Storybird in the Math Classroom
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!
Part of building a reflective classroom is giving students the space to reflect on all aspects of their learning from their behavior to the resources in the room. Goal setting is a way to teach this expectation, whole group, to students early in the year, and as a way to focus them during it. Each Monday, students write a Goal post it that has some sample questions to guide students. Ultimately, students can select their own topic, and that free range takes time to nurture into SMART goals. Many students write something like "listen in class" but when we discuss on Tuesday and say "Did you reach this goal?" the answer is not measureable. We want our students to see goals as a procedure that can guide their self-driven learning, not as a reaffirmation of the teacher's thoughts or wants for the student.
This collaborative strategy is simple but effective. Students roam the room finding new questions to answer together, and scan the code with an iPad to check their work. Then, they put all the answers together to unlock a secret code. The use of QR codes in class has greatly improved the effectiveness of student work because of their ability to stop and check their answers. Their enthusiasm for this activity is clear, and making it into a competition of sorts makes it all the more fun. I utilize the QR codes in everything from directions to links to activities. Still, my favorite use is monitoring groups during QR code breakers.
The Vocab Blitz is a visual strategy used to teach concepts through the use of math vocabulary. Students answer deep questions about the relationship between words and math and earn tickets. They place these in the Raffle Jar, which we pick from on Fridays for a small prize. Math vocabulary just for the sake of knowing academic language is good, but the Vocab Blitz explicitly asks students to apply the terms, which allows me to build more rigorous questions and connect ideas (i.e. how volume connects to science). For example, by knowing what the dividend actually is, we have a shared language that we can use when trying to figure out if a problem is asking us to multiply or divide, and to connect to improper fractions' numerator when converting them.