Every teacher strives for an active classroom buzzing with engaged and eager students. However, even the most experienced teachers face days when it seems like they’re the only one talking and the students have simply tuned out. Or, perhaps your students are so engaged and so eager to participate that you’re having a tough time making sure that all student voices are heard.
Silence can bring even the best lesson to a screeching halt and the hand that never seems to go down is certainly a challenge. But whatever the reason behind your participation woes, if you have 12 minutes, we have 10 top-notch strategies you can learn today and try out tomorrow to boost active learning and student participation for all students in your classroom.
TchLaureate Geneviève Debose Akinnagbe teaches ELA at Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists (BSSWA) in New York City, a secondary school where teachers refer to their students as Scholar-Activists. She’s developed a unit on Scholar Activism for her middle school students to give them a better idea of what that title means and the honor it carries.
So far, we’ve explored the following questions:
What, exactly, is scholar activism, and why is it important to teach our students about scholar activism in the classroom?
I’m a huge fan of writing in math class! While I was teaching, I had my 5th graders write in their math journals every single day. Whether they used the journals before the lesson to write down estimations, during class to show their reasoning through a problem, or at the end of class for an exit prompt, the journals were always a safe and not-graded place for students to jot down their thoughts. No matter the prompt, I always learned so much about what they understood by reading their entries each day.
This year, as a math specialist, I get to see student writing in math classes across many grade levels, and it’s so incredibly interesting. I’m able to see where it all begins, in kindergarten, before students are even writing explanations in words, to 5th grade, where the writing becomes very articulate. In each lesson I plan with teachers, we incorporate a writing aspect that we use for reflection after the lesson. The students’ written pieces, in addition to our classroom observations, help to ground our reflective conversation after the lesson.
As the school year comes to a close across the country, we know that opens up A LOT of time for kids during the long summer days.
We also know that kids today are increasingly using the Internet in their free time to find information, entertain themselves, purchase goods, and communicate with their peers and family. If you’re working with kids this summer — whether in a summer learning program or at home during family time — or if you’re still in the process of saying goodbye to your students, you may be looking for ways to help them sharpen or extend their skills during the next couple of months.
Editor’s Note: Math teachers across the country are learning about the power of formative assessment in their classrooms. In this video series, we bring you an opportunity to see formative assessment in action, with the help of math consultant Ann Shannon and resources from the Mathematics Assessment Project (MAP). Ann provided the initial training for teachers in Kentucky’s Kenton County on how to implement MAP and frameworks from the Math Design Collaborative. She observed teachers in the classroom, gave real-time feedback, helped facilitate the after school meetings to analyze student work, and helped build capacity in the district so that the work would be sustainable.
As teachers, sometimes we talk too much. We might do more of the telling, and have kids do less of the doing. Personally, I’ve always been someone who loves explaining things to people, so as a teacher this was an easy trap to fall into. I might get halfway through a unit of study, sense that my students are struggling, and decide that the best way to solve their misconceptions was to talk even more. Telling them what to do seemed easier, faster, and more direct. But in fact, that was my own misconception! Sometimes, the best way to help our students is to subtly guide them through their own struggles.
In our series Engaging Students with Productive Struggles, we took you inside two middle school math classrooms that are using formative assessment to do just that. We saw seventh graders deepening their understanding of proportional relationships, and eighth graders tackling the work of linear equations. Now in this new set of videos, we visit Meghan Mekita’s geometry classroom to watch her tenth graders deepen their understanding of transformations.
In these four videos, you’ll see Meghan’s students engaging in a formative assessment lesson that addresses their misconceptions and moves them forward in their learning.
As you think about getting ready for assessments, it’s important to think about the role student work can play — the way you and your students can use their work to learn more about their misconceptions, areas of struggle, progress, and successes. We know that looking at student work is a natural part of a teacher’s day. There is so much we can learn from it, depending on how we look at it. We may be quickly reviewing an exit ticket so we can adjust the next day’s lesson, or we may be looking at their work more deeply during a multi-day formative assessment lesson, such as those seen in our series, “Engaging Students in Productive Struggle.”
In the first part of this series, we stepped inside two middle school classrooms to capture formative assessment in action. We saw teachers Teri Walker and Susie Morehead using resources from the Mathematics Assessment Project (MAP) to reveal and develop their students’ mathematical understanding.
As the chill in the air gets chillier, and your stacks of student work pile up like fallen leaves, why not pause, take a breath, and take a moment to look at that student work in a new way. Sure, you need to look at the work to assess student progress, provide feedback, and celebrate student successes, but you can also use it to assess, refine, and celebrate your own work. The EQuiP Student Work Protocol is one way to do just that.
In part one of our series with Achieve.org, we introduced you to their work with EQuIP (Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products), an initiative designed to identify high-quality materials aligned to the Common Core. We took a close look at EQuIP’s rubrics and process for evaluating lessons for Common Core alignment, and saw the power of teachers viewing and discussing a lesson together.
In this second part, we introduce you to a complementary process in which teachers analyze student work as an indicator of the strength of instructional materials, and their fit into the larger lesson or unit. This protocol works really well for large collaboration groups, but you could certainly use it independently or with just one colleague.