Welcome back! In this blog series, I am discussing how to run a successful math workshop in your classroom. Hopefully this series will not only be able to help teachers who have never run math workshop before, but also help those veteran math workshop wizards with a few new ideas and an occasional freebie! Week 1 was all about making sure that you have a solid plan in place for running math workshop. This week, we will discuss having high expectations for your students. (And make sure to stick around for a freebie at the end!)
Everyone knows that you must have high expectations for your students in order to bring them to their highest potential. Math workshop is no exception. When I first began doing centers in my classroom, I don’t think that I expected it to run smoothly, so it didn’t. I was afraid it would be chaotic, and it was. When I began to give my students very specific guidelines for what I expect math workshop to look like, then they began to rise to the challenge. One thing that changed the way I ran math workshop was that I posted my specific expectations for each group.
I spend a lot of time at the beginning of the year training my students in how to behave and what I expect out of them during math workshop. I have one goal in mind: I want to be able to put 100% of my attention into teaching my small group and have the rest of the math workshop run itself. I make it very clear to my students that each of them gets time with me in a small group setting. If they are confused or need help, that is the time to let me know. However, when they are in the other centers, they are not allowed to disrupt me. Everyone deserves to have my undivided attention during their “Teacher Time” group. I know it is a lofty goal, but my kids do extremely well!
Tips for a Smooth Math Workshop Time
Here are some of my favorite tips on how to manage the math workshop time:
- Group Leaders: In the picture above, I have a small yellow Post-it flag attached to one member of each group. This person is the group leader. It is this person’s responsibility to make sure the group is on task and to make sure the group cleans up after each center. Being a Post-it, it is easy to switch out, especially since the students in the groups change as well. During the first few weeks, I try to have everyone be the leader of a group in order to train them. (Find out more about my math workshop board in next week’s post.)
- One Minute Warning: One minute before each rotation ends, I give my class a “one minute warning.” During this time the groups have to stop what they are working on and clean up their areas. Each area has to be exactly as they found it. After one minute, I say “switch.”
- Math Workshop Drawers: I will save the long explanation of our math workshop drawers for another post, but essentially each center has a plastic Sterilite drawer. Everything that the students need for the center (including pencils) is in the drawer. This saves kids from wandering around the room the entire rotation time looking for their lost pencil.
- Ask a Friend: I know many teachers have this policy in place throughout the day, but I really enforce it during math workshop. Students who are struggling either with the directions to something or the concept must ask a neighbor instead of me. I really encourage them to ask all their questions about the content during the “Teacher Time.” I tell kids who get stuck on a problem in their independent practice time to skip it and work on something else. This keeps the kids busy working on mastering the concepts. I encourage the kids to collaborate during the other centers, as long as they talk at a “whisper level.”
- Written Activity Instructions: I try very hard to make sure that each child understands the directions for any activities we are doing before we start math workshop, since I do not have time to explain the instructions to every group. Also, I typically include written instructions for them, as well as a couple of examples. For the really young kiddos (kindergarten and 1st grade), I would even suggest having pictures of how to complete the activity instead of written instructions.
- Secret Student/ Group: In order to reinforce good behavior, I typically choose either a student or a group (the kids don’t know which I will do) that have exhibited a specific behavior during math workshop to reward. By varying the reward (individual or group) and the behavior (whisper level, working together, etc.), the kids strive to do everything that I expect of them. You can reward the kids according to your specific classroom system.
- Crossed Fingers: This last tip I actually use throughout the day in my classroom. It is a very simple concept. If a child needs to do something such as use the bathroom or get some water, they raise their hand and cross their fingers. It is great because I can literally dismiss them with a nod of my head without missing a beat in my teaching. It also gets rid of that annoying feeling when you think a student has a great answer to your profound question, but instead all they want is to go to the bathroom….
And Now for the Freebie!
To encourage you to dive head first into the world of math workshop, I am giving away my green chevron Math Workshop Expectation Signs for FREE! Enjoy!
What tips do you have for running a smooth math workshop? Leave a comment and let me know!
I’ve linked up once again with Kathy O. from Third Grade Doodles for Math Workshop Monday! Check out her awesome ideas!
Check out the rest of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Math Workshops Series: