Welcome back for Chapter 5 of The Primary Gal's Guided Math Book Study! We're halfway through the book! That also means we're halfway through the summer, and I'm not ready for that, yet!! :(
In this chapter, Laney Sammons dives into the importance, challenges, and procedures for effective small group instruction. If you already use some form of Guided Reading (I use Daily Five), the structure for small group instruction in Guided Math is basically the same. Sammons says that by teaching in small groups, teachers can more effectively:
*teach mathematical "hot spots" (especially difficult concepts)
*teach with manipulatives
*informally assess student learning
*support mathematical process standards
Teachers form their small groups the same way you probably already do in reading - by student ability/need. You can do this in a variety of ways - unit pretests, formative assessments, performance tasks, etc., and Sammons emphasizes that these groups should be flexible. I especially like the idea of the unit pretests because some students may excel in a concept like composing numbers to 10 but don't fully understand the concept of place value beyond 10. Flexible grouping (based on data) allows students to always be taught at their instructional level, regardless of the topic.
When preparing lessons, teachers need to be aware of their students' "zone of proximal development (Vygotsky)" in order to maximize their learning potential. Teachers should also "promote mathematical discourse" through thoughtful discussion about students' thinking, as well as through the use of Math Journals. I especially liked the part about having students record their thinking about how they solved a problem in their Math Journal. I have always had my students keep a math journal, but it has been more of a place to record the "Problem of the Day" than anything else. I have always had them show their work and justify their answer in a sentence, but I really like the idea of making the Math Journal a place to record their own independent thinking about problem solving. Sammons says teachers should also take the time to provide specific, meaningful feedback to students about their thinking and performance during this small group time. She suggests meeting with each group for about 20 minutes each time, but the number of times you meet with each group depends upon their specific needs and behaviors.
Finally, the part I had been waiting for throughout the entire chapter - and it's a long one - a sample small-group lesson! One thing I wish this book contained more of is specific examples, like the one at the end of this chapter. So if you can only read a small part of this chapter, skip to page 176 and start there. My brain needs to see the actual dialogue in order to visualize how a lesson would look in my own classroom.
I *really* hope to be able to use small group instruction for math this year. I know it will benefit my kids greatly. The challenge (as Sammons explains, as well) is the planning and preparation that goes into it, as well as time constraints. Maybe if I get started now…
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