My extra set of whiteboards and the student presentation size I made have been my new favorite teaching tools. A new document camera has been a close second, but nothing has compared to the change I’ve noticed in my classroom when I give students a task to complete in pairs on the whiteboards.
All the credit for this has to go to Peter Lildejahl, whose presentation I discovered from Dan Meyer’s blog. I’ve also taken a ton of wisdom from reading how Alex Overwijk is using these. But a day in class can go like this: we open up with some short problems, then I line up the students by some pseudo-random characteristic: height, birthday, etc. Paired up the students get one marker per group, and then I share the task of the day. I’ve done this in a huddle formation, it’s a great shift from what for me was typical.
This particular lesson was a discovery of the ratios of the 30-60-90 and 45-45-90 right triangles. I had students create some examples of isosceles right triangles (and later equilateral), then use the Pythagorean theorem to find the missing sides and detect a pattern. It was simple, within their ability, and established connection between similar figures and right triangles.
For the past few weeks I’ve been trying to do this almost every day. I can tell it’s made my mathematics class more engaging. The students work a lot more continuously, they don’t bail out as eagerly, and they have freedom to discuss the tasks. I can walk around the room and listen to my students discussing mathematics, which has been probably the most incredible part. Learning sounds awesome when my students are teaching each other.
It’s not been a perfect trial, Laura Wheeler has some fine rules that I need to use to refine the practice. Some students can dominate the marker, some seem to work at separate ends of the space as their partner. My tasks are the biggest shortcoming in this right now. And I’m uneasy about there being a lack of “notes.” So I encourage picture taking of work, or using a notebook to preserve important summaries.
I’m wondering if anyone else out there is researching this, because I may just have found my dissertation topic.
M&M AP Statistics lessons are usually popular, but throwing the student whiteboarding into the mix brought some student movement into play. In pairs the students were creating confidence intervals for the true proportion of blues. One half the class worked on the front boards, the other in back. I’m hoping at least one group has an interval that misses the truth.
The student interaction in this lesson was awesome. Having them all working in clusters created opportunities for them to get help quickly by glancing at a neighbor’s method or asking a direct question of them. I’ll definitely be trying this again.
I think I just saw a tumble weed rolling through this blog. New year’s resolution: must blog more.
I love the new 4 by 8 whiteboard I bought at the home depot, but I think instead of putting it on the wall I’ve got to cut it up. Who needs a smart board? I’m really excited to get my students using the display boards in groups.
I read this NYT article by Elizabeth Green telling the story of two math educators and their roles in improving teaching. Akihiko Takahashi and Magdalene Lampert have had unique experiences in studying American math lessons, and I was unfamiliar with both before discovering Dan Meyer’s blog reference to the article.
The parallels between modern Common Core math curriculum efforts and past top-down initiatives is striking. We have no shortage of creative ideas or eagerness to try new things in our classrooms. What’s missing most is quality teacher training and professional development, the author claims.
How would schools need to be restructured/supported to create this kind of change?
Dan Meyer: don’t personalize learning
A great conversation taking place about the value in keeping school a social place for better learning.
As the school year comes to a close, students and teachers are playing a numbers game. “What grade do I need to pass for the year?” is a question I’ve heard several students ask during the fourth quarter. These students are not interested in learning for learning’s sake, but in satisfying their numerical obligation to earn the magic 65. Very soon in New York, many mathematics students will sit for the first edition of the Common Core Algebra Regents on June 3, a summative (in-class final) exam, and perhaps also a soon to be phased out regents exam in mathematics. If you’re a student with three “final exams,” plus a course grade, have you received enough quality feedback to inform your learning? Consider that the three exams mentioned have similarities in content but also curricular, format, and duration differences. What is a student left to feel about the meaning behind three exams in the same course?
What does a number from 0 to 100 really tell a kid about their performance? Is 65 what we’d like the goal to be for many students? I like the idea of standards based grading, but I wonder if that is improvement enough. Students may receive more detailed measures with SBG, but they’re still asked to “put up numbers.” Can’t we do better than this?
There are two reasons I can see why we’ve been so stuck with our traditional grading: it’s comfortable and it’s easy. It’s been done forever, so there are no surprises when a report card comes home. It’s easy because we establish a grading policy, parents and students are made aware of it, and from that point forward it’s enforced like a contract. Grades are treated like objective measures when in reality they are anything but. Do you know two teachers that grade kids the same way? Me either.
This brings me back to the topic of the post. We grade students not for their own benefit, at least not most of them. We grade kids only to rank them, and increasingly to rank their teachers. Feedback is an important part of learning. But grades are not feedback.
The inverse power of praise
This is not a new article, but courtesy of Doug Lemov who posted it to twitter I got to read it seven years later. It has such huge implications for schools, referencing the research of Carol Dweck. Some of the best classrooms I’ve ever been a part of were a product of structuring time around character development. In short, praising the wrong qualities in kids creates dependency on that praise, and conditions a short attention span rather than the perseverance needed for most meaningful success.
Character education is an investment in children. There are an increasing number of channels for students to subscribe to and develop their mindsets, but shouldn’t a school be the place that cultivates the right one? What would a student seminar course on building a growth mindset look like? Sign me up.