Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tabletop Twitter

Today was the first day of class with my Math 9 class.  I have been agonizing over what to do to open the year with them.  The last three years, I have started the first day with the question: Why do we learn math? We go from individual brainstrorming to partners to groups to whole class.  Since the content starts to get fairly abstract this year, I want kids to start to add to their reasons for learning math (not just to cook and balance the checkbooks, but also about modelling, making sense of the world and making good arguments, etc). 

The activity has gone really well each year--so well in fact that as I've shared it in the department other teachers have started using it as well.  Sounds like a great thing, until you realize that most of these ninth graders did the "Why do we learn math?" activity in both seventh and eighth grades.

But it's such a good question to get them thinking about!  What could I do? 

I don't remember where I read about "Silent Conversations" as a classroom participation tool--possibly on a blog or in the NCTM magazine.  Please comment if you know who coined the term!  The idea is that each student has a colored marker, there are several pieces of butcher paper around with questions or prompts on them and students have conversations about the topic just through writing to each other.  I've wanted to do it for awhile, but hadn't found a good topic yet.

As a new Twitter user, I'm still learning about #'s and @'s, but I assumed that many of the students use Twitter.  So, I framed our Silent Conversations as Twitter conversations.  I encouraged #s and @s and let them go wild responding to each other.  I had students write their name on a piece of butcher paper with their color so that I could track who wrote what, and I reminded them that nothing on social media is anonymous, so this wouldn't be either.  They moved around the room in groups of 4.  I set a timer for 3 mins and had them rotate each time it went off.

We had four prompts:
-Why do we learn math?
-What makes a good teacher?
-What will make class a good learning environment?
-How to be a good math student.

 At the end of the activity I had students take photos of the poster they started with.  Each of those four students are to summarize the content.  They can do their summary in any format they want (paragraph, mind map, wordle, prezi...).  One student asked if she could summarize it with Twitter and take screen shots.  Another asked if he could make a clay sculpture.  I gave them both emphatic yes's, and I'm looking forward to seeing what comes in tomorrow!

The students were super engaged through the whole activity and left feeling really excited about the class.  When a student teacher came by she said, "oh, is this Tabletop Twitter?"  So, I guess it's a thing!