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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Guided Math in Action Book Study Chapters 3 and 4

Welcome to my guided math book study!  It is not to late to join in!  Every week, I will provide the links to past posts so if you are just finding this book study you can jump right in!

July 2   Chapters 1 and 2
July 9   Chapters 3 and 4
July 30 Chapter 9

Chapter 3: Managing the Math Workshop

This chapter starts out with this GREAT quote " We must spend 40 hours a year dealing with students' pencil problems (dull or broken tips, wanting to use the sharpener, running out of eraser, and so on). To solve all these problems ahead of time, just prepare a few hundred sharpened pencils at the start of the year." I love this quote because I have been in many classrooms over the last few years where it feels like 25% of math time is consumed by kids looking for pencils or trying to share an eraser with another student.  Do yourself, your sanity and your class a favor and get a great pencil sharpener,  a few huge boxes of good pencils and spend an hour or two getting them sharpened and ready to go for the school year.  Make it your mission to not lose any precious minutes of instruction time on pencil issues.

The meat of this chapter is the discussion on how to set up your classroom and establish routines and procedures.  Many ideas are similar to those outlined in The First Six Weeks of School and are a great way to set up a responsive classroom situation where kids know the expectations and contribute to a positive classroom environment.  Central to this working well is the idea that you have to teach kids how you want them to behave, treat materials and treat each other.  I love this section's focus on teaching kids to work independently so that the teacher is free to run small groups.  Independence is such an important skill for students to develop and it is important to teach it.  

There are also great ideas on scheduling and setting up for guided math.  It is all about organization and does take some time up front to have materials that you will need prepared and organized in a way that is easy to access them.  I find this is the most intimidating part of getting started with guided math.  There is quite a bit of prep work up front but I feel this really pays off in the long run!  "Staying organized is going to help you keep your sanity.  There is so much going on in math workshop, you don't want to be running around looking for stuff that you need to do your lesson.  Keep your stash stocked!"

Chapter 4: Forming Guided Math Groups

This chapter focuses on the importance of making sure you are meeting with ALL students and meeting them on their level. I love the quote from the beginning of the chapter, "when a teacher tries to teach something to the entire class at the same time, chances are, one-third of the kids already know it; one-third will get it; and the remaining third won't.  So two-thirds of the children are wasting their time."  That is pretty strong evidence that you should be doing at least some small group work in your classroom!  I also like how this chapter emphasizes the importance of meeting with kids below, at and above the standard.  It can be challenging to make sure all kids are getting what they need, especially since so much time is given to kids who are behind to try to help them catch up.  All kids deserve to have teacher attention, even if it isn't always fairly divided.

Depending on your class size, you might have 3-4 groups of kids.  The book does a nice job detailing the different levels of learners you may encounter.  The most important thing to remember is that these groups need to be flexible!  "Guided math groups are organized according to the common needs of a specific group of students in a certain place and at a certain time."  This does not mean they are ability grouped for the year!  The key to all this working is a good formative assessment system.  I feel that if you don't have a good understanding of formative assessment, guided math groupings are not going to be effective.  There are some great books and blog posts out there about formative assessment if you need some help getting started!

I am really enjoying reading this book and discussing it with all of you!  It is not to late to join!

What are your thoughts on this week's reading?  Please respond in the comments below!  If you have a blog and would like to write a blog post about it, leave your link in the comments below.  


  1. This looks like a really good book. I haven't used groups in math, but the quote about two-thirds is a powerful one.

    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

    1. It is a very powerful one! Even if you can squeeze in some small group work in addition to your whole class lessons, you will notice a big difference.

  2. I have just finished 13 years teaching 5th grade and will now be the newly created Math Specialist K-5 between two schools. One of the first things I want to do is talk to the teachers about the structure of their math lessons and tell them all about Dr Nicki and her ideas on Guided Math. I first saw her two years ago and began then to change the structure of my Math hour to be more guided math. This year I went full steam ahead and pretty much did Guided Math every day of the week. I have quoted the phrase about reaching one third of the kids during a whole group lesson many, many times. I absolutely loved the structure of the guided math groups. A huge key to it was developing the students' independence and empowering them to take ownership of their own learning. I had them make goals and showed them the data I had on them as we collected it. I made sure the environment in my classroom was one of analyzing any assessment for strengths and weaknesses and not forgetting about the weak areas after the student took the summative assessment for each unit. They maintained a list in their safe folders on the topics they still needed to work on so that when they had free time they would watch videos or do IXL problem sets on those topics. I love having the philosophy of the flexible groupings based on topic as well. All the kids knew that I was using data to give each of them what they needed and that they had power to take over their learning if they desired. I felt like it revolutionized my classroom!! I agree that organization is a definite must!!
    Ann Elise

    1. Hi Ann Elise,
      I love how you have empowered your students to take responsibility for their own learning. This is an area I still feel like I need to work on more, especially for younger students. It sounds like you are going to be a great math specialist! You are going to love focusing on one subject all day long!

  3. I am really enjoying this book:) You can read my blog post about chapters 3&4 on my blog :)

    -Beach Teacher
    Primary Classrooms are Oceans of Fun

    1. I love reading about your ideas! It sounds like you are very intentional about the way you set up math workshop!

  4. Hi,
    This is Dr. Nicki. I am so excited that you are doing a book study on the book! In terms of forming groups, I have been thinking and writing a great deal lately about testing in the beginning of the year. Be sure to give a grade level fluency test, a word problem test and tests of the priority standards.

    Happy Mathing,
    Dr. Nicki

    1. Hello Dr. Nicki!
      It is an honor to have you stop by my blog! I am a huge fan of your work and am so happy that your message reaches so many teachers. Your participation adds a great deal to this book study! I like your point about giving a variety of assessments at the beginning of the year!