Thursday, October 31, 2019

Math Workshop: Responsive Teaching in Action

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post about the power of classroom visits. Here at Cherry Tree we are very lucky to have a structured opportunity to do this every quarter through instructional rounds. This past week we were able to peek into other classrooms and watch math workshop in action. Wow! We saw amazing, responsive instruction in these rooms. I wanted to debrief what we saw and outline it in a post.

Number Sense Routines:
It's so important for students to spend a few minutes warming up their math brains before starting the minilesson. This engaging routine gives students an opportunity to come together as a math community in order to practice and discuss math thinking.

Here is an example of Mrs. Conley's number sense routine. Notice how she probes student thinking and encourages discourse. All students are engaged and the activity promotes number sense.


Everyday Math has Mental Math and Reflexes built into the start of every lesson. It's important to remember that this should be fairly quick paced, engaging, and promote student discourse. In order to keep Mental Math and Reflexes short and engaging, pick only a few of the problems to do with the class. Promote student discourse with questions and encouragement like:
  • "How did you get that answer?" 
  • "How do you know you are right?" 
  • "Explain your strategy." 
  • "Wow, you took a risk and we all learned from it!"
Engaging Minilessons:
Teachers that are using the new math workshop structure have worked hard to plan a focused fifteen minute minilesson. This can be tricky with the current curriculum. The lessons are in depth and we want to be sure all students understand the concept before releasing responsibility. In order to plan focused and engaging minilessons, teachers have reduced the number of examples and have increased their formative data collection. It's helpful to model the math lessons after our reading and writing lessons. Each lesson has connection, teaching, active engagement, and link portions. During the teaching and active engagement portions of the lesson the teacher is diligently noticing how students are performing in relation to the learning target. She feels much more confident releasing students from whole group instruction knowing that she will be supporting the students during small group and conferring time who were not hitting the target.

Below is an example of Mrs. Crawford's minilesson. Watch as Sara explicitly teaches two subtraction strategies and provides students with opportunities to actively engage with these new strategies. During the whole group time, students are receiving the direct support of her and Mrs. Stob. At the end of the minilesson Mrs. Crawford closes by linking these strategies to the work students are going to continue to do in math.

Conferring and Small Group Work:
This new math workshop structure allows for more time and freedom to meet with students. Teachers are able to create fluid groups and confer with lots of students every day. During the whole group lesson, lots of formative notes are taken. The students are all gathered together and the teacher can see everyone working on their whiteboards or in their journals. She is continuously jotting down notes so that she knows who needs more support or further extension. There are lots of ways to take notes, here are some examples.



Teachers are extremely intentional about what they are doing with students during the conferring and small group time. Mrs. McIntyre and Miss Rhoades coteach math. They meet for a short time once a week to plan out the learning targets for the following week. It's important for them to be on the same page. Mrs. McIntyre is the general education teacher. In this role she is the expert on the general education curriculum and the instructional strategies needed to teach her class. Miss Rhoades is the special education teacher. In this role she is the expert at identifying potential barriers that certain students might have. She know what scaffolds need to be in place to support students. These two teachers plan small group instruction with this in mind. Here is a sample of their planning sheet.

Miss Rhoades plans for visuals and other tools to help scaffold instruction for certain students. She has these organized in a binder with sheet protectors. They can easily be given to students when needed. Here are a few examples from her binder.




During this small group and conferring time students work independently, with a partner, and/or with a teacher. They know where to go, what to do, and why they are doing it. These teachers have explicitly set this expectation.
Mrs. Stob quickly confers with students after the minilesson. 
Mrs. Crawford supports a student with corrections on a recent assessment.

Kindergarteners know where to find games and how to play them with a partner.

Students work on must-dos and may-dos while the teacher meets with students.

IAs can help meet with students and take down anecdotal notes.

Teachers use manipulatives and other tools during whole group and small group instruction.

Students are excited to learn and enjoy math class!

There are many other important components to this new math workshop structure that are not listed here. Each of the teachers we visited during the instructional rounds this week have partnered with me for a twenty day coaching cycle to help set this structure up in their rooms. We read Math Workshop and taught the minilessons for each of the guidelines. I have several copies of this book in my office. If this is something you're interested in, please let me know! I would love to partner with you and begin setting up this responsive and engaging math workshop in your room!

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