Moving towards a math workshop model without even realizing it

Is it coincidental or by design that our school’s reading initiative is taking me one step closer to a math workshop model? If you’re a regular reader you already know I’m introducing a “reading strategy of the month” using think-alouds. October was monitoring. November is determining importance. Next month the math department will present to our staff how we implemented determining importance during the month of November.

I’m realizing that my determining importance think-aloud closely resembles a targeted mini-lesson–the centerpiece of math workshop. What solidified it for me was reading this graphic from Minds on Mathematics.

minds on mathematics

I have to admit I didn’t have the math practices in mind when I created the think aloud but they came through anyway. 

determining importance

On a separate note I want to thank bloggers Diana Fesmire and  Mr. Dardy, as well as commenter Alisa Carter for stretching me.

Yesterday, I returned an ungraded pre-algebra assessment to the students. Their job was to analyze and discuss each problem at their table.  After ten minutes I handed out the key and discussion continued.

I feel so small. I should have begun that practice long ago. Their discussions were incredibly valuable. The students were talking math and I wasn’t the center of attention or the knowledge keeper. Most of class loved the idea of discussing their work with each other. Plus they were able to control the pace. One student thought holding back the key for a period of time added a bit of suspense. On the other hand one student felt self-conscious–concerned that she would be wrong and her classmates would know.

On Friday I became a much better teacher, inching closer to a math workshop approach.

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7 thoughts on “Moving towards a math workshop model without even realizing it

  1. Mary
    Thanks for the kind words. I feel that I’ve been growing as a teacher as well due to the wisdom I am crowd sourcing from the web.
    One quick question – when you say you returned ungraded work, do you also mean it was unmarked? I think that this is a terrific idea either way, but it feels like the conversations would be really different if they were responding to any marks you might have made on their papers.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. I handed the assessments back with absolutely no marks. If they made any mistakes, I wanted them to discover them in their conversations! I really want to do more of this and the only thing that is preventing me is ME! I hope you had a great turkey day as well.

  2. I love the idea. I often co-grade with students – sitting one-on-one and scoring an assessment. I have never handed it back and have them analyze and discuss it. I don’t know why I have never thought of this. I know all the skills my students have built this time of year – working together and justifying would make this a very productive thing for them. I can’t wait until I give the next quiz and try this out! I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

  3. Your opening line sounds like one of my thoughts! In five minutes I head to another literacy PD planning meeting that, while school wide, is bringing together focus in my math classes, literacy, and the Common Core. I’m finding the confluence and the timing strange, in a good way. Interested to hear how your workshop develops.

  4. This is great! I agree that not giving the key would build suspense. I observed a 6th grade math class at a progressive school recently. The teacher gave the students one problem to work through for the whole class. He did not tell the students how to do the problem, but rather allowed for them to form their own strategies and promoted critical thinking and productive struggle. The students worked in groups and towards the end of class had each group give their solutions. None of the groups had the same answer and none of them were correct, but I believe they were on the right track. The homework that night was to have a clear explanation of the their solution, and/or to further work on the problem to find the solution. The students really wanted to know if their answer was correct, and I believe they went home to work on the problem. I believe they were also eager to return to the class to find out if their solutions were correct. Suspense creates better learning and you just gave me another idea on how to build suspense. Thank you!

    1. What a great lesson to observe! I would love to be the fly on the wall to see how the lesson was debriefed, how the students’ misconceptions were addressed and what they learned as a result of those misconceptions. When students are stuck or really have no idea how to approach a task I’ve incorporated hints that I type up and hand to students. This requires anticipating where they will be stuck and some pre-planning but it’s well worth it. Thanks for sharing!

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