Great Classroom Action

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A. O. Fradkin used her students as manipulatives in a game of addends:

The classic mistake was for kids to forget to count themselves. Then I would ask them, “How many kids are not hiding under the blanket?” When they would say the number of kids they saw, I’d follow up with, “So you’re hiding under the blanket?” And then they’d laugh.

Cathy Yenca put students to work once they finished their Desmos card sorts:

From here, it becomes a beautiful blur. Students continue to earn “expert” status and become “up for hire”, popping out of their seats to help a bud. At one point today, every struggling student had a proud one-on-one expert tutor, and I just stood there, scrolling through the teacher dashboard, with a silly grin on my face.

I’d love to know how we could employ experts without exacerbating status anxieties. Ideas?

Laurie Hailer offers a useful indicator of successful group work:

It looks like the past six weeks of having students sit in groups and emphasizing that they work together is possibly paying off. Today, instead of hearing, “I have a question,” I heard, “We have a question.”

David Sladkey switches from asking for questions to requiring questions:

My students were working independently on a few problem when I set the ground rules. I told my students that I was going to require them to ask a question when I was walking around to each person. I also said that if they did not have a math question, they could ask any other (appropriate) question that they liked. One way or another, they would have to ask me a question. It was amazing.

Featured Comment

Ryan:

I also have kids sign up to be an expert during group work, indicating that they’re open to taking questions from other students. Sometimes, after a really good small group conference, I’ll ask a student to sign up to be an expert.

About 
I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. More here.

7 Comments

  1. Reply

    There was a recent item on division along the lines of, “Ms. Smith is having a party and is inviting 30 guests. If water comes six bottles to the pack, how many packs will she need, if everyone gets one bottle?” The “correct” answer was five. Apparently Ms. Smith is depriving herself of liquid refreshment.

    It’s good to see that some teachers are reminding students (as well as themselves) to count themselves!

  2. Reply

    Sometimes, I’ll create an expert by finding a “lower” student with a really solid piece of math that’s worth discussing. By highlighting that student, it gives them confidence in their ideas and breaks down the idea of being good or bad at math.

    I also have kids sign up to be an expert during group work, indicating that they’re open to taking questions from other students. Sometimes, after a really good small group conference, I’ll ask a student to sign up to be an expert. Even if they’re not perfect, it gets students to really think deeply about how they know an answer is right and how they understand a topic.

  3. Reply

    I love the “Expert” and “Up for Hire” model, but what about that kid that never gets to be the expert? Either because of being a slow processor or because just not being able to do it?

  4. Reply

    Hi Margaret,

    I think this “model” is one strategy for one classroom tool – namely, a Desmos Card Sort. Would we want to use this strategy and this tool daily? Even weekly? (Well… perhaps we would, as Desmos Activity Builder is one of the best tech tools to come along in our 21st century math classrooms these days!) If we’re using a variety of tools and strategies, I’m not sure your concern here is a reason to forego trying this strategy with this tool. Moreover, many classrooms purposely group students with varying abilities together so those who are “stronger” can help the “weaker” along. I’ve not experienced “status anxieties” but perhaps someone else might see this happening and can share here how that went, and how we might improve?

    In the meantime, I have seen this, and it made me smile.
    https://twitter.com/MrsBrunnerClass/status/788552774300622848

  5. Reply

    I love the idea of signing up as an expert. I’ve used a similar approach in the past. Requiring questions is interesting too. I’m going to think about that. I wonder if I could require a group question, about whatever appropriate question they want. That sounds like a great way to differentiate and be able to connect with students at whatever level they’re at. Great ideas.

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