Really struggling to teach second grade math, need help!

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by SushiBean, Dec 8, 2012.

  1. SushiBean

    SushiBean Rookie

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    Dec 8, 2012

    This year, I got a job in a new district teaching second grade. I have experience from another district where I was fine teaching math. It was even my favorite subject and my students always did well! Now, I am struggling to the point that I am afraid of not having a job again next year:(

    I need help with how to set up my math lessons. It seems that every teacher at my school does it differently and I have tried a few different set ups but nothing has worked well. We have the Envisions Math program but we are only supposed to use it as a resource, not actually teach it. We also are supposed to look at several other resources we have available, most of them text books, and pull from them all each day. We also are not supposed to use worksheets... I am finding that difficult for math! I know not to use a ton of worksheets only, but I used to use one or two to help me to see if they understood a concept.

    In the beginning of the year, I was told to do three group rotations so I tried this even though I have never done it before. I would introduce a concept whole group for 5-10 minutes (whole group is supposed to be very limited) and then break them into 3 groups. One center was a computer math game, one an activity or partner game with manipulatives, and one was meeting and working with me. I had an observation last week and ran math this way and it was awful!:(

    Some major problems... the students at the computer were not always staying on the correct game and were exploring the websites for other games that were no longer working on our concept (we talk about this and most students know not to do this, but the few boys that never listen didn't follow that direction). This is more a behavior problem but if I can't control it, I will not be able to keep this as a center.

    The second center activity wasn't great because some students need extra help and I was busy with another group and couldn't give them help. I pulled a center activity from the Envisions program but they aren't often very great activities.

    My group wasn't working out because my below level group is extremely below second grade level and couldn't understand the concept even a little bit. It's second grade but there are 5 students who are on the kindergarten level (the school pushes everyone up no matter how behind they are). So I guess even attempting to teach them second grade material was a bad idea since they don't know basic skills (I was trying to start small and teach pretty basic stuff but it was still too difficult). The advice I got was to look up kindergarten standards and teach from that.

    I guess I am having trouble because I am used to a routine but there is just so much going on in each lesson that I can't seem to get into a routine that works. Does anyone else have experience with not really having a curriculum to teach for math? I have basically been told to look at the common core standards and take ideas from several different resources to teach them. Some teachers create different centers and have students practice the same ones all week. Some have partner games. Some don't do rotations but still pull small groups while the rest are playing games.

    I am redoing my observation this week and need to figure out something better by then. Not only that, I need help on how to differentiate for the students who don't even recognize numbers. ANY help or advice or ideas on how to structure math each day would be greatly appreciated!
     
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  3. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Dec 8, 2012

    You need to teach your expectations again and then reinforce some consequences for misbehavior. Maybe the students who aren't playing the correct games on the computer need to write a letter to you and their parents. Maybe these students lose computer programs.

    The activity or partner game needs to be a game that you have played and taught whole group or at least to the students in small group. These games should be games that the students can play on their own and work on math (but do not have to work on the concept you are teaching this week). They can play games to review concepts that you have taught.
     
  4. SushiBean

    SushiBean Rookie

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    Dec 8, 2012

    Thanks! Do you do three group rotations?

    I might just not do the computer center all together. Or maybe just do it sometimes. I have had the consequence of losing computer privileges when they don't do what they are supposed to but I didn't even know they weren't doing the correct game since I was on the other side of the room working with a small group. The principal went over to a few students and asked them to tell her what they were learning on that game, and she told me they weren't doing it. That makes it worse! Because it's hard for me to monitor this, it might be better to get rid of it. Also, I was told that doing a game on the computer and doing a partner game at the next center is too many games. They are all reinforcing the concept learned but I guess they don't want so many "games." Usually the next center is more of an activity with manipulatives that I explain beforehand and that has directions on the top. They sometimes understand but only play for a minute and then get bored of it. Only my low group doesn't ever understand. I will probably stop using those activities too. If I stop using the supplied centers, it means I have to make up my own and I am just not sure what exactly to do. Also, I spend on average 13 hours a day at school every day and I don't have a lot of extra time to make centers. And I guess with my really low group, I would have to have a completely different set of centers just for them. I don't know!
     
  5. GAteacher

    GAteacher Rookie

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    Dec 9, 2012

    I do something similar with my math time. I have 3 groups that are rotating. There is a group with me that is working on the current concept, a group doing seat work, and a group on the computers. I had to tweak it but the seat work group is not working on the current concept - they're working on something we've done previously like addition with regrouping or subtraction with regrouping. Also, the computer is strictly for math fact practice.
     
  6. PinkCupcake

    PinkCupcake Cohort

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    Dec 9, 2012

    My district uses Envision Math as well. Do you have access to the supplemental website? It has great videos for each topic, and you can set up your class to work on whatever skill you are teaching during computer time. 5-10 minutes seems a bit short to me for introducing a concept. What about using journals instead of worksheets?
     
  7. lindita323

    lindita323 Companion

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    Dec 9, 2012

    Hi! I also do a 3 group rotation schedule for my math class... One is my guided math group, one group is doing independent practice on past skills (usually from EnVision workbook,) and the third group is working on math workstation games or computers. I have 4 computers, so the kids are on a schedule and take turns every other day either doing the computer skill practice or they choose a math station game. The math station games are introduced one by one during whole group time, and when they have had enough practice with it and no longer need guidance, I make it a permanent choice in workstations. Right now I have 6 tubs of math station activities they can choose ranging from card games, wipe off board skill practice, math flipovers, etc.

    I believe consistency and the explicit teaching of expectations is the key in setting up your math class in this manner. Any activity the kids are going to do independently need to be activities that they have done over and over again so they CAN be independent. This takes time and practice, practice, practice. My advice would be to pull back a bit if the students are not actually working independently and need you. Take part of your whole group time this week to teach an easy, high interest game, like addition war. After a few days of introducing this game (or any other,) you can feel confident that they will know how to play it on their own. You can then place the materials needed for the game with easy to follow directions in the tub, and this game can become a permanent workstation choice. You can introduce new station games once a week as part of your whole group lesson, and soon you will have many choices for your students.

    As far as the computer issues, I had 2 students this year who decided to work on a different website than the assigned activity. The first time they did this, I friendly reminded them of the expectations. The next time it happened, they had to stay in during recess to complete the assigned math practice on the computer and they wrote letters home to their parents explaining why they had to miss recess. They had to bring the note back signed the next day, or no recess until it was returned signed. I had complete support from the parents, and we have never had another problem on the computers again :O)

    From what I understand from your post, you are being given the opportunity to "redo" observation... This is amazing. That shows me that your administrator is looking for you to address the areas of improvement from the first one. If the expectation though is that you are teaching through the rotations as you framework, I don't know that a week is enough to show growth for you. Would you be able to write up a longer term plan for him/her showing what you would like to work on and your plan of HOW you are going to do that?

    If you can pre-teach the station activity during whole group early in the week, I believe that by Thursday or Friday your kiddoes should be able to go solo on this. Reteach and practice the expectations for the computer station. I also agree that if you have students that are performing on at a lower grade level, the small group time is the time to address their needs. For example, if your guided math activity is addition word problems with double digit numbers, then find resources in which you can do this skill at a lower level for the ones who need it. If students have not mastered the foundational skills, pushing them ahead just leads to frustration and not ever mastering anything.

    Sorry for the wordiness! I just kept on writing and writing!
     
  8. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Fanatic

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    Dec 9, 2012

    SushiBean

    This year, I got a job in a new district teaching second grade. I have experience from another district where I was fine teaching math. It was even my favorite subject and my students always did well!

    SushiBean,

    I can better help if I knew what grade you taught before. Did you also teach 2nd grade or was it a different grade?
     
  9. HeatherY

    HeatherY Habitué

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    Dec 9, 2012

    What about substituting in a basic skill builder for the computer? Have a packet made up for addition, basic subtraction, subtraction with borrowing and multiplication if necessary. Have them pull out the one at their level and work on it at their desk. Kids can always use more practice at facts.

    My ST was in second and the teacher did two rotations. She taught a mini lesson, then taught a small easy game. We usually used dice or cards. ie: roll the dice and whoever adds the numbers up fastest gets to roll the next time. Or use a deck of cards without the face cards in the same idea. Simple simple stuff, but they liked it. They'd also rotate partners within the group after 10 rolls or something. The other group was with her working more on the concept. Rotate after 15 minutes. Regroup and review for 5.
     
  10. Danny'sNanny

    Danny'sNanny Connoisseur

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    Dec 9, 2012

    I do 4 rotations

    Math facts - handheld games, websites, card games, etc

    At your seat - paper and pencil practice - we usually start with the pages in our Envision workbook, and then I make supplemental enrichment/remediation packets

    Teacher - where I teach the bulk of my lesson, hands on with manipulatives

    Hands on - games to practice or computer games
     
  11. SushiBean

    SushiBean Rookie

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    Dec 9, 2012

    Is their seat work a worksheet? I am not supposed to use worksheets so I guess I could use some other ideas. Also, my three groups are on such different levels, I would have to have three different activities if they were to work independently. Right now, we are working on addition and subtraction with two digit numbers. I got a brand new student last week who said 3+3=33, and he is not by lowest student:unsure:
     
  12. SushiBean

    SushiBean Rookie

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    Dec 9, 2012

    I do have access to the website but since Envisions is just one resource, we're supposed to use it only occasionally. I do try to play the videos as often as I can, but some of them aren't as good as others so I don't use them them all. I was also trying to incorporate the center activities that Envisions offers, but my principal didn't seem to like that and basically said to find another more rigorous option. Plus, even though they have a few different center activity options (the basic and enrichment I think), the basic one is still too difficult for many of my students.

    I think I am going to try to extend my whole group if I can, because I think it would be helpful and would save some time. I have been using small whiteboards instead of worksheets during whole group and that is working but I haven't tried that during small group rotations.
     
  13. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    Dec 9, 2012

    Did your administrators state that you must pull from all of the texts all the time? I think perhaps I'm misunderstanding that part.

    I, too, have 3 rotations. This is what my math period looks like (10:15-11:40).

    Whole group:

    • Calendar math - we cover a wide range of material during this interactive portion of our "math day." My calendar math is entirely done on the SmartBoard, and the kiddos love it.
    • Math Journal - we have been working 2-4 word problems each day for the past 3 months. My kiddos know that, with very few exceptions, at the beginning of math the 2nd thing we do is get out our math journals (I use address labels for the problem, then we have a routine for solving them).
    • If I am teaching a new skill, I introduce it during whole group. This takes about 10 minutes, usually.
    • My computer rotation utilizes the (free) website xtramath.org. I set up my students, and it works at their pace to work on math facts.
    • My "seat work" rotation is generally a fact drill or workbook page.
    • My teacher table utilizes manipulatives, works on new skills, and provides interventions for my (extremely) low kiddos.
    • Sometimes I have a 4th game station. The game provided is ONLY one that I have introduced and practiced with the students before, and if that was a while ago, I practice it again before letting them loose with it.

    We do not use any specific program for math, other than the Common Core standards, and our state's (bare minimum) comprehensive curriculum, which is a little more than a pacing guide.
     
  14. SushiBean

    SushiBean Rookie

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    Thank you for all of your information! I guess I will try to stick to 3 group rotation and work out the issues. I was told by the math specialist that we had to do three group rotations but then when the principal came in last week and saw that it wasn't working that well, she told me I could do what I thought would work best for my students. I have tried a few different things but like you said, one week isn't a lot of time to show much growth! She is only letting me redo my observation because I have taught successfully before and she said she knows I can do better. I know I have done better, I just don't know why I am having such a hard time now! One of my major issues is how low a few of my students are. I need a basic skills assessment to show me what they do and don't know because the pre-assessments I have done weren't low enough. What type of pre-assessment do you do?
     
  15. SushiBean

    SushiBean Rookie

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    I taught first grade before. The set up was completely different though. I also taught Everyday Mathematics, which I loved! I would start with the question of the day, do some practice/review whole group, teach the new concept whole group, then they would independently practice the skill. I would meet with my below level students while the rest were working and when the others were finished, they played partner games that they had learned and practiced many times. This worked out well for me and the students. Now, it would be too much whole group and the independent worksheets would need to be replaced with something else so I don't think I can really set it up that way.
     
  16. SushiBean

    SushiBean Rookie

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    Thanks! I have already set up my class on xtramath.org and will definitely start using that as computer time. I only have two computers and sometimes can borrow two more laptops so could have four students independently on the computers at a time. How many do you have working on that website at a time? What do you have them do if they finish early? My three groups have 7-8 students in them so I was having them double up on computers, and they actually worked pretty well together doing this.

    We go by the pacing guide and common core state standards as well, which makes for a lot more planning than my old curriculum! Our first grade teachers use calendar math but second grade does not. Where do you find the games, worksheets, and word problems you use each day? Do you just make it all up yourself?

    I also want to mention that ALL of the second grade teachers are new this year (we were told they all left because it was too overwhelming!) so we are all kind of figuring it out together, looking at the standards, pulling random things to go with them, and trying to share. It just seems like we haven't gotten into a solid routine yet. Hearing from everyone here is helpful!
     
  17. SushiBean

    SushiBean Rookie

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    Dec 9, 2012

    I forgot to answer this part... I don't think they really said we must use every single text but they have asked what I have been pulling from and if I have used a few specific ones. They are also all listed in our curriculum guide as resources to use so I think the idea is we are supposed to look at them all and use what would benefit our students. Honestly, it's been pretty hard to find time to look at all the resources listed!
     
  18. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    Dec 9, 2012

    You might need to go a bit longer with whole group. If they're not good at the centers routine, it's a waste of time anyway. See if you can get them whiteboards. I do whole group lessons for 20 minutes and they practice as a class. It's good formative assessment, and they'll be more engaged.

    For your 3 centers, I say keep them. Guided math will still be with you. The games center HAS to be filled with easy partner review games. I pull a lot of free materials off teacherspayteachers.com. For computers, but have the window already open to what you want them to do. Post any login information, and train 1 kid in each group to be the computer captain and make sure everybody gets on okay. If kids do not meet expectations for any center, they need to receive consequences.
     

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