Thinking Classroom: An Average Day’s Class

So Joey Kelly asked what a lesson plan would look like in a Thinking Classroom. Rather than tweet-thread this, I’m bloggin’ it here.


The all-in approach usually plays out something like this (in my experience):
1. Form groups (via cards or whatever). 1-5 min
2. Call students around, tell them the story of today’s problem, tell them to get at it. 3-5 min

3. Watch students find their groups, give them a few minutes to talk to each other, try not to interfere; physically hang back in the middle of the room. Let them ask each other clarifying questions; don’t jump in to help them just yet. 5ish min

4. Problem solving time! This is the hard part and length of time will vary based on how many extensions you’ve got to your problem and how tough it is. The good culture-building challenging problems from Peter’s site can easily eat up an hour of class time if you want it to.

Here’s what you’re doing as you circulate around the groups::

  • answer questions that clarify the problem’s requirements and constraints.
  • DON’T answer any “stop thinking” questions. eg. “how do I do this?” “what do I do first?” Deflect / defer to group thinking and peer knowledge.
  • if it’s some other kind of question, just ask yourself, would answering this be spoilers for someone who is genuinely trying to figure this out as a puzzle? if it’s not spoilers, answer away; if it would be spoilers, either defer or just give a hint. (don’t hint immediately!)
  • watch for students who are dropping out, letting the other two group members (groups of 3 are optimal) do all the thinking. walk over, verbal encouragement, take the group’s marker and hand it to that person as needed.
  • when a group has solved the initial problem, hand them an extension / continuation problem to keep them going
  • when a group asks you IF they’ve solved the problem, ask them! “How would you know if you’re right?”

When you hit your stop-goal – usually something like “every group has solved the core problem(s)” – then this phase ends and we go to…

5. The Recap – 5-10 min

Call everyone around where you are; kind of like setting the stage for your story, at the whiteboards where students were working. (They don’t have to physically move far, but you’re shifting the tone and focus of the room back to you now.)

Now work your way through the story of what students just solved. This is actually the hard part, I lied before. You want to start from the start (“level from the bottom” as Peter says) and essentially recap the entire problem. Use student work as part of your narrative, but don’t feel that any particular group’s entire process needs to be explained in depth. Your goal is to connect the threads of what everyone’s been doing so that no one’s missed out. When you’ve told the story to the end of the core problem, you can also give a high-level view description of what happened in the more advanced extensions that some-but-not-all of your groups will have made it to.

6. Notes for your future forgetful self – 5-10 minĀ  (might be optional, depending on if this was a curricular content problem or not)

Give students time to take notes for themselves. There’s a lot of variety in how this can be done – totally unstructured, partially structured, as long as it’s not just them copying down what you tell them to. (Except that *someone* will probably beg for that or refuse to write anything otherwise, so fine, put some premade notes on the class website or let them see your copy later or something.)

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