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The math workshop model includes some direct instruction/inquiry followed by a variety of hand-on, student-centered learning activities.  There are several things to keep in mind when designing your math workshop to maximize student engagement and learning. It is important that elementary math students develop good habits, the ability to get through a productive struggle, and take ownership of their learning.  Interactive anchor charts, access to a math tool kits, and student-led activities all contribute to the growth of our young mathematicians.

This post shares five ways to enhance your elementary math workshop.  Whether you are just getting started or have been using the math workshop model for a while, I hope you find something that will help elevate your lessons and activities. 

Five must-haves for your elementary math workshop model including interactive anchor charts and a math tool kit

Interactive Anchor Charts

Interactive anchor charts can provide a helpful resource for students during math workshop.  I have found that students are more likely to utilize the anchor charts if they have a voice in the format, examples, and/or wording.  Student-involved anchor charts can be a great part of your classroom math tool kit.

The chart on the right was created at the beginning of the school year following a discussion of productive vs. unproductive talk during math workshop.  We reference this chart before workshop time as reminder to maintain a growth mindset and encourage others to grow as mathematicians.

Taking a picture of anchor charts and sharing them with parents through an app like Homeroom can be a great way to communicate what is going on at school and how they can reinforce concepts at home.

Student-created anchor charts are a helpful part of the math tool kit for the elementary math workshop model.

Give Students Easy Access to a Math Tool Kit

Giving students easy access to a math tool kit is essential in the math workshop model.
Having a variety of manipulatives available for students to choose helps them take charge of their own learning.

Having manipulatives available for students to create their own math tool kit is a great way for students to take ownership of their learning.  In the beginning of the year, I always remind students that they can use the manipulatives for independent and partner work.  In addition to the bins shown, I have hundreds charts and clocks available.  I never force the manipulatives, but I do allow students to use them as needed.

Make Sure Expectations are Very Clear

Clear expectations are essential for a successful elementary math workshop.  I hang the posters on the right around my math bulletin board.  I have students model each expectation.  Having photos of students modeling the behaviors increases student ownership.  It also provides clarity and helps with accountability.  If you’d like a copy of these posters, you can get them here.

Posters to clarify expectations for the math workshop model include encouraging use of a math tool kit.

Provide Choices During Math Workshop

Allow elementary math students to choose their math tool kits and math workshop activities

Students frequently have an assignment or partner activity to complete at the beginning of math workshop.  After that, they are given choices.  Students can complete centers, go on an approved site, play a game with a partner, or practice their math facts.  Sometimes, students need a little guidance to help them make the best choice, but students eventually learn the best choices to gain confidence as a mathematician.  Once students consistently make good choices, it makes math groups and conferences run much more smoothly.

Give Students the Opportunity to Share

At the end of math workshop, we always have a share.  At the beginning of the year, the share focuses on what went well with math workshop.  We share compliments and come up with goals.  The purpose is to have students help reinforce positive behaviors from their peers.

As the year progresses, students share their math strategies with the class.  I love how students can learn from each other.  I pick 2-3 students who used different strategies to share with the class and the end of each math workshop.

Ending your elementary math time with a share is an important part of the math workshop model

Math workshop continues to run more smoothly as I gain more experience.  I love seeing students grow as mathematicians.  A math tool kit, student-centered activities, choices, and clear expectations have been the keys to helping my math workshop become successful.

Add challenge items to students' math tool kit

Another important part of math workshop is providing challenges to those students who need them.  You can click here to read my post about creating a math challenge bin.  

One of the challenge items I include is a center to promote understanding of mulitplication.  If you would like to try this center in your classroom, just complete the form below, and it will be sent straight to your inbox.

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Teaching blogger for elementary teachers

Mary Wingert, licensed educator (K-12 Special Ed. & 1-8 General Ed)

I started teaching in 1993.   I have taught special education, fifth grade, and fourth grade.  I moved to second grade in 2015, and I am still there today.  

I believe in teaching strategies that are effective, differentiated, and engaging. I am looking forward to building a community of teachers who feels the same!  Read more here.