Don't Skip Whole Group Instruction

Don't skip whole group instruction when using a guided math workshop model. Four example whole group instruction activities.

Teaching using a guided math model does not mean you have to say good-bye to whole-group instruction. In fact, it's very important to start with a mini-lesson before you begin your small groups/math centers.

Here are some reasons why:
> You set a purpose for the day. Students will know the learning goal and will stay on task.
> You help build background knowledge. You can introduce vocabulary words students will interact with during their math centers.
> You can quickly see how well students have mastered the concept and adjust math groups as needed.

Let me share with you 4 ways you can start your math workshop block. This whole-group instruction should be no longer than 15 minutes. 

It is very important that you teach math vocabulary to your students. Not only will they see these words in math problems, but you should expect students to use these math words as they explain how they solve their math problems. 

Our math text book has vocabulary cards for students to use. If your textbook doesn't have this, you can have students create vocabulary flash cards using index cards. Students can also use part of their interactive math notebook to keep a list of math vocabulary words by topic. 

Other resources: has a wonderful illustrated vocabulary website. (Click here to view

Using Number Talks with students is a way for students to build mental math strategies. Number Talks are math warm up problems where students are asked to explain how they solved the problem in their head. Students are not to use pen and paper. It is the teacher's job to write down student thinking and guide students to use the strategies that are most efficient. 

Where can you get these math problems from? Some textbooks come with a daily math warm up problem you can use. You can also look through the practice problems from the day and pick a couple to complete before you start your guided math groups.

Other resources: is a math treasure that you will find very helpful. Click here to visit.

We are very comfortable thinking aloud as we read a story in order to show students how reading is an active process. Yet, we don't spend much time thinking aloud as we solve math problems. Teachers need to model the process that goes into solving a math problem. 

Teachers don't always have to do the thinking aloud. You can break up your class into groups of about 5 students. They solve the word problem together, and then you pick a couple of groups to share their thinking process. 

You can use word problems from your math textbook. I am also linking my math trifolds below. They are available for grades first, second, third, fourth, and fifth


I love technology, but sometimes it can be a big waste of time if you don't show students exactly what to do. You can use your 15 minutes of whole-group instruction to introduce and practice new technology activities. 

There are two main computer activities that we focus on in my classroom. My school bought each student an math subscription. You can show students which skills you want them to focus on and practice a few before they complete the assignment on their own.

I have recently created paperless math centers for students to complete during math workshop. These are digital, interactive math activities that are aligned to the common core standards. Teachers can easily assign these resources using Google Classroom or Microsoft 365. Below are links to the growing bundles for grades third, fourth, and fifth.


I hope you have found these suggestions helpful :)