Your tip this week is a reminder about how important it is to circulate around your classroom effectively and often while students are working. We can easily get in the habit of just responding to whatever hand comes up first rather than completing our purposefully designed circulation routes.
It is ok to tell a team, “I will be there once I am finished talking with the teams I haven’t checked in with yet.” Often teams will work out the problem they thought they needed you for while waiting for you to complete your rounds. Make it a goal to visit each team at least twice per class and to physically join them and ask a few target questions about their work. While circulating notice your pattern. Is it always the same path? Do you cover all sides of a team or always pass by the same students? Keeping things varied can help keep students on task and give you a clearer assessment of how teams are functioning and how individuals in the team are developing. Keep a list on a clipboard (perhaps using your seating chart) of which team you visit, which student(s) you talk to, what questions you ask, and which problems you have discussed. These notes can help you identify your circulation patterns. In addition, they can help keep you organized and provide valuable formative assessment information.
Often we are unaware of our own habits and behaviors as we circulate. If possible, ask a colleague to come in and observe your circulation in class and give you feedback about it and perhaps questioning techniques as well. An alternative method is to set up a video camera and tape a class for later viewing. Try to focus on the math as you circulate and listen carefully to your students. It is both informative and exciting to hear all their ways of thinking!