- Math Workshop shifts much of the responsibility for learning to the students.
- While teachers work independently in Math Workshop, the teacher can work with small groups of students.
- Math Workshop has its origins in the 1970s. I'm not sure if this last thought is comforting or horrifying (this instructional approach has been around for THAT long?!).
1) It's flexible (grouping, activities, etc.)
2) Allows for student choice
3) Builds on student strengths and needs
4) Math Workshop activities encourage development of conceptual understanding and develops 21st century work skills that will lead to future success.
5) Students learn to work together with a shared purpose.
6) Teachers can work with small groups while the rest of the class is engaged in meaningful math experiences.
Challenges of Math Workshop:
1) Procedures and expectations must be carefully considered and taught (learners must realize that work will be completed independently).
2) Teachers must effectively plan Math Workshop and carefully choose which options to start with.
3) Time required to plan Math Workshop will in all likelihood be longer than planning typical math lessons (especially in the first year of using Math Workshop).
4) Student work cannot be monitored closely because teachers will be busy working with small groups.
Effective Uses for Math Workshop:
1) Review previously mastered concepts- I think that the most important point from this section is that while teachers can help students to review concepts with a worksheet, there are many more engaging ways to accomplish this task.
2) Math Fact Automaticity- Some of my favorite ideas for doing this come from this book (I know that many of you are fans, also). :-)
She's got some great ideas that promote fact fluency and also review previously-learned math concepts. After you show your students how to complete each work station, they can definitely complete them independently in pairs. Even better, her ideas are FUN and often connected to literature. I implemented them in part last year (I started in Janaury), and my students were always BEGGING to go to math stations (asking me how many more minutes until stations, etc.). I have BIG plans for this year, and I can't wait to start right away. I hope that it will work well with Investigations, which I finally get trained in this week (thank GOODNESS, this complete in-the-darkness feeling is driving me CRAZY).
3) Math Games- I like to stick to the games suggested by Diller in Math Work Stations. However, I think the guidelines that Sammons offers are useful: they should be aligned to the curriculum, they shouldn't be too complex or detailed, and students should be taught to play the games in whole-class or small-group situations with practice time given.
4) Problem-Solving Practice- Problems of the Day/Week can be included as morning work, calendar, or math workshop (where would you put it?). Burns suggests that for a problem to be high quality:
- There is a perplexing situation that the student understands.
- The student is interested in finding a solution.
- The student is unable to proceed directly toward a solution.
- The solution requires the use of mathematical ideas.
5) Investigations- Is this a peek into what awaits me with our new math curriculum of Investigations this year (see above)? According to Sammons, Investigations is "similar to a problem-solving task, but it is usually more extensive and requires gathering data" (p. 195). Also student reflection and revision are built into the investigations model, encouraging mathematical thought and communication.
6) Math Journals- I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that Sammons believes that math journals should include teacher response. I also like the question examples she provides from Whitin and Whitin (p. 197).
7) Computer Use- The major way my students will (and do) use the computers during math is to complete Fastt Math, a program our elementary students use district-wide that helps students to develop fact fluency. Just as Sammons asserts, students LOVE completing lessons on the computer with Fastt Math.
8) Math Related to Other Subject Areas- This is an intriguing idea, but I feel like my district curriculum, while moving in this direction, has a long way to go before this is a reality.
9) Math Work from Small-Group Instruction- The obvious benefit is that as students master concepts and are dismissed from the group to work independently, the teacher can devote more attention to the students that really need it. Based on the sample schedule presented here, and the implication that students working independently in Math Workshop on this day are working on the same task that the teacher is working with in small groups, I have to wonder what the struggling group of students is doing during math workshop time as they wait to be the last group seen by the teacher.
Managing Math Workshop: In order to effectively implement Math Workshop, guidelines and rules should reflect Fountas and Pinnell's principles of a learning community:
- All members are trusted with rights and responsibilities.
- All members take responsibility for their own learning and for helping others to learn.
- All members take responsibility for managing their time and activities productively.
- All members learn self-management as part of the curriculum delivered by the teachers.
- All members understand that keeping materials in order helps everyone learn.
I love the idea (and have used it many times for many classroom routines/procedures) of having students collaborate with the teacher in order to establish positive and negative behaviors for Math Workshop. Anticipating problems and observing your classroom are great ideas. I have often observed my students instead of working with a group, but my observations always centered on understanding of content and use of academic language (I am the champion of ELL students, after all!). I have never taken the time to observe how my routines were working. I will definitely try this out.
Planning with Co-Teachers and Teaching Assistants:
I have been lucky enough in the past to have an excellent inclusion teacher spend time in my classroom as well as a Title I math specialist. I think the obvious difficulty lies in finding the time to get together to plan. The obvious and HUGE benefit is reaching more students in smaller groups.
While this chapter was much shorter than Chapter 5, it was dense and seemed jam-packed with an equal amount of information. I enjoyed reading it, and I'm looking forward to reading about the individual instruction that comes through conferring with students.