the games I have as a part of my bundled math centers...4 games and the labels to go with them!  Click here to see what I mean.  I love how durable they are and that I can grab what I need and hang it on a tack on the wall next to my table so it's ready for me.  They are big enough to put several sets of the game and dice, counters, or whatever is needed.

Classroom space planning and classroom organization are critical parts of helping teachers be more efficient and to help students learn.  Use these classroom organization tips, anchor chart ideas, math manipulative storage ideas, math game storage ideas, and more!  third grade math, fourth grade math, math workshop, math stations, math centers, teaching math, guided math
(These are the bundled game sets with labels if you are interested)

Premade exit slips and word problems

Another time saver that REALLY helps me is that for each unit, I print off the word problems and exit slips I want to use, get them cut, clipped together, and marked with a sticky note for the day/lesson I want to use them.  Realistically, I don't get through them all which is GREAT!  I put the extra word problems in a vertical letter holder to use as warm ups over the next week ( I love to keep using problems as review even when the unit is finished!) and the exit slips in a different one.  I am a firm believer in continuing to measure skills--so if we finish our unit on partial products, my students can count on exit slips on partial products sprinkled in for the rest of the year.  This is so important as I plan interventions--to makes sure students retain their learning and get reteaching when needed.

Classroom space planning and classroom organization are critical parts of helping teachers be more efficient and to help students learn.  Use these classroom organization tips, anchor chart ideas, math manipulative storage ideas, math game storage ideas, and more!  third grade math, fourth grade math, math workshop, math stations, math centers, teaching math, guided math

Get a mobile math cart!

Seriously.  I use this cheap piece of plastic ALL. THE. TIME.  It stores my whiteboards, a bin of markers and erasers, and then whatever else I want...fraction pieces if I am meeting with a fraction group...task cards if I need those...and I can move it to wherever I want.  I often move my "teaching area" around the room based on how much space I need, so it's awesome to be able to relocate this "hub" either to where I am--or far away from me if students NOT working with me need it.
Classroom space planning and classroom organization are critical parts of helping teachers be more efficient and to help students learn.  Use these classroom organization tips, anchor chart ideas, math manipulative storage ideas, math game storage ideas, and more!  third grade math, fourth grade math, math workshop, math stations, math centers, teaching math, guided math

Want a FREEBIE to help you do some classroom planning of your own?  

Have you missed the other posts in this series?

Click HERE for the introductory post.
Click HERE for Challenge 1 (yearly planning)
Click HERE for Challenge 2 (math talk and mindset)
Click HERE for Challenge 3 (word problems and problem solving)
Click HERE for Challenge 4 (math organization)
Click HERE for Challenge 5 (math assessment)
Click HERE for Challenge 6 (meaningful problem solving)

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Classroom space planning and classroom organization are critical parts of helping teachers be more efficient and to help students learn.  Use these classroom organization tips, anchor chart ideas, math manipulative storage ideas, math game storage ideas, and more!  third grade math, fourth grade math, math workshop, math stations, math centers, teaching math, guided math