In this post: Unsure about what guided math should look like in Kindergarten? This post details what it is, how to implement it, and why you should add it to your classroom routine.
You know that Guided Math works in other grade levels, but could it possibly work for your Kindergarteners who are new to school and still mastering routines? I’m here to tell you that it can!
When I first started implementing Guided Math time in my kindergarten classroom, I thought for sure that it was going to be a nightmare.
There was no way that my students could complete centers independently or that I could get students grouped correctly. Looking back now, I’m happy to say that I was wrong!
In Room D1, Guided Math time was actually a class favorite! This time of day got us up and moving for a number sense warm-up, whole group mini lesson, followed by small group time with me, and center activities.
This combination of activities keeps students engaged throughout our Guided Math block. Now that I’ve been doing it for so long, I honestly couldn’t imagine our day without Guided Math time!
Unsure if kindergarten Guided Math groups will work for you and your class? This post will walk you through a sample lesson so that you can see each part in action.
What is Guided Math?
You’re sitting at your kidney table with five students who are practicing identifying numbers 0-5.
You’ve just finished up a differentiated mini-lesson for some of your struggling learners. They’re now engaged in a partner activity where they roll a dice and play a number game.
As students are playing, you’re still listening to the learning that’s happening at your table group, but you’re also looking around your room at your other students who are in different centers.
One group of students is using clip cards to identify numbers while another group is building picture number puzzles.
Students are working together and you can hear them exclaiming excitedly as they interact with the content and each other. When students are finished with their center activity, they transition themselves and find a new center activity.
The students at your table finish up and you send them back so that you can call the next group over.
Did you imagine your class in that scenario? If you did, how did it feel? Did Guided Math time feel like something you could tackle in kindergarten? Trust me, it is!
Now that we’ve pictured it occurring within your classroom, what IS guided math?
Guided Math is purposeful, differentiated instruction that students receive on their academic level. It features a combination of teacher-led activities (I do), partner work activities (We do), and independent activities, including centers (You do).
The purpose of Guided Math block is to meet students where they are academically.
You may be wondering how to meet students where they are. The answer is to assess, assess, assess!
To gear up for kindergarten Guided Math groups, it’s important to use assessment tools and other data to group your students into small homogenous groups.
These are the groups of students that you will pull to your kidney table together to teach targeted mini-lessons. These mini-lessons will focus on scaffolding, extending, or checking in with grade-level content.
Having your students grouped accordingly will help you ensure that you are teaching them the correct content at the correct level. This helps you meet your students where they are.
Why Guided Math?
Guided Math may sound like a lot of work, but really it’s just a simple shift away from the lesson where a teacher lectures to her entire class at once.
Gone are the days of every student listening to the same lesson and completing the same level of work. We differentiate our reading instruction; shouldn’t math be the same?
Guided Math in kindergarten helps teachers meet individual student needs more easily. Tailoring a lesson to a group of four to six students is much different than trying to do it for thirty students at one time!
That’s one of the biggest reasons why I love Guided Math in kindergarten – all students get the targeted instruction that they need from you at their level.
What Does a Guided Math Lesson Look Like?
Although there are variations to kindergarten Guided Math lessons, they generally involve the following components:
- A whole class warm-up
- A teacher mini-lesson
- A partner practice activity or game
- An independent practice activity
- Center rotations
I love guided math because it can be as “guided” as you want! You can do it mostly in small groups or mostly whole group and you will still see the benefits.
One way to do Guided Math lessons, is to complete a warm-up number sense activity with your class as a whole, and then send students into centers. You would then pull small groups to work with you on the mini-lesson and partner activity.
So, students are either working with you or completing one of the other content-related centers that you have prepared for them.
However, if you don’t want to teach your mini-lessons during small groups, that’s okay too!
My favorite guided math model is to teach a whole group mini lesson and have students complete the partner activity.
After, students would complete the independent practice worksheet as their “ticket to centers.” As they transition into centers, you would pull small guided math groups to work on differentiated intervention and enrichment activities.
This is totally up to teacher discretion and what works best for your students. As I always say, you know your class best!
Walking through a guided math lesson
Now that we know all about Guided Math in kindergarten, let’s walk through an example lesson from my Kindergarten Numbers to 5 unit, which is the perfect topic to use as you introduce math content for the first time. Take a look at my prior blog post here, for an overview of this resource.
Lesson One: I can identify the number 0.
This would be your very first kindergarten math lesson of the year! While you may not want to start your full guided math routine on the very first day (hello procedures and routines), let’s use it as an example.
Number Sense Warm-up – The warm-up each day involves an activity to get students’ brains ready for interacting with numbers. These math warm up activities are always a favorite!
Students will play a game called Count and Sit.
In this game, students will stand in a large circle. You will go around the circle as each student says a number counting 1-5. When you get to the student who said 5, that student will sit down.
Play will continue with the next person starting back at 1. Continue until all students are sitting down.
Transition: If you choose to complete the teacher mini-lesson in small groups, this is when you would transition to centers. If not, students will sit at the carpet for the mini-lesson.
Teacher Mini-Lesson (I do) – The main mini-lesson will be taught whole group or as your on-level small group.
For this lesson on number to 0, I ask students to give me zero of something. Obviously, they can’t do that! I continue asking students to bring me zero of something and pretend to get frustrated when they won’t. They think it is hilarious!
After students calm down from this fun activity, I teach them about the number zero. This is also a time for me to introduce new vocabulary and number posters to students.
If you teach the teacher-led lesson in small groups, you will use the scaffold and extend portions to differentiate for each group.
Partner activity (we do): The partner activity, again, will be done either as a whole class or in your small groups. Usually this is a partner math game.
Since this is the first math lesson of the year, the activity is short and sweet. Students talk to a partner to discuss what they would like to have zero of (for example, a food they dislike). After, students take turns writing the number 0 and showing me zero fingers.
Independent practice (you do): This is a math worksheet where students can “show what they know.” For this lesson, students will draw something they want zero of. After, they will practice rainbow writing their numbers 0-5.
Transition: If you completed the Teacher-led lesson and the partner activity whole group, the independent practice activity will be students ticket to centers. You will transition students to centers and then pull small groups for math intervention and enrichment.
Math centers – Students should be working in other centers when they’re not with you. It’s important to remember that these centers are not just busy work! Instead, the work that students complete should be tied into practicing the target math skill and reviewing previously taught math skills.
My Kindergarten math curriculum has centers already made for you, or you can create your own centers.
Possible kindergarten math center activities include:
- Counting clip cards
- Roll and write numbers
- Compare and clip numbers
- Building numbers with manipulatives
- Building numbers on 5 and 10 frames
- Number puzzles
Your kindergarten math center time can run with rotations or as free flowing centers. I know I always say this, but it depends on your classroom management style.
Personally, I like to have my math centers free flowing similar to my literacy centers. I have a variety of bins and bags with math center activities my students can choose from.
They can choose any activity to work on alone or with a partner. When they finish an activity, they choose another one.
As students are working in math centers, I call the students I need to work with to my table.
Ready to get started?
There you have it! That’s what Kindergarten Guided Math time looks like in my classroom following my Numbers to 5 unit. I hope this truly feels doable to you now and that you are feeling more confident that you can tackle Guided Math in kindergarten. It’s truly been a game-changer for me and my students.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive resource to help you teach guided math in Kindergarten, check out my Kindergarten Math Curriculum for the Year! It has everything you need from lesson plans to partner games to worksheets and math centers.
Still have questions? As always feel free to comment below or email me at [email protected]