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.