Friday, 2 May 2014

The Paddle Pop Effect

I have just attended a staff professional development day at my school a couple of days ago. We discussed formative assessment and different strategies that can be used in the classroom. One of the strategies, we looked at, which has been advocated by Dylan William for many years is "The hands up free classroom".
When you ask questions throughout your lesson, usually what happens is, the students raise their hands and you pick a student to answer it. Quite often it might be the same handful of students that contribute to most lessons. In the hands up free classroom, you have a paddle pop stick (or something similar) with the name of each student written on it. I wanted my students to feel part of this process, so I let them all decorate their own paddle pop sticks.
So now, when you ask a question, instead of the students raising their hands, they keep them down. Instead, you select a paddle pop stick, and whatever name is on the stick is the person who answers the question.
When I decided to try this strategy with one of my classes, I took the time to explain to them what we were doing and why. I have to admit there were some who had a look of horror on their face. They were worried that their stick would get pulled out and they wouldn't know the answer. I have only tried this strategy for a couple of lessons, and I can already see the benefits of it. According to Dylan William, students who answer questions in class are getting smarter, so I thought this strategy was worth a try. Don't get me wrong, this is not the answer to your classroom management issues. I still have had challenges with some students. But, I can already see an impact on some of my students. So, as a strategy, my lesson structure and content is still the same. My questioning techniques as a tool for formative assessment are still the same, it's just how I source my answers which has changed. So for very little effort or change on my behalf, I think I can make a big difference in the way some of my students experience their learning of Mathematics. I'll report back at the end of the term to update you on my progress.

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