Guided Math

I’m starting to get my head wrapped around this concept of Guided Math in my classroom. I’d heard about it, I’d done some PD’s about it, but I hadn’t really tried it out yet. To be honest I was a little scared. I didn’t know if what to have my students doing while I pulled aside a group. How could I ensure they all kept working? And what exactly was I supposed to do with this small group I was pulling aside? 

Finally, I went to a quick afternoon PD last Tuesday and something clicked that I don’t know why I didn’t make the connection before, because it’s obvious. Guided Math is like Daily 5 or Cafe. The thing that was holding me back the most was this idea that I needed to be out in my classroom helping my kids while they’re doing math. They NEED me! They won’t be able to do their work/stay focused/follow directions on their OWN! Then when the connection to Daily 5 was made I realized, my students NEED to be independent. They NEED to be able to do things for themselves. I’ve been teaching them to read directions at least 3 times before asking a friend for help before coming to me, but in practice, I’m circulating through the room, keeping them on task, making sure they understand. 

So like with Daily 5, we did up a chart of what they need to be doing during Guided Math. We talked about what it looks like, what it sounds like, where they need to be, what they need to be doing, and also what my job is and why it’s important. Then we practiced. My kids are pretty good at this because we do it for reading in French so they have a lot of those skills already. They did very well the first day. The second day was a little more rough but I think that was partially because many of them made choices of activities that weren’t the best. I ended up being drawn away from my guided group of one (more of a flex group if I want to use the official terminology) to put out fires, to re-direct, to get students back on task. Thinking back, what I should have done was just stop them all, get them back to the reading corner and tried again after a refresher. But I felt pressed for time. I had a mini-lesson I really wanted to get through with one student who was taking a long time getting the concept and I wanted to give them a long time going through the review materials for our upcoming math test. In the end though, I know that stopping them and restarting probably would have been worth my while.

Today I came up with the idea of giving them a passport. I give them a checklist of the activities to be completed during the week (text book work, a journal entry, games, etc) and they need to check off what they complete. I’ll stamp their books each week like a passport as well and they can use the duotang to keep any extra sheets they complete as well. I think it looks pretty cool. I’ll post a picture of it tomorrow if I think of it. 

I’m going to try guided math again tomorrow and Friday and see how it goes. I’m hopeful it will go well, and like with Daily 5, I think the students will enjoy it. I think it will give them a good sense of ownership of their learning and it will give me more time to work one-on-one with my students who need an extra boost.

Wish me luck!


Math Projects

We were back at school today. This year, like last year, the district decided to give us two professional development days before the students come back. I love this idea. It means that we have two days to get our brains back engaged in the business of teaching as well as a few extra hours to get our classrooms back in order before our students return. It also means that they come back to a short week which helps them to ease in after being out of school and out of their routines for the past two weeks.

Our focus this morning was on Math. We had our Math lead come to talk about using Math projects as part of our balanced math instruction. One thing that she emphasized was that they should be short, no more than one class for the students to create and no more than one day for them to present and that presenting shouldn’t necessarily be in front of the class with everyone watching. One of the things that has kept me from doing projects so far this year is this feeling that we are already behind in what I need to teach and that we don’t have time for projects. I don’t like that feeling because I see the benefit in doing things like projects in math and in other subjects as another way to assess what the students have learned.

When the students come back I’m going to be reviewing the unit we just finished on multiplication and division. I found that the students had trouble with a few of the concepts and I don’t feel right moving on without re-teaching a few of the concepts and re-testing them to make sure they understand. Multiplication and division are so important for understanding concepts we’ll be seeing later in the year so even though this means we won’t be exactly where we “should” be in the curriculum, I feel that true understanding is more important than skimming along and trying to hit all the outcomes.

After that, probably only a few days of review and then the re-test, we get to move on to measurement. The resource we use for math, “Math Makes Sense” has a great idea for a final project for measurement involving designing a zoo. Sounds interesting and I hope that my students will think so too. Another thing our math lead mentioned was looking at the ideas and interests of the students for project ideas, so while I have this zoo idea if nothing else crops up, I’ll be listening and watching for other ideas from my students as well.

Math has been, by far, my biggest challenge so far this year. I enjoy math and I have a fairly good head for numbers but it’s my first time teaching it so it’s not something I’m very comfortable with yet. I don’t know the curriculum as well as I do the Intensive French or the compacted curriculum. Challenges keep things interesting.

Have you ever used math projects in teaching or done them as a student?