Monday, October 29, 2012

Guided Math–what’s working and what isn’t!

I've made the leap to guided math and I’m not missing whole group math instruction even a little bit!  My group this year is very polarized and whole group instruction was a depressing failure for us all.  I couldn't meet the needs of my students.  My struggling students were able to slide under the radar while my math rock stars either stole the show or were bored.  Does this sound at all familiar?  If so, guided math is for you!

I’ll be honest, I didn't read the guided math book.  I understand the theory behind guided math and knew it would take some time to find the right approach for my class and teaching style. I’m enjoying the process and trust my students will reap the benefits.
At first I tried a structured rotation.  Students knew when they were coming to me and exactly what they should be doing when they weren’t with me.  Their options were Everyday Math games, multiplication and a higher level calendar math sheet. 
On the surface it looked nice…
...but there wasn't enough accountability built in.  IN FACT, on the second day ever of guided math I scheduled my first observation of the year.  The lesson was great, but kids who weren't meeting with me were not all on task…one student even made a point of discussing his “mustache” (not noticing the assistant principal listening in). 

I’m lucky that my assistant principal is understanding and loves teaching math.  She had lots of good ideas, which I've since been able to implement with much more success. 
Instead of the assigned rotations, students now have a weekly contract where I list the activities they are responsible for if they want to achieve a certain grade for their week’s work.  This is good for everyone because:

*I’m planning ahead more effectively - looking at the exam before planning so I know exactly what my kiddos are expected to learn.  For whatever reason Everyday Math does not always explicitly teach items that are on the test (not spiral items, new items).  So now, I’m prepared to prepare my students!  Following the lessons wasn't enough!

*I’m planning ahead more effectively - choosing with care which official pieces from the curriculum to use, and what activities I need to create.

*Items are ranked between must do items - things my students have to know in order to do well on the test, and extension activities.  I hope that this way I meet the needs of all my learners!

*Now all students are held accountable and know what is expected of them if they want to earn a certain grade.
Here is an example of how I’m planning the week and what the contract looks like right now.  It’s a work in progress.  I’m thinking about adding a rubric piece to it, so students know what is expected in terms of completeness, organization, neatness, etc. 

My Plans:

The Contract:

I project this fun image for students to refer to as well – just in case the contract isn't enough.  They seem to need this visual to support the contract. 

Are you doing guided math?  What works for you?  Any tips or suggestions for me and my readers?

Happy almost Halloween!
Mrs. Castro Pin It


  1. I have started guided math and math contracts (though with my firsties we call them "menus") this year, and I am feeling the love as well! My kids love the choice that's involved, and after we spent a looooooong time explicitly teaching the expectations for each place, we've finally settled in enough to where there aren't too many "mustache moments". ;)

  2. Hi!! I feel like I haven't talked to you in an age!

    I love the idea of the contracts for accountability. I'm going through a similar situation, but in Reader's Workshop. I just spent the day yesterday (hurricane!) reworking my system.

    I haven't tried Guided Math, but I am working at a Math Workshop model...which is very similar to the rotations you described. It's definitely a work in progress!

    I loved reading about your process, thanks! :)

  3. Wow! Everything is so organized! Talking about the mustache huh? Oh kids just make me laugh:) I wanted to stop by and say hello and Happy New Year!

  4. Hi Mrs. Castro!
    I wanted to stop by and thank you for this post! I know that you are back with the youngins, but this is my first year teaching (5th grade DL) and this definitely helped me feel like that overwhelmed-I can't-do-it-all feeling is normal! Plus I got some ideas for my decimals unit.
    Keep blogging! You never know how many lives you're touching. :)

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