Create guided math small group lesson plans by using predictable routines, providing time for exploration, and keeping students engaged through various challenges.
Successful K-2 Math Small Group Lesson Plans
Creating guided math small group lesson plans can be so overwhelming. Math is filled with discreet skills, how do you know which skill to start with? While your curriculum provides a general guideline, students tend to live in an area of grey. To add more confusion while math is filled with discreet skills the application and deeper understanding of specific concepts is what leads to mathematical success. Teaching math in small groups makes the daunting task of guiding your students to deeper understanding manageable. Small group instruction is only one component of guided math in the classroom but it is the most informative on student growth and learning. Be sure to grab this guide for effective small group instruction. Read on to find out how to create a successful math small group lesson plan!
Math Small Group Instruction
Why should you use math small group instruction? The research is clear. Students learn best through social, personalized instruction that can be achieved through small group instruction. Math small group instruction should be conversational based and guide students to new discoveries through their zone of proximal development. Unsure of what your students’ zone of proximal development is? Read more about it here.
Math small group instruction should be fluid. It adapts based on student growth and the needs of the class. There are two theories on math small group instruction: it can be teacher-directed, or student-guided. Now before you jump to conclusions, I will say both types of instruction have their place and times when teaching math.
Teacher-directed math small groups most likely align with how you already envision math groups. The teacher sits around a table with 2-4 students and has a set of activities or tasks to lead the children through. It may follow a predictable “I do, we do, you do” model to gradually release the skill from the teachers’ knowledge to the students. This model is best for explicit instruction and supports students whose understanding of language may hinder their knowledge of math skills. Use this model as a guide for your guided math small group lesson plans.
Feeling overwhelmed with keeping your students engaged in meaningful learning while leading math small groups? here you can learn about classroom management strategies in the K-2 classroom to get the most out of your small group instruction.
Teaching Math in Small Groups
Like all learning, math is collaborative. Teaching math in small groups allows students to work together and learn mathematical concepts through discovery. Utilizing small groups in math doesn’t have to take over the teacher.
First, begin with the end in mind. What are you hoping your students gain during the lesson? Extra practice or solidifying a previously taught concept is a perfectly acceptable goal. Sometimes, I think teachers get caught up on having this grand learning target (which, don’t get me wrong, is also important) but small steps lead to big change. Students need repetition to practice and achieve target skills.
Second, decide what you want your small groups to look like. Are you beginning with a whole group task, then all children work on the same task within small groups? Are you running centers or a math menu model, where children float between math activities and teachers meet with students as needed? Or, maybe you have the entire class working on a single activity and you pull small groups to a teacher’s table to work on isolated skills. Each method has its own pros and cons. Try a few different methods for teaching math in small groups to figure out which one is the right fit for you. Your guided math small group lesson plans will evolve to meet the needs of your students, and as you grow as a teacher.
Math Small Group Instruction
The beauty of math small group instruction is it allows the teacher to personalize each student’s learning while keeping the learning social and collaborative. Utilizing small group instruction during your elementary math time creates opportunities for hands-on learning and self-discovery. Staying consistent with your small group instruction can be so challenging! Here are my best tips for keeping on track with your math small groups.
Math Small Group Rotation
I’ll be honest – I’m not a fan of math small group rotations. I prefer to incorporate student voice and choice by students choosing what they want to work on during that block. However, I have had several years that, from a management standpoint, I had to utilize a math small group rotation in order to keep sanity within the room. There is nothing wrong with having a rotation, it’s a strategy you can utilize to keep your students on task during their math small groups. If you’re looking to have a math small group rotation, keep your activities open-ended. Think about roll and play games, matching activities, growing towers, and comparing attributes…the worst thing for a math center is to be “one and done” because if it’s not time to rotate, you will lose your students. Pro tip: keep worksheets out of your math small group rotation.
Math Games for Small Groups
Games are a must-have in your math small group lesson plans. A deck of cards is your best friend. You can target more/less concepts, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division…seriously almost any math concept can be targeted through a card game. If you have access, traditional games are perfect math games for small groups. Some of our favorites include: Trouble, Chutes and Ladders, and Yahtzee Jr. These games are a collaborative way to teach math in small groups! Low on time? Grab some proven math games for small groups in the first-grade classroom here!
Math Small Group Template
Okay, you’ve stuck with me this long explaining why you need a math small group lesson plan, along with some great components of math groups. Here’s a general math small group template!
Whole Group Introduction
When teaching math in small groups, begin with the whole group instruction. This is generally the instruction in your teacher’s manual if you are following a scripted program. These lessons range from practice problems to introducing new strategies or concepts, to discovering mathematical concepts through various activities.
Student Work Time
After you’ve finished your whole group instruction, it’s time for student work. This looks different in each elementary classroom as you meet the needs of your student and your teaching style. This is a teacher free work time. Struggling with how to build a teacher free work time in your classroom? Grab your free guide to effective small group instruction here.
Leading Math Small Groups
Start by reviewing the target skill (typically the whole group lesson), then dial back to the previous skill or preview the next skill based on the needs of your group. Allow time for conversation among students. During your math small groups, ask questions and observe. See if students can correct misunderstandings based on their own conversations. When leading math small groups, I often start by reviewing the skill and then engage in math conversation while working on practice problems. This often allows me to clear up any misconceptions. Then, I present the group with a challenging problem for the students to solve together. This naturally leads to exploration time and they continue working on the problem as I begin working with the next group of students.
Teaching Math in Small Groups Online
Teaching math in small groups online can make your head spin – but it doesn’t have to! As with any change in the classroom do your best to keep the routines the same. If you begin with a practice problem in the classroom, begin with the practice problems online. If you typically end with a challenging problem, be sure to do the same. In my experience, the main difference between teaching math in small groups in the classroom and online is pacing. Online instruction has to move quickly because students are more likely to zone out.
Looking for more math small group ideas? Check these out!