Periodically over the past few years, each school principal that I have had has hinted that they would like us to teach math more like reading – code: please teach in small groups. The question for me was always, what is the rest of the class doing while I am meeting with a small group? Now, I know that many of you will say, “centers, of course!” Seems like a no brainer, right? WRONG! I loathe centers. I know this is not a popular opinion, but I just can’t take all the distractions that come with centers. When I am trying to meet the needs of my small group, I cannot worry about what the rest of my class is or is not doing (especially in this age of teacher evaluations). Nor can I get my head around some massive rotation schedule that somebody at NASA has to decode for me (you know 8 centers,18 students, rotating every 15 minutes, blah, blah, blah….) So, although I wasn’t happy with the whole group method, I just didn’t know what else I could do.
Well…..you knew there was going to be a well. I read a really interesting article on Guided Math that made me think, “I can do this, I can get my head around this idea”. Basically, the idea is that there are 3 centers only and the teacher is one of them. Totally doable. I was really jazzed about this and I jumped right in the 2nd week of school and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!
Here’s the routine: 1) I spend about 15 – 20 minutes doing a mini-lesson on the concept, 2) Centers begin with the lowest group practicing the mini-lesson concept with me, the medium group practicing math facts or working on word problems based on previously learned concepts, and the high group practicing the mini-lesson concepts in partners or independently. This way there is differentiation in each group ( good for them, good for my evaluations). 3) After 20 minutes, we rotate and the low group goes and continues working on the practice, the medium group comes to me, and the high group does math fact practice, or word problems. 4) 20 minutes later, we rotate again and I see the high group, middle continues the concept practice independently or in partners, and the low group does math facts/word problems.In order to make sure everyone stays on task, I always have an Early Finishers Assignment listed on the board which could be Math task cards, or an assignment related to the math calendar.
The positives are many! First, I feel like I really SEE how all of my students are doing each and every day. I can solve the misconceptions immediately and assess what I need to do with that group or individual student right away. No need to grade papers to find out how the class performed on a new concept. Second, the students really love it! They like that they get personal attention from me, but also independent/partner time to practice. Third, I feel much less stressed during math lessons, because I am not constantly running around trying to help all of my students at the same time.
I have been raving to my third grade team about how much I love this and some of the brave ones have jumped right in with me. No guts, no glory – love them! I will have to provide a progress report in a month or so, but right now I am super excited about math block!
This is the article that inspired me, but I am not doing it exactly like the author. She has been doing this awhile and her guided math time is a little more in depth, with more activities. I’m going to take it slow and hopefully gain speed as the year progresses. If this intrigues you, check out the link below.
Good luck – let me know your thoughts!