Upgrading My Math Workshop

Hello Everyone!  Our weather in Columbus has been all over the place.  One day, I'm enjoying a long run outside, and it seems like the next we are on a delay due to snow.  Go figure.  I hope you have been able to have a few nice days to get outside this winter.

One of my big goals this year is to make some changes to my math workshop.  Originally, I wasn't sure exactly what those changes would be, but I knew things just weren't flowing the way I'd like.  I had a talk with my instructional coach.  She suggested video taping one of my lessons, so I could come up with some specific goals.  Although I was very nervous about being taped, I loved the idea.  Viewing the tape proved to be extremely helpful in pinpointing some specific areas I would like to change.  Today I'd like to share a couple of ways I improved my math workshop this year.

This post shares three ways I improved my math workshop.

So far, I have made three big changes that have enabled me to meet with more students and get a better handle on their needs.  Please understand that my math workshop is still a work in progress.  However, I am excited about fine tuning these changes and coming up with additional ideas for further improvement.

The first thing I did was one of the simplest to create, but probably the hardest for me to reinforce.  During math workshop, I found myself frequently interrupted while I was trying to confer or conduct small groups.  Sometimes it was due to some confusion with the assignment, and sometimes it was a procedural question.  This made it challenging to conduct conferences and small groups as effectively as I would like.  Students seem to follow the "Ask Three Before Me" rule very well in reading and writing, but they have more trouble with it in math.  I realize that I was largely to blame, as I typically answered these quick questions.  After watching myself do this consistently, I knew I needed a more formal procedure to reduce interrupting.  After talking to my instructional coach about the issue, I came up with this sign.

Having students write their questions can help them become more proactive in finding their own solutions (free sign).
(You can download this sign here.)

I have this sign posted on my dry erase board in the back of the room.  It took a while to get in the habit of using it (for both me and the students).  However, I have found that the task of having to write down the question has really helped students become more proactive in seeking out the answers to their questions.

Another area I wanted to improve was tracking the choices students were making after they finished an assignment.  I wanted to make sure students were making appropriate choices based on their needs.  I also wanted to do this without collecting any forms every day/week.

We use Investigations for math.  The workshop is set up with 2-3 choices for students.  I also have students who need to practice their facts, review some previously taught concepts, or need more of a challenge.  Because of this, some days there are additional choices during workshop time.  

In order to see at a glance who was finished with the assigned work and what choices they were making, I created a tracking slide using SMART Notebook.  After students complete the assignment, they move their name under their choice activity.  This allows me to see who is finished, and who is making good choices about activities based on their own goals.

I add a folder, clipboard, or basket icon so everyone will have a visual reminder of what to do with their paper when they are finished.  We may meet as a group to discuss, meet with a different partner to discuss, turn in the assignment, or keep in our folder as a reference or comparison for another day.  

***You can read this post to learn more about the system I use for partners in math. 

Last year, I started a challenge group for math.  I loved meeting with these students to take the concepts we were learning a bit deeper.  Time prevented me from meeting with them as often as I would like, but I felt it was effective nonetheless.  From time to time, I will change numbers or change assignments for the challenge group (flexible for all students depending on the skill).   This year, I wanted to add additional challenges during workshop time, so I put together a challenge bin.  

Create a challenge bin to help meet the needs of all of your students.

There is quite a bit to share here.  Because I don't want this post to go too long, I will share items from my challenge bin (which will include multiple freebies) in next week's post.

These changes have definitely helped my math workshop run more smoothly.  I know I am reaching more students, and students are doing a better job helping each other.  I am thinking about having another lesson taped to see improvements and set new goals.  There are always things that are going to need to be tweaked.  

I would love to hear some of your favorite parts of math workshop.  Please feel free to share what is going well for you.  

This post shares three ways I improved my math workshop.

Thank you, and have a great week!


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