You will definitely have to determine what will work best for your class when beginning to try out the math workshop approach. We are still tweaking things all the time! However, I tried to answer your questions in the best way I could.
You asked if we teach a whole-class mini-lesson before beginning rotations if the concept is completely new. We always give a little overview before the students begin the rotations, but it is not as long or as in-depth as our mini-lessons in reading and writing workshops. On some days the whole-class overview will be longer than others, especially if it is a completely new concept. It really depends on the lesson. If the lesson is one that we think the high (and sometimes even medium) group will be able to understand with very little instruction, we then tend to get right to our rotations so that we have more time to spend teaching the concept to the low group and doing an enrichment lesson with the high group. In a sense, each of the three groups gets a mini-lesson each day during the "work with teacher" rotation (modeling, active engagement/practice), and then the independent work station is like IDR time in reading workshop.
However, it may be different in 2nd grade. One advantage we have in third grade is that the students have a student reference book (SRB). This book provides titorials and gives examples of all math concepts learned in 3rd grade. When the high group begins their first rotation by trying to complete the journal pages independently, there are reference book pages that they can refer to if they need help. Third graders (especially those who are typically in the high group) can read the pages on their own and often figure out the new concepts fairly quickly with this helpful resource. If your high group is really gifted, many of them will not even need to use the SRB to understand the journal pages on many days. Of course they will show their completed journal pages to you when they come to the "Meet with Teacher" rotation, so if they did poorly on the journal pages, you will teach them the lesson in the same way you taught it to the other groups without adding enrichment.
There are also times when we do not do rotations at all and spend the entire hour on a whole-class lesson. There are certain skills taught in 3rd grade like double-digit multiplication that we know will be new to all students and will require lots of instruction and practice. On these days, we want all students to spend the entire hour working on the new skill.
You also asked about the games the students play. Like you mentioned, we often have them play games related to concepts that have been taught in previous lessons. The games serve as extra practice and review/reinforcement of the skills they are learning in the unit.
I hope I've answered your questions. Feel free to ask more if I'm not being clear!
Sign up today for free teaching ideas, lesson plans, online activities, tips for your classroom, and much more.
Choose your grade range:
See a sample >