Students finished their fourth week of school yesterday. Routines are fairly established although there have been interruptions with students quarantining during the past two weeks. Flashes from last year have been making appearances in classrooms as teacher navigate working with Zooming and in-person students at the same time. I’m hoping this is temporary but no one has the confidence to say that’s the case. When students remote into a classroom it changes routines and impacts more that what I can write here. I’m moving forward and attempting to find lemonade in the situation. Looking back at the last month I’ve found ways to engage students differently this year compared to last school year. This post highlights two of those instances.

Fortunately, this year my students have been able to work in groups. Words can’t express how big of a game changer this is and what a loss it was last year. Breakout rooms were a poor substitution. I’ve been utilizing whiteboards and math stations throughout the classroom. While students work on tasks I bounce from one group to another to ask questions and to gain an understand of students’ thinking. During the last few weeks I’ve been reading through Building Thinking Classrooms have been using some of the strategies found within. Being able to give feedback through questioning at the stations and hearing the students’ responses impacts my next steps as a teacher. I’d like to expand the time at stations a bit more as the year progresses and as social distance policies evolve.

Another strategy that seems to be working this year relates to how students interact during brief math conversations. Students are often given a daily math task or question that’s designed to encourage dialogue. Students take turns discussing the strategy or steps involved in attempting to solve a problem. While one student is talking the other student is giving non-verbal cues that they’re actively listening. Students are then brought back to the class as a whole group. I visibly randomly pick students to share what their partner said during that time. The student that is picked doesn’t offer their opinion about what the partner stated although the strategy is discussed as a class. I’ve used this at least twice every week since school has started and have noticed that students are listening better in their groups. Another bonus is that students are using the strategies that they hear from their partner/class.

I’m hoping to carry both of these strategies forward as the year progresses.