Math Workshop: Building Routines That Last a Year

Hello friends!  I'm so excited to be joining some of my favorite upper elementary blog buddies for a huge link up to share some great Back to School Survival Tips. Hop on through each of our blogs and check out the collection of tips that should get your new year started right!

Have you considered starting a Math Workshop model in your classroom, but just don't know where to start?  I'm going to share some tips to help you start the year off using the workshop model and give you ideas and suggestions about how you can build those routines that will last all year long.
Years ago when I first implemented the workshop model, I was anxious about how to make it work. Often, teachers feel comfortable implementing Reading Workshop and even Writing Workshop, but just don't know how to make this method work for math.  I took the opposite approach.  I tackled Math Workshop head-on FIRST before attempting Reading or Writing Workshop and I never looked back!

Tip #1:  How is it organized?
For me, this meant having my student rotate through a series of 4 stations.  Those 4 stations used the acronym M.A.T.H. to make it simple for students to rotate through each of the letters every day.

Math Facts- This is where I had my students work our daily math spiral review.  They were usually able to complete this part quickly, so when they were finished, they had the opportunity to start their At Your Seat Work.
At Your Seat- This is where my students completed the Independent Practice from the math book.  However, this time could be spent completing any number of activities that need to be completed independently.  I've even used this time to have my students complete Math Menus.  
Teacher Time- This was my small group instruction time. 
Hands On- This is what most think of as real "Stations" or "Centers".  During Hands-On time, students can work on a number of skills (all differentiated) using flashcards, task cards, different technology, math manipulatives, etc.

Tip #2: How do you start?
You have to establish expectations about how to use math materials properly.  I've used a lesson that I called  "Math Tools vs. Math Toys".  For this lesson, I began 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 discussed the difference between a math tool and a toy.  I would ask a series of questions including:
  • 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 had students write what they see as the difference between the two on a sticky note and bring it to a chart labeled "Math Tools vs. Math Toys".   We discussed the students answers.  Then, we began working with math tools "correctly" and then I modeled in an over-the-top silly way using the tools inappropriately.  I usually picked a student who can really "ham it up" with me.  We tossed the dice at each other pretending to have a war.  We took the flash cards and dealt them out like we are playing a game of cards and threw them in the air a bit.  You get the idea.  By taking the time to complete this activity, your students will have a reference whenever you have to revisit the expectations.

Tip #3: How do you organize groups?
This is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of any classroom workshop model.  I tried many different methods for grouping my students.  However, what I found to be the most effective way to group my students was based on their mathematical needs.  If I had established routines and procedures, then I didn't have to worry about grouping students primarily based on student behavior.   I found that the best way to determine what skills needed to be addressed during small group instruction was by using my Daily Spiral Math Review.  

Since the skills included in this pack are spiraled, and each domain is covered every single week, I was able to narrow down which skills my students needed to review. By using the weekly assessment included, I could track areas of concern for each of my students and then I would group "like" students together based on the skills that they needed to review.

You can try out the first week for free by downloading the product preview for each resource.  You can check them both out by heading {here} or by clicking on the images above.

I hope that you found some tips that can help you get started with Math Workshop in your classroom! The tips can also easily be adapted to any workshop model.

For more tips to add to your survival guide for Back to School, head on over to my friends' blogs to read more!

Have You Tried Nearpod in the Classroom?

Are you trying to incorporate more technology in your classroom?  Do you want your lessons to be more interactive?  Then, Nearpod is for you! 
Check out this video from Nearpod to learn more:
Last spring, I shared this with some teachers at my school and they were excited about how it can be used in their classrooms.  I am excited to use Nearpod in my small group instruction.  Since I have the use of 5 iPads, my students can work with me on a skill and can answer questions in their individual iPads.  I'll be able to track their answers and use this to help plan instruction the following week.  
There are many different free "premade" Nearpod lessons that are ready to use!  I've already been saving many different lessons to use with my students this year! 

Why not give Nearpod a try?