Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: Guided Math- Chapter 5

Guided Math- Chapter 5

I loved this chapter! Do I say that every week?

This chapter focuses completely on small group instruction. First, Sammons gives some reasons that small group instruction is essential in any math classroom.

  • Small group instruction allows teachers to differentiate instruction rather than spending an hour teaching the whole group the exact same lesson.
  • Small groups allow teachers to closely monitor student understanding of the "hot spots," or the critical teaching points for a particle grade level.
  • Small group instruction makes it easier to use math manipulatives with students.
Next, Sammons discusses the process of setting up your math small groups. This was a big challenge for me last year. I tried to place them based on a grade level diagnostic test. That did not prove to be the most accurate data on how well my students understand math concepts. I have decided to use unit pretests to place students in small groups this year. I couldn't find the perfect ones- so I will be creating my own. I want them to include performance based tasks.

Sammons talks about what a teacher needs to do to organize for small groups. I just LOVE the "O" word! Organizing is one of my OCD addictions. I am pleased that I have all of my math manipulatives organized and labeled.

I have also talked to my roommate and we have plans for a shelf right behind our small group table. Dollar Tree buckets will hold all the materials I need for reading and math groups. I will just fill them each Friday for the following week. I'll show pictures in July when I get to set my room up. Yay!

According to Sammons, a small group lesson will run almost identical to the format of a mini lesson: Connection, Teaching Point, Active Engagement and Link. I think that the only real difference is that the active engagement can be much more hand-on since you only have about six kids to work with. 

I especially needed to read the section on keeping math small groups fluid. I have read it and been told it many times. But it is so challenging to constantly switch kids' small groups! I tend to only do it a few times a year. But with the pretest before every new unit, next year WILL be different! I know that a student might be great at place value and really struggle with fractions. I don't want them to spend the whole year in the wrong group and either be bored during place value or lost during fractions. So I will go outside of my comfort zone and move them around more. PROMISE!

I loved the ending of the chapter. Sammons gave a sample of a guided math small group. She used the example of teaching a small group to make equivalent fractions. I was only reading the lesson and yet I was completely engaged! Ha! As soon as I finished reading it, I said to my husband "Dang, some teachers are just amazing." It gives me soothing to strive for!

I think that needs-based grouping allows students to feel supported and more confident. They also allow teachers to more accurately meet the individual needs of her students. Instructional time is so valuable and I like knowing that I am using that time to teach something to a student who needs that lesson at that time. One of my challenges is that when I teach at their level- some students don't spend much of any time on grade level curriculum and standards. I always feel so torn about that.

As I read this chapter, I knew right away that I need to get better about keeping small group data. I try to remember it all. I have a fantastic memory- but even I can't remember the little ins and outs that I observe each during math AND reading groups. I have test data. But I want to keep more of a running record of the little things that I notice while watching a student work at the back table. It would really help me plan for future small groups! The reason I haven't kept a running record or my observations is that I didn't have a way to keep it organized. So it felt overwhelming. Obviously I need a binder! I got to work making printables, planners, and cover sheets for a guided math binder.

You can read a lot more about my binder and get a tour of the printables by clicking HERE.

I'd love to hear about your experience with math small groups. How do you keep it all organized? How much time do you spend planning for small group instruction?