The start of school is looming and I am spending some time thinking about how I’d like to change-up some of our learning activities. With all the attention on the Common Core in our District, and with the commitment to Launch-Explore-Summary lesson structures, I am once again tweaking Daily Five for math.

The basics of the philosophy and research behind the Daily Five, whether it is in math or literacy, always are there. Clearly stated and modeled expectations (10 Steps to Independence), choice, brain research-based lesson structures (thank you Michael Grinder!). Now, however, we are fitting this into our Launch-Explore-Summary lesson structure.

My newest iteration of the Daily Five for math is the Daily Explore Plus Four. Using Launch-Explore-Summary, the target lesson follows our District curriculum modules in mathematics. A focus lesson, approximately 10 minutes long, introduces the day’s math exploration. Students can then begin to work on that exploration while I monitor who is able to persevere through the problem or activity and which students needs some additional support.

After about 20 minutes of independent work, we will re-gather as a group. For this focus lesson, there may be an opportunity to share solutions (or partial solutions), talk about what was uncovered in the Explore, or continue with another 10 minute whole group learning activity.

Before dismissing students to work on other math activities, just as we do in the Daily Five for literacy, students will indicate what activities they plan to participate in during remaining independent times. Here is where most students will participate in the ‘plus four’ activities (Strategy Games, Drills and Fact Practice, Technology, Problem Solving).

During the second independent time (another 30-40 minutes), while students work on their chosen independent activity, I will be able to meet with a small group or meet individually with students who struggle with a mathematical concept. For teachers who are already deep in to the Daily Five in Literacy, think individual conferences with a mathematics focus.

At the end of the math period, we will once again, re-gather as a whole group to summarize what our math goal was – and process whether or not we feel like it was accomplished – and 3 or 4 days of the week I plan to implement a 5-10 minute “Math Talk” based on Sherri Parrish’s Number Talks book. On the fifth day, I’ll use the time to check on math fact fluency (a requirement for 3rd graders in the Common Core standards).

This is a flipped version of what we’ve traditionally done in math class. In the past, the planned lesson based on the pacing criteria took about 60 minutes and the intervention/small group instructional block was 30 minutes. With the knowledge that some students will choose to keep “exploring” during the second independent session, the model has flipped so that launch and explore are accomplished within the first 30 minutes of math.

Why do I think this is a good move? Well, for starters, I know I will get a better use of time by meeting with smaller, focused groups – the same way I see improved focus during individualized reading conferences. Secondly, by strategically choosing strategy games that align with the standards currently being taught, students will have additional opportunity to practice those skills in a fun way. Analyzing test data will allow me to target and support additional skill and strategy practice where students need it in the ‘plus four’ as well. The flexibility is endless.

The start of a new school can be exhilarating and frightening all at the same time. I am definitely looking forward to a change-up of our math time; one that I think will be more beneficial to my students.