math workshop part 4

This is my 4th post about Math Workshop, but you can read the first one here, second one here, and third one here.

Tips and ideas for organizing your math workshop

Phew! I feel like that’s a lot, but the funny thing is…I am leaving a lot of things out! I keep reminding myself this is a blog, not a novel. So, let’s begin!

Teacher Instruction:
We begin each Chapter Lesson with a minilesson, but sometimes that minilesson is more of a major lesson (as in 20 minutes). Sometimes students have their textbooks out and are following along with me as I introduce a concept using my handy dandy teacher guide, but when following the chapter example problems isn’t enough (they aren’t getting it), I use “number strings” (an idea I first learned about during the Saturday PD class).  You can buy the Number Talks book that explains more about number strings (and even has sets for you to use before you become skilled at making your own sets) here.  The basic concept of number strings is that they are purposeful sets of problems/equations that build upon one another and increase in difficulty/level of understanding. Once you get used to the idea, you can easily write your own number strings “on the fly” and adjust them while you are instructing based on how your students are responding. For example, if I was teaching double-digit addition and wanted students to learn another addition strategy, I might start off by writing 23+56 on the whiteboard.  If my students can solve this equation, the next one might be 23+58. After listening to students explain their thinking (the importance of Math Talk cannot be stressed enough), you would know who was able to use which strategy and whether or not they are using an efficient strategy.  Are they noticing the pattern (2 more) from the equation we just did? Is anyone able to use the strategy “share some to make it friendly (take 2 from 23, making the equation 22+60)?” I would then decide if I should do a few more similar problems that students could try the concept I was trying to teach.   I have anchor charts for each strategy that I keep up all year for students to refer to.  I need to make individual sized ones (or just print these photos) for their binders, making a mental note to do that now. Here’s one we are focusing on now.

 On a little side note, Math in Focus comes with these fantastic, foam base 10 pieces, but the ones pieces don’t stay put (even with magnets), so I needed something that I wouldn’t be fumbling around with that was big enough to model what I was teaching.

Guided Practice:
The basic idea behind guided practice is that students are working through the problems with you. I like my students to use spiral notebooks to work out the equations in the textbook. The best way I have found to manage this is to have students share a textbook between them.  If I can’t do that, I have showed them how to put their notebook on one
side of the textbook so they can fit everything on their desk. Life skills, check.

 I spend a lot of time at the beginning of the year making sure they write the title/date, write on the lines in a smaller size than most are used to, use the pink lines to guide starting and stopping points on the left and right, number their problems, box their answers…all that management stuff that I *hope* those intermediate teachers will appreciate later on. Working through a problem at a time, I slowly let go and check to see if students are able to do the problems with a partner or independently yet. This is where your teacher judgement comes in handy! Not getting it? More guided practice. Got it? Move to independent practice time.

Independent Practice:
There are 2 methods I use for Independent Practice.  Before MIF, I would make up my own “sets” (A, B, and C) of equations for students at varying levels of ability. Students work independently to solve these problems and check their work with a partner when they are finished. Now, I can still use my own equations, but I often use the ones straight from the text or workbook. If partners get different answers, they are supposed to solve the equation together or prove why they think their answer is correct until they can agree on the answer.  This is where having a good foundation of Math Talk is critical.  Click below to download the FREEBIE! Your students can have it out when they are checking each other’s work, while playing a math game, or you can use it as a poster for whole group time (I made it in 2 different skin tones, as well as black and white).

I have them initial the top of the page of their partner’s journal/workbook to show they have checked it with a peer.

 When they are finished, they work independently again to write a word problem using one of the equations they just solved (turning the “naked numbers” into problems with a context). I model this a lot and show students why I choose the names Bob and Sam (because they are easy to write).  In the beginning of the year, I guide them toward using balls or toys (again, because they are easy to write and kids can think of those things in larger quantities) in their word problems. When they have written a word problem, I have them check their answers with a calculator. This also requires some preteaching about how to use a calculator, and then how to use a calculator appropriately.

While Independent Practice is happening, I am able to meet with a small group (think: Guided Reading).  Most of the time, I can figure out who I will need to meet with during the Guided Practice time. The only real time I can predetermine who I am meeting with is right after a test. But, because MIF has pre/post test for chapters and I want to meet with students prior to those and more frequently, I make a mental list when checking for understanding during Guided Practice.

I’ve also done centers/math game rotations in the past, and I loved this format of Guided Math. I gave each student an accountability sheet with the week’s centers, and they checked off which ones they completed after each day. Then, at the end of the week, they would write a small reflection. This would give them a chance to voice any concerns or problems I didn’t notice while I was working with my groups.

I used a pocket chart and just rotated students through it.

Basically, any skill we were working on, I turned it into a center. I printed mine and glued them onto black cardstock, and laminated them for durability.


And, on a different note….here is a photo dump of some old anchor charts (I’ll be making new ones this year and NOT laminating them) in case you’re anchor chart hunting:

So, that pretty much sums up my math block! For now anyway…

Some background knowledge about this post….My district currently uses HMH Math in Focus (basically
the American version of Singapore Math). We are in our second year of
implementation.  In the last 5 years, I have gone through a sort of
whirlwind of programs. My first year, I used Trailblazers, but I had
absolutely no training. Halfway through the year, I got training to use a
new program from the University of Alaska Fairbanks that incorporated
some cultural aspects using a curriculum called Math in the Cultural
Context. Then, in my second year, our school bought Investigations. I
had no training, but a box of new curriculum. Finally, my district
worked out a professional development opportunity for teachers on
Saturdays (I think it was twice a month?). There was no program to go
with the training, but we focused on the “elements of balanced math.” 
That PD turned into training for 2/3 teachers the following year, but
fell apart by the end of the year when the district went with adopting a
curriculum (Math in Focus). Five very different ways of instructing
math in the first 5 years of teaching. Obviously, I’m leaving out a
bunch of politics and emotions, but you can imagine the feelings and
frustrations and I’m sure many of you have very similar experiences.
Education changes frequently, but make the best with what we are given!

Craving more blog posts about math? Click below!

1 Comment

  1. October 14, 2013 / 3:41 pm

    What a great post! If you wanted to add it to my MaTh activity Thursday linky party sometime that would be great! I love all your posters!
    Kids Math Teacher

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