Saturday, July 5, 2014

My Classroom Structure

When I first started teaching, I never thought that I would teach with students in teams.  During the first few that I taught, the the students sat in rows, facing the front of the room. This way I knew they were paying attention to me. Oh how I have grown as a teacher. I used to think that if they were quietly working, then they were learning. Now I beg my students to talk, because when I hear them talking, I hear what they are saying, and therefore I know that they are learning.  I expect a lot of mathematical discussion with academic vocabulary and complete sentences when the students are working in their teams.

Teams in My Classroom:
Everything is based on team roles from the beginning to the end of class.  For teams I use the six colors of the rainbow; Team 1: blue, Team 2: green, Team 3: yellow, Team 4: orange, Team 5: red, Team 6: Purple.  I have six teams of four students.  Each team has a: Team Member (A), Team Member (B), Team Member (C), and Team Member (D).

How I Choose Teams:
I do something really crazy that no teacher at my school is willing to attempt.  #1) The students change teams every week.  2) I use random selection to determine their team each week.

Random selection has by far been the most productive for student learning in my class.  It is fairly simple to implement.  I have 4 colored beads for each team, and a clipboard with the class roster.
These are the beads I use for random selection:

Every Monday, I stand at the door and as the students walk in I hand them a bead and mark on my clipboard what color they received.  They look at the bead color and go to that team.  They may sit anywhere in that team. The whole process is done before the bell rings.

The students really like changing seats every week and working with different students.  They look forward to Mondays, and anxiously wait in line for their bead to see what team they will be in for the week.

The Beginning of Class Procedure:
When the students come in the room I have a slide on the screen that has the "Word of the Day", and what team member is "Resource Manager".
I am always at the door during passing greeting the students.  The student know that when they come into the room they need to get ready for class to start.  If they are not the "Resource Manager", they turn in their homework and have a seat.  If they are "Resource Manager", they get the supplies listed and bring them to the team.  The materials needed are not always the same.  So I list what is needed for that day's lesson. Student know to read the board and get only what is listed.  All this is done by the time the bell rings. I love that I do not have to say anything, it is all done with a procedure.  It is really nice to be able to start class as soon as the bell rings.  :o)

My Team Roles:

Resource Manager:  This role changes every day and is a fairly simple procedure.  Monday: Team Member (A), Tuesday: Team Member (B), Wednesday: Team Member (C), Thursday: Team Member (D), Friday: Team Member (A).

The resource manager is responsible for getting the team supplies.  Not only at the beginning of class, but throughout the class as well.  If the team decides they need rulers, or calculators, then the "Resource Manager" is the one that gets up and gets the materials. The "Resource Manager" is also responsible for putting all of the supplies away at the end of class. I like this because there should only be 6 people out of their seats throughout the period.

Recorder/Reporter:  This role rotates throughout the lesson.  I use this team role when I want the team to have more discussion and I don't think everyone needs to write the problem down.
The "Recorder/Reporter" writes the problem on the Team Whiteboard. The team discusses and solves the problem together.  The "Recorder/Reporter" is doing what the team says to do on the team whiteboard and report out to the class.  This role rotates around each team member throughout the lesson. Each student will do this role multiple times.  This is a great strategy for the students who struggle with a concept, because they are not doing the problem themselves, they are listening and recording what the team is telling them to do.

Here is an example of the type of problem I would use with "Recorder/Reporter".
Team Mathematician:  This role also rotates throughout the lesson.  I use this role when I want all team members to write down the problem.  Each team member has a notebook and the team has a team whiteboard.  For the given problem, the "Team Mathematician" will do the problem on the mini whiteboard and the rest of the team will do the problem in their notebook. The teams are supposed to work together. This allows me to walk around and look at the "Team Mathematician's" whiteboard and check for understanding.

Here is an example of the type of problem I would use with "Team Mathematician".

I also use "Team Mathematician" during 'Team Tasks".  The role rotates every question.  During a "Team Task", the "Team Mathematician" is responsible for reading the question to the team, and guiding the discussion for that question.

Student Teacher: This role also rotates throughout the lesson.  In this role the "Student Teacher" has a mini whiteboard and teaches the given problem to the team.  They are required to use academic vocabulary in their explanation and explain it step by step.

Here is an example of the type of problem I would use with "Student Teacher".

Task Manager: This role changes for each team task.  The "Task Manager" is responsible for getting the team task started.  They are responsible for making sure "Team Mathematician" is doing their role when it is their turn.  "Task Manager" is responsible for making sure that the team is following along and on task.  Every member needs to be involved in the discussion  and on the same question.  The "Task Manager" makes sure that task is completed.

Here is a copy of the Team Roles I used for the student's notebooks: Team Roles

The purpose of my teams and team roles is to have all students involved in all aspects of my lessons on a daily basis. Structuring my teams with this format requires the students to be involved regularly.

The students love working in teams, and know what my expectations are during all aspects of class.  I am merely a "Facilitator" in a student centered environment.  They have realized how much more they are learning through the discussion and working together as a team.

Here is a copy of a letter I received from a student:


  1. I love this detailed list of how you structure your group work. This is something I need to get better at and will definitely refer back to this post. I especially LOVE the team mathematician!

    1. Thanks... I used Team Mathematician a lot....

      I added a copy of my Team Roles if you want to grab the pdf above.... It's right above the student letter.... :o)

  2. I love the random grouping idea, and can see how changing groups each week would definitely challenge students to stay in the game. I think I would like to try this one this year. Thanks for the idea.

    1. I love it because if they even try to complain about who is in their group, my go to response is: "It's only for a week. You can do it"... :o)

  3. Wow, what a wonderful structure for choosing your teams and for your team roles! I can't wait to share your ideas with our math department. No wonder you get such great feedback from your kids. Thanks for sharing. :)

    1. Thanks. It was a work in process my first year of trying teams... I kept changing and tweaking...I have finally figured all the kinks out... LOL

      The best part about it is after a few months the class pretty much runs itself... I don't do near as much as I used to....

      Did you get a copy of the Team Roles that explains it in more detail?

  4. Thank you so much. I will trying this out this school year. Have a great school year!

    1. Thanks for stopping by... I hope that my ideas work for you... :o)

  5. Very interesting. What do you mean by roles changing throughout the lesson? How do you do this?

    1. The role of Recorder/Reporter, "Team Mathematician" or "Student Teacher" would rotate throughout the lesson... Team Member (A), then Team Member (B), then Team Member (C), and then Team Member (D).

      Each Team Member would do the role multiple times throughout the lesson. :o)