Sunday, January 3, 2016

Chalk Talk Engagement Activity

Full Disclosure: I've had this post cued up since December 10 but never got around to uploading the pictures and finishing the descriptions. Whoops!

This year, as part of my leadership cohort, I have been working closely with a leadership coach and 4 other teachers in my school to create change. Each teacher has a goal and collectively these goals will help push our school forward for children. Interestingly enough, while each teacher's goal is different, they all come together beautifully to emulate the leadership we'd like to see in our school.

Quarterly we have a cohort meeting with everyone. This includes the coaches, all of the teachers (5 schools) and the director of the program. At our first one in October, they demonstrated a chalk talk. In a nutshell, you put some ideas or questions on chart paper and people respond on writing. No talking. You can respond to other people's writing by starring something you agree with, underlining it or adding words. It's one big conversation done on paper instead of with words.

My coach is helping me to perfect my own coaching toolbox. We decided to start with coaching my own students more effectively and then we will move it out of the classroom. To help me accomplish this, she has sent me various protocols I can use to more effectively engage all of the students in multiple subject areas. During our discussion, I wondered aloud what it would be like to utilize the protocols with math because most of the ones we had looked at involved either team building or some kind of literacy activity. We made a goal for me to try at least one engagement activity in math before our next meeting (which isn't until January 21st).

On Wednesday, December 9 we did a modified Chalk Talk during math. We were just starting fractions and I wanted to see what the students remembered from previous years since they really begin fraction strategies in kindergarten. Now, I have an extremely social class. Pretty much when I want them to work quietly, they talk and talk....when I tell them to work together and talk to each other, they are silent! Ugh. (Maybe I should tell them to work quietly when I really want them to work together since that is when they talk! haha)

I set up posters around the room with the same question on each one "What do I know about Fractions?" The students would draw pictures, write words or both. I left that entirely up to them as I really just wanted to gauge where they were coming in with their fractions knowledge. Each friend got put into a group, was given a certain color crayon (so each person at the group had a different color) and off they went.

It was dead silent in my room for at least 10 minutes. That doesn't happen very often! It was so awesome. I walked around and watched what they were doing and snapped a few pictures.

After the students finished, they had a few minutes to look at the other work on their chart that wasn't their own and then we did a Gallery Walk so they could see what the other classmates had written down. They moved with their group to make it easier and had a couple of minutes to talk about what they had noticed.

It was really interesting once we all sat back together at our desks to discuss the activity. Several students said they noticed that other friends in the class had written almost the same thing they did despite being at different groups. Some students mentioned how some kids only drew pictures and some kids only wrote words. A few kids did both and it was neat to hear the kids talk about why that might be. We have one advanced friend in our class who was showing fractions by adding and subtracting them and the other classmates thought that was super cool.

I took pictures of parts of their charts and put them on a PowerPoint and the next day, we looked at those examples as a reengagement activity. That was powerful too because everyone was looking at the same thing and we could talk about it and help change some misconceptions.

This is an activity that I plan to revisit with the students again during the month of January to a) see what they retained over winter break and b) to show them how much they have grown in their understanding of fractions since we started.

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