Give Them Something To Talk About

I have focused this past month to build more student-talk into my classroom. I want my kids to vocalize their ideas about math, build their own problem-solving strategies and critique the work of their peers. Last week, I gave my students this performance task that they completed in pairs. Each pair presented its findings on a poster, and the class performed a gallery walk. During the walk, I asked each pair to write suggestions or critiques on a post-it note for each poster they observed. As I walked around the room to view the post-it notes, I noticed that many students said, “I agree” or “Good job.” This activity made me realize two attributes lacking in my class. First, my students and I need to work on our ability to critique others’ work in a specific and constructive way (that’s for a future post). Second, and more importantly, I need to give my students problems that will help foster student discussion. The nature of the task I gave caused all participants to come to the same conclusion by performing the same process. Naturally, all of my students would agree with other pairs’ work. Looking around the room, all of the posters that represented the students’ work looked exactly the same. 

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My goal in the coming months is to give my students more open problems that will allow for student creativity, different methods for solving, and even some “wrong” answers. Hopefully, more open-ended problems will create a more diverse set of student work that will push my students into mathematical conversations.  

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