Saturday, April 12, 2014

Math Workshop Organization

How are you organizing math workshop in your classroom?  I have had many deep thinking sessions on how to best organize my classroom for math workshop.  After many trials and errors, I feel like I finally have a good handle on what teachers and students need during this valuable workshop time.

Part One - Sturdy, labeled bins

The Details:
Little mathematicians need to know where they can gain access to the needed tools for success! Each group of students for my math workshop has two labeled bins for general items on the top shelf (things like foam dice, laminated open number lines, crayons, glue sticks, counters, dry erase markers), and then labeled bins for speciality items that are used depending on what the focus is for the lesson. There is no more arguing over who gets which materials...everything is labeled! This allows for students to get to work right away and to keep things tidy.

The large numbered bins on the upper right hand shelf are for the different partner options that are available during our math workshop. Students know to come to one of these bins when they are finished with the required work for that day and the independent math portion of workshop has not started.

Where to buy:
Before you buy anything, do yourself a favor and look through your cabinets...think about repurposing!  I have collected many of these clear plastic shoe boxes throughout my years of teaching and repurposed them for math workshop! For others I waited around until there were deals on Amazon, like the very durable Sterilite deep clip boxes. I also have repurposed picnic utensil baskets from the Dollar store to hold every day items that students might need.

The Dollar Store will become your best friend once you make the leap to math workshop!

**Inside each bin I have placed materials for three separate partnerships. This will vary depending on how many students are in your class.**

I have the following labels and materials for the specialty bins:

Base Ten Supplies Bins

Unifix Cubes
I decided to color-code the unifix cubes just to make it a little easier for clean up. Depending on the age group of your students, you might want to consider using two different colors so that it is easier to have rich discussions about addition and subtraction within ten.

Centimeter Cubes
I debated placing the centimeter cubes in the measurement bin instead, but kept them here with the base ten supplies because the majority of the lessons for base ten that go with our curriculum call for the use of these pieces.

Place Value Strips
The place value strips came with the curriculum mandated by our district. They are especially helpful with thinking about and working with the hundreds grid.

Other possible items for The Base Ten Supply Bins: two-sided counters, hundreds grids, "flats" for Base Ten (I often use geoboards to substitute for flats because they are easier to pick up from the floor.)

Fraction and Money Supplies Bins

Fraction Dice
These make for a fun alternative to foam dice when dealing with fractions. Roll a random fraction to think about equivalency, building, or drawing.  Another option is to roll two together to involve the operations with fractions!

Measuring Cups and Spoons
Bring cooking into the classroom! Have students analyze, talk about, and create with these measurement tools. I also bring these out when dealing with measurement and data activities. Everything connects!  I found these beauties at the Dollar Tree!  What a find!

Circle Fraction Pieces
These are crucial when introducing students to the idea of comparing fractions and can work as a great visual when talking about adding unit fractions to make a whole.

Money Kits
Encourage correct use and talk around money with money kits. These were super simple to put together and are just inside a zip-top plastic bag. I do have a list of the contents taped to the bag for accountability. I have included plenty of play (but real life-like) dimes, quarters, nickels, pennies. I also have mini-paper versions of paper bills. Students love!

Measurement and Data Supplies Bins

Students often have trouble first understanding that time is a unit of measure. Make sure to place some hand held analog clocks in this bin for elapsed time and telling time work.

These are simply printed on card stock and then laminated. that way students can use dry-erase markers on them for practice and formative assessments. Make sure to get the kind that are both Celsius and Fahrenheit. 

I personally do not use these very much in the classroom...I always tell students that the calculator is their brain! But there are some neat pattern activities that can use the calculator. It is important for students to see the calculator as another tool to help them check the answer; it is not a crutch or an alternative for thinking.

Rulers and Measuring Tape
These are the essential items for measurement...make sure to have both inches and centimeters available for student use.

 Part Two - Clear labels for math workshop  

I have two large word wall displays in my room for math workshop. The first is specifically to house what students will do during each part of the workshop. I made some really cute identification cards to separate the different parts of my workshop. I also have numbers for the options so students can easily match everything in the room. I made simple cards with Group numbers on them to identify which group I will meet with during the independent portion of the workshop. Again, I can't stress enough how important it is to label everything for clarity! 

Click on the pictures below for link to one of my TeachersPayTeachers products that includes these headers!

The second chart is specifically for the "Math Talk" vocabulary words that will be emphasized during the week. Each row is numbered so that it is easier for students to find the word(s) we are talking about.  I simply cut yellow construction paper into strips so that I could write and draw larger versions of vocabulary words. This makes it easy to see no matter where you are in the room.

Part Three - Clearly Visible groups and  partnerships

Before the beginning of each unit, I sit down and think about partnerships. Several factors come into consideration including:

1. How well a student performed on the pre-test 

2. Who a student has worked well with for partnerships in the past

3. Overall student strengths with the Number and Operations Common Core Standards 
      (We are tracking this progress throughout the school year with this freebie!)

4. A student's work ethic

5. A student's development and understanding of the eight math practices

I know that in some teacher versions of math workshop, students are placed in somewhat homogeneous groups based solely on a pre-test, but also valuing the factors mentioned above has made for very interesting and productive groups in my classroom.

I also feel like every student can contribute to another's learning, and thus my groups often end up being heterogeneous.  

Group Posters

Having the partnerships and groups clearly visible in the room eliminates confusion for students and allows for easier and faster transitions. Subs will also thank you for having these lists so easily accessible! My lists are hanging right next to the Math Workshop board.  

I also have a numbered student roster next to the list of partnerships so there is no confusion on this. I have students put their number on everything so that their papers are easily filed and returned.

Since each partnership also belongs to a larger group of students, I have pre-determined teams for whole class reviews and for re-grouping when one or two students are out of the classroom. This also allows for a group of 4-6 students to meet at one designated spot in the room and share a group bin. I still meet with at least one group as a whole each day and find that I can still differentiate while meeting with each group of 4-6 students.

    Part Four - Designated meeting space

Students always gathered close to a screen for the math talk and mini-lesson portions of each day's workshop, but now that I have a Smart projector (yay!) my student meeting space is enormous!  

Generally, teachers who teach math workshop should have a place in their classrooms where students gather at the beginning and end of each math workshop session.  While on the carpet, I have students sit knee to knee, elbow to elbow, with their math partner(s). They are also to sit in the same area as their math groups.  The meeting area should be a comfortable place, but also a place where students know there is a mini-lesson to focus on daily.

I made (really my mom and dad...thank you!) some of those adorable crate cushions that were trending on Pinterest a summer or two ago for stadium seating for mini-lessons. I also have it in my classroom where sitting on these cushions is a privilege reserved for students who are truly following direction and are showing patience.

How are you organizing for math workshop?

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Welcome to Kid's Math Talk, LLC!

Welcome to Kid's Math Talk, LLC!
My name is Desiree and I am super passionate about math education and best practices for students and their teachers. Thanks for stopping by my blog!


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