Tips to Plan and Prep for Math Workshop or Guided Math


While there may be times that you want to use a traditional whole group model for instruction, there are other times you need to work with small groups in order to differentiate for your individual student’s needs. Math workshop (or guided math) is a very successful way to work in small group instruction time and maximize student learning. To make the best use of your time, planning and preparation are key. I have rounded up some of my favorite tips and resources here:

1.) Plan how to use your time! I like to start my Math class with a quick warm up and skill review and then move onto a mini-lesson when needed. Some new concepts can be taught to the whole group quickly and then reinforced in centers / stations. Some need longer time. This is where you have to decide what is best for your classroom, but a few helpful blogs have great ideas for scheduling:


2.) Find or create a simple lesson plan template and/or small group template:

3.) Set up a binder to keep schedules, plans, templates, and notes.

4.) Pick and post your rotation system.

5.) Group students by ability or interest. Grouping should be flexible and change often based on student’s individual needs.  For example, sometimes you may need to group students who need re-teaching on a specific skill and other days you may need to group students based on interests when planning projects. Another idea is to sometimes work with students you know will need extra help and pre-teach them a skill you will be teaching the whole class later in the week. This can save you time re-teaching later and will help boost their confidence and success when the class learns the skill.

6.) Teach your students the expectations for groups.

7.) Set up an organizational system and teach your students how the system works.

9.) Reflect and Plan for Next Time:  When you get to the end of the schedule, take some time to reflect before setting up the next rotation.  What worked? What was confusing? etc… This is also a time to look at your student groups and decide if you need to change anyone to a new group.

For more ideas, check out my Pinterest Board “Guided Math”.


4 thoughts on “Tips to Plan and Prep for Math Workshop or Guided Math

  1. I really like how you suggest grouping students not *just* according to ability, but also according to interest. I find that idea fascinating. The only methods I have seen for grouping kids for either math or reading, has been by ability, which offers challenges because it is so easy for kids to never move beyond the level they have been placed in at first. I would love to hear more about how you choose your interest-related groups.


    • Thanks Christina! It is often necessary to group students by ability or to group students by specific skills they need to review. It can be trickier to make the time for interest led groups, but it can be worked in. If students have similar interests they can contribute and learn from each other. For example, if you have a few students who are really interested in creating presentations on the computer, they can work together on a presentation about a specific math topic you are studying such as place value. Another example is if you have students who like to create with their hands they could make a presentation comparing the heights of famous landmarks in the USA (also place value…comparing numbers).


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