Sometimes I’ve felt like I needed a fresh start in my math class. A new year, a new quarter or trimester, a new unit—or sometimes I get the feeling that we’ve gotten into a rut and need a restart. Have you ever felt that way? This post gives you seven ideas that have worked for me over the years, and it’s a great jumping-off point for getting a new start or freshening up the math classroom with new ideas.
Ways to Restart the Math Classroom
I remember when, as a veteran teacher, I was given a new mentor, and she gave me some great advice: sometimes you just need to bring your class together and have a talk about starting fresh. That’s single best piece of advice I would give you in order to find the restart you are looking for. Bring your students along with you. Below are seven ideas to restart the math classroom!
#1 Review routines!
Whether a new year has started or you just feel like your class is getting a bit stale, it’s always a good time to think about your routines. Of course, routines are the bedrock of the classroom. Students should come into class, know what to do, and get going. There should be established ways to distribute materials and to transition between lesson elements. One of my favorite ways to establish routines with students is with my whiteboard configuration. A lot of people think a whiteboard configuration is only for the students, but it helps me, too. As a class, we know what we are doing, where we are going, and how we are getting there. Check out this blog post for the details.
#2 Get students up and out of their seats!
While on the one hand we want our classes to be orderly, particularly if we are teaching long-block classes, on the other we need to get students up and moving around the room. In essence, these are additional routines we need to teach our students. An excellent way to do this is the “Handshake and a Question” activity. This is a great opportunity for students to interact with math content, vocabulary, or drill problems—there are many ways you can use it! The details are in this free download.
#3 Restart struggling students!
You’ve probably figured out who your struggling students are by now. One thing you can do is to remind them (and yourself) that there’s hope for them! If there’s a group of students that is discouraged and giving up, it will also affect the atmosphere in your whole class. One of my most popular blog posts is on this topic. You can read the article here. Additionally, Sadlier School has an Ideas for Supporting Struggling Students Kit that can be downloaded (free of charge!). Getting those students restarted will help every student..
#4 Adopt a new instructional strategy!
Sometimes we need to build our repertoire of teaching strategies in order to provide more variety in what we do in our classrooms. If you have been focusing on your routines as suggested above, you may want to start adding new routines based on these five proven instructional strategies—Improving classroom discourse, promoting fluency, using real-world problems, implementing blended learning, and focusing on the math practice standards. You can find out more about these suggestions for enhancing your math instruction in this post.
#5 Add new tools!
Tools use is one of the main underlying concepts of Vygotsky’s theories of teaching and learning. Sometimes we only think of tools as a compass and protractor, or a calculator, or “virtual” tools online. You’ll find this article and the download really helpful in identifying the kinds of tools you can use with students for each grade level and each strand of math. Using tools is a great approach to engaging students in their learning.
#6 Experiment with math centers!
If you aren’t using math centers in your classroom right now, take the time to plan at least one math center activity. Given a little time and investment, it will totally revolutionize the way you view teaching and learning—it’s not just a quick fix. If you want to venture into this mode of teaching, have a look at this blog post. It will help you plan your first math center day. You will find suggestions about how to set up a math center, as well as free resources to help you get started.
#7 Get feedback from students!
Ask your students what would make math class more fun for them—they always have great ideas! Collecting their responses on this neatly-formatted sheet is a way to discover what students do and do not enjoy in math class. Making the class more responsive to their likes and dislikes lets students know that teachers are interested in them, which helps to engage them in the learning process. You can print this download today and get some quick ideas from your students.
No matter what the reason that you want to restart your class, I hope these ideas and free downloads will help add some extra spark to your teaching. Engage your student in the process. Let them know why and how you want to change things up. They are looking to you for that kind of leadership and will follow where you lead.