Guided Math: Getting Started

How to switch from whole group to small group instruction.

How to Launch Guided Math During The First Weeks of School

Gone are the days of teaching math ONLY through whole group instruction! If you’ve stumbled upon this blog post, you can transition to guided math right now, too! I don’t care what month in the school year it is!

When you implement guided math, you spend the bulk of your time teaching in small groups so you can give your students targeted instruction.

Here are a few of the main points you’ll need to plan before introducing guided math in your classroom:

  • Flexible small groups
  • Managing rotations
  • Independent work
  • Math centers

Flexible small groups

During guided math, almost all of your instruction is delivered in small groups. You should ideally meet with these groups every single day. To keep it manageable, I always have 3 small groups (intervention level, on level, and above level). You could try 4 groups if you have a larger class and/or a longer block of time.

At the beginning of each unit, I use quick pre-assessments to place my students in groups. For the most part, my groups don’t change a ton throughout the year, but I always give myself time to review my groups before diving in.

Managing Guided Math Rotations

My guided math block lasts a little over an hour. I create these printable schedules for my groups that they keep in sheet protectors inside their math folder.

Example math rotation chart schedule
Sample guided math chart in student folders

On a typical day, my students have three guided math rotations. Two of those rotations never change: teacher table & independent work. My third rotation switches between math games and iPad time. You can read more about my math rotation charts in this blog post!

Independent Work

After students have their teacher table rotation, they go straight to independent work. Teachers always ask me if this is “just busy work” during this rotation, and I’m here to tell you that it is definitely not the “busy work” rotation!

Because my students go to independent work immediately following their small group instruction, I always introduce the independent work while students are still with me. This provides me the opportunity to make sure each student knows exactly what to do.

In addition to teaching math in small groups, one of the biggest game changers for me has been assigning differentiated independent work. Each morning before school I fill these folders with differentiated work for each group. Sometimes all three groups have different work and sometimes they don’t!

These are independent work folders you can use to differentiate for students during your guided math rotations.

My best advice: If you have a grade-level teaching teammate who’s also teaching in small groups, divide and conquer planning the independent work for the week!

Grab this FREE pack of guided math planning freebies to help you keep track of everything and launch guided math!

Math Centers & Games

Students spend the final rotation completing math centers and games.

There are tons and tons of options out there for math centers! Teachers often ask me how I introduce these math centers & make sure that students know how to complete them. One of the most successful ways I’ve found to do this is to play these math centers and games with my students when they’re with me in small groups!

These are examples of 1st grade math centers you can use during your rotations.
These are examples of 2nd grade math centers you can use during your  rotations.

That’s right! I LOVE pulling out my math center puzzles, board games, task cards, and matching activities to use while students are with me in small groups. After we’ve played a center at teacher table, I add it to our math centers the following week!

If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to choosing math centers, I’ve got you covered with 1st grade centers, 2nd grade centers, math center puzzles, & differentiated centers!

If you’d like even more details on how I organize & run guided math, you can leave your email to get your FREE Small Group Workbook! You’ll learn how to create a flexible schedule and set up your centers for success!

Pin these ideas for later!

Learn how to switch from whole group to small group math instruction with the guided math workshop model.
Learn how to switch from whole group to small group math instruction with the guided math workshop model.

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