The three part lesson ~ What is Bansho?

Once you have chosen problem-solving questions that are engaging and demanding both procedurally and conceptually, it is time for your students to work in their groups.  When they have worked through a solution it is time to have the deep and meaningful conversation about the process of solving the question.  Students need to be given the opportunity to observe what others have done, what mathematical concepts others have applied to solve the problem.  This process will support students to make connections to their own learning and become adaptable to other methods to help them solve future problems.

Three methods that can be used for this part of your lesson are Bansho, Gallery Walk and Congress.

This post will give a breakdown of Bansho and future posts will discuss the other two.  Make sure you subscribe to be up to date with our posts.


This high yield strategy derives from the Japanese word that means “blackboard”.  The Japanese developed an instruction style where everything is recorded on the board.  Nothing is insignificant.  Every thought is respected and discussed.

On your work on it part of your three part lesson students complete their solutions (determined by you if they are working in pairs, or groups), teachers use their “blackboards” (or any other flat surface) to display student solutions. This is where students can discuss, compare and contrast ideas presented.  Students are to sort and classify their solutions according to mathematical complexity.  This by no means is a grading/scoring system.

An initial suggestion is to have 3 diverse solutions presented and discussed.  You can figure this out when students are initially working on their solution, making mental notes of the ones are different. Then ask students if they have a different way of solving the problem.  If so, then have students present their different solutions.  If not, then have students display their solution in the spot that matches their solution.

Again this brings you to a time of discussion and reflection.  Students compare and contrast solutions.  They support and defend their placement of the solution at that spot.

So what is it that teachers need in materials for this type of strategy?

Paper or chart paper


Magnets for blackboard or tape

A flat surface where work can be displayed

An understanding that students will move around, discuss and analyze.  You as a teacher are there to mediate and adjust but not to correct their thinking,

Here are a few images of what Bansho looks like!


















By clicking on the image you will be taken to the original source of these wonderful images!

Let us know how Bansho has worked in your classroom.  Don’t forget to post your images!

Look for my next post on Gallery Walk!





Three Part Lessons ~ Teaching Math through Problem Solving

Being teachers means that we are always learning new and exciting ways to build our students knowledge.  New methods and research are always available and great new developments are pushed forward.  The Three-Part Lesson is one of the new methods that we as teachers are being taught to utilize in our Mathematics classrooms.  The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat of Ontario Canada, published a break down of what happens within each part of the lesson.  These types of supports are essential to help us develop our craft to be the best in our classrooms.  This link will bring you to a detailed breakdown of the structure of a three-part lesson:

But what does this actually mean for teachers?

Obviously to be able to implement this type of strategy means teachers need to determine where to start instruction.  Where are students on their learning continuum?  What skills are they lacking to be able to solve the problem presented? Teachers need to do this through pre assessments that aid in determining if the students have the necessary skills and knowledge.  This is vitally important, as teachers need to be able to determine what must be accomplished with students prior to attempting the problem.  When doing so, teachers ensure that all students have a strong foundation to be able to attempt the problem and can experience success.

While students are working on their solutions teachers should expect to direct and guide them.  This means that, as always, teachers need to be prepared.  How?  Solve the problem on your own!  This will illustrate the challenges students may face in solving the question.  But do note that this method of problem solving stipulates that there is not just one way of solving it.  Attempt to come up with a different solution than the first one and be open to other methods.

When it is time to display the results teachers should be able to support this step through meaningful discussions regarding the diverse ways that the problem has been attempted and solved.  Note that this method cannot be done in one class period!  Usually, it is done over at least 3 class periods.

Therefore, when choosing questions, they must encompass a variety of strands from your curriculum.  These questions must be open ended to allow for diverse use of strategies.  This will aid in ensuring your curriculum expectations are addressed.

Furthermore, you must have the appropriate supplies (chart paper, sticky notes, markers, & manipulative as minimum requirements) and a classroom management style that supports heterogeneous groupings, collaboration, support, focused discussion and certainly student accountability.

This last piece is exceptionally important, as this is where students have a voice, take ownership of their learning, and can convey their understanding to others.

If you are a teacher that uses this method, then please let us know about your experiences.  Collaborating together allows for deeper understanding for all of us!

Let us know what you think or add in your comments about teaching through problem solving.

Teaching the Middle Grades

As all teachers, we are constantly learning and developing our knowledge.  I have recently purchased a book I would like to share with you all. 

Day One and Beyond: Practical Matters for New Middle Level Teachers by Rick Wormeli


As the title states it is based on Middle school or Junior/Intermediate grades.  What I truly enjoyed about this book is that it does not deal with instruction per se.  It is everything around instruction that we as middle school teachers do or need to do.  This is a great foundational book about how to succeed in this grade level if you are a starting teacher, new to the grade level or in your first few years of teaching this grade level.  It provides the reader with teaching strategies in every chapter but it also helps you answer questions such as “what you are to do the first day of school, how to set up your grade book, how to discipline middle aged students and how to get their attention” (pg. 3).


I was fascinated when I first found this book as these were the questions I wanted answered.  I know many of us do professional development reading,  but this one I feel is a true book about the How and not the What of teaching! 


One of my favorite quotes from this book are : “If you have successfully eliminated from your vocabulary all words and phrases which could be construed as having anything to do with pubescent body parts or things those parts could do with each other – such as nut, ball, melon, jug, crack, hard, soft, limp, rubber, bone, French, stick, stroke, whack, poke, bang, feel, lick, insert, suck,  or blow – then you most definitely are a middle school teacher.”  (p.8)


Rick Wormeli truly catches the essence of our teaching experiences and guides us onto paths of success.  It is an all-encompassing book that helps us deal with everything from classroom set up to parents.  Click on the link to be able to purchase the book.


I hope you enjoy it as much as I have! Let us know what you have found interesting and worthwhile with this read.



Professional Development Opportunities: How Should PD be Organized for Maximum Effectiveness?

One of the most effective math PD I have experienced was a three-part workshop over the course of six weeks, where the first day consisted of incorporating technology and manipulatives into math (specifically algebra). At the end of the workshop, they asked teachers to do two things: first, to come up with ideas of what they want addressed during the next workshop and, second, to apply some of the ideas we learned that day to our math lessons and then bring student samples to the second meeting.

I think that this was a great idea as the audience became involved in their own learning and development. Just like how we as teachers want our students to be meaningfully engaged during our lessons, teachers should be just as engaged and active in their PD opportunities. Since this PD was spread out over three workshops, the developers had the unique opportunity to determine the needs of the audience the first day and then address these needs over the next two meetings. I understand that not all developers have the flexibility of three-part workshops; however, they could send out a quick email or survey to determine what teachers want to discuss during the PD. The whole point is that teachers could be actively involved and engaged in their professional learning opportunities with some effort by the workshop leaders or developers.  What really stood out to me was that the teachers in attendance were co-constructors of their professional development, instead of simply being a member of the audience.

Another example of effective PD is “vertical PD” where teachers from various grade levels learn in collaboration.  Throughout the last year, we have been working with our area SSLN (Student Success Learning Network) for math, so this is an excellent example of vertical PD. Each SSLN is composed of one high school and about five elementary schools that meet at the high school with resource teachers to discuss an area of importance, with this year’s focus being on Numeracy Assessment for Learning Cycle (NAfLC). It was a great opportunity to work with high school and other intermediate teachers throughout the year as we discussed: the transition from elementary school to high school; how to incorporate more problem solving into our units; using the SmartBoard and other technology for math; learning how to use Bansho, gallery walks, and math conferences during lessons; how to address the needs of our ELL and SpecEd students; and the importance of allowing students freedom and choice during problem solving. We had a focus for each workshop and worked in heterogeneous groupings of teachers from various grade levels, so we were able to not only reflect on our own teaching practices and learn new strategies, but we had very meaningful and eye-opening discussions with high school math teachers that centred around how we can better prepare our students for high school math.

Finally, two important questions that should be answered at every PD experience are: how can this be practically applied to my classroom and where does this now take us? I have been to some workshops where I did not gain much insight nor did I receive any resources that could be used with my students. I believe that a great PD experience provides teachers with resources that they can use in their classrooms and with their students. I love going to a workshop and finding out that an actual classroom teacher was part of the planning and development because then the content is more practical and “real” to me—the presenters or developers are teachers themselves with current classroom experience, so they know what is important to teachers and what needs to be addressed.


Here’s a great article that discusses professional development in a 21C context.  I LOVE the P21 blog!!


What do you think makes a great Pd opportunity?

“Your Essential Teacher Binder” now on sale!

What is “Your Essential Teacher Binder”? We’ve all heard of the famous “teacher binder” that contains everything that you need to run your class and lessons successfully! It is essential to your teaching, but not everything fits into the three rings of a binder, so we added in a few resources for your classroom too! We like to think of “Your Essential Teacher Binder” as a collection of teacher resources to help you organize both your teaching and your classroom.

All teachers have various ways of organizing their lessons, plans, and classrooms; however, we have grouped together a great set of resources to assist you in this endeavor!

So what’s included in this classroom kit?  There are more than 70 pages featuring:
– Desk nameplates (2/sheet) for both upper and lower grades
– Student hook/cubby nameplates (6/sheet) that can also be used to label bins etc
– Hall pass, office pass, and washroom pass
– Bookmarks (4/sheet) with “During Reading” suggestions
– Monthly student behavior log (2/sheet)
– “While You Were Absent” sheet for students
– Classroom job labels (30 different jobs to choose from!)
– Student of the Month an d Week (upper and lower grades)
– Student Birthday Postcards (2/sheet)
– Lesson plan monthly cover pages
– Classroom calendar monthly labels for both upper and lower grades
– Subject area cover pages for lesson and unit plans
– Substitute teacher feedback form
– Professional development log and Staff meeting record sheet
– Parent contact log (individual student)
– Month at a glance, Monthly plan at a glance, Week at a glance
– Individual student and whole class information sheet (5 students/sheet)
– End of the year classroom inventory
– Lesson plan and mark book cover page

We have tried to include as many printables that we could think of, but if you have any suggestions, please let us know and we’ll add them in!

These kits come in a variety of themes, including outer space, aliens, polka dots, swirls, monsters, and apples!


Gifted Myths and Stereotypes

On a previous post, I provided a list of common characteristics found in gifted students in a effort to identify students.  It is very important to know the signs but have found that there are many myths surrounding gifted students as well.   As I learn more on this topic, I want to share with you what I have found so far.  Parents, teachers and students alike perpetuate these myths and in turn really affect gifted students negatively.  You will find a quick reference guide dispelling some of the most common myths and stereotypes. 

These myths and stereotypes are compiled from an article “36 Myths and Stereotypes of Gifted Students: Awareness for the Classroom Teacher”.

It was written by Nicholas Colangelo ( a university professor from University of Iowa.  As well, he is the Director of The Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.

Furthermore he is an author and editor of articles centred on the Education, Policies, and Standards of Practice regarding gifted and talented individuals.

Myths and Stereotypes