Math Workshop: The Stations

So now that Math Workshop is organized and ready to go (read my first post on organization here), you are probably wondering just what the kids are doing at each station.  I know that for me, figuring out exactly what I wanted each student to do each day, and keeping it worthwhile and relevant, was a big hurdle to overcome.  When I sat down and thought about my goals with this workshop model, I knew immediately that I wanted my students to 1) have time to work on calendar each day, 2) get a directed lesson on the standards to be covered, and 3) have some sort of problem solving activity where the focus was on problem solving strategies.

After much thought, and playing around with schedules, I came up with a three rotation mix that is working well for me now.  Here is what is happening in each station during my workshop time:

Calendar/Skill/Choice --

This station is basically the "independent work time" station.  The students begin the 20 minute block with their Calendar Math page for the day.  Once they finish that (and the kids are getting REALLY fast at it), they move on to the Skill page.

This skill page is either a review of the lesson we just did (if they have already come to my group) OR a review page of a skill that was previously learned.  I get these pages from any source that is appropriate but I usually use the workbook that came with our math series or the math book itself.  This cuts down on copies.

Once they have finished the skill page (which they keep in their folder in the "completed work" section), they can move onto the Choice activity.  These are skill review games, workmats, file folders, etc.  Just fun ways to review the skill (as well as to give them incentive to complete the other two tasks in a timely fashion.)








Problem Solving --

For this station, I really want them to be thinking of the strategies that they use while solving math problems.  They are so quick to jump to the algorithm to solve everything, that I want them to think of different ways that they can come to the answer in a math problem.  So for this station, the first thing they do each week is a Two Ways of Problem Solving sheet.  They basically have one word problem that they need to figure out two DIFFERENT ways of solving to come up with the same solution.  They then need to EXPLAIN the strategy (not the solution) and why it was useful in solving the problem.  On Monday they pick this up in the station.  They then have until Friday to complete it.  It has been taking most of my class about three days to complete this.  We then go over it as a class on Friday (after the math test.)  I really like this part, as it helps them to debrief the strategies, and gives us, as a class, the opportunity to see many different ways of solving the same problem.

Once the Two Ways is completed, the students then have an array of different problem solving games and activities to choose from.  The favorite right now are these toothpick puzzles I found on the web. (in fact, the whole site has lots of problem solving, open ended problems to use.)
I didn't have any toothpicks, so the students are using tongue depressors.  Eh, gets the job done ;)
My aide also calls four students from the group working at this station for remediation.  She is able to really get in and help the students with whatever skill they need to work on during this time and I feel that it is worth it for those kids to miss the station that one day per week.  Just helps to differentiate the instruction a bit more.

Teacher --

This is my station.  I actually have two roles during Workshop.  For the first twenty minute round, I don't call a direct lesson group.  Instead, I pull two small groups for remediation or enrichment for 10 minutes each.  This cuts into their other station time, but I feel that the small group time is worth it for them to review some skills.  Also, since they will be at that station 3 other times during the week, I feel they are ok with missing a little time to come meet with me.

For the next two 20 minute blocks, I call two groups at a time (Groups A and B OR Groups C and D...for a total of 16 children) and do the direct lesson for the day.  This is a very short time, but I am finding that having the time limit makes my lessons more precise, to the point, and on task.  My kids know it is a short time too, so they tend to be more focused (that could also be because they are on the rug with me and I am so close to them ;) )  Sometimes, we learn a new skill.  Sometimes, we review a skill.  Sometimes, we play a game.  The lessons vary depending upon my group and depending upon the day.  But I *almost* always teach the same lesson twice...once to the first session and once to the second.
This is a different class, but it is the only picture I have of me teaching on the rug.  I need to take more pictures of myself teaching!  However, this is what my lesson time would look like nonetheless.

OK...so there you have it.  That is what my stations look like.  What do your math workshop stations look like?

13 comments

  1. Hi! I have a question: do your students have time to complete a work product on the direct lesson each day? So if you teach lesson 11-7 to both of your 20 minute groups, do they have a work product for 11-7 each day? I'm wondering how your last 20 minute rotation has time to complete a work product since you go from them to calendar and hw review.

    Thanks!

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    1. The students in my last group just finish their skill work from the lesson the next day. They go to Calendar/Skill/Choice rotation first thing usually after me, so they do it then. There hasn't really been an issue of "forgetting" or anything.

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    2. That's what I thought! It sounds great. Could easily be adapted with any sort of spiral review for calendar math. I have a math board that I do whole group and the Common Core 4 Today that I could give instead of calendar math.

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  2. This is awesome! I love the idea of stations so that you can work with smaller groups. How is the noise level when you are trying to directly teach to one group? Are the other groups able to concentrate on their assignment?

    Jamie
    Sixth Grade Tales

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    1. I find that the students are able to concentrate just fine when they are in their independent stations while I am teaching. I guess I have just conditioned them to it? Since teaching in this "rotation" way (about 6 years now) I have had no real issue.

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  3. This blog post is an answer to my struggles as a math teacher. I've always had some variation of math workshop, but I'm loving your organization and accountability piece. Thanks so much for taking the time to spell it out for us and show pictures. I think I will begin the roll out this week (if we don't have any more delays/snow days) or Monday at the latest. I did want to see if you have a copy of the "Two Ways of Problem Solving" sheet you referenced above. Thank you again for taking time to help teachers like me! :))

    ~Amanda Elementary Teacher Files

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    1. It is in my store :) http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Two-Ways-of-Problem-Solving-5th-Grade-Common-Core-Aligned-462012

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  4. This is a great post! I've been running my math block this way for the last four years, and it seriously has been wonderful. It's so important that those students that need re-teaching and interventions get a solid time carved out for just them. On the other hand, it can be daunting to keep the rest of your students busy, organized, on task, and learning! The website you provided with the problem solving/open ended questions is awesome. My students will love them! Thanks for the great ideas!

    Young Teacher Love Blog

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    1. Thanks! If you explore that site a bit, there is actually a lot there to pull from!

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  5. Would you be willing to post the rotations you use for each group? (ie. where does group A start and how do they rotate through). It sounds like you have 4 groups and 3 stations... I am having a hard time wrapping my head around where everyone is going and if you have multiple groups at each station at the same time. I have been teaching whole-class lessons and then having my kids rotate through stations, but I love the idea of small group lessons because then I could differentiate for my high and low groups. Thanks for your thoughts! I love your blog and your teaching ideas... So many things have been so helpful for me in my teaching... I am appreciative of all you share :)

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    1. I am planning another post about it, so that I go into more detail, but basically, when they come to me as a group (during the last two time slots) I have TWO of the four groups on the rug with me. So instead of 8 kids, I have 16 learning the group lesson. It is a smaller grouped whole group directed lesson. I just do that lesson twice. My first time slot is reserved for me to pull smaller remediation or enrichment groups.

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  6. I am very impressed by how well you are able to accomplish all of your rotations in such short amount of time. I was hoping to integrate your system this new year, but would need to make a few tweaks (add a slot & schedule times) to the PDF printable you provided in your post. I could not find them in your store, so would you be able to email me an editable copy to alfisher402@gmail.com?

    -Amanda

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  7. Stephanie,
    Thank you so much for this post. It helped me rethink my own Math Workshop approach. I recently wrote about my own spin on Math Workshop using a task list rather than stations at https://planteachreflectcycle.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/15/. Your set-up definitely inspired me!

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