Imagine learning something brand new. A week goes by, a month goes by, two months go by, maybe more. Now you have to take a test on that new information. How are you going to do? Not so well, I imagine. This is exactly what we are doing to students every year. The solution? Teaching standards continuously throughout the year instead of in one big “chunk”.

It’s simple, really…there are two main ways of presenting information to our students. One, we present information in “chunks” by teaching one skill at a time. Or, two, we “spiral” standards in small doses throughout the entire school year. Instead of teaching fractions in October and hoping our students still remember them by the time April rolls around, we touch on fractions continuously throughout the year. In the first method, the chunking method, most students will not be successful. We are not giving them enough time to truly grasp the concept being taught. We are also not giving ourselves enough time to really teach, and reteach the standards to our students. In the second method, the spiraling method, we are providing multiple opportunities for our students to be successful, and for us to assess our students, reteach when necessary, and see where they still need help. Students may not completely grasp a concept the first time around, but by having multiple experiences with the concept throughout the year, they will surly have time to fully understand it by the end of the school year.

***Let me take a moment to clarify. Chunking and spiraling simply refer to how information is presented, not taught. Many teaching strategies can be used in both methods. For me, spiraling is just ONE important component of an effective classroom, not the only component. *

By now you must be wondering how this will actually look in a classroom. I’m sure there are many different ways to approach spiraling the standards, but I can only tell you what has worked in my classroom. I must warn you…I am a teacher who likes things that are effective, yet “low-maintenance”. The strategies I’m going to mention do not require a whole lot of prep-time, and are very easy to implement.

When I decided to start spiraling, I knew I wouldn’t be doing it 100% of the time. My goal was to spiral when I could, and when it made sense. Here is what I did…

*Whole Group Lessons*– this is probably one of the only areas I used the chunking method. I taught for an entire week or two on one specific skill. When I was done teaching and assessing a concept, I moved on to the next one. This was my time to lay the foundation for each skill I presented. This is definitely NOT spiraling, but was what worked for me in my classroom.*Small group instruction*– I used small group instruction to reinforce my whole group lesson, and also provide at least 5 minutes of spiral review. Each day I would focus on a previously taught skill, and provide extra practice with that skill. The spiral part of my group lessons moved at its own pace. This was great because it also promoted differentiation in my teaching, which is a whole other topic.

*Centers*– Each week I made a point to incorporate at least one “spiral” center in Reading and Math. I would choose a game/activity that reviewed a previously taught concept. Each week, we would revisit a different skill. I kept a collection of various games and activities that I could easily set out for my students to use.

*Calendar Math –*Calendar math is a fun way to review key math concepts on a daily basis. You can read more about it in this post.

*Homework*– my homework routine has always been a “strictly spiral” review. I don’t feel it is effective to send home work on something my students literally just learned in class. More than likely, they are going to complete the homework incorrectly, and I will just have more reteaching to do the next day. Instead, I use homework as an opportunity to have my students practice skills they have already fully learned. This constant daily homework practice is a key component in the spiraling that happens with my students.

*Morning work*– Just like homework, I use this time to review previously taught concepts. It can be as simple as posting 4 review problems on the board to have your students work on before the day starts.

*Spiral Assessments*– Spiral assessments are used to continuously assess my students’ true progress throughout the school year and monitor how they are learning. This helps guide my lessons and any reviewing I feel is necessary. You can read an entire post about these assessments here.

I used this model for years in my classroom, and here is what I noticed….

1. ALL of my students met the standards by the end of the school year! I never had to stress about my students learning the standards right away because I knew they would have the opportunity to practice and learn the standard throughout the year.

2. My struggling students were able to feel success more often. Instead of always being faced with a new concept they didn’t quite understand yet, they were able to continue to work on standards they were more confident in.

3. There was no need to review standards at the end of the school year before high-stakes testing. With spiraling, students are keeping standards fresh all year long.

4. My students’ parents were more involved and aware of what their child was learning in class, and how they were progressing.

5. I was more aware as a teacher as to how my students were progressing, and where they needed more support.

When I was in the classroom, spiraling was a must. Now, as a homeschooling parent, I make a point to include spiraling activities with my daughter on a daily basis. I have seen firsthand how effective spiraling can be, and I strongly encourage all teachers and homeschooling parents to give it a try. You won’t regret it!!!

**Here are a few FREE resources that you can use to help you get started.**

Spiral Math Homework } Available for grades K-12

Spiral Language Homework } Available for grades K-8

Spiral Assessments } Available for grades 1-12

I Can Math Games } Available for grades K-9

Calendar Math (not free)

The Classroom Game Nook says

I really like this concept! I wish I had known about it when I was teaching in the classroom full time. It makes so much sense! Thanks!

Rachael

The Classroom Game Nook Blog

1stopteachershop says

Thanks Rachael,

Spiraling has been around for a while, but doesn’t get as much hype as some of the other buzz words. In my opinion, it just makes sense! Once I started using this approach in my class, I couldn’t live without it. 😉

Thanks for stopping by!

Kristin

faith says

Hi! Do you sell a 4, 5, 6 reading, writing, ela, math bundle?

1stopteachershop says

Right now, I have quite a few bundles in my store to choose from. It really depends on what type resources you are looking for. If you email me at 1stopteachershop@gmail.com, I can help you find what you are looking for. 🙂

Tina Moore says

When you did spiraling homework did they get a grade based on right or wrong or completion? I’m starting spiraling for homework to see how it goes.

1stopteachershop says

I really don’t take an official grade on homework. It is more about completion. Obviously, if one of my students just writes down anything, I mark it as if they did not complete their homework. I try to stress that it is totally fine if they don’t get a problem right on their homework, but that it is important that they always try their best. I think this takes the stress off of them in thinking they are going to get a bad grade, and forces them to think of homework as a learning tool, versus a “test”. If you have any more questions as you begin this homework, feel free to email me at 1stopteachershop@gmail.com.

Shawna Peryea says

I absolutely love this post! I too am a former teacher turned creator of educational resources. I pretty much used spiraling all the time when teaching…but did it without realizing it. Do you know of any sites or resources that help demystify how to correctly spiral? I am looking to make year long resources for second and/or third grade, but not sure how to correctly spiral. Do you cover concepts from the previous grade for some time? Just not sure when to phase in or out certain concepts over time! I have a hard time recalling when they learned certain concepts honestly so for example, not sure when to include something like ” solve word problems using dollar bills and coins”. Thank you sooo much in advance!

1stopteachershop says

Hi Shawna,

Thanks for checking out my post! I have always been such a big fan of spiraling due to the amazing results I saw year after year, and this was well before I started on Teachers Pay Teachers. I wish there was a resource or website I could direct you to to answer your question. To make something that spirals effectively you REALLY have to know the standards of each grade level. I would suggest starting there. I’m sure you are familiar with certain grade levels, but take the time to really get to know the surrounding grade levels as well. Don’t tell anyone but I actually think I know my standards better now that I create resources than when I used to teach. 😉 If you have any questions feel free to email me at 1stopteachershop@gmail.com.