Warm-Ups Transformed My Classroom

I have always had a love/hate relationship with warm-ups and flashbacks.  At the school where I teach they are required and I truly to get the “why” behind using them to start class.  After all, I honestly need that 5 minutes to take attendance, answer questions, and deal with whatever 7th grade crisis just transpired in the hall.  However, I have always struggled with what that warm-up or flashback should look like.  So I have done what many teachers do, that good old skill and drill warm-up.  You know the process, you give the kids the five questions, they pretend to do them, you go over the answers, they write the answers down and pretend they got them all correct.  Great learning going on there right?  (Side note, sometimes I think about the ways I have taught kids in the past and cry a little on the inside)

Time to Change

Enter this year’s teacher led TMC conference.  No I didn’t attend the conference but I felt like I did.  I anxiously awaited every tweet, read every blog post that came out of it, and resolved that even if I wasn’t there I could certainly still use it to make myself a better teacher.  Of course, I quickly became overwhelmed with so many amazing ideas at once so I decided I needed to focus my efforts and energies so I started working on my warm-up dilemma.  I started by reading this blog post and then that quickly led to others and as I read post after post about teachers who had leveraged their warm-ups in the classroom to really improve student learning.  I knew this change was needed for me and was doable so I created this Warm-Up to use this year in my class.

Each day we do Estimation 180.  I know some only incorporate it once or twice a week but due to the fact that I love it and the kids love it I knew I needed to do it every day.  The kids fill out the hand-out provided on the website and also send their estimate in on their clicker.  This allows me to provide an incentive to our best estimator (using our team money system) and once I display the live results it gives us some great talking points.  We talk a lot about the estimates, what we know was too high or low, why some answers were more popular than others, etc.  Besides just the reasoning and number sense provided by the activity I love the focus that we have been able to place on finding the percent of error.  Percent error is such a big 7th grade Common Core Standard and is so valuable in students being able to reason with percentages.  I have been amazed by the results so far.  In a class that is about 30% English Language Learners and 45% students with disabilities, 92% of students turned in an Estimation 180 sheet for the first 20 days of school that was filled with beautiful reasoning strategies and high quality percent of error work.  I can’t begin to tell you how rare it is for students to put that much effort into a warm-up sheet.  And to date, 84% of students in that class have currently mastered finding the percent of error with no formal instruction only the focus we have placed on it during our Estimation 180 time.

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The rest of our warm-up time changes based on the day of the week as follows:

Math Talk Monday

Counting Circle Tuesday (There are tons of great resources out there for this, just google Counting Circle!)

Would You Rather Wednesday

Tough Pattern Thursday 

Find the Flub Friday  (I just write a problem on the board and purposefully work it out incorrectly.)

Love

I love the focus this has allowed us to place on mathematical reasoning and processing and not skill and drill.  I love that the kids have a few minutes to share their ideas and just talk about math.  I love that kids the used to pretend to do their warm-ups and then just wrote down the answers have bought in and work diligently so that they have something to share with the class.  I love that we are focusing less on the right answer and more on the right reason.  I love that when I read their warm-ups at the end of the week that I can see the effort they have put in.  I love that warm-ups have went from my least favorite part of class to the most valuable time we spend.

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