I tried out a new routine this past Tuesday during the last five minutes of class. As I’ve mentioned before, I love hearing what my students have to say. Additionally, my district has reading and writing across the curriculum as its focus this year. I’ve already shared one experience with student reflection this year (excited/nervous from Day 6), and here’s something I came up with last weekend.

When the alarm went off signaling five minutes to go, I flipped to the next screen of my Google Slides presentation and told my students that we’d be thinking about math class for the remainder of our time together. Each student, I explained, would grab a small sheet of paper (like the ones from the excited/nervous reflection) and write two sentences addressing one or more of the four prompts on the board. Those prompts asked students to write about:

- something you’ve learned in math recently
- something you still need help with
- something you have questions about
- today’s class

I deliberately chose open-ended prompts that would allow every student to at least write something. The featured image at the top shows one student’s awesome explanation of our recent work with sequences. Here are some other interesting responses along with my brief comments.

I’m never quite sure what to think when students tell me they had fun in class. Sure, I’m happy to hear that they enjoyed class, but I always wonder where the balance between fun and learning lies. Learning can certainly be fun – I just don’t know how if I always properly gauge when the fun interferes with the learning.

I definitely need to follow up on this one. Is “too crazy” a problem or just an offhand remark? I’m curious to know if this student thinks my “craziness” has detracted from her learning.

These comments reflect a general concern among many of my students that they have retained little of what they learned last year. I’ve always tried to include continual review in the work I ask my students to complete, and I plan to do so more than ever this year. Too often my students’ struggles with eighth-grade content occur because of misconceptions about or incomplete understandings of sixth- or seventh-grade content.

This is a good thing, right?

What refreshing honesty from these two students! I attribute much of the success I’ve had to the faith I’ve shown in my students to take responsibility for their learning. I could certainly tell these students to focus more or to keep themselves under control, but it’s so much more powerful for students to draw these conclusions themselves. My task, then, becomes not so much to discipline students but instead to help them to be the learners that they want to be.

I love hearing the phrase “fast + fun” to describe my class. Having taught at a high school where the students were content to sit and listen to me, I often have trouble pacing my class appropriately. I talk too much or we spend too much time on one part of the lesson. I continue to push myself to keep things moving, so I’m glad to see I’m improving!

I’m thrilled with how Two Sentences Tuesday went, and I fully intend to do this most Tuesdays. I hope my students find it as valuable as I do.