Math workshop can be set up in a lot of ways, depending on what works for that teacher and their students, so let me start by telling you about what I have been doing in my classroom. This year, because I have smaller class sizes of around 22 students, each of my classes are divided into four groups of 5 to 6 students. My first year I had larger class sizes, so I had them rotate through five centers. In general, I create groups based on the level of the students. I have thought about mixing the groups up, but really like how I am able to differentiate instruction when the groups are based on how well the students are understanding the material. The four centers include a center at the front table with me, an assignment center, a technology/hands-on center, and a problem solving/review center. I teach three classes that are 90 minutes each, so after accounting for 10 minutes of checking homework, a 10 minute daily check of what we did the previous day, a very brief introduction to the lesson, and a wrap-up at the end of class, I have about 12-15 minutes for each center. A while back, I wrote a post about how math workshop could work in different class lengths and sizes. You can check that out here! Above is a chart I made to keep track of groups and centers. I also have a document posted that shows what color group each student is in. So, you might be asking yourself, what do each of these centers include?
|Enrichment task cards for kids who show they've got it!|
Math Task Cards - 6th Grade Math
Math Enrichment Task Cards - 6th Grade Math
Math Task Cards - 8th Grade Math
Math Enrichment Task Cards - 8th Grade Math
Assignment Center: I always have students head to this center directly after they have met with me at the teacher center. This is their chance to practice what we have just learned at the previous center. We use a textbook series for our math curriculum, so my assignments are usually 10-15 problems from the lesson we covered that day. The issue that arises with this center is that you will have one group that needs to start their day at homework, without having gone to the teacher center. I have my advanced group always start here, since they can usually do the homework with little introduction. Then by the time they get to my center, they have practiced on the homework and are ready for the enrichment problems!
Tech/Hands-on Center: This center is by far the most loosely defined (and sometimes the hardest to plan for!). Our school IMC has iPads available to check out, so usually on Thursdays and Fridays I have students play math apps (from a list I have pre-selected!) on six of the iPads that I have checked out. On days without the iPads it varies greatly. A lot of times, at this center, I will incorporate math games that either review a past concept or relate to what we have recently learned. This free Connect Four: Multiplying Decimals game is an example of a game I created for use at this center. Other times I will create a more hands-on activity for them to complete. For example, when multiplying fractions, I had students use fraction dice and cards to create their own problems. They wrote their work on the answer sheet (FREE!) found in my TpT store at this link:
Fraction Multiplication Answer Sheet
|I love these Problems of the Month from Inside Mathematics!|
Some common questions arise about starting math workshop, so I will try my best to answer a few. One of the most common is how and if students stay on task at all of the different centers. This was my biggest concern going into math workshop. After using math workshop for about a year now, I've found that if anything it has been easier for kids to stay on task. By moving around and changing activities every 10-15 minutes, it helps them get a quick movement break and refocus on a new activity. Sure, there will always be behavior issues at times, but these behavior issues probably would have occurred if students were being asked to sit through a "normal" class and worktime. Setting up routines at the beginning is very important and I have already done a better job this year compared to past years. I'm sure, like everything in teaching, I will find a way to make it that much better next year. I also use a behavior system where the class starts with four letters P-U-M-A. If I need to take away all four letters for not following expectations, then we lose math workshop for the following day. This is pretty good motivation for them, especially when we are planning to use iPads the next day!
Another question that comes up is the amount of preparation. To be honest, it is quite a bit of preparation up front. Having a bank of math games and some form of technology for the technology/hands-on center has been important for me. I do spend a lot of outside the classroom time getting things ready and creating activities, but it hasn't been completely overwhelming. I have been using math workshop for a few years now and I am already starting to notice less preparation because of materials I have ready to go! If you are just starting and want to stock up on a bunch of resources all at once, I recently put all of my workshop materials into a giant Full Store Bundle. I put this at a HUGE discount when compared to purchasing everything individually!
If you plan to start a math workshop structure in your class, my advice would be to find what works for you! I know some teachers who don't have a schedule that allows every group to go to every center each day, so they have them go to one or two centers per day. As far as I am concerned there isn't one right way to use math workshop. I would love to hear any ideas or answer any questions that you have in the comments section below!