Creating a Climate for a Successful Math Workshop

Math workshop tips

If you have been following me, you know that I have been doing some Facebook Live videos about some ways to “dip your toe” in to the idea of starting math workshop in your classroom.  It does NOT need to be a daunting task and there are plenty of ways to start small!

If you haven’t seen the first two videos (I’m just figuring out all the lighting and technical details so don’t judge!), you can watch them now!  The first one, “What IS Math Workshop” can give you a little background and the second one, “Getting Started with Math Workshop” can give you a few simple ways to start to restructure your math instruction without creating tons of crazy systems!

math workshop video
Click the image to go to the replay if you missed it!

Great news!  Tonight is my third video where I will be focusing on “Creating a Culture for a Successful Math Workshop”.  I’d love for you to stop by and check it out if you have time.  I am going to try to focus on the following ideas:

How do we teach students a growth mindset?

If you have followed the work of Carol Dweck and Jo Boaler, you know how important teaching about a growth mindset is.  Having “grit” and being willing to persevere are a key part of a quality math workshop.  Explicitly teaching it is critical.  I seriously keep this bulletin board and some other visual reminders up ALL year and refer to them often!

This is part of the best selling “Growth Mindset” resource in my store.  Just click the image to take you there.

What does brain research tell us about learning math?

Jo Boaler’s book “Mathematical Mindsets” is fantastic for so many reasons, but particularly for how she explains in teacher terms how the brain actually learns math.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  I’ll give a few examples tonight, but I really recommend buying the book.  I have a link at the bottom of the post if you want to check it out.  I also highly recommend that you visit her website, “Youcubed“, and sign up for anything you can!  She has great FREE materials for you to help better teach using what we know about the brain.

What is the “helping curriculum”?

If you are at all familiar with the work of Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey, you will know they have done a ton of research and are doing amazing things at their school in California.  One thing they do as a part of their “First 20 Days of School” is to explicitly teach what they call the “helping curriculum”.  It’s fascinating–and by spending time explicitly teaching it, you can ensure that your math workshop will have a much stronger foundation.  What is it?  In a nutshell, Fisher and Frey believe we need to teach students how to…

Ask for help

Offer help

Accept help

Politely refuse help

When you think about the students you had last year, can you think of some students who might have struggled with any of these?  Each one is fascinating; we have students who ask for help too soon…students who never offer help…students who get “snippy” with their peers when they offer to help, and more.  We can help smooth the edges off this and create a real collaborative math environment.

How do we create an atmosphere that celebrates risk taking, successes, and mistakes?

Growth Mindset bulletin board

Helping students feel safe and comfortable is a critical part of readying your room for math workshop.  We want students to be able to work at their own level, to recognize that mistakes do, indeed, grow your brain (The Youcubed website listed above actually has videos to show your students about this!), and that risk taking should be celebrated.  I love using Number Talks for this as well as modeling my own thinking.  How we respond when students get a wrong answer or have a misconception can really set the tone for the room, so we need to be deliberate about how we handle these situations.

What math tasks really engage students?

This topic is far too big to tackle in one blog post or Facebook Live session, so I’ll leave it at this.  Students need to be active.  Students need to be engaged.  Students need “just right” challenges.  Students love to work together if they are taught how to do so, so our job as teachers is to find these challenging, engaging, collaborative tasks to immerse our students in.  Research suggests that our students should be engaged in academic discourse 60% of their day…and filling out workbook pages just isn’t going to cut it!  That’s why I love writing word problems, creating open ended challenges, and doing concept sorts and other active learning activities because students stay engaged and learn more. I’d love to have you check out my store to see more examples of these if you haven’t already–and if you HAVE used any of them, I’d sure love to hear about your experiences, either in the comments or tonight during the live video.

Hope to see you tonight!

Here is a link to Jo Boaler’s amazing book.  It’s only about $10 and totally worth it.  I do have an affiliate link below if you want to check it out.