My students go to five centers each day for guided math. Each day starts with a quick overview of what they will be doing at our five centers: Teacher Time, Makerspace, Creation Station, Math Journals, and Computer Time. Students visit each center every day.
If you are thinking, "Wait you don't do whole group instruction?". You are correct. After doing a year of guided math with 8-10 minute mini-lessons before centers I came to these realizations.
Deciding to only teach small group instruction during math has made an incredible difference in student learning!
Each math unit begins with a quick ten question pretest that contains the standards to be addressed in the unit. I always reassure my students that it is not for a grade, just a way for me to know where they are in their learning. The information I collect is used to guide my teaching instruction. I do not return the pretests to my students. Once I have reviewed my students' work, I create groups based on what skills they need to learn. I use an outline to help myself identify what topics I need to focus on in particular groups, as well as an entire class. I create five groups and try not to have more than five kids in each group.
My students come to 'Teacher Time' for their small group lesson each day. Each lesson is differentiated to meet the needs of my learners. I have five groups of students who visit me daily, so I could have up to five different lessons that I'm teaching each day. Sometimes each group will do the same lesson and I differentiate within it. When planning for my small group lessons, I pull ideas from three different resources that I've created: Guided Math Snapshots, Guided Math Activities, and Wipe and Writes. I do not use all of these resources during my entire unit, I simply pick and choose what will best meet the needs of my learners. I use Planbook.com for keeping track of my lesson plans and record what I will do with each group in a table.
Guided Math Snapshots are creative small group lessons that are low prep. Many of them are quick ideas that you can immediately implement with math manipulates and materials that you have located in your small group area. Each Guided Math Snapshot includes 9 different ideas for lessons. Depending on my learners, we might extend a lesson idea over two days instead of one.
Taking anecdotal notes is an essential part of my small group lessons. Using a math skills checklist helps me identify what skills my students have already mastered, what skills they are progressing towards, and what skills we need to teach. This checklist is a part of my 'Quick checks & Assessments' product that is included with every guided math unit. To record my students' progress I use a quick marking system. A check means that a skill has been mastered (they have shown mastery in more than one way). A dash means that they are progressing towards mastering the skill. A dot means that we need to continue working on that specific skill. Not only does this checklist help me guide my math instruction, but it is also a helpful tool to use with my co-teacher to share the progress our shared students are making.
Math journals are a quick way to assess whether my students have mastered a particular skill covered during our small group lesson. Our math journal pages are quick- they are not meant to be busy work. They are usually 3-5 questions per half page. There are math journal pages for all the math skills addressed in a unit and the amount of pages varies depending on the unit. We go over what pages we will be completing that day during the beginning of guided math time. We also check our work as a whole class at the end of math time. My favorite way to store math journal pages is by printing them all out double-sided and putting them in a binder or folder. Having students cut and glue them into a notebook is a waste of their time and learning- don't do it! Before we finish each unit I have them take their work home and it immediately becomes a way that their parents can review with them.
The test at the end of each unit has the same format as the pretest, so all students can access the information. If a student gets a perfect score on their pretest, I don't have them take the end of unit test. Why? They have already shown that they know the information that will be covered. It would be busy work for them to do it again. Assessments in my school always have a higher level thinking question on them to distinguish between a 'meeting standards' grade and an 'exceeding standards' grade. Students who receive a perfect score on a pretest must complete the higher level thinking question along with their classmates at the end of the unit. I also have them showcase their new knowledge from the unit to keep as a portfolio. Students have chosen to use their Makerspace projects, a digital creation, or sometimes they want to create something else. Even though they entered my classroom having knowing the information already, it is essential that they show their growth. Communication with families is incredibly important if you decide to opt out of the end of unit test. Make sure you reach out to explain why and how you will be assessing their knowledge.
Guided Math Activities are games, sorts, and extended practice that focuses on a particular math concept. Each unit has five guided math activities. They include the standard/math concept that is addressed, directions, and the items you need for each activity. Though these need to be printed, they are relatively quick to put together. Many of our guided math activities are used again as review with a volunteer or as early finisher work.
A makerspace is a place where students can use a variety of materials and tools to ultimately create a product. My students create products to solve a problem or meet a need that are directly related to our math curriculum. Students can work individually, in partners, or in a small group on a math makerspace task card. Allowing my students choice is important to me, which is why I always have two task cards for them to choose from. If they finish their project early before the end of the unit, they know that they must start the one they haven't done yet. Each unit contains twelve different makerspace task cards to choose from. To learn more about how my students use the makerspace during guided math, please read this detailed blog post.
Computer time activities vary for my students depending on the unit we are covering. My students often use a district provided website or one of the free math websites below!
Sometimes it takes our students longer to grasp a math skill or concept. That's okay! Remediation can look different across classrooms. At times my co-teacher will pull our shared students during math time for additional support. Sometimes I do a small group remediation lesson at the end of the day while waiting for buses to arrive. Quick checks are a great way to retest a specific math skill. Instead of having students retake their entire test, you can simply grab the quick check that goes with the standard they had difficulty with and have them complete it. Quick checks align with all standards covered in each unit. I think that it's important to note that remediation on math skills could last a few days, weeks, or an entire quarter. Quick checks have been a helpful tool to use throughout the quarter to reassess skills we had difficulty with.
Sometimes you just need to quickly practice a skill and you don't want to have to draw 5 different templates onto whiteboards for your students to use. This is where Write & Wipes come in handy. Write & Wipes address a variety of skills that are covered in a unit. They are simple templates that can be printed double-sided and put in a plastic sleeve to be used over and over again. They are a time saver! My co-teacher regularly uses them with our shared students and I often send them home in a plastic sleeve as extra practice.
At the Creation Station, students are producers of technology- not consumers. Students use iPads to create digital products directly related to our math standards. The apps my students use for creating are all free apps! They use PicCollage, Tellegami, Videolicious, Chatterkid, and Educreations. My students typically work on their digital projects individually and upload their work into Seesaw. Students typically take two days to complete their digital project. If they finish early I encourage them to go back and look over their work before submitting. At times I will have an early finisher task card available for students. Each unit contains ten creation station task cards. The task cards have instructions and visuals similar to each app to help students.
A culminating whole group STEM activity that explores specific math skills we covered is a great way to end a unit. Students can choose to work individually, in pairs, or in a small group to complete their design challenge. Students often work on a STEM project over the course of two to three days. They start by creating a design in their STEM notebooks that meets the criteria listed in the STEM design brief. After a teacher comes by to check it they collect materials and begin building their design. There is one whole group STEM design brief per math unit. In each STEM design brief there is implementation information, background information, the problem, project criteria, list of materials, outcome paper, reflection sheets, and vocabulary pages. There are also different options for project planning pages. If you would like to know more about creating and implementing authentic STEM lessons in your classroom please read this detailed blog post.
In this video I outline most of the information covered on this page- in case you would rather listen!
If you are interested my guided math products click on the type of product you are interested in below. The image will take you to that category in my store.