If you are used to teaching math in a whole class setting, the thought of implementing guided math groups can be intimidating. I have been there!! I have tried many times to use guided math groups, but gave up. This year, I decided that I was going to use small groups and won’t cave in if it becomes challenging. There have been many days that I want to throw my hands up and say forget it, but I’m sticking to it.
Here is why… I just finished with Parent/Teacher conferences, and I have to admit that this is the first year that I have felt 100% confident in where my students are and where I KNOW my students are. My ability to confidently conference with parents about their child’s math ability is a result of using guided math groups in my classroom. After 14 years of teaching, I am confident that using guided math groups is the reason!
Here are the top five reasons you should be using guided math groups in the upper elementary classroom.
“When a teacher tries to teach 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. So two thirds of the children are wasting their time.” ~Lillian Katz
This is so true and explains a lot! The thought of two-thirds of my class wasting their time is a huge eye opener! Why not use the time that we have to engage our students in meaningful math activities that provide opportunities for them to grow as mathematicians? Using guided math groups provides these opportunities.
2. Immediate Feedback
While teaching students in a whole group math setting, it’s merely impossible to provide immediate feedback to every single student. If using guided math groups, it’s you with a small number of students. Providing immediate feedback is 100% doable. One teacher with six students is a lot more manageable than one teacher with 25 students.
3. Differentiated Instruction
Reason number three for using guided math groups ties in closely with reason number one, engagement. If we have students that already know a concept, why do they have to continue practicing it? Let them move on, provide them with enrichment. What about the students that will get it quickly? Let them move on also, provide them with enrichment to meet their needs. What about the students that don’t get it? We can’t move on just because two-thirds of the class gets it. We need to teach it in a way that they will get it. That’s where small guided math groups come in.
4. Students Talk About Math
In a class of 25, providing students with opportunities to talk about math is limited. So, let’s talk math. In a class of 25, if you are using a cooperative learning strategy where students turn and talk with a partner, engagement is 50%. So, 50% of your students had the opportunity to talk about math. In small guided math groups, students are with you for 15-20 minutes every single day. This provides an ample about of time for those students to turn and talk, ask questions, explain their thinking, etc. You have just increased talking about math to 100%. Can’t get much better than that!
5. Know your students’ mathematics ability
Implementing small guided math groups will allow you to know exactly where each and every one of your students are. Honestly, in a class of 25 it is hard to know where every single one of your students are at all times. You may have an idea, and their individual work to prove it, but knowing each and every one of them as a whole mathematician isn’t always accurate. Using small guided math groups will help you know exactly where they are at all times.
Where to Start
So, you may be asking where you should start. I feel that my guided math groups are always a work in progress, but I have found out that the most important piece for success is consistency. Be consistent, create a routine, and stick to it. Stick....To...It!
You can find out specifically how I am implementing guided math HERE, or if you are a third grade teacher you can find Guided Math Made Easy resources HERE.