Guided Math

Guided Math: #2

I started out last week with a plan to do Guided Math for one week.  I KNEW I would hate it, but that I might be on my way to hating it less.  So, really I should be proud because MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

We made it through the week, with just one interruption. Junior track and field events on Friday left us with some extra students for the day.  They were grade 3 students from a 3/4 split. (Primary track and field is another day.)  Because of this, our routine was quite out of whack.  Friday was supposed to be the day that my class and I sat down to go over, in a congress-y kind of way, the math that we did this week.  I will have to do this on Monday.  I think that my class actually liked the Guided Math activities, but I am anxious to hear their thoughts and ideas.


  • I had 10-15 minute rotations going, with one grade staying with me for about 40 minutes while the other grade rotated through 3 activities. I think the timing was right.  Keep in mind that I have a grade 2/3 split, so though our stamina would probably allow for them to stay with the activities longer, our wiggly butts were happy to move along after 10 minutes.
  • If I were to start this in September, I think a math folder would be necessary.  I had them putting away work in their cubbies at the end of the rotation, but a folder would have kept it all more organized and easier to find the next day.
  • If I spent September training the class, as I did during our literacy block, they would know that they need to work quietly and not interrupt the group meeting with me.
  • I met this week based on skills I wanted to teach. Grade 3s needed to work on multiplication, and I wanted my grade 2s doing some more addition/subtraction work.  I had different curriculum expectations to focus on.  This week, however, I am going to be teaching fractions to everyone, and I think my groups will be divided based on abilities rather than grade assignment.
  • Yes, you read that right. I am going to give it another go this week.

Over all, the thing that I continued to reflect on is Guided Reading.  I did my student teaching in a school that really strongly believed in Guided Reading. The district where I worked, however, believed in basal readers.  There were no guided reading supports in place.  So the teachers used the basal readers in Guided Reading groups.  Instead of using leveled readers, they used the basals to do small group instruction. They used the quizzes in the readers to decide which group each child would be in.  It was not strategy based instruction at all; it was really focused on fluency and comprehension (retelling mostly.) There were lots of worksheets for the students who were not with the teacher.  And spelling from a spelling book. Guided Reading has come a long way in the last (almost) 20 years, but teaching reading in small groups while the rest of the class is engaged in meaningful, independent literacy activities is where I started as a reading teacher, and where I will end my career.  I would never base my entire literacy program on whole class instruction.  NEVER.  I am a zealot when it comes to Guided Reading.

When my current school board started pushing people to use Guided Reading (that’s about the year I started here), there were many people who resisted this style of teaching.  They didn’t know what to do with the rest of the class.  They didn’t really know what to do in meetings with small groups.  They weren’t sure they had the resources they needed to really teach the program.   I spent a lot of time trying to use my zeal in my role as a literacy coach, hoping to convert as many people as I could to Guided Reading.

Now I am faced with some zealots who believe in Guided Math.  I have concerns:  What does the rest of the class do?  Do I have the right resources at my disposal, or will I be up until midnight every Sunday night inventing the wheel?  What am I supposed to do, exactly, with my small groups?  (Sound familiar?)

And all of those are legitimate concerns, I think.  BUT – I don’t want to be the teacher who is still teaching a “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh” novel study every October to my 5th graders because when I was hired in 1999 that’s what they told me to do with 5th graders in October.  So, do I want to keep excusing myself from trying Guided Math because I am satisfied with the way I do math now?  Well….kind of I do. Change is hard!  But I can do hard things, right?  (I’m asking…please reassure me!)

This is how the math block looked last week, basically, and I am going to try it for another week.

M/W:  Grade 2 students at activities.  Grade 3 with me working on multiplication.

T/TH: Grade 3 students at activities.  Grade 2 with me working on adding and subtraction (skip counting on the 100 chart and number lines by 10s.  I think they all have it this time around!)

Friday:  The circus came to town.

Activities:  Students had 3 –  Take a survey and make a graph about favourite holidays, Dreambox on the class iPads, play a game to practice adding up amounts of money.

Number Talks:  Getting ready for EQAO!!!  (I know, so exciting!!!)  so our Number Talks this week were really reviews of math skills.  I pulled out the EQAO from a few years ago and picked out a question on 3 days.  We reviewed patterning, telling time, and I forget what else.  A few times I did this at the end of the math block for about 10 minutes.  Typically I start math with Number Talks, so this was different.  It was a good way to settle the class at the end I think.  Usually I use a Number Talk as a warm-up. However, last week I was using the first few minutes of class to explain the centres, and to remind everyone to just please, if they had any compassion for me at all, to work quietly at the activities, and solve their own blasted pencil problems on their own!

This week:

Activities:  Reflections/Rotations/slides, graphing, and Dreambox.  Monday well will talk about last week, and I will read them a book and do a quick activity that sets them up to do the reflection/rotation/slide work.

Lessons:  Fractions.  I did a quick assessment in gym the other day when I asked them to walk/run a fraction of the distance between walls.  Interesting results! So I know a few of them, not necessarily all in the same grade, are going to need more support at the beginning level, while others are ready to try working through an investigation of some sort.  We need to work on naming fractions of a set, and fractions of a whole.

Which I better go plan right now. 🙂