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As you facilitate learning in your classroom your apt to notice trends in students’ thinking, partial conceptions, representations, and areas in need of growth. You can use students’ independent practice as a time to research their needs by listening and analyzing their work, then carefully planning your next steps: 1) Prioritize the one thing that needs to be addressed next, 2) what will be your teaching method, 3) what tools, models, or resources might you need?


When working with students we may notice 3 or 4 things we believe need to be addressed. I urge you to focus on one, too much information may overwhelm students and become difficult to put to use. Most students needs tend to fall into 5-6 different categories (see B.U.T.T.S conferring sheet), lack of comprehension, accuracy, representing one’s thinking in an organized manner, or connecting concepts to procedures. Identify which issue is causing a misunderstanding and/or will hinder the student’s long-term problem solving  success. 


One method (there are many), is to analyze the work of fellow mathematicians to see what does and doesn’t work and trying it out for ourselves. By creating a conferring tool kit filled with authentic student work, you can be ready to support a variety of your students’ needs.  


Student’s authentic work can serve as an accessible peer model for students. These papers and images can be seen as anchor papers or mentor text. You can section off a notebook with the different types of work  you think students might benefit from analyzing and trying:


*organization of model and labels

*clear connection between concept and procedure

*uses place value, doubling, halving to solve

*uses models to solve i.e. ten frames, ratio tables, number lines

*recognizes the relationship between addition and subtraction or multiplication and division

*uses the distributive property, commutative property, or associative 

*writes a clear explanation of how they solved the problem


Once you have your resources ready, sit with a group of pre-selected kids (based on information from your conferring sheet or classroom observations), find the authentic student work you believe will help them meet their needs and ask, “What do you notice? (pause) Why do you think they did what they did?(listen)  Do you think it will help with the work you’re doing today?  (listen) Would you like to give it a try? Encourage, but do not force, typically if students don’t use a strategy they may not be cognitively ready for it today.


Giving students a student model helps to empower them and support them without enabling them.


When you can anticipate the needs of your students, you can better prepare yourself to meet those needs. 


I am always happy to help or answer any questions.

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