As I’ve written before, I’m in the process of creating a math focus wall for my classroom which will be centred around my SMART Board. I’ve found a couple of inspiration pics on Pinterest, but I’m still working on a plan that will work for my students. One of the things that I plan to include are sentence starters to help students during math discussions.
A key component of a successful mass lesson is having the students engaged in robust mathematical dialogue. I’m a huge fan of Lucy West (check out her site if you still haven’t!) and her article “Turn and Talk: One Powerful Practice, So Many Uses” (West and Cameron), was on my summer reading list. According to West and Cameron, “robust student academic discourse is vital for deep learning, [but] it is also a practice we see far too little of in many classrooms.”
There may be several reasons for the lack of discourse during math classes—perhaps there may not be enough time, students may not have enough to say, or students tend to lose track and start socializing. I know that I have overheard my students discuss weekend plans when they should be discussing the methods they used to solve their math problem! All these reasons for lack of math discourse may be tied to one key component overall—students are not sure how to talk about math. This would explain why math discourse may take up “too much time”, “just doesn’t work”, or students “lose track”. If students knew how to talk about math, then they would have more opportunities for robust dialogue.
In order to solve this overall problem, I decided to create discussion starter prompts. I created these on legal size paper as I will be posting them on my math focus wall on a rotating basis. Just print, laminate, and post!