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ALL Improvement TeamsGrowth Mindset in STEM (2017-18)Meaningful and Inclusive Warm-Up Techniques
Meaningful and Inclusive Warm-Up Techniques

Change Package
Meaningful and Inclusive Warm-Up Techniques

8th Grade Math/Science at High Tech Middle Media Arts
By David Gillingham

The purpose of this change package is to illustrate a variety of “warm-up” methods for the first 15 – 20 minutes of class.  Meaningful and inclusive warm-ups are designed to elicit collaborative sense-making, idea-sharing, and dialogue that deepen conceptual understanding and encourage students to develop a growth mindset in math.

Impact on Teaching

These daily warm-ups foster a growth mindset and sense of belonging to a mathematical community by:

  • Providing access to all types of learners and levels of understanding
  • Encouraging creativity, diverse ideas, and making connections within abstract math problems.
  • Empowering all students to participate in, and lead, class discussions, reinforcing that we all have valuable contributions.

Impact on Students

Students gain:

  • Fluency and comfort with decontextualized and abstract math problems and mathematical concepts.
  • An understanding that math is a collaborative process where we generate and build on diverse ideas, and where challenges are opportunities to learn from each other.
  • Increased confidence sharing mathematical ideas and engaging in/facilitating mathematical discourse.

I learned a tremendous amount about my students, their level of confidence in themselves as mathematicians, and about the way that my students think and learn best.   In addition, I learned a lot about the ways that my students communicate about the way that they learn and metacognate. I also learned that my students benefit greatly from a variety of different warm-up methods and that one method used too frequently loses its value.

Prior to engaging in my PDSA cycles, I had not frequently used warm-ups in my classroom.  I usually would launch directly into my daily lessons or activities because I wasn’t willing to sacrifice the time that a warmup would take from my lesson.  However, I realize that each warmup that I engaged in this year provided my students a unique opportunity to grapple with new information, share ideas and make new connections to material.  More importantly, each warmup allowed my students to gain more confidence and willingness to take risks with new material, which proved to be more valuable in my lessons and activities then extra time.  

Discussion Leader/Scribe (20 minutes)

  • Students enter the classroom, find their seat and bust out their math notebooks and a pencil
  • Teacher reviews the norms for the opening problem
  • Students work on the problem independently for 5-10 minutes
  1. Mistakes make your brain grow!
  2. Read the problem twice and focus on what you “do know”
  3. There are many ways to participate in Math dialogue including:

                 -Asking a question

                 -Proposing a strategy

                 -Identifying a solution that you can justify with evidence

                 -Draw a picture

                 -Summarize the question in your own words

  •   Everyone is a master of something and no-one is a master of everything!
  • Teacher randomly selects two students to facilitate the discussion and be the scribe of student thinking
  • After the brainstorm, student Pair-Share with members of their table one of the most noteworthy things that they wrote down (5 minutes)
  • For the final 5 minutes, the discussion leaders guide the class in sharing out ideas and documenting them on the board.  Students are encouraged to write down any new information that is shared out onto their paper.
  • In the final minute, the class performs a “one clap” recognizing the scribe and discussion leader for their contribution to the class

Number Talks (Framework):

  • Present a problem that has multiple solutions
  • Give students independent work time and instruct them to put a thumbs up on their desk when they believe they have to come a solution and can articulate their understanding
  • Ask students to volunteer potential answers to the problem
  • Ask if students would like to defend an answer that was present and record what they say verbatim on the whiteboard
  • Ask probing/follow-up questions to the class
  1. Are there any questions for ________________?
  2. Can you tell me more about ________________?
  3. Can someone use their own words to explain ________________’s strategy?
  4. Is there another way that we can think about this?
  5. What connections can you make among the strategies?
  • Repeat steps 4 & 5 until all potential answers have been defended
  • Exit Card:  What answer makes the most sense to you?  Explain why

One strategy that has been very helpful for eliciting rich class discussions has been the anticipatory planning for each warmup.  As a teacher, you think through every possible strategy that your students might use to approach the problem. In doing so, you can have strategies to suggest to your struggling students as well as develop rich questions to push the thinking of your students.

I’ve learned that your ability to guide the thinking of your students depends tremendously on your preparation for each problem.  Your ability to push student thinking for every member of your class, regardless of their math skill level, depends on your anticipatory planning.  By doing each problem yourself and exploring different strategies, not only will you identify possible pitfalls that your students will face, but you will be able to think deeply about the conceptual understanding you are hoping your students will achieve and design questions to support that understanding.

I noticed that over the course of my 4 PDSA’s as well as data I collected in between each PDSA, I experienced the highest level of engagement when I presented my students with a variety of different warm-up techniques.  Each strategy that I presented in my PDSA was initially quite successful, but when I used it repeatedly my students would be less engaged over time. However, when I varied the strategies day to day, my students were much more thoughtful and willing to engage in a mathematical dialogue.   Of my five focus students I chose, all five of them were able to participate in the activity and three out of the five shared their ideas in front of the class. I learned that having my students Think, Pair and Share, then have a student led discussion lead to a higher rate of engagement.

Provide samples/video of what it looks like in practice and any relevant resources so others can implement.

Link any relevant resources here.

Our warmup slide deck