The start of a new school year is a great time to change things up in the classroom. But you don’t want to change things just to change them. Rather, you want to make changes that will contribute to effective learning and help keep students engaged. Not only does it make school more fun, but it also cuts down on behavior problems. One great change to help you meet these goals, if you aren’t doing it already, is adding math workshop.
You are probably familiar with reading workshop and writing workshop. After a quick whole group lesson students spend the majority of time working independently on a specific task while the teacher meets with small groups of students.
But did you know that the workshop method also works for teaching math? In fact, math workshop is my favorite way to teach math. It helps keep students engaged in learning and makes it easy to differentiate lessons. It also makes it easy for teachers to see what their kids are learning each day.
What is Math Workshop?
Math workshop is a simple way to structure your math instruction. There are four parts to math workshop: a mini-lesson, student math centers, small teacher-led groups, and sharing time. You will need at least an hour to teach math with the workshop model; and, 90 minutes is even better.
Math workshop starts off with a whole group mini lesson. You can use whatever curriculum your school uses. This is where you will be introducing new vocabulary and concepts and modeling how to use strategies and/or solve problems. The mini lesson should be about 20-30 minutes.
Then you move into small groups and centers. During this time the teacher meets with a small group of students and the rest of the class rotates through centers where they work independently to practice new math skills. You will want to have about 40-60 minutes for this part of the workshop.
Finally, math workshop concludes with a quick time to share. You really only need a minute or two to share in math. If you are short on time, try a partner share: “Give your partner an example of a quadrilateral.” You can also use exit tickets, a group share on whiteboards, or use math problems to dismiss kids. This ensures that every child has a chance to participate and summarize what they learned.
Don’t worry if all that sounds like a lot. Over the next few weeks, we will go into more detail about the different components of math workshop.
Why Should I Try Math Workshop?
Math workshop has many advantages.
1. Differentiation is easier with the workshop model.
Meeting in small groups makes it possible to give students much more personalized attention. You can more easily see how much they understand and identify misconceptions. In a small group, it is also possible to see how everyone is using manipulatives and to offer individual assistance and feedback.
When you group students by ability, you can make sure you meet the needs of each group. Not every student in your class is at the same level of math understanding. But guided math groups ensure that both advanced and struggling students can succeed and grow.
2. Student engagement increases.
I vividly remember sitting in math class in fourth grade and completing page after page after page of long division. Some days we had dozens of problems to solve. Just thinking about it makes my head hurt. There is nothing more boring than being stuck at your desk doing never-ending math worksheets.
With the workshop model, students can get up out of their seats and move around. During centers, they work on hands-on activities, like sorting, matching, and playing math games. Movement is good for their bodies and their brains. And students are having fun, which makes them work harder. But the math activities are all rigorous and designed to help them meet the standards.
3. Math workshop makes ongoing assessment easy.
When you meet with small groups you can easily identify strengths and struggles on a daily basis. It’s easy to keep track of what strategies students have mastered and which ones continue to cause confusion.
This informal ongoing assessment makes it much easier to identify mistakes early and ensure you are teaching exactly what students need on any given day. It also helps guide lesson pacing. If you see that everyone in the class has mastered rounding (not likely), you can speed up your instruction. There’s no use using your valuable instructional time to teach something your students already know.
Third Grade Math Units
I love that math workshop works with any curriculum. Since math workshop is a method of instruction, you can deliver any content using the workshop model.
But . . . if you are a third grade teacher looking for fun, engaging lessons that are easy to prep and deliver and that include everything you need to teach math, I have a surprise for you!
My team and I have been hard at work over the summer putting together a third grade math curriculum. And Units 1 and 2 are available now! Unit 1 is a one week Back to School unit that reviews essential second grade skills like addition, subtraction, fact families, time, place value, and more. And Unit 2 kicks off instruction on the third grade standards with place value.
The Third Grade Back to School Unit will help you get started with math workshop. There is an “At a Glance” lesson schedule, 5 days of PowerPoint mini lessons, and engaging student activities.
Beginning with Unit 2, we include everything you need to teach math. Each unit contains a pre-assessment, an “At a Glance” lesson planner, vocabulary cards, daily lesson plans, a PowerPoint mini lesson for each day, student problem sets and homework, guided math activities to be used during small group time, and exit tickets for every lesson. We’ve also included anchor charts and helpful tools like hundreds charts, skip counting charts, and number lines to help make teaching easier.
Each unit also comes with a board game and task cards! And, of course, there is an assessment with questions modeled on various state standardized tests. Each assessment also comes with a rubric that makes it is easy to see which skills students have mastered.
We designed these units to create a comprehensive math curriculum. They truly have everything you need to teach math. And the variety of activities in these math units are perfect for math workshop. You’ve got a ready to go mini-lesson, lessons for small group instruction, a variety of activities that you can use for independent work and centers, and exit tickets for share time.
But if you’re looking to make your life even easier, and want to add additional math centers to your routine, you can find our ready to use math centers in my store.
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Free Starting Math Centers Guide
And, if you’d like a little help getting started with math workshop, check out our free Starting Math Centers guide. Many teachers tell me that math centers are the scariest parts of math workshop. So we’ve made it easy for you. This guide includes EVERYTHING you need to get math centers up and running.
This free resource includes:
- 8 days of detailed math center lesson plans for the start of the year
- 2 days of simple activities for you to use at your teacher table
- 2 different math rotation group schedules
- Teacher and student anchor charts to use on day 1 of math workshop
If you want this handy guide to help get math workshop going in your classroom, click the button below to download a copy of Starting Math Centers.
Have a Not So Wimpy day,