I am a middle school 8th grade math teacher, and I love the students I teach. When I hear the words “Guided Math,” I instantly think elementary levels. This past year, I implemented guided math groups/small group instruction into my 8th grade middle school math classroom and their growth was amazing (check out the resources I use here). My students were asking when they would get to go to small group. They saw the benefits and so did I!
I can’t stress enough that you have to create a classroom environment that is respectful of the varying levels of students in your classroom. I set high expectations for my students from day one. In middle school, many students walk into my class and tell me “I hate math! It’s always been my worst subject.” Open house is generally full of many parents telling me that they can’t help their kids with math, because they were not good at math themselves. My students feel they are destined to fail before I have ever had a chance to see what they already know.
I try to counter this mindset from their first time meeting me in my classroom. I tell my students, “It doesn’t matter if you don’t like math, or that your parents struggled and don’t feel they can help you, because I LOVE MATH!!! I am good at it, and together we are going to be successful and WE are going to grow this year!” I want to instill a Growth Mindset into my students. I want them to know that I believe in them, and I must portray a confidence that they can trust.
Additionally, students in my classroom never tease other students as dumb for having to go to small group, because they all go to small group at some point. Students feel safe to participate freely and small group time is not a punishment. My students want to have that one on one instruction with me, because they can see themselves growing.
Large Group Activities
When you are pulling a small group of no more than 6 students, what do you do with the other 24 students. It sounds daunting, but I set really high expectations for my classes and they know what to expect from day one of instruction. I am also consistent with the types of activities that I give my large group so that they can be more independent when I am working with my small group of students.
On a typical day in my class, I will pull 6 students at a time to go over materials that I have already taught and feel students need additional support. My district has one to one technology, so I try to utilize their devices in a way that keeps my large group of students engaged and on task. If you don’t have the technology available, just plan an activity that students can do independently or with a shoulder partner so that the noise is at a minimum and they will not need your assistance. If you have technology available, try implementing one of these sights into your lesson plan for the large group. It could be as simple as putting your worksheet online and letting the kids use their device to access it.
Small Group Instruction
I don’t spend hours planning my small group instruction. I plan for the large group activity. I generally pull 3-6 really good questions to use in my small group. I do 1-2 guided problems with the students, and then let them try 1-2 problems on their own to show me that they understand the concept. Once they can show me they’ve got it, I send them back to complete the large group activity for the day and pull 6 more students.
I do not typically make copies for this instruction. I plan my questions (like these volume task cards), give the students expo markers and they do their work on the desks. If I need to copy something, I make 3-6 copies and use sheet protectors so the students can use their expo marker, erase and it’s ready for the next student. I do not have a horseshoe table in my room, so I make my own using 6 desks, and I put a chair for myself in the middle.
Who is in the Small Group
I use Exit Tickets from the day before to determine who still needs additional assistance, who is on the right track, and who are my experts. I seat my experts with my novice students in the large group, and pull all my beginners first. If I have time remaining, I start pulling my novice students, and then my experts. I plan one challenging problem for my expert group to help them push deeper into the content. I try to get to every student, but my beginners are my priority for the day.
Small group instruction is my passion! I love seeing the excitement my students share when they experience success. More to come on the successes and failures with this upcoming school year, how to utilize a co-teacher effectively, and station approaches with small group instruction. See my earlier post on how and when I document during small group instruction. Please comment and share below.