Last week, I wrote about issues I’ve seen with spiral review, but I didn’t tell you much about how I handle these issues. Today’s going to give you a picture into what math spiral review looks like in my classroom and how I purposefully designed it using research-based best practice and student achievement data.
Spiral Review in my Classroom…What it looks like in Math
It follows a routine. Early in the year (like week 2), I teach the kids the process. When they arrive in the morning, the students know to get out their morning work folder and solve the five daily questions. They know that we go through the problems at the beginning of our math block so they put it back in their folder when they are complete. They also know that Monday-Thursday they can ask me questions, and I can help reteach or support when needed. The questions students complete on Friday, on the other hand, are used as a formative assessment tool to show me what they can do without support.
It is short. It only takes about 8-10 minutes for most students to complete the five questions. Using the brain research on attention, I decided that five questions was ideal for my spiral review. I include four skill-based questions and one word problem or task that requires critical thinking. We spend another 8-10 minutes reviewing the answers and sharing out at the beginning of our math block, making our total time about 20 minutes.
It’s focused. Each of the five problem types repeats all week. For example, if the first problem deals with fractions, it will be that way the entire week. Specific skills spiral more regularly. Place value, for example, spirals through approximately every 2 weeks. It takes different forms (decomposing, changing forms, etc.), but it is a skill that causes struggles EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. so I built it in more often. I decided to purposefully plan this after a year where there were a few unexpected surprises right around testing time. You know the type where you bring up something the students mastered in September, and you’re met with blank stares. It also helps prevent the kids from having a a whole year of learning between discussions of essential vocabulary related to those once-a-year topics.
It’s differentiated. If you walked into my class during this time, you might see some kids working using math manipulatives, some with a partner reading the question to them, and some with scratch paper feverishly drawing a sketch to help them solve. However, I also make adjustments for individual students based on their personal needs. I have a few alternative versions of my morning work. This means my struggling math students or struggling readers still get the opportunity to spiral on skills on their level.
That sounds like a lot of work…
I’m not going to lie. It was a lot of work. However, I can justify it because it has made an amazing difference for my students. Instead of spending hours on review before testing, I am able to keep teaching with only a little bit of time spent on test prep because my students have built automaticity with the skills taught earlier in the year. For that reason alone, I definitely recommend putting the time in.
Really?! Who has time for that?
Of course, I also know that we are all busy, and spending hours upon hours writing a spiral review might not be your idea of a fun Saturday night (sadly, it is mine). So I want to offer to save you the time. You can access my Daily Spiral Math Review for third, fourth, or fifth grade here. Not so sure they are right for you? I totally get it! You can try it for free by downloading the preview on your grade level.
P.S. I am in the process of updating these sets to add more great tools (and aligned homework). Once this is complete, the price will go up a bit. However, if you buy before the updates, you get these and all future updates without paying a cent more.