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Implementing Math Workshop for Back to School

Last month I had the absolute privilege of speaking to over 400 3-8th grade teachers at CAMT 2019 about Setting up Math Workshop for Success in two sessions. Not only was this year the absolute best I’ve ever presented, but the 3-5th grade session was so packed that we had to relocate… seriously! We went from a room for 120 to an auditorium where they scanned in over 270 teachers!

I can’t even begin to explain to you the energy that I felt while standing up on this stage, talking about something I’m SO passionate about, knowing that I was standing in the same place as the greats… like Jo Boaler, Dr. Nicki Newton, Graham Fletcher and so many more. Their knowledge and smarts were just felt the entire time I was walking across the stages and talking about Math Workshop and it made me feel so secure in what I knew and was talking about to the teachers in front of me.

All of this to say, back to school is such an important time for when you are deciding to use the Math Workshop model in your classroom and I want to share that info with you so that you can smoothly transition your students.

So what I suggest is to give me four weeks, no less, but a full FOUR WEEKS, with giving it your all each week. These four weeks will set the standards for your classroom and build the foundation for Math Workshop just like you do for setting expectations, reviewing skills and introducing new skills, etc. you never want to start something new if your foundation isn’t there and the same goes true for Math Workshop.

Implementing Math Workshop

Week 1– All Students are doing the SAME activity but in small groups. You as the teacher are actively monitoring, praising the positive and taking time to ask questions of students to build their open communication within their group.

Week 2– Students are in their designated small groups and there are TWO TASKS going at the same time. This means that half of your groups are doing one task (each at their own station, multiple copies needed) and the other half is doing a different task. You as the teacher are continuing to actively monitor, praise the positive and take time to ask questions to facilitate student learning and communication. Spend one day doing one task and then on the next day, they will do the opposing task. Give them the full time to get the gist of what is going on but also have an “in case you finish” activity planned so they can see how that will work as well.

Week 3– Students continue in their designated small groups doing TWO TASKS and students will rotate from task to task. This is the HARDEST concept and will need direction from you. Students need to be given a 2-minute warning for “clean-up/transition prep” and then the alert for when to switch. I use a Wireless Doorbell that is a total lifesaver! Check it out on my Setting Up Math Workshop Amazon List and you won’t be sad you did! You as the teacher are continuing to actively monitor, praise the positive and take time to ask questions to facilitate student learning and communication​.

Week 4– Students will rotate through all FOUR TASKS with the same 2-minute warnings, transitions, and teacher monitoring as Week 3. 

At this point and time, you will see a huge change from Week 1 to Week 4 as you have taken the time to model and praise the behaviors you expect and want to see from your students. Week 5 is when you go FULL FORCE and start pulling students to your Guided Math/Teacher Table from their groups. I will share more about that soon because I know you have questions.

And if you are just a bit more curious, I recently held a Facebook Live in the Surviving Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Grade Math Facebook group where we talked about Implementing Math Workshop. If you are in the group, check out the video here. It’s a quick 30-minute video and will have you excited about Math Workshop for sure. If you aren’t in the Facebook Group (and why not?), jump on over to YouTube where you can watch the video as well.


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