This year I have been working with Galileo and other novice teachers in Area III. One Monday morning per month we get together and talk about what is happening in our classroom, how we can deepen student engagement, build real-life tasks, how to connect formative and summative assessments, etc.
So far one of the biggest pieces of learning I have taken away from Galileo is the power behind the whiteboards in our classrooms for student collaboration. Some of you may be thinking of individual student white boards, which I have also used and am a huge fan of. However, today I am speaking about the actual whiteboard that we stereotypically use for teaching, writing down homework and reminders, etc. My classroom has a whiteboard at the back, a chalkboard on one side of the room and a bulletin board at the front. With 33 students in each class, there is not nearly enough whiteboard space for students to use.
I decided I wanted to see how I could make this work in my classroom and last week I gave it a try. We had just finished discussing area of triangles so I put students into groups of 3 to 4 students and gave them the problem of Overlapping Triangles. Two groups were given space on the white board, two on the chalkboard and the remaining groups were given chart paper galore! I told students using chart paper to feel free to scratch things out, be messy, rip off another sheet of paper, their method didn’t matter to me. Here is what I found..
Students using the whiteboard got right to work. They were drawing, writing down numbers and ideas for how to solve the problem, the group was really engaged in the task and working together to solve the problem. The groups that were given chart paper were much more hesitant to begin. They investigated aspects of the problem through conversations with one another and took significantly longer to begin writing anything down. The difference? One appeared permanent (the chart paper) and one could easily be wiped away without any evidence of the groups “mistakes” (the whiteboard). I found it really interesting to see the learning progress through all three classes. Common in all three classes was the groups that had a space on the whiteboard were much more willing to make mistakes than those students using chart paper.
Until next time,