Over the last few months, I have been in and out of classrooms, co-teaching and doing demonstration lessons, and I have noticed that they all one thing in common, interruptions. These interruptions are consistent from school to school. The interruptions may include: announcements over the loudspeaker, visitors at the door, assemblies to attend, bathroom breaks, and your everyday mishaps like bloody noses and ice packs. An hour’s worth of instruction is often dwindled down to a good 45 minutes, if you’re lucky. With interruptions being the rule, versus the exception, teachers have to pace out their weeks to ensure students have time for quality instruction.
Mathematics requires instructional depth that cannot be achieved in one setting. Understanding the need for depth and limited time, I created a schedule that accounts for interruptions and allows for depth. It has been extremely helpful in ensuring that students get the quantity and quality they need to be independent and confident problem solvers.
On Monday, a new problem type may be introduced and the teacher may use a particular approach to ensuring students understand the problem. The teacher may unpack the problem using a comprehension strategy i.e., visualizing or ask students to act it out before solving, for example.
Tuesdays, the teacher’s goal is to expose students to a variety of strategies. The time is focused on a particular student or students’ approach, then students try solving a new problem using that same approach, right away.
Knowing that errors are going to occur and that they are an opportunity for learning, on Wednesday, the teacher asks students to analyze “some anonymous persons work and determine if it is accurate or inaccurate and explain why.
Thursdays are a time when procedures are the focus. What calculations, equations, or expressions do students need to know? How do these procedures relate to current or past concepts? On this day, the teacher may co-construct equations or models with students or students may spend their time solving a handful of equations.
Fridays are open. Teachers may give assessments, extended technology time, work with small groups, or provide practice through math games.
This schedule is flexible, the content can be changed around. What is important is that there is time allowed for depth.
In addition, it’s not included on this schedule, but one thing I use for homework, that has been helpful, is using students’ classwork as a source for homework. Photocopy someone’s work (remove the name), and ask students to analyze it and describe what the student did to solve. This “forces” students to look at multiple ways of solving a problem and they get to practice their academic writing. Extra credit for those who use academic vocabulary!