As challenging as it must be to incorporate our mathematical standards in each year, it is just as challenging to meet the needs of a classroom full of learners. The goal is clear each year, we must teach the standards and show growth but the pathway to get from Point A to Point B is not always as clear. We must change things up and that is where Math Workshop and Guided Math play a crucial role.
We can’t use that same ways of teaching that we were taught as students. We can’t expect every student in our class to learn in the same way. We can’t expect that each day the same students will respond in the same manner. We have to be flexible, organize our plans and prepare ourselves for whatever may come at us.
So How Does this Make Math Workshop (and Guided Math) Beneficial in the Middle Grades:
- Math Workshop and Guided Math are SMALL GROUP approaches to teaching math. Typically a group is 4-6 students who are grouped together in homogenous groups (Guided Math) or heterogeneous (Math Workshop) groups where they are building their learning and understanding of a particular concept or skill off of one another. Students in Math Workshop groups are focusing on skills that are review concepts and therefore spiraling their understanding based on confidence they have already achieved on a concept. Students in a Guided Math group are focusing on one particular skill that is at their ability level and has been differentiated to meet the needs of those in that particular group to build their confidence and stretch them to think a little bit further. Guided Math time is a critical time where the teachers is continuing on with the lessons that are going on in the classroom but it can also be used for reteach, intervention and math conferences.
- Students an be rotated within the different groups as needed to provide for flexibility as the needs arise. After you have assessed the beginning levels of students from a screener, benchmark, prior years testing, etc. you will have a baseline of understanding of where your students should be in their Guided Math Groups as well as Math Workshops groups. Remember, these are two different groups and while the Guided Math Group is fluid throughout the year, the Math Workshop groups do not have to change as often. This allows for ease of use during the class time when students are transitioning and not having to ask who they are supposed to be with at all times. Having that visual reference is so very important during this time as well. As you gather more data throughout the school year, change up your Guided Math groups as needed. Students can change on the regular in this stage as they may easily gain the knowledge of one skill that they may not have had in another skill.
- Students are motivated by the rotations going on in the classroom and very little management is needed by the teacher. Use non-verbal cues and refer to the Expectation Visual and let them know what might be causing an issue by tugging your year, pointing to your eye or pointing to them and then to the visual. This takes 2 seconds and allows them to correct their behavior easily and get back on task. Building their personal responsibility, taking note of it on a sticky note if needed to conference later, and then continuing on with your small group is pertinent.
- Math Workshop and Guided Math can fit into ANY schedule! The great thing about Math Workshop and Guided Math is it is flexible to fit into any schedule and doesn’t have to be something that you do every day. With short 42 minutes class periods, 5 days a week I couldn’t fit it in everyday so I made it work 2 days a week. I have heard from numerous teachers who teach on block scheduling, 3 day a week core subject schedules, 4 day a week school, and so much more. Look at the time you have each week and break it down to where you can have 3-5 stations and a Guided Math station. If it takes to weeks to cover one set of stations, that is perfectly fine. You do what works for your schedule.
- Differentiation is key within Guided Math. This means that you are changing up the way that you are teaching the content NOT the content the that is being taught. Plan for each of your small groups to have the same overall objective but use the EDITABLE Guided Math Lesson Plan to plan out how you will be teaching the skill/concept to each of your groups. Remember that once you have used these activities in Guided Math, work smarter, not harder and then reuse the same activities in your Math Workshop stations!
- Work Smarter, Not Harder! Each week as you are changing our stations for your Math Workshop you want things that will not only make your students engaged in their learning but you also want to make things easier on you. Find items that you can have similar activities each week but just the concept changes. This not only saves you time and sanity each week but it also will make it easier for students to get on track and get to work as they are familiar with what they are doing.
- Your students are going to talk and that is okay because they will be talking about MATH! Can you imaging how awesome it would be to observe one day and your students are effectively solving math problems together collaboratively and discussing the different methods they used to come up with an answer to a problem. I promise it will happen. It takes time and it takes practice and verbal praise (that’s why those first few weeks of monitoring and reinforcing the positive are important) but in the end your Mathematical Learners will be soaring!
The routines that you are providing in Math Workshop in the Middle Grades will rub off on your students for years to come! They will begin to speak about their learning in math (and other subjects) as the investigate and delve deeper into what they are learning. They will take risks and develop further understandings. Give it time, it will come, I promise!
Are you ready to dig in and learn all there is to know about Math Workshop in one concise place? Grab my Math Workshop eBook today that includes 42 pages of of all the information you need to get started as well as over 20 EDITABLE templates to keep you organized and on your toes with planning and documentation throughout the year!
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