Math Workshop!!!

Math workshop is a slightly new concept for me to wrap my brain around, but it has been something I think I’ve been naturally falling toward for the last couple of years. About 5 years ago, our district was really trying to get teachers to use Math Stations. They even provided an awesome “make and take” workshop that helped you get everything ready. However, Math Stations had the same problems for me that Literacy Stations had…I was spending hours making and cleaning and setting up stations that the kids “played” with for 20 minutes. It just wasn’t working. Two years ago we started working with enVision Math Curriculum. It has a lot of peripheral material including centers, that are easily set up and differentiated. Still, I was having difficulty integrating this time into math. Maybe I was still irritated by the whole stations fiaso. Then last year, I went to yet another math training that involved, you guessed it, math “games” that integrate through stations. This one sealed the deal for me because I loved the activities. It was Kathy Richardson’s Developing Number Concepts. Never before have I felt that I truly understood how students were using math concepts developmentally, and I guess this new understanding drove me to try it again. So all year I gave it a go but the scheduling just wasn’t working. How do I fit it all in? There is Daily Problem Solving, Number of the Day activities, teaching the actual Math Lesson, student practice time, and of course my new center games that I wanted to use. What to do? Finally, one day while perusing Mrs. Newingham’s website I found her solution to Math Workshop and decided to give it a whirl.

I. love. it.

I spend the first 10 minutes covering what my kiddos call NOD/POD, which is Number of the Day and Problem of the Day. Then about 5 minutes reviewing yesterday’s learning and introducing briefly the topic of the day and maybe making connections in the learning. Then the workshop begins. There are 3 groups: Meet with Teacher, Independent Work, and Math Activity. Each group meets for 20 minutes and then switches. At the end of the workshop we gather together for 5 minutes to recap (this time may turn into math journaling eventually).

The beautiful part is that my groups are homogeneous, so I can differentiate my daily lesson to meet each group’s needs. Here is the group rotation:

  • High GroupIndependent Work first because they need little to no direction to complete this by themselves, then Math Activity to work with the game I have provided, the they Meet with Teacher for usually extension or challenge math lessons.
  • Medium GroupMath Activity first because they have the reading skills to get started on the game independently, then Meet with Teacher so that I can give them their lesson, then to Independent Work to practice the skill I just taught them.
  • Low GroupMeet with Teacher first because they cannot get started on anything else until it has been explicitly taught, then Independent Work where they work as a team to finish their work pages, then Math Activity to reward a job well done and solidify the learning.

There are three basic rules for Math Workshop:

  1. Stay in one spot.
  2. Work quietly.
  3. Work the whole time.

These rules work surprisingly well at keeping the kids with their group and away from me while I am at the Meet with Teacher table. Another thing that helps is encouraging that their group is a team and that they work as a team to solve problems because that is what math is about. It’s cheesy but it works!

Also in my ongoing quest for a 21st century classroom (and to keep myself on schedule), I created a timed powerpoint slideshow for Math Workshop. It starts at the beginning of the Math Workshop and runs the whole time. No more switching group signs or running overtime. I even timed my teacher mini-lesson because if I expect my students to finish their work in a specific amount of time each day, then I have to hold myself to the same standard.

Math Workshop Slideshow (pptx) (BTW, thanks Mom for the idea!)

Overall, my students are really thriving in the Math Workshop environment. I feel that I am able to meet all of their needs instead of jumping all over the room during math, trying to answer everyone’s questions. I always felt haggard after math, now I feel refreshed and downright giddy because of all the supercharged learning happening in the room!

13 thoughts on “Math Workshop!!!

  1. sandi says:

    What are you actually using out of the envision materials? I want to do this but have had the same problems you mentioned above? Are you using the big envision student paper in your meet with the teacher or independent work? What about the quick check, daily spiral review, etc.? I am just trying to keep from having to make so much stuff when my school has purchased all of this. Any help would be appreciated!

    • admin says:

      I am using the envision lessons as my whole group by doing the interactive activity and some of the guided instruction page. My students then go to math work stations. I honestly need to update my Math Workshop post. I run four math stations one is independent work where they finish their math envision paper. When they come meet with me, I work on the skill that particular group needs. Sometimes that is reviewing the whole group lesson in a small group, other times we work on problem solving. I also like using the TEMI units for numerical fluency during small group and tier II interventions, especially with my kiddos that I need progress monitoring on.

      I found that I didn’t really like the center games for 2nd grade provided with envision. I prefer making my own or letting groups spend one station on the computer. The same goes for the problem of the day provided. I feel that their POD is more of a lesson starter and doesn’t really go in depth with problem solving. So although I will sometimes use envisions POD during the lesson, I always use my own problems for the POD portion of math. I try to focus the POD on starting Monday with a level 1 problem and have the kids working at least one level 3 problem by Friday.

      Let’s see if I can answer all of your questions!

      I don’t like the quick check because one, I have to make more paper copies and two somehow I have to grade 20+ of them before stations but they cant fill it out until they finish the daily work… I don’t know, it’s just a hassle. If you are actively monitoring during guided practice, you KNOW who needs help.

      I use a math journal to keep track of vocabulary and reflections, notes, etc. from math. I don’t use the daily spiral review…it seems like I might have at the very beginning like 4 years ago or so but not anymore. When we start the lesson we use our journal for POD, in a glue and solve kind of way. Then we do our active engagement. If there was new vocab or something then we title a page say, “addition” and then we take some kid notes on what we know or draw a picture, you get the idea. Then the whole group starts on the inside of the big envision paper and I monitor and guide until I’m sure that most everyone has the idea. At that point, I generally start stations. The kids break off into their assigned groups…yada yada…at the end of math we come back together as a group and reflect. Sometimes this is written, sometimes it is oral.

      Whew! I’m tired. And that was a ridiculous long post reply! But it was worth it if it helps you figure out this envision craziness!! Let me know if you have any other questions! Seriously! I was so excited to get a real comment that I called my hubby in the middle of the day!


  2. sandi says:

    Thanks! that does give me some ideas. Envision was new to me last year and I just took it and tried to teach it the way it was presented to us by the rep. To say I hated it is putting it lightly. It was too much paper and super boring! I dreaded math time each day.So, I decided to do something different this year, yet somehow use all this stuff my school has paid for. Thanks for your help. I look foward to the new math workshop stuff you have.

  3. Natalie says:

    I know this post is over a year old, but thank you for outlining your workshop schedule! We are new to envision this year and I want to take advantage of having an inclusion classroom by doing math workshop this year. I have one question….when do you do whole group lessons? Are they mini lessons? How often? How many minutes long? Any response is greatly appreciated! Thanks! 🙂

    • admin says:

      I find that my math workshop is changeable year to year as far as times go. Last year my group was pretty close to the same level so I spent more time, maybe 15-20 minutes, doing core instruction because I knew that was where I was getting results. However sometimes, especially toward the end of a unit where I knew I really needed to reach about 3-4 kids, I would cut my core instruction to a 5 minute and then meet with my high needs kids right away as the rest of them went to start workshop.

      I think the biggest thing to understand as the teacher is that your job is really to facilitate learning. When they need more I give them more, when they need space to figure it out or practice I have to back off. I got taught that lesson big time last year because I had 25 kids in my math workshop. If I was running a three group setup there were 8-9 kids in my small group! Ha! So I really had to look at my core instruction as a focus and then meet with my highs for extension and lows for intervention/reteach.

      That being said my basic schedule went:
      10 min Numerical Fluency
      10 min Problem Solving
      5 min Learning Objective/Target and Vocabulary
      15 min Core Lesson Instruction
      10 min Guided Practice (This is where I would identify needs)
      30 min Stations and Guided Groups
      10 min Math Journals and Reflection

      Hope that helps!

  4. Rae says:

    This is a great post! I am just starting using a workshop format with my second graders using envisions. My challenge is that they finish the independent work too quickly. I currently use the workbook as their independent work. What are you using?

    • admin says:

      I use the big color page as independent work. Sometimes it is so easy that I know they will be done in minutes, so I provide either an additional work page pulled from an outside resource, or I will condense two lessons into one so the kids get two big color pages. Eventually you will need to do these things when using envision because it takes way more than two weeks of lessons to teach addition and subtraction with regrouping, and place value is hardly covered to the extent that is needed for third grade to pick up from. The add-ins and condensing give you space in your year to make sure mastery is happening.


        • admin says:

          I send the workbook for homework along with an assignment page for the week that lets students know which page to use. One year I ripped out the pages to send home each week, but that was way too time consuming! Sending the whole workbook home was nice and parents liked to look ahead to see what was coming up!

  5. Jenny Harrington says:

    Quick question – I’m going to be teaching 5th grade and know that I plan on doing a high, middle, and low grouping system. After giving the overview, I will then meet with the low group, while the high is working on independent work, and middle are at the math stations. Once we rotate, the lows will go to work on independent work, middles to me, and high to stations. I would go over the independent work with my high group when I meet with them at our rotation. My question is, when do you check or go over the independent work from the low and middle groups?

    • Mrs. Marino says:

      I use a self-check setup for the students to monitor their work. Its on the honor system and works because I don’t take “grades” on the practice work that way students know it is for learning not mastery. I put a completed copy of the independent work and a colored marker at the front of the room near me. After the students finish, they go to the front with their work and check it, no pencils allowed. I teach them to put checks on correct items and circle incorrect items. They cannot fix anything while they are checking, only circle or check. Then they return to their seat and correct any circled items. They repeat the process until all everything is checked. I keep all of this in one of those clipboards that opens up and has storage on the inside. When all their work is correct, they turn it in inside the clipboard. I check it after class to make sure I received them all. Any missing papers, severely circled papers or students I noticed getting up to check a million times are my quick reteach the following day.

  6. Kelli says:

    I love, love, love your math stations set-up! Thanks for sharing. This is my first year with Envision and needless to say, it can be completely overwhelming!

    I love your quick-check system for independent work. If you don’t take grades on independent work, where do you take grades (besides the topic test)?

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