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Establishing Procedures in Guided Math

Hi! It's time for part 3 of my guided math series. Today we will be talking all about establishing procedures to set up the perfect math block. You can check out the first two parts of this series below.

Part 1: How to Set Up Your Math Block
Part 2: Guided Math Breakdown

Like any other procedure in your classroom, guided math is something that takes time to set up. You can't just decide to one day do math stations and then start them in your class and expect them to go perfect. I spend the first six weeks of school training my students. We talk about expectations, rules, voice levels, how to use materials, and then slowly introduce things one at a time. It takes patience and practice but once your students have that routine down, it is so beneficial. So, let's get started!

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Establishing procedures for guided math take time. This post shows the rules and steps I use to introduce math stations in my classroom.




The first week of establishing procedures you are going to focus on three things. 
1. Rules
2. Voice Levels
3. Signal

Establishing procedures for guided math take time. This post shows the rules and steps I use to introduce math stations in my classroom.


Here is a picture of my math board. All expectations are posted here and referred to often. 

Establishing procedures for guided math take time. This post shows the rules and steps I use to introduce math stations in my classroom.


I start out by introducing our rules. I keep these charts up on our math board so they can easily be referenced when needed. We talk about what each rule means. I do a lot of modeling of what these procedures do and do not look like.

Establishing procedures for guided math take time. This post shows the rules and steps I use to introduce math stations in my classroom.


I also introduce the Ask 3 Before Me rule. This is something I use in all subject areas rather than just for our math rotations. If they get stuck on a question, do no understand, or need help in anyway, they must ask 3 other students before they can come ask me. You can grab these posters here

Establishing procedures for guided math take time. This post shows the rules and steps I use to introduce math stations in my classroom.


Voice levels are another must when it comes to setting up procedures. These posters are posted a few different places around our classroom. This chart on our board contains a clothespin that is moved up and down to demonstrate what voice level they need to be working at. We have six different levels. 

0- No talking (testing, lining up, while others are talking)
1- Can be heard by someone close to you. 
2- Only your partner can hear you. 
3- Working with a group of 3-6 people.
4- While speaking, can be heard in the back of the room.
5- During recess or playtime. 

During that first week, we model and practice what each of these levels looks like multiple times throughout our day. I also keep a copy in 5x7 photo frames at each table group. They use a clothespin to track their level at their table. You can get these posters here

Establishing procedures for guided math take time. This post shows the rules and steps I use to introduce math stations in my classroom.

We also talk about what to do when they finish. I don't allow them to come up to the teacher table while I'm working with a group, so I have this poster laminated up on our math board. If they finish their math station before it is time to rotate, then they can do the activity that I have written on this sheet. I have mine laminated and use a dry erase marker to change out the activities. Grab this here

Establishing procedures for guided math take time. This post shows the rules and steps I use to introduce math stations in my classroom.

When it comes to transitions and getting my students attention, my wireless doorbell is my favorite! This little thing has over 50 different chimes. You just plug it into an outlet and you are good to go. Whenever we are transitioning from small groups or other times throughout the day, I'll ring the doorbell and the kids know it is time to stop what they are doing and clean up.

Establishing procedures for guided math take time. This post shows the rules and steps I use to introduce math stations in my classroom.

 I'll bring kids to the carpet and have the turn and talk with partners to practice different voice levels. When they hear the bell ring, they must stop, turn and face me and put their hands in their lap with their voices off. As the days go by, I'll let them play with manipulatives at their desk. When they hear the bell, they must stop what they are doing and clean up. Lots of practice is key! 


At the beginning of each year, I spend some time introducing different manipulatives that are found in our math tubs. I started using these year ago and it is the BEST thing I've ever done for my math block. I bought shoebox size plastic containers. Inside each one, you will find bags of student manipulatives. 


What I love about these is that students are 100% in charge of them. These labels that are taped to the inside of the lid shows exactly what is in each box and how many of each manipulative they should have. When it comes time for math, I never have to pre prep manipulatives. Everything is already ready to go in their tubs and they just bring them with them to stations or to the small group table. Want to be read more about these or interested in the labels? You can grab them for free and read more here






I keep track of this three different ways. First, let me say is that I do not ever grade station work. Anything that has a paper answer sheet, they keep in their math station folder. At the end of each week, they take the papers inside home. 

Establishing procedures for guided math take time. This post shows the rules and steps I use to introduce math stations in my classroom.

If they finish their work the move it to the finished work side of the folder. If doesn't get finished, they keep it on the unfinished side and can work on it next time or during free time. 

Establishing procedures for guided math take time. This post shows the rules and steps I use to introduce math stations in my classroom.

Sometimes I just hate keeping up with all the paper, so I'll use these plastic sleeves and students just use a dry erase marker to write their answers. Teacher Tip - buy these sleeves off of Amazon. You can get a pack of 25 for less than $20. You can't beat that. Grab them here.

Establishing procedures for guided math take time. This post shows the rules and steps I use to introduce math stations in my classroom.

Then I would have them bring to me to quickly check or take a photo with our class iPad and I would look over the answers later.

Then, I discovered SeeSaw and it took being paperless to a whole new level! If you aren't familiar with SeeSaw, it's a FREE tool that allows students to have their own online digital portfolio. Each of my students has their own profile. They can take photos and upload pictures of their work for me to check. So, I started having them take a photo of the recording sheet and then they use a stylus to write their answers. They can save it to their portfolio and then it lets me know and I can check it. You can add comments, "like" something, and engage in activities in all sorts of ways. Its amazing!!!



I do not have enough iPads to do this with every station so each week, I pick one that I really want to monitor their progress with and I'll have them upload their work into SeeSaw

So now that I've shown you how I establish my procedures, here is a break down of what week 1 of guided math looks like. 


We model and practice each day. I don't move on to teaching anything else until these procedures are in place. 

There you have it! That's my entire routine for establishing procedures.  I hope this post gave you some sort of insight on how to get started.

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Establishing procedures for guided math take time. This post shows the rules and steps I use to introduce math stations in my classroom.

Establishing procedures for guided math take time. This post shows the rules and steps I use to introduce math stations in my classroom.

Establishing procedures for guided math take time. This post shows the rules and steps I use to introduce math stations in my classroom.






Guided Math Break Down

Hey there! Welcome back to part 2 of my guided math series. To check out part 1 on How to Set Up your Math Block here.

In my last post I shared how to set up your schedule for whole and small group instruction. Today I am going to share what I do during each of those times. Let’s create a vision shall we! Now I must warn you, this post is long. I go into detail about my entire math block and share lots of visuals. Don't worry, there is as goodie at the end just for you for sticking with me! 


Are you wanting to implement guided math in your classroom? This post includes a full break down of Marcy's schedule. She share ideas for whole group instruction, math stations and centers, lesson plan templates and so much more. Come check it out!


Every day I always start with a 5 minute warm up. My district pushes problem solving hard. Since our state tests are all in a problem solving format, I use this time to reinforce the skills needed in order to problem solve independently. Now my math block is first thing in the morning so I tie part of this into my morning work. If you choose to do math in the afternoon, it may be slightly different. 




When they come into the room in the morning, they have a word problem that goes in their math journal that they must complete independently and then they must complete a number of the day. After announcements, I spend 5 minutes reviewing the word problem that they had to complete. I’ll call on students to share different strategies they used to solve the problem. We start with these day one and the spiral different concepts throughout the year. You can get them here






Once those two things are completed and it's time to start our whole group lesson. I spend 20-30 minutes max teaching whole group. What do we do during this time? I keep it simple. When making out lesson plans I don’t try to plan an anchor chart and then a journal activity and a game all at one time. I choose one thing that I know I can do during that time span. Here are some examples of what you can do:

Anchor Charts
At the beginning of every new concept we make an anchor chart together as a class. I rarely have the all way way made before starting a lesson. I like to keep them interactive and student centered. I want my class to feel in charge and responsible of what they are learning. Here are some examples that we have as a class. 

The photos used to create this anchor chart can be found here


Read more about these here



Manipulatives
Math is meant to be hands on and interactive. Put away the worksheets and use manipulatives instead. Did you know that you can write on student desks with dry erase markers?!? YES, and they LOVE it!

White boards
Play showdown with whiteboards. This is a class favorite that I use in all subject areas. Display a set of task cards under your document camera or on your whiteboard. Have students solve on their whiteboards. When the teacher says "SHOWDOWN", everyone holds up their boards and you spot check answers.

Task Cards
I'm obsessed with task cards. I use them for EVERYTHING! Whole group, small group, stations, math journals, you name it! Here is what all you can do with them.
1. Play iSpy - tape the cards around the room. Have students go from card to card and solve.

Find this activity here


2. Scoot - place a card on each students desk. When the teacher says scoot, they move to the next desk and solve.
Find this activity here.

3. Find someone who - for fun, tape a card to each students back. Have them go around finding partners and solving the cards on each others back!
Find this activity here


4. Journals - print pages 2-4 to a page and use them as journal prompts. See how to do this here.



Math Journals 
We use our math journals daily for problem solving practice and then several days a week for our whole group lesson. Sometimes I use a premade template and other times I don't.Here are some examples.






Once we finish our whole group lesson we do a quick brain break. I mainly use GoNoodle. You can sign up for a free account and they have lots of videos geared towards academic content. Since we are just finishing our math lesson, I normally will choose as math video at this time. 

Then we move onto math stations. This is my favorite time of the day. The kids are broken up into groups and and working on various activities while I have a group at my teacher table. As I mentioned in post 1 of this series. We do stations for 45 minutes. I see three groups a day for 15 minutes each. 

How do I set my stations up? I have 5 different groups of students who are paired up by ability level. This is what my rotation chart looks like. I use a clothespin to move up and down to indicate which group is going where. 

Lions - Low
Gorillas - Low/Average
Pandas/Tigers - Average
Monkeys - High 

This is how I choose to organize my groups but obviously you can set yours differently. 


You can grab this rotation chart here. It includes 3 different versions (animal, numbers and color groups) and is also available in a digital format. 

How many stations should I have?

In past years I've had anywhere from 5-6 total stations. This year I currently have 5. 

Station 1 - always math facts (I alternate addition and subtraction)
Station 2 - previously taught skill
Station 3 - previously taught skill 
Technology - iPads, computers, or QR codes
Meet with the Teacher - at the teacher table

I use to have a separate station for math facts followed by 3 stations that spiraled skills so you can also do it this way. 

What activities should I include?
  • hands on learning: use those math manipulatives!
  • games
  • interactive journal activities
  • group or partner work
  • craftivities
Most of my activities come from my monthly math station sets but you can use any materials that you may have. I don't always have time to incorporate all the journal activities I want to do or to make that fun craft. Put those things in your stations. I always include an example without the answers and let them do it themselves. You'd be surprised at how well they can do. Examples shown below. 





When it comes to technology, I use a lot of different resources. 
  1. abcya.com : Free for grades k-5th. Very kid friendly.
  2. mathgames.com: Aligned with the CCS (other states can use too, I'm in Texas). Questions are test formatted. Free for grades PK-8th grade. Teacher creates student accounts to monitor. 
  3. www.kahnacademy.org: Very similar to the site above. Teachers create student accounts and can monitor progress. You can select questions based on the standard. Free for use. 
  4. mathlearningcenter.org: This site has lots of free tools for online manipulates as well as apps for tablets. Click on open web app under the activity you would like to use. 
  5. QR codes: Sometimes I'll use these for my technology station and other times, I'll include them in my other three. Download a QR code app onto any smart device. Students solve the problem and scan the code to check their answer. 

Teacher Table
 While the rest of your class is working independently in stations, you will be working with a group at your teacher table. I tell my students that this is the most important time of their math block. I do a mix of activities at my table. Any of the following things that I've mentioned in this post can be used. 
  • whole group lesson extension
  • journal activities
  • task cards
  • games
  • high order thinking questions 
I spend 15 minutes with each group and break it up into three parts. 
  1. Warm up activity: 3 minutes (previously taught skill
  2. Guided practice: 9 minutes (current skill)
  3. Reflection/Writing: 3 minutes
I keep my warm up simple. I may use flash cards or have them solve some task cards from a lesson we have done before. I normally will use something I already have prepped. Here, I used an activity for my spring math stations. When each group came to my table they worked together to put the 3D shape dominos in order. 

For guided practice, I'm working on the current skill but differentiating my instruction. For example, if you are working on adding two digit numbers. Your low students might need lots of support with manipulatives. Your average kids can start working on regrouping and your high kids can work on regrouping with 3 digits. 



I always close out my groups with a quick reflection. I'll have students write down what they just learned or tell me orally. Some questions I ask include: 
  • What was added to your knowledge
  • Tell something that stretched your thinking. 
  • Do you think what we just did is still hard? Why?
  • Do you think what we just did is getting easier? Why?
  • What will you change next time?



How do I keep track of what I'm doing with each group? This is where my guided math binder comes in. This thing saves my sanity. It holds all my lesson plans, data, notes, and planning pages. 

I actually don't do fancy lesson plans. I need them simple. I quickly jot down what I'm going to do each day with each group. 



At the beginning of each month, I map out what stations I'm going to do. This way I'm not worried about what to come up with week to week. I use a checklist to keep track of what I need to prep. You can get these along with the lesson plan template here



There you have it! That's my entire math block. You got the low down on exactly how I run guide math in my classroom. We went over what to do for whole and small group instruction. I hope this post gave you some sort of insight on how to get started. 

If you are reading this, I'm so proud of you for sticking with me this long. I have a special treat just for you! I'd like to share my guided math lesson plan template shown above! You can grab it here! All you need to do is fill out the form below!




Looking for some hands on math stations for your classroom? You can check out my monthly stations and the yearly bundle here


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This blog series goes into detail about how to implement guided math in your classroom.  Marcy shares ideas for managing your math block, instruction, math centers and so much more. Come check it out!






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