I wrote the other day about the five practices in an article titled “Orchestrating Discussions“. Also, I made the bold claim that nothing else has influenced my teaching in the last two years as much as this article.
The following are some consequences of the article…
I refuse to teach in this room.
I work to be explicit with myself about the strategies I anticipate students will use. For example, I asked my College Algebra students to do this computation mentally on the first day of class last week: 45×12.
I had three strategies in mind. I list them below in order of my expected frequency (most common to least):
- Visualize the standard algorithm, including carrying.
Turns out far more than half of my students did 3. A bunch did 1, few did 2. One student visualized the partial products algorithm. And one student added 45+45=90, then 90+90=180, etc. She kept track of the number of 45s on her fingers until she got to 12 of them.
The fact that I committed to an order greatly impacted how I was able to interpret what my students did.
I force myself to sequence the solutions and strategies we discuss. Here’s my note card from class today. The task was, How many tens are in 268? What possible answers can you imagine to this question? I made physical notes of who had which answers, mental notes of what was behind these answers (monitoring) and sequenced them. I called on these students in this order and helped the class to make connections among the strategies.
All in all, a much better lesson than I would have taught without explicitly thinking about these five practices.
I make these practices explicit in my professional development work. I show how I use Post-Its (or scrawled note cards) to monitor, select and sequence. I give teachers time to anticipate student strategies, and then to add to their lists after we have worked a problem together.
I am a better teacher when these practices infuse my classes.