In my last post: https://mathmindsblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/rethinking-homework-pt-2/, I had a couple of tweets inquiring about how I organize my math workshops.
I am fortunate in the fact that our district uses the Investigations math program that embeds math workshops into the units. Over the years, I have learned to take what they have in the book and tweak it to meet the needs of my students. I appreciate the structure, games and activities, but I found that it could also afford me the time to work individually or with small groups of students who need the extra time. That extra time could be for an intervention or extension.
When I first started trying to use math workshops, i quickly realized that the management piece was by far the most important piece I needed to work on before we ever tried this again. It was L.O.U.D. I am all for noise that is productive, but it was definitely not that!
First step, figure out how to balance the noise so I can actually hear the students I am working with in a small group. So that everyone was not talking at the same time, I decided to make one center an individual center, one w/a partner, and one as a group. I created a template in SMART Notebook so the students knew their rotation and they wouldn’t have to ask me what they were doing next: https://www.dropbox.com/s/m3m37zelvgy70i1/MathWorkshop.notebook
Next step, I had to decide on the activities that would make the most of the time they were in each rotation. The partner activity was easy because I really like the games in Investigations. I have just added a couple guiding questions for students to think about while they are working. The group activity, I decided to make more of a task-based problem that would require the students to work through the math. Most recently, students were trying to find unknown angle measures of polygons using angles that they knew. The Individual activity varies, but each time I use it as a formative assessment of the work we have been doing in class. Recently, students solved two problems and did journal reflections explaining their work.
The hardest part is organizing the groups and deciding what I will be working on in the Teacher Rotation. I don’t want students to feel that when they come to my table they are “stupid” or embarrassed because they may need extra help, so I keep the groups as heterogeneous as possible. I have learned that I need to be very thoughtful (and crafty) about the work they do when with me by embedding the concepts students have misconceptions about into work that others in the group, who do not, can still learn something from it. It is tough and definitely the most time consuming piece of organizing Math Workshops. Sometimes I make my table the table in which students are extending their thinking on a recent concept while other times it is meeting students where they are to try to work on misconceptions. I have used my recent math homework as a way to choose the problems we work on at the “Teacher Center.” Looking at the homework has also made it easier for me to put the students in Workshop Groups so I have a range of strategies in the group in which to make connections. * I don’t always have a group. Sometimes I walk around and facilitate discussions while the students work in the three centers. *
After all of that work, I set the timer on my phone for 20 minutes & run three centers for a total of an hour of Math Workshop. The students really enjoy it and have learned to work very well together. I typically like to run the Workshop at least once every couple of weeks.