Texas Drought Benefits Math Concepts

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”     -George Bernard Shaw

The Texas drought may have dried up our pond, but it offered our two youngest children the opportunity to play in the biggest mud puddle they’d ever seen. I told them they could play in the mud puddle as long as they wore their boots and didn’t get too messy. All moms reading this blog are chuckling to themselves…you know that it wasn’t five minutes before the first child went in past the top of their boot. At that point, I quit worrying about the muddy mess and decided to make it into muddy math.

“It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.”     -Leo Buscaglia

I talk to teachers and parents about simple ways to develop mathematical concepts in every situation.  I emphasize that the greatest tool they have is their ability to ask questions, make a real-world connection, and engage their children and students in math that’s FUN. The following list is comprised of what might have caused parental alarm and a negative parental response, but was transformed into meaningful math conceptual development.

1. The children tried to go all the way across the pond without their water going into their boot.

If your boot is 12’’ tall, how deep do you think the water is?

2. Both of the children don’t make it across the pond and are standing in water that is pouring into their boot.

Since there’s water pouring into your boot, use what you know about the height of your boot and the height of the water on your leg to estimate how deep the water is. Use this same information to see how much deeper the water is at different locations in the pond.

3. One of them stands in the middle of the pond too long and his boot is stuck. He’s about to fall over—especially when he starts laughing because his foot came out of his boot.

How deep do you think the mud is? Compare that depth to the depth of the water. Where do you think the mud is the deepest? Why?

4. Both children can barely make it out of the water because there is so much water in their boots.

How much water is in your boot? What is the type of measurement you are making when you estimate the amount of liquid something can hold?

5. Now that their boots are completely wet and most of their clothes are wet they decide to complete the drenching of their clothing by racing each other across the pond.

How fast can you run across the pond? Do you think you can run as quickly with your boots full of water? Why or why not? Try it and see if you’re right.

6. Since they’ve begun to run across the pond laughing, the inevitable is going to happen….complete immersion.

How long will it take before someone falls in?

7. After immersion of at least one child, they sit on the side of the pond to wring out their clothes and dump their boots for the hundredth time.

Did filling your boots with water and drenching your clothing make a difference in the amount of water left in the pond? Why not? How could you measure the amount of water in the pond?

8. While they dump their boots they notice that the water is flowing down certain portions of the bank faster.

How many seconds does it take for water to go from the top of the hill to the giant puddle? Which goes faster—crevasse or flat surface? What is that called?

9. They’ve grown tired of running across the pond and are taking turns pouring water out of their boots down the hill.

What is the difference between kinetic and potential energy? What does the pond represent? What does the pouring of the pond water represent?

10. The language of science appeals to my daughter who knows that math and science go together and that both are everywhere and in everything.

How many different things can you see near the pond that have potential energy? Kinetic energy? (Their favorite form of kinetic energy is themselves running down the hill. Their favorite form of potential energy is stopping just short of falling in the pond…of course, one of them does happen to fall in.)

11. One of them comes up to me and shows me how wet they are and how little water and mud is stuck to their hair.

I ask them, “What is a good probability word that describes the likelihood of you having to take a shower? What is the percentage chance of you having to use soap?”

As we trudge back up the hill and away from the pond we pass an armadillo digging in the dirt. We decide that the likelihood of the armadillo taking a shower is never and we sit down in the dirt to watch him finish his hole. The experience had brought all of us a little mud, a little math, and a LOT of fun!

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”     -Plato

“It’s the GREAT Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”

“I’ve learned there are three things you don’t discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.”     -Linus

Out of all of the Peanuts comic strips and television specials, this one is my favorite. As a child I thought that waiting for the Great Pumpkin was much more fun than waiting for Santa Claus.

As a teacher, my grade level was never the one who went to the local pumpkin patch to pick pumpkins. So, when a friend told me he ran a pumpkin patch in Delaware (Yes, that’s where Pumpkin Chunkin’ is an art form and big competition.) I quickly volunteered to be the Pumpkin School Teacher.

This one time adventure turned into six years of incredible experiences teaching over 4,000 students a year all about pumpkins. I have researched the life cycle of pumpkins, types of pumpkins, the history of pumpkins, pumpkin contests, pumpkin decorations, and pumpkin recipes.  I have tried every pumpkin and every recipe I could find–just so I could tell students what it looked like, how to cook it, and what was it’s taste. I know a “scary” amount about pumpkins.

This week I once again had the honor of teaching at a Pumpkin Patch School. It was a little bit hotter and a little bit more humid since it was in Texas. However, the pumpkins fascinated the children the same way they had in Delaware. In just 30 minutes, the students were able to learn over ten math concepts, ten vocabulary words, and ten scientific facts. They not only learned them, but they brought their parents back to the patch and were telling them all about the “Baby Bear,” the “Blue Hubbard,” the “Atlantic Giant,” and the “Lumina” pumpkins. The students learned that Atlantic Giants can be the size of a small car and have been used as a boat to go across a lake–that’s fascinating information!

Because the Pumpkin School is hands-on and meaningful, the students learn and remember that pumpkins grow from seeds and the pumpkin only grows if a bee brings pollen from the male flower of the pumpkin to the female flower of the pumpkin. They can tell you about how many seeds are in a Baby Bear Pumpkin (weighs about 1 lb) and a Howden Pumpkin (weighs 5-15 lbs). They learn that gourds are inedible and just used for decoration. (The need for gourds in a pumpkin patch really stumps pre-kindergarteners. Since they can’t be eaten, why bother to grow them?) So much can be done with a pumpkin!

There are many resources on the web to help you explore pumpkins. I’ll post some of those links next week. To get you started, here’s a simple sheet with easy to do activities to develop the mathematical knowledge in your classroom or home—and, have fun at the same time!

Pumpkin Patch Fun

Charlie Brown: Oh brother. When are you going to stop believing in something that isn’t true?
Linus: When YOU stop believing in that fat guy in a red suit and the white beard who goes, “Ho, ho, ho!”

Accountability in Small-Group Instruction

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment to improve the world.”     -Anne Frank

Many secondary teachers are fine-tuning the use of small-group instruction in their classrooms. The email below is an incredible exchange with great information. Hope it helps some of you, too.

Subject: Tabor Rotation Questions, Using a Passport

I’m beginning to use the passport with my students and have a few questions. How do you use the “Remember It” and the Vocabulary Boxes? What do the kids write and why?

**I give the kids a verbal cue the last 3 minutes of each rotation. That is their signal that they need to complete the passport for that rotation. Part of their responsibility is to fill in the “Remember It.” The purpose of the vocabulary is to help them organize their brain and connect what they did to the vocabulary. Later, when they write their journal, I encourage them to use a couple of their vocabulary words in their writing.

Passports are one way a teacher can hold each student accountable for their work and their effort during the station rotations on Days 2 & 3 of the Tabor Rotation Framework. Examples of these types of passports are on the FREE RESOURCES page of this site.

The use of the Vocabulary terms in their math journal writing solidifies the information learned and uses a different side of the brain to process the information.

How do you ensure the kids are filling out the passport with fidelity? Meaning, when do they fill it out?  How do you know they did it themselves? What’s the process? How soon do you grade it? What feedback do you give? What kind of grade do you give? Is the grade for completion or correctness?

** I grade it for a combination of completion and correctness. I try to give a little quiz at the end of Teacher Time. I count it like a class work grade. Cheating is always an issue with teenagers. I make them show their work, which helps, but I also emphasize that the most important thing to me is that they understand what they are doing. I say it a lot – they get tired of hearing, but this is working. I try to grade them by the next week.

** For the games, especially, I put a couple of questions (2-3) on the passport that represents what they are suppose to master as a result of playing the game. They complete them during the last 2 or 3 minutes of rotation. If they are caught answering them early I note it on the top of the rotation paper -they hate that.

Teachers struggle with how to obtain grades when students are working together in stations. Including a passport with a completion and participation grade is one source of assessment. Adding a couple of questions helps the students connect the meaningful activity to the abstract problem and also gives the teacher an immediate check for understanding.

Trying to make these things meaningful…

And, you’re doing an incredible job…just ask your students and all the teachers who will benefit from your questions and the advice of your colleague.

“In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.”     -Flora Edwards

Making Math Meaningful in the Home

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure.”     -Colin Powell

Building conceptual understanding for math can be done through almost anything. I’ve witnessed the most powerful understanding of fractions by cooking with my children. When we double or half the recipe it develops fractional understanding at the middle school level.

Simply dump the change in your pocket or wallet and see how fast your children can count how much money you had in all. If you did this every day, they would have an amazing amount of experience counting change. (Their second grade teacher will appreciate your efforts in this area since that is one of the most challenging concepts they teach.)

To develop a sense of time, hang analog clocks around the house and ask questions like, What time is it? How many more minutes till bedtime? How many more hours till dinner? What time will we need to leave if we have to be there at 7am? After you ask the question, really listen to how they respond and then ask them,

“How did you know that?”

“Tell me what your brain did.”

“Could you teach me how to do that?”

Many parents have asked me about my Hmmm-Home Meaningful Math Management. Hmmm is modeled after the Meaningful Math Management System that was extremely effective with my students.  This is a system used to cultivate math skills, life skills, and personal accountability in the home. We began using it in our home three years ago and have elevated our children’s level of economic understanding. When one of our children wants something, then we help them determine a way to earn it. Whatever they receive means so much more when we don’t just give it to them.

I’ve posted a slideshow explanation of the system and tools to assist parents in implementing Hmmm! in their home. To continue on my mission to help families, too, I’ve also added a lot of activities, games, and workmats to the parent section of the FREE RESOURCES page of my website. I’d love to know what happens when you begin to use these ideas in your home!

“When you discipline yourself to do what is hard, you gain access to a realm of results that are denied everyone else. The willingness to do what is difficult is like having a key to a special private treasure room.”     -Steve Pavlina

“We’re not allowed to use number sense.”

Go ahead and read the title of this blog again. I’ve been thinking about it for almost 24 hours. It’s what my 4th grader told me last night after dinner. He and his sisters were allowed to choose anything they wanted for dinner. They chose a famous chef’s ravioli concoctions. After heating them in the microwave and declaring them the best thing they’ve ever tasted, he said he wanted that kind of meal every night. I explained that we simply couldn’t afford to eat that kind of prepared food all the time.

“Well,” he said, “exactly how much did it cost?”

Never wanting to miss an opportunity to meaningfully apply mathematical concepts, I asked him to think about it and tell me how much the meal cost. We looked at the receipt and noted that each container cost ninety-seven cents. Two of our children ate two containers. The smallest one ate only one container. After less than a minute he confidently said,

“It costs four dollars and eighty-five cents.”

I was fascinated by his immediate and sure response and asked him how he figured it out.

He described the following steps:

  1. I know that there were two of us who had two containers and one of us had one. That makes five containers of food.
  2. Ninety-seven cents is really close to a dollar. I know that five times a dollar is five dollars. But, that’s just close to the answer. It’s not the answer.
  3. Ninety-seven cents is three cents away from a dollar. There were five containers. Five times three is fifteen.
  4. Five dollars minus fifteen cents equals four dollars and eighty-five cents.

“That was easy. And, if you ask me that’s a pretty cheap way to feed all of us without having to cook. All you had to do was heat it up and it was less than five bucks.”

Being a math educator, I’ve taught all of our children standard algorithmic procedures and divergent problem-solving procedures, but I’ve also taught them how to use good number sense to determine answers. I was relieved that he had used his knowledge of money and multiplication instead of demanding a sheet of paper and a pencil.

I praised him for being so smart and for using all he knew to help him determine the answer. I told him that his teacher this year would be impressed by his ability to think mathematically and use great number sense. That’s when he made the shocking statement,

“We’re not allowed to use number sense at school. They take off points if you try to use number sense. We’re supposed to use the test-taking strategies and show in our work that we did. If we don’t, we get points taken off—even if we have the right answer.”

Do we think about the messages we are giving students? Are we encouraging our students to become mathematically intelligent or just test takers? What is good number sense and how can I help develop it?

Skip Fennel writes about the importance of number sense in this article, http://www.nctm.org/about/content.aspx?id=13822.

Numeracy Blocks talks about number sense being the foundation for everything else one learns about math, yet we take for granted its complexities. http://naturalmaths.com.au/numblocks/research_2.htm

The Florida Department of Education gives some great ideas for developing number sense. http://naturalmaths.com.au/numblocks/research_2.htm

Wichita State University Department of Math and Science students in the 750J Workshop offered examples of number sense in the animal world. http://www.math.wichita.edu/history/index.html

As for me, I breathed in for a couple of seconds. (Okay, the statement almost knocked the wind out of me and I had to count to thirty before answering him.) Knowing that it won’t help our children for me to be critical of the requirements of their school system and teachers, I answered,

“Well, you can use number sense everywhere else but in school.”


“Common sense is instinct. Enough of it is genius.”    -George Bernard Shaw

More Tabor Rotation Trainer Tips

Yesterday’s blog gave the first half of tips and “aha” moments from participants in Tabor Rotation Training of Trainers Institutes. Here’s the second half. may they encourage you to try using small-group, differentiated instruction in your school.

Tip #16: Every learner ‘s brain craves moving from the concrete to the pictorial to the abstract. I need to make sure I do this in Teacher Time and in Readiness Groups each week.

Tip #17: I like calling the Teacher Time table and the table where I meet with students for guided math instruction the WHISPER TABLE. I may even meet with students for no reason at the WHISPER TABLE just for fun!

Tip #18: Tiering isn’t really that difficult. You just take an on grade level assignment. Think of the key concepts and skills in it, then simplify for the students who might not understand how to do it and sophisticate for the students who will already know how to do it.

Tip #19: Planning is the most important part of successful use of Tabor Rotation. This isn’t something you can do on Sunday night or on the way to school that morning…

Tip #20: You can’t say you’re trying to do small groups in math the right way. It’s like standing up. You can half-way stand up. You either stay sitting or you get up. You either do Tabor Rotation or you don’t. You can’t half-way do it!

Tip #21: Assessment is critical! If you create the unit’s final assessment, then the pre-assessment, you’ll start with the end in mind and focus your attention on what needs to be learned. And, this justifies my results!

Tip #22: Although learning all 14 Essential Elements of Tabor Rotation and how to plan for a full week of Tabor Rotation is challenging at first, with an open mind and clear vision for student improvement, the training will be the most valuable time you’ve ever spent!

Tip #23: Planning for Tabor Rotation helped our teachers work better as a team. Everyone has ownership for the learning of all of our students.

Tip #24: By putting in Team Roles and Leadership Academy into our classrooms, our students are learning responsibility, collaboration, and personal accountability.

Tip #25: Readiness groups can’t be skipped. I tried that last year because I thought I was doing enough just by having math stations. My students need time and attention “where they are.” Readiness groups are essential!

Tip #26: Teacher Time is my students’ favorite part of Tabor Rotation. They told me that my class is the one time during their day that a teacher actually listens to them. If you do nothing else, find a way to have Teacher Time with your students!

Tip #27: There’s a reason why the 14 Essential Elements are called “essential.” If you do all of them it makes a difference.

Tip #28: Planning for Tabor Rotation has helped my team organize their instruction so that it is specific, informed, and focused. I feel empowered!

Tip #29: This is the platform I’ve been looking for to help me and my team make small groups work. It’s like Microsoft Windows…for our math program.

Tip #30: Tabor Rotation will cause a paradigm shift.  It will challenge what teachers know and force them to truly reflect and collaborate, but it is well worth the obstacles and challenges.

Tabor Rotation Tips from Trainers


The following tips and “aha” moments came from participants in Tabor Rotation Training of Trainers Institutes. They allowed me to share them with you in hopes that they might ignite your fire for sophisticating the use of guided math groups, math stations, and differentiated instruction in math using The Tabor Rotation Framework.

Tip #1: Use Thursday and Friday to front load or pre-teach students who normally only receive remedial or intervention assistance. This gives these students the chance to be ahead instead of always feeling like they’re behind.

Tip #2: Mathematician’s Circle on Fridays is a great way to end the week. This will be the time that my class turns into a community of learners.

Tip #3: Add test prep questions to the Exit Questions after each station rotation. By doing this I’m always preparing them for the state test.

Tip #4: Self-reflection is essential, too. My on-going assessment isn’t just for my students, it’s also for me.

Tip #5: I can use FREEZE words in the classroom to get my students’ attention.  I say the FREEZE word and they stop and put their hands on their shoulders.

Tip #6: Even during the daily Whole-Group Mini-Lesson you need to stop every 5-6 minutes to let students process what they have learned so far. You may need to write this into your lesson plans so you don’t forget. (I did last year, so this year I’m writing it down!)

Tip #7: If differentiated instructional experiences are based on readiness levels, learning styles, and interests, then I have to figure out my students’ learning styles and I have to build activities based on their interests.

Tip #8: I should always be open to new ideas. I want to be green & growing instead of red & rotting on the vine.

Tip #9: We don’t have a moment to spare in a school year. For example we should be sponging up minutes waiting in line by playing games that students can use non-verbal signals to answer.

Tip #10: Tabor Team Names should come from a list of really important tested words. Every student in the room has to know what the team name means and examples of it. If the team names change once a month, that’s at least 32 words they’ll master before the test.

Tip #11: Highly able, gifted, and on-level students are still at-risk if they never receive additional assistance to challenge them in ways that are best for them. They are the untapped resource in every school.

Tip #12: Just because a school is exemplary doesn’t mean that they are doing what is best for every student. If a student begins 4th grade at level 7.1 in math and leaves 4th grade at level 7.0, then we didn’t do our job. They should have been at least at level 8.1. State tests never reflect this lack of growth…

Tip #13: Tiered station activities should be the goal of every teacher beginning to use Tabor Rotation. Just begin tiering one station at a time until you’re doing all four stations.

Tip #14: I need to use a timer when teaching the Whole Group Mini-Lesson. If I don’t, my mini-lesson will turn into a maxi-lesson!

Tip #15: If I do Tabor Rotation the way it’s designed, then I’ll have at least 30 minutes meeting in a small group setting with EVERY student—that is way cool!

Readiness Groups in Tabor Rotation

“Every success is built on the ability to do better than good enough.”

I’m beginning to understand Tabor Rotation, but what are readiness groups and why are they important?

The Tabor Rotation Framework asks teachers to flexibly group students in a variety of ways. Each week includes partner work, whole-group instruction, teachable moments with individual students, small group work with students of mixed abilities, and working with small groups of students who are grouped together according to their level of understanding of the concepts that are being explored that week.

Students are grouped heterogeneously for the rotation through the four stations on Days 2 & 3 of the Tabor Rotation Framework. This type of grouping promotes the communication between students in the group and between the teacher and the students. If students who are at-promise in general ability in mathematics sit between a couple of other students who have a little bit greater ability, then the teacher/leader/co-leader isn’t the only person in the group who can explain or clarify how to process a concept. This varied perspective gives students a chance to learn from each other at the other stations.

Just as important is the homogeneous grouping of students on the continuum of readiness for the concepts that are being explored that week. The students’ placement on the continuum is determined by pre-assessments, curriculum compacting, informal assessments, formative assessments, and clipboard cruising. Readiness grouping takes place on Thursdays and Fridays. After Vivid Vocabulary and the Whole-Group Mini-Lesson, all students are involved in an application of a simple or previously learned concept. Sometimes teachers use a tiered Application Menu of Concepts to engage all learners in an appropriately differentiated practice. As all students are working, the teacher uses the information gathered during the week to pull readiness groups.

On Days 4 & 5 of Tabor Rotation, the first readiness group called is the “Above-Level” Group. These students have mastered the week’s concepts at an abstract level and are ready to be qualitatively challenged with different work. The teacher meets with these students for 8-10 minutes and sends them back to work on the tiered assignments or on a different set of assignments designed to challenge their deepened level of understanding.

Next, the teacher meets with the “On-Level” Readiness Group for 8-10 minutes. Why meet with them? They are on level and have a basic level of understanding of the week’s concepts. Here’s why…if a teacher will meet with these students and build on their interests and learning styles to challenge them, they will become highly able learners. Typically,  these students are never met with at all because the perception of a district is that these students will “pass” so they are just fine. I believe these “woodwork” students are the untapped gold mine of a school. We have no idea what they could do with a little bit of individualized attention, because they have rarely received individualized attention.

The last readiness group called is the “Approaching-Level” or “At-Promise” students. These students have not mastered all of the concepts for the week even though they experienced the concepts in varied modalities and met with the teacher in Teacher Time. The students are given a different experience with the week’s concepts so they may continue on their way to mastery.

Why use mixed grouping at the Tabor Rotation Stations? Why keep a constant check on students to determine their level of understanding & form readiness groups…because…ALL students deserve qualitatively challenging, respectful, and meaningful work. ALL students need time to meet with the teacher in a small group setting and receive additional and appropriate assistance. Varying the grouping is a great way to make sure this occurs!

“The greatest danger a team faces isn’t that it won’t become successful, but that it will, and then cease to improve.” -Mark Sanborn

“Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity.” -Henry Hartman

Application Menus

“The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.” -Flora Whittemore

“My basic principle is that you don’t make decisions because they are easy; you don’t make them because they are cheap; you don’t make them because they’re popular; you make them because they’re right.” -Theodore Hesburgh

“This framework doesn’t really meet the needs of all my learners. Just sending them to stations isn’t going to cut it!”

My blog post today is about engagement of students during readiness grouping on Days 4 & 5 of a week of Tabor Rotation using Application Menus. However, the concern above is typically expressed by at least one member of a faculty who has the required opportunity of using the Tabor Rotation Framework.

Let’s address this first concern. My response will always be, “You’re right! Just sending them to stations a couple of days a week isn’t going to meet all their needs. But, it’s a great place to begin differentiating instruction in mathematics and is so much better than whole-group instruction every day of the week.” Now that you’ve begun to use stations and vary the modality through which you students learn mathematical concepts, then you’re ready to layer on Readiness Grouping.

Take a look at some of my blog posts concerned with Clipboard Cruising. You also might want to look at the clip below from the new Tabor Rotation Training Series.

Clipboard Cruising, and other on-going assessment techniques, helps the teacher determine the varied levels of mastery of the week’s concepts and form readiness groups. Now, we’re ready for the next set of questions…

“What do you mean by Application of Concepts on Day 4 of Tabor Rotation?”

“What do I do with the rest of the class when I’m working with my differentiated, readiness groups on Thursday and Friday?”

These are some of the most frequently asked questions about Tabor Rotation, especially when the participants have only had one session at a conference. I’m glad teachers ask it—that means they are differentiating the instruction of the mathematical concepts that week based on pre-assessments, on-going assessments, and observation while “clipboard cruising.”

After Vivid Vocabulary Instruction and the Whole-Group Mini-Lesson on Thursday and Friday, there are several options for the independent or partner work for the entire class. This is the chance for task to become its own reward and for the student to do most of the learning because they are doing most of the work.

Some teachers assign pages from a text, have students work on an individualized dictionary of math vocabulary, play one of the games from the Games Station, complete a list of assignments, or select a tiered assignment from the Application Menu of Options.

This type of menu provides students with a choice of which options to select and in which order. It can also be tiered at novice, pro, and master levels. The following Application Menu Templates and Application Menu Example might be helpful as you begin to create your Application Menu of Options for Days 4 & 5 of Tabor Rotation.

Tabor Rotation Application Menu, Elementary Level

Tabor Rotation Application Menu, Secondary Level

Sample Tabor Rotation Application Menu

Why would you put so much time and effort into something like this? Because your composition, your work, and your masterpiece are the students whom you teach. Maybe because we should hold ourselves under the ancient Roman standards…

“The ancient Romans had a tradition: whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible: he stood under the arch.” -Michael Armstrong

Grouping in Math Using Tabor Rotation

“Always behave like a duck-keep calm and unruffled on the surface, but paddle like the devil underneath.” -Lord Barbizon

“Help! My class is so much BIGGER this year…
…what do I do?”

“I just found out that I have 28-30 students. How do I use math stations now?”

“Which is better—a larger group with an even number or a small group with an odd number?”

“Is it better to have more math stations since I have more students?”

These are some of the questions teachers submitted after conference sessions on Tabor Rotation. Teachers typically come to the Tabor Rotation sessions because they have been told to use small groups, they’ve been told to differentiate instruction at a sophisticated level, they’ve been told to respond and use intervention strategies, they’ve been told to qualitatively meet the needs of all their learners, but no one has given them a plan for how to do it all in the amount of time they’ve been given. The Tabor Rotation Framework is simply a plan to do all of the above.

Many teachers have emailed with great concern after receiving their class lists for the new school year. You may not have power over the number of students in your classes, but you do have control over how you best meet all of their needs.

The Tabor Rotation Framework came about, like any other invention, through necessity. The first Tabor Rotation classrooms had almost 40 students in a class, most of the class below grade level, and only 60 minutes to teach math. Someone had to think outside the box and start to instruct math in a way that would make the most of their minutes with students. It also needed to provide a plan to optimize varied modalities in order to develop & deepen conceptual understandings in mathematics. The Tabor Rotation Framework is what came about…it’s the answer for any size class, but was initially created for a BIG one. So, bring on the budget cuts, bring on the larger class sizes, you’ve got a way to make the most of any challenge!

The Tabor Rotation Framework is research-based, teacher-tested, and student-approved! And, implementing the 14 Essential Elements in a Week of Tabor Rotation brings about INCREDIBLE results. Check out the NEWS page of www.glennatabor.com. Because the framework has been implemented and tested for almost two decades, teachers have been able to report what has worked best for them.

The most success has been found when teachers create groups with even numbers so that everyone has a partner (6, 8, 10). At one point, each of my teams had 10 students in it, but it was easy to manage 4 math teams & 4 stations in the rotation process. It also ensured that the integrity of Readiness Groups on Days 4 & 5 of a week of Tabor Rotation was always maintained. Most classes are divided into smaller cooperative teams and work with partners during the Whole-Group Mini-Lesson and while learning in other subjects.

What about the number of stations? When teachers have more students they tend to create more & more stations. One teacher tried 12 stations so that she would have only 2-3 students per station. This became very, very challenging to manage and to create 12 new activities each week that meaningful engage every learner and every level, for every concept being taught.
Tabor teachers usually leave the number of stations the same & more sets of the same activities at the station. The team comes back together at the end of the rotation time and discusses the Exit Questions with their partner and other members of their team.

Creating for more than 4 stations will require the teacher to rethink the organization of Readiness Groups which are an Essential Element of Tabor Rotation. Heterogeneous groups go to the stations, but homogeneous or readiness groups are key to meeting the needs of all students during a week of instruction.

The Tabor Team Roles remain the same since the group remains working together in the same area of the room. When the team has more 4 members, the team roles are: Leader, Co-Leader, Materials Manager, & Timekeeper. With 6 members, you add an additional Materials Manager & a Reporter. With 8 members, a team may add a Whisper Monitor to maintain the sound level of the team or a Team Builder who encourages the team and builds up the team spirit.

This blog is meant to give ideas to those who are seeking them. Hopefully, something written in today’s blog provided you with an “aha” moment. One of the most important things to remember about grouping is the need to “shake up” or vary the way students experience a concept. Students should have the opportunity to learn in a whole-group setting, working with a partner, in a small group with varied levels of understanding, and in a group with students who are at the same level for the specific concepts being studied.

“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end.  It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.”     -Margaret Thatcher

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”     -H. Jackson Brown

More on Readiness Groups in the next blog post…