08 June 2014

Digging into Next Year: Math Workshop

Hi Friends! Last week I reflected on all things classroom organization. I shared what is working, what didn't work so well, and what changes I'll be making for next year!

This week, I'm joining 50 other amazing bloggers to share how we organize the Math Workshop!

Organize Math Workshop!

First things first - Math Workshop is an structure or model for teaching. It is not a curriculum or even a set of standards. Most workshop models (whether reading, writing, math, etc...) follow a similar format:

- 10-15 minutes mini-lesson (5-10 minutes is especially ideal)
- 20-45 (depending on how much time you have) minutes of student work time (teacher pulls small groups, one-on-one conferences)
- 5-7 minutes of sharing/closing

Before I share exactly how math workshop looked in my classroom, I feel like I should share my daily schedule with you. It was super choppy, and I didn't have very many big chunks of time. At the beginning of the year it was downright horrible...but once I got the schedule to work for us, things went pretty well, and I actually came to appreciate the choppiness. Well, kind of.

The * notes when school actually begins and ends. (You can read about what I do with my students from 7:15-7:50 here.)

So, now that that's out of the way, here's how math workshop looked in my classroom this past year:

It's likely that my schedule will look a little different this year, but the structure of my math workshop will stay the same. 

Although not included above, we actually start with a Number Talk. I read this book. Although, recently, I've had used a Word Problem Talk, because I want my kiddos to think of numbers as real life situations. They do a word problem a day for morning work, and we use the first 3-5 minutes of our workshop to look at different ways to solve it. 
After that comes our actual workshop time. We will start with a 10-15 minute mini-lesson (although my goal, is to get this shortened to 7-8 minutes - wish me luck). This is where I'm explicitly teaching, and my students are "being sponges." Their job is to soak up new learning, so they can apply it during the rest of math workshop.

Then from there, students get the opportunity to practice what they just learned in some sort of a task - more often than not, this is where we're working with interactive math notebooks. (Erin from I'm Lovin Lit has an AMAZING post on interactive notebooks for any subject).

Sometimes this portion is used for whole-class games, like Scoot or Around the Room, both done in a similar way - practicing with movement! Sounds fancy, but it's really students doing math, while moving about the room. They think it's fun, I know they're learning and practicing!

Usually at the very end of this time, I have students take out an index card, and solve some sort of problem related to the day's mini-lesson. Usually it's just 1 problem, occasionally, two. My goal in doing this is to have a very quick formative assessment that let's me gauge where my students are. Plus, this information is usually how I decide to pull students for a small group.

After that, students work with they're math partner (strategically assigned based on results from pre/post-test data). Students get the freedom to choose what they're going to practice based on what standards we've learned. I'll call these options as "planned and strategic" - not exactly centers. I don't switch them out with seasonal items...it's a collection of games, task cards, write on/wipe off mats, etc. that are a constant review of what we've learned. I continuously add to, but rarely take away options. 

Students get two "rounds" of math games (sounds very enticing to the kiddos). One before lunch, and one after lunch. During this time, I'm pulling small groups and working with students one-on-one. Again, this is usually based on the index card formative assessment.

A few things need to change. 

Most importantly, I need a better way of organizing and managing the math games. This past year, I had nine different containers that each had an overarching theme (addition, subtraction, place value, geometry, measurement, time & money, etc...). I actually really like this set-up because students can choose what they need the most help with. The problem? Students don't usually choose what they need the most help with.

I've thought about simply having numbered containers that students move to in an organized way throughout the week. There are usually 10-12 groups of students, which means they could potentially get to each math game once every week. This would be a bit more organized, but I don't want to eliminate the choice component. 

Another thought is to have a check-off list so that students can choose the order, but know they have to hit each game/station one time before repeating. Obviously, this is still in the works, but I'll be sure to let you know once I get it figured out. Have any great ideas?

The second thing that needs to change is how I teach my students to be independent during the partner work time. I use The Daily 5 for reading, and it's a beautiful thing. Routines and procedures are explicitly taught and it's smooth sailing. 

This year, I plan to incorporate those same principles to my math workshop in order for my students to have the same stamina and independence they have with reading. Plus, my math games were a WRECK at the end of the year...shoved every which way, just a lack of explicit teaching and practicing on my part! Here's how I brought them home at the end of the year...not pretty.

Be sure to check out the other fabulous bloggers for even more really fantastic ideas! You can head over to Laura's blog, Where the Magic Happens, to check out everyone's posts!

Be sure to stop by each week this summer for some great ideas, tips, products, and maybe a freebie or two :) Plus, we end the summer with an AH-MAZING giveaway!


  1. I also do math games with my students! I organized my games by math units. Each game focused on a different skill we were learning in that unit. This worked wonders for my kids. I also need to work on teaching how to take care of the games. I often found many pieces scattered across the room. :(

  2. Great post! I am also searching for a way to make my math games more differentiated while still keeping the choice component in there. I'm thinking of making each of my groups do one "must do" math game each week, so I know they're getting practice with certain skills. Hmm...so many things to think about! {And they say teachers just "relax" all summer...ha!} :)

    - Katy
    First Grade Kate


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