I began the Vertical Classroom Project due to a personal challenge made at Twitter Math Camp (#1TMCthing). Being a math coach, I needed to enlist one teacher to join the project, and then persuade administration to spring for the white boards. Both ventures were successful.
The teacher: Mr. P. This year he teaches 5 classes funded with LCAP monies, therefore these classes have a maximum for each class – An ideal situation to test out the vertical classroom.
On this particular day, I was to run a white board activity with his 7th grade LCAP groups. Students were presented with an opener to complete, While Mr. P took attendance. I walked around the room and looked at student work.
It’s fair to say the energy level in the room was low. The opener involved fractions – Some students were working, others weren’t. I noticed a lot of misconceptions in their work and decided to change the day’s plan. Since my lesson involved the vertical classroom, I asked Mr. Peterson if we could use the white boards to discuss the opener.
The energy in the room instantly shifted as the students set up their white board space. Faces lit up. Problems were immediately written on the boards. Conversations emerged. Everyone was working – even the kiddos who originally avoided the opener. An academic buzz radiated throughout the room.
As students acknowledged and fixed their mistakes, they requested more and more fraction problems. Their confidence was growing and their excitement, infectious.
We suddenly had a classroom of students who were compelled to share their learning. Our time was spent asking students to explain their thinking, listening to their responses, asking clarifying questions, prompting students to help each other and giving high fives.
The change in student engagement and attitude towards math was drastic. One minute, students were zoning out and the next, they were happily working through fraction problems – even asking for more. I understand it sounds too good to be true. But I witnessed the transition first hand – Seeing is believing! Incorporating the use of vertical non-permanent surfaces (VNPS) within lessons is a positive game changer.
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