“On the Spot” Math Groups During Whole Group Lessons
During Whole Group Math Lessons, I use On the Spot Groups that change out based on the students and their individual understandings and needs. To understand how and why I use On the Spot Groups, lets take a look at a a break down of my Whole Group Math Lesson:
- We start the lesson by going over previously completed review problems. I assign their math review as morning work and sometimes homework. This way, they have completed the math review prior to math time and we spend our math time going over and discussing the review (versus completing it.) The review is quick and to the point.
- After reviewing previously learned skills, I introduce the new skill. I almost always introduce the skill with a connected word problem. This helps the students conceptualize the math and adds problem solving into every lesson. Read about how I did that with a division lesson here.
- We complete an Interactive Notebook and/or matching Anchor Chart together after the introduction. Lots of discussion and questioning happens during this part of the lesson. This is also part of the lesson were we are exploring the skill with models or manipulatives and really stretching our thinking to understand the skill in depth.
- Next, we do a few problems together for Guided Practice. The problems are usually included in the interactive notebook template. Even more discussion and questioning goes on during the Guided Practice to ensure the students are grasping the skill in a conceptual way. If manipulatives are used for the lesson, we will continue them into Guided Practice.
- After Guided Practice, we will complete a few problems for Independent Practice (in some cases this could still be working on the interactive notebook template or it could be a separate printable. It could even be problems displayed on a smartboard). While the students are working, I spot check the students’ work and get a general feel for how the students are doing with the lesson. If the students are doing well, I move on to the Exit Slip. If the majority are struggling, I will continue teaching the skill the next day.
- If the majority of the students seem to be mastering the skill from Independent Practice, I will give an Exit Slip. I don’t do anything fancy with pre-made exit slips. I simply throw 2-3 problems on the board that match the skills we are learning that day. After completing the exit slips on post it notes, the students continue with independent practice while I quickly score and organize the exit slips into three groups: Advanced, Proficient, and Needs Work.
- After quickly scoring the exit slips, I pull On the Spot Math Groups for the students who need work. If the students have similar misconceptions, I pull those together. Sometimes I do a rotating group if some of the students just made a simple error. I will call several students over and have them find their error. If they are able to quickly find their errors and correct them, they are sent back to their seats so I can focus on the students who need more re-teaching. We first go over and correct the exit slip questions. If time allows, I will also pull some task cards for continued practice. This type of grouping changes out each day and is solely based on the results of the exit slips.
- If no students are struggling or only 1 or 2 with small errors, I will pull an advanced group of students who don’t typically get pulled very often so they can have some teacher time. We may work on error analysis tasks or just advanced math skills during this time.
Math Groups During Math Centers/Guided Math
When I do Guided Math Lessons, I use math groups that typically do not change. Here is a breakdown with more information about how I incorporate my small groups into Guided Math.
- I begin Guided Math Lessons with a review just like Whole Group Lessons. I may also do a 20 minute mini lesson on a new skill or extending a previously learned skill.
- After the mini lesson, we begin centers. I keep the centers generally the same so I do not have to waste instruction time explaining new center directions. You can read more about these centers here. Here are my go to centers:
- Roll and Answer Centers (This is a partner game.)
- Task Cards
- Teacher Time (This is when the students work with me in a small group. More about the materials I use during this time in a minute.)
- Technology (Extramath or Vmathlive- a paid program funded by my school)
- Math Journal or Manipulative Center
- Seasonal Center (I like to mix the math centers up and provide some holiday fun during math centers.)
- I have four to five groups of students based on my class size. I try to keep the group size at no more than 6 kids per group. I also try to keep groups with more struggling students smaller.
- For this type of grouping, I typically mix my students up a little in regards to their levels so that the students who are successful with skills can help support the other students. However, I don’t mix the levels too much. Instead, I would mix lower level students with a couple of low-medium level students. Also, this keeps the students from thinking they are in a low group, high group, etc.
- I do four 20 minute rotations. If I have five groups, my students who don’t need to meet with me as often will be in a fifth group that doesn’t meet with me. The students rotate through the centers above and work for about 20 minutes at each center with their assigned group. The students rotate to the next center at my signal. To read more about how I manage math centers, click here.
- For my Teacher Time, here are some example activities we may complete:
- To end the lesson, we will usually go over and share what we learned, what was easy, and what was challenging. I may even give an exit slip or go over specific problems from a center.
I really love teaching with math groups and can’t imagine teaching any other way. By the fifth grade, some students have so many gaps and so many are ready for advanced skills, that teaching in small groups is the only way to truly meet all their needs.
Interested in Learning More about Guided Math/Math Centers?
These posts are super helpful if you are just starting out with guided math centers and would like more detailed information. Just click on the title to be taken to the blog post:
Getting Started with Math Centers
How to Launch Guided Math Centers
FREE Math Center Starter Packs for Launching Guided Math Centers
Guided Math Procedures to Teach
Scheduling Your Math Block for Guided Math Centers
My Top Tip for Making Math Centers Work for Me
7 Ways to Support Students with Math Centers
Teaching Math with Small Groups
Higher Level Math Centers for Upper Elementary
Interested in Learning More about Whole Group Instruction Activities?
Click here to read a detailed post with several different whole group instruction activities and strategies.
I hope this gives you some useful information to help you plan your Guided Math Centers, and some new free math activities to try out! Click here if you want to grab even more FREE math centers!
Betsy Bucy says
I loved this post explaining in helpful details how you manage math groups within your classroom. Our math teachers use whole group and on the spot groups as well as centers. I am the math interventionist so I do a 30 min lesson each day. I am trying to fill gaps so I do a mini lesson though I really want to transition into centers. Your post is very informatiive and I hope to use a lot of your guidance as I make that transition. Thank you so much for sharing your experience!!!
Follow my blog http://inspiredinterventionist.blogspot.com
Jennifer Findley says
I am so glad it was helpful, Betsy! I love your blog name, by the way!
Thanks so much for this! I have really been struggling this year with meeting my students for math. I didn’t have a problem last year but because I’m teaching two reading classes and one math class it seems like my time is so crunched. How long do you spend in math overall?
Jennifer Findley says
Hi Lisa, time is definitely always an issue. I have been lucky to always have 80-90 minutes for math. How long do you have for your class?
Unfortunately, I have only one hour. I am teaching two classes of reading and my home room math so by the time lunch and PE are included, my day is done. The schedule has been a true nightmare this year. I have 20 minutes between lunch and PE which I have devoted to quiet reading (which the kids adore because they find quiet places instead of sitting at their desks). Then after PE we have almost an hour before the bell rings. I had started the year using this time for math; however, the kids are not only wired but need to go to the bathroom, water, and pack up as well as the few that get pulled for System 44 leave so they were missing out on any instruction. I have started using this time for them to work on homework and for me to pull small groups. I know I did a better job last year and I had “the” rough group but I only taught my home room. I just feel like I am failing them this year, being real here. We have been working on fractions since before Thanksgiving and some are still adding denominators (addition and subtraction). ????
Sorry for being a bit long winded!
Jennifer Findley says
I have had groups/years that made me feel like I was failing for sure! Sometimes you have to take it slow to get them to master the content before moving on. I am happy to help you in anyway if you have specific questions. Feel free to email me at [email protected]. Have a great weekend!
This is my first year teaching 5th grade math. Your blog and resources are amazing and beyond helpful! I only have 45 minutes for math. I teach 3 blocks of math and a Ela block. I feel so unsuccessful given the time constraints. There are also no pull outs or remediation at my school. Any suggestions?
When doing your on the spot math groups, what are the other student doing who are not in the group you are meeting with? Is this a time when you do math rotations? If you mentioned it is do apologize in advance.
Jennifer Findley says
Hi Renee, at this point in the lesson there is only about 10 minutes left. The on the spot groups are shorter than my other groups. The other students are either finishing their independent practice or using our tablets or class desktops to practice our math program (Vmathlive). They may also be working on completing their weekly choice board. Hope this helps! Feel free to ask any other questions you have.
John Smith says
Thank you so much for sharing this post. I love your way of teaching math and I will try to follow the same in my class.
Ashley SCHLAGE says
I love this! I recently just started doing math centers during my math block.. However I am having a really tough time with time! I have 4 groups with 5 students in each.. I try to get to every group but I only have 1 hour for math!! So this makes it very difficult to see each group! How long is your math block? Also do you give your kids the choice to chose their centers or do you have rotations? I am also struggling with what to do when they are not with me and not practicing facts. I try to do lots of hands on, however, I feel like I am giving a lot of worksheets when they are not working with me in a small group…any suggestions!?
Jennifer Findley says
Hi Ashley, I am lucky to have 80-90 minutes for math. When I do centers, I do four 20 minute rotations. I don’t always meet with my high group every time we do centers if I have to cut it short or meet with one group longer. I assign my students their centers and they rotate through all of them in one class period. Basically, I tell them which center to start at and then we rotate around the room. Do you have a higher group that you can only meet with once or twice a week and not every day? That would be my first recommendation. You could still give them the assignment you do in your teacher group, but have them complete it in a center instead.
As far as materials in centers, have you seen my Roll and Answer Math Centers? I linked them in the blog post above. I highly recommend those if you are just starting out. They are low prep and the directions never change, only the content. My students love them. If you email me at [email protected] and let me know what grade you teach (I have 3rd-5th), I would be happy to send you a domain to try. I have them for all domains of the common core standards. Your students will be getting the necessary practice but it will be more engaging than just practice problems on a worksheet.
We can also chat further through email if you have follow up questions. Thanks!
Lindsay bravo says
Do you always have the same group start at the same center? Like the high group always starts at paper to pencil. If not how do you let them know where they need to start everyday? I have 18 students so I do 4 groups. I have teacher, technology, interactive notebook center, and task cards or games. I really want to somehow do a paper to pencil center. Another question I have is what you name your groups. Do you just have group 1, 2,3 and 4? Do you have a checklist for them to complete as they finish the center? Or how do you hold them accountable? Thank you so so much!
Lori Murray says
First of all, THANK YOU for all of your blogs on math centers. I have read every single one and am feeling so ready to get the year going in math. I have a quick question/favor… Do you have suggestions or lesson ideas for the first week of school? I have found some great stuff on TPT, but after reading your blogs, your style is extremely similar to mind and I am having a hard time deciding what to plan and how to deliver it this year. This year I am solely teaching math and science and really want to start my math management and expecations off on the right foot rather than have to go back and redo what was not taught right the first time. Thank you in advance!
Jennifer Findley says
Hi Lori, I am working on compiling a free launching plan that I personally use. It is very low maintenance with high expectations of the students. I hope to have it ready soon!
Crystal Jackson says
Do you know anyone who has made the differentiated skill sheets for 3rd grade? I need them!
I love all your ideas but am not in a state that follows Common Core. Do you know of anyone who creates similar materials for 5th grade that follows the Texas standards (TEKS)? Thanks
I love all your ideas and creations. I cannot thank you enough for having your blog!!! I love, love your read aloud suggestions. I am eager to go out and buy a few and have already been to TPT to possibly buy tons of your products!
I am hoping to implement Guiding Math Groups this year. We are still using EDM (which I believe will be phased out soon). I have 26 students and think this may be manageable. I have about 90 minutes for my math block. I have read your blog about math centers and implementing guided math groups. How do you implement groups and center with the math program that you use?
Where do you meet with your groups? Kidney table? Floor with clipboards? Carpet? Trying to figure out the best way to meet with small groups and have the students focus on what’s being discussed. Would love your feedback.
Hey! I was very excited about reading what works in your class and how I can turn it into what will work in mine? So I have a question? Are your math centers typically about the skills that you taught that week ? Or is it like an intervention piece to address previous skills that lacked?
This was very helpful. I have always struggled with homework. Do you give for homework? If so, what is it?
Jennifer Findley says
Hi Cheryl, yes, I do give homework. You can read more about that here: https://jenniferfindley.com//2015/09/5-ways-to-simplify-homework-managemen.html
Hope this helps!
Amy Bambera says
Wondering when you use the whole group format and when you use the guided math format. Last year was my first year teaching upper elementary and my math curriculum is basically a new skill each day, each building on the last. Do you teach this way as well? Even moving this quickly, we still didn’t get to all the skills we needed to.
It seems the first option with whole group lesson and then on the spot groups would work better with this type of format, but you raised a good point when saying that it doesn’t leave you much time to try to fill gaps for the struggling students.
I would really just love some insight. Thank you!
Do you have a problem-solving strategy that you use with your students?