My Favorite Zero-Prep, High-Engagement Teaching Strategy

My Favorite Zero-Prep, High-Engagement Teaching Strategy


 

my favorite zero prep high engagement teaching strategy


In a recent professional development that I offered to secondary math teachers, I shared my favorite zero-prep, high-engagement teaching strategy. In this post, I'll outline the procedure for your reference. Download the supporting document here.

Students and teachers alike love At the Board.

If you're looking to:
--> increase participation,
--> monitor progress,
--> identify misconceptions or
--> just save time
then this is a must-try strategy!

at the board


What materials are needed?

Your students will each need a pencil and some paper. Ideally your classroom will have a large whiteboard. You will need 5 whiteboard markers and a couple of whiteboard erasers.

What should I prep ahead of time?

When I plan At the Board in my classroom, I do not prep anything ahead of time. Zero, zip, zilch. If you are comfortable coming up with relevant, appropriately-leveled practice problems on the spot, then you do not need to prep anything. If you're less confident with this, you could prepare or print a list of practice problems ahead of time.

no prep zero zip zilch


Sounds good. So how does it work?

4-5 students come up to the front board at a time. All students - at their seats and at the board - will solve the same problem at the same time. I say aloud a math problem (equation, 2 points for slope, etc) and all students record it. Then all students solve at the same time. I focus on helping and checking in with my students who are at the board, but I also walk around to make sure all students are trying it at their seats. I encourage students to help each other out! This is not a gotcha activity. This is an opportunity for all students to get practice and show me what they know so we can identify any misconceptions. 

Make sure that ultimately all students get to the right answer, then they can sit down. Be sure they leave the work up so students at their seats can see how they did. I take a minute to highlight different strategies and point out notation I really love. Students can ask questions or you can walk through a quick explanation of the problem. Keep it short though. Students will get another chance with the next problem. Select 4-5 more students to come up to the board. They erase the work, then get ready for the next problem.

this is an opportunity for students to practice and show me what they know so we can identify any misconceptions


What else should I consider during this practice activity?

I start off with basic problems and gradually increase difficulty, and I tell students this. Want to get some volunteer hands raised quickly? Tell them that the problems will only get more challenging AND all students will go to the board at some point.

I always start by taking volunteers, but not everyone will be so willing. I make sure all students come up to the board before I start to take repeat volunteers. If I run out of volunteers, I pick non-volunteers - a nice way of saying I call on students without a hand raised to come up. (NOTE: Make sure you're familiar with your students individualized plans and accommodations. If this is not appropriate for a specific student, subtly allow them a pass.)

Strategically call on groups. Depending on the needs of my students, I may call up students who are all currently working at a similar level so that I can give them an easier or more challenging problem to solve. In other cases, I may group students heterogeneously such that there's a model in the group. 

The most important thing to remember is to use growth mindset and confidence-building language to praise students. At the Board really pulls students outside of their comfort zone. Ensure the classroom climate is positive and supportive. This zero-prep, high-engagement teaching strategy will surely become your favorite once you've tried it! I'd love for you to share how it goes it in your classroom!

zero prep pin


Get Inspired!

This is the second topic in the PD Snippets series. Your next stop: Using Bloom to Help Learning BOOM!




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4 Frameworks for Math Scavenger Hunts

4 Frameworks for Math Scavenger Hunts


 

4 frameworks for math scavenger hunts

Do your math practice activities have students saying things like:

“This was fun!”

“Let’s do more practice like this!”

“This was favorite activity so far this year!”

Well, they can! Utilize math scavenger hunt practice activities. In this post, I’ll share 4 frameworks for math scavenger hunts.

AROUND THE ROOM

In this format, one practice problem is written on each station. The answer to the problem can be found at the top of another station. Students move around the classroom solving one problem at a time in a specific order. Around the room scavenger hunts increase classroom engagement and participation. Aligned with brain-based learning research, the movement involved in this type of activity increases understanding and retention.

Try it out with this free Order of Operations Scavenger Hunt!

angle relationships scavenger hunt



DIGITAL

Created to accommodate remote learners, digital scavenger hunts are perfect for both at-home and in-class practice. Instead of moving around a classroom, they drag-n-drop digital cards in a particular order. These self-checking activities can only be completed in one specific order, so if students hit a roadblock, they know they need to regroup and check over their previously completed problems. Digital scavenger hunts foster independence and technological proficiency.

the distributive property digital scavenger hunt



SEATED

Designed in response to a small classroom space, students sit at their desks as they cut and paste the practice tasks. Students who are tactile, hands-on learners will enjoy being able to pick up and move around the station cards. Students can arrange all of the cards before gluing them down on paper in order to confidently take risks and complete the assignment. You can access a free template here.

geometry basics seated scavenger hunt


INTERDISCIPLARY

State tour scavenger hunts are so fun! Students travel around the classroom learning all about a particular state as they solve math problems. Each completed problem sends students to another city within the state. They keep track of their travel route on an accurate state map.
nh state tour scavenger hunt



Which is your favorite? Do you have another type of scavenger hunt that your students enjoy? Comment below to continue the conversation!

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Perfect for middle school or high school math, these 4 scavenger hunt frameworks are sure to engage your students in meaningful math practice.

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Using Bloom to Help Learning BOOM

Using Bloom to Help Learning BOOM


 

Bloom Post Header

THE PROBLEM: Students are entering the school year with widely variable math skills. We need to find a way to teach the class while modifying for students who are significantly behind as well as those who are quite advanced.

THE SOLUTION: Let's look to the research. Bloom's Taxonomy is a great place to start when differentiating content by readiness.

According to Bloom, there are six levels of tasks that we can use to engage our students: remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create. We can differentiate by transitioning our focus to different levels of the pyramid. Select a particular topic. For that topic, create tasks that align to each of the six categories. Students can work on basic level questioning if they are still trying to develop a strong foundation of the math concept. Then as they gain more confidence and background knowledge they can climb Bloom's Taxonomy to the higher order thinking questions.

Bloom's Taxonomy

Let's dissect what types of instructions you could pose at each level of Bloom's Taxonomy.

REMEMBER

Solve the equation.
Graph the function.
Complete the table.
Calculate the sum.

UNDERSTAND

Show how you know.
Explain your thinking.
Give an example.
Estimate the total.

APPLY

Write an equation to model the scenario.
Solve the word problem.
Demonstrate the theorem.
Interpret the scatter plot.

ANALYZE

Compare and contrast the two strategies.
Categorize the polygons.
Classify the real numbers.
Deduce the big idea.

EVALUATE

Make a conjecture.
Identify the error.
Correct the mistake.
Prove the quadrilateral is a rectangle.

CREATE

Make an equation with the given parameters.
Design a prism with a set volume.
Devise a plan to show something is true.
Build a model.


It is important for all students to access information at different levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. However, entry points may differ. Students who need additional support at the start of a unit may focus on basic remember and understand tasks. Other students may already have a solid foundation and can enter the concept midway up the pyramid. Offering a variety of questioning types is key.

For additional examples of math questions aligned to Bloom's Taxonomy, download these free two-step equation task cards!

Free Download of Task Cards

Let's continue the conversation! Do you use Bloom's Taxonomy when designing worksheets and assessments for your students? What questions do you have about implementation? Comment below!

Bloom pin

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3 Truths All Math Teachers Need to Hear Today

3 Truths All Math Teachers Need to Hear Today


 

3 truths all math teachers need to hear today cover photo

We literally cannot do it all. There I said it.

I can't scroll through Facebook or Instagram without being inundated with all the tips and tricks and strategies that we must do in order to meet the needs of all learners.

I love new ideas. I love research and learning. But gosh, it's a lot right now!

Feeling the same way?

Read on as I share the 3 truths that you really need to hear today.

Try one new strategy at a time. 

You do not need to have a Pinterest-perfect classroom or Instagram-worthy lesson in order to be an incredible math teacher. Sure, there are lots of great strategies out there: flipped classroom, one-to-one technology, math centers, interactive notebooks, games. But the truth is, you cannot do it all. The last thing we want is for teachers to become overwhelmed and burned out. If you're feeling refreshed and inspired and ready to try something new, choose one strategy or activity to implement. Get really good at that one thing by trying it again and again with different topics. Train your students how to successfully participate in this one thing. Then, and only then, should you consider adding something else to your teacher toolbox. And if you're not feeling like you can add one more thing to your plate right now, then don't. I am giving you permission today to not change a darn thing. You are enough. The fact that you show up for your students every day and do the best you can is enough. That leads me to truth number two.

the last thing we want is for teachers to become overwhelmed and burned out

Positive classroom climate makes the greatest impact.

You can try every strategy under the sun, and if there isn't consistent two-way respect in your classroom, nothing will have the impact you're hoping for. Relationships between students and teachers are boss. Your students need to know that you care, they are loved, and they are safe. Ask your students about their interests and hobbies. Use growth-mindset language to convey that you believe in them. Create an atmosphere where students are comfortably able to take risks without the fear of judgement or ridicule. Positive classroom climate has the greatest impact on student success. There will be plenty of pressure to improve test scores and use more technology and try this latest, greatest, flashy teaching tool. But I am urging you to build a positive learning environment first. Take time to talk to your students about things other than math. Get to know their strengths and challenges. Reach out to families about successes, as well as challenges. Once this foundation is set, then everything else will fall into place.

students are loved image

Meet students where they are.

Math confidence is key to student motivation and engagement. Students who struggle, and are not given the proper scaffolding, are going to give up. Don't let this happen. Don't let a stringent curriculum and textbook shape the learning experience for your students. Determine the skills that your students are entering with and start there. This could be accomplished via a brief pre-assessment or teacher observations. Build student confidence by starting with what they know and building on that prior knowledge - even if they are not up to grade level yet. Start with the basics and climb from there. Make clear connections between concepts to help students make the leap. Maybe you feel like there's not enough time to teach skills that should have been mastered in previous school years. I am encouraging you to do just that. Teach what your students need. Once their foundation is strong and confidence is high, the rest of the year will flow much more easily. Build a math class that is equal parts accessible and rigorous. Show students that they can do it.

3 truths blog post pin for pinterest

So, math educator, will you let go of some of the pressure you're feeling please? Commit now to trying no more than one new strategy at a time, building a positive classroom climate first, and meeting students where they are starting. Do all of these things within your own comfort zone or just beyond it (scaffolding!). You've got this.

Comment below with other advice for teachers heading back to school this fall. What is a truth you want all math teachers to know?

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