Applying What We Know About Workshop Teaching to Instruction in Mathematics

This session, led by Shana Frazin, was one of the most inspiring sessions I attended during the Saturday reunion. We often view (or at least I do) literacy and math as two completely separate subjects. We focus on how to help our students create independent, rich reading lives for themselves; how to become critical readers and thinkers, and how we as teachers can expand our students literacy repertoire. However, it seems to me, that I want all of these things to be true for my mathematicians as well. So why not approach teaching mathematics in the same way we approach teaching literacy? Below are some of the tips Shana suggested for math instruction, that we already do in our literacy instruction:

  • math center (manipulatives, games, and books) organized by strand just like the library is organized by genre or level
  • math tools just like students have book bags, folders, post-its, etc. for reading
  • charts of math strategies
  • engaging math warm-up
  • math partners
  • guided practice – “Think it, write it, show it”
  • student choice of what to do when finished
  • view mistakes as information (like miscue analysis!)
  • math conferences

These ideas seem obvious to me after they were stated, but it really inspired me to think about math in a different way, especially to view mistakes as information rather than simply errors that need to be corrected. By taking a similar stance to mathematics instruction, we can help students develop into critical mathematicians (critical readers) who can do more than basic operations (more than just read the words.)

One question that I’m left with is how to fit this type of math instruction into a mandated curriculum. Certainly making some of the above adjustments in my classroom will not be difficult, but I think that adjusting my view and practices of math instruction while trying to stay within the mandatory curriculum may be more challenging. However, there is no doubt that this session left me inspired to create the kind of math atmosphere that is already in place for literacy.


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