5 Summarizer Strategies for Math Class

5 summarizer strategies for math class

Last week we discussed the importance of a strong and consistent opening routine. Today we'll focus on bring closure to your math class. In this post, we'll highlight 5 summarizer strategies for math class. Notice the theme throughout each strategy: use the data you collect to plan for future lessons. Stay in tune with what your students know and what they don't know yet, and use that data to meet the needs of all learners.


IN-PERSON: Running out of time at the end of a class period, but you need to evaluate where your students stand in regards to learning new material? Ask to students to show you with their hands how confident they feel with the content. 5: Super confident, 4: Really good, 3: On my way, 2: Still need another day of practice, 1: Feeling pretty lost. With a quick sweep of the room, you can gauge whether you'll need to spend more time on the same topic, to differentiate the next day, or to pull some students in for extra help.

REMOTE: This can also be done remotely. If your students have video up, they can show the same 5-4-3-2-1 fingers. If not, they could use a chat box to post their number. Or you could even ask them to post one word describing how confident they feel with the lesson. By asking students to type their response, you can save the chat and use the data more specifically to plan future lessons.

Thumbs Up/Down/Sideways

IN-PERSON: A similar strategy to 5-4-3-2-1, Thumbs Up/Down/Sideways can be used to get more clear and general data. Ask students how they feel about the math they practiced that day. Good? Not great? So-so? With a quick glance, you can get a sense of how students are fairing with the content and use the information to plan for the next class.

REMOTE: This strategy could be used in the exact same way remotely or you could use the chat box. What's one thing you feel confident about? Type in the chat box. What's one thing that you're still working on understanding? What's one thing that you don't understand yet? OR you could list specific topics and get a thumbs up/down/sideways. How do you feel about solving equations with the variable on each side? What if there are special solutions? What if there are fractions or decimals? Observe how answers change, and use that data to plan your next steps.

thumbs up, thumbs down, thumbs sideways

Exit Tickets

IN-PERSON: Exit tickets are slips of paper with math problems that students complete at the end of a class period and turn in. They are not typically graded, but instead are used to drive future instruction. They DO NOT need to be fancy. When I taught classes of 25+ students I would grab a pile of scrap paper, tear it up using a ruler, pass out the paper, and have students copy a problem or two from the front board. I spent NO time planning this ahead of time. I just chose a question or two similar to what we had practiced in class that day. Then, as students were exiting the classroom, I would sort the tickets by correct, almost there, and incorrect. I would use this data to determine who to work with during advisory extra help the next day, then recycle the paper.

When I moved to alternative education and taught classes of 5-8 students I pre-planned and used the data a little bit differently. With so few students I found it manageable to create an excel spreadsheet and track exit ticket results each day. I used this data to monitor and measure student growth and shared this data on my teacher evaluation. The big idea being DO NOT overthink this process or spend too much time on it. You can get a free set of 8th grade math exit tickets in my 8th Grade Math Teacher Starter Kit. You may also want to check out Middle School Math Man's free exit ticket samples: 6th grade math, 7th grade math, 8th grade math.

REMOTE: I highly recommend checking out Teacher Made for help with digitizing your exit tickets. Teacher Made is a free website that can help turn all your paper worksheets into digital activities. It even includes features like auto-grading!

8th grade math teacher starter kit

Partner Summary

IN-PERSON: In order to increase retention, students should be given opportunities to hear, see, say, do, and teach the content. In the Partner Summary strategy, students talk to one other peer. You could ask the "student on the right" to summarize a concept to their peer.  Then the "student on the left" can summarize another concept. Every pair talks at the same time so students feel more comfortable sharing with the increased noise level. As the teacher, you can listen in on a conversation or two to gauge understanding.

REMOTE: Remotely this could be a little bit trickier. Consider utilizing tools such as breakout rooms in Zoom so that students can have intimate conversations summarizing the big ideas of the lesson.

3 Student Summary

IN-PERSON: In this summarizer, take a minute at the end of the lesson to have 3 students summarize the big idea. "Student A, how do we calculate slope from a graph? {response} Student B, how do we calculate slope from a table? {response} Student C, how do we calculate slope given two points? {response}" OR "Student A, what does the Pythagorean Theorem tell us? {response} Student B, restate in your own words. {response} Student C, repeat what Student B said. {response}" Everyone in the class is hearing the big ideas multiple times, which further cements the concepts in the mind.

REMOTE: The same strategy could be used remotely. If you have the time, you could have every student share one word, phrase, or formula that sums up the lesson.

5 summarizer strategies for math class

Thanks for reading! Not every strategy will work for every class. Try a strategy or two and see what makes the most sense for your class and your students. Have other ideas you use? Comment below!
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