Series Connecting Math to Real-World Tasks: Step Back: Promoting Independent Thinking

Step Back: Promoting Independent Thinking

Lesson Objective: Encourage students to share and learn from each other
All Grades / Math / Reasoning


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How does Ms. Franco encourage students to both share their thinking and listen to their peers?
  2. How does Ms. Franco monitor students' understanding as she "steps back?
  3. " How might you use this strategy in your classroom?


  • Private message to Devanshi Patel
This video is about "promoting independent learning." Through multiple ways of communication a solution can be brought to whatever the problem is. Students discuss with partners first, then teacher asks questions about what the students have learned and she underlines the important parts. The teacher tries to observe if the students are able to work towards solving the problem without much teacher interference with strategies like scaffolding and giving feedback. Teaching students how to have ownership of what they know and being able to communicate that to another person and learning to value each others ideas. Teacher challenges them.
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  • Private message to Skylar Dolezel
Great idea. It shows total classroom interaction. Also shows discipline on the part of the students who have to listen and be able to convey what the student who was talking told them.
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  • Private message to Ronald Gurley
It is very important to get the students to talk with each other and work with each other. In real life most work is not done alone so this is a great strategy to get students to listen to others.
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  • Private message to Araceli Valtierra
I noticed how the teacher was listening to conversations and asked students to restate what their partners had told them.
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  • Private message to Adam Hopson
Aside from being a great tool for pre-assessment, stepping back and allowing students to discuss a topic or question helps to create a more equitable level of understanding within the class; students have an opportunity to share their thoughts and possibly help their peers "fill in the holes." Generally, this should help make the continuation of the lesson more effective with greater parity among student knowledge. This is a great strategy for all grade levels and all subjects.
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  • Step Back: Promoting Independent Thinking

    Teacher: I want you to look at the task, what I underline, known and unknown. Okay,

    Step Back: Promoting Independent Thinking

    Teacher: I want you to look at the task, what I underline, known and unknown. Okay, turn to your neighbor. You need to discuss about how you are going to attack this task. When we do a lot of conversation, we communicate with each other and we give answers of what we know, then we attack the problem. We do a lot of pair/share, share with your neighbor. We also have partner A, you are going to be talking, and partner B, you are going to be silent. Go ahead and discuss, now I'm going to be looking around, checking you out, listening to your conversations. I go around and listen to them and see if they're on the right track, if they're understanding the task, if they know the process, if they have a plan.

    I'm going to be asking questions later on, so what did you learn from your partner? What did your partner say? Edith, what did you tell your partner?

    Edith: I told my partner that ...

    Teacher: She told you?

    Edith: We told each other.

    Teacher: In your conversations. Okay, what was it?

    Edith: That Jake ate 2/3rds of his watermelon.

    Teacher: Okay, stop right there. Jake, this is what we know, right? We like to circle our numbers.

    I needed to step back and then I see if they are solving the task without me interrupting them or without me giving them feedback or without me scaffolding.

    Isaac, come to the board and show everybody. What else do we need to do here?

    Isaac: What I think is a line over here. Right there. Then another line going straight down.

    Teacher: We have been working a lot on that structure, carefully understanding each other and having ownership of what they know, but also sharing it with somebody else. Can you go ahead and explain what you did? Eyes up here please. Be very respectful.

    Isaac: What I did first was my [inaudible 00:02:29] diagram, and I know that Jake cut his watermelon 2/3rds and he ate 2 pieces.

    Teacher: We value each other's ideas. We help each other. Everybody participates equally. Everybody is accountable.

    Do you have any questions for Sevino? Please ask the question. Kevin?

    Kevin: Can we answer? I can prove my answer by ...

    Teacher: I love to challenge them. I love to see where they're at at what point. What do they know? What can they bring and show me?

    Kevin: Jake eats 2/3rds of his watermelon.

    Teacher: Thank you very much. Give him a hand please.

School Details

Orange Grove Elementary School
3525 West County 16 1/2 Street
Somerton AZ 85350
Population: 343

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Maria Franco


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