For Mission 1 of the Explore MTBoS project, I have been asked to describe what makes my classroom uniquely my own. Which is a difficult question as it’s only been uniquely mine for a month now (yesterday was officially the one-month mark). I’ve spent half of my time running about like a crazy person and the fact that I have posters on the wall is more a feature of dumb-luck than anything else. My routines are still developing and consistency isn’t necessarily my constant companion. But that said, one thing I’m trying to implement that I’m very proud of is my Tips and Tricks wall.

Based on something I observed during my student teaching, the basic intention is that I have a place in the room where students can explain how to do the math we are doing. Rather than me constantly explaining how to combine like terms or how to find common denominators, I want my students to write out explanations in their own words. I want them to include tips or tricks that they consider, and to explain how they approach a certain kind of problem. It’s been my experience, especially when I was tutoring, that there are a million and one ways to explain material. And it’s also been my experience that Person A and Person B can explain something exactly the same way, but through some vague unquantifiable reason it only clicks when person B explains it rather than person A.

The goal is to have students see each other as a resource. And not just the high-performing kids, although they are more likely to get the material quickly. Students that come in for tutoring after-school and finally understand a concept after working on it for hours are perhaps an even greater resource, because it is their peers that are struggling in similar ways. If they can explain how it finally clicked for them, then maybe that will work for someone else. Explanations are also great practice for the Regents and Common Core.

The wall is a work in progress. I have one or two things up there, but right now it’s mostly my posters from class rather than student made posters. I do currently have word banks on the wall where we can record key words that might indicate which operation to use in different word problems. I added one or two words to it, but when I was walking by the other day one of my students had added 8 or 9 words! I have no idea who it was, but it’s so freaking cool that they feel comfortable adding material to the board. I think I just have to start asking for more and more submissions from students, and bribing them with incentives. I dream of a day when the board is so full of stuff I have to ask students to write less.

As we go I will try to take pictures and post them as it develops.

I’m impressed by this idea and I only wish I had thought of it myself. I was in your shoes just last year and I know how hectic it can be, but I was very afraid of student led instruction or contributions since management felt like my biggest concern. However, your inclusion of students in math conversations right away is admirable and clearly it is working very well since students are adding to the wall. Excellent!

I don’t know how you arrange your room, but I have found putting students in desk groups each day has led to some amazing conversations and has opened the door for more student-to-students instruction. This has led to greater confidence and independent learning, which seems to be our ultimate goal as math instructors. Anyway, I would enjoy continuing some conversations and I look forward to hearing more out of you as this posting project continues. Best of luck in your first year!

P.S. Things do get easier, especially after winter break when you get a chance to gasp for air.

That is brilliant! Great idea!

Great idea. As your teaching career continues you will find ways to tweak things and what works and what doesn’t. It is ALWAYS worth trying an idea at least once to see how it works with students. I remember my first year, I was at school till 7 pm almost every night. It does get easier. It is great that you are getting plugged in to other teachers at such an early stage of your career. Keep up the great work!

This sounds very cool; will you be using lesson time for the students to make the posters? I’ll be interested to see how this progresses!

Do you see this as a ‘from scratch’ every year, or would you tell students that the best posters get carried over?

Good luck with #MTBoS!

Yaasssss! I love it!! What a great idea, and how cool that students are getting into it. I love the public display of the importance of students helping their peers. It’s all too easy for kids to rely on the teacher for all knowledge.

I’m totally stealing this idea when I figure out a space to put it…

Your tips and tricks idea is great! I’ve been toying with the idea of students keeping maths journals and or maths blogs for a similar reason, but I hadn’t thought of getting the students to publish their tips on the walls. I really look forward to seeing the pictures!

Very cool. I hope it’s new each year, though you definitely need some way to preserve and archive. Speaking of which… could you upload a picture? It’s okay it just started!

yes post those posters pleaseeee!

Yep, going to steal THIS idea!

And good luck on your first year. Really difficult and time consuming and you will sleep for DAYS come summer, but I hope you will be so charged that the rest of the summer will be spent figuring out what went well and tweaking that.

In the mean time: remember to breathe. You WILL make it. And it is SO much fun!