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Organizing Guided Math Workshop

“The organization of Math Workshop can make or break a classroom.”ย (Sammons/Boucher, p 35)

Welcome back to our online book study of Guided Math Workshop. If you are joining in for the first time, I suggest you use the links in the Reading Schedule below to catch up. Because of the nature of this book study, you can really jump in anytime!

This post contains affiliate links, which simply means that when you use my link and purchase a product, I receive a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, and I only link to books and products that I personally use and recommend.

Reading schedule

Join the slow Twitter chat

Wow! the Twitter chat was very active this week. So many great conversations and ideas shared. If you are new to Twitter and need some information about how to use it, check out this handbook for educators. I also thought I’d share some tips for participating.

To see what’s been tweeted, type the hashtag #GMWorkshopTCM in the search box–look for the magnifying class in the top right hand corner by your profile picture (see the picture below). It is not case sensitive, but people often use upper and lower case letters for hashtags to make them easier to read. After you have searched on the hashtag once, it will be listed in your Recent Searches, so you won’t really need to type it again.

Once you are “in” the hashtag, click on Latest (top left hand corner–see picture below) to see all of the tweets, with the most recent listed first.

You can “lurk” and just read what others have posted, reply to others, tweet your thoughts, or even pose your own questions. Remember to include the hashtag #GMWorkshopTCM in your tweets and replies, or they won’t show up in the feed. Kind of like the search function, once you use the hashtag, it will automatically show up in your list of used hashtags, and you won’t have to type the whole thing in each time.

Be sure to follow others who are participating in the chat to grow your Personal Learning Network (PLN). And remember, although I am posting guiding questions for the chat, feel free to start your own conversation. If you have a question about Math Workshop, tweet it out using the hashtag. You’re likely to get some great feedback, because that’s the power of Twitter!

Chapter 2, Organizing Math Workshop

  1. How can I arrange my classroom to effectively accommodate Math Workstations?
  2. What should I include in my Math Workstations?

Now that you have decided on the structure you will use for Math Workshop (rotations, GUIDE, etc.), it’s time to think about how you will organize your room. Your first consideration is how you will arrange your classroom. Of course we all have different sizes and shapes of classrooms, and you have to work within your constraints. But teachers are incredibly resourceful, right? So look at your room as a blank canvas.

I think of my small-group instruction area as the hub. From there, I want to be able to take in the whole room, but I also want as few distractions as possible. My seat is always facing out into the room, while the students at my small-group table have their backs to the room. Take into consideration noise level as you decide where each group will work. You might want to position the groups with the greatest potential for noise (games?) farthest away from the small-group instruction table. If students will need to access a storage area to retrieve materials for workstations, position that storage area away from your small-group table as well. Speaking of materials, I like to have a bookshelf right behind my small-group table to store the materials I will need for my lessons. Everything at my fingertips!

As resourceful as we are, teachers can also be pack rats. Am I right? At the end of this past year, I did a major purge using the SPACE process described on pages 38 & 39. It was time well spent, and the materials that I kept are organized and easily accessible. As you set up your room for Math Workshop, consider what you need, how often you need it, and how best to organize and store your materials.

Ah, containers. I am always in search of the best way to organize and store my materials. I should own stock in Sterilite! For workstation boxes, I love their clip boxes (shown below). They are easy to stack, you can see the contents inside, and they can hold 8 1/2 x 11 sheets without folding or bending.

I roam the aisles at Walmart during back-to-school to find the perfect sized container for each and every manipulative. Over the last couple of years, I have started using my trusty label maker to label the contents of my boxes. BTW, I also use the label maker for labeling file folders and the divider tabs for my binders. Magical!

Finally, how will you actually organize the workstation boxes your students will use? Because the students are working independent of you, you need to make sure they have everything they need to be successful with the workstation tasks. Depending on the structure you are using, each workstation might have one or more tasks. Workstation boxes should be clearly labeled so students are able to quickly retrieve the correct container. A Task Menu within the workstation container can communicate to students which tasks they “must do” and which they “may do”. Student instruction cards can provide students with the guidance they need to complete tasks independently. And finally, consider including Talking Points cards to facilitate mathematical discourse. The cards should contain relevant vocabulary words that students should be using in their conversations, as well as sentence stems to help students frame their thoughts.


Here are the slow Twitter chat questions I will post this week. Just search on the hashtag #GMWorkshopTCM throughout the week to see the questions, read comments, and add your responses. We will use the Q and A format. For example, to respond to Q1, start your response with A1. Don’t forget to add the hashtag #GMWorkshopTCM to your tweet and all replies to tweets. If you don’t, it won’t show up in the feed for the chat. Feel free, also, to ask your own questions of the group. You may be wondering how to best make workstations accessible to your Kinders, and other participants might have answers for you! Just remember to use the hashtag.

Add your thoughts about organizing Math Workshop in the comments below. If you’re not using Twitter, you can still use the Twitter questions to frame your comments here.

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  1. At the end of the last school year I decided to re-purpose a book shelf by putting student tools into baskets and storing them in the bookshelf. Both the kids and I LOVED the look and loved how easy it was to access counters and other math tools. In doing this I had to decide of all the math manipulatives I have, which ones would be the most useful for independent learning. I simply do not have room to keep all of the math supplies out and available to my students. I had also purchased 6 Sterilite clear containers for math stations… but I have a difficult time being consistent with changing out stations or even being organized enough to plan in advance what materials should be in the containers, and what the learning purpose of the station will be. My hope is that by following the GUIDE model, my organization challenges will be alleviated!

    1. Your organization make-over sounds great!! If you are participating in the Twitter chat, we’d sure love it if you’d post a picture.

      I think you will find that the GUIDE structure makes planning easier. ?

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