Make the Most Out of Guided Math

Guided math is the largest component during math workshop with it being 50% of the block, or approximately 30-40 minutes depending on your block of time. During this time, students practice math concepts and/or apply the mini-lesson. There are many options for teachers and students during this time and that’s where this post comes in to help you make the most out of guided math.

Guided math is the largest component of math workshop and the best way to help your students be successful. Learn about how you can make the most out of this component by clicking through.

This is the next part of my math series that helps you learn everything you need to know to successfully run math workshop. In case you missed it, I first talked about what math workshop is and the benefits of it, then I talked about the flexibility of math workshop and its structure. Then I took each component of the structure and have been looking at them in-depth more. I talked about the opening, then the whole group portion (mini-lessons) and today the guided math.

What is math workshop and how can you get started? How is it different from guided math? There are lots of questions surrounding this math model! This blog post series helps you get started and provides you with everything you need to know to run it successfully in your classroom! Save this pin and click through now!

What is Guided Math?

As I mentioned in previous posts, math workshop is modeled after the Reader’s Workshop by Fountas and Pinnell, meaning that it is not the name of the entire math session, but the guided portion during math workshop. This is exactly how it is done in Reader’s Workshop. During the Guided Reading, students are pulled into small groups to work with the teacher while other students work independently.

Guided math makes up the meat of math workshop. It is about 50% of the time and there is a lot of flexibility in it. Both students and teachers have a role to play during it. The amount of time, content, and level of difficulty in each activity can vary based on students’ needs. Data from a balanced system of assessments are used to guide and make decisions during guided math.

Students can do any of the following for an interrupted amount of time:

  • work independently
  • work with the teacher
  • work in stations/centers

The teacher can do any of the following for an uninterrupted amount of time:

  • conduct small groups
  • confer with students one-on-one
  • circulate and facilitate group discussions
  • observe and monitor students’ work and progress

Guided Math Options

You can decide if you want students to do one of these guided math activities, or a combination. This is based on your needs as a teacher and your students’ needs.

Guided math is the largest component of math workshop and the best way to help your students be successful. Learn about how you can make the most out of this component by clicking through.

These are options of what you can have your students do during guided math for work time. For instance, maybe you want your students to all work independently while you pull students for small groups. Maybe you want students to work through stations, while you pull groups (one group being to meet with you). Or maybe you want all students to work through rotations and to circulate.

Independent Work

During independent work, students work independently on assigned work. This typically provides an opportunity for students to apply their skills and strategies they have learned and to practice mastered skills. Since the work in this “station” is mastered concepts, it is generally graded work. Any work provided doesn’t have to be tied to any other guided math group. Procedures and routines are established well ahead of time and practiced until students have mastered this “station” of working independently.

Meet With The Teacher

Meeting with the teacher actually involves two options. Students can work independently while the teacher moves around the room and confers individually with select students or the teacher can choose to work in small groups with students. In fact, the teacher can do a combination approach if time allows and she desires.

When the teacher meets with students, whether through individual conferences or in small groups, she is learning about students’ work, understandings, thoughts, and struggles. Then the time is used to focus more intensively on the learning needs of the students to help propel them forward in the unit. With this, the teacher is continuously assessing the students informally through the process and even making notes. This could mean providing remediation, concrete understandings, reteaching, acceleration, or enrichment.

An example of conference notes that a teacher may use when conferring with students during math workshop.

Rotations or Centers

Stations, or centers, for students to rotate through are always an option during the guided math portion of math workshop. However, not all teachers feel comfortable doing it. There are lots of other options too.

For teachers who desire to have rotations, students move from station (or center) to station completing activities in an assigned amount of time. The teacher can assign rotations through a schedule where they rotate to multiple stations in one day or a different station each day. Another option is to provide student with a checklist and have them choose which station they want to go through. As long as they complete the tasks at high quality and complete the checklist in the time allowed, this provides differentiation. Ultimately, when students are introduced to stations, the material provided in them should not be new, but previously covered content.

In a future post, I’ll detail rotations along with ideas for what to do during them.

Grouping Students

During guided math, whether you choose to meet with students in small groups or have them rotate, at some point you’ll want to group them. Guided math doesn’t group students based on traditional ability groups. Instead, it is based on flexible grouping.

Traditional Ability GroupsFlexible Grouping
Children are grouped/labeled according to their overall achievementChildren are grouped according to specific needs based on the unit of study
Children work on concepts based on their level; ie: low level students get low-level workChildren get targeted interventions based on specific domain/standards; everyone gets challenging work based on Bloom’s Taxonomy
Groups are static– never changingGroups are fluid – always regularly changing
Different groups do different workEverybody works on the same BIG idea
Teacher-centered– teacher talks, students listen and respondTeacher coaches and facilitates conversation while students actively participate in discussion
No writing is involvedStudents write and share their thinking often
Teacher provides standard, end-of-chapter testsTeacher uses a variety of assessments
adapted from Opitz (1998)

Guided math is the meat of math workshop and where the student really gets the chance to have differentiated instruction based on his or her needs that the teacher has been noticing throughout the unit. Here is where the practice, application, and mastery occurs. This is the most important part of math workshop and where you need to make the most of everything you do in your math class.

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Want to read more about Math Workshop? Check out these additional “Everything You Need to Know to Run Math Workshop Successfully” Posts:

  1. Everything You Need to Know to Successfully Run Math Workshop (Intro to what math workshop is and it’s benefits)
  2. Why Your Math Workshop Model is Not Flexible (and How to Fix It!) (The math workshop structure and your options to being flexible)
  3. How to Teach Your Math Opening Like a Pro (All about the math openings of math workshop)
  4. How to Take the Headache Out of Mini-Lessons in Math Workshop (All about the whole group component of math workshop)
  5. Make the Most Out of Guided Math (All about the guided math component of math workshop)
  6. Are Guided Math Centers Really That Hard? (About the choices in guided math centers)
  7. 3 Super Easy Alternatives to Math Centers (About alternatives to math centers during guided math)
  8. The Importance of Meeting with Students During Math Workshop (All about one-to-one conferring and guided math groups)
  9. Lesson Closures for Math Workshop (Ideas for how to close your math workshop)
  10. How to Rock Your Math Workshop for Ultimate Student Growth (Tips for increasing student growth in math workshop)

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