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Patty describes how she begins the year with identifying strategies to persevere with thinking and to “get unstuck.” She explains that students should know they can ask questions, work with a partner, use tools, and consult anchor charts.

8th grade math - Pythagorean Theorem
Patricia Ferrant, Thomas R. Pollicita Middle School, Jefferson Elementary School District, Daly City, California

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PATTY FERRANT: And I am sure something in the beginning of the year in my, like, in the culture stuff in the way beginning — I mean it goes on — we came up with strategies of what do you do when you're stuck. So I know there's some anchor poster floating around about just what strategies. What can you do? Um, and then if I'm seeing it, I'm asking them, "So what can you do?" And, um, I mean, the majority of them are going to say, like, "I can look at my notes. I can look at the anchor posters. I can connect to something I've learned before. Um, I can ask my partner." It's like...and they actually always know they can ask a partner. Like, that's just a given.

Um, but I think the one thing that, especially in the beginning of the year and towards the middle, and I try not to do as much at the second half of the year is my questioning. Like, kind of letting them figure out how to get unstuck by themselves. So I know in the beginning, like, yeah, I'm going to ask them lots and lots of questions to...to, um, to help deepen their understanding, or help them make some connection, or where could you look kind of deal. But as they're maturing, I'm trying to get them to figure it out on their own.

I want you to give advice to your peers — that's your friends in this classroom — to help them be successful on the MARS test.

And the idea of valuing each other and working together — that's what's expected of them. Um, and they know that I value it, and I think they finally realize, like, they value it too. That's the one thing that in the culture of the classroom, they realize, like, they're learning from each other, putting all those resources together and internalizing it and using it on their own. The content will come. Are you trying? Are you persevering? Are you not giving up?

I mean, they all have, I think, a confidence they never had before. They'll say what they think and they'll have opinions, and I had to work really hard all year on saying, "Think. Have an opinion." Like, whether if it's right or wrong. Like, to really be thinking deeply about what we're doing — that, I think for all of them took a long time: to have a comment or a response that wasn't something easy they could talk about. They've realized they've gotten smarter and a lot of it is from that pushing in the beginning of the year, that you will get smarter in here.

I want students to be able to engage each other in thinking, and to develop self-efficacy and confidence related to their own work in math. I want them to think deeply about what we’re doing, and that takes time.