Sunday, March 8, 2015

Why Math Workshop?

Setting up a math workshop in your elementary classroom is a great way to meet the needs of your diverse learners.  This post is full of tips for implementing and ideas for activities and stations.  You’ll also find a link to a free math center!

As teachers, we are constantly scrambling to meet the needs of all of our students:  Students on IEPs, 504s, Gifted, ESL, and any number of other quirks, issues, and situations that make up a classroom of beautifully diverse young people.

Add to this the increasing class sizes (my class started out with 32 students) and the idea of individualizing instruction for all students becomes a daunting task!

This year I have tried...  really tried to differentiate for my math class.  I have spent countless hours planning projects, lessons, and worrying about my gifted students.  I have spent many a dollar on TpT buying wonderful resources for them to work on independently and in small groups.  I have put in many a step monitoring and supporting my struggling students while they work independently on problem sets.  If it is out there, I have probably tried it and still I was left feeling like I wasn't able to give all of these learners what they needed.


I spend a lot of time on Pinterest, Facebook, reading blogs, TpT forum, etc.  and somewhere along the way I read something that planted a seed in my brain.  I can't remember where that seed came from, I can only say that it took root and started to grow.  The idea of teaching math through a workshop model.

One weekend a few weeks ago, I sat down with a pad of paper and pencil and started working it through.  How would I run it?  How many student groups?  How much time could I devote?

I did some research, asked friends on Instagram and Facebook,  and came up with a lot of great resources.  You can find a list at the bottom of this post.

There are many resources out there that talk about starting a math workshop.  It can be a bit overwhelming!  The key is to read them and then pick the ideas that work for you.

Here is the schedule I came up for my class:

I split my class into 4 groups.

At the beginning of Math Workshop, students meet me on the carpet with their personal white boards, markers and erasers.  I introduce the focus lesson, give them any pertinent vocabulary, model solving a practice problem and guide them through another problem.  For my Blue and Green groups, this is usually enough information for them to grasp the concept.  I continue the lesson for my Yellow and Orange groups as they meet with me during sessions one and two.
I changed the red group to yellow group.  In my own brain I didn't want the kids to think they were stopped (red), but rather cautiously moving forward with detours now and then for support (yellow).  
Setting up a math workshop in your elementary classroom is a great way to meet the needs of your diverse learners.  This post is full of tips for implementing and ideas for activities and stations.  You’ll also find a link to a free math center!
The color squares are construction paper with post-it glue so that I can move them around.  The Stations section is laminated and I write in the names of students who go to each station in dry-erase marker.  I have this pre-planned so I just have to copy the names over.  

During each session, students are involved in one of these four activities:

Meet with the Teacher:
As you can see, Yellow and Orange group meet with me everyday.  When we get together I am able to scaffold the lesson for them as we work through more guided practice problems.  In these small groups I can answer questions, correct misconceptions, and back-up and reteach if needed.  I have an assistant in the room that stays with my yellow group as they move to seat work and stations.

My green and blue groups are my more capable math groups.  These groups I only meet with twice a week.  These are students who catch on to the concept quickly and can work independently.  For my blue group, I am introducing them to more complex concepts that connect to the focus lesson.

Seat Work:
For seat work, students work on practice problem sets that go with the focus lesson.  I also use Math 4 Today occasionally to check in on and review concepts from earlier in the year.

I have 5 stations in my room.  My goal is to have:

  • 1 station that is an activity that supports the focus lesson.
  • 1 station that is a review activity of a concept or skill taught earlier in the year.
  • 1 station that is fact practice.
  • 1 station that is for vocabulary practice.
  • 1 station that is problem solving. 
When it is a group's turn for stations, the group splits up into subgroups.  I'm finding this keeps the chatting down and students tend to be more focused.
The names are color coded so that I can easily see which group a student is in.  This is another way that I differentiate for students.  I purposely place them in stations that I think they need to work on.  Many of my Yellow and Orange group members are still memorizing their math facts, so that is a station I will make sure they all get to.  My blue group has their facts memorized, so they will be at the problem solving station.  

Some examples of stations are:

Task cards
Area and Perimeter Task Cards
Vocabulary cards from Ashleigh

Fractions board game
Division Practice and Review Game
Setting up a math workshop in your elementary classroom is a great way to meet the needs of your diverse learners.  This post is full of tips for implementing and ideas for activities and stations.  You’ll also find a link to a free math center!
Domino Fraction practice and game.  Students complete a practice sheet showing fractions 4 ways: visual model, addition equation, multiplication equation, and on a number line.  When done, there are directions for a Domino War game.  You can find this Freebie HERE in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!  

Hands-on activities
Students took took locating and highlighting geometric forms - parallel/perpendicular lines, types of angles, etc. 

Measuring Angles Task Mats

Mad-Minute Fact Practice

Flash Cards

Word Problem of the Week
Word Problem of the Week
The list could go on and on!  


I am lucky enough to have several iPads that I had funded through  My Blue group is working on Khan Academy.  My Green and Orange groups are working on TenMarks, and my yellow group is working on apps to support their math fact memorization.  

After Session #3, students quickly clean-up and meet either on the carpet or at their tables and we do a quick check in.  Students share any concerns or questions about the work and I let students know what their homework will be.  5 minutes is a short amount of time, so I take the questions and answer them the next day during the first portion of our math workshop.  

On Fridays, we do not have math workshop.  We have a Chinese class that takes up 30 minutes of our math time, so instead we use that time to take any assessments, introduce new concepts or activities that might be a station the next week.

We have only been doing Math Workshop for a couple of weeks, so I will continue to fine-tune as I go.  I do enjoy the time I get with my small groups.  This has been very helpful and I feel like I am able to meet the needs of each of my learners a little better with this small group time.

The students are really enjoying the pace.  In the past my quick learners would sit through a lesson even though they already knew the concept or didn't need as much support and practice as others.  Now they can get the quick lesson and move straight on to iPad practice at their own level and pace.

My struggling learners get more support and instruction from the teacher before they move on to practice through task cards, games, or problem sets.  This better sets them up for success.  Overall, I think it is a good balance!  

I will follow up this post in a few weeks with an update on how Math Workshop is going.  If you are interested, please follow me through Bloglovin, Instagram, or Facebook for notification of my Blog Posts!
If you have any questions about how I set up my math workshop or the materials and resources I use, please leave a comment below.  I would love to hear from you!

Don't forget to stop by my Teachers Pay Teachers for your Domino Fractions {FREEBIE} !  If you download, please consider leaving feedback on the product.

Until next time!

1 comment:

  1. I'm not special ed, but I have many IEP students in my classroom. I don't have an extra teacher in the room and we only have 42 minute class periods. Any suggestions how to make this work without an extra person supervising the off-task students?