Spur math class conversation and learning with instructional routines!Jun 21, 2023
The only constant in education is change. There is always something new to learn or try, new buzzwords or structures, or strategy.
Instructional routines are one of the few gems in the constant sea of change. Instructional routines are strategically chosen structures that allow the students to share their understanding, wonderings, and/or strategies around a mathematical concept.
Instructional routines are quick. They should not last more than 5-10 minutes. They allow all students to consider the math concept presented, during individual think time. The expectation is that all students participate in the thinking. Then students are given the choice to share their thoughts out loud, while the teacher creates a visual representation of their thinking. Students may then make connections to their peers' thinking or provide additional strategies. All contributions are acknowledged and valued and the learning is consolidated.
Instructional routines have multiple purposes and are a great way to start a lesson. Instructional routines can help spiral in/scaffold previous grade level content or be part of connection building across grade-level content. They can also be a fun way to prepare for an upcoming unit, checking in to see what students may already know or understand about an upcoming topic.
Instructional routines allow all students to engage in mathematical conversations. All students come to us with their own funds of knowledge and experiences. Finding ways for all students to share during math is a challenge but, with instructional routines, all students can contribute: many students may contribute a strategy or solution, others may agree with and build upon or ask a question about a previously made contribution, or some may simply participate during the consolidating process by raising their hand or giving a thumbs up.
Instructional routines can address a specific standard(s) or cover broader math concepts. Instructional routines are strategically chosen routines that allow students to communicate their thinking. Whether that thinking is specifically about adding and subtracting fractions with unlike denominators or fractional understanding in general.
Instructional routines are a great way for teachers to collect formative assessment data. As students are sharing their thinking, you are hearing and seeing their knowledge and understanding of the given mathematical concept or their misconceptions. The root word of assess means “to sit by.” In order to gauge what students know and understand, we have to engage with students, by listening, and seeing their thinking. Formative assessment is that ongoing, in-the-moment practice that provides insight to help monitor and adjust the teaching and learning.
Here are some math instructional routines to try. This is by no means an exhaustive list but a great place to start if you’re looking to add new routines to your toolkit!
Looking for more math inspiration? Check out this 3Ps in a Pod episode with Mike Flynn about creating powerful moments in your math class.