Creating a Thinking Classroom With the Second Grade

"The Wipebooks flipcharts allow students to try several different kinds of solution strategies without worry because they can be easily erased or re-written."


This past summer, math teachers from Clare Public Schools went through training based on Peter Liljedahl’s Thinking Classroom principals. Two of those teachers, Jennifer Pettersch and Tonya Miller, are second grade teachers who began implementing some of what they learned by asking their students to engage in thinking tasks. They recently were able to add Wipebook's flipcharts into the mix. I serve as an instructional coach in the district and have enjoyed supporting Jennifer and Tonya this year. 


Thinking Tasks

Thinking tasks have a few basic principles. First, they must have a low floor, meaning students of any ability level can engage in the task. Second, they must have a high ceiling so that students can be pushed to higher ability levels while working on the task. An example of a task like this is what Jennifer and Tonya used recently with their second grade students:

I doubled a number and kept doubling so that the original number was doubled four times.  What might the answer be?

This task has a low floor and a high ceiling so that all students can both engage in the task and also push themselves to new ability levels. The Wipebooks flipcharts allow students to try several different kinds of solution strategies without worry because they can be easily erased or re-written. This allows students to engage in the task quickly and confidently.


A display of students work on the thinking task of doubling numbers



Thinking tasks also allow students to collaborate together. In groups of 3 or 4, Jennifer’s and Tonya’s students were able to discuss their ideas and ask each other questions. By hanging the flipcharts around the room each group of students have their own space to operate while still easily being supervised from the middle of the room. And by being vertical during the activity the students are empowered to be able move around and enjoy themselves while still learning. The Wipebooks flipcharts are large enough for every student to have a “spot” to take a turn writing without having to erase their groupmate’s work. This makes collaboration fun and limits conflict among students. 


A group of students work together on an assigned thinking task



Asking students to reflect on their learning helps them retain what they have learned. The Wipebooks flipcharts allow students to not only think about and discuss their reflection questions, but also write out some of their ideas. We tend to retain more information when we’ve seen it, discussed it, and written it down than when doing one of those in isolation. Below are the reflection questions that Jennifer and Tonya gave their students after the doubling task.

  • What were the main mathematical ideas that you learned today?
  • How did your group approach today’s math task?
  • What steps were involved in solving the problem today?
  • What questions do you still have about our math task?
  • Describe a mistake that you or a classmate made.  What did you learn from this mistake?
  • Describe how someone else in class approached today’s problem.  How is their approach similar or different to the way you approached the problem?


Jennifer and Tonya have seen an increase in engagement and achievement from their students since implementing thinking tasks with their second graders. The Wipebooks flipcharts have been a perfect resource to take their students work to the next level.


Dr. Peter Grostic, Educational Consultant, Communications by Design


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