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Tools to help students think and remember

Published 8 months ago by Ann Baker


It is the beginning of the school year and timely to think about how well we are setting students up to be independent, responsible learners.

For this to happen, one important key is the tools we provide. Students need tools and they need to know that they are free to use them as well as how to use them.

Teachers often teach a strategy, let’s say rainbow facts, but the students either forget about them or do not choose to use them.

It takes immersion and reminders to embed strategies.

Let's face it, teachers are busy people and can't be forever reminding individual students, especially mid flow in a lesson. This is where cleverly crafted tools come in.

Two types of tools that we need to think about include:

Word Walls

Setting up a word wall matched to the current maths learning (clearly visible where students can easily see and refer to it). We are not creating a sea of blah or making wallpaper. Remember less is often more. Illustrate the words for younger students or provide a diagram to support the term.

Now the wall needs be used, so training and expectations need to be in place. Use the wall for odd moments, e. g.

I am thinking of a word on the wall that means the answer to a multiplication problem. What is it?"

When students are explaining and comparing their work, remind them to refer to the word wall to select correct vocabulary or pose questions. Tools, such as place mats, that serve as aide-memoires and can support thinking and problem solving.

Desk Mats

Many teachers spend a great deal of time making professional displays for students. These are helpful, but if we want the information to be on hand and a prompt IN the learning, having them on students' tables is SO much more effective.

Thinking mats such as our double-sided Early Addition mat shown below are just such a tool and should be out on desks for students to freely use. THINK AND REMEMBER1 THINK AND REMEMBER2

One side of the mat as you can see links a visual of an addition strategy with its name and diagrams for recording. The reverse side of the mat lists the strategies and provides working spaces for students practice the strategies and record their thinking. The spaces are ideal for use during mental routines, strategy lessons, games, number talks and problem solving.

Students should be explicitly taught how to use desk mats for independent work, particularly when trying to decide which strategies to use for a particular set of numbers. The goal is fun with flexibility and deep understanding. Because we are going to:

Make 2019 the BEST maths year EVER!!

Let's get onto word walls and maths mats to facilitate all student thinking, remembering and problem solving as they use the tools independently and responsibly.

For even more information, watch my free video about Strategy mats here.

Learn more about the mats we have available here:

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