Workshop Wednesday: Math Mini-Lessons

Welcome to Workshop Wednesday!

The topic for this week and next week is: Getting Workshop Started in the Classroom. Please write about only one workshop in your post so that you can link it up accordingly below, and then please come back next week to share about another subject! (In other words, if you use Reading, Writing, and Math Workshop and you want to share about all three, please link up in three different weeks-or more if you’d like!!) You only have TWO more opportunities to link up with this topic (today, and next week) so I hope you will join in on the fun!

This week, I’m going to share about a VERY important piece of math workshop: the mini-lesson. There are several reasons why it’s important… #1: you still need time to meet with small groups and students need to work in partnerships and/or groups to work and play games. If your lesson goes too long, there won’t be enough time for that. #2: I can gather quick information on what my students CAN do during my mini-lesson, and that helps me form groups that day, too.

We have started multiplication, so one of my mini-lessons was to see how they could make patterns with models of numbers. I used a book (which I failed to link up with the Collaboration Cuties a couple of weeks ago) by Greg Tang called Math For All Seasons.

Each page has pictures of “seasonal” items that students are supposed to count by making patterns (not one-by-one). I asked mine to make multiplication problems with each page, which isn’t difficult to do because most pages are patterns of 2 or 5. Although this SOUNDS very basic, it’s very telling of how students “see” the numbers and patterns. Lots of them automatically make groups or arrays with the pictures, but some really struggle with it. These would be the students I’d pull in a small group first and begin working on arrays and groups with them.

Here’s an example of one of the few we did in my mini-lesson. I display the book on my board so they can see the picture better:

Then students “solve” or show me their thinking with their dry erase markers on their desks:

This student saw the groups of 5 quickly, which was surprising because he isn’t one of my “average” or even “high” kids. Without this mini-lesson, I may not have known he had this kind of thinking in him!

Don’t think I am a perfect mini-lesson deliverer, by any means. There are times where my mini-lessons become maxi… and do you know how I usually figure it out? All my kids have left me. OOPS. When that happens, I just stop and send them to stations and start pulling groups. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. There’s no point in trying to get their attention back because they are past their limit! (And usually by then, so am I!)

Do you have any strategies or hints to help keep your mini-lessons “mini?” Please share in your post or the comments below. I’m sure many of us could benefit from it! :o)