Sound familiar? You have a handful of students who you have been pulling aside for additional help in math. You are even stepping back and thinking C-R-A and in the small group setting your kids are really starting to come along. But then you send them off on their own and they are not able to perform the way you would have expected.
For students to be independent in their application of mathematics they need frequent opportunities to practice math independently. If I "hold their hands" during math lessons they will then require that hand holding to perform on a math task.
I have found that strategically planning my math lesson with opportunities for independence in mind, I can combat this problem. I work with my students in a pull out intervention group for 30 minutes each day but if you are a classroom teacher you can easily use this format in less face to face time. I break my lessons down into 3 main parts so that students are able to receive new instruction but then practice skills- both new and old- independently.
Concept Development: We begin our lesson with some sort of concept development. Concept development lasts only about 10 minutes at most. Concept development may be a word problem, an introduction to a math tool, a puzzle or whatever experience I can give my students that will help them to construct meaning around our lesson goal. I put a particular focus on math language and math talk during concept development. Students need to be talking to one another using math language during this portion of the lesson.
Later this week I will do a post about how I strategically choose the independent practice stations because in order to get the most bang for your buck you want to choose centers that decompose the skills your students are working on.