3 Realistic Tips for Guided Math Success

I'm just going to come right out and say it: guided math is one of my all time best teaching decisions. This is my fifth year using the guided math model in my classroom (to varying levels of success!) and I have to say, my kiddos are engaged, on task, and making great progress. I'm not going to pretend it isn't without challenges- sometimes we have to go back to the beginning and review all our expectations (repeatedly). One year we could only handle one station per day, other years we can do four stations a day. Most years are somewhere in-between. There are definitely some things that have made a difference for me, though.

1. Make your plans work for you
Don't plan 4 stations a day each day. Make sure you have some stations with staying power! Look at what your grade level fluencies are in the CCSS, and find activities that target those skills. In fifth grade, one of our fluencies is multi-digit multiplication using the standard algorithm. You better believe we practice that every week! I found lots of games and activities that help to reinforce this skill at varying levels, and I rotate them in and out. Very low prep! Another station is intervention, which is with me and whiteboards. Here, I only need to know what skill I am targeting. No need to copy or prep anything! The other two stations are typically either problem solving, literacy in math, a game, or a math "exploration" of a topic that the kids chose.

2. Find what works in your room, and do it. Be flexible!
Don't listen to the 42 other people that can be super human and plan 4 differentiated lessons per math period per day. That isn't real life! Figure our what works for you and your kids and stick to it. If you are having success with two stations per day, great! Work it, girl. If you can swing three or four, more power to you! If you are struggling to get one station in, that is ok. It is a starting point, and it is definitely better than nothing. Don't try to keep up with the Jones'. You are a professional, and you know your kids best. Do what works.

3. Set clear expectations
Seriously, I can't stress this enough. I go over my rules and expectations for math workshop repeatedly when we start. When I think I've done it enough, I do it twice more to be sure. Then, I am an evil, wicked, mega-strict teacher and make sure that I watch the kiddos like a hawk and address it every single time they don't follow the guidelines. I post a big copy of our expectations and then give every kiddo a small printable copy to keep in their math folder. We create the expectations together so the kiddos feel invested, and then every single person in the classroom signs the poster to agree to follow it.  I don't even start working with groups until I am sure that the expectations are clearly understood and being followed. Finally, I ask each kiddo to fill out an accountability sheet each day after each station. They tell me how well they understand the math and how focused and on task they think they were. Of course, 11 year olds can inflate their effort level a bit, but with some training they are decent at self reflection!

It's over simplified, I'm sure, but it's what works for me. If you do guided math, I'd love to hear what works for you!
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