Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Workshop Wednesday - Math Edition

So before I get into the meat of my post, I want to share my "popping tags" experience at Goodwill the other day! I regularly go to Goodwill to check out the kids' books section and usually leave with a bag full of pretty decent books. Well, I just happened to pop into Goodwill this past weekend and grabbed this whole stack of books at 50% off for just $23.00! What?! Two of the hard cover books are worth that alone! I even found a bunch that my kids requested on their reading interest surveys! Also grabbed up a few picture books, one of which is one of our mentor sentences books later this year! Go to Goodwill, people!

So, I'm finally getting a chance to link up again to Jivey's Workshop Wednesday! This time I'm going to talk about one of the workshops in my room that I haven't talked about yet...Math!

5 years ago when I moved here to lovely Central PA, I was hired to teach a 1st/2nd multi-age class. At the time the expectation was that teachers would NOT switch for math...so that meant teaching both first and second grade math class at the same exact time. Well, there are some significant differences in those levels, and the only real solution was to embrace a math workshop! I have to admit that teaching math through the workshop model was relatively new for me at the time. But what choice did I have?! Now I'm grateful that I took the plunge.

This year, I still have a multi-age (3rd/4th) but we do switch for math. (Phwew!) This year I'm in charge of teaching 24 third graders (half are mine and half belong to a class down the hall for the rest of the day), and while there isn't the same huge spread of abilities I found when teaching both grades at once, there is still a pretty big range in the class. Luckily I've had a few years to practice how I like to run my Math centers.

If you're familiar with Guided Reading then you know how my math centers work! Basically I start the day with a whole group mini-lesson, and then I have four or so flexible groups that rotate through 4 centers daily. I see each group every day (but some groups see me longer than others) and later in the year my intern (super lucky to have a year-long student teacher, amiright?!) sees one group. The other groups are a math game and an independent practice group.

I've also started doing Interactive Math Journals with my kids (as of last year) and I've found that it is usually best to get that process started in whole group and then finish or check in during small groups. I've been using I'm Lovin' Lit's foldable templates to make all of my own foldables this year.

Preparing for math workshop can be a little time consuming, but I think it pays off in the end. Being able to cater to the needs of kids across the range is just so much better than shooting for the middle and ending up with one set of bored kids and another set of confused kids. 

So. Many. Worksheets!
Typically all four groups are working on the same skill (but at different levels of understanding) so planning my station and my intern's station is usually pretty simple. I'm basically working on the common core standards and using the scope and sequence that my district provides. We have a primary math resource, Math Expressions, that I find to be VERY worksheet heavy. Often my lessons will relate to lessons in the book, but are tailored to fit my teaching style. (aka not 4 worksheets a day per kiddo) Usually it involves some math manipulatives, marker boards, etc. But sometimes we even do cool stuff like make cookies, read a mentor text, or build something. (depending on the skill!)

It is pretty common for my independent practice station to include activities from the book, IXL or Xtra Math on the computers, a Math Literature Activity, or sometimes even good old fashioned math fact drills. Last year I really got into Task Cards, and this year I'm committing at least one math workshop station per unit to having my kids do those. I post them around the room in order to get the kids moving a bit.

Here's just a few of my math games in a bundle!
Probably my favorite part of Math Workshop would be the game center. I'm pretty sure that my kids like that one the most too! I won't list them all here, but I have made lots and lots of games for math workshop that can be found in my TpT store. Of course, the games change with every unit, and I usually try not to repeat the same games more than a couple times per unit (or the kids lose interest), so that means I need LOTS of them. 

I spend a lot of time in the first few weeks practicing how to handle the workshop, and getting kids to understand that some centers can whisper, some are silent, some can talk, etc. It's an ongoing process...haha.

I have really found that running a math workshop makes math FLY by. Every day I look at the clock and can't believe that my time for math is up. On the occasional day that we need to do a whole group assessment or for some reason can't do the workshop, I feel like math just drags on and on. 

Right now, my kids are working on multi-digit addition. This skill was introduced in 2nd grade but I've found that my kids really need a lot of practice with it to become fluent. I created a resource for myself that the kids have really loved doing. I call it Monster Math Battles. Basically, each day the students complete some multi-digit addition problems, and the monster that "wins the most rounds" (has the highest sum each round) moves on to challenge another monster another day! 

There's a whole bracket set up, and the monsters will fight all the way through a championship bout where the ultimate winner will be determined! That's a total of 31 fights. With 10 problems in each fight, the kids will have completed a total of 310 math problems and never complained about it once! That's potentially 31 days of math practice, but I give my kids 2 fights each day (because they asked me to!). 

I've had kids begging me to get the sheets for certain monster matches. Haha. The best part? My independent practice math center right now is nice and quiet, and planned for the next couple weeks! Fast finishers flip the page over and write a quick story explaining how the winner won their battle (they have to include some math talk in the story!)

Just 5 measly dollars!
My kids have liked it so much that I am planning to make another tournament of battles for when I introduce multiplication later in the year! Grab it for just 5 bucks! If you like the concept, but teach a different math skill, let me know and I'll make a tournament for that skill for my TpT store!

Like those monsters? My brother drew them, and the clip art is available in his TpT store! He's a high school English teacher, but an excellent artist as well! Go grab all 32 monsters in both color and black lines for just $8! Halloween is coming up after all!

Whew! This was a long post! If you stuck around this long, you deserve a prize! How about this PEMDAS Order of Operations poster that I made for my classroom?! Just click the picture to go download yours for free! Feedback is always appreciated! 

I have been so busy with school that I just haven't had the time to write about everything I want to write about! I've definitely hit that point where things are finally calming down though! It's hard to believe that Summer is turning into Fall already. I really hope we have a nice long Fall, and a short Winter! 

Check back soon because I have a couple more freebies I'm looking forward to sharing later! And as soon as I get my act together I'll be celebrating reaching 500 followers!


  1. I was just at Goodwill yesterday and they only had yucky books, that smelled. Why can't I find a good Goodwill?
    Thanks for the PEMDAS thing. I hadn't seen it presented that way. It's great.

  2. I have to remember to check the Goodwill for books - what a great haul! Your monster game looks great - I can imagine that your kiddos are right into it - doing math and not even noticing!!

  3. I don't teach math to my 5th graders, but I'm sharing your ideas with my co-teacher who teaches math. Great ideas as always!

  4. I agree with Gary. Our Goodwill is nasty. Maybe I need to drive to a Goodwill in Buckhead or something. :-P I will be grabbing your multiplication Monster Math Battle when that is complete because my boys will LOVE IT. Thanks for linking up a great post! I agree, math is so boring when we don't do stations in my room!

  5. I am kicking myself for never thinking to look at Goodwill for books. I just switched from teaching K-2 to 3-5 this summer and spent SO MUCH $$$ on books. I'm definitely putting a trip to Goodwill on my to-do list!

    Adventures in Multigrade


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