Sunday, March 13, 2016

Math Workshop at a Glance

So many people ask us about our Math Workshop framework, I thought it would be wise to outline the way Angela and I unit plan and use Math Workshop to personalize in math. Like many classrooms, we have a wide range of math learners in our learning space. This year, we have 56 math students in our workshop each day. 47 of those students are working through 4th grade standards, five are accelerated math students from T.E.A.M. Togetherness, and we pick up an additional four accelerated students from other 4th grade classrooms. Historically, our accelerated math students would have gone to a 5th grade classroom to receive instruction during the math block. This year, it was important to us to keep ALL of our learners together in our space knowing we could personalize for ALL of our mathematicians each day.

Unit Planning & Pretest Data:  Our school district is currently using Everyday Math as one of the resources we are encouraged to use within our classroom. For Angela and I, EDM provides us (loosely) with a scope and sequence of units, but we definitely do not teach it lesson by lesson. We follow the 4th grade scope and sequence outlined, but bring in corresponding 5th, and sometimes 6th, grade standards since nine of our mathematicians have already received 4th grade curriculum as 3rd graders. We have been co-planning with a couple of other teachers throughout the year for math. Together we have looked carefully at the standards within each domain and planned our units accordingly. This unit planning can be hairy, but it's actually some of my favorite work as a teacher!

We use a shared Google doc to organize our lessons, activities, formative and summative assessments, along with game ideas, video links, etc. These unit plans have become our go-to resource hub. There are three 4th grade teachers and one 3rd grade teacher co-planning for math, so we needed something to keep us organized across many standards and three grade levels. Do I see room for improvement in the unit plans? Absolutely! Have we made minor tweaks and changes throughout the year? Definitely, but it is what is working for our team right now and it keeps us somewhat organized.

Here is a sample of a UNIT PLAN we created. Within the plan are a variety of links to our Google Slides, Pear Deck slides (if you don't know about Pear Deck, stay tuned for another blog post. We LOVE using Pear Deck to increase student engagement), formative assessments, task cards, etc. across 4th and 5th grade standards. Our plan also includes anchor chart ideas, interactive notebook options, videos and games that coincide with each lesson. We use these videos for reteaching opportunities and the games are incorporated into the May Do time outlined below. We organize all of those videos and games, along with links to our Google Slide lessons, on a Videos/Games Doc that is shared with all of our math students at the beginning of each unit. Once this unit plan is well under way, we can create our pretests for the unit. We administer a 4th and 5th grade pretest for each unit and then plan accordingly.

After our pretests are administered and scored, we use this data to develop an initial long range plan for instruction. This plan may change based on students' daily performances, but we have an initial pathway outlined for students based on their pretest results. To keep ourselves relatively organized, and sane, we use this spreadsheet to organize our data and outline what lessons our students will need for the unit. The spreadsheet lists the 4th and 5th grade learning targets and students are automatically highlighted in green if they have already met proficiency based on their pretest.

From there, Angela and I create a Student Sort that gets printed and put on our desk for the entire unit. We purposely print our Student Sort and fill in student names in pencil because we are constantly adding and/or moving kids around on this doc. Based on the pretest results, students may fall within the 4th, 5th, or 6th grade lesson throughout the unit. We have movement of students daily across the multiple mini lessons within our space. We have had 4th grade students get 100% on the pretest, so they move for the entire upcoming unit. Typically though, we see 4th grades move for a handful of lessons. We also have accelerated students that come down for a 4th grade mini lesson prior to receiving their 5th grade mini lesson because there were holes in their learning. Daily formative assessments are also analyzed daily and results from those assessments may show us that students need to move at a faster or slower pace through the learning targets. Our students are flexibly grouped and added to the Student Sort doc in that way as well.

Mini Lessons: Now we get to the fun part...TEACHING! We run a 75-minute math workshop every day. This Math Workshop at a Glance doc outlines how we organize that time. We begin most workshops with our students coming together to activate their brains. We utilize a variety of math routines to do this. All of these routines involve math discourse, and most last 5-6 minutes. From there we move into our 15-20 minute mini lesson. Once in a while we will begin workshop with a thought provoking problem solving task that can last upwards of 20 minutes depending on the complexity of the problem and where are students go with it. On the days we begin with problem solving, we typically run that workshop across two days.

Everyday we run two, occasionally three mini lessons. Our mini lessons are prepared using Google Slides. To increase student engagement in the lesson, we then upload our slides to Pear Deck which allows us to bring interactivity into the slides. We typically used whiteboards and markers during math workshop mini lessons, but as soon as I was introduced to Pear Deck I was sold. Our mini lessons are focused on the day's learning target, and we use them as a springboard to support problem solving during May Do time. They are interactive and involve a lot of turn and talk opportunities for the students. As mentioned above, the number of mini lessons and the types of mini lessons held each day depends on the needs of our students.

Extended Mini Lesson: Because our mini lessons are relatively quick, we have come to realize that some students need extra practice, more examples, and/or more direct instruction. Every day we offer an "extended" mini lesson immediately following. Students that struggled during the focus lesson can stay for more guided practice. Pear Deck allows us to track our students responses during the mini lesson on our iPad, laptop, or phone...whatever device is handy and in our hands. While the lead teacher is instructing, the co-teacher will jot down students that would benefit from this extended mini lesson. If those children do not stay on their own, we often encourage them to come and receive the extra help they need. Our students are really good about this though. They understand the importance of taking charge of their learning, and they know that sometimes that means advocating for themselves and receiving extra coaching along the way.

Guided Math 

At the end of the mini lesson, we move into our guided math time and our Math Template goes up on the board in both rooms. This template outlines the Must Do work, Bullpen needs, and some of the May Do options. We do not list Seminars on the template because our students have taken over a different whiteboard in our room to advertise for their Seminar time.

Must Do Time: From mini lesson, the students move in to their Must Do time. Must Do time includes practicing the skills taught during the mini lesson and completing the daily exit slip. During this time, the teachers and assistants are rotating throughout the room and supporting students. We will do a lot of on the spot strategy lessons at this time. All of the adults in the room understand that the exit slip should be the student's independent work. If they seem unsure or lost, we pull out whiteboards and do some reteaching immediately. When the students feel secure, they are invited to go back to their exit slip. Exit slips are graded as quickly as possible to provide rapid feedback. We then use those results to drive the following day's instruction and "bullpen" needs.

May Do/Choice Time: As students finish their daily formative assessment, they move in to their May Do time. This time provides students with voice and choice in their math block. It is an opportunity for kids to work on areas of interest. It is centered around a variety of options including games, journaling, fact fluency, problem solving, QR codes, scavenger hunts, ALEKS, Front Row, Dreambox, personal areas of growth, inquiry and/or STEM options. In all honesty, as long as they are focused and working on something math related, we are thrilled! Students may work independently or with peers, and it is flexibly paced.

Bullpen Time: Our daily "Bullpen" is pulled during May Do time. Bullpen is an intensive reteaching based on the previous day's formative assessment. It is often teacher directed, although many students ask to join Bullpen and come on their own. It is another opportunity for students to revisit the work done throughout the current unit, and receive extra teacher support.

Seminars: Several times/week we offer seminars to students. These could be remedial or enrichment opportunities based on student interest or need. They cover a variety of concepts. These topics may coincide directly with our current domain of study. Other times seminars are based on a topic of a child's choosing. Initially our seminars were primarily teacher led, but our students have now taken over seminars for us, allowing us to support individuals or small groups throughout the workshop. We typically host 1-2 seminars/day, and they are conducted after the Bullpen so that ALL students have an opportunity to participate.

Closing: As our workshop time comes to a close, we often review the day's learning target, address any remaining questions, and discuss homework options for that evening. From Math Workshop, our students head to Learning Lab

As you can see, Math Workshop is a whirlwind of learning! Our 75 minutes together goes by so quickly, and it is often my favorite part of the day! If you have questions about what you read or any of the embedded links please do not hesitate to comment or email us. If you are new to Math Workshop, or looking to add something to your existing math block, you are welcome to come and see our students in action! 

~ Kate


  1. If you're going to be this awesome, there is clearly a lot going on behind the curtain. Thanks for sharing!