Get to know your students, especially how they learn and think.
Taking my lead from this post, my intent is to consider how I can improve or implement the 14 ways discussed. In my last post, I shared how important I feel it is to know our students as real people. This one is to share #5things that impacted my classroom and helped me know how my students learn and think.
My 3 years with Kentucky Leadership Network and my experiences with #MTBoS have changed my mindset. The work with KLN introduced me to a new set ideas and #MTBoS allowed me to explore with others and develop a new frame of reference as I seek to grow as an effective educator.
I cannot be grateful enough to all those who have challenged me and help me grow. But as I think of the experiences that have opened my eyes to see better ways I can consider my students as learners, these are the ones that first come to my mind. #5things for getting to know how my students think and learn…
Wait Time II
I learned about this routine from 75 Practical Strategies for Linking Assessment, Instruction and Learning (Keely, Tobey 2011). A simple adjustment. Yet it forced me to really listen to my students. You can read more on a previous post, here. Basically, it allows the students AND teacher to process a student response. We were all told in undergrad to wait 3 seconds after asking a question before calling on a student. Some people actually think this deters the class flow. I disagree. The idea with Wait Time II is to wait again, after the student response. It allows the responder to consider what they said, the classmates to process what was said and the teacher to consider next steps, questions, etc. A bit uncomfortable in the beginning, but once I explained the rationale to them, they got it, as did I. Waiting and listening adds value to what students are saying.
What Makes You Say That?
Making Thinking Visible, (Ritchhart, Church, Morrison, 2011)
A chat with Liz Durkin challenged me to consider ways I could implement these routines into my high school math classroom. It was the question “What makes you say that?” that helped me begin drawing out student thinking. What were they seeing? What evidence supported their statement? With this routine, I began learning new ways of seeing problems myself. Students’ ideas, strategies and approaches are way more intuitive than my own.
Notice and Wonder
I was first introduced to Notice & Wonder with Max Ray’s Ignite talk sharing The Math Forum’s simple, yet impactful strategy. You can read more in Powerful Problem Solving (2013) as well. When I pose a problem, scenario, graph, students may not readily know where to start. But they can tell me what they notice. Its a starting point. Everyone can share something. When we listen to what others are saying, that ignites other ideas as well. And they begin sharing their “I wonders” which are great transitions to explore more. Its great. Its simple.
This routine carries over to standardized tests as well. Students shared how they didn’t know how to approach certain problems on ACT or their EOCs, but they looked at it, thought about what they noticed, connected it to something they knew and was able to at least make an educated guess.
Friendly Class Starters
After reading What’s Math Got to Do with It? and completing the Jo Boaler How to Learn Math course last summer, I knew I needed to find ways to invite students to think differently about math in my classroom. Some major a-ha’s and sad realizations as to why so many kids are down on math. I began with things like Number Talks she presnted during one session. Amazing how many different ways students can see / approach a single problem. When I invited them to share their thinking, they owned the math. This past year, I implemented Counting Circles, Estimation 180, Visual Patterns as well. These resources were primarily used as bell ringers to get students in math mode. However, there were days it lead to deeper, richer discussions and I was flexible enough to go with it. My students’ confidence began to grow. Their number sense was developing. They were sharing their reasoning without me asking them to. I saw some big gains on benchmarking and standardized testing for several students and I attribute them to these “friendly” and accessible resources.
Small Groups and Discussions
When I completed my initial National Board Certification in 2002, I quickly realized small group discussions provided a definite means to seeing student thinking. It was a chat last summer, that made me realize I needed to quit butting-in. I would hear a misconception and jump to add my 2 cents rather than allowing them to reason out if they were correct or needed to adjust. I was stealing their learning opportunities! Yikes. I began listening more-offering questions rather than telling them the direction they should go. It was frustrsting for some students. They despised me answering their questions with questions.
5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions (Smith & Stein, 2011) is a quick read that offers samples to incorporate into your classroom. The 5 practice provide structure to help you develop discussion based tasks rather than step-by-step inquiry lessons.
Another valuable resource for me are the Formative Assessment Lessons provided by Mathematics Assessment Project. Most lessons follow a similar format to the #5pracs. I used to struggle offering questions that would move learners forward. Though some disagree with scripted lessons, this resource supported me with sample questions for specific student misconceptions. As a rssult, I began asking better questions on my own.
Another aspect of the FALs is the way they suggest grouping students, not by ability, but similar thinking – whether it be similar misconceptions or approaches to a problem. This supports what I have been reading this summer with Ilana Horn’s Strength in Numbers (2012). She presents how social status in the classroom may actually hinder student learning and achievment. I believe grouping students homogenously by approach and thinking puts them on equal playing fields to share and build their ideas.
By observing student responses and listening to their discussion, I am able to select and sequence ideas for them to share that will allow more engagement from the class as a whole. Students are able to listen and view strategies similar to their own, but also consider new approaches which in turn builds their own skill set and toolbox for thinking.
The common thread is to not to do all of the talking, but to sincerely listen to my students and their thinking.
What a great post, Pam – thank you for reflecting publicly and sharing all these great ideas. Did you ever write about the counting circles in your classroom? I’m really interested in hearing how they play out in high school. -WM