Laura Tomas, Math and Science Coach, Belvedere Elementary School, The School District of Palm Beach County
I was listening to the podcast, Making Math Moments that Matter, on my way to work one morning in early 2019. I hear Kyle and Jon, the hosts, say something at the end of the podcast like, “This episode is sponsored by Whitebook.” I was thinking, “What the heck is a Whitebook?” I googled it once I got to work, and nothing came up that made sense to me. I keep listening to their episodes, and I keep hearing this sponsorship. During one episode, I FINALLY put the pieces together; they were saying “Wipebook” and not “Whitebook!” Oops! Once I googled “Wipebook” and found this site, I knew my classroom was about to change. For the better. Forever.
April 9th, 2019-The day everything changed with the students in my classroom
Four questions. That’s what the students had to answer for me. The fourth grade students were “reviewing” the unit on place value and rounding. Not open-ended questions. Not low-floor, high-ceiling questions. Not my finest moment. At least they were “up” in the classroom and not just sitting at their seats being quiet. At least they were interacting with their group members. However, on April 10th, 2019, things got interesting. I asked an open-ended question in regards to rounding, and, VOILA, all kinds of mayhem ensued! Students were not just talking to each other, they were justifying their answers and finding patterns! April 11th, 2019 was even better than the day before! I gave them another open-ended, low-floor, high ceiling question. Not only was I getting better at this “vertical non-permanent surface” idea, the students were, too! April 12th, 2019, I had to record what one of my groups was saying. I could hardly contain my excitement as they “argued” about their answers!
July 15, 2019- Teachers at a summer conference breakout session
I KNEW I had to get the word out about wipebooks as soon as humanly possible. I submitted a proposal to present at a summer math conference . Fifteen teachers, from all different grade levels, came to my session on “Building Thinking Classrooms.” What they didn’t know was at the end of my session, they would each be taking home a wipebook! I began the session using visible random groups and explaining what VRGs were along with the research behind using them. Once they were at their wipebooks, I gave them the task called “The Four Fours.” Again, just like with my fourth grade students, these adults were discussing, justifying, and having a good time interacting with one another
March 13th, 2020- The day we found out
It was 2:30pm, all the students had left for the day, and we were called into an emergency faculty meeting. Covid-19. Coronavirus. We knew that some schools across the world had already shut down. Today was the day that we were told we wouldn’t be back at work the following Monday. The Monday after that was technically our Spring Break, but we were all scrambling to figure out everything Google. We were allowed to go into our classrooms to grab items we thought we might need for the next few weeks. The things I grabbed were resource books, blue painter’s tape, whiteboard markers, and my wipebooks. I knew there was going to be no way for me to survive this “Crisis Teaching” time without my wipebooks, so up on my dining room wall they went. Even through this summer, I have been using them to “document” my summer happenings on my social media page!
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