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Math Workshop Made Simple


Summer break is finally here and life has slowed down.  It is really nice to have some quiet time to reflect on the school year and to begin thinking about changes for next year.  I started "math workshop" this year and I wanted to take the time to blog about it while it is still fresh in my mind.

The biggest challenge that I always have when teaching math with my third graders is meeting the needs of all students.  It seems there are always a small (or large) group of kiddos that just aren't getting the lesson and need more support.  This year, before I started my math rotations, math time was like a juggling act!  I had so many students that needed my help, even after a lengthy whole-class lesson.  Also, I had a group of students who always got it right away and were done so quickly, asking me what they should do now.  I felt like I was running around like a crazy person, but never getting to everyone who needed me.  That's when I knew that I needed to organize things differently, and incorporate some time for small group instruction.  Enter math rotations....

I started by splitting my students up into three groups:  low, medium and high, with 8 students in each group.  I know this seems fairly basic, but I needed a quick solution and it worked great!  Since I started this mid-year, I knew (without a lot of additional assessment) which students would be in which group.  When I start up in the fall, I will use grade level common assessments for each unit to group students.  If you need some quickie assessments for this purpose, or for a quick check up on a standard, these are perfect:



My math block is 90 minutes.  Here is how it all plays out:

1.  Fact Fluency Quick Quiz (5 min)
2.  Whole Group Lesson (25 min)
3.  Rotations (60 minutes/three 20 min cycles)

I would love to figure out how to make time for a 10 minute post-workshop share, but it was a tight squeeze just fitting in all of the above.  I also want to work in more time for fact fluency practice, even though I do include some weekly fact practice during math workstations).

I used the Engage NY lessons this year, and they worked perfectly for this schedule.  Most of the lessons take about 25 minutes or less, so I do those as a whole group, and then during our guided math groups, we review what was learned and do some guided practice with the concept.  Engage NY has Problem Sets, which we also worked on during our small groups.  With my low group, I would usually do some remediation to help them to understand the lesson and with my high group I would extend the lesson to make it more challenging.

Each student was given a plastic pocket folder to keep their workbook and any other papers that they would use for math.  These folders also had a small pocket, which was great for keeping additional math tools like rulers, fraction strips, clocks, or other manipulatives that we might need.


ROTATIONS

  • with the TEACHER
  • by MYSELF
  • with a PARTNER
I have a visual timer in my classroom and feel strongly that all classrooms should have one.  Before the start of each rotation, I would set the timer to 20 minutes.  This helps students to keep track of their own time and also helps me to stay on task with my group!

I don't know about you, but I have very limited wall space in my classroom for displaying charts and things.  Therefore, I did not want a cumbersome rotation board that we only would use once per day taking up prime real estate.  So, I created a powerpoint slideshow, which I display during math on my interactive white board.  It could also be displayed on any computer screen or simply printed out on paper and displayed.


Here are the powerpoint slides that I display.  Click on the photos below to download these for FREE and edit as desired.  Keep in mind that the fonts may not transfer.  I used KG Fonts for this display.


I rotate the names down on this board DAILY.



WITH THE TEACHER

This is obviously when students work in small guided math groups with me.  My group meets me in the large carpeted area of my classroom, where we would all sit on the floor in a semi-circle.  This gave us plenty of space.  Students would bring their math folder, a pencil and a clipboard.  We would begin by going over the previous day's math work and homework, then we would work on the current day's lesson, which included some guided practice.

I always meet with my lowest group first, so that the lesson is still fresh in their mind.  Their next rotation will be working independently on the practice pages for that day's lesson (which we started together in our group).  Since we just met together for some intense guided practice, they are usually able to do it on their own at this point.  My high group meets with me last, and their first rotation on the next day is to do the independent practice.  They are capable enough to carry over the lesson to the next day with no problem.  Also, they often don't need the whole 20 minutes of our small group time, so they can work on the practice pages and often finish at that time.  In that case, I usually have some challenge work for them to do instead on the next day during their first rotation.

Our first rotation always looks like this:

low group:  with the TEACHER
med group:  with a PARTNER (math work stations)
high group;  by MYSELF (independent practice from previous day's lesson)



WITH A PARTNER

This rotation is for math work stations.  I set up nine boxes (three extra boxes are shown) with different math activities such as games and task cards.  Students work on these with their math partner during this 20 minute rotation. The stations are self-checking (I always include an answer sheet), but students are required to turn in their work from the station (unless it is a game and there is nothing to turn in).  All of the stations can be done with a partner or independently, so if your math partner is absent, it still works!


I set up the 9 boxes with my three groups in mind.  I set up three boxes for each:  three for my high group, three for medium and three for low.  That way I know that students are working on something at their level, that can be done with a minimal amount of assistance or explanation.  These work stations usually align with the unit we are currently working on, but I occasionally include some activities that offer spiral review of past learning.  It is important that the work station activities can effectively engage students for at least 20 minutes, so that you are not getting the "We are done....what should we do now?" routine.  

My suggestion is to provide games that can be played again and again, or enough task cards that they likely cannot do them all in the time provided. Open ended activities that do not need to be done to "completion" work best.  For example, I don't recommend worksheets because some students can finish those really fast, and some take forever.  Task cards work great, since they can work at their own pace and do as many as possible in the time provided.

Here are some of my "go to" math work stations:

Lakeshore Learning File Folder Games.  This is a tiny picture, but if you click it, it will take you to the website for a better view.  These games are common core aligned and super engaging.  They are easy to set up, and students are able to use them with no explanation at all.  These are perfect for math work stations!!  They come in the most amazing file boxes for easy storage and since they label these with the common core standards right on the side of the box, it is so easy to find the game that I need!  I love them!  They are pricey...but worth finding a way to get your hands on some!


Thinkfun Games are addicting logic and problem solving games that work great for math work stations.  If you cannot afford to purchase some for your classroom, they have a collection of free downloadable games that are awesome!


Games 4 Learning.  If you have not checked out this TPT store, you should!  This teacherpreneur from Australia has some simple, no-prep games that are perfect for math workstations.  You just print them, add a baggie of game markers, and some dice and you are ready to go!


Task Cards.  You can find these all over the place on TPT.  Most are pretty cheap and I have even found some great task cards for FREE!  I like to organize these in binders by math standard, to make it easy peasy to find the ones that I need in a snap!  I put each set in zip loc bags, copy the answer sheets and answers, and put it all in a plastic sheet protector (or two), which I clip into the binder.  I have a task card binder for each math strand that I teach.  



Tablets and Laptops.  Twice per week students work on a tablet or laptop instead of doing a math workstation.  There are thousands of amazing free math websites and apps.   My favorites are Khan Academy and Moby Max, which both are free and provide instruction as well as review and practice.  Our district purchased Compass Learning for us, which is great too!  Technology is also a great way for students to practice their basic facts!  


Math Workstations are great and the activities that you can choose are endless.  It is important to carefully organize your materials so that when it is time to change out your work station, it is not a huge chore.  You know right where to find everything.


BY MYSELF

During this rotation, students complete independent practice on the skill learned in class that day.  If your math program has a student workbook, this would be a great time to have students work on it.  You could also provide worksheets from superteacherworksheets.com or commoncoresheets.com.  As mentioned, I used Engage NY this year so students used this time to finish up the Problem Set that we started during our group and also can work on the homework practice pages at that time.  At the beginning of each unit, I put together a workbook for students that included all of the problem sets and homework pages for each lesson.  This saved me time at the copy machine and helped students to keep their work together and organized.

That about covers it!  I know I have probably left something out, so please feel free let me know if you have any questions about this post!  I know this system is not perfect, and I will be fine-tuning things this fall!  But it is a simple way to get started with math workshop using rotations.

Here are some products from my TPT store that you might like:




If you like INTERACTIVE NOTEBOOKS, here are some resources that you will love:


I hope you enjoyed this post!  Thank you so much for supporting my work by visiting today!

If you are also interested in READING WORKSHOP ROTATIONS see THIS POST!
Love and Peace,

19 comments

  1. I loved reading about your math workshop! I run mine just a little bit differently in that I don't always meet with every group during rotation. I do, however, always meet with my students who need extra help. You have great ideas!

    Bridget
    Sailing into Third Grade?

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    1. Thank you! I am glad that you enjoyed the post!

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  2. I love the folder that you posted that has the pouch. Can you tell me where you purchase those?

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  3. Thanks for sharing! I'd love to hear more about what you do with your challenge group, like a sample lesson and your go to materials and resources you use with them.

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    1. That is a great question! It really depends upon the lesson. I usually will amp up the lesson that everyone else gets by giving them larger numbers, or multiple step problems that they can really dig into. I find that worksheets don't really cut it for those guys. They loved the Thinkfun games, but I spent time each week digging up some good problem solving games and task cards just for my challenge group.

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    2. Thank you for your response and your excellent ideas! I've pinned tons of stuff from your blog, and I plan on purchasing some products from your tpt store!

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    3. Could you possibly consider doing a post on your typical daily schedule? I'm always curious about how other teachers structure their day and fit it all in. Between reading workshop, writing workshop, math workshop, content areas, and student pull outs for services, I always struggle with the scheduling.

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  4. I wondered if you could tell me where your purchased the colored plastic math station boxes. I loved the article and I love your organization!

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  5. I wondered if you could tell me where your purchased the colored plastic math station boxes. I loved the article and I love your organization!

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  6. Hi Daisy!
    Thank you for checking out my blog! I got the bins at Costco. They come in a pack of 5 for just $18! They are the best!

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  7. This is a great post! I've been researching Guided Math/Math Workshop for a year, gathering thoughts and ideas, and will be implementing it this school year. Your post was the icing on the cake! I'm ready to roll!

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  8. This looks AMAZING! Thanks for providing these suggestions. Can't wait to implement. BTW I could not download the free PowerPoint Math Work stations. Is the link broken? I would really love to try this. Thanks!

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  9. I was unable to get the PowerPoints to work either. They look awesome!

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  10. The math rotation power points look great! I would love to implement these in my classroom as well, however I could not get them to download.
    Thanks so much!
    Caroline Butehorn South Carolina

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  11. I couldn't get the powerpoints to work. They are blank. Could you send them to me?

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  12. I LOVE your workshop model and would like to implement and purchase your resources. I am having trouble downloading the power point slides as well. Do you mind sending to me? I will be forever grateful! mellingl@wws.k12.in.us

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  13. I love your post! As a new third grade teacher this coming school year, your blog SO helpful. Thank you for sharing!
    I would like to use the Math power point you shared, but I am having difficulty downloading. Can you please send it to me at inthelandofteaching@gmail.com. Thank you!

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