Doing Math Like a Boss

Jul 28, 2014 | by Janice Smith

PSY As we’re ramping up for the beginning of the school year, there are many things that we know you all are preparing; one of which is the physical components of your classroom.  How you’ll set up your desks, where students will sit on the rug, the setup of your board, along with what you will put on the walls of the classroom. Here at Mission 100% we’ve broken the tag ‘Physical Space’ down into several hashtags, that we think represent the different categories these fit into.  We’ve defined them as:

  • Academic Reinforcement (posters and reminders of the academic skills you are either currently working to master, that students can reference while working independently or as a whole class.)
  • Classroom Expectations (visual reminders of both academic and behavioral expectations in your classroom)
  • Big Goals/Data Tracking (visual displays of the big, yearlong goals your students are working to master, and transparent data tracking that allows them to see where they stand against these goals)
  • Classroom Culture (any components of your room that support and enhance your classroom culture.)
  • Student Work (how you display exemplar student work in order to both celebrate those who have earned it, as well as reinforcing class expectations around work quality).

As we’ve filmed many incredible teachers in action this year, we also think it’s important to get a little ‘behind the scenes’ footage that helps you better understand all the work that goes into everything you see.  One of these areas is the physical setup of a classroom, so we set some time aside for full scale classroom tours alongside their designers.  We’ve also broken these 10-15 minute tours down into each specific part of the room, to make it easier to find clear examples of the pieces you are working on.

This week’s ‘Video of the Week’ comes from 8th grade Algebra teacher Diana De los Santos at Maureen Joy Charter School.  Diana is the Academic Dean for Math/Science at the school, but also teaches one block of middle school math a day. We love her classroom so much because her walls are an incredible example of intentional use of space.  Her room is small, and could easily become cluttered with all kinds of posters.  Instead, she has prioritized what’s most important to her class, and has displayed it in a clean way that makes all the resources easily accessible to her students.  While we’re only showing you one clip here, rest assured you can find the rest (along with the full-length tour) in the library.

What We Love the Most…

  • How clear she is about what earns the board.  It’s not a mystery, and makes it easy for students to know exactly what they have to do to earn their way up there.
  • That she’s used clear paper protectors as the holder.  This makes it easy for her to rotate without having to worry about redoing the whole board each time.  Plus, you can see the post-its she’s used on top of them to point out specific pieces of each work.
  • Her self-awareness that this was something she previously struggled with.  Knowing that, she intentionally spent time designing a system that would make this easier on her in order to ensure that she still did it.

Action Step…

  • Plan a space/board in your room where you will consistently display student work throughout the year.
  • Identify clear criteria you will use in selecting the work that will be displayed.  The more transparent you are with students about what you’re looking for, the more likely they are to meet your expectations.
  • Think about how often you will rotate this board/area, and set it up in a way that makes it most efficient in order to help you keep up with it.  (Is there a way you can put a student in charge of helping you with it?  They’re great both at putting up boards, but also reminding you when it’s time.)
  • Keeping in mind the idea of growth mindset, have you also thought about how to celebrate those who might not have gotten there yet, but have shown tremendous effort and/or growth?
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