“Disappeared” Exit Slips and Combining Like Terms

November 2009:

I am sitting at my computer, retooling a lesson on combining like terms for tomorrow. Today’s exit slips told me that Ricardo* was going to be a rockstar, Shaquanna* was fearlessly adding everything (regardless of plus or minus symbols), and Dwayne* had mysteriously “disappeared” his slip, most likely to save face over not understanding anything on the page. Every student would be starting from a different point for tomorrow’s lesson. Rather than drag (or shove) them through a whole-group lesson, I knew I had to differentiate their learning — so I decided to use centers in my lesson.

To set up my centers, I carefully added scaffolded questions to my bell ringer that would help sort my students into low, medium, and high groups. I then planned to spend the majority of my time with the lowest group, checking in on the medium group every ten minutes and ensuring the students in the high group were collaborating to complete the enrichment project.

Unfortunately, when the time came to deliver the lesson, I struggled to rotate through all three centers. It seemed that just as I had left the tables of the medium and high groups, they had one more tiny question to ask that prevented me from jumping back into the low group. Once the class ended, I realized I had roughly spent 40% of my time with the low group, 25% with the medium group, and 35% with the high group; not nearly enough time with those students that needed the majority of my help!

November 2015:

Now, I wistfully envision that same class, but with each of my students using Classkick on iPads. Classkick changes how I can run centers because it allows me to view any student’s work or question from anywhere in the room. I think of how I could have sat and mentored my low group for 80% of the class, while still providing answers to those quick questions of my medium and high groups through the Classkick app. In fact, I realize I could have seen Dwayne struggling during his exit slip the day before in Classkick and chatted with him after class before he went home defeated by his lack of understanding. I marvel not only at the vast improvement in student learning that I could have offered my students, but more importantly at those intangible relationship-building moments I could have created from my acute understanding of how my students felt about their math, their teacher, and themselves in real-time.

Effective centers have hugely benefitted my students and class culture, and that’s why I’m happy to present “Using Classkick in Centers” — both a video demonstration and quick guide on how teachers are using Classkick to make a difference in their classroom centers. I hope these demonstrative resources can save you some of the frustration I felt in the early days and show you a new way of running centers. Please enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think!

— Laura (laura@classkick.com)

Director of Teacher Happiness, Classkick

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of students.