Since I started teaching nine years ago, I have always given my kids morning work. Sometimes math, at other times a writing prompt, sometimes a fun little page just to get their brains working in the morning. BUT, the best and most meaningful curriculum tool that I’ve brought into my classroom is the math spiral review.
A spiral review is a daily math page that covers the topics that we have previously learned in the year. Starting at the beginning of the year, the daily page reviews some of the major math skills that were covered in the previous grade level. In the month of October, the spiral page covers material that we covered in the previous month. Now that it’s May, the spirals are more in-depth and are covering almost all of the material that we have covered in third grade up to this point. We take a look at the power standards that we absolutely cannot have students forget over time, and embed these into the daily math spiral review.
The best cliche to use here is…
If they don’t use it, they will lose it.
When I say to students on a daily basis, “It’s time for spiral,” I have mixed reviews. 85% of the class is treating the spiral like a game, always trying to ensure they get all questions correct, while the other 15% of the kids groan and say, “This math is so easssssssssssssy.” In each scenario, I’m more than happy. Those kids groaning are kids who may not have mastered these standards without our daily dose of spiral. The same questions are not repeated daily, but the type of question is repeated, so kids are mastering these types of questions by the end of the month.
We do change things up once in a while, too. Some days I have the kids complete the spiral independently, while other days I have them work in a group of 3-4 buddies or with a partner. What I love about working with a buddy is that they both solve the problem and they talk about what they did to solve. It’s great to hear the discussion of how they came up with a particular answer. The conversation is even better when the kids come up with two different answers, as they both go back to see where the mistake was made. These are powerful moments in learning.
HERE is my favorite part of the spiral review, and from those I’ve discussed this with, this is their kids’ favorite part, as well. Data tracking!! That’s right, tracking data is their kids’ favorite part of this process! What teacher ever thought they would be able to say this with a straight face? Actually, I don’t say it with a straight face, instead I have a huge smile on my face when I say this, because I don’t have to grade the kids’ work! They do it themselves and actually get valuable data from the process. In my packets, I include a data tracking sheet (see below). I list the standard/skill at the top of each column and the day number on the left side of the page.
We have a process to our corrections. The students shade the data sheet either green, yellow, or red.
Green= The questions was 100% correct.
Yellow= There was a very silly mistake in their answer.
Red= The answer was wrong and they need some more help with this type of problem.
As we are going over the spiral, the students shade each of the boxes on the data tracking sheet. The kids understand that at the end of the month, they can look at this page and see where their major errors are, and we can then see where we need to target future help. At the end of the month, on a post-it, students write the areas where they feel they need the most assistance, stick it to their data tracking sheet, and give it to me. This helps me target interventions for those kids.
See below to check out how I start creating my spirals.
Step 1: Set-Up
*How many questions do you want on your spiral review. (Probably a lower number of questions in lower grade levels) In third grade I have 8 questions daily.
Step 2: Standards/Skills
*What skills will you cover in the month’s spiral. I make a packet of 20 spirals per month. Some of the skills stay on the page all year long, while others change based on the new standards we have covered.
Step 3: Write your questions
*This is clearly the step with the most amount of work. It will take you time, but after you get cranking, it will become a much more fluid and quick process for you.
This is a time-consuming process, but I can absolutely assure you that the students are retaining information at a higher level than I have ever seen before. The 25 minutes per day that we spend on this activity is worth so much more than the morning work I have given to my kids in the past.
Right now, I have these spiral review built for 3rd grade only, as they are VERY time-consuming to create. I do have a freebie on TpT if you want to check mine out.
I also have a bundle for the entire year that you may want to look at, as well.
I’d love to know how you’re using spirals in the classroom!
Please let me know if you have any questions!
PS-I have to give a HUGE shout out to my friend, math mentor, and professional development queen, Sue Rothwell. She taught me everything I know about math spiral review, and is huge part of why my school adopted spirals into our classrooms. Her expertise and guidance has helped our students and our teachers move mountains in the math classroom. If anyone is ever looking for a Professional Development worth your time, I highly suggest contacting Sue to work with your team and your district.