How to Personalize Instruction in Math Workshop

Each year, I set goals for what I’d like to do in my classroom. My goal this year is to focus on personalizing math instruction for my students. For the past seven years, I’ve taught using the Everyday Math curriculum. This year, our district decided to use GO Math! instead. Regardless of the curriculum, I incorporate a math workshop model to help meet my students where they are in skill and ability. I’m a firm believer that curriculum matters, but the way in which the curriculum is delivered matters more.

I have had the opportunity to hear Carol Tomlinson speak on several occasions. I’ve read several of her books as well. One takeaway from her work that resonates with me is when she shared how we all have ingredients in our kitchens. However, it’s how the cook uses those ingredients that transform the ingredients into actual dinner. This made me start to look closely at the resources I was using in our classroom and how I was using them. What I quickly realized is that much of my instruction was “me-focused.” I was doing most of the talking, teaching, and thinking. How could I move to a more student-centered classroom?

personlized math insturction workshop

Carol Tomlinson stated, “Like students, teachers grow best when they are moderately challenged. Waiting until conditions are ideal or until you are sure of yourself yields lethargy, not growth.” I decided I needed to do for math what I had done for reading and writing for years. I needed to know where my students were ahead of time for each skill and concept so that I could best plan to meet their needs. I could no longer teach whole group math lessons that only targeted the middle, or “at grade level,” population. I needed to support those who needed it most and challenge those who demonstrated proficiency prior to the lesson being introduced. I needed to grow as a teacher and find a way to reach and engage all of my learners.

Committing to do a math workshop model using GO Math! would benefit my class in many ways. It pre-assesses each chapter. This allows me to understand what my students know before we begin the chapter. I can group children accordingly and plan for lessons that will specifically meet each learner at their skill level. The gradual release of responsibility allows students to see me model the teaching point, gives them an opportunity to do it with me in a guided group, and encourages them to apply the skill independently to demonstrate their understanding. Rotating through the group also allows students to hear the content being delivered in a variety of ways. Students hear the lesson as it’s taught during the direct-instruction mini-lesson. Then, they work in small groups with the teacher to continue working on the skill. Finally, they collaborate with a partner to apply the skill during an independent rotation and a hands-on activity.

What Our 60 Minutes Looks Like During Math

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Mother. Teacher. Keynote. Author

Erin Klein is an award winning educator, national keynote speaker, author, and mother.

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