As if it were yesterday, I remember my college days of spending long hours writing huge, detailed 10-15 page lessons for each lesson that I taught (or even just planned!). Then I got my first teaching job and quickly realized that was not going to be possible in the real world of teaching.
However, there are still clear steps that I take when I plan a math lesson (many, if not all, of those steps embedded in me from my college days).
In this post, I want to share the steps that I take to plan a math lesson for whole group instruction. I do whole group instruction 2-3 times a week, and then math centers the other days. Read more about math centers in my classroom by clicking here (the end of the post has lots more links to blog posts on different aspects of math centers, so make sure you check that out as well).
Every lesson definitely begins with a standard (or a pre-requisite skill needed for a standard.) One thing I recommend for meaty standards is to break it down into all of the manageable chunks. You can group some of those together in one lesson, and some you will find need to be a totally different lesson. For example:
5.NF.B.5b Explaining why multiplying a given number by a fraction greater than 1 results in a product greater than the given number (recognizing multiplication by whole numbers greater than 1 as a familiar case); explaining why multiplying a given number by a fraction less than 1 results in a product smaller than the given number; and relating the principle of fraction equivalence a/b = (n×a)/(n×b) to the effect of multiplying a/b by 1.
For this standard, students will need to be able do the following:
- understand relative sizes of fractions
- understand that fractions can be equal to, less than, or greater than 1 and identify fractions accordingly
- know the terms factor and product and be able to label the numbers accordingly
- able to draw models to represent multiplication of fractions
They need to be able to do all of that before they can even tackle the actual standard. Keeping this in mind will help you plan your math lessons and ensure your students have the required skills to be successful with the standards.
Do the Math
This is one part of the lesson planning stage that I didn’t learn until my third year of teaching. I had a math coach that recommended we “do the math” before teaching a math skill. Even just doing one or two of the problems you are requiring the students can make an impact on your teaching. While you are “doing the math”, ask yourself:
- What skills am I assuming the students already know that they will need to be able to do this?
- What misconceptions, if any, might the students have?
- What part of this skill do I anticipate the students may struggle with?
- How can I make this more conceptual for the students?
By “doing the math,” I was able to anticipate what my students would struggle with and plan my lesson accordingly.
Background Knowledge Needed
This part will be clearly identified in the “Do the Math” section and I mentioned it in the Standard section, but I wanted to bring it out again because it is that important. Sometimes, our students struggle with math skills because we assume they have mastered skills from previous grades. Unfortunately, they often forget key skills and in some cases, the skills were never really mastered. It is important to identify any background knowledge or skills that will be needed to master the skill you are teaching. You will need to ensure the students have mastered those skills before diving into the new skill.
The next part of a math lesson is planning the introduction. Nine times out of ten, I will introduce a math skill with a word problem or a story. This hooks the students and gets them thinking about math in the real world. Another common way that I introduce a skill is by connecting it to a previous skill. When planning how you introduce a skill, ask yourself:
- What questions will I ask to guide the students’ understanding while I introduce the skill?
- What skill or situation can I relate this skill to?
- Do I need to scaffold this by introducing this in a simpler way to gain trust and confidence?
- Will you provide an opportunity for the students to explore the concept before actively teaching it?
For your guided practice, you will want to think through the following questions as you plan:
What will my guided practice look like? Will it be primarily teacher led or can my students practice with a partner and teacher support?
What materials or manipulatives can I use to support my students’ understanding of the topic?
How will I anchor their learning? Will I use an interactive notebook, poster, or class created anchor chart?
How will I check to make sure they are ready for independent practice? I have done this a variety of ways but my favorite way is to give one independent practice problem and then check in quickly with each student. If the majority of the students are ready for independent practice, I move to that and either pull the other students to a small group or support them at their seat.
If the students are not ready for independent practice, I do one of these options:
- If I am able to quickly determine the reason they are not yet successful and quickly address it, I do so and then send them to independent practice.
- Sometimes your students may not be ready for independent practice yet. You may want to do math stations and continue the lesson the next day, have the students work with partners, or small groups. You may even spend some time reflecting on what they have learned. One thing that is key to understand is that to guided practice may take up the entire rest of your math block. Your students may not get to independent practice of a skill after the first day. It may take them a day or two of guided practice. This is normal and to be expected with many of the tricky math skills.
When the students are ready for independent practice, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Is differentiation or enrichment necessary? For easy-prep but engaging enrichment, I recommend checking out math choice boards.
- Make sure your independent practice is well-aligned with your guided practice.
- Will it be purely independent or will the students work with partners or reflect with partners?
Even those this part of the lesson appears to put the work on the students, this is when I am the most busiest. Here are some options for what you can do while the students are independently practicing the skill:
- Monitor the whole class while they work and check in with students, take notes, and provide support as needed.
- Pull a small group of students who struggled during Guided Practice for re-teaching. For more information about how I pull small groups, click here.
- Pull an extension group if all the students are doing well with the skill.
- Complete independent math conferences and take notes on strategies.
- Based on your observations during this time, reflect on your students’ progress and how this will affect (if at all) your next day’s plans. Jot yourself a note on a post-it note to help you remember.
As mentioned above, I am regularly informally assessing my students throughout the lesson and using it to guide my instruction. In addition to this, I also give my students an exit slip at the end of the lesson. I do not use purchased or created exit slips. This allows me to truly assess them on what was covered during this lesson. I can tailor my exit slip based on what I saw during the lesson. To do this, I quickly write 2-3 problems on the board and have my students record their answers on a post-it note. As they turn in the post-it notes, I quickly sort them into three groups: mastery, partial mastery, and no mastery shown. This gives me clear groups for re-teaching and enrichment.
Fillable Planning Template
If you like the setup of how I plan and would like to try it out, click HERE to download a fillable template. You can print the template out and write in your plans or download the file, type directly into the template, and then print your typed lesson plans.
You can also save the typed lesson plan. If you decide to do that, I suggest setting up a folder on your computer for your typed lesson plans. Save the blank template so you have a master. Each time you open the template, immediately save it as the standard or skill you are planning for, then type in your plans, and save the finished plan.
If you need resources for 5th grade math, I recommend checking out my 5th Grade Math Units Bundle. These units include everything you need to execute the parts of an effective lesson shared in this post for the specific skills included in the bundle. This bundles does not include typed lesson plans though, so you can make these work for whatever your needs are. Click here to see this bundle.
Is this similar to how you plan whole group math lessons? Do you include anything that I have not mentioned? Let me know in the comments.
Loren Van De Griek says
Thanks so much! This helps me a ton. I have always struggled teaching math because our district has a plan and we are supposed to follow it. It never gave time to review – it was always a new lesson day after day. Yet, they would expect us to be pulling small groups. Uuugh!! This year, the district gave us the standards that had to be taught each 9 weeks which is so much better for me. Now, I can teach it my way and not ‘their’ way. I love the idea of whole group/guided math. My question – how do you decide when to do what? I would think whole group on day 1 of new lesson. Day 2 is guided with a mini-lesson review and stations while you pull small groups. Then, depending if majority of class is ready move to next lesson with whole group and continue that way. Am I right?
Loren Van De Griek says
See my other comment; I forgot to press notify me button.
Jennifer Findley says
HI Loren, yes I let my whole group instruction guide me. But usually, I do math centers Wednesday and Thursdays after two complete days of whole group instruction. I typically continue the whole group skill in my teacher group. Based on how they do, I will either do centers, whole group again, or assess on Friday. I do also pull groups on whole group days as well. You can read more about that on this post:
Hope this answers your question!
carrie merritt says
The whole do the math thing was such an obvious thing.. but yet I had not thought of it before. Thanks loved this post.
Jamie t says
I love the exit slip idea and how this allows you to sort them into groups. I have been struggling to find a good way to introduce groups into my 7th grade math classroom and this is a perfect way to do so. I love your ideas and appreciate you sharing them with everyone!! 🙂
Erin Ireland says
I’d love to see a filled in planning template…just to get a ballpark of what you include for yourself. Thanks!
Lisa C says
I would love to see one too! I am thankful for the detailed descriptions she provided for each section but I am a visual learner and that would help me wrap my brain around all the information. 🙂
Kim Noorbakhsh says
This is great! Could I see one filled out?