Learning to Teach in the Moment: A Teacher’s Lesson


Finding ways to meet my students’ needs has been a big push in self growth for me this year.

With a new batch of kinders coming I know that yet again, I’ll be faced to do it all over.

It has been very rewarding and the value far outweighed any of the planning and work that went into it.

In teaching using a guided math format, I have found that even more than in my reading groups, the need to change something on the fly is a necessary skill for me. I’m not admitting to having perfect lesson plans, or always the best ideas, because I have been greatly stretched by meeting the needs of my kinders.

Their skills dictate how I introduce, scaffold and practice.

Their background knowledge and independence direct how much or how little I say when working with groups. Taking my cues from them has been my guide as I create lesson plans.

Having said that, what do I do when a group flat out has something mastered or whips through it like no body’s business?


This happened quite a bit to me this year when meeting with my two highest math groups.

I’m working on earning my self-given degree in ‘math on the fly’ in these types of situations.

It seemed that the concept we were going to practice either needed no more repetition or needed an extension to give it a greater sense of purpose so that the practice would lead to something other than just practice.

math on the fly {teaching in the moment}

Here’s an Example

I am working with a small group of 6-7 students.

We are using dice to practice subtraction and to keep the set of numbers fresh… you never know what you’re going to roll.

We were working on “choosing the right tools” strategy for subtraction. You know normally they could use a number line, ten frame, touch dots, mental math.

All of my math groups needed repetition to build some fluency and to see patterns when subtracting.

The tool we were using is a ten frame, but without manipulatives. This particular group has the challenge of placing imaginary items on and taking them off as they work so they can build mental images.

Now comes this group: These guys were beginning to use patterns when adding and subtracting two-digit numbers. Crazy cool. But I knew they still need to do this activity to solidify those patterns mentally – and therefore they needed to do this activity.

But they needed it to feel like it had a purpose other than just practicing.

Enter plain paper and pencils.

It’s time to teach in the moment.

math on the fly {teaching in the moment}

We talked about organizing the information instead of just rolling the dice and figuring out the subtraction equations.

They each created their own graph and started to categorize the number of times their roll ended up with a particular difference.

They liked seeing which answers kept coming back and recording them.

It gave them a sense of purpose while working on the skill I knew they needed to practice.

So while I do a lot of planning to make a math lesson exactly what each group needs, I learned that sometimes adding in more of a sense of purpose is all that activity needs in order to make it flat out successful.

Now I can move forward with a few new ways to tweak plans when teaching in the moment or, on the fly.

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