Improving the Effectiveness of Math Workshop

Written by Donna Boucher

Donna has been a teacher, math instructional coach, interventionist, and curriculum coordinator. A frequent speaker at state and national conferences, she shares her love for math with a worldwide audience through her website, Math Coach’s Corner. Donna is also the co-author of Guided Math Workshop.
Debbie Diller Workstation
Last Friday I presented a professional development session to our K-2 teachers on how to improve the effectiveness of math workshop.  We are about two years along the path of implementing math workshop, and the session grew out of observations I had made across grade levels.  I focused my discussion on three aspects of math workshop: expectations, planning, and accountability.  Most of what I presented came from Debbie Diller’s book, Math Work Stations: Independent Learning You Can Count On, K-2. If you have not wandered across this book yet, it is a treasure trove of ideas for organizing and implementing workstations as well as several chapters on actual ideas for workstations organized by math content.
Our 1st grade team is arguably the most Type A, gung ho team on campus.  They are thirsty for new ideas and drink them in like a sponge, which makes them an amazing team to work with.  Of course they wanted to leave the session and immediately implement every idea I presented (pretty cool feeling, actually).  It’s not that they were doing anything wrong, they just always want to be better!  Their team leader stopped by my room this afternoon and excitedly invited me down to see the changes they had made based on the new ideas.  So, camera in hand, I went down to visit.  What an awesome way to end the day!!
New and improved math workshop corner.  Notice how compact it is.  And do you see the 10-frames for assigning workstation numbers?
Inside the writing workstation box (using 3 addends): manipulatives, an example of how student work should look in the math journal, and sentence stems to help the kiddos get started.
First grade story problem using 3 addends (from the writing workstation).  This little friend is apparently a reluctant learner, although you wouldn’t know it from his work!  Notice the OK stamp in the upper right corner.  This is part of the teacher’s new accountability process.  While students share at the end of workshop, she quickly checks their work and gives them a stamp.  This helps her keep track of what they are accomplishing each day.
Workshop expectations poster based on an example from Debbie Diller’s book.  Notice the kid friendly graphics.
Anchor chart from lesson on coin equivalencies.

17 Comments

  1. Mrs. Christiansen

    I love the organization of the math work stations! We are going to try to use work stations in our first grade rooms next year. Thanks for sharing great ideas!
    Heather

    Reply
  2. Mrs. Ann Greene

    Love your blog! I just found it via pinterest. Our school just completed a book chat using Debbie Diller’s Book. Our entire school is on there way to implementing math work stations. Our principal even gave us an entire day to organize and create our stations. I am so glad that I found your blog. I plan on sharing your blog with my team.

    Happy Blogging!
    Ann @
    http://mrsgreeneskindergartenkorner.blogspot.com/

    Reply
  3. Beegirl

    I just found your blog! We are doing a lot of the activities you mentioin in your blog. Our school district bought many of us Debbie Diller’s book. I also have the Guided Math book. We all have class sets of rekenreks, I love these! My students have a much better understanding of place value, counting on or back from numbers 1-9 etc. I teach gr 2. We have had many outcomes cut from grade 2 and now we teach the outcomes left, in particular numeracy, for mastery. Students must understand the partners to 10, 100, and 20 before moving on to sums of 20 adding 10 etc.I definately will be follollowing you. I teach in New Brunswick, Canada

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    Can you tell us what is in each centre? Also is it possible to post the writing centre? It looks amazing! Thanks.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      The workstations change frequently, but in 1st grade (which is what’s pictured)they follow certain topics. For example, they have workstations for number sense, fact fluency, current topic, review topic, writing, and problem solving. It makes planning a bit easier. The products I create and post here on my blog (see the Freebies tab)and my TpT store are very typical of the the activities. I’m sorry, but I don’t have that particular writing activity. One of my favorite (and easiest) writing activities is to give students a number sentence and have them make up the story. We call it You Write the Story. Hope that helps!

      Reply
  5. Fontenot's Firebreathers

    Where can I find something similar to this or how can I adapt this for 4th and 5th grade? I have taught 3-5th grades and finding a good center rotation is difficult and I have never done it effectively! This is my area I want to improve in!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Have you read Guided Math by Laney Sammons? She also has an implementation guide now. The set-up and management chapters in the Debbie Diller book would still help you out, but the part of the book on actual workstations would be too primary. Maybe a primary teacher has the book and you could borrow it to read the set-up part. There’s another book called Math Exchanges that is also about teaching with a workshop approach. It focuses more on what to do in your small group instruction, rather than the workstation piece.

      Reply
  6. Anonymous

    I love the set-up of the stations. I noticed a smaller class size of 18 -that’s a big plus too!! 🙂 What happens if a student does not receive an “ok” stamp in the corner/there are productivity problems?

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Then it’s time for a personal conference! If it becomes a recurring problem, there would need to be a consequence. 🙂

      Reply
  7. Anonymous

    Ideas for 5th grade?

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Actually, it’s very similar for 5th grade. Of course the activities are different, but the organization and expectations are very much the same.

      Reply
  8. JULIE RAPE

    What kind of containers are you using? The red ones look like something I need in my life!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      That picture was actually taken in a 1st grade teacher’s classroom, and those containers were just ones she brought with her to the school. Sorry I can’t help more than that.

      Reply
  9. Judith Kelmanson

    I bought this book a few weeks ago and love it – I am hoping it is going to transform my maths sessions – I am really excited about implementing the ideas. I love the idea of the children working in pairs – I used to have have groups of 6 all doing the same thing.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Good luck with these changes! I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the difference they will make. 🙂

      Reply
  10. Debbie

    What would you recommend for 3rd grade? My school has a coach and resources for reading but not math. We are departmentalised and I teach about 70 third graders.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Math workshop works beautifully with 3rd graders. If you can wait about a month, I just co-authored a book with Laney Sammons about called Guided Math Workshop. It provides everything you need to get Math Workshop off the ground for K-8. It should be available mid-March.

      Reply

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