Shorten math lessons into guided math mini-lessons

Shorten math lessons into guided math mini-lessons???  How is that possible? Teachers ask me this question. We have a hard time shortening large group lessons from 20 minutes to 10 or less.  Here are some ideas.

First, look at the math state standard you are going to teach.  Next, look at your curriculum book.  The book gives several pages on this concept.  I usually look in the math book at the first page of this concept.  I look at what I have to teach.   Then I think…”What can I teach in 8 minutes?”    This means I have to stick to the essential parts of the concept.

Shorten math lessons into Guided Math mini-lessons

Shorten math lessons into Guided Math mini-lessons

If possible, I use a video to show the basic concept.  Students learn well in this visual way.  There are many videos online or use Brainpop.

Next, for another large group mini-lesson, I look for an interactive whiteboard activity if possible.  This allows students to manipulate the math concept.  If not available or no technology is available, then go old school. On the chalkboard, I put a couple of examples.  I don’t just solve the problems and show the kids how to do it.  They have white boards and do the examples with me.  Yes, they are being walked through the process with help and explanations.  (But when I learned to drive, I surely did want help and explanations:)  I ask questions while we do the problems.  Why did we do that step?  Is there any regrouping needed?  What happens if I forget to do this step?  What step is confusing to you?  These help the students to think and talk about math.  Notice that my questions were specific, not general.  I am teaching my students to analyze each step.  After months of this, they are actually able to tell me which step they are stuck on when we get to harder, complex math concepts.  (A victory!)

Remember that these large group lessons tie into the small guided math group lessons.  The large group mini-lessons give an overview of the vocabulary and idea of this concept.  The small guided math group lessons provide the opportunity for students to apply, practice, and master this concept.  The teacher gives guidance and intervention time during the small group lessons.                                               

students solve story problems during guided math stations.

Students can solve story problems in math journal during guided math stations.

One large group mini-lesson students love to do is where the teacher puts one or two problems on the board and the students pair up and try to solve the problems in their journals.  This is where teachers can tie in real life problems into math.  Sometimes students even write the problems and we choose two a day to solve.  Students love making up problems about lunch menus!  For example, one student wrote:  64 students signed up for chicken nuggets for lunch.  Each students gets 5 nuggets.  How many chicken nuggets does the kitchen chef have to bake for lunch?

Remember, to shorten large group lessons into guided math mini-lessons, stop the lesson after 8-10 minutes.  The lesson should include the main concept.  After that point, students need to become more active learners.  That is why they go to math group stations.  Eric Jensen and David Sousa’s research shows us that students need to learn in different modalities.  After 8-10 minutes, they need to change locations or activities to reawaken their brains to learn again.  When they go to a small guided group with the teacher, they will practice this skill through hands-on activities and math questioning.