Friday, August 9, 2013

Math Workshop

I like to think I run my math block a little differently than most. I love working in small groups, but I also value whole group discussion and instruction. It also is different, partially due to my school's schedule. I have about an hour each afternoon to teach math to my homeroom, which is not much time. This is because we have a grade-wide intervention block for a half an hour per day. In this block, we group our grade level based on ability, so I have a "small" group of students [6 to 10ish] from different classes.

In this post, I'll be talking about the format in regular type, with my commentary and reasoning in italics. Here we go!

Let me first set the stage. Math is [roughly] 1:30-2:30. At 1:30, my students come back in from recess. In my classroom, I typically have 3 adults: myself, my team teacher, and a paraprofessional [from 1:30-2]. This coming year, I'm not sure if I'll get that para during this time [waaah], but I will have a student teacher for the first half of the year. My class is comprised of 21ish students, with several special education students. My school is Title 1, and a high majority are provided free and reduced lunch. Last year, our group, as a whole, was below grade level, both in academics and maturity. Our "high" achieving groups were basically on grade level.
On Mondays, we do a block of whole group. During this time, we introduce new concepts, put entries into our math journals, and take a pre-assessment of some kind. I also preview centers for the week if there are any changes, such as a new game at the carpet or a new assignment on the computer. During this whole group session, we do a lot of partner work, along with a lot of personal white board activities. My team teacher circulates during this time, checking in on our special education students, as well as our lower leveled math students. I may purchase CreateTeachShare's interactive notebook to supplement the foldables and other activities that I already do. I use this time to hook my students into a new concept with enthusiasm and engaging activities!

Tuesdays through Thursdays are split into two sections: small group and whole group. When the students come back in from recess at 1:30, they will see this schedule projected onto the smart board.

Instead of making a bulletin board for groups, I project the schedule on the smart board so it is visible. FYI, I edited over top of my name & my team teacher's name for privacy. My team teacher is Teacher #1 and I am Teacher #2 in the schedule below. As you can see, my math groups are based on angry birds. GASP. I hope I'm allowed to at least speak of these birds on my blog. But I can not share this resource due to copyright. =(

I will go into greater detail about each center listed above in my next post, but here's a quick note on how I came up with the schedule. The red and yellow groups see the special education teacher everyday for intensive content instruction. They get to visit all of the other centers as well, so they do not miss out! On Thursday, these two groups complete their seat work with the special education teacher for support. These are standards based assignments that are graded, so I want to ensure that their needs are being met and accommodations are being provided. The green and blue groups meet with me once for content instruction. On Thursday, they complete their seat work with me so that I can review the concept with them before they begin their assignment. The white and black groups also see me once a week for content instruction, but they complete their seat work independently. Again, more on this in my next post! =)

Students are grouped based on data I've collected previously. At the beginning of the year, it is based on STAR data, but once we get into different units, groups are based on pre-assessments that are completed on Mondays. Students are aware that they may not be in the same group week to week, and that's okay. Sometimes, students are even switched in the middle of the week. We foster an environment where no one really thinks twice if this happens! And to be honest, the students are so engaged in what they are doing they don't even notice.

Students know what group they are in by looking at a display that is on our cabinets. I don't have a picture right now [I'll be in my classroom next week & I'll add a picture then!], but I'll explain. There is a large picture of the angry bird, and underneath, there is velcro. I have each student's name typed with velcro as well, making it easy to switch week to week! Definitely proud of that idea, haha!

Each session is 15-20 minutes long. My team teacher and I are pretty flexible depending on what we're doing. I simply do a Class/Yes when it is time to transition and another when it is time to finish up. It takes practice, but once they get it down, they are ready to go in less than a minute. When both sessions are complete at around 2:05-2:10, we come back together for a whole group check in.

Why do I do small group first, then whole group? There's a few reasons. First, I like that my lower achieving students are able to get small group instruction before being thrown into a whole group lesson. This builds their confidence and their ability to make connections to the content. Also, last year I had a paraprofessional in my room from 1:30-2, and it made the most sense to do small group instruction with an extra body in the room.

The whole group check in will go until 2:30ish. During this time, we may add to our notebooks, go over examples, or complete other activities. It really depends on what unit we are working through!

On Fridays, we end the week with another whole group session. I use this session to wrap up what we've been learning. Sometimes, we complete my written assessments [click to see them on TPT] that integrate academic vocabulary. We may go over seat work from the day before. Again, it depends! We typically do not begin new concepts on Fridays, but I may facilitate an activity that lends itself to a connection to the next lesson. Kind of a cliffhanger!


I hope that gives those who were wondering a glimpse into my math workshop! Again, I'm not sure that I run it like most people, or even if it is considered a "workshop," technically. On Sunday, I'm planning a post that describes what happens in each of the centers included on my schedule, discusses how to be flexible using this model, and showcases some other blogger products that I plan on using in workshop!

Please leave a comment if you have any questions, and I'll email you back [make sure you're not a no-reply commenter!] and/or address it in my next post. =)


  1. Thanks so much for sharing this. I like the idea of having your low group meet with you before the whole them a chance to have a head start on the concept. Something for me to consider! Thanks!

  2. I can't believe you have so many adults in your room for math. That is awesome! I hope that it continues next year, because it seems like you have figured things out. Thanks for sharing the ends and outs of your schedule.

    The Teaching Thief