We’re thrilled to have Marine Freibrun from Tales of a Very Busy Teacher guest blogging for us again today! Marine has crafted an excellent post all about six ways to add rigor to your math instruction, so be sure to bookmark this page to come back to later! 😉
Common Core Math Standards call for a new level of depth and complexity. Students are not only required to answer math questions, but they’re also asked to analyze, defend, critique, interpret, and discuss math. With all of these changes, it is imperative that we incorporate these rigorous aspects of Common Core and academic vocabulary into our daily math lessons. It may seem like a daunting task, but once you incorporate a few simple elements in your daily lessons, you’ll see how easy it is to increase rigor and academic vocabulary in your direct instruction math lessons.
Partner Talk (A/B Partners)
One of the key elements of adding rigor and academic vocabulary into direct instruction math lessons is increasing the number of opportunities for students to talk during the lesson (about math, of course).
Before starting the lesson, I always assign students as Partner A or Partner B. This is so important to do before, because students need to know their role during the lesson. It will run much more smoothly! I then incorporate A/B partner questions throughout the lesson.
I usually tie in those types of questions in the Big Idea and throughout the gradual release.
Big Idea (Connecting with Mathematical Practice and Real World)
I always include a big idea in my direct instruction lessons. The big idea always gives students the “why” behind the lesson.
To continue adding elements of rigor, I use the Mathematical Practice Standards to infuse the “why” behind the lesson. For example, I look through my Mathematical Practice Posters (with student sentence frames) and decide which one matches the objective and which one would make the most sense to relate to real world aspects. Once I have chosen the one (or a couple of) Mathematical Practice Standards that best match the lesson, I add it into my lesson and give students a chance to discuss it during their partner talk.
Guided Practice (Gradual Release)
Sometimes a lesson will automatically click for a student. Other times, it takes students a little longer to grasp the concept. This is why we check for understanding during a lesson.
Whether your class is grasping the concept easily or they need more direction in meeting the objective, checking for your students’ understanding of the objective is another opportunity to infuse rigor into your direct instruction lesson. I will do this by giving students the opportunity to have partner talk during questions in the guided practice. I will use sentence frames to help students use academic vocabulary when explaining a problem or when asking a classmate a question. I will also purposely show a question with the incorrect answer and ask students to explain what is wrong with the problem using their academic vocabulary and the Mathematical Practice Standard from the big idea.
I always end my lessons with closure questions to make sure students understand the purpose of the day’s lesson. I add rigor and academic vocabulary by layering my closure questions with different Depth of Knowledge (DOK) levels.
I also try to throw in a challenging problem that is connected to the Mathematical Practice Standard from the big idea. To add more opportunities for student interactions, I occasionally let students share their answers with partner talk before they share their answers with the class.
Reaching Consensus (Independent Practice)
I love, love, love allowing students to reach consensus in groups after completing their independent practice. When students are done with the independent practice, I put them into groups of 3-4 students.
Students are given a role for the group, either a leader or a collaborator. The leader leads the students in a discussion about their answers, and then the students “reach consensus” about their answers.
Mathematical Practice Conversation Cards
To help students understand the Mathematical Practice Standards and to make their partner talk more meaningful, I give students my Mathematical Practice Conversation Cards.
They can use these student-centered sentence frames to help them express their ideas using mathematical and academic vocabulary. Each student has his or her own set of cards at the desk, and we use them during our math lessons. They are ideal for partner talk, for guided practice, and for reaching consensus.
The Common Core State Standards call for our students to be 21st-century learners and to be able to defend and communicate their knowledge about math. Using these simple strategies can help your students have success as 21st-century learners.
My name is Marine Freibrun, and I am the author of Tales from a Very Busy Teacher. I earned my BA from the University of California Irvine, my Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential from CalState Bakersfield, and my Masters in Educational Leadership and Policy studies from CalState Northridge. I have taught 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades. I am currently teaching 3rd grade in Southern California. I serve on my site’s leadership team, as a district instructional coach, a PBIS site team coach, and a new teacher mentor. I am a Teachers Pay Teachers author. I love sharing ideas with other educators, and I enjoy creating products others can use in their classrooms. See my ideas in action by connecting with me on Instagram and Facebook.