I think the biggest barrier to me having guided math up and running has been this notion I had that guided math = centres. I kept picturing in my mind all the students rotating through activities: a Dreambox station, a game centre, ….and that’s where it all started to fall apart. See, I’m more of a workshop teacher than a centre’s teacher. I want my class engaged in meaningful work not busy work. I want everyone moving forward, not just doing stuff. Guided math felt to me like stuff the kids would do while a few were doing meaningful work with me.
I don’t know why I thought this. I don’t teach guided reading that way, at all! I have never been a “Centre” person, or a “station” person. First, I’m not so good at making photocopies, or games for kids to play, or doing all the background work to create independence at a set of activities. Second, I want to be everywhere while the kids are doing the activities. I don’t want to miss out on the conversations that are happening during a game. I want to be available, for example, to scaffold during a Dreambox activity. I don’t want those things happening while I am otherwise engaged and unavailable for assistance.
We are just past Day 7 of the “Organizing and Collecting” Young Mathematicians at Work unit. I kept thinking, “Oh, I should be doing some guided math with this little group.” or “I should do a guided math group with that group.” Then one day, I thought, “Wait…I am doing guided math with my groups!” The other kids were all engaged in their work, and I was sitting at a table with students I had intentionally partnered with each other. I wanted to scaffold them through the activity. All of them were counting by 1s, never anything else, and I wanted to push them to at least try counting by 2s, if not tens (which was the focus of the activity.) I was conferring with them, and I was noticing their strategies and which stops on the Landscape of Learning were evident, and all the other groups were engaged in the activity too.
So, to recap, I had not organized 50 activities for the class do to while I worked with those 4 students. I had not set up a “rotate every 15 minutes” routine in the class. I had not even designated a specific day on my schedule as “Guided Math” day. But there I was doing guided math anyway. And then I did it the next day. And then the next. And then today we didn’t do it because I was standing out of the way and doing some kid watching while they worked on the activity.
It feels like a weight off my shoulders. I was feeling bad about not having figured out how guided math would look and run in my class over the Summer so I could have it up and running by the end of September. In a June meeting, a colleague said, “But does guided math have to include centres?” and that sparked my thinking. I thought it did. It took me 3 months to realize it actually doesn’t have to include centres at all.
So, I guess I have started guided math after all. 🙂