Not a Moment To Spare

A few years ago, I read Steven Leinwand’s Accessible Mathematics – 10 Instructional Shifts That Raise Student Achievement.     The idea that small instructional shifts can have a big outcome really resonated with me.   My first reaction was that this is all so “do-able”. I found myself checking them off – I could do this and this and this to incorporate these shifts.


I picked the book up again this weekend.   I wanted to revisit and check my progress.   Exactly how was I doing in bringing about these changes?   I thought I would take each of the ten shifts and look at what I have done or haven’t done to make that a part of my regular instruction.

The first shift is to incorporate ongoing cumulative review into every day’s lesson.


I started tackling this shift by building specific time into my lesson for review every day.      I decided that I wanted to do a very quick review activity at the start of class to get students engaged as soon as they walked in the door.  I also wanted a slightly larger chunk of time to review ideas that take more than a minute or two.

I call my opening review the Math Minute because I wanted it to last only a minute or two.   I could use this time to do quick review on number operations skills (fraction, decimal, and rational number operations), order of operations practice, and estimation. These are usually problems that I post on the Promethean Board.

I call my larger review activity the Flashback.   I have it as the final 5 -10 minutes of the period.  (This is after I do the lesson summary.   Originally, I had it before the summary, but found that sometimes that meant the summary was too hurried.   I want to have a solid summary to make sure that everyone walks away with the main ideas of the day so I switched the order.   It’s easier to cut off the review early if I need to do so).I use the Flashback to review more time-consuming concepts.   When I first started this a few years ago, this was a whole class activity.   Over the last few years, though, I have begun to also use it as a chunk of time to differentiate the review to fill gaps in learning.

  • Sometimes, I use tiered instruction where students progress through a series of tasks or games as they demonstrate mastery.   An example of this would be the decimal division game that I use early in the year.   I have three versions of a Jenga game.   The simplest requires students to divide a decimal by a whole number.   The second version of the game requires students to divide a decimal by a decimal.   The final version of the game requires students to divide a decimal by a decimal but there are zeros in the quotient.
  • Sometimes, I use intentional pairing where I pair a student with mastery with a student without mastery to work on a problem together.  An example of this would be having students work on a more complicated word problem in which they need to make a double number line to solve a ratio problem.
  • Sometimes I use a series of games that address different concepts, with each student playing a game that corresponds to a gap or weakness he or she has demonstrated. An example of this would be when I have some students who are still struggling with decimal division play the Jenga game, some students who still struggling with decimal multiplication playing a Zap game, some students who are struggling with fraction addition working with a fortune teller, and some students who are still struggling with fraction division playing Fraction Flip It.


IMG_1281Since these two review chunks of time are a regular part of an instructional day, I have added specific spaces for them in the Interactive Notebooks that we use.   I use the first page for the day for the Math Minute, In, and Flashback.   The lesson starts on the second page for the day.



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