Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Opening and Closing a Lesson

I am doing a lesson study with Laura Calloway from Fairview Independent High School in Ashland, KY and she shared this great premise for a bell ringer around substitution. There are several things I like about this strategy:
open-ended, flexible, has students moving around (a little bit), has students developing rationale for doing something (even without a lot of direct instruction into the 'method'), is quick, and flexible!

She admits that it's not original (and what in education is?), but has a great sense of how to get students involved in the lesson quickly, get them thinking, and get them talking about math. She doesn't have a metal whiteboard to let the students slide the sentence strips around (which would be optimal), but she didn't let that deter her from adapting to tape.

In our conversation, we thought about using a slightly modified version for the closing activity. The modification would be to put all the steps on the board and let the students put them in order, while explaining the rationale for each step. I thought it was a great way of accessing the strategy, putting more emphasis on student leadership/thinking, and, again, creating an engagement opportunity. Just a nice flow to a lesson with emphasis on the introduction of the lesson, making connections to what they've already learned, and then creating synthesis by letting the students go through a similar activity (they already understand the process) to express their understanding. If multiple sets of the other problem are created, then students who solve the problem a different way could show their process; what a great discussion that would create. Students could work in small groups to arrange the sentence strips in any order they wanted. Another group could graph the system and solving graphically to check the work. The teacher could create his/her own order with a specific oder in mind to spark conversation if the method presented didn't go in the order or manner desired. The conversation about getting the same answer but doing a different order would be incredibly valuable.

The other thing I like about this strategy is that it isn't expensive, but it is incredibly flexible, and creates all kinds of opportunities to create connections for students in any concept learning. Once the structure is introduced the students would be able to manage the process very quickly and begin to process the mathematics easier (at least that's what I think). I wanted to share with others this simple sentence strip activity that I think has great potential.

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