My Favorite: Post-it Debates

(AKA: I was bullied y’all)

Well the famous TMC has come and gone. There’s lots to say, but at the same time, there just aren’t words that will do it justice. For me. At least for right now. But in honor of the “My favorites” presentations, and because I’ve been bullied into it, I present, my favorite.

Post-it Debates

IMG_2102Let me first say – this is by no means an original idea. I would credit whomever I stole or adapted from, but I honestly haven’t a clue.

During MS Math Chat (6pm pacific, Monday nights. #msmathchat), I mentioned these and a couple people told me to blog about it. Only one of those people knew I had maybe started a possible secret blog, so I blame her. Anyway – this is something I did somewhat often this year and I loved it.

I teach 5th-8th grade and this idea worked better with some classes than others. My 5th graders LOVED it. We did it all the time. The first time I did it it sort of came about organically and by the end of the class the kiddos were saying things like, “can we do this every day?” and, “this was the best math class EVER.” The photo above was from 8th grade. They didn’t have the same reaction as the 5th graders, but it was still effective. We got the one hold-out to agree to answer B but he refused to move the post it. He wanted to be difficult. Eighth graders… what are you gonna do?

So it’s a very simple process that actual probably needs very little explanation. Honestly, I’m a terrible planner. More often than not these arise out of the kiddos’ questions or when they are dragging and I need to get more feedback. It’s a great formative assessment and I think it’s a pretty “safe” thing for the kiddos. Basically a question is posed and kids are asked to think about possible answers to the question. A great discussion came out of asking about multiplying decimals, for instance. I take all the answers the kids can think of and write them on the board. Nobody really explains where the answers came from, but to the teacher it’s obvious who is making which mistake. When all the answers they can think of are on the board, I pass out post-its. Each student has to explain with which answer they agree. I circulate and collect the post-its, paying attention to who says what (while also trying to provide anonymity to the students who are more shy about their contribution). By this point I’ve also spaced out the answers and I start posting the post-its under the appropriate answer. Typically some of the answers get no post-its – not even from the original person, so we get rid of those. After everyone’s answer has been posted, I tend to take a seat in the back, because this is when it gets fun.

At this point I ask for a volunteer to go to the front and basically convince others to “jump ship.” One person leads the discussion for each answer, but of course there is room for others to contribute as well. We go through each answer and then students are allowed to switch their post-it if they choose to (frankly some don’t even wait that long). If there are some who are still stuck (get it…post its…) on their original answer after the majority have seen the light, we have someone who switched their answer re-explain. They may explain the mistake that they had made and why it was incorrect. From there we move on to practicing whatever skill or further discussion, depending on the situation.

I like this because it’s a great way to measure thinking. Everyone has to write, everyone has to participate, and there is a focus on the “why.” The more comfortable can go to the board, but no one has to do that.

I knew this was a success (especially in that 5th grade) when, near the end of the year, John raised his hand (we weren’t doing post-its at the time) and said very seriously, “may I go to the board and defend my thinking?”

Yes, John, you most certainly may.


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