Engaging and Erasing in Eight Grade Math
"They are willing to tackle a problem almost immediately, using the Wipebook sheets to brainstorm and organize their thinking."
I am always looking for better ways to engage my students in deeper thinking, collaboration, and problem solving. A couple of years ago I “discovered” dry erase pockets/shop ticket holders (lots of teachers had been using them a long time before I did) and immediately fell in love. I loved that students were so much more willing to show and explain their thinking on a dry erase surface than on a piece of paper. If they needed time or space, they would grab a pouch and start writing. They would brainstorm ideas or explain things to each other using the pouches.The use of dry erase pockets led very naturally to the use of vertical non-permanent surfaces (VNPS).
Taking Whiteboards to the Next Level
On Twitter, I have read other teachers’ tweets about their use of VNPS. My thought was usually, “It must be nice to have all of that whiteboard space!” This summer I read Peter Liljedahl’s Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics, Grades K-12: 14 Teaching Practices for Enhancing Learning. Vertical non-permanent surfaces figure prominently in a “thinking mathematics classroom.”
Among other things, they encourage thinking by getting students on their feet and (as I had already discovered with the dry erase pouches) are a low-risk way for students to demonstrate their thinking. While contemplating how I could incorporate VNPS into my classroom, I was introduced to Wipebook Flipcharts. Using the graph side of the FlipChart sheets (which I love!), I set up 9 VNPS around my classroom. And then the magic started.
One way I use the Wipebook Flipchart sheets is for non-curricular tasks and non-routine problems. I present a situation or problem, and students go to the boards with their groups to work on a solution. The amount of time it takes for students to get started with tasks is minimal. They are willing to tackle a problem almost immediately, using the Wipebook sheets to brainstorm and organize their thinking. They are able to show large amounts of work and thinking on the nice-sized sheets. Each student in a group has the room to contribute to the problem at hand.
Students Approve Wipebook Flipcharts
Students also use the Wipebook sheets for practice with routine content and material. They are able - and very willing - to show me their processes. If they make an error, it is easy to erase and correct work. I am able to see a lot of student work at one time, noticing different strategies and common misconceptions. Students are able to see the work of neighbouring groups, using it for ideas or to get “unstuck” when needed. Students are also easily able to assist other groups when needed.
Students were instant fans of the Wipebook Flipchart. They like that working on the sheets is different from normal classroom practice. They like being able to try strategies and procedures without risk, because their work is easily erasable. They find standing up and moving around (and dancing a little, because I play music while they work) motivating. They say that the graph side of the sheets is a benefit for organization (and I can’t wait until we start our graphing practice on the Wipebook sheets). And, best of all, they say that working on the Wipebook sheets is just fun.
Mickie Gibbs, Arab Junior High School, Arab City Schools.
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