Math Workshop Monday {9/16/13}

Welcome to my weekly series where I try to share what has worked (and hasn't worked) in my classroom as I explore the wonderful world of Math Workshop:
This week's topic:
Last week, I shared with you my station boxes.  I found some tubs to use for my groups this summer.  Last year, I had two tubs per group, but I found that it just caused confusion.  This year, I scaled down to one tub per group.  Inside I have the "hands on" materials they will use for the week.  You can see that the tubs are all different based on what that particular group needs to practice:

The last thing I want is for the "Hands On" time to turn into "Play" time.  I know that sounds a bit harsh, but when we are trying to cover a gagillion standards (yes, I made up that word), I don't want even this 15 minutes to be filled with students "playing".  This is why I spent several weeks (yes, weeks) "practicing" rotations before letting them loose with our rotations.

Let me back up.  No, we didn't just practice.  Yes, there was instruction going on at the same time.  I was teaching whole group for the first 3 weeks of school. And, I was tired with a capital "T" at the end of the day.  My students work better in small increments of time.  Don't you find that to be the case these days?  This is why the workshop model works for me.

Back to "Hands On" time~During this "leg" of their rotations, students work in groups and/or partners with different tasks I've given to their group.  Based on performance tasks, pretest, etc., I have determined what skill a group needs to practice.  Does it work out that every single student needs practice with that particular skill.  No.  Does it matter?  Not really.

For example, my "Group 2's" needed to work on subtraction with regrouping.  Did everyone in Group 2 need to work on that skill?  Not really.  Several students were pros already.  However, when I send my students to their Hands On time, those who are the pros typically will take on the leadership role in the group and be the facilitator during their time.

In a perfect world, yes, everyone would only work on the skills that they need to practice the most.  I'm not Super Woman and I just don't have the time, energy or money to buy all of the necessary materials for each student to only work on the skills that they need to practice the most.  That comes later...during Teacher Time.

So, what do I put in the tubs?  The million dollar question, right?  Basically every little thing I've bought over the last few years~  I could give you a link to every single TPT store who I buy from, or a link to every single product I've made, but that would be silly.  Besides, what my students need will be different than what your students need.

What I can give you are a few hints for some easy and free resources.  You can go shopping later :)

Simple.  Last week, I taught my students how a pair of dice can be used easily for practicing addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  Simply take 2 dice, roll them and multiply the two numbers together.  Challenge yourself:  Roll the 2 dice, add them together for your first number.  Roll the 2 dice again, add them together for your second number.  Next, multiply the two numbers together.  Easy. Fast. Fluency Practice!  Yay!
The same thing can be accomplished with a deck of cards.  I pull out all of the face cards and teach my students that the Ace is equal to 1.

One more hint about "Hands On" time.  Have your student in a close proximity to your small group table.  I know this sounds like a no-brainer.  But, I learned by trial and error that having them closer to my small group table helps me control the volume in their group and it also helps me control the volume of my small group.  I can also take a quick glace up to see who is on task.  If they are not on task, they go to their seats.  No questions asked.  Harsh? Yes.  Does it work? Yes.

Happy Workshopping!  {Yep, I made that word up, too.}  Got questions?  Shoot me an email or comment below.


  1. These are great ideas Elizabeth! Thanks for sharing! I love dice too - I have all sizes of them. The foam ones from Dollar Tree are my favorite as they make no noise!!

  2. You just reminded me that I need to update my hands on tubs. We have been so busy with a new computer program the county bought so that HAS to be one of their rotations. That's ok.....I can rotate at your seat and hands on....right? Hugs and miss ya friend:)

    4th Grade Frolics

  3. I give no warnings for my math group time either! If you aren't on task in your station----you are going back to your seat!! It only takes most kiddos one time of being sent back to remember the station procedures. Small group math time is my most favorite time of the day!

    Live Laugh and Love to Learn

  4. I think I'll begin implementing 'go back to your seat' procedures tomorrow!

  5. do you keep your cards from disappearing...I have a big box of cards that have missing cards!!

    1. Cards do disappear every now and again. However, when it does happen I take a moment to say that this pack is missing a card...if more go missing, we'll have to cut "Hands on" time. The idea of not having that part of our rotation scares them enough to keep up with our supplies (mostly) ;)

  6. I was just wondering if you are grading center work or just making sure the kids practicing? How do you make them accountable? This is something I keep thinking about.
    Lydia Gonzalez

    1. Since it is only 15 minutes of their rotation, I don't see a need to grade this work. I don't even have a recording sheet for stations any more. Since I can keep my eye on them and know that they are on task and practicing fluency review, I feel like that is enough.