Currently and Math Workshop Monday {9/2/13}

I'm having to double up on this post since I've been a "once a week-at best-blogger" lately. First, Currently...and then Math Workshop Monday :)

Listening: I love, love, love that my kids get along.  I am truly blessed.
Loving: Wouldn't it be nice to have 3 day weekends at least once a month?
Thinking: I really have a lot on my list today!  I have left all of my chores to today while playing all weekend...
Wanting: Tieks...have you heard about them?  I really feel like I must have a pair...not so badly though that it has turned into a need :)
Needing: Open House is Thursday and I have got to get ready!!
Me: OK, the three things for me:
1. Juicing- My husband and I experimented with juicing this summer.  I didn't lose any weight (boo...he did...double boo), but I really felt so much better.  Last week, we didn't juice at all and my body was blah.  I was tired, more irritable, etc.  It obviously was my food intake and I must do better.
2. I haven't been out walking/jogging in 3 weeks or more...I must get back out there.
3. Time to reflect- I really want to start taking time to reflect each day in a personal journal.  I know that when I have done so in the past, I always have a better outlook on life.

Make sure you link up with Farley!

Now, on to Math Workshop Monday:

Most of the questions I receive in my inbox are related to Math Workshop, so I thought I'd take some time each week to cover a lot of the questions and to blog about what I am (of course) most passionate!  So, I've started a new series:

Each Monday, I will blog about what works and also what DIDN'T work for me for the last two years of implementing Math Workshop.  As a full must find what works for YOU.  I don't have all of the answers~just some ideas of what I have tried in my classroom.    I hope that you can find some tips and tricks that you can use!  Click {here} for last week's first installment.

One of the questions I receive the most is the following:

First, you start small.  Baby steps to be exact.  For example, I am beginning week 3 tomorrow and I will only start implementing Math Workshop later this week. You have to establish procedures and norms before you can fully implement Math Workshop.

One of the ways we establish the norms of how to use math materials properly is with a lesson called "Math Tools vs. Math Toys".  I begin by placing tubs of math tools (electronic flashcards (like Math Sharks), flashcards, dice, center packets, task cards, etc.) on the group tables.  Before opening the boxes of math tools, we discuss the difference between a math tool and a toy.  What do you do with math tools?  How is that different than a toy? Can I "play" with math tools if I wanted to? (Yes) Should I "play" with my math tools? (No)  I have students write what they see as the difference between the two on a sticky note and bring it to our chart.  We discuss the students answers.  Then, we begin working with math tools "correctly" and then I model in a over-the-top silly way using them inappropriately.  I usually pick the student who can really "ham it up" with me.  We toss the dice at each other pretending to have a war.  We take the flash cards and deal them out like we are playing a game of cards and throw them in the air a bit.  You get the idea.

Then, the students practice working with the tools.  I walk around monitoring how they are working. I praise the students using the tools correctly.  I also tell them that I have to be able to trust them during the time that they are working in "Hands On" using these tools so that I can work with my small groups.

One more thing that I do is tell them that I do (luckily) have 3 iPads and 2 iPods in my classroom and that they will not be pulled out for "Hands On" until I can fully trust them.

This lesson takes one class period, but I sometimes have to revisit it when necessary throughout the year.

The second lesson on "Set Up" is showing students how they will be rotating.  It is very important to be specific about this so that students rotate correctly.

I use interactive math notebooks in my classroom.  This year, I am trying to organize them a little better by creating title pages for each new unit.  (Sometimes by chapter in our textbook, sometimes just by the unit of we all know even with a brand new textbook, everything that we need to teach won't be covered in the book.)

We are starting the year with addition and subtraction (and Chapter 2 in our book), so I had my students create this title page:

That big number 1 that is circled is that student's group number.  Then, I have the students write down the order of their rotation.  This way, they always have a reference on hand of where they need to go.  One more item that I've decided to add is a list of all of the students in the group.  I'm going to print these on address labels and have the students stick them on this title page, too.  Why go to this much trouble?

Well, inevitably a student (or even more than one) will not know where to go and we would waste too much time trying to get students where they need to be that I would lose valuable teaching time.  I teach my students to look out for the members of their team and if someone is missing from their location, then they need to go and fetch them before I find out ;)

As you can see in the picture below, the student above is in group 1 and follows this rotation.  First, he would go to Math Facts.

On Friday last week, I spent time "practicing" the rotations.  I gave them things to "pretend" to be doing in the rotations when heading there.  I use "Class-Yes" from Whole Brain Teaching to get my students' attention when it is time to rotate.  Once I get their attention, I just rotate my two pointer fingers (like spinning).  Then, I count backwards from 10 until all students are in their new location. I am happy to report that with each of my groups (75 students), I only had 2 students head to the wrong rotation during one of the transition times.  Yay!  I have given those 2 students a "buddy" in their group to help them this week.

Next week, I'll be explaining where students "go" during the rotations.  I'll also be explaining in more detail what they "do" during those times.

Do you have any other questions that you would like for me to answer?  I'd love to hear your questions and also any suggestions that you might have.

And if you have read all of this (bless you)....I have a little surprise....come back tomorrow for a chance to win this (or something else from the company):


  1. I'm your newest follower thanks to Farley's rule! Cute blog!! I'm moving from Kinder to 3rd grade... Thankful I found your blog and a few others to help with big kids!

  2. LOVE the way you transition and count down my 10! This year's group is a bit more "energetic" and with 2/3 boys, I think they'd like the countdown idea :) So much to set up this time of year!!

    Let me know if you get Tieks- I've seen them, but haven't talked to anyone who's actually worn them ;)

    Hope you can get some good relaxation in today :)

    3rd Grade Thoughts

  3. I love the way you signal your kids to rotate. I am starting math tomorrow and am looking forward to introducing the system to my kiddos.

    Hunter's Teaching Tales
    Find me on Facebook

  4. Thanks for the advice on starting up math workshop. I am working on using a math workshop style approach in my classroom this year for the first time, and I need all the advice I can get!

  5. Hi Elizabeth. I'm so excited that I found your blog because I really want to do math workshop, and I have never done it. You have written an awesome post about how to start one up. Plus I'm your newest follower!

  6. I love how you call it "Math Tools" and not "Math Toys!"

    I will look forward to linking up to this every Monday!

    Three Cheers for First Grade!

  7. I love the time to reflect part... that is a great idea
    and I totally understand what you mean by feeling better with juicing... I didn't have my morning fruit smoothies all week and I felt a little off... so back to smoothies for breakfast
    thanks for always linking up :)

  8. I love this post! Thank you for explaining so clearly how you start with Math workshop!

  9. Thanks so much for this post! I am trying math workshop for the first time this year and was wondering how I should get this all started. Thanks for the insight!!
    A Tall Drink of Water

  10. Wow!! I love your blog post! Thank you for explaining so clearly how you start with math workshop! I like your managing style of class.

    Tahitian Noni Juice

  11. I'm with you on the Tieks. I think it is all the Facebook ad brainwashing. But it is working on me! I hear they are super comfortable. I was just looking at them online and am about ready to give in!

    I Teach. What's Your Super Power?

  12. I love your clear explanation of math workshops! I would love to start incorporating this in my classroom. Our team currently uses Math 4 Today. I'm interested to know how did you use this in a center?

    1. Back when I did use it, I had the students complete the 4 question during one of their rotations. We would go over it once we came back together as a whole group to review all work completed during rotations.

  13. The first part of your lesson you mentioned asking questions. Where are you getting your Common Core math questions from? Are you turning your standards into questions?