Teachers need feedback from their students constantly to make good decisions. One way I check what my students brains are doing is through Post it Power. This strategy involves students writing an answer to either a reflective question or math problem that will illuminate their understanding. Using this information, I get a powerful, visual snapshot of the class that helps me to make decisions about the following days' lesson.
Rotations for Practice is a way to deliver new content in small, controlled doses in a station rotation context. Unlike Workshop, where students are more fluid and learning at their own pace, Rotations for Practice is done with groups that cycle to various stages of understanding of a concept. These stations always include a collaborative product, teacher led instruction, and practice or learning on technology.
Storybird is an amazing, free, online software that allows students to create their own stories using real artist's works and collaborate and share among their class. In math, it is always essential to get students to appreciate the real world contexts in which their work is derived. Storybird allows students to incorporate literacy and their own interests into the math that we are working on. It also allows for feedback from the teacher to make sure that the math value that students are getting out of their stories is pure and real. Students must work within a rubric to develop a starting number sentence or operation into a real context. The deep discussions around verbs and operations that occurs is invaluable for a synthesis of the math concepts. Oh, and it is reallly fun to read each others!
The basketball problem is a built in way to teach the students about rigor. At the beginning of the year, we discussed how math is like an onion. There are many layers and each one is more complex than the last. The "shot" is an opportunity to reward risk-taking and get the students really thinking about the most high-complexity questions that I can ask. For this reason, students are doubly invested in this part of class. One because they want to challenge themselves, and two because they want to get up there and take the shot.