If you are living in a constant battle between tracking data and planning instruction…you know you’re not alone. Like most teachers, you are probably looking for ways to minimize the time you spend grading, and recording data so you can maximize your time planning and prepping. You’re in the right place.

The most important shift you can make as a teacher is to set up systems that allow you to be more present during instruction and practice time in your classroom. Creating a simple framework that embeds data tracking into your workshop time will allow you to genuinely focus on your students’ strengths and needs, minimize the need for lengthy assessments, reduce tedious grading, and maximize student engagement.

Currently, the five steps below are working well to do just that during my Meet With The Teacher rotation during M.A.T.H. Workshop. Give them a try, and tweak them to be your own.

### Step 1: Define Your Mastery Scale

Create a multi-point scale that provides a definition of student levels of understanding. Many districts have a scale in place already. If not, you may want to use the scale below (used in my school district) as a starting point.

Introduce this scale to your students, and spend some time having them create their own titles, and student definitions for each level of understanding. This will help them take ownership of the scale, and make it easier for you to have efficient conversations with them about the work they’re doing during M.A.T.H. Workshop, and beyond.

### Step 2: Select A Standard

During each M.A.T.H. Workshop session, I highly recommend selecting only one math standard, and one mathematical practice to assess. This simplifies the data tracking process, and makes grouping and conferring decisions more straightforward.

Making students aware of the mathematical practice you’ll be observing helps them focus their brain power on that practice, resulting in more rapid growth.

When introducing M.A.T.H. Workshop to your class, it is important to acknowledge that, although you will be noting a specific mathematical practice, and focusing on a specific math skill each day, all strong mathematicians pull a variety of skills and practices from their tool belt every day during workshop.

### Step 3: Decide How Students Will Demonstrate Understanding

When deciding what students will do to demonstrate their understanding of the skill being assessed that day, select an activity or question that allows students to evaluate, analyze, make connections, or find patterns when problem solving.

Selecting questions that simply require students to recall facts or solve a series of simple equations will not allow you to fully assess their depth of understanding.

This may mean creating a series of assessment tasks that your students will work on throughout the year. You can also make this happen by analyzing the set of problems you will assign each day, and selecting the problem that fits the bill.

If you are interested in a year-long collection of higher order problem solving tasks, you can grab my Second Grade Write To Explain Task Cards, or Third Grade Problem Solving Task Cards (shown above) to save you some time.

### Step 4: Record Your Data

Create a simple form that allows you to quickly note student understanding using the mastery scale you designed for step 1.

If you’re looking for a starting point, the forms introduced in my How To Organize Small Groups post may work. You may also want a piece of paper, a digital doc, or a sticky note to jot quick noticings about needs for small group instruction, and individual student conferences.

If you are required to send graded work home with students frequently, you can quickly mark the score you’ve given for the activity, and follow up with a few verbal comments to the student about their performance. Have the student record the justification for their score, and make a quick personal plan for future growth.

This practice promotes student listening as you discuss feedback, and gives them time to reflect on that feedback as they put it in writing. Another worthwhile practice is having students complete a self-assessment of their work.

### Step 5: Use Your Data

When planning for the next workshop session, refer to your data to determine your next instructional steps, and to create or curate activities for differentiation. You will feel so empowered when you pull out your data tracking sheet from M.A.T.H. Workshop earlier that day, and dig right into planning rather than pulling out your stack of papers and correcting pens.

If your district requires you to enter data into your online gradebook frequently, quickly plug your data into the system and jump into planning for the next day.

### Tell Me How It Goes

I hope these steps get you started with setting up a data tracking framework that allows you to be more present during M.A.T.H. Workshop (and throughout the day), makes your planning time more about planning (and less about grading), and helps you get a clear picture of your students’ levels of understanding.

I’d love to hear how these steps work for you, and answer any questions you may have about implementing. Share your thought in the comments below.

For more details about each component of M.A.T.H. Workshop, check out my other posts about this instructional approach:

- Differentiate Instruction with M.A.T.H. Workshop
- 3 Approaches To Formatting Lessons for M.A.T.H. Workshop
- How To Organize Small Groups for M.A.T.H. Workshop
- 5 Steps To Efficient Data Tracking: M.A.T.H. Workshop Meet with the Teacher
- How To Boost Student Independence With Math Triads
- Top 5 Ideas for M.A.T.H. Workshop At Your Seat

If you want to give M.A.T.H. Workshop a test drive in your own classroom, grab your M.A.T.H. Workshop Starter Kit.

elie says

Tell me about the group drop box. Is this were they turn in completed work like the task cards?

I just purchased your starter kit. I am hoping I can successfully implement it in 5th grade.

Laura Santos says

Hi Elie, I use the drop box for homework collection each day. You can read about all the details here. Enjoy!

Warmly,

Laura

Jane Stackpole says

Where did you purchase the organizers such as the rubric trays?

Laura Santos says

Hi Jane,

The drawers for the rubric trays are from Ikea. They are part of the Trofast system. The labels for the rubric trays are found in my M.A.T.H. Workshop Starter Kit.

Warmly,

Laura

Pamela Rountree says

HI, I noticed that the “Meet with the teacher” is not a part of the rotation. When are you pulling them? Is it while they are working independently or while they are at another station?

Laura Santos says

Hi Pamela, I tend to prefer not to have a set Meet With the Teacher schedule because I enjoy the freedom of balancing small groups and one on one conferences each day. If i am teaching a unit that the majority of my class has little background knowledge on (division in third grade for example) I will create a set Meet With the Teacher schedule. I talk about this balance in a bit more detail in this post.

Laura Givens says

Hi, Laura,

I am curious as to whether you give a formal assessment at the end of each unit, or if you use the data you gather as your assessments. My district recently adopted EnVision, and I am trying to decide if I want to use the Performance Task assessments that EnVision provides for each topic. Also, thank you for this amazing blog and all of the TPT items you have available. You are making setting up Math Workshop super easy for me.

Laura

Laura Santos says

Hi Laura, thank you for the kind words. I am happy to hear you find the posts and resources helpful. I did give a formative assessment at the end of most units. For some units, I used the Envision Performance Tasks, for others used the “Transfer Tasks” included in the Third Grade Problem Solving Task Card Collections. I did not give a separate assessment for my geometry unit this year because my students completed the Quadrilateral City project, which I used for assessment. I also used the Time of Your Life project as an assessment for the time unit.

Laura Givens says

Thank you for the assessment information. That is really helpful.

alexandria says

Will you creating all the print outs you use? The math feedback sheet? The labels you use? Literally everything!

I will buy it all! If you do can you email me alexandrialemerand@gmail.com

Laura Santos says

Hi Alexandria, yes I am making a M.A.T.H. Workshop starter kit this summer. It will be ready for back to school in August. Stay tuned. 🙂

Miranda Hanna says

Do you have copies of the 5 steps, levels of understanding, and the feedback forms available in your store?

Laura Santos says

Hi Miranda, I don’t currently have them available. I appreciate you asking and showing your interest. 🙂 I can add that to my project list for the summer months.

Allison Coulter says

I would love a copy of the levels of understanding page!

Laura Santos says

Hi Alison, I have included it in my Math Workshop Starter Kit. You can check it out here.

Jessica Evans says

I would love them as well! I would like the categories editable if possible – we have district phrasing and proficiency scales outlined for us.

Laura Santos says

Hi Jessica, thank you for reaching out. I have an editable version ready and posted in my TPT store along with all the other resources shown in my math workshop posts. You can find it here.

Jessica says

Thanks! I purchased your starter set today! I’m excited to put it all into play this year.

Laura Santos says

Hi Jessica! Thank you for taking the time to share your excitement. 🙂 Please let me know if you have any questions along the way this school year.

Laurie Brown says

Where can I find your pwpt you use with the timer for the stations?

Laura Santos says

Hi Laurie, I don’t currently have the PowerPoint available but I am glad you let me know you have an interest.

Keale Walker says

Where can we find your math practices sheet? Are those a set you use throughout the year?

Laura Santos says

Hi Keale, you can find them here. Yes, they are designed to be used throughout the year. They include all eight standards for mathematical practice.