As a Math Coach working in a district where a “workshop model” is used in both Reading and Writing, I am often asked what a “workshop” might look like in Math. I recently read a wonderful book titled From Reading to Math: How Best Practices in Literacy Can Make You a Better Math Teacher (Grades K5) by Maggie Siena. Siena draws upon the assumption that math can be considered another type of literacy in which decoding, fluency, and vocabulary are vitally important. Elementary teachers, more often than not, consider themselves to be much better teachers of reading and writing than of math. What Siena helps to do is draw the parallels between the way we teach reading and writing and the way we teach math, and allow teachers to see how their strengths can carry over from one subject to another.
In order to help the teachers I work with see the relationship without being overwhelmed by reading the entire book (which, by the way, I highly suggest!), I broke the basics out into the chart below. This is obviously just an introduction, but it may be helpful when trying to explain the similarities of a reading/writing workshop and a math workshop to teachers.
The Workshop Model – How it Looks in Literacy and Math
adapted from the book
From Reading to Math: How Best Practices in Literacy Can Make You a Better Math Teacher by Maggie Siena
Components of the Workshop Model
Literacy 
Math 
MINILESSONS
 Brief (1520 minutes)
 Direct instruction in reading or writing strategies useful for that day

MINILESSON/WHOLE GROUP INSTRUCTION
 Brief (525 minutes)
 Direct instruction to introduce or review concepts, model skills, and give instructions

INDEPENDENT READING OR WRITING
 1545 minutes depending on grade level
 Students read books or write on topics largely of their own choosing
 Strong emphasis on work that “makes sense” – reading books at student’s independent level, using invented spelling along with conventional spelling

INDEPENDENT WORK ON MATHEMATICS
 Developmentally appropriate amount of time on task
 Elements of student choice
 Math is at a “justright” (independent) level for students
 May include partner or smallgroup activities, problems, games and assignments for students to work on individually
 Extensions provided for after completion of independent (math games, explorations of manipulatives, fact practice, etc.)

CONFERRING
 Teachers sit alongside students as they work
 Teachers research and understand what students are working on through conversations
 Conferences inform instruction

CONFERRING
 Teachers sit alongside students as they work
 Ask questions to find out how a student is thinking about the math he/she is doing
 Conferences inform instruction
 Probe thinking to find out where there are misconceptions, gaps in understanding, deficient skills

GUIDED READING GROUPS OR STRATEGY LESSONS
 Teachers work with small, fluid groups organized around a similar reading level or shared strategy need

GUIDED SMALL GROUP SUPPORT OR STRATEGY LESSONS
 Guided math is work with small groups of students at a similar level and support them as they do math at the slightly challenging end of the “justright” range
 Strategy groups may be pulled together based on mutual need for help with a certain strategy, reinforce or reiterate a minilesson that several students didn’t get, or challenge a small group ready to move ahead

WORD STUDY
 Students work on spelling patterns, word recognition, vocabulary, phonics

NUMBER STUDY
 Students work on exploring and studying patterns, basic facts, and computational strategies (algorithms)

CENTERS AND BOOK CLUBS
 Centers (usually for younger students) and book clubs (usually older students) provide partner or smallgroup experiences in reading
 These structured activities engage students in reading and talking about books together

GROUP WORK
 Centers can provide opportunities for exploration
 Structured activities provide opportunities for students to share thinking and strategies
 Can be partner work or smallgroup work
 Should be accountable talk
 Each member is responsible for his/her own work
 Each member has to help others who ask
 Groups can ask the teacher for help only when all members have the same question
 All group members should be prepared to share the group’s work

WRITING OR READING SHARE
 Workshops conclude by highlighting learning done by students during independent reading and writing
 Share is more than an opportunity for students to be proud of what they have done – also teaching/learning opportunity
 Repeats the teaching point and gives students another chance to make sense of the day’s lesson

MATH SHARE (REFLECTION)
 Moves learning forward by examining how students made use of it
 Gives students opportunity to get feedback from peers
 Helps to reinforce bonds of learning community
 Student voices should dominate
 May include strategy shares, examples of the day’s work
 Responses welcome including requests for clarification, restating of what was said, an opinion, or an extension.

Questions to Think About…
 How could you transition to using a math workshop approach?
 What other components of your literacy workshop might be transferable to a math workshop?
 What rules and expectations would you need to have in place in order to have an effective math workshop?
 How can you maintain a good balance of independent and collaborative work in math class?
 How might you conduct math shares in your class?
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About gpsmathcoach
I am an Elementary Math Coach for the Greenwich Public Schools in Greenwich, Connecticut. I serve 11 elementary schools and approximately 240 teachers.
Hi:
I have accepted a position as a math coach for my school (American Embassy School) in New Delhi next year and I am LOVING looking through your blog. Thank you!
Hi Robyn,
I wish you the best of luck in your new position! If I can be of any help to you, please feel free to email me (gpsmathcoach@gmail.com) or look me up on Twitter (gpsmathcoach)!
Brenda