Why a blank sheet of paper?

Last year I spent a lot of time thinking about my students, their learning and my teaching.  I’ve taught awhile and have used a variety of techniques and strategies, some by choice and some chosen for me.  Some resulted in curious, synapse firing, empowered students, and a classroom where they, and I, were eager to be.  But even the good things sometimes slipped away as we as a school or a district tried new things.

I love learning new things.  I’ve taken classes, taught classes, and have a hard time letting a good professional development opportunity slip by.  After all, we can’t go to everything, right?  I knew I knew a good amount about how to help my students learn.  I should after 39 years of teaching with some amazing teachers and leaders.  While I was putting this all together last spring I attended an amazing workshop.

Although many of the ideas and principles were ones I had embraced and used, there was one that stood out.  Groups worked together on one sheet of paper.  Not just to write up the presentation of their solution but to explore and solve the problem together.  As I listened to Yeap Ban Har discuss the students in the videos I knew I wanted to try this.

So, last spring I talked to my grade alike partner and we decided to take a new approach to our classrooms.  Mid summer I wrote out my philosophy and strategy ideas.  We discussed a bit and were soon planning.  I knew I wanted to blog and share our journey. However, I couldn’t come up with a title for the blog.  And then one day it became obvious. The symbolic sheet of blank paper. Not only did it represent what we were doing in the classroom but could represent so many different things.  But for now it will help tell the story of helping students think mathematically in real world context, challenging themselves and learning the beauty of math along the way.

How does that one piece of paper make a difference?  That’s the next blog, once I figure out if I’m doing this right.

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