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
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.
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
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.
Demonstration
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.