Let’s start with this one question:
For me, I use a set of 4 criteria to evaluate all resources, tools, and lesson ideas. It helps me quickly narrow down whether a tool will help me achieve the desired results I look for in my classroom.
Here are the four criteria.
- I want ALL my students to show me their thinking and understanding in interesting ways. I want them to show me what they think first instead of just telling them what to think! I want to open up the questioning that goes on in my room. So I look and create lessons that allow for this.
- I want my students to discuss, collaborate, argue, defend, and justify with each other. I believe this helps clarify their learning and understanding so I must make sure that discussion and collaboration happen in my best lessons.
- I am always assessing! I’m constantly looking to see who gets what we are doing and who needs help. I need to be able to assess quickly the abilities in my room so I can use that on the fly to decide where to go next. Assessing easily must be apart of my lessons.
- Every lesson or activity must have a ratio between the cost of set up and the payoff where the payoff heavily out weighs the set up. Nothing is worse than spending a huge chunk of time, making, cutting, designing and then when you run it the learning outcome wasn’t worth it. The payoff must out weigh the set up.
My favourite all time tool/technique is WHITEBOARDS!! Having my students work in random pairs daily at vertical whiteboards.
— Jon Orr (@MrOrr_geek) December 4, 2015
Whiteboards fit all of my criteria!
A whiteboard. Students can easily show off their learning. They are quicker to get to writing on a whiteboard than on paper. Especially when the boards on the wall. Students get to defend, argue, justify their thinking with each other. I can easily see if students are understanding and the set up ratio is a no brainer. Here’s a whiteboard, marker….Go!
I’ve had students use small personal whiteboards at their desks before, but I couldn’t believe the change in active engagement and cooperation once they were standing. The discussions they were having about the math was much more insightful and meaningful.
Our whiteboard uses usually started as soon as the bell rang. In their random pairs they would put up a few homework questions from the previous day. I could see students looking around verifying their work with their peers. They were self assessing.
— Jon Orr (@MrOrr_geek) September 23, 2015
We continued to make use of the boards while we worked through our new challenges. Students had no problem leaving their space to go and talk to another group to gain some insight on new strategies. I can easily circulate the room to engage students in conversations and challenge their reasoning.
So….if you can, get some writeable surfaces on those walls of yours. This will be your next My Favourite post!
I found some stick on whiteboards from http://writeyboards.com
I also bought some boards that lean against the wall from Home Depot