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Many teachers are familiar with Reading Workshop or even Writing Workshop. Did you realize that Math Workshop in the classroom is just as easy to implement? It is a more effective way to teach math because teachers are able to meet with small groups of students to teach concepts that are too difficult to teach in a whole group setting. Students are able to have instruction differentiated and geared specifically for their own needs because students are sitting at a table with the teacher for small group instruction. Math Workshop is a method of instruction that can be very successful.
I started Math Rotations about a year ago. I found that if I broke down the workshop into four stations, I could meet with each group for approximately fifteen minutes.
Station 1– This is my small group instruction time. My students are grouped into 4 different groups based on their ability levels to better differentiate their instruction. I teach a lesson that the students will be completing the NEXT day during station 2. I modify the instruction based on the groups’ ability.
Stations 2– At this station, students complete the Independent Practice from the math book. However, this is the work from the previous day’s small group work. This way, students should be able to complete the work independently without interrupting the teacher’s small group instruction.
Station 3– This station is where students work on a spiraled daily drill reviewing the grade level’s entire curriculum. It is important for students to review math skills all year long to retain the information. These fifteen minutes every day allow for significant review.
Station 4– This station may be what many people consider a real “station” or “center”. I use this time to have my students work with a variety of materials including flashcards, iPods, task cards and games. All of these materials and games can be differentiated as well.
When introducing a new unit of study, I do teach the whole class instead. During this time, I help students build some background knowledge that will carry them through the entire unit. We create an anchor chart that is then hung in the room so that students may refer to it throughout the entire unit. This way, students are confident when completing all independent practice because they know they have a reference chart to refer to when necessary.
On days when we are completing Math Workshop, I spend a few minutes completing a mini-lesson on the skill that the students will be working on during Station 2 (Independent Practice). Spending just a few minutes reviewing what we completed the previous day in small groups helps the students recall what we learned and allows them to be more successful completing the work on their own.
The noise level is able to stay at a low level because only one other group is spending time in a cooperative setting at the same time as my small group. Station 3 and Station 4 are all working independently and are quiet. There are some students who need a little assistance in Station 2 and I have these students partner up when necessary. Therefore, even in that situation, there are still only about eight students competing for their voices to be heard. In other words, it is very quiet in the classroom. I don’t think that I would be able to handle Math Workshop if it were very noisy.
Putting Math Workshop into place in my classroom did not happen overnight. I spent about a month trying to figure out all of the pieces that would work for me. The key is remembering that in the end, all students in my classroom were going to benefit from my small group instruction. Understanding that making it work for me was, in return, making it work for my students. I hope you will consider implementing Math Workshop in your classroom.
About the Author
Elizabeth Supan is an elementary school teacher in South Carolina with 18 years experience. Currently she is a 4th grade math teacher. She uses small group math instruction to meet the needs of her diverse learners. You can read more about her teaching on her blog Fun in Room 4B. Aside from teaching, Elizabeth enjoys crafting, completing DIY projects and spending time with her husband and children.
My math periods this year are 90 minutes long. However, I was able to successfully implement this same program with my self-contained class last year and only had 60 minutes for math. Gloria, you are right, it does take planning and patience. Once the routine is established, success follows 🙂
Setting this up does take planning and patience. But getting the students into the routine and practice of helping each other learn and succeed is so valuable.
How long are your math periods?