Guided Math Made Easy

Last year, in an effort to meet the varying needs of our students, we decided to try teaching in differentiated math groups- also known as Guided Math. We absolutely LOVED it! If you are thinking about moving away from the "whole-group" model, I'd love to share a little about our easy-breezy guided math block.

When we started, we tried to do 4 groups for 10 minutes each. This was a little too chaotic for me, and I ended up feeling that I just didn't have enough time with my groups. I decided to switch to 3 groups for a longer amount of time, and it worked much better for me. Here's our schedule:

I use a smartboard file to coordinate transitions between rounds.
Of course, the circles usually have around 7 different names in them. I just call the groups by the color of the circle. Toward the end of each round, I give a one-minute warning. This gives the math tub group a little extra time to start cleaning up. When it's time to rotate, I simple say "Switch." The students then clean up and make their way back to the rug...QUICKLY & QUIETLY. I learned this little trick from my friend Reagan (Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits.) I watch the students as they transition and choose someone that is super-calm and quiet to move the circles on the smartboard. It's so simple, but it works! They transition very quickly, and we waste very little time.

Speaking of Reagan, she just posted some fantastic Guided Math Posters.
They are free in her TPT store! Go get 'em!

To begin the lesson, I usually meet with my kiddos on the front carpet. We typically use the smartboard for a mini-lesson/introduction that focuses on what we are learning that day. This is where I introduce the skill that we are focusing on and post this on our focus wall. This helps them to understand what the expectation is and take ownership of their learning.

This is my lovely co-teacher, Mallory, doing a mini-lesson last year.

My students are grouped based on academic need. This way my struggling math students get what they need, and I am able to differentiate and provide a more challenging lesson for the advanced math students. My advanced group does "paper practice" first because they will most likely be able to complete it independently.

My struggling math group will always come to me (teacher table) first. This ensures that I am able to spend as much time as needed with them, and I am usually able to begin the paper practice (independent work) with them in the group. Sometimes, we do that completely together, and then I give them a task that they will be able to complete independently. I love the flexibility of these math groups!

After the teacher table, the group transitions to "paper practice." This is where they complete some sort of activity independently. For us, that was usually something from our district-adopted curriculum or something in our math journal.
 This year, we will begin this time by working on our 5-a-Day Math. This will be a quick spiraling review that they will complete each day. Great practice for them and a quick check for me to see how they're doing. It prints on legal-size paper and will only require one sheet for the WHOLE week! Our school is very conservative with our paper usage so this will work perfectly for us.
I just posted weeks 1-9 to my TPT store. You can click on the pic above to get week 1 FREE!

We often use our ipads during this time as well! When the students finish their paper practice, they are able to work on their ipads. This could be a specific app that reviews skills or another activity like the QR scavenger hunt seen below.

After Paper Practice, students transition to Math Tubs. This is ALWAYS a favorite. There is a requirement before moving on- they have to finish their independent work first. If they still have work to do, they finish during math tubs.

Math Tubs are basically just math games. Math Tubs are great because the kids are practicing and reviewing skills with other students, and they love this! I like to add thematic touches to make things more interesting. The games in these tubs are from my Surfing into First packet and have a beach/summer theme. We used ocean animal or flip-flop erasers as our markers for the games! 

After we've gone through the three rounds, we come back together and review what we learned. The kids truly love doing math this way. They were constantly asking if we were doing math groups and were disappointed if there was a day that I chose to do whole group math.

Please feel free to ask me any questions! If you are interested in some products to get you started, check out my new Surfing into First Back-to-School Math Centers and 5-a-Day Math! They are both Common Core and TEKS aligned! (Click on the pics to go to my TPT store for more info.)

If you're a Texas teacher, you might also like my
TEKS "I Can" Learning Target Posters for your focus wall.

Thanks for stopping by!

We Heart Teaching
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  1. Love this post! I started doing something very similar last year and also used Reagan Tunstall's blog as a great reference. I see in your photos that you use Everyday Math. I do, too! I found that the math boxes practice was waaaay too easy for my higher learners so I made an advanced version for those kiddos to do and they are free in my TPT store if you want to check them out!

    Nicole O'Connor

    1. Thanks for your comment! We just switched to a new math curriculum this year, but I definitely agree with you! Too easy for advanced and too hard for everyone else. ;)

  2. What assessment do you use to put them into groups?

    1. Hi Jennifer! Sorry for the delayed response. I just figured out how to add a reply button! ;)
      We just switched to a new curriculum, so I'm not quite sure yet. In the past we used a spiraling curriculum, so we could go off of previous assessments, some specific pre-tests, and of course, teacher observation. Thanks!