Unit 1: What is the workshop model? Why should it be used in math?


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Unit 1: What is the workshop model? Why should it be used in math?

At the end of this unit learners will be able to…

  • Define the workshop model
  • Identify the benefits of the model
  • Create a basic structure of a math block using the workshop model

What is the workshop model?

The workshop model was originally developed by Lucy Calkins at Teachers College with the "approach to instruction recognizes that “one size fits all” does not match the realities of the classrooms and schools in which they work" (Heinemann, 2021). Although initially intended for reading and writing instruction, the workshop model for instruction can be paired with math work stations to meet the needs of all students in academically diverse classrooms.

The mini lesson element of this model will adopt current instructional practices utilizing math curriculums given to classroom teachers by schools and districts. Curriculums, such as Everyday Math, Origo, Eureka Math, etc., typically provide daily lessons focusing on a specific skill or strategy. This model is intended to incorporate such curriculums as they are required to follow by most administrations.

Math work stations are similar to traditional math centers but with a twist. Diller (2011) explains, "Math work stations are areas within the classroom where students work with a partner and use instructional materials to explore and expanded with mathematical thinking. During math stations, a variety of activities reinforces and/or extends prior instruction, allowing children the opportunity to develop their mathematical understanding. Math work stations are a time for children to practice problem solving while reasoning, representing, communicating, and making connections among mathematical topics..." (p.7).

Small group instruction time is explained by Diller (2011) as, "the teacher observes and interacts with individuals at work or meets with a small group for differentiated math instruction." (p. 7). Prior to the math block, the teacher will conduct various assessments to determine student learning needs. For example, a teacher may use a pre-assessment prior to a learning unit to determine student learning strengths and needs. Throughout the unit, the teacher may utilize exit slips during the closure portion of the workshop model. The teacher may use data obtained from a pre-assessment or exit slips to create intentional small groups.

Closure happens at the end of the work stations and small group time as the class will reconvene as a whole group. During this time, a variety of activities may take place such an exit slip completion based on the daily learning objective or whole group discussion. Diller (2011) notes one possible discussion topics as, "The teacher leads a short discussion during which students take turns showing and telling about what they did and learned this day in small group and/or at math work stations. " (p. 5).

The following image represents an overview of the Elements of the Workshop Model in Math.

Overview of the Workshop Model in Math.png

Watch the following YouTube video summarizing the basic structure of the workshop model.

Watch the following YouTube video of the math workshop model in action. In the beginning of the video, the teacher instructs the class as a whole group covering a lesson based on the current curriculum. From there, students work in math work stations utilizing various virtual and hands on activities. Simultaneously, the teacher works with a small group.

Why should it be used in math? What are the benefits?

  1. Darling-Hammond (2008) noted, "A challenge all teachers face is how to develop activities that are mathematically rich yet appropriate for the range of students in their classrooms" (p.125). Utilizing the workshop model paired with math work stations allows teachers to gear their instruction more intentionally to meet the needs of a range of learners within the classroom.
  2. Adding on to this, using this model can guide instruction for multiple intelligences or learning styles within a group of learners. What is meant by this is that, "Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory (Gardner 1983; 1993) proposes the idea that we all have various levels of intelligence across a range of intellectual areas" (Pritchard, 2018, p. 38). As students range in their current knowledge and understanding of a topic, their preferred learning style may also vary. Math work stations can be created with students' multiple intelligences and preferred learning styles in mind.
  3. Giving students choice in their learning through work stations may increase intrinsic motivation. This means that student, "engagement with a task fully and freely, without the necessity of material rewards or constraints" (Mayer & Alexander, 2017, p.265). Discussed in future lessons, students will have opportunities to engage in fun virtual and hands on learning games during station time. Such activities and games must have an emphasis on "hands-on learning and problem solving that engages students" (Diller, 2011, p.7). In doing so, intrinsic motivation to complete such tasks will increase as the student, "is interested in the activity itself" (Mayer & Alexander, 2017, p.266).

Stop and Think

Please complete the following Google form as a form of personal reflection and assessment of unit 1.

Google Form

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Darling-Hammond, L. et al. (2008). Powerful Learning: What We Know About Teaching for Understanding. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Diller, D. (2011). Math Work Stations: Independent Learning You Can Count On, K-2. Stenhouse Publishers.

Nayo, L. [Laureen (Laureen-Nadirah) Nayo]. (2018, Feb 6). Math Workshop in Action [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBLdv7T1NqU

Fruin, C. [Carrie Fruin]. (2018, May 22). The Workshop Model and Collaborative Teaching and Learning [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jAMljcDSu0

Heinemann. (2021). Overview - what is the classroom workshop model. Lucy Calkins and Colleagues Units of Study. Retrieved from https://www.unitsofstudy.com/introduction.

Mayer, R.E. and Alexander, P.A. (Eds.) (2017). Handbook of Research on Learning and Instruction. Taylor and Francis.