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  • Writer's pictureLara

5 Simple Steps to Set Up Math Workshop For the Year!

Updated: Aug 2, 2023

Let me paint a picture for you, kids seeing the station chart and saying “yay stations!” and center time running itself. Music to a teacher's ears right? But how do you get there?

Step 1: Don’t do math during math workshop!

When you are just setting up the routine, the ”math” they are doing isn't as important as the behavior and movement around the room, setting the routine of the math workshop up for success for the year. Some things you might consider having your students do are puzzles, building or playing with the manipulatives they might soon use, tangrams, cubes, even drawing or coloring. Kids can find a way to make anything a toy, so letting them do that now will set them up for being able to use the material as tools when the time comes. The students are getting used to engaging in a math center, cleaning up, reading the math station chart, and moving safely from one math station to the next Create a safe space for exploration and risk taking

Step 2: Set Clear Expectations

My mentor teacher told me to imagine that your students know nothing about transitions! They have never moved to a new station until you show them how. They have never gotten their own supplies, pushed in their chairs, shared materials etc.

The reason for this is that if you are not explicit in your expectations, they could potential run to their next station, leave without cleaning up, fighting over the manipulatives. If you are clear about how you want your math block to run, it will save a lot of time in clean up and student disagreements about who gets what first.

Step 3: Practice!

Practice Everything! How to move, ask for help, go to the bathroom... the list goes on! My biggest struggle is with moving safely from place to place because my students love to run like they're in a race! When the timers go off it's like my students heard on your mark, get set, go and sprint across the room without cleaning up or bump into each other, the furniture like it appeared out of nowhere.

I love using timers, embedded in my station chart or tools like Classroom Screen linked here if I need to adjust how long stations are depending on if the mini-lesson went long, or some other unplanned interruption. When first starting, it can be helpful to have your students wait for your signal or go ahead, and practice, practice, practice moving safely from one station to the other.

Step 4: Use A Visual Station Chart

Once they are moving, where do they move to. Having a station chart showing where each group is going next serves several purposes. It gives students

direction to where they are going and what they will be using when they get there. It can be helpful to have the various areas where your students will be doing their math centers color coded so they can head to that area when you’ve given them the signal to move. A visual digital station chart is a great help when preparing for math stations, icons are easy to switch and your stations are ready in minutes. Having visual images are especially helpful for students who can not yet read or are learning the language you speak in your classroom. It also helps with supporting the routine you are setting up in your classroom.

Tip- when setting the icons, use the manipulative the students will use vs a very specific image tied directly to the math station as a time saver!

Step 5: Revisit

Expectations as Needed!

Taking time to set up your expectations and the Math Workshop Routine before the students are asked to do math centers that might be more challenging will support your efforts and class discussions of expectations need to be revisited.

Using these five steps will set your math workshop time up for success, save you time in redirections and addressing behavior, and have your students be self-sufficient during workshop time so you can work with small groups or individual students as needed with minimal interruptions to maximize all the time you have!


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