Monday, November 24, 2014

Math Workshop - The Teacher Center

Well, I think it is safe to say winter is officially here in Wisconsin. This was the view outside today when I got home from school...I'd say a bit of a change from the rain I drove through to get to school this morning!


My last post focused on some activities my students are doing this week that are different than our normal routine, so I thought it would be good to give some insight into what "normal" is for us in 6th grade math. A good starting point would be to check out my Math Workshop page, which gives an idea of the general structure of our class. If you'd rather just keep reading, I'll give you my day in a nutshell. After doing a brief warm-up and introduction to the new lesson, my students travel in groups to four different centers each day. Each center is about 10-12 minutes. At the end of class we do a brief wrap-up or exit slip to check for understanding. In the next few weeks, I plan on posting in more depth about each of the centers my students travel to each class period. Today, let's start with the Teacher Center.

In my opinion, the 10-12 minutes my students have each day at the teacher center is the most important and effective part of math workshop - for ALL students! My struggling students I can help individually to learn the concepts and my advanced students I can challenge to extend their understanding. I also like how it holds students accountable for understanding what we are learning that day. They know they will be meeting with me in a small group, which helps them focus on learning the new concepts as I teach my brief introduction to the lesson.

I usually group my students based on how well they are understanding the current concepts, switching up groups every unit. I start each group by having them work on one of my math task cards for the specific concept we are covering. I currently have a full year set of 6th Grade Math Task Cards and a full year set of 8th Grade Math Task Cards available. I used to have students work on their own individual white board, but now converted my entire front table into a giant dry-erase work space for my students. I would definitely recommend this and have other blog posts with more details! They love using the white board table! For my students who don't get it yet, or are still a little unsure, these math task cards are a good starting point. The great part about meeting in such small groups (4-6 students each) is that if two kids breeze through these three problems and two are stuck, I can easily differentiate my instruction. I can have the two kids that breezed through them start on my enrichment problems (which I'll talk about later), while I focus on helping the two kids who aren't understanding it!

In each class, I usually have a couple of my groups that are in the middle somewhere. Maybe some of the students really get the new lesson and some are still a little bit unsure. In the small group setting, I can quickly see if they need more practice with more basic problems or if they are ready for a challenge. Sometimes, once I get to know my students, I will even give them the choice of starting with the regular task cards or starting right away on the enrichment problems. It's amazing to see how well they can gauge their own understanding of a new concept!

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Math-Enrichment-Full-Year-Bundle-6th-Grade-Math-Task-Cards-1544508
Here is a picture of the enrichment problems I am talking about! I also have a full year set of 6th Grade Math Enrichment Task Cards and a full year set of 8th Grade Math Enrichment Task Cards available. As you can see, there is some printing, cutting, and laminating involved, but once you've done this they are all ready to go! My wife is a first grade teacher and buys the fun colored cardstock...and unfortunately I always get sucked into printing them on that cardstock instead of the more reasonable (and cheaper!) option of using school cardstock! I usually can't resist the fun colors. I also have a unit for free (Decimals and Exponents) if you would like to try them out first!

My last couple of groups are my more advanced students. If I feel like it is a tough concept, or maybe they aren't understanding it the greatest, I might have them start with a few of the regular task card problems. That way I can double check and be sure that they've got it down before starting the enrichment problems. However, usually with these groups, I can start them right away on the enrichment - and boy, do they LOVE these problems! I swear, just by adding the word challenge to something, it adds extra motivation! This center is great, because I can sit back and enjoy watching them try to problem solve on these difficult questions. It is amazing to see the different strategies and thinking that goes on. I let them work together in their small groups if the choose. Quite honestly though, a lot of times they want to try them out on their own.

Hopefully I have shed some more light on how the "Teacher Center" works in my math workshop classroom! I'd love to hear any feedback or questions you have. My next couple of posts will look more closely at my other three centers - the homework center, technology/hands-on center, and the problem solving center. Enjoy!

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