Sunday, August 25, 2019

Math Workshop: Incorporating Guided Math

Today’s post is all about guided math. Does that phrase induce anxiety, confusion or frustration for you? If so, you’re not alone. 

Guided math comes with a lot of questions: how many groups do you pull? What are the other kids doing? What do you actually do with the groups? 

For me the magic of guided math is not necessarily the activities, but the chance for students to work with me in small groups. Having a structure in place that allows me to pull small groups is crucial (read more about how I use Google slides to create this structure here)

Depending on the unit, the skill, and the group of kids, I pull groups in different ways. Sometimes I pull kids based on formative assessments for reteaching, sometimes I walk around and confer with students about the work they’re doing during workshop. But most of the time, I pull groups for structured guided math lessons. 

Having set groups helps me ensure all the students come to work with me - the kids will help hold me accountable! It also allows me to adjust the work depending on the level of the students. I find this easier to do with some skills than others. When I pull structured guided math groups I stick to a structure for planning the lesson - a game, a worksheet or activity and a quick assessment. Having this structure in place helps lessen the load of planning. 

Want to try out a lesson in your class? Download a free sample of my guided math bundle for place value below

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Math Workshop: Using Google Slides

One of my biggest challenges with incorporating math stations or centers in my classroom was controlling the order of activities. I wanted my students to start with hands-on and move to abstract, but with traditional stations only one group was starting with the hands-on activity and others were starting straight with the abstract worksheet or task cards. 

In 2015 I switched from math stations / math centers to a self-paced math workshop using Google Slides and it completely transformed my math instruction. 

I explain more about how this works along with a peek into some of the activities I use in the video below: 

The students work through the activities at their own pace. I try to follow the concrete -> pictorial -> abstract model for student activities. I also build in extension activities at the end for students who are early finishers.

I give students 2 days to complete the activities for a skill. One day they'll spend part of their time working with me and the other day they'll have the entire 35 minutes to work.

Every year I have students who have more difficulty working at their own pace. I give them some modifications to make sure they stay on track with the activities. However, with coaching and support I have found most students are able to be successful by the end of the year. This style of math workshop really helps them become self-regulated learners. 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Math Workshop: Using a Flipped Lesson Model

When I started using math workshop one of my biggest challenges was keeping a mini-lesson mini. Some kids needed me to go slow because they’re slow writers. Other kids write fast and get bored waiting for classmates to finish their notes. I’d inevitably have to stop to redirect behavior during the mini-lesson and before we knew it that 5 minute lesson had turned into 25 minutes. Cue video lessons.

I use a flipped classroom model for my 4th grade math workshop. However, I do it a little differently than other flipped classrooms because my students watch the videos in class as part of their math workshop activities. This eliminates any issues of students not having access to technology at home or forgetting to do the homework. 

All of the students start workshop by watching a video lesson that I have previously recorded. They have an anchor chart they have to fill out as they watch the video. I've been using a screen capturing app (Doceri) on my ipad to record the videos. They're pretty basic - it's what I used to do whole class. For each video there's an anchor chart for the kids to fill out. They glue these into their journals. After the video, the kids have different activities to work on. 

Not only has this flipped method help me keep my mini-lessons mini, it has created even more time to pull small groups. I can start pulling groups right away - in fact I usually pull my lower group first, before they even watch the video. I can preteach the lesson and it’s quiet because the other kids are all watching the video independently. 

Want more information on how to flip your classroom? I created a free course teaching you everything you need to know to start flipping your class - even if you just start with 1 or 2 lessons. Sign up for the free course here: 

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Math Workshop: Using 3 Act Tasks

Do your kids like to fly through challenging word problems by just choosing an operation and not slowing down to really think about the problem? This is one of my biggest challenges - getting them to slow down and think. It’s something we work on all year long. 

One tool in my tool belt for getting kids to slow down and stick with a problem is using 3 act tasks as part of our math meeting (we start our math block together on the carpet for about 10 minutes). 

If we want our students to stick with problems, we have to give them problems that are fun to stick with. The 3 act tasks are the kids' favorites because they all start with some sort of engaging video clip or image that gets kids excited, curious and talking. 

I like to spread the 3 act tasks out over the week so that I can keep our math meeting short. 
*Monday - we start with act one and I make an anchor chart with things that they're wondering or noticing and then they make some estimates - too low, just right, too high 
*Tuesday -  I give them a little bit more information from Act 2 and we add that to the class anchor chart 
*Wednesday & Thursday - They get the rest of the information that they need to solve the problem. 
*Friday - they get to find out if they were correct. If students got it right, they get to share out their strategies. If no one figured it out, we talk about how to get the answer. 

If you want a little more information about how this looks in my class, you can watch this video of me explaining how I used the “Where’s the Beef” task:

Once we’ve done some 3 act tasks together as a class and they understand how they work, I let some students work on them in pairs as extension during other parts of the day. For this I use a Google Doc Hyperdoc for them to keep track of their thinking. This is a great way to differentiate because you can have kids working on different levels of 3 act tasks. 

You can grab that free resource here: