Guided Math: Part 1 (Getting Started!)

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A couple of years ago I decided to begin teaching mathematics through guided small groups instead of whole group instruction. This change has helped me to better reach the strengths and struggles of my 28 first graders in a much more meaningful way.

Getting Started…

First things first….if guided math is something you are wanting to try…try it!  Let this be the school year you dive in and give guided math groups a whirl.  I promise, you won’t regret it.

To get your brain going and thinking about the possibilities of guided math groups in your classroom try answering each of these questions:

*How much time can I dedicate to math each day?
*How many guided groups will I have in my classroom?
*How many times am I going to try to meet with groups each week?
*Where will your students be working with you during guided math instruction?

How much time can I dedicate to math each day?

This will certainly vary depending on your school and its expectations of mathematics.  At our school, we are required to spend at least 60 minutes on math each day.  Now, 60 minutes may sound like a lot to some people but from someone who loves math this is a short, very short, amount of time. I do go over that allotment of time but try to keep mine to about 80 minutes.

My Breakdown is as follows:

10-15 minute mini lesson  (to introduce a skill, review a skill, discuss expectations, create an anchor chart, ect.)

Four 15 minute rotations of meeting with guided math groups (or if it is a more difficult concept: three 20 minute rotations of meeting with guided math groups.)

10 minute closing/sharing  (something students learned today or something to add to our anchor chart.)

How many guided groups will I have in my classroom?  

Small group instruction, in an ideal world, should have 5-6 students.  However, in my classroom of 28 students I have 7 kids in each group-giving me 4 different groups of students.  It is what works best in my room and allows me to see the most students each day.

How many times am I going to try to meet with groups each week?
I say “try” because I feel as though during most weeks something comes up and changes my “ideal” schedule.  Whether it is an assembly, a fire drill, or a special running late there always seems to be something.  So I make my “ideal” schedule with the understanding it might now always happen!

I enjoy being able to meet with every group every day.  That is why I choose to have 4 groups of 7, instead of 5 or 6 groups with less children.  However, due to the depth of a lesson or something cutting into my “ideal” schedule (like a fire drill or an assembly.) I am flexible and my students also learn how to be flexible with math groups.  

Where will your students be working with you during guided math instruction?

I am lucky to have a “jelly bean” table in my room (totally took that cute name from Aylin-so much better sounding then “kidney” or “horseshoe.”) I can fit 7 students around my table with our work mats and manipulatives.  There are also times when I will relocate my guided group to the carpet so that I can use the SMARTBoard.  Students get a clip board during our guided groups if we are not sitting at the “jellybean” table.  You can certainly be creative with your space: using tables, carpet space, or the ground.  As long as students can write (clip boards or even an individual white board can be used in a student’s lap) and they can pay attention and focus on you/the lesson the space should work just fine!

My “jelly bean” table used for both guided math and guided reading with my first graders.  

Click here to get a freebie that will help you organize your weekly guided math time. It is in an editable file so that you can either print the blank template and write on it each week or type directly in the document.

I am going to break this post into several shorter segments.  So, that is all for today!  Let me know any questions and/or suggestions you have about your classroom-I’d love to hear them!

Please look for several more parts to this Guided Math post throughout the next several weeks of summer.  In these upcoming posts I will discuss the ways I hold students accountable during independent centers, management pieces I have learned a long the way, as well as what I am doing during my guided math groups.

Other Guided Math Posts and Freebies: 

Happy Monday!
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8 thoughts on “Guided Math: Part 1 (Getting Started!)”

  1. I am planning on doing this next year. My goal is to work through everything this summer so that I can have task cards/games and activities for the kids to work on while i am meeting with my small groups. The only problem is that I only have 50 min. of math a day. Any suggestions for me? Thankfully I have a small class-15 kids…but I would love your suggestions.
    Hunter's Tales from Teaching

  2. I am hoping to incorporate guided math groups this year. I attempted last year, but I couldn't quite get it together with the math series we used. Now with the common core, I don't have to use that manual each and every day! I have read other posts on this topic, but I am anxious to hear about your experience as well!

  3. I just emailed you! 🙂 I do the same thing-try my best to work through all of my new stuff over the summer…it helps tremendously! I think you will still be able to follow this model and do guided groups especially with only 15 students. You can do 3 rotations for your centers or you could give some choice to your kiddos if you have 4 things in mind (the only must would be when they need to meet with you!) Good luck and let me know if you have any more questions!

  4. It sounds like you have things set up very well. It is so important to have enough time for math each day because it is the hardest subject to integrate with other subjects, especially at first grade! I love the way you have structured the time and made it a priority to meet with each group every day. Giving kids small group math instruction is the only way to ensure all needs are being met. Especially with 28 kids! I have been lucky to have much smaller numbers than that. You really have made the best of your situation and it looks like all your kids are getting their needs met.
    With math instruction like you describe, half of the success is being a good math teacher and the other half is about being a good classroom manager. Kudos to you for doing both!

  5. I teach two sections of math daily with my kiddos. One is our mandated curriculum and the other is a supplement that we really enjoy and is more hands-on. I'm thinking about maybe making the mandated curriculum (which is harder I feel and very wordy) into Guided Math. This is a great jumping off point! Thanks

    You Might Be a First Grader….


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