Monday, November 12, 2012

Tips and Ideas for Math and Science Small Groups

by Tabitha Carro

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As a 4th grade math and science teacher, I'm a small group junkie. This year I was fortunate enough to have low class numbers, so on many occasions I taught science, especially experiment time, in small groups. Here are some tips and ideas gathered for small group teaching:  

For math, after teaching whole group lessons, have students work at various stations while others are being worked with individually or in small groups. When placing students in groups for math, it's important to have them grouped by abilities. However, when students are in independent stations, they can be grouped by mixed abilities, so "the blind are not leading the blind". However, on occasion, try "fun" partner stations where students wisely choose their own partners. When students are with peers they can connect with, learning becomes more enjoyable, and students perform better at station activities.
For science experiment days, mixed-abilities grouping is best. Students rotate through three independent stations and one teacher/experiment station. The teacher station is focused on behavior and what combination of students will keep center rotations flowing smoothly and effectively. After teaching an introductory mini-lesson or showing a short video clip to introduce the objective and experiment of the day, explain the activity in each station and the fun begins! Each station lasts about 10 minutes, depending on the experiment and the group, for a total of 40 minutes of class time. Doing the same experiment in a whole group setting might take almost 30 minutes. 

Center/Station Ideas
"Have fun and the learning will come" is a great motto to follow! Centers are great places to see fun and learning in action. Mix fun with student-led activities, and that's when real learning magic occurs!

For math, try Multiplication Jenga by Rachel Lynette of Minds in Bloom :

Or, have fun with Math Facts Bottle Caps:

Also, Twister can be used in a variety of fun ways:

For science, students complete a variety of independent activities. Some are based on journal responses from interactive notebooks or from student computers with games from Science vocabulary is tough for many students, but especially for Spanish immersion kids, so provide different opportunities to practice speaking and vocabulary during independent stations. Some activities may include:
Bottle Cap Soccer/Hockey:

For small groups/stations to be successful, students need to be accountable for independant learning. Recording sheets are great for writing answers while in stations. Also, students can carry their interactive notebooks with them during group time to document answers as needed. Notebooks are checked at the end of each unit. At the end of groups, stage a wrap-up session. Choose students to share their journal responses or quiz students on vocabulary practiced during group times. As always, praise goes a long way. Bring attention to a particular group that was especially focused and on-task and commend them in front of the whole class.

What are some tips you have to make math and science small-group learning effective?

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1 comment:

  1. What creative ideas! I am a grade school math teacher as well and sometimes find myself racking my brain trying to think of ways to engage my students in ways that I haven't before, all the while making what we're learning fun. These look like great ways to get the kids really excited about learning something new. I just read a great book you might like, it's called "Teach Like A PIRATE" by Dave Burgess. You can check him out and get the book right from the website Thanks for the post and great ideas!


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