Technology “Centered” Around All Learners

Today’s Contributor: Zuri Garcia

She is a 2nd grade ESL teacher at Dawson elementary. She is in her 5th year of teaching in Austin ISD.

3 centers       3 rotations     1  rotation = 20 minutes       5-6 students at each

This year we wanted to jazz up our math block. We had toyed with the idea of returning back to a “math centers” style of learning. We also knew we wanted students to be collaborative, autonomous, all while practicing prior taught skills and building math fluency. Here is the routine we created.

1, the teacher group or “Minnies.” This is where students meet the teacher for a mini-lesson focused around a TEK; such as a sort, game, scoot, or walking through problem solving. This is where we introduce concepts, clarify previously taught ones, or step up the rigor.

Here they are recording their learning by making a video on SeeSaw, sharing a strategy, and showing a friend a neat feature on Reflex Math!


2, students use devices to build fluency and for exposure to the different ways TEKS can be presented. Monday, Wednesday, Friday they use DreamBox or Prodigy.  Tuesday and Thursday is Reflex math. Once students got the hang of the sites/apps, it was easy to move the schedule around to fit needs. Especially since the sites have teacher-friendly progress reports. If fluency needed more attention, I would have those students spend more time on Reflex either at school or home that week. Or if they were struggling with a specific TEK, I would assign it through DreamBox.

After a while, I noticed students building a sort of “gaming community” at this center.  It has been really neat to see them build it around offering each other support by troubleshooting devices, sharing math strategies, explaining game rules, features, account set up, and tips and tricks. Pretty heartwarming, and most importantly authentic.
Dawson 4
They look pretty engaged, right? But, for how long?

3, is our Dawson Problem Solving group, or DPS (trying to get that to catch on…). To be honest, this center is tough. My students know CUBES, the steps to solve a word problem, and how/ when to work together on the problem. Even so, motivation fluctuates from one end of the spectrum to the other pretty frequently. Strategically assigning partners has helped. Adding a “beat the timer” element has helped too. Checking their journals after centers, has been somewhat helpful. Yet, it’s still a work in progress, but that’s okay. We’ll get there.

Pro Tips!

Flexible and strategic grouping. I’ve chosen to base it around TEK mastery, while considering learning styles, needed support, attention span, and sometimes even Maslow’s hierarchy of needs etc. A sleep deprived student can do Reflex math a lot easier than a word problem.

  • Sitting in groups of 2-3. This “norm” manages noise level.
  • Have firm norms. Ours are stay at your center, no interrupting Minnies group, sit in groups of 2-3 (helps with noise management), look to your right and left frequently to see if friends need your help, and your teacher should be able to see your screen.
  • “3 before me” rule builds autonomy and community. Students ask at least 3 other students for help. Sometimes the rule is extended to ask every single person in their group if I really need them to.
  • Use a Symbaloo. Then set it as the homepage for ALL devices.

How do you engage your students in solving word problems? How do you hold them accountable? Do you have catchy names for our centers? Please share your ideas, tips, or questions below!

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