Ways to Engage Your Students from a Distance During Math Workshop

February 28, 2021 1 Comment

I am a workshop model teacher. Period. I always have been and always will be. I love the look of students around tables or spread out on the carpet working collaboratively and the sound of students discussing ideas and solving problems. So, in March of 2020, I was a little concerned about maintaining my workshop format from a distance. The concerns didn’t last long and I’d like to share why with you today.

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1. How I Keep a Workshop Schedule

I keep a schedule for my distance learning workshops that’s similar to my in-person workshop schedule. For math workshop, this means a mini lesson that lasts about 10 minutes where I introduce the objective, do a demonstration, then have students practice. I have an extended screen, so I can look at my students’ work on one screen while I interact with them on the other.

I can see and talk to my students on my laptop screen and see their work on the extended screen during the mini lesson and independent work time in small groups .

After the mini lesson and the guided practice, I move students to breakout groups for the bulk of the workshop time. I move from room to room to interact with my students just like I would move from group to group in the classroom. We’re lucky that we have a one hour math block, so my students usually have about 45 minutes to work in small groups before we reconvene for 5 to 10 minutes of sharing at the end of the workshop.

2. How I Vary Materials

I have heard so many teachers lament how much they miss their hands on materials – especially in math! I agree, but I have also discovered how many options there are for providing virtual hands on experiences using interactive materials and activities. Hands on materials can be organized into several categories. I’ll be looking closely at virtual manipulatives, puzzles and picture reveals, and fillable charts today.

3. How I Use Virtual Manipulatives

I have many games and lessons that I have created that use movable number tiles, decimal tiles, and fraction tiles. Here are a few examples: Factors and Multiples for Google Classroom, Order of Operations and Distributive Property for Google Classroom, Comparing and Ordering Fractions and Decimals, and Even and Odd and Prime and Composite Google Slides. I also mention at every opportunity I get that there is an amazing professor at George Mason University named Theresa Wills who has a multitude of FREE templates for personal use. Many of her resources include digital manipulatives. Take a few minutes to explore her site: templates for any subject. Scroll down on the page to find the math manipulatives.

4. How I Use Puzzles and Picture Reveals

My students LOVE digital puzzles and picture reveal activities. I spend a lot of time making them, because my own students keep asking for more. I have three types of puzzles and picture reveals that I use with my students. One features Google sheets. I purchased the templates from Lisa at Hello Algebra (in case you want to purchase any and try making some for yourself). I have several ready to use sets including: a Fraction Computation BUNDLE, a Decimal Computation BUNDLE, and a Measurement set (under construction – soon to be a BUNDLE). The second type features digital color-by-code activities. Most of these sets are on BOOM Learning. Students solve problems or answer questions to color a digital picture. The third type features a number grid that covers a picture. As students answer questions, a picture is revealed.

5. How I Use Fillable Charts

My students enjoy creating fillable charts using the paint tool on Google slides. They use fillable tables to demonstrate understanding of decimals and fractions, as well as multiples of 10. Here is an example of a resource that includes this feature.

During the workshop time, my students are involved in using the types of resources I have featured in this post every day. They consistently name math as their favorite time of the day and cheer when math workshop begins.

This was a lot of information, but here’s some excellent news. You can bypass Teachers Pay Teachers and BOOM and grab one or more deeply discounted BUNDLE(S) that include many of the resources I have mentioned here as well as a multitude of similar resources through March 2nd!


Thank you for visiting Amazing Materials for You.

Have a wonderful week and happy MARCH!


Currently, I teach fifth grade and have taught fifth grade since 2011. Before teaching fifth grade, I taught third grade, first grade, kindergarten, preschool, baby and toddler music, college, and graduate school. I am a mom of two daughters, a Maltese dog, and a tuxedo cat.

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  • […] If anything good has come from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that there are more online platforms for learning and reviewing material than ever. Check out my favorites in this blog post and how I engage students during math workshop in this blog post. […]

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    The letters of my first name inspired the name of this blog and the names of my other business ventures, so when you think of me, just remember AM4Y. I started my teaching journey in 1987 and have taught every age from babies to fifth grade as well as college and graduate school in Tennessee, Florida, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Colorado, and Virginia. I have a B.A. in English and Psychology from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville and an M.A.T. in curriculum and instruction from The University of Memphis. In addition, I have completed more graduate work at The University of Maryland and The University of Colorado, Denver. I am a mom of two young adult daughters and a cute Maltese dog. When I am not teaching, you can find me traveling, reading, hiking, or cooking. Read More

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