Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Workshop Wednesday: Getting Math Workshop Started

I'm linking up with Ideas by Jivey again for Workshop Wednesday! Head over to her linky to read about getting your Reading, Writing and Math Workshops off the ground!

Last week, I wrote about conferring during Writing Workshop. This week, I want to sharesome ideas about planning for the small group portion of your Math Workshop, which is something you will DEFINITELY want to think about before launching your workshop.

As is with any workshop, there is no hard format for a math workshop.  The idea is similar to a reading workshop though as you begin with whole group then move to small group and then back to whole group.  That small group time is pretty flexible and I've done different things with different groups of kids based on their needs.  With classes that have high needs, I've used a guided math approach.  I found this model to be the most challenging to manage and the most time consuming to plan.

The beauty of a math workshop is that you can adapt a more scripted program to fit the workshop model very easily.  For the first ten years I taught, my school used Everyday Math.  I'd begin with the Math Message, then teach the whole group lesson, transition into independent and partner practice and then use the whole group time to review and reflect.  This process worked just as well this year when we began using the Envisions Math program from Pearson. 

So...what are the students DOING during that small group portion of math workshop?  Will the students move to different groups?  What do they do when they are finished with their assignments?  What do they do if they need help?  These are the things you need to think about before starting your workshop.  Here are my personal preferences:

What are the students doing?  Students work on the textbook assignment for the day.  I highlight the numbers and the pages on the SMARTboard.  My students complete the work in their math notebooks.  I model throughout the first month of school how I want them to show their work in their notebooks.

Will the students move to different groups?  In my class, they move.  I use the some means of assessment to determine the groups.  In the beginning of the year, I'll use the beginning of year assessment and my observations.  In the middle of the year, I'll use diagnostic tests and topic tests for groupings.  These groups are fluid, so the students may come in and out of a group during a topic, but for the most part, I'll work with the students with the highest need during the workshop.

What do they do when they are finished with their assignments?  I am a big fan of task cards.  I keep a baggie of task cards in each table bin for students to use when they are finished with their assignments.  The routine for task cards is SO simple and it is very easy to check student work.  I've found that returning a completed answer sheet with a little treat attached keeps students motivated to work on the cards until they are finished.  It's important that students understand that "finished early work" is still work!

This is a set of 15 different task cards aligned to Fifth Grade Common Core Standards.  I'm still working on this set, so it will definitely grow!
For my highest performing students, I love math projects.  I have one that is great for operating with decimals: Lemonade Stand Project.
Teaching with a Mountain View also has great and affordable projects.  My students LOVE anything that is super colorful, so they really enjoyed the Let's Go Shopping, Movie Marathon and Breaking Up the Bakery.

Another option for finished early work is math centers.  Some programs come with math centers (but I didn't care for the ones I've received...shhhh!), so you might consider making your own.  I like to use all three -- task cards, projects, and centers -- to keep things fresh and interesting.  You can use math centers to spiral your review.  I have big plans for creating math centers based on fourth grade common core....if I can find a good chunk of time to get focused!

A great option for keeping expectations clear is to post a "must do, may do" list.  This way students know exactly what their options are in the classroom.
You can easily create a file in your SMARTnotebook software or PowerPoint or just draw the chart on your easel or chalkboard.  It's a great way to keep your students on task!

What do students do if they need help?  This is important.  Students, especially in the upper elementary grades, need to have the self awareness to know when they need help.  In my classroom, I designate a few students as "experts."  If a student is not in my guided group, then they can go to one of these experts to ask for some help.  To make life easier for me, I designate an expert at each table so students who need help do not have to go far.  Then the rule in my room is that they must ask an expert for help.  They cannot come to me unless an expert can't help them.
This chart is used to keep track of student data, but I also use it to create partnerships for students who need assistance. Students in the far right column are "experts."

Whew.  That was a lot! I can't believe my 2 year old is still napping!!! :-)

Here is a quickie form version of all the questions I posed above.  You can grab it from Google Drive as a pdf!
Be sure to add your ideas to the linky!  It's open all month!

And if you haven't already, be sure to check out my Pin It To Win It....ending tomorrow!


  1. I'd love to hear your thoughts on enVisions...we just looked at it today and reviewed it! We're looking for a new math program, and the final decision will be made next week. I'd love to know what you think and how you used it with Math Workshop. Thanks!

    :) Kaitlyn
    Smiles and Sunshine

  2. I really enjoyed your post...I am wanting to do a math workshop style instruction this year, so I appreciate you sharing how you run your math class!

  3. I love the "Status of the Class" part of your post! I like teaching quite fluidly, and get the kids to choose whether they need to come and see me for a mini lesson. This works really well in my class most of the time, sometimes I have to say to a few kids that they have no choice, and have to come see me. I think I will use that idea next term! I love how you can very quickly and easily see the progress and achievement the students are making!

    The E-Z Class

  4. Hey
    Hope your week has gone well! I'm just letting you know I've nominated you for an award! Check out the details here

  5. I am your newest follower - excited to find a fellow 5thie :) Come stop by if you get a chance - I'd love to hear from you!

    The Sweetest Thing
    Follow me on Bloglovin'!

  6. Thanks for sharing about your math workshop. I'm interested in knowing what you think of Envisions. We are using DIGITS from Pearson. I like a lot of the program, and am trying to figure out how to use it, and a math workshop with my sixth graders in a middle school setting.
    I'm a New Yorker too!
    Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans

  7. I follow your blog and I just wanted to say thank you for inspiring and sharing your teaching ideas. I've nominated your blog for the Liebster Award. Click on over to my blog to check it out!

    Thanks again,
    Turtley Loving Teaching

  8. Oh my gosh, great post! I love the way you run your workshop model! We use a lot of enrichment projects and task cards, too. Great to see yall love them, as well. I'm a new follower!


  9. I love your Status of the Class chart! What a great idea!
    Grade 4 Buzz

  10. I love the status of the class chart. How do you give a grade for math workshop? I am thinking of creating a rubric for the week.