Day 36

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If it seems like I am harping on whiteboards in my classes, it’s because I am.

I wanted to list my own personal reasons as to why I love having students present using whiteboards
– When I talk, students are passive. When they talk they must choose their words carefully
– When I listen to them, I can hear their mistakes, or their use of jargon and ask them questions
– When other students are presenting and it is made clear that there will be no answer key, they have a compelling reason to ask questions.
– Once students buy-in to the process they are really willing to ask intelligent questions, follow-up with more questions if they don’t understand
– I can deflect questions to the presenters so that students are teaching one another and learning from each other.

I decided to have my AP students present out whiteboard solutions to problems. The students have had a year of physics. They know the basics, and they know how to be engaged in discussions. In a sense I’m scaffolding myself into facilitating whiteboard discussions for inexperienced students. because my students were engaged in the discussions I was free to be creative. I knew they would work hard and be engaged. This left me free to focus on assessment both formative and summative. In short I could focus on how to use whiteboards to “teach” rather than worrying about how to motivate my students to use the process in the first place. The result was that I had some really good ideas that I’m very happy with.

One simple trick that I used was to have students tell me on a scale of 1 to 5, how comfortable they feel doing a problem after it’s been presented. If 5 means completely comfortable and any student was at a 1, I told them they had better ask a question because it’s not fair that they leave class not understanding the work that’s being presented. This actually seemed to work.

This is a great approach with AP students. I look forward to seeing how it plays out with my first-year students.

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