What does my class look like?
What would you see/hear if you came to my class?
Every minute matters in my classroom. We work from bell-to-bell.
Depending on the task at hand, you might witness
- Students working in groups -- asking questions of one another, sharing different methods of solving a problem, or coming up with a way to challenge the edge cases of the math concept being studied. Every student brings different mathematical competencies to the group and has the capacity to support the group by asking questions and sharing their own understanding. Students come to value their groups once they've learned how to interact with one another and have seen how their understanding of the math is greater as a result.
- Students presenting their work in front of the class -- our classroom is a safe place to share ideas and make mistakes and ask questions. Each student knows that they could be selected by the teacher to represent their groups' work, and they know that the teacher may call on them at any time to respond to what another student has presented by either revoicing it, questioning it, or expanding upon it.
- Students working independently -- sometimes we start tasks independently so students have a chance to discover what they know before they hear what their group knows. Each week, students are asked to reflect on their own learning, monitoring their growth and the quality of their contributions to the group.
Throughout all of this, I am circulating throughout the classroom, monitoring the progress towards the learning goals, probing the thinking of individual students and prodding groups to go deeper. Additionally, I am keeping track of which students I want to share later on -- each group or student chosen to share will contribute a slightly different aspect of the concept being studied. Maybe one had an outstanding graph while another used a table effectively and a third began to come up with a proof but didn't quite finish it.
After students have completed a mathematical investigation, I choose students to share their work with the class. The order in which students share is usually not random but intentionally sequenced so as to guide discussion towards the learning goals for that day. I then facilitate the discussion by encouraging students to ask questions of one another, asking students to revoice or expand upon what others have said. I also try to help students make connections between what they've uncovered and mathematics that they've learned before.
Students typically leave the class with some form of homework -- there is simply too much learning for us to accomplish to limit our work to inside class. However, homework is never, ever busy work. It typically takes one of three forms: either additional practice with that day's concept, some preliminary exploration in preparation for the next day's concept, or an opportunity to explore/reflect on how math can be extended to the 'real world.' Regardless of the form, students quickly come to learn that anything assigned as homework will actually be used in class on the day that it is due.
On the walls are posters that the students and teacher frequently use as reference.
One poster displays the collaboratively created classroom rules -- guidelines for how we will all treat each other. Other posters remind students of classroom expectations so that anyone in a group (or the teacher) can point to the poster as a reminder. For example:
- Every member has the right to ask questions of the group about the task at hand.
- If a group member asks a question, you have a responsibility to try to answer it.
- You can only write on your own paper.
- During group work, only group questions can be asked of the teacher. (This means that group members must talk it out among themselves first and only call the teacher over if none of them can figure it out.)
- Stuck getting started? Try listing what you know, draw a diagram, create a table, ... [The full list of strategies is brainstormed by the class at the beginning of the semester, and we add to it as the semester goes along.]