July 14, 2013

Ch. 5 - Using Guided Math with Small Groups

Hey everyone!  This is Holly from Fourth Grade Flipper!  
I am here today to participate in a book study on Guided Math: A Framework for Mathematics Instruction by Laney Sammons. This book study was set up by my blogging buddy, the amazing Tina from Croft's Classroom:) 

I was thrilled when my girl Tina asked if I would like to read this book with her this summer.  It was already on my reading list and it seemed like everyone had already read it but me!

So, the chapter I am going to highlight today had a WEALTH of information!!  It was a long chapter from pages 133-181 of the book, and I am going to summarize the parts that I found most helpful.
Chapter Five:  
Using Guided Math with Small Groups
Advantages of Small Group Instruction:
  • Differentiated Instruction-Teachers can tailor instruction that best challenges all learners since groups are based on student strengths and needs.
  • Instruction is focused (teaching mathematical "hot spots")
  • Materials are easily managed in a small group.
  • Conversation flows freely in a small group and reluctant students are more likely to share.
  • Student efforts are easily monitored in a small group.  Errors in conceptual understanding are caught early vs. at times in whole group instruction when it takes more time to catch.
Challenges of Small Group Instruction:
  • Planning is more extensive for teachers (content and presentation of lessons may vary)
  • Students receive less direct instruction from the teacher
  • Independent work can be challenging to plan.  "How much students learn as they work independently depends largely on the value and rigor of the tasks planned by the teacher and on how well the teacher has established procedures that allow this work to proceed uninterrupted."  Most teachers spend a FEW WEEKS teaching the expectations for Math Workshop
Forming Small Groups for Learning
Grouping in Guided Math "proposes flexible, needs-based instructional grouping that changes to accommodate the learning needs of budding mathematicians.  The composition of these groups also may vary from concept to concept."  
I know that the level of skill can vary widely from one concept to the next but I hadn't thought of the groups changing concept to concept.  I started to get a little worried about the management aspect of all this when I read that statement.  Then I continued reading...
"Forming Guided Reading groups is a more clear-cut process than forming Guided Math groups...For mathematics, there is no one assessment that can help determine mathematical readiness levels.  Furthermore, there is no mathematics leveling system that corresponds to the multiple reading leveling systems available to teachers."  
This is so TRUE!!  This will be one of the hurdles I will face when making my Guided Math groups.  I know that they may need to change from one concept to the next but the management of that is scary!  I hope I am just over thinking it and the changing of groups will just occur naturally as I get to know the students' abilities over time.

The assessments that teachers usually use to form groups are a combination of:
  • Unit Pre-Tests
  • Performance with Previous Sequential Groups
  • Formative Tests
  • Performance Tasks
  • Observation of Student Work
  • Mathematical Conversations with Students
  • Benchmark Tests
Planning the Small Group Lesson
I like that the author's pointed out that although the teacher is working with only a small group at a time, the same level of preparedness is required as if it were a whole group lesson.  In addition, most of the time there is even more to prepare since your lessons may vary from one group to the next!  There was a chart that highlighted the steps to preparing for the lesson which included:
  • Determine the "big ideas" to be taught based on standards and student need
  • Decide what the criteria of success will be in mastering the standards
  • Use data to form groups
  • Select specific teaching points for each group
  • Prepare differentiated lessons for each group
  • Gather and organize materials necessary for the lesson
Teaching a Guided Math Lesson with a Small Group
The steps for teaching a guided math lesson in a small group are very similar to teaching in a whole group.  The following steps are outlined in the book.
  • Briefly introduce the lesson.
  • Provide students with a clear understanding of the activity or task on which they will work.
  • Encourage students to use a variety of strategies to solve the problem or complete the activity.
  • Scaffold student learning by giving just enough support to move students to the next level of understanding and proficiency. "Rather than the teacher's role being that of dispenser of knowledge, it is that of a caring supporter in the learner's quest for knowledge."
  • Provide many opportunities for mathematical disclosure.
  • Give students specific, descriptive feedback on their work and encourage students to engage in self-assessmetn based on the criteria for success.
I love everything that I have read about Guided Math (even if it is a little scary thinking about the management aspect right now!).  I just hope that it will work with our New York State math modules next year.  Modules one and two have been released so far and are very scripted.  We have no textbook materials except for these modules that we print offline.  They are the sole curriculum and source of classwork, homework, and projects.  It seems like there is not much "wiggle room" in terms of teachers adapting any of the instruction.  I will know more after I go to a Common Core math workshop incorporating the modules on July 26th.  I am waiting to really delve into them until after this date.  
Are there any other NYS teachers using the modules as their sole curriculum next year in math?

Here are some discussion questions for this week on Chapter 5:
1.  Do you use Guided Reading in your classroom?  If so, how can you adapt it to accommodate mathematics instruction?  What about it is easily modified for teaching math?

2.  What data do you have that can guide you as you create small groups of students for Guided Math instruction?  How will you manage changing groups as the math content changes?

Thank you for reading and we love all comments! :)


  1. 1. I believe that the management aspects of Guided Reading are similar to those of Guided Math. You must teach the students how to transition to different activities, take care of materials, and work carefully. These skills must be practiced before students will do them on their own.
    2. I use preassessment tests to guide me when making Guided Math groups. At times I will group students by specific standard, but that can be difficult. I do like to assess at the beginning of each unit of study.

  2. 1 - I use guided reading and Daily 5. I totally plan to implement and use the same strategies for these and for Math Workshop! I think the basic expectations would be the same for both.

    2 - I will be giving the preassessments just like Anne is. The management will be based upon the assessments.