Flexible Thinking with Wipebook Workbooks
"...the convenience of the Workbooks allowed us to maintain the non-permanence that helps to foster an environment of risk taking in my Grade 6 math class."
Incorporating a thinking classroom structure in numeracy can be a daunting task for many reasons. Obviously, for most teachers, whiteboard space is at a premium and is typically positioned in places that reinforce traditional, front-facing instruction. A school’s budget is another perennial issue, and it seems like every year teachers and administrators are asked to do more with less. This makes it difficult for teachers to feel like they can try new approaches when it means cutting funding for something else in their schools.
Thinking Classroom on a Budget
Fortunately, Wipebook has bundles of reusable workbooks that are available at a price that makes them affordable for all administrators. These books may be used as vertical non-permanent tabletop surfaces (vnps), held on a clipboard, or even temporarily attached to a classroom wall, a locker door, or down a hallway. They have work areas that are solid white, ruled, or marked with a grid, allowing students to use whatever surface best suits their task. Student work is designed to be flexible, and it is nice to have a tool that accommodates that, whether students are doing a numeracy task, science observations, or working on a graphic organizer.
Independence and Individuality
When teaching a large group of middle schoolers, like I do, it can be a challenge to maintain the small groups due to a lack of board space. Using the workbooks allows students to not only be divided into more groups, but they also allow them to take their work with them when they visit with other groups to “scout” out strategies. This has fostered an unexpected social sharing element to our class routine that I have really enjoyed.
Another benefit to using the Wipebook Workbooks is that it instantly makes everyone part of the team. As much as I try to foster a supportive, accepting, “pass-the-marker” environment in my class, stepping up and being the sole writer for a small group can still be a genuine source of anxiety for some kids, leading to check out of the activity and resulting in a potentially inaccurate assessment of their skills. Balancing this type of work takes the risk out of the equation for these students, and I never have to encourage kids to take part. Everyone has their own on-ramp, and everyone can move at their own speed.
Putting It To Work
In this lesson, my class was working on fractional values (proper fractions, improper fractions, and mixed numbers) as well as the skill of spatial reasoning. My students watched a walkthrough video of the floor plan of the house from Full House and then attempted to transfer the space they saw on the screen onto the grid in their workbook. Following this, they compared their thinking to that of their group members, this time watching the walkthrough together. Finally, using the lined page opposite the grid, they ran some collaborative calculations comparing the size of the rooms.
The overall “I do/We do” structure of this lesson would have been much less impactful using only the vertical Wipebooks, and the convenience of the Workbooks allowed us to maintain the non-permanence that helps to foster an environment of risk taking in my Grade 6 math class. The students loved it, and I am looking forward to using these in new ways in the future.
Jason Howse, Teacher, Harbour Landing School
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