Learning Sync

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One of my classes finished up a unit on multiplication strategies last week.  Before the test I usually have students review a study guide and I meet with small groups to determine if certain skills/concepts need reviewing.  This time I changed up the schedule.  Instead of a study guide I went the route of using a brain dump.

I’ve heard of the term brain dump before, but didn’t really have a way to organize and use it effectively in the classroom setting.  I learned how to refine and apply it based on the examples in the book Powerful Teaching.  I thought I’d try it out with one class, see how it went and then possibly use it with other classes.  If all went well then I’d move to

So I gave each student a prompt.  The prompt was “write everything that you know about multiplication strategies.”  It was in 12 point font at the top of a 8 x 11 sized paper. Below the prompt was a massive canyon of space.  After I passed out the papers I had about a third of my class raise their hands.  Apparently they weren’t used to this type of prompt or activity.  I told the students that I’d answer questions about the prompt, but wouldn’t give them any examples.  Some students were confused at first.  I told them that they would have five minutes to complete the task and drawings to show strategies were certainly okay.  A few students gave sighs of relief.  I started the timer and the students were off to writing.

I walked around the room and observed the visual models and strategies that were filling up the white space on the students’ papers.  After the time was over I randomly grouped the students in pairs and they shared their individual strategies.  I used the questions directly from the book p. 58.

Is there anything in common that both of us wrote down?

Is there anything new that neither of use wrote down?

Why do you think you remembered what you did?

The entire experience took about 25 minutes and it was worthwhile.  Afterwards, students asked about being able to use this activity for our next unit.  I think it worked well with multiplication strategies, but I’m a bit unsure of other concepts.  I’m definitely willing to try it out though.  The class decided to change the name.  We came up with a couple names and then I mentioned Learning Sync from the book and it stuck.