The science of reading and literacy blocks seem to be all the rage right now. However, making sure you have an effective math block schedule is just as important! While the perfect math block schedule would be 75 minutes just like your literacy centers, it’s just not that simple. No matter how much time you have for your math block, you can make your math blocks meaningful by incorporating these important steps.
What is a Math Block?
A math block is a designated amount of time that you have to teach math every day. Now like I said before, it would be ideal if you could do this for 75 minutes. However, most of us get between 45 and 60 minutes to fit everything into our math block schedule. Today, I’m going to break down what the ideal schedule would be and what is realistic for the time most of us have in our classrooms. How? By breaking down the key components a math block schedule needs to be successful.
Start Your Math Block Schedule with a Warm Up
Learning is a lot like starting a diesel truck. You can’t just start it and take off. First, you need to let it warm up a little bit. All great lessons start out with an engaging warm-up. Math is no exception to this tried and true rule! This five minute portion of your math block schedule can be used for either reviewing materials OR for teaching a new concept.
The warm-up portion of your math block schedule should be fast paced which is why it is great for review or gain interest in a brand new topic. Keep in mind most of your time in your math block schedule is going to be spent in small groups and math centers so you don’t want to spend too much time teaching something new.
Some quick warm-ups you can do include:
- Calendar activities
- Number sense activities
- Number of the day
You could even use a math center activity as a warm-up. If you’re just getting started this year, you can utilize the differentiated activities or you can check out the materials for the previous grade as well.
If you use a math center activity for a warm up, you can project it up on the board and use the digital math centers to introduce a new skill or review with the whole group. This not only helps them review, but it gets them ready for when you start to use centers in your classroom. If you haven’t checked out our awesome centers yet, make sure you sign up for my Centers made Easy Framework Master Class AND check out the resources we have in our store!
Jump Into a Mini Lesson
Once your students have their brains moving you can jump into a mini lesson. This part of your daily math block schedule is where you are directly teaching a math concept and will only last about 20 minutes. During this time, you should be extremely clear and concise. In addition, you should be using best teaching practices like modeling new concepts through the use of think-alouds and other visual tools.
In addition to modeling new ideas, you can also use some time for guided-practice. When you do guided-practice during this direct teaching time, you’ll want to make sure it’s focusing on the concept you worked on previously. I like to teach explicitly one day, then do guided practice the next. This helps you get a lot done during that 20 minutes.
During your whole group instruction, there are so many things you can do including:
- Math read-alouds
- Hands on activities with math manipulatives
- Math center activities with a partner
This is a great time to introduce new center games and activities as well as manipulatives! The key to this step is staying focused and being strategic. It’s so easy for direct instruction to run long. If you do, you’ll find yourself with less time for small group instruction which is where you’re ultimately going to get the most out of learning time.
Always Leave Lots of Time for Small Group Instruction
This component is the meat and potatoes of your math block. In the ideal world, this would be 45 minutes on its own. During this time, there are few things going on. One, your students are practicing and reviewing math skills in small groups that you created without teacher support. Why no teacher support? I’m glad you asked.
While other students are working together, you’re going to be working with a small group of students. Because you’ve strategically created your small groups, you’re going to be able to help each student grow more than they would during whole group instruction.
What Does Small Group Instruction Look Like?
During this time, students are rotating through a series of math centers that are at their independent learning level. At centers students might be working alone, in pairs, or with their small groups. Even if students are working independently, they will still have their peers in the group to help if a problem arises.
It’s important to remember here that our centers are for review. Therefore, your students should be well versed in the language that you’re using the concepts they are expected to use. By making center activities about review, you are limiting the amount of interruptions you have.
We create our math centers with the idea of no interruptions in mind. All of our math centers have predictable game styles that students are familiar with. While the game style stays the same, the skill changes. Having a pattern students are familiar with helps keep confusion low and allows you to do what you need to with the students who are at your table.
One of your center stations should be you! You’ll have each small group rotate through centers and all of them will get the chance to come to my teacher table. What does this mean for me? I get to meet with each of my students everyday in a way that is going to be perfect for targeted and differentiated instruction. During this small group time in my math block schedule, I can see and correct math misconceptions up close and watch my students grow in their math skills.
Keep Reflection in Your Math Block Schedule
One of the concepts we are taught as a young teacher is the idea of reflection. When you start your math block with a warm-up, you’ll want to end with a good reflection or wrap-up. This is a simple 5 minute block of time for your students to reflect on what they learned. For this wrap-up you can use an exit ticket, a math talk, or any other quick closing activities that you use.
The purpose of the wrap-up in your math block schedule is to allow students to show what they know. This helps them review what they did and also tells you where students are at.
Ideal vs. Real Math Block Schedules
Ok, I get it…that was all great in theory, right? However, I know we don’t have 75 minutes to do all four components of a math block. In reality, I’m going to have to find a way to squeeze all of that into a 45 to 60 minute block and still make it meaningful. So how can you do that? Like this!
Realistic Math Block Schedules
I know you might be thinking that there’s no way you can do it all. But you can! All you need to do is consider how many groups you have and how much time you’re going to spend on each component.
A 60 Minute Math Block
If you only have 60 minutes for your math block, you might want to consider a schedule that looks more like this:
- A 5 minute warm-up
- A 20 minute mini lesson
- Small groups or centers for 30 minutes with 3 groups
- Finally, a five minute wrap up.
A 45 Minute Math Block
If you only have 45 minutes, you could do a few different things to help get as much of that time as possible. One thing you can do is eliminate the mini-lesson and wrap-up. This means you would have to do more of the teaching inside your small groups. I would still do a 5 minute warm-up and then 40 minutes of small groups. This would be 3 groups I meet with for 15 minutes each. While this might mean slightly larger groups, it’s easier to do this with math than with literacy.
Every classroom schedule is different. However, we should be able to give at least 45 minutes to math centers daily to help students grow in this critical skill. If you don’t know where to find great math centers, make sure you check out our Volume 1 and Volume 2 bundles for math and literacy centers. These centers are standards based and can be used in a variety of ways throughout the school year.
Until Next Time…
Keep Being Educational Rock Stars