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Maine’s Positive Story of the Day ~ Williams Elementary School in Oakland ~

From Principal Melanie Smith:

I would love to share a positive story about how our 5th grade team is increasing math discourse and mathematical understanding in their classrooms by building Thinking Classrooms. This story is from Williams Elementary School in Oakland.

 Building A Thinking ClassroomWritten By Valerie LaPointe

 Over the summer, several fifth-grade teachers from Williams Elementary School read the book, Building Thinking Classrooms, by Peter Liljedahl. The book explains a 14-point framework that teachers can use to activate and maintain student thinking. Our goal was to implement the first three practices this fall: Choosing Meaningful Tasks,

Forming Collaborative Groups, and Where Students Work in a Thinking Classroom.

 Multiple times a week you will find students working in random groups at vertical whiteboards. Students work together at whiteboards to solve interesting and challenging mathematical thinking tasks. While students work, the teacher circulates to each group to ask probing questions and give feedback.

 So far, we are finding that students are really engaged while working at the whiteboards. They are developing and learning various strategies to solve problems while learning how to share their thinking with their classmates. Because the groups change daily, students recognize that everyone has something to contribute to the work and that we have unique strengths.

Here are some things our fifth graders have to say about this new way to learn math;

“I do think it helps to stand up while working on thinking tasks.”

“You can take a look at it from a different perspective.”

“They help me to think about how math can be fun.”

“It helps by seeing others’ strategies.”

“My partners help me understand things if I don’t already.”

“They help me to think about how math can be fun.”

“When we work together we are able to combine our thinking to get the best answer.”

 Principal Melanie Smith has seen students in action at the vertical whiteboards and she was so impressed by the levels of involvement and engagement from all group members. By keeping the groups small, to 3 students, it requires all group members to be active in collaborating with one another to solve the assigned problem.


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