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How to Make Guided Math Workshop Work in Your Classroom (Even if it Failed Before)

If you tried to launch Guided Math Workshop in your classroom in the past and it failed, then you likely stumbled on one of the eight challenges below. This blog post will help you identify and plan for problems and relaunch it successfully so you can create a math block you are proud of! Read below to learn more about the common challenges elementary teachers face when implementing Guided Math Workshop in their classroom!

frustrated teacher with students off task during her math lesson

8 Guided Math Workshop Challenges and Solutions for Them

Here are 8 Guided Math Workshop challenges you may have faced in the past or are currently facing:

hands on activities during guided math workshop

1. Not Using a Proven System for Launching

There are so many different things you need to think about when launching Guided Math Workshop. In order to be sure you don’t forget anything and you start your workshop on the right foot, it’s critical that you utilize a proven system for launching. My Guided Math Workshop course (coming soon) is a great resource to help you step-by-step with implementing this math framework in your classroom!

pencil and sharpener shavings

2. Not Investing Enough Time in Teaching Procedures and Routines

If your Guided Math Workshop is not working or was not successful in the past, it most likely has to do with procedures and routines. When implementing Guided Math Workshop in your classroom, one of the most important things you need to do is invest time at the beginning of the school year explicitly teaching procedures and routines. Here are some examples of procedures and routines you will need to teach your students:

  • How to transition from the whole group area to centers
  • What to do if they have a question during math centers
  • When it’s appropriate to use the bathroom or get a drink
  • What to do if they finish a center early
  • Where they turn their center work in
  • How to clean up after a math center
blue dice and text about setting expectations and procedures for guided math workshop

3. Not Teaching or Reinforcing Behavior Expectations

If students are off-task or not showing the model behavior you expect, it might be a sign that you need to reteach behavior expectations or more consistently reinforce them. When students know what is expected from them and know that you will follow through with the consequences, then they are less likely to exhibit undesirable behaviors. Here are some examples of classroom management topics to go over with your students:

  • How to appropriately work with partners
  • What to do if they feel frustrated
  • How to use math manipulatives appropriately
  • What to do if their partner is off-task
  • How to earn the classroom incentive
  • What an active learner looks like during whole group instruction
boy with plastic clocks during a telling time lesson activity

4. Making the Whole Group Lesson Too Long

Your mini lesson should only be 10-15 minutes. If it is longer than that, students will likely lose focus and you will lose precious small group instruction time.  It can be challenging to fit it into the short time frame when you are trying to shorten the day’s lesson from your district-mandated math curriculum; however, you need to prioritize the most important information that you think all of your students should be exposed to and save the rest for your Guided Math group.

math group working during guided math workshop

5. Not Grouping Students Effectively

At the beginning of each unit, you should switch up your math groups. Just because a student is in your highest group for your addition and subtraction unit does not mean that they belong in the same group for 2D and 3D shapes. It is essential that you assess students at the beginning of each unit so you can see where students are at. When you are grouping students, you should consider the following:

  • Performance on the unit’s pre-assessment
  • Personalities
  • Language proficiency
  • Special education pull-out and push-in services
  • Peer relationships
student doing a guided math workshop activity

6. Not Using Appropriate Math Center Activities

Students will be working on the math center activities without your support, so it’s important that they are able to complete them independently. They should be based on previously-taught math concepts and skills from this school year or the current concepts and skills being taught but at a simpler level. Spiral review math activities are a great tool for this! Be sure to offer math manipulatives to support students in problem solving and provide student choice when appropriate. This will help students stay engaged.

guided math workshop conference between teacher and student

7. Not Taking Good Notes During Small Group Instruction

When you meet with your Small Guided Math groups, it is essential that you jot down your observations and take quality notes. This will help you track student progress, address misconceptions, and be able to talk confidently about your students’ math abilities during meetings and report cards. If you don’t take these notes, you may feel like you don’t have a deep understanding of where each student is at in their math journey.

elementary teacher during a fire drill that interrupted a math lesson

8. Not Being Flexible

Like with any content area, it is very important to be flexible with your math instruction. You will need to make adjustments as you go along, and that’s totally okay! We are working with human beings, so your Guided Math Workshop is not going to be perfect every day. There are a lot of different factors that impact your math instruction, such as lockdown drills, assemblies, or a student throwing up. Remember to reflect on what is working well and what isn’t and to not be afraid to make tweaks as needed. And of course don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Math Resources for 1st-5th Grade Teachers

If you need printable and digital math resources, then check out the math collections below. They will save you lots of time creating and search for materials. You will have a massive collection of resources at your fingertips.

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Try a Collection of our Math Resources for Free!

We hope this information about common Guided Math Workshop challenges is helpful and would love for you to try these math resources with your students. They offer elementary students opportunities to practice grade level concepts and skills in fun and engaging ways and support you with providing differentiation in math. You can download worksheets specific to your grade level (along with lots of other math freebies) in our free printable math resources bundle using this link: free printable math activities for elementary teachers.

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Try these free math activities with your elementary students!