This week I presented an in district staff development session on guided math after school one day. It was so fun to connect with other K-2 teachers across our district! We don’t usually have time to talk openly about what is currently going down in our classrooms. I loved all the conversation and at one point I laughed so hard I cried a little because we were sharing some of our experiences with tackling the new Texas TEKS. (TEKS are what Texas calls standards)
#shapesongnightmare #imoutofcentersdepression #mathjournal
So what is guided math?
There are 5 components that make up the structure of guided math:
Why guided math?
The benefits of guided math are similar to the benefits of guided reading.
- Flexible grouping based on ability/needs/interests
- Scaffolding of more difficult concepts
- Reteaching and exploration of math concepts in a smaller risk free environment
- Increased teacher knowledge of student abilities
something to the entire class at the same time, chances are, one third of the
kids already know it, one third will get it, and the remaining third won’t get it the first time.”
In order to begin guided math you need to start with the structure of your math block. Each of the components needs to have a time allotment. In our class I gave 4 different scheduling scenarios. You may not have time to do your entire math block without stopping for specials, lunch, or recess, but that should not stop you from getting all the components into your day. You can break it up between morning and afternoon. Here’s what my current math block entails.
Warm Up 10 mins
Whole Group Lesson 25 mins
Guided Practice (part of whole group lesson)
Introduction of journal activity for the day 5 mins
Introduction of new math centers for the week 10 mins (Mondays only)
Guided Math Rotations 50 mins total
Teacher Table/Small Group 10 mins
Math Journal 10 mins
Math Centers 10 mins
Computer 10 mins
iPods/ or another round of math centers 10 mins
Clean Up 3 mins
Reflection/Share 5 mins
Total Time: 90 mins
We have a timer that chimes every 10 minutes during the guided math rotations. We stop, clean, and rotate for 25-30 seconds in between.
Keeping on schedule ensures that we are able to get to everything daily. The only rotation that sometimes stays to work longer is math journal. My students know that they must finish the journal component before rotating. Keeping to a timer ensures that every student gets small group time with me daily. At first you may feel rushed, but after a few days you will begin to adjust to the pace. I have found that giving students too much time at a rotation allows time for them to become less engaged. 10 minutes gives them enough time to complete an activity or center game. It also helps your small group lesson to be focused. At my small group, I reteach a skill/concept and allow students to practice it as I intervene or enrich.
I really want to emphasize that there are two parts to your whole group.
The procedural part of math is what you think of for your steps to solve or the HOW of math. It is the technical side of math. Procedural understanding would be the steps for solving, vocabulary, and strategies for operations and number sense.
The conceptual part of math is the application and connections or the WHY of math.
Your whole group lesson should have a balance of both procedural and conceptual understanding. Students do need to know the hows, but we need to give them the real life hands on application or the why of math too! Conceptual understanding would be the meaning of math, connection to real life application, and the personal connection.
*For you non-Texas friends, TEK is the same as standards below*
We are always trying to connect literature to our ELA lessons, but don’t forget about math! There are many high quality literature connections for your math standards too! Last Summer I searched for a book on tally marks and when I found it, amazon suggested other math concept books. I began to fill my cart with all of these amazing titles. The books themselves were only 2-5 dollars each. You will need to pay for shipping if you don’t have amazon prime though so that is the only downfall.
So now a little more about your whole group lesson. What does it look like?
Here are some sample lessons I have done. I included the whole group, guided practice, and then a small group example.
Lesson on ten frames and making ten
Number line addition (subtraction when ready)
Once you have finished your whole group time, you are ready to begin your small group rotations. These look different from classroom to classroom but the components are the same.
Your math centers will also combine that procedural and conceptual components to the math concepts. Now we have moved away from the teacher directed and allowed opportunity for the student centered learning to take place.
Organization of your math centers will be dependent on what resources you have available and the physical space of your classroom.
Here are some pictures of students in the rotations around the room.
The math journal component is sometimes where teachers find that they are struggling. With young writers, it can be hard to get quality work during an independent time. If you are just beginning math journals a great way to start is to take the ten minute rotation time for journal and do it whole group. I make an example journal that shows the layout and expectation for the week. Students can reference it while they are at the journal station. I also allow for them to buddy up or work together to solve. Since my students are grouped by ability it is a level field. They can talk through the concepts with their peers.
Now let’s discuss what is happening at the small group table. This is where the teacher is able to really detect what the students understand and reteach and enrich their knowledge in a risk free environment.
What is happening at the small group math table?
- Work is being differentiated by level of difficulty, procedure, or product
- Deeper conversations about math concepts with a more focused connection to student understanding
- increased student comprehension of concepts and procedures related to the standard being taught
- better student focus
- incorrect understanding detected and corrected
Here are some pictures of my small group table activities. Many times I use more complicated math centers. I may take some math center pieces from a game and create a more focused objective that meets the needs of a particular group.
I keep a tub of supplies at my small group that includes:
manipulatives, dry erase markers, highlighters, whiteboards, dice, counters, coins, hundred’s charts, number lines, flash cards, and seasonal items to make learning fun.
I am not going to outline the computer or iPod stations in this post, because every school has different technology available. If technology isn’t available to you then I would add in another rotation of math centers.
I love to hear your successes and struggles with guided math. We all have them every.single.day Don’t be afraid to change what you are doing to meet the particular needs of the children in your room. There is not one single way to teach. Every one of us has different challenges to over come each year. My math block adjusts all the time. Let your students know what you notice.–What you think is working, and what you think you should all work on. Let them be part of the process of problem solving when things aren’t going smoothy. Allowing them the ownership of knowledge creates the desire to make things better for them.
If you have a student or two that is disruptive to the guided math process, take them out of the process. I have a separate contract for two of my students. They have to do things differently in order for the other 22 students to get the most out of math. Don’t let those one or two special situations keep you from advancing the entire class.
I hope this post was helpful. Guided math is a process. If you can’t incorporate every detail all at once, at least scaffold in one or two changes that will impact student learning for the better.
I would love your feedback!