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Sunday, September 29, 2019

Launching Math Workshop Part 4


Just joining in? Check out the rest of this blog series!

Read on to find out what day 4 of math workshop looks like
{and get a sample set of Google Slides}

By day 4, I'm just excited that I've made it to the end of the first week! I'm also amazed by how well my kids are doing with math workshop. The structure is very different than what they're used to and there's a lot for them to figure out.

Day 4 is all about creating workshop rules & becoming independent.

Before the kids start working, we add to our anchor chart with our math workshop rules. The class helps decide on the rules based on their experiences throughout the week. 

Once we've reviewed the rules and the structure of math workshop, I have the kids hold up a number to show me what slide they are on in our Google Slides. (Wondering what I mean by Google Slides? Check out this post).

Then we spend the rest of the time working on finishing up the activities. 

At this point, I am still just walking around monitoring students, troubleshooting, and helping with the content. 

I do try to always guide students back to reading the directions when they have questions. I want to foster independence so they’ll be ready when I start pulling my groups in a few weeks. 

That ends my week of launching math workshop! Over the next couple of weeks I'll be reinforcing routines with students and helping them understand where and how to turn their work in. By the 3rd week, I'll start pulling my guided math groups. 

Want to try it out in your class? You can grab a free sample of my most popular set of activities for place value - Compare & Order numbers

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Launching Math Workshop Part 3


If you missed the first 2 parts of the series, you can check them out here:
Read on to find out what the 3rd day of math workshop looks like
{and get a free flipped lesson}

Day 3 is all about gradually releasing responsibility

I start off by having the kids talk about what we did the day before in math workshop. Through our discussion, they remember that we used Google Slides and that they watched a math video. 

Wondering what I mean by Google Slides for math workshop? Check out this post

Then I let them know that today they'll be watching a video on their own. 

We are using Google Classroom this year, so I shared the Google Slides with my classes through that website. So to start off, the kids get onto Google Classroom and we walk through finding the Google Slides. 

Once everyone has found the instructional video (included in their Google Slides), we quickly review our anchor chart on watching videos. Then, they grab their headphones, spread out & get started. 

I walk around while they're watching the videos and make sure they're:
1. actually watching it
2. not experiencing any technical difficulties
3. remembering to complete their anchor chart

For today, I have them go back to their desks and read a book when they're finished. Once everyone has finished, we glue our charts in their journals and quickly review how the process went. 

You can grab the video and anchor chart that we used for free here:


Then we look at the directions for the next activity together. I model what the activity will look like and where they will find the math tools. We don't spend a lot of time talking about the rules for workshop yet. That will come tomorrow.

Once everyone understands what they need to do, they spread out again and get started on the activity. The activity they did was using place value blocks to build a number. Then they took pictures of each number and put them into PicCollage. Finally, they added the expanded notation for each number into their collage. 

Not everyone finished, but that was okay. I let them know that they will always have 2 days to work on the activities in the Google Slides.


Sunday, September 15, 2019

Launching Math Workshop Part 2


If you missed part one of this series, be sure to check it out here to find out what I do on the first day of math workshop.

Read on to find out what the 2nd day of math workshop looks like & grab a free lesson.

For me, day 2 is all about *modeling*. When I taught first grade, I did so much modeling at the beginning of the year. Who can show me how to push your chair in correctly? Let’s practice…

With 4th graders, some of those basics don’t require as much explicit instruction, but when it comes to workshop I channel my inner first grade teacher. Workshop for math is new for a lot of my students - I have to be very clear in what I expect. 

I start off by briefly explaining to the students what math workshop will look like this year:
*We'll use Google Slides and Google Classroom for their directions 
*They'll watch an instructional video for their lesson
*I'll be pulling groups every day

Then we pull up our first set of Google Slides. Since our 1st unit is place value, I introduce workshop with a place value review.

Every set of activities will start with a video. I've found my kids focus better watching a short video than they do with the distractions of a whole class mini-lesson. I can also get the information across in a shorter time in a video. For more on how I use video lessons, check out this post

I'll show the video whole class and we'll pause the video and fill out our anchor charts together. (I make a student copy of the anchor chart for each video). I do lots of "think alouds" during the video and make sure the kids really understand what's expected of them while they're watching an instructional video. 

After we've all completed our anchor charts & glued them into our journals, we make an anchor chart on watching instructional videos. 

Then I have the students think-pair-share what they think they'll be doing for the next activity in the Google Slide. They work on the 2nd activity, which incorporates their iPads, on their own. During this time I walk around the room & provide feedback. 

Once everyone has finished, we come back together and discuss the final activity in Google Slides. Again, they complete it on their own as I walk around the room. 

Once they're finished, we come back together and discuss things that went well & things that need to change for the next day. 

I tried to choose activities that all students should be able to complete independently, even if they're below level. 

You can download all of the materials for these activities here for FREE.


Sunday, September 8, 2019

Launching Math Workshop Part 1

I’ve been using a digital, self-paced math workshop structure in my classroom for the last 5 years. When I first started out with this format, I pretty much threw my kids to the wolves... I quickly explained the structure and then let them have at it. While there were some advantages to letting the kids problem solve their way through workshop, I definitely didn't set clear enough expectations (which I paid for later in the year).

We often feel pressured to jump right into content, but if we don’t take the time to build relationships and set expectations at the beginning of the year, it will cost us time later in the year. Kids need to know exactly what we expect of them - we can’t assume that they’ll behave the way we expect if we don’t show them what to do. 

Over the next few weeks, I'll share with you each step of launching math workshop in the upper elementary classroom, starting with the first week of school.

I start launching math workshop on the 2nd day of school. 

Our first math unit this year is place value, so while I'm teaching the routines of workshop I'm also trying to fit in some place value review and instruction. 

So on day 2 of school, I have the kids take a place value pre-test.

The pre-test covers skills from 3rd grade and the new skills they'll learn in 4th grade. I really stress to the kids that this is not for a grade and helps me know what they remember or already know. Grab the pre-test I use for free.

I'll use the data from this pre-test later when I start pulling guided math groups (more on that in this post).

This also gives us a chance to discuss what the classroom looks like and sounds like during independent work. We create an anchor chart that we’ll add to throughout the week as they experience more parts of math workshop. 

Once everyone has finished their pre-test, we set up our math journals. We glue in the table of contents, number the pages in our journal and then add our very first entry: "Place Value Review".

You can download my table of contents template from Google Drive here.

We'll also spend some time discussing our math journals - where we keep them, how we use them, what they should look like, etc.

There you have it - day 1 of launching math workshop!

Next up: introducing kids to google slides and instructional math videos 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Math Workshop: Wrapping Up with Exit Tickets

A critical, but often overlooked part of math workshop is the closing activity. Sometimes we (me + the kids) get so caught up in the activities or our small groups that we end up hurried to clean up and move onto the next part of the day. 

However - this closing part is a necessary part of math workshop so I use a lot of timers to ensure we have enough time for a quick wrap up - just 5 minutes is enough. 

One of my favorite ways to wrap up math workshop is with a quick formative assessment, or “exit ticket” over the skill they were practicing. I love to do this using white boards, dry erase markers, and Google Classroom. Check out this video to see how I used this method during our long division unit: 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Math Workshop: Incorporating Guided Math

Today’s post is all about guided math. Does that phrase induce anxiety, confusion or frustration for you? If so, you’re not alone. 

Guided math comes with a lot of questions: how many groups do you pull? What are the other kids doing? What do you actually do with the groups? 

For me the magic of guided math is not necessarily the activities, but the chance for students to work with me in small groups. Having a structure in place that allows me to pull small groups is crucial (read more about how I use Google slides to create this structure here)

Depending on the unit, the skill, and the group of kids, I pull groups in different ways. Sometimes I pull kids based on formative assessments for reteaching, sometimes I walk around and confer with students about the work they’re doing during workshop. But most of the time, I pull groups for structured guided math lessons. 

Having set groups helps me ensure all the students come to work with me - the kids will help hold me accountable! It also allows me to adjust the work depending on the level of the students. I find this easier to do with some skills than others. When I pull structured guided math groups I stick to a structure for planning the lesson - a game, a worksheet or activity and a quick assessment. Having this structure in place helps lessen the load of planning. 

Want to try out a lesson in your class? Download a free sample of my guided math bundle for place value below

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Math Workshop: Using Google Slides

One of my biggest challenges with incorporating math stations or centers in my classroom was controlling the order of activities. I wanted my students to start with hands-on and move to abstract, but with traditional stations only one group was starting with the hands-on activity and others were starting straight with the abstract worksheet or task cards. 

In 2015 I switched from math stations / math centers to a self-paced math workshop using Google Slides and it completely transformed my math instruction. 

I explain more about how this works along with a peek into some of the activities I use in the video below: 


The students work through the activities at their own pace. I try to follow the concrete -> pictorial -> abstract model for student activities. I also build in extension activities at the end for students who are early finishers.

I give students 2 days to complete the activities for a skill. One day they'll spend part of their time working with me and the other day they'll have the entire 35 minutes to work.

Every year I have students who have more difficulty working at their own pace. I give them some modifications to make sure they stay on track with the activities. However, with coaching and support I have found most students are able to be successful by the end of the year. This style of math workshop really helps them become self-regulated learners.