Whiteboards and Math

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Over the summer I changed classrooms.  It was a lengthy process, but great, as I was able to reorganize my classroom.  I moved into a smaller room with less cabinet space.  To boot, the room also didn’t have any carpet.  Starting with a blank slate caused some anxiety at first, but it also gave me time to think of different design ideas.

Over the summer I received many great ideas from my pln about classroom design.  I knew I wanted to add additional group stations and lay out the space so kids could utilize all the different locations within the classroom.  I’m not an HGTV expert by any means, but I thought that some changes in my design might be helpful.  During August, I ran across a few Tweets from TMC about vertical non-permanent surfaces.  It even has it’s own tag – #vnps.  Interested, I researched this a bit and found some great news.  My summer book study and the TMC crowd both confirmed that these seemed to help students.  Thankfully, I ran across a Tweet about getting whiteboard from Home Depot.

I went over to Home Depot a couple days later and bought two 2 x 5 boards.  I wasn’t really sure where I’d place them. Over the next few days I started unboxing my materials and started planning out student learning places.  I put in a work order to hang up the vertical whiteboards and they were installed a couple days early.  Maintenance drilled the boards into the wall and I was a happy camper.

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I labeled the stations the next day.  I explained that the whiteboards were used so students could brainstorm and show their thinking.  Immediately, students were excited to use these new shiny boards.  The quality was decent and they easily erased.  It was interesting how quickly students picked up their Expos markers and got to work.  Some use them solo while other students like to use them in groups.

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My only gripe is that I wish they had a magnetic component.  Some students want to hang up their papers on the board and show their work on the board.  I’m still looking into options to what I can use to attach the work to the board without buying some magnetic paint.  Still checking out alternative ideas.  I’m looking forward to seeing how students use these surfaces throughout the year.

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Triad of Responsibility

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My students finished their seventh day on Friday.  The students and I are in the midst of a timely three-day weekend.  For the most part, I’d say that students and teachers are starting to get into their school routines.  There have been a few bumps in the road (there always are), but the school, teachers and students are making progress and we’re off to a great start.

This past week started off with discussions about expectations and routines for all stakeholders. Staff emails and student assemblies reinforced these expectations for teachers and students.  Early in the week I had the opportunity to have a class conversation about responsibility.  This stemmed from Caitlyn’s blog post and her experience with the NYC Math Lab.  Students were placed in groups and given a marker and anchor chart paper.  Each group was expected to create a list of at least five statements related to what ______ sounds/looks like.

  • What is  your responsibility to your class?
  • What is your responsibility to your partner?
  • What is your responsibility to yourself?

I gave each group around 10 minutes to discuss and write down their thoughts.  It took a while for the groups to decide on what to write, but they eventually came to somewhat of a consensus and documented their answers.

After the ten minutes, I brought the class back together and hung up the anchor charts around the room.  Students were given two stickers and asked to visit an anchor chart that wasn’t their own and place their stickers next to two statement that they thought were the most important.  Students were then given an additional two stickers to place on the remaining anchor chart.  Basically, students weren’t allowed to vote for their own anchor chart.  Afterwards, the class met as a group and analyzed the two most important (as surveyed by the students) statements.  Those statements were used to create the responsibility expectations for the classroom.

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I used this activity with three of my classes and compiled the results. I thought it was a decent activity and it had students thinking about their responsibility.

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Looking back, I probably could have took a math angle to this activity and ask students to think of how each responsibility applies to them as a a mathematician. Maybe next year.  : ) I’ll be referring to the “triad of responsibility” as the year progresses.