Reports of back-to-school plans are starting to trickle in to teachers and families. While it’s good to finally have a plan, these plans are also adding a lot of extra stress on teachers. Whether it is 100% distance learning, a hybrid model, or teaching in-class students AND virtual students, most teachers are expected to participate in some type of distance learning. That’s not a little stressful. There are SO MANY new things to consider and challenges to overcome, whether related to math procedures like we’ll be talking about today, or any other topic. This is a back-to-school year like no other.
This blog post shares how to teach essential math procedures for in-class and distance learning. Each of these lessons will be beneficial to ALL students.
The first few days of school are crucial for developing the procedures that will guide the class for the rest of the school year. This is especially true for math workshop and guided math.
There are simply too many procedures to teach all at one time. Students respond better when procedures are taught in small chunks of time, rather than trying to teach every procedure in one lesson.
The easiest way to do this is to teach a brief mini lesson on a math workshop procedure BEFORE beginning content specific math lessons. You should be able to teach the most essential procedures in about 10 days.
The lessons below are all included in my First Days of Math Workshop resource. In each lesson, there are teacher notes and student instructions.
What is Math Workshop?
Every year it’s so tempting to skip this lesson. It seems a little too obvious. However, that’s not necessarily the case for our students, and it helps to have common terminology and expectations.
Students who are learning math procedures distantly must also learn how each part of math workshop will be shared or presented. Some options include:
- Recorded video where the teacher presents the lesson.
- Recorded video created by someone else (BrainPOP. Study Jams, Khan Academy, etc.)
- Live session through Zoom or Google Meets
- Google Classroom
- Google Classroom
- Padlet or Jamboard
After the lesson, have students complete a brief review. The activity serves two purposes. One is to allow students to explain the three parts of math workshop in their own words. The second is to give students practice working with Google Slides.
Use the activity to allow students to practice accessing Google Classroom and practice opening and working with resources through Google Slides. Students will be able to resize and insert text boxes.
Habits of Good Math Students
The next lesson teaches students about behavior and academic expectations during math workshop. If you are in-class or in a live meeting, have students generate a list of good habits. As you add to the list, guide students into including the following:
- Show your work-We want students to get right answers, but we also want them to understand the HOW and WHY of math.
- Remain on task-Discuss what students who are on task look like and what students who are not on task look like.
- Ask productive questions-We want our students to ask questions during math. However, we need to teach students how and when to ask their questions. Students must also learn how to articulate a question. I always use this lesson to share that, ”I don’t get it” isn’t a question.
- Actively participate in class-Spend time discussing how to participate and what engagement means and looks like, as well as what it doesn’t look like.
- Take their time-Explain that hurrying through your work to be the first person finished does not equal a good math student.
Have students then brainstorm how to be active and present when not physically at school. Ideas include:
- Ask questions on Google Classroom
- Complete all assignments
- Join Zoom or Google Meets calls
- Use this time to discuss trustworthiness. There will be some assignments where students will not be able to prove they completed the task (watching a video, playing a game, etc.). In those situations, it’s the student’s responsibility to be engaged in the learning process.
In the follow-up activity to this lesson, show students HOW to click a link to watch a video and return to the original assignment. Also, teach students how to ask a question on Google Classroom. For practice, you can even have each student leave a question in Google Classroom.
What Happens During Work Time?
This math procedures lesson revisits “What is Math Workshop?” It goes more in depth on what should happen during work time. If you plan on using centers, this lesson is when you will explain your center math procedures.
During the lesson, describe your expectations for work time for in-class students (if applicable).
- Raise your hand if you need the teacher, or what students should do if they need help.
- Talk in a soft voice-discuss volume levels.
- Stay on task-you can never review this too much.
- Show all your work-you will need to revisit this regularly.
- When to avoid leaving the classroom-I ask my students to wait until AFTER the mini lesson (excluding emergencies).
- Never interrupt a small group-what are other options.
- Where students may and may not sit while competing their work
- How your centers are organized.
Then discuss your expectations for work time for your virtual learning students. Things to consider include:
- Time frame for work completion
- Types of assignments to expect
- Should students work independently
- How to get help when needed
If you are implementing centers, share how centers will be structured for distance learning.
- How many activities a day should students complete?
- How many days a week will students participate in centers?
- What do students do with completed center work?
- How do students know which task to complete?
- How will students check their work?
Explain to students that one way you will monitor their work is through Google Classroom (or other platform). Show students how you can view their work (completed and in progress) and how you can leave private comments for a task.
Leave students a private comment in today’s task (you can copy and paste). Have students practice reading and resolving the comment, as well as responding to your comment.
What Happens During Closing?
It is easy to overlook closing during math workshop. However, it is an essential piece to the model for learning math procedures. At the beginning of the year it takes a great deal of modeling and practice to teach students how to appropriately share.
In this lesson, create an anchor chart that says, “Responsibilities During Closing”.
- Shares work
- Explains HOW they found their answer
- Discuss the strategies they used
- Asks and answers questions
- Speaks clearly
- Looks at audience
- Actively Listens-discuss what that means
- Makes relevant and productive comments-discuss what is relevant and productive and what isn’t
- Asks questions-Discuss what types of questions are appropriate
Closings can be incredibly powerful with distance learning. Three great tools for closing are FlipGrid, Padlet, and Jamboard. It’s certainly not essential to use all three platforms. Sometimes less is more.
FlipGrid is a video-based web discussion platform that teachers and students can use to share and conduct discussions.
Padlet is a website and app that allows kids to curate information onto virtual bulletin boards using a simple drag-and-drop system.
Jamboard is G Suite’s digital whiteboard that offers a collaborative experience for classrooms.
In this lesson, teach students how to use either Padlet or Jamboard. Be sure to have your account set up prior to lesson.
Have students complete the closing time expectation graphic organizer. In the assignment, students are asked to go to Padlet or Jamboard (you can choose) and answer the question, “Why do you think closing is an important part of math?”
Accountable talk is when the students talk and listen to each other using the correct terminology and vocabulary, as well as explain their math thinking and engage in math discussions. This is often very difficult for students, especially at the beginning of the year.
Even though you are not always present with students during distance learning, accountable talk is still important to ensure students are getting a grasp on math procedures. Use this lesson to explain your accountable talk (and writing) for distance learning.
- Use correct vocabulary. Give examples and non examples.
- How to explain answers in math. This is the first of many lessons on this topic. Use this as a starting place but don’t expect immediate success or mastery.
- Discuss how to leave comments to others using accountable talk. Without guidance, students tend to leave comments such as: I like how you wrote neatly; You did a good job; I think that’s right, etc. While not necessarily bad, these comments do not continue the learning process. Model examples of productive comments and questions.
- Discuss what will happen in the event someone leaves an inappropriate comment.
During this lesson, teach students how to use FlipGrid. This is the video tool that students can use for many different things. Students may also leave comments on FlipGrid. (You can turn off the comment feature.)
In today’s task, students give examples of accountable talk. Then, they will be taken to FlipGrid where they will answer any question of your choice. For example, “How can you subtract 1,000-458 mentally?” Students then record a video of their thoughts. (You may want to assign different groups different prompts for more variety.) Have students practice leaving comments on the videos.
Remember, you’ll need to set up your FlipGrid account BEFORE this lesson.
What Do I Do When I Finish My Work?
This routine will vary greatly from teacher to teacher. The most important thing is to make sure students know exactly what they are supposed to do when they finish their work time task. Some suggestions include:
- Learning/Performance Task-keep until we share-after we share ONE person per table will turn in all papers (this will have to be modified this year)
- Test/Quiz-turn in to tray as soon as you are finished
- Centers-clean up center area and materials but do not turn in recording sheet until ALL center activities are completed
- Booklets-do not turn in until booklet is finished
Be sure to teach students how to submit assignments through Google Classroom. During this lesson, also show students how you can unsubmit an assignment if corrections need to be made. If you use any type of rubric or grading scale, teach students how to access this information as well.
Have students practice submitting an assignment in Google Classroom. Then, have students unsubmit the assignment to ensure all students can utilize this feature.
It is essential to be consistent with your expectations of how manipulatives should be used. If you’re in a live setting, you can have students generate a list of expectations for using manipulatives.
Make sure students know where the manipulatives are kept in your classroom and your policy on how and when to access manipulatives. Let students know which ones are available to them to use and which may be off limits.
Students can access manipulatives digitally, so they can still be used with distance learning. Below are two of my favorite sites for virtual math manipulatives.
Show students how to access and use the virtual manipulatives you plan to use first in your instruction. In today’s task, have students show to ways they can use virtual manipulatives. If needed, have students install the Chrome extension needed at this time.
How to Work in a Group
Math instruction is highly interactive where students collaborate and work with their peers. However, working with a group isn’t always easy for some students. It’s important to set your expectations on how students should work with each other.
- Stay on topic
- Use quiet voices
- Listen to each other
- Don’t work ahead
- Help each other-letting classmates copy isn’t helping
- Ask your group members questions
- Be kind and supportive
- It’s okay to disagree-support your reasoning respectfully
Distance learning presents a significant challenge for group work. In math workshop and/or math centers students frequently participate in partner games, which does not easily lend itself to distance learning.
One option for partner games is for students to print the game and play with someone at home. However, that option is often not feasible. Another option is for students to use Bitmoji to create a virtual partner they can compete against. This means that students will be both Player A and Player B.
Give students time to create their own Bitmoji in class. Then, have students practice playing a partner game using their Bitmoji. The game below will also allow students to practice rolling virtual dice. You can access the game here.
Make sure students understand how to use different color counters or other marker to indicate the two players.
You can read more about using math manipulatives here.
What is Struggle Time
Struggle time is usually an unfamiliar concept to students that is often very frustrating. However, struggle time is a very necessary part of teaching math procedures through a workshop. Since many of the tasks are complex and require critical thinking, students should not always look at the assignment and immediately know what to do. They must stop and analyze the question and decide what they must do to solve the problem. This can be very difficult for students, especially those who are used to “getting it” quickly and easily.
Give students ideas of what to do when they get stuck:
- Understand-retell the problem in your own words
- Underline key words
- Think about what the question is really asking
- Try-just give it a try (guess and check)
- Draw a picture
- Take the numbers out
- Work backward
- Make an estimate
- Reflect-does your answer make sense
- Take it one step at a time
In the lesson share when it is and is not okay for students to receive help at home. Show students how to access the support resources you plan to use digitally (digital anchor charts, math notes, Khan Academy, etc.)
One way for students to problem solve is by drawing models, which can be difficult digitally. During this lesson, teach students how to access and use AutoDraw. Give students time to explore and learn to use AutoDraw. This will simplify drawing models on digital math assignments.
Students should be encouraged or even required to represent their mathematical thinking though multiple representations. The use of multiple representations allows students to further develop their conceptual understanding of math procedures. Of course, not all problems can, or should, be shown with each representation.
Explain to students that good math students represent their work in multiple forms:
- Pictures or other model
- Number sentences
- Written explanation
Students need to represent their thinking through multiple representations during distance learning, as well as in-class instruction. Students can easily type their responses and now know how to incorporate AutoDraw.
The final step is for students to learn how to build equations. One great tool for this is EquatIO which is a Chrome extension. With this tool, students create mathematical equations by typing or handwriting with a touchscreen. A cool feature is that it listens to dictation!
In today’s assignment, have students practice writing equations using Equatio.
Students will solve AND represent a problem using a written response (typed), picture (AutoDraw), and equation.
You can click here to access all of the activities shown above in my First Days of Math Workshop.
If students are new to learning math procedures through math workshop, begin slowly, rather than trying to fully implement every part at the very beginning of the year. I like to slowly scaffold my students into math workshop, because it can be a big adjustment for them. It is typically the third week of school before I have fully implemented math workshop and all its parts.