Saturday, August 31, 2013

Math Workshop with Groups

For the past five years I have been using a math workshop model in my classroom.  My math workshop consists of four main parts:
*Meet with the teacher
*On Your Own
*With a Partner

I will go further in depth with each of these components below.  My district is in our second year of CCSS adoption and the math workshop lends well to teaching the curriculum.

Pre-Assessment and/or Math Message
Each morning my students have a pre-assessment and/or math message as part of their morning work.  They are expected to complete these to the best of their ability knowing that I will use the results to form groups for math that day. 

My math mini-lesson is just  The varied abilities of my students in the room usually has a correlations to the length of my mini-lesson.  I try to keep it around 15 minutes, but under 20 minutes for sure. The years that I have a wide range of ability levels in my classroom I try to keep the mini-lesson short and sweet, knowing that I can differentiate the instruction in my small groups.  This helps ensure that students are sitting their lost in my instruction or bored to tears.  Keeping the mini-lesson short allows me to have more time to spend with my groups.

Small Groups
I typically meet with three small groups every day during math. These groups are truly flexible and change from day to day based on the pre-assessment (taken in the morning). I have had gifted children in the same group as a student who is staffed for math services when they both have been lacking a particular skill.  That being said, there seems to be a few kids that are pretty consistently in one group or another. When I am determining groups, I look at their pre-assessments to see what piece they are missing and then I do a quick check when we meet in group to see what they picked up during the mini-lesson.

The typical layout/format of my groups is:
Group 1: Students who are missing the skill/need manipulatives/concrete examples- This is the group that I try to keep the smallest if possible. I try to meet with them first after the mini-lesson to continue their conversations around the focus of the mini-lesson.  The students typically just stay up at carpet with me and we dive right into small group to gain a better understanding of the math skill or concept.

Group 2: Students who need practice applying the skill/have a general understanding after mini-lesson- This is typically my second group I meet with.  They have had the opportunity to participate in the mini-lesson and then they work on spiraling skills independently before coming to group.  By the time this group meets with me, they typically have a better understanding than they did on the pre-assessment and now have the opportunity to practice and apply the concept in on-grade level activities.

Group 3: Students who had the skill before the mini-lesson and/or attain new concepts quickly- By the time this group has met with me, they have had an opportunity to work with their partner on applying the day's concept.  We usually begin group by going over any misconceptions or questions they have about the skill.  I usually have an extension or more complex activity then for the students in this group to apply.

On My Own
Each group of students usually has a block of independent work during the math block.  At this time they are working on skills that spiral, assignments that relate to the Common Core Standards or applying a new skill independently. I often differentiate independent work and have my higher students do more work on their own.

Work With a Partner
We go over expectations and the reason behind partner work a lot at the beginning of the year to help them understand that it doesn't mean "Divide and Conquer" to get done faster.  I want there to be math conversations and questioning happening while the students are working together. Their partners change daily and my rule is "I never want to know how you feel about your partner for the day, regardless if you are excited or not excited." to help maintain a respectful environment

Our math curriculum has a lot of games that came with it as part of the program and over the years I have gathered quite a few more games.  Sometimes I tell students what math game they will be playing and sometimes I let them choose.  I have drawers of games that are differentiated and color-coded.  When students have a choice of game, sometimes I list a few or sometimes I tell them which drawer they can choose a game from.

Sharing and/or Exit Slip:
At the end of the math block, I often have students fill out an exit slip which can be as simple as a sticky note response to a question. If we have time, we will gather at carpet and share out any new learnings we have had since the mini-lesson (these could be things that came up in their partnership or something that was mentioned in group).  Sometimes I ask students to share again something they said to me and sometimes it is more student driven.

In my TeachersPayTeachers store I have a few examples of math boards that help organize the students tasks. I will try to put some pictures up from my classroom sometime soon too!

Blue Chevron:
Multi-Colored Chevron:

What can we do to help ensure that our students receive quality education, a rigorous curriculum, and keep them engaged in school?  How do we make sure we foster creativity and problem solving while incorporating CCSS?  The math workshop allows students to stay focused on skills and attain new ones quickly, but how does a teacher make sure her students are interested in learning too?

Why I Am Here

I have thought about blogging about my classroom before, but somehow life always gets in the way and it hasn't become anything beyond a thought.  It seems that more and more teachers are blogging and sharing ideas.  I find that there are a lot of passionate teachers who want to expose others to their great teaching strategies and I want to start giving back after getting so much from them.

This is my tenth year of teaching and have always taught at the upper elementary level and loved it.  A new challenge for me this year will be working with students K-5 in math and reading  I thrive on being challenged and wanted to be challenged professionally is happening.  This year is great, but I have been brought back to how I often felt as a first year teacher...spending weekends at school and staying there long after the last student has left.  I think part of it is because I am a perfectionist and the other part is I know where I was as a teacher last year, so I am striving to be similar.  It is hard for me to accept that I have lots to learn in my new position, but I already know that the year will be a great one. 

I believe...
* students should be talked to, not talked at
* the relationship and trust you build with your students can be just as important as what you teach them
* every student who walks into my classroom should grow academically and in terms of character while they are in my classroom
* teachers have the greatest profession in the world