Structuring Guided Math Workshop - Math Coach's Corner

“Because of its instructional value to both students and teachers, Math Workshop is an essential component of a Guided Math classroom.” (Sammons/Boucher, p 11)

I’m so excited to kick off another series of Book Study Mondays! Be sure to check out all the comments on the announcement post to read what your colleagues are hoping to gain from this book study and to learn more about getting started with Twitter. It was super exciting to hear from so many middle school/junior high teachers who are hoping to get Guided Math going in their classrooms.

So let’s get going!

Reading schedule

Join the slow Twitter chat

If you have participated in Twitter chats, you know they are typically regularly scheduled events, taking place once a week on a certain day and time. Depending on the chat, they can move pretty quickly! I participate regularly in #elemmathchat on Thursday nights at 8:00 CST. Twitter chats are a wonderful way to collaborate with other educators and become part of an online professional learning network (PLN).

A relatively new twist on the Twitter chat is the slow chat. Rather than having a scheduled time to show up and chat, questions are posted throughout the week and participants respond at their leisure. It’s a much more relaxed way to participate in a chat. For our slow Twitter chat, we will use the hashtag #GMWorkshopTCM. I plan on posting questions each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday throughout the book study, however you can respond to the questions at any time. Search on the hashtag to read the questions that have been posted and add your comments. We will use the standard Q & A format–questions will be tagged Q (Q1, Q2, etc.) and you tag your response with an A (A1, A2, etc.). Don’t forget to tag your response with #GMWorkshopTCM so it will show up in the search. You can also use the hashtag to share what you’re doing in your classroom related to Guided Math. That’s how the PLN grows! It’s one-stop professional development, and you are now part of a learning community.

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.


I don’t know about you, but sometimes I skip a book’s Introduction, because I want to jump right in! If you have not previously read Laney’s original Guided Math book, then you most definitely don’t want to skip the introduction. Even if you have read the original book, the Introduction provides a great reminder of the Guided Math framework and the importance of Math Workshop within the framework.

One big take-away here is that Math Workshop is just one of the seven components of Guided Math, albeit a critical one. This book does not, for example, explain what and how you teach in your small group lessons–it focuses on the Math Workshop component. Math Workshop is the work students are doing independently–in pairs, individually, or in cooperative groups–which allows the teacher to pull and instruct in small groups. What you will find in this book is everything you need to plan, organize, implement, and manage a successful Math Workshop.

And finally, as we get started, we should probably ask ourselves why are we even headed down this path? Why do we want to implement Math Workshop? With instructional time being so precious, we can’t squander it on fads and whims. The rationale for Math Workshop laid out on pages 15-17 should guide our implementation process. For example, if we want to promote student independence and self-reliance, how are we planning for and teaching that? It sure doesn’t just happen! Honestly, that is why a whole book is required for Math Workshop–if not implemented properly, it can seem chaotic, overwhelming, and frustrating to both students and teacher. The thought and preparation that goes toward planning, implementing, and managing Math Workshop is what pays off in student success.

On pages 18 and 19 of the Introduction, guiding questions are included for each of the chapters in the book. I’ll be using those questions as we discuss each chapter

Chapter 1, Structuring Math Workshop

  1. What Math Workshop model will work best for me?
  2. How can I create a management board to help students identify where they will work during Math Workshop?

The power of the Guided Math framework is in the flexibility it provides teachers. Your first decision will be how you want to structure your Math Workshop. The book explains two rotation methods, a method that allows students to choose from available workstations, and the GUIDE model. There is no right model! You have to decide what will work for you. When I was in the classroom, I was least successful with the rotation model. The timing was hard for me. Some students finished the tasks too quickly and others never finished their tasks. I was more successful with a menu approach–students had a weekly list of must dos and may dos. They could choose the order that they wanted to work on the tasks. It solved the problem of students finishing too quickly or not ever finishing. I just had to make sure my must dos were doable for all students and the I had enough may dos to keep all students engaged. I should mention that I taught 5th grade, so the kiddos were pretty independent. I think the GUIDE model takes the menu process to a whole new level and the structure of GUIDE makes planning easier.

The GUIDE model features five workstations, each with a different focus. Students visit only one workstation each day, so each workstation must include enough tasks to keep students engaged. As with the menu model I previously used, some tasks might be mandatory, while others are optional. Tasks don’t need to be changed each week, which makes your life a little easier. I like that groups are heterogeneous and that the teacher just pulls the students she needs for small group instruction. Also, if you need to skip a Math Workshop day, the rotation just rolls over to the next day.

I realize I might be showing a little bias for the GUIDE model, but the beauty of Guided Math is that you can use the model that feels right for you! The table on page 32 is great for comparing the different models.

Once you decide on the model you will use, you need to think of how you will communicate the structure to your students. What type of management board will you use? To maximize your instructional time, it’s important that students know quickly exactly what they are doing once Math Workshop starts. You have lots of options for management boards–just make it each for both you and the students.

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. Also, be sure to follow other participants to grow your PLN!

Can’t wait for the conversations from this chapter!

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