Texas Mathematics Teacher Spring/Summer 2018 - 11

Community-Building Discourse Practices in Math Workshop
Work Time: (42 minutes)
Ms. Campbell handed each student a paper, then asked them to work in their table groups to solve the problems. As
students worked in their table groups, they read the problem aloud, asked each other questions, talked about potential
problem-solving strategies, and used small dry erase boards to demonstrate mathematical processes. During this time,
Ms. Campbell circulated through the classroom and conferred with each group by asking prompting questions (e.g.,
What are you struggling with?), questioning their problem-solving strategy (e.g., You combined your data - do you need
to combine it?), or commenting on information students shared (e.g., Oh - so you had trouble with counting. It's not that
you don't understand - you just need to slow down.)
Reflection: (6 minutes)
Ms. Campbell facilitated a work time debriefing by posing the following question to students: Think about your ah-ha's.
As you worked with dot plots today, what were ah-ha's that you had? Ms. Campbell then called on several students to
share with the whole group.
Each classroom vignette we presented demonstrates different ways that these elementary teachers used math workshop
to establish a mathematical community among their students. Within this community, the teacher and students utilized
a variety of discourse practices to promote the development of individual and shared understandings. Moreover, these
classroom vignettes illustrated how assessment fits into the math workshop approach, particularly during Work Time. As
students engage with challenging and complex tasks with peers, conferring provides teachers with authentic formative
assessment information that reveal the strengths, limitations, and struggles of each student (Hoffer, 2012). As a result, the
teacher is equipped to plan subsequent lessons that support the different learning needs of each student.
We would also like to point out that the amount of time each teacher invested with the four math workshop components
(i.e., Opening, Mini-lesson, Work Time, Reflection) varied by the amount of daily instructional time, as well as the
learning needs of students. More importantly, we want to emphasize that the majority of math workshop time was
dedicated to learning activities implemented during Work Time. Although these three classroom vignettes illustrated use
of math workshop in elementary classrooms, the four math workshop components could easily be adapted and used in
middle and high school classrooms.

Recommendations for Practice
Math workshop is not a quick-fix solution that enhances student performance with mathematics. Teachers who decide
to implement math workshop do not receive pre-written lesson plans and reproducible learning activities that can
be implemented in a turnkey manner. Rather, math workshop provides a structure for mathematics instruction that
establishes a community of confident and competent students who engage in meaningful and purposeful discourse
practices.
We visited with Ms. Delgado, Ms. Crockett, and Ms. Campbell and asked them to provide recommendations for teachers
who were considering implementing math workshop. Based on their own experiences, they offered the following
suggestions:
*	 Take it one step at a time. Focus on refining one component of math workshop each year.
*	 Implementing math workshop is a huge learning curve. It generally takes about three years to be comfortable with
the structure of math workshop. However, the impact that math workshop has on students will be well worth the
investment of time and energy.
*	 At the beginning of the school year, teach students thinking strategies first. These strategies include: (a) monitoring
for meaning; (b) activating, using, and building schema; (c) asking questions; (d) drawing inferences; (e)
determining importance; (f) creating sensory images; (g) synthesizing information; (h) and problem solving. By
doing so, students will have a 'toolbox' for work time.
*	 Engage with a formal or informal professional network of other professionals who use math workshop. This is an
excellent way to promote continuous professional learning, share resources, and find support among teachers of
mathematics. Professional networks may be established among school campus and district colleagues, as well as
among math professionals affiliated with professional organizations, such as NCTM (www.nctm.org) and Texas
Council of Teachers of Mathematics (http://tctmonline.org/) or virtual platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter).

www.txmathteachers.org

Spring/Summer 2018 | 11


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http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/txmt/68-01
http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/txmt/67-01
http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/txmt/66-02
http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/txmt/66-01
http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/txmt/65-02
http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/txmt/65-01
http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/txmt/64-02
https://www.nxtbook.com/allen/txmt/64-1
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com