Workshop for Student-Centered Learning

Use the workshop strategy to give students ownership and choice over what and how they learn, practice, and master content
89 teachers like this strategy

About This Strategy

Workshop is a strategy that provides students with a choice of how they learn, practice, and master the content. It is also a method of holding students accountable for their choices. Workshops help students learn to manage their time and to evaluate their learning options so that they can grow closer to taking charge of their own education. This strategy can be used in grades 3-12 in any content area.

Implementation Steps

90 minutes

Choose from one of the workshop models below (Full Choice or Group Workshop) to implement with students based on the student needs and desired outcomes. See resources below for student-facing workshop board examples.


  1. Full Choice Workshop

    • In this model, students curate their own playlists to address missed objectives from earlier in the year.  Students have to grapple with the countless sites and resources in the room to create a plan of action that will lead to success on a retake of that assessment.

    • There are 4 components to the students' plans all of which are displayed on a board. The board is powerful, not just as a reminder of the necessary ingredients to a great plan, but also as a way to remember where along the plan each student is. The four components are:

      • watch (as in a video or teacher podcast)

      • do (apply the skill to an activity)

      • practice (find a way to practice the skill at a high level)

      • crush (retake the assessment).

    • Students must get their plan, which includes specific sites and resources, approved before continuing to complete the work. Students will then work through their plan to try and address the deficiency. If a student is on the practice phase of the workshop, then the next time this model of Workshop is implemented, the board will still be the same, as it will be saved from the previous day. This is powerful because it instills a branded continuum of learning to the students that they can carry with them.


  1. Group Model Workshop

    • In this workshop model, the students are put into groups by the teacher based on formative assessment data and their work on a particular skill that was not mastered.  While the majority of Workshop sessions are the choice model, this model provides a few key purposes. First, this model allows for group learning, whereas much of the choice model is independent. Many student learn best from their peers. Also, this model provides a way for the teacher to encourage accurate student selected self-remediation when they get choice again during the other two workshop models.  

    • Explain to students that when they are in the group model workshop they are working on a skill they all missed. That camaraderie helps them focus on the task at hand.  

    • An essential component of the group model is having students check their progress. One way to do this is by working with questions with a QR code answer or in check-as-you-go programs like in IXL.

    • If implementing workshops, consider putting students in a grouped model at least once a week so they can address the missing skills in their plans for future rotations.

Math Workshop

  1. Launch: Begin by introducing students to the day’s learning objective and support students to think about what they already know about this topic. The goal of the launch is activate prior knowledge for students; the majority of teaching will not occur during this time.

    • Think about what open-ended questions can support students to activate their prior knowledge and build connections. These questions are a foundational element of workshop and can be used during the launch.

  2. Workshop Stations or Centers: During this time students work in cooperative learning groups to engage in activities that support them to learn from one another while developing conceptual understanding. Review the resource, "What is Math Workshop?" for different center ideas.

  3. Math Workshop Reflection: The reflection is one of the most crucial elements of math workshop as it allows students to share out their ideas and learnings and enables students to synthesize the information. During this time, it is important for teachers to determine what students have learned and what students need additional support with.

    • Based on the data from the day's lesson, use that information to determine what centers can be used the next day to support mastery.

Special Education Modification

Nedra MassenburgDEMO
Special Education Specialist

Workshops are a great way to engage students with disabilities because they provide a choice of how they learn, practice, and master the content while also holding them accountable for their choices.

Effective workshops require teachers to prepare for a variety of skills needed by students: emotional regulation, executive functioning (task initiation, prioritization, working memory, etc.), written expression, reading, and/or verbal skills.  In order to support students with disabilities who have difficulty in these areas consider the following modifications:


  1. Students with disabilities could be provided with more scaffolded supports (extra time, reference sheets, graphic organizers, etc) during workshops. Students could also be given leveled work based on their accommodations during workshop time. See the resources in the resource section below for more information.
  2. Use visual aids, timers and verbal reminders to help students with task initiation and task completion during workshops.  Depending upon the number of students with disabilities present in a classroom, teachers should consider increasing the amount of time they spend role-playing workshop practice norms to help reinforce them for students.

  3. If multiple teachers are present in a setting, consider having one teacher work with a small group of students with disabilities to provide them more modeling and more frequent feedback during their practice.  

EL Modification

Shannon Coyle
English Learner Specialist

Student choice is a powerful learning tool. This strategy guides English learners in using data to make informed decisions about how to apply their learning. Teachers are able to scaffold both learner progress and self-assessment skill-building. 

English learners may be asked to use any of the four domains of language while performing various workshop activities. In order to support English Learners consider the following modifications:


  1. Ensure formative assessments used to determine workshop choices, groups, and/or remediation needs are fair, accurate assessments of learners. Consider accommodating, modifying, or creating alternative assessments for English learners that aim to distinguish between linguistic and content mastery so their goals may be focused appropriately. Consider partnering with learners’ language specialist. See the "Using Informal Assessment in the Classroom" resource in the resource section below for more information.
  2. Consciously group English learners. Alongside assessment data, consider social dynamics as well as language skills to ensure all learners’ participation. Consider assigning roles to individual learners. Consider anchoring learners at lower levels of proficiency with learners who speak the same home language to allow for idea generation in the home language. See the "How should ELLs be grouped for instruction?" resource in the resource section below for more information.
  3. Guide choice. Some English learners may benefit from scaffolded choices. Consider using a tool like the Student Feedback Form or a simple checklist to ensure learners are choosing all appropriate resources. Consider assigning one “choice” and allowing learners to choose another as they grow in their self-assessment skills. 

  4. Ensure English learners understand all directions for activities available before beginning to work e.g., ask for learners to restate directions. If the activities are new to learners, consider previewing or partnering with learners’ language specialist to preview and orient for learners at lower levels of proficiency.
  5. Perform 1:1 check-ins with English learners. Use independent work time to give English learners an opportunity to use their academic language, and teachers a chance to formatively assess content language use, to guide self-assessment of need using the Student Feedback form and redirect to more appropriate activities as needed.
  6. Provide English learners with familiar reference sheets such as graphic organizers, word banks, sentence stems, formula sheets, etc., to use as needed during activities.
  7. Provide comprehensible content in activities that require learners to read-to-learn. Consider providing home language content as available during independent or technology-based activities. When available, home language content can be a powerful tool in developing and progressing skills. See the "Research Sources for English Learners" resource in the resource section below for more information.

Questions to Consider

  • What is the first step that you would take toward implementing this strategy? Have you taken any steps already?

  • What could be challenging about this strategy, and how could you address any challenges in advance?

  • How could you modify this strategy for your students?

Coach Tips

Daniel Guerrero
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

When starting a workshop model, lower the stakes for yourself!  Students will need time to practice making choices, self-assessment, understanding the tasks and resources, etc. Start small with only 2 choices, and don’t take a group just yet to be able to walk around and reinforce the expectations of the various tasks.  Make sure to give students a chance to reflect on their choices afterward in a journal, self assessment, or conversation.

Tech Tools

Interactive Whiteboards

  • Smart Boards, Prometheans, and other interactive whiteboards are great ways to create visuals that can lock certain elements in place, allowing students to slide their names to their choices.

  • Having a visual board that can simultaneously show the location, expectations, and tasks that students can choose from is great.  Being able to see where students are spending their time at a glance is also a helpful tool as you work with groups of your own.