Allison Rohacek, @MsRohacek, Grade 7/8 Teacher at Sir Isaac Brock Public School, Thames Valley District School Board
Hooked on #VNPS?
As teachers we are constantly looking for ways to improve our teaching techniques, finding new and interesting ways to reach everyone of our learners and engage them throughout the teaching day. This fall, I was fortunate enough to attend a professional development session with Peter Liljedahl @pgliljedahl where he introduced us to vertical non-permanent surfaces #VNPS.
This wasn’t your typical workshop that you attend as a teacher.
Straight off the bat Peter had us up on our feet working in groups of 3 to solve challenging problems.
He bounced around the room, engaging in discussions, observing and challenging our thinking further. Before I knew it, we had been at a #VNPS station for an hour and a half, but it felt like 20 minutes!
I was immediately hooked and was ready to learn as much as possible about what a thinking classroom is and how I could implement it into my own grade 7/8 classroom.
Problem: We are trying to fit a square mirror through a rectangular doorway diagonally. See third picture for diagram, measurements & answers. Was very impressed students jumped straight to The Pythagorean Theorem w/o hint. They were so engaged in this question! #TVDSBMath pic.twitter.com/IcOAj6Pzdz— Allison Rohacek (@MsRohacek) April 10, 2019
Getting students to think critically and problem solve
After a day of learning Peter's #thinkingclassroom, I was ready to dive in...
But where do I begin...
It all begins with a problem.
Selecting the correct problem is key to having students engaged, critically thinking and using their skills within their group. In order to do the latter I ask myself the following:
- What is the key learning objective for the day?
- What results do I want to see students create?
- How can I subtlety guide students back if they become distracted?
Problem solving in a collaborative setting
Moving forward, I decided that each of my math lessons would begin with a #VNPS thinking question.
As students enter my portable, they select a card and head straight to a corresponding #VNPS station, usually a Wipebook Flipchart sheet for example, and then they wait to hear me read the question aloud.
To be honest it took about 3 weeks before students became adjusted to this new routine and comfortable sharing their thinking in small groups of about 3 per #VNPS station.
What happened after that trial 3 weeks was MAGIC!
Students who normally never share their thinking during whole group discussions were TRUELY engaged, students who use assistive technology to read and write were becoming the teachers of the group, and students who struggle to self-regulate were working collaboratively with other group members.
NOW everyday my students come to my class ready for another thinking question and are eager to challenge their learning further.
Using #VNPS within my classroom has changed the way I teach and has encouraged my grade 7/8 students to work collaboratively on a daily basis and utilize their critical thinking and problem solving skills in ways hadn't before.
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