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!
Fluency is important, and finding the time to practice it in class can be tough. Fortunately, my students and I came up with Face Off, a simple, gamefied way to practice multiples and other fluency. 3 students must participate, where two students meet eyes and count off multiples until one makes a mistake. The third person moderates with an answer sheet. This can be modified to practice multiplication facts, division, or fraction operations. I create official FaceOff times where we actually play a "season" and work through a tournament style competition, with students advancing as they defeat their peers. This investment is great, but the fact that it runs itself is even better for me! Students often can be seen Face-ing Off in line in the Cafeteria, on the way to Specials, or in the neighborhood.
I encourage my students to evaluate their peers whenever they are involved in discourse--both in side conversations as well as in class discussions. I implemented a system of Peer Evaluations, a process that involves students using silent hand signals, in order to give my students more voice in class. Some of my students want to say what they think and exert their opinions, but there isn't enough time for every student to share. Other students easily get distracted and need physical engagement to stay focused. Through Peer Evaluations, my students can share their thoughts and are pushed to stay focused throughout student discourse.
The neighborhood where my students come from can be full of negativity. My students need to learn how to support each other and accept the mistakes that come with the natural process of learning. Synergy is a strategy that is a core element of my blended model; it defines and reinforces the behaviors that successful teams use to work together to overcome a problem. Synergy has four basic expectations: 1) Push each other's thinking; 2) Share the load; 3) Use Accountable Talk; and 4) Move with speed. I use these expectations in a quick evaluation of each group every time we do group work, and the "winning group" receives a small prize, which reinforces my academic and social expectations and incentivizes friendly competition.