Math Mondays: Math Workshop in Action

Last week, I talked about why I have changed my math classroom to that of a math workshop, inspired by the ELA concept of writer's workshop.  This week focuses on what math workshop looks like.  

In my classroom math workshop has three main components: 
  1. Whole class and small group project mini lessons,
  2. Differentiated stations, and
  3. Reflection.

Whole class/small group projects.  
During this part of workshop students are collaborating, developing ideas, and applying conceits.  Usually students are engaged in a multi step math project or simulation but it could also be time for problem solving challenged or math/art projects.  The key for this time is to have activities that are not solely dependent on students' individual math skllls. The projects are built to naturally differentiate so that students with more advanced skills or motivation can push the process to the next level. For example, when we did the not my lemonade stand, some students calculated the cost and profit per item of everything they had in their business while others did the basic bulk number calculations.

This is also a time when we intersperse student-designed project work.  Students create projects around the real world applications of math concepts they are learning. Because students are at different stages in math, these projects are widely varied.  Students present as part of family math night which includes a science fair style math project presentation and math activities for families to play with.  (More on specific projects next week.)

Practice, Review And Assessment: The second component is introduce, practice, review and assess specific skills and concepts.  Students are working largely individually at stations or at their desk on specific concepts. Students might be working with a manipulative, engaged in a scavenger hunt, writing math problems, watching a math video, or being assessed. This requires serious organization and a wealth of curriculum on a variety of topics.  Even Algebra students may need a fraction refresher. And you are bound to have students who move through the curriculum so quickly that they are ready for the next level in January. I have built an enormous library of practice, review, and assessment resources.  My library of kinesthetic and inquiry based activities for different math concepts is growing, but not quite where it needs to be.  And sometimes students simply have to read a book, grab some math tutoring one on one or in small groups, or watch a video. I've come to the realization that that is okay, too. Students benefit from learning in a variety of formats. 
I'll talk more about how I organize my class to track students and more importantly for students to track themselves in the next post. 

Reflection: Part three of math workshop is reflection.  Reflection takes a variety of formats.  Sometimes, we get together in small groups and share what we have been up to, what was cool, what was challenging and how we met those challenges. Sometimes reflection is a journal entry about the math concept they worked on or other things going on in math or setting goals.  And sometimes, reflection is a coming together with something fun with a math game or dance party. The point is for students to think about the learning they have been doing before I lose them to their next class. 

Timing: every class is different, but I'll speak briefly here about timing. Currently, I teach long block periods so it is easy for me to put all three components into class each time we meet, but in a 45-50 minute period that can be challenging.  The transitions alone can take up so much time. When working in shorter periods, I switch component 1 and component 2. In other words, we had a project day and differentiated day every other day.  With this kind of schedule, I try to keep reflection at the end of every period even if it is just a 2 minute - tweet what you learned entry in their notebook.  

Stay tuned for next week, when I will discuss specific ideas for projects.  In week 4, I will discuss the logistics.

Math Mondays is a weekly post sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching math.  If you have questions or think there is something I should share, you can leave me a message on Facebook or at the store in the question and answer section.



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