So, just what is Guided Math, anyway? Well, my idea of guided math is similar to a guided reading lesson--start with a short mini-lesson on the skill of the day, move to independent/small group work, wrap up at the end of the lesson with whole group share time. I really believe in this approach because students are given opportunities for instruction in whole and small group, on their levels, and in short, focused lessons. It also provides the time for independent practice that is so vital.
With Saxon, the minilesson is the easy part---whatever the lesson is for the day is the minilesson. Although, I must admit it can be difficult to keep the lesson "mini" sometimes. But for me, the real struggle involved two main issues:
1. How do I pull math groups, and what do I teach in those groups?
2. What are the other kids doing while I work with small groups (besides their daily lesson set).
Here are some of the answers I've come up with. As with anything else, they're still a work in progress and will likely change as I learn and grow.
How do I pull math groups, and what do I teach in those groups?
- My ideal situation: Do an item analysis from students' math tests and pull skill groups based on which students demonstrated a need for that skill. Groups would be flexible, based on reteaching a particular skill, and focused on one outcome.
- My actual situation: Because the lesson sets are so long and it takes my students sssooooo long to complete them, I pull groups (high-middle-low), and we work through as much of the lesson set as possible together. *I'd rather do groups the other way, but I just can't because my students need a great deal of help on the actual problems on each day's set.
What are the other kids doing while I work with small groups?
- This is the fun part. I've taken what I know about Daily 5 Reading and applied it to Math, offering students choices each day: Games on Computer, All by Myself (lesson set and eventually math journal), Math games (with partners), Expanding facts (facts practice).
- We have 3 choice rounds. Every student must choose All by Myself once (but can choose it more than once if desired). Our rounds go for about 15 minutes. The choices weren't hard to set up: I already had several different partner games, computer games, and fact practice items such as wrap-ups and hotdots.
"How long does all of this take?" you may be asking yourself. Honestly, it takes quite a while to do well. Usually we spend between 70 to 90 minutes on math. It is well worth it, however, as my students LOVE doing math this way. Almost daily they excitedly ask "Do we get to do math groups today?" That question is enough of a reason in my eyes to keep pushing forward with this math marriage of sorts.