How To Make The Second Week of Math Workshop A Success

This is part two in a series of posts about how I introduce the routines of Math Workshop over the course of three weeks. If you would like to start by reading about Math Workshop Week 1, click here.


My goals for this second week of workshop are focused around boosting student independence and incorporating collaborative work into our workshop block, while maintaining the calm, focused learning environment established during week one. These goals include:

  • Review and solidify expectations for warm-up, mini lessons, and the at your seat rotation.
  • Teach students how to use a “teeny tiny voice” so they can show respect, and allow others to focus while collaborating.
  • Introduce our math game corner, and the hands-on rotation.
  • Introduce math triads, and build a clear idea of what we’d like our classmates to do/say when collaborating.

To accomplish these goals, I follow the plans outlined below.
Core Inspiration math workshop supplies for week two. Includes a math triads promises contract, question prompt cards, and math game instruction cards.

Day 5: Routines Review and Teeny Tiny Voices

Our fifth day of workshop is all about solidifying the routines introduced during week one, and laying a foundation for the more collaborative aspects of workshop that are carefully rolled out over the course of the week. We are still not fully up and running with different students working on different rotation activities. Instead, all students continue working on the at your seat rotation together as a class after the mini lesson. Often, Day 5 is a pivotal moment when everyone really seems to grasp the flow from the mini lesson, to the quick reteach work, to the enrichment task card work. If you aren’t noticing this flow, be sure to continue your focus and support in those areas.

Warm-Up Routine
  • Introduce a new Number of the Day binder page. This year, I am introducing the first few pages of our binder slowly to support students as we work up to completing four binder pages each morning. After modeling how to complete a second binder page, I display the warm up checklist, and my students work through the checklist with independence.
Mini Lesson and At Your Seat Expectation Review
  • Briefly review expectations using the routine pie chart and the workshop routine checklist created together as a class during week one.
  • Teach the mini lesson, followed by the teeny tiny voice lesson explained below before students move in to at your seat work.
Teeny Tiny Voices
  • Introduce the idea that more collaborative work, and more talk about math will be a part of workshop beginning this week as students meet their math triads/partners, and begin playing math games. Ask students how they feel about the calm, focused environment that has been created so far during Math Workshop. Encourage more sharing by asking questions like:
    • How does a calm classroom help you focus as you work on math?
    • Would you be able to grow as a mathematician if you were surrounded by noise and distractions?
    • If you know someone in your class can focus better when it is calm in the classroom, what do you do to help them?
    • What are some things you can do if you feel distracted during workshop?
    • What are some signals that tell us someone is having a hard time focusing?
    • How can you take care of your classmates as they try to focus during Math Workshop?

Blue cards with question prompts for creating a focused environment during math workshop

  • Introduce teeny tiny voices as a way to respectfully talk/collaborate during workshop so everyone can stay calm and focused.
    • I have students follow my lead as I gently rest my hand on my neck in the area where my vocal cords are located.
    • I say, “This is my normal voice,” and have students repeat after me as they keep their hand on their neck near their vocal cords. We talk about the vibrations created by a “normal voice”.
    • I say, “This is my whisper voice,” and have students repeat after me as they keep their hand on their neck near their vocal cords. We talk about the smaller/fewer vibrations created by a “whisper voice”.
    • I tell students I am going to adjust my voice to quieter than a whisper (to a teeny tiny voice) so my vocal cords make no vibrations. I say, “This is my teeny tiny voice,” and have students repeat after me as they rest their hand on their neck.  We talk about the absence of vibrations created by a “teeny tiny voice”.
    • Next, I select a student to have a teeny tiny conversation with as other students listen. I ask the class if it would help them focus if everyone collaborated using teeny tiny voices.
    • Finally, I give one table group permission to collaborate during workshop for the day using teeny tiny voices.
  • If needed, I reteach this lesson over the course of the next few days, and have a different small group practice during workshop each day.

We end day 5 by celebrating the progress we’ve made toward mastering our Math Workshop routines, and reflect on the respect and effectiveness of the small group who collaborated today.

Day 6: Hands-On Routine

After several days of working toward mastery of calm, independent, focused work during warm-up, mini lessons, and the at your seat rotation, it is finally time to introduce a new rotation during day 6. Students are always thrilled to learn there are other ways to practice math that don’t require paper and pencil.
Math game instruction cards arranged in green storage drawers
I think it’s important to note a struggle I consistently run into at this point in the workshop roll out. By day 6, we’re getting into more challenging math concepts that really do require small group instruction. Unfortunately, I am not yet ready to pull small groups because I am still keeping a close eye on their mastery of these first few routines. Pulling a group would take away from my ability to carefully observe the whole class.
Rather than giving in, and figuring my students will be fine if I just jump into to pulling small groups, I hustle hard for a few more days as I provide one-on-one support to students who have questions as they work at their seat. The struggle is REAL, but it will get easier in the next couple days as math triads and other rotation options are introduced.
If you run into this same struggle, please trust me when I say this temporary pain is worth the gain. Your solid foundation will stay in place for the duration of the year, and you will soon be pulling small groups with confidence that students who are working on the hands on, at your seat, and technology rotations are focused and learning. That peace of mind makes for a very productive year.

Warm-Up, Mini Lesson, At Your Seat
  • Appreciate beautiful transitions. At this point, the flow of transitions from warm-up, to mini lesson, to the at your seat rotation is starting to feel pretty smooth.
  • Provide support and observe carefully as students work at their seat. All students continue to work the at your seat rotation at the same time as a class as I buzz around offering one-on-one support while keeping a close eye on any hiccups that need to be addressed at the end of today’s workshop session.
Preview Hands On Routines and Expectations
  • Set up a fishbowl observation. With about 20 minutes left in our workshop block, I see everyone has finished their quick formative assessment reteach page, and has moved on to their at your seat enrichment task card work. I call the class to our mini lesson carpet to create a fishbowl around the open area where I will demo our first math game.
  • Preview math game organization and storage. I show students where our math games will be stored, and where they will find the manipulatives needed to play our games. I also introduce the expectation that they have a game card in their work area when playing a game even if they have memorized the rules for a game. This is a way for students to nonverbally communicate the game they are playing/skills they are building so I can easily observe/measure their understanding during workshop.

Core Inspiration's math in motion game, rounding sort supplies arrange for math game play with math game drawers in the background

Demo First Math Game
  • Introduce a game through interactive modeling. Use think alouds, read the game card, and physically act out each step through the course of the demo so students have a clear picture of what playing a math game entails.
    • Read the number of players and the objective for the game.
    • Read the list of supplies as I gather them.
    • Read and execute the “Set-up” steps.
    • Follow the “How To Play” steps to play my first round.

Rounding sort math in motion game card with instructions on display and materials arranged for math game play

  • Shift to “actual game play mode”. After I feel my students have an understanding of the game, I pause and ask them to envision themself focusing at their seat, while I am here on the carpet playing a game, and talking in my normal voice. They all groan and agree that I would be a major distraction to them if I were to play this way. I then tell them I’m going to shift my demo to “actual game play mode”. I then play the game as if I am an actual student playing during Math Workshop. I am calm, I talk here and there, but always in my teeny tiny voice.

To wrap up day 6, I ask students to share how my playing with a “teeny tiny voice” would help them as they learn math. This solidifies the importance of calm collaboration in their minds. I then continue my interactive model by showing them how I clean up after playing a game, and we end our workshop session for the day. Students do not actually play any games on day 6. I let that routine sink in overnight, and they have their first opportunity to play the next day.

Day 7: Giving Hands On A Try

The seventh day of math workshop is the first opportunity for students to give the hands on rotation a try. Before starting workshop, I introduce a second math game so there are more game options, and students can practice making a game selection. In order to introduce the game, I follow the same demo steps outlined in the day 6 plans above. I host this “demo round” right after our math warm up during morning meeting, and then jump into our mini lesson from there.

Determine Who Will Play Math Games First
  • Make game play a natural reward. At the end of our mini lesson, I display our routine checklist for mini lessons and the at your seat routine. I tell my students I’ll be watching carefully for those who follow the routine checklist carefully and independently. Those who demonstrate the most focus, respect, and independence will be selected to try the hands on rotation first.

Core Inspiration math problem solving task card and record sheet on a student's desk next to a bowl of foam math counters

  • Use a foam counter as a nonverbal invitation to join the hands on rotation. If I place a counter white side up on their desk, students know they have permission to respectfully leave the at your seat rotation to participate in the hands on rotation. If they are enjoying the at your seat rotation, or are focused strong on their at your seat assignment, they can simply flip the counter to the red side to communicate they want to continue working at their seat.
Focus on Teeny Tiny Voices and Independent Transitions
  • Give students time to practice all the transitions and routines learned so far. I then send students off to work on the at your seat assignments (a reteach page that corresponds with the lesson, and task cards to enrich that learning).
  • Give a different group time to collaborate using teeny tiny voices. I have another table group practice using teeny tiny voices while working at their seat. At the end of workshop, we reflect on their level of respect and effective use of teeny tiny voices.
  • Invite students to play games. As students finish up their reteach page, have it checked by me, and move into task card work, I begin to place counters on desks to invite students to leave their task card work behind, and play a game. These students are also expected to use teeny tiny voices so those who are still focused on problem solving at their seat can complete their work accurately. I begin to buzz around the room and give positive reinforcement for respectful game play so students know they are on the right track from their first moments of trying the hands on rotation.
  • No limit to number of players. I invite as many students as possible to play games on this first day of hands on practice. This gives us the opportunity to observe that even with the majority of our class collaborating and playing games, our workshop environment still feels calm, and sounds focused.

We close our seventh day of workshop by reflecting on our focus and respect while trying hands on for the first time, and gather suggestions for what might make this routine even stronger the following day.

Create A Math Triad Wish List

Later in the day, I set aside 20 minutes to talk about how we will use partners during workshop. We discuss the fact that math partners will be assigned so students are able to work with other mathematicians who will help them grow quickly as problem solvers, and push them beyond their comfort zone.
I then pose the question, “What do you want your classmates to do/say when collaborating with you during Math Workshop?” As students share their ideas, I record them on an anchor chart, which will later be used to create a math partner promises contract. This list is set aside for the afternoon, and revisited during day 8 when math triads are officially introduced.

Day 8: Using Math Triads To Boost Problem Solving Skills

The eight day of Math Workshop is all about solidifying the hands on routine, and learning how to use math triads to boost independence and problem solving skills.
A math triad is a carefully designed group of three students (sometimes four depending on your class size) that work together to solve any problems that may arise during the course of workshop each day. Math triads build student independence, and resourcefulness rather than dependence on the teacher as the sole provider of answers. To learn more about triads, read this post.

Review Math Partner Wish List
  • Continue to build a clear picture of student expectations for math partner collaboration. After our math warm up, we follow our routine schedule of pausing math for a moment to complete our morning meeting. During our morning meeting, we review the math partner wish list created the previous day in class, and add to/modify the list as needed. We then move into the mini lesson for the day.

Math triad wish list with student wishes for math partner behavior written on blue sticky notes attached to an anchor chart

Introduce Math Triad Members
  • Get some movement in to boost focus. At the end of our mini lesson, I have students stretch their legs, and reconvene for a short math routine lesson. During this lesson, I introduce the concept of the math triads (explained above), and show students their triad members for the first few weeks of workshop.
  • During these first weeks, I simply arrange students in triads based on ABC order, and will later reconfigure triads based on collaboration strengths and needs, or problem solving strengths and needs. I like to have 1-2 strong collaborators in each triad who can help build the collaborative skills of the other members.
Introduce the Three Before Me Routine
  • Show students how the three before me routine can help them utilize the other teachers in the room (we are all teachers, after all), and make them feel more independent as problem solvers.
  • First a student must ask him/herself by thinking long and hard about the question/problem, and use personal resources to find a solution.
  • If a solution is not found, the student must collaborate with a classmate, and combine brainpower and resources to find a solution.
  • If that classmate doesn’t have the resources to help, the student must collaborate with yet another classmate.
  • Occasionally, the student still has no solution, and must turn to the teacher for guidance.

Core Inspiration's three before me sign for math workshop with a sign up list for students who want to meet with the teacher about math questions

Determine Who Will Play Math Games
  • Make game play a natural reward. Just as on Day 7, after our mini lesson, I display our routine checklist for mini lessons and the at your seat routine. I tell my students I will be watching carefully for those who follow the routine checklist carefully and independently. Those who demonstrate the most focus, respect, and independence will be selected to try the hands on rotation first.

Day 8 concludes with a share about students’ experience around collaborating with their triad members during workshop, and further adding to/modifying the math partner wish list a final time before publishing it as an official promise document that will be signed by each student the following day.

Reflecting on Week 2

A careful introduction to math workshop takes time and patience. As you reach the end of week two, you will probably begin to feel antsy about wanting to pull small groups. I highly recommend holding off on this until the middle of week three when you know your students have a very clear understanding of routines and expectations (the beginning of week 4 is even better). Your learners will become more independent over the course of the year if you set up these strong, clear structures that build their confidence.
Was your week two roll out smooth? What are some questions you have about the first two weeks of Math Workshop? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.


For more details about Math Workshop, check out my other posts about this instructional approach.



If you want to give Math Workshop a test drive in your own classroom, grab your Math Workshop Starter Kit, and feel free to share any questions you have about implementation in the comments below.


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9 Responses

  1. On day 5 once the teeny tiny voice concept is taught, you choose a group to collaborate. What are they collaborating on? Is the collaboration happening at their seats?

    1. Hi Rasheeda, they are collaborating on their seat work assignment (reteach check in page, then on to task cards). This is the first time students are allowed to move away from their seat to work around the room.

  2. Hi, Laura,
    Will you explain the Jethro Task Card #18 to me and all the question boxes along the sides? I’m SO thankful I found your blog years ago.
    I’ve been waiting to use a lot of the things you’ve mentioned and this coming school year is my year AND I will be self-contained in 3rd grade so I’m definitely getting your math task cards.
    I want to get them and teach them to myself this summer so I can fully explain it to them come fall. I’m so excited, but I’ve only been ELA for 5 years so this is totally out of my comfort zone. I don’t know where to begin. Where should I start with your methods of guided math? I like that it makes them really analyze rather than just solving.
    Where can I find those math labels? The trailblazer, etc. ones. I don’t see them in your TPT story.
    Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      Thank you for reaching out. So excited to hear you are going to get started with math workshop next year. 🙂
      You can find all the details for the task cards and the recording sheets we use in this post. The link to the labels and all the resources I use for math task cards are linked at the bottom of that post.
      This post is a great overview of the approach to math workshop I like using. You will see links to other posts that dive deeper into each component at the bottom of the post. I also recommend this post for details about how to get started with the first week.

  3. Hi Laura,
    I am working on strengthening my MATH station rotations for next year and, so far, I am enjoying your blog! However, I cannot seem to find the segment for week 3 of your MATH Workshop introductions. Is there a link I can use to read about your week 3 roll out?
    Thank you so much!

  4. Where are the deck cards boxes from? I have clear crayon boxes and I’d like to have a different type exclusively for decks of cards,
    Thank you!

  5. I’m loving your blog. I’ll be doing math workshop for the first time this year and you have lots of great ideas. However I was wondering… Do you have a detailed blog explaining your Fridays? Your weeks all seem to be 4 days long. What do you do on Fridays? Thanks

    1. Hi Megan,
      Thank you for reaching out. On Fridays I have PE right in the middle of our regularly-scheduled math time, so I don’t teach math on Fridays. If I did, I would continue with the same structure for a fifth day. Instead, we follow this schedule on Friday mornings:
      8:30 – 8:50 Number of the Day Binder
      8:50 – 9:10 Morning Meeting
      9:10 – 9:40 PE
      9:40 – 10:10 Word Work: Sort, Glue, Test.

I’m Laura Santos

I’ve been an elementary teacher for ten years, and love sharing tips and resources that make differentiated learning more manageable for you. Thank you for visiting.

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