Friday, March 8, 2013

Math Workshop, Task Cards and a Freebie


If you have followed me for a while, you know that I love teaching math using the workshop model!  I find that it takes quite a bit of preparation, don't get me wrong, but I think it is totally worth it.  My husband also keeps reminding me that this year might be a lot of preparation, but then I will have everything already put together; which should make next year a little easier.  (Hopefully he's right, even though that doesn't happen often--don't tell him I said that!!)

I keep bragging to my coworkers about the amazing progress that I am seeing with my little darlings.  It is so much more enlightening to work with groups of 6 or 7 students than it is trying to work with all 28 of them at once.  I really get to see who know what (or who doesn't know what is more like it).  The only bad thing about the bragging is that everyone now wants to come observe my classroom.  I hate it when other adults watch me!!

I am sure most of you are familiar with a workshop model even if you don't do it for math.  I have my students broken up into 4 groups.  Since I have 28 students, I try to work the groups so that there are 7 in each group.  I usually give a pretest before we begin a unit to help me decide who goes where.  This is what my board looks like:

I used the acronym GIFT for my stations:

  • G = GAMES

This is what my board looks like which helps the students know what to do at each station.

The games usually come from my Everyday Math series although today's lesson used a game that I found on Pinterest.  Unfortunately the Pinterest pin only took me to a picture, so I created the recording sheet myself and I am offering that to you for free.  You just have to click on the picture below to grab your copy!

As you can tell, we are working on equivalent fractions.  The students are learning the multiplication and division rule so they can easily find equivalent fractions.  Today I also introduced quick common denominators and had the students begin working with adding and subtracting fractions.  This Equivalent Fractions Race was a ton of fun and my students really enjoyed it.

Their independent work comes out of our math journals, so that one is easy to plan for.  The teacher station is easy to plan for as well, since I usually introduce and practice the concepts they will need to do their independent work.  I have my brightest students see me last because they can usually do the work without my help!!  They are my red group.  Here are some pictures of us in action:

Independent Work

Equivalent Fractions Race

whole class working without me!!

teacher group

The only station I have not mentioned yet is the Fact Practice.... I saved the best for last.  I have become a huge fan of Rachel Lynette from Minds in Bloom.  She is the "queen" of the task cards.  They are her specialty and you can tell she really spends a lot of time creating them and making sure they align with the Common Core State Standards.  I LOVE THEM and they make planning a lot easier.  I am sure that whatever your students need practice with, Rachel has a task card to go along with it.  Click HERE to see her huge selection!!

I just print them out, laminate them, cut them apart and give my kids the answer document.  It is so easy and it is a much nicer way to practice than just using boring "drill and kill" worksheets.  These pictures will show you how I setup my Fact Practice station:

So my students don't all have to fight over one container, I put the odd cards in one bin and the evens in the other.

I then put them next to each other, with the answer document easily accessible as well!!

The set of task cards that I was using today was the Simplifying Fractions set.  This goes along with the Everyday Math division rule for equivalent fractions, so it fit in perfectly with my lesson!!

Simplifying Fractions Task Cards: 32 Multiple Choice Cards

I could not run my math workshop without task cards!!!  They are a great way to conserve paper and give your students all the practice they need.  Oh, and there is always an answer sheet so your students can self check their work as they go!!  Can you say teacher time-saver????

each task card is numbered, making it easier to keep track of the ones that have been completed!

I caught him in the middle of a "grab"

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my classroom.  If you have any questions, let me know in the comment sections below.  Oh, and try some task cards.... you'll love them!


  1. I found you via Rachel's pin on Pinterest-love the way you have your math workshop set up and the way you use task cards as part of your workshop.
    Thanks for the fraction freebie!
    Hunter's Tales from Teaching

  2. WOW, WOW, WOW!!! This looks amazing Julie! I am VERY impressed! I have wanted to do a math workshop as well, but the prep time and management have been tough for me to balance this year! You make it look so easy!! I especially love the GIFT acronym! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Young Teacher Love 5th Grade Blog

    1. It does take a lot of time to prep! I have been working on my math plans for next week for about 4 hours today!! But, I just keep thinking that next year will be a breeze!!

  3. I just moved up to 5th grade after 10 years in primary last year! I teach math using a workshop model as well, similarly to how you teach it seems. I love the GIFT acronym and your task cards! I'm your newest follower!

    Sweet Rhyme – Pure Reason

  4. You said, "Their independent work comes out of our math journals, so that one is easy to plan for." It looked like they had a plain spiral notebook. What do they have inside? How do you set that up so it is easy for you.

  5. That spiral notebook is where they take notes that I give them during teacher time. They also use it to show their work if they ever don't have room on a worksheet or with their task cards. They also have a math folder so they don't lose any loose sheets that I hand out!

  6. I am thinking about how to structure our 90 minute math block for next year and I am thinking the GIFT acronym might work for me. Thanks for sharing such a detailed description of what you do. ~Stacy @

  7. WOW!! Love it! How much time do you have for your math bock, and how much do you do whole group instruction?

    1. Bill, I usually do 15 minutes for the whole group discussion at the beginning of workshop. Each rotation is 5 minutes, so total time is usually around 75 minutes!

  8. I'm only a second year teacher so I have never done math workshop. This seems like a great way to get the kiddos to really learn math concepts. However I'm struggling a bit with how to schedule my math block. We only get about an hour for math. Any suggestions on how I should set mine up? How long for direct lesson and how long for each rotation. I'm worried they won't have enough time at each station to finish....

    1. I have the same question. Trying to manipulate it now!

    2. I have the same question. Trying to manipulate it now!

  9. I absolutely love this idea. My question is how often do you change the content of the task cards particularly. For example do you have cards in there that cover the whole unit, or you put some in every day according to the specific lesson you're covering in whole group?

  10. What is the journal workbook that you use? I have been using the common core coach workbook. I'm trying to find some other materials to use in my rotations. Please let me know! I love what you've done with the rotations!

  11. Effectively teaching elementary math to children aged 5 to 10 (Grade 1,Grade 2,Grade 3,Grade 4,Grade 5).Great for Homeschool kids! All math results are logged and graded and we show how they are improving through real-time here Grade 2,Grade 3

  12. Thank you for this post! I am looking for a way to organize my groups and will create a chart like yours. I have a question about the answer sheet. Do you write the answers on a sheet that looks just like theirs so they can quickly check their work? Do you have a problem with them looking at it too early?

  13. Effectively teaching elementary math to children aged 5 to 10 (Grade 1,Grade 2,Grade 3,Grade 4,Grade 5).Great for Homeschool kids! All math results are logged and graded and we show how they are improving through real-time hereGrade 1 elementary school math lessons and timed tests

  14. This is my goal! I want to do math groups.
    How long do you have for each group?
    The problem I am facing is that I don't understabd what the independent station is. Are they working on materials from what you are teachinh in your group? How do they do that without coming to you first?

    1. I have some of these same questions. I am thinking about trying this too and am curious how you teach the lessons. I see you have 4 stations so is Monday the LESSON or is Friday a TEST day. Would love to hear your ideas:)


Pin It button on image hover