Guided Math {Chapter Seven}

I don’t know about you, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the Guided Math Book Study and am kinda bummed to think about it’s conclusion here in the next few weeks.  This week, we dive into the world of conferring during Math Workshop, which is a fundamental piece of the process.  Sammons says that “in many ways, conferring is the heart and soul of teaching.  As we confer with students, we sit alongside them at their levels and listen intently to their words, trying to follow their reasoning and probing to determine the extent of their understanding.”  I couldn’t agree more that this is so critical to the success of Guided Math. 

Research Student Understanding:
The goal of a Guided Math Conference is simple.  Through this process, you are trying to “move a student from what he or she can almost do independently to what he or she can do independently.” (Sammons, 213) But this simple goal doesn’t come easily.  To begin a Guided Math Conference, you must take time to listen intently to what your student is telling you about a given problem or skill. During the research phase, teachers are determining if students can display mathematical evidence of their understanding of given skills.  In order to do this, the teacher must observe students and ask questions in a careful manner.  In order for the research phase to be effective, teachers must “differentiate between the authentic ideas of students and those that are automatic answer to leading questions.”  (Sammons, _____)  If we are leading students to answers, this does not take from almost to can do a task independently.  Be sure that as you are researching, you consider:
  *Learning Styles
  *Anecdotal Notes
  *Previously Mastered Skills
  *Previous Skills Causing Difficulty
  *Appears Confident/Unsure
  *Working Productively/Efficiently
  *Using Appropriate Strategies
  *Overlooking Steps/Details
Whoa!  Daunting, huh?  Want to know the craziest part?  This should be completed quickly!  Conferences are intended to be short and all four components should be balanced as far as the amount of time spent in each phase.  You have to quickly determine where you student’s understanding is currently and move on to the second step.

Decide What Is Needed:
After researching the strategies, progress, and overall understanding of a given task, it is time to begin the deciding phase.  In this phase, you will begin to determine what does the student need next?  Begin by complimenting the student and telling them what they are doing correctly.  Many students struggle with math conferences because it can be intimidating!  You can understand the thought of someone hovering over you, watching your work, and telling you each and every time you make a mistake or are not being efficient.  So don’t do it to your students either.  Build them up before you deliver your instruction and address their needs.  This allows them to see what they need to do in future problems as well as keeps them motivated and open to your suggestions.  As a teacher, you may be nervous or hesitant about math conferences and your ability to quickly and effectively confer with your students.  But the only way to get better is to PRACTICE!  Just do it!  You may make mistakes in your conferences and struggle to know where to take students next.  Careful planning and a little research of the scope and sequence of the topic will be beneficial in knowing where to go with students to take them to the next level. 

Teach to Student Needs:
Here is the FUN part!  You’ve observed them and determined what you are going to do in order to help them.  Now you get to teach it!  There are three ways in which you can do this quickly and effectively. 

Guided Practice:
Depending on the skill and learning style of your particular student, guided practice might be the best way to approach teaching a skill.  In using guided practice, you sitting next to the student and allowing them to complete the problem with your assistance.  The key to guided practice is that the student is doing the work and making their way through the process, NOT YOU!  Allow them to do it with your guidance. 

A demonstration is pretty much the opposite of guided practice.  In a demonstration, they sit back and watch you make your way through the problem. While making your way through the problem, you model your thinking aloud with the student. 

You may personally relate to one of these styles more than the other because most people learn according to a guided practice style or more of a demonstration style.  Back in the day when I worked in retail and trained new associates, I would always ask them if they wanted to do the task or watch it.  Everyone learns differently, try to appeal to what you know about your students’ learning styles. 

Explain and Showing an Example:
During this type of teaching, you rely on lessons and activities that you have already discussed.  Refer students to anchor charts that you and your students have developed together.  Show them how to use resources in the classroom such as interactive notebooks, anchor charts, textbooks, and math-related literature effectively.  Many times, students are so close they just need reminders of the steps in the process or terms needed.

Link to the Future:

And last but not least is linking your current task to future learning.  Make sure that students realize how these skills will relate to future problems and allows them to generalize their learning.  This will take encouragement to keep students from becoming overwhelmed.  You are simply building a mathematical foundation. 

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