Articles

The Power of Routines

Leslie Nielsen
March 25, 2024

Have you ever taught someone to drive a stick-shift car? Or do you remember learning how to drive? I had the experience of teaching 3 teenagers to drive stick, and we live about halfway up a mountain in the Cascade mountains in Washington State just above a stop sign at the top of a hill! When they first started (and I remember this about learning to drive too), it was all about what do I push, what do I do with this foot while that one does this other thing? Why is the car rolling backwards? Where are my blinkers - oops, I turned on the wipers! 

Does this bring back memories? 

I remember not being able to notice the scenery, not being able to have a conversation, and relying totally on directions because I didn’t have the extra working memory to think about where I was going.

I also remember not being able to both write on the board and talk to students. I remember not being able to breath while being observed and having a hard time remembering what came next in my lesson. 

And then, thankfully, driving (and teaching) became more routine! I could pay more attention to the scenery and my passengers. I could notice how my students were responding, who needed more explanation, proximity, or space. I had greater capacity because parts of the task of driving (and teaching) had become routine, and when something unexpected happens, I can more easily pivot to avoid the pothole, enjoy the beautiful view, or embrace important student thinking. 

Using instructional routines as part of our teaching repertoire has a marked positive impact on both us and on our students. 

When I do a routine routinely, I know what’s coming next. I internalize the routine, and that frees up my working memory. I am able to think more deeply about my students and the mathematics. I can notice the scenery in my classroom, I can think on my feet about what questions to ask to focus student attention on each others’ thinking and the mathematics. I leverage my content knowledge along with my knowledge of my students to anticipate where we are heading and support students’ conceptual understanding and procedural fluency.

Additionally, my students know what’s happening. When we do a routine routinely, they know when they will be expected to share out. Additionally, many of them feel safer because they know that in all of the routines we do together, there will be think-time and some sort of turn & talk built in so they will have a chance to generate and test out their ideas.  They also know what is expected of them. They know that I’ll ask them to use certain sentence stems, and often in routines I’ll ask them to repeat or rephrase what a previous student said. They even know that I’ll ask them to use other student’s names. For example: I heard Martin say they’re the same because they got the same answer, but I think they’re different because one multiplied first and the other added first. My students also know that if they can’t restate what a previous student said, I’ll simply ask the first student to say it again so we can all hear, and that if they don’t use the sentence frame, I’ll remind them. It’s a learning space, where the routine provides both a path and guard rails.

At Magma Math, we have been sharing instructional routines in our professional development sessions as a way to facilitate classroom discourse about student solutions. We also often facilitate sessions focused on the 5 Practices for Facilitating Productive Mathematical Discourse (Smith & Stein) which is a framework to support teachers in leading math discussions that are more than solution “show & tell”. In our new section, Magma Academy, you will find specific information about instructional routines as well as the 5 Practices, and how to use them with Magma.

  • Same But Different - a wonderful way to compare and contrast two different solution methods and make connections to the underlying mathematics.
  • My Favorite Know - a great routine to help students become more aware of and able to avoid common errors while also noticing elements of a solution that are correct. 
  • Stronger & Clearer - a way to support students in revising and improving their solutions.
  • The 5 Practices - a framework to support the process of planning, anticipating, monitoring, selecting, sequencing & connecting to facilitate productive mathematical discourse. 

All three routines have rich histories outside of Magma, and all three support student discourse in pairs as well as whole class discussions. In addition, you will find information about using the “5 Practices for Facilitating Productive Mathematical Discourse".

Articles

The Power of Routines

Leslie Nielsen
Apr 26

Have you ever taught someone to drive a stick-shift car? Or do you remember learning how to drive? I had the experience of teaching 3 teenagers to drive stick, and we live about halfway up a mountain in the Cascade mountains in Washington State just above a stop sign at the top of a hill! When they first started (and I remember this about learning to drive too), it was all about what do I push, what do I do with this foot while that one does this other thing? Why is the car rolling backwards? Where are my blinkers - oops, I turned on the wipers! 

Does this bring back memories? 

I remember not being able to notice the scenery, not being able to have a conversation, and relying totally on directions because I didn’t have the extra working memory to think about where I was going.

I also remember not being able to both write on the board and talk to students. I remember not being able to breath while being observed and having a hard time remembering what came next in my lesson. 

And then, thankfully, driving (and teaching) became more routine! I could pay more attention to the scenery and my passengers. I could notice how my students were responding, who needed more explanation, proximity, or space. I had greater capacity because parts of the task of driving (and teaching) had become routine, and when something unexpected happens, I can more easily pivot to avoid the pothole, enjoy the beautiful view, or embrace important student thinking. 

Using instructional routines as part of our teaching repertoire has a marked positive impact on both us and on our students. 

When I do a routine routinely, I know what’s coming next. I internalize the routine, and that frees up my working memory. I am able to think more deeply about my students and the mathematics. I can notice the scenery in my classroom, I can think on my feet about what questions to ask to focus student attention on each others’ thinking and the mathematics. I leverage my content knowledge along with my knowledge of my students to anticipate where we are heading and support students’ conceptual understanding and procedural fluency.

Additionally, my students know what’s happening. When we do a routine routinely, they know when they will be expected to share out. Additionally, many of them feel safer because they know that in all of the routines we do together, there will be think-time and some sort of turn & talk built in so they will have a chance to generate and test out their ideas.  They also know what is expected of them. They know that I’ll ask them to use certain sentence stems, and often in routines I’ll ask them to repeat or rephrase what a previous student said. They even know that I’ll ask them to use other student’s names. For example: I heard Martin say they’re the same because they got the same answer, but I think they’re different because one multiplied first and the other added first. My students also know that if they can’t restate what a previous student said, I’ll simply ask the first student to say it again so we can all hear, and that if they don’t use the sentence frame, I’ll remind them. It’s a learning space, where the routine provides both a path and guard rails.

At Magma Math, we have been sharing instructional routines in our professional development sessions as a way to facilitate classroom discourse about student solutions. We also often facilitate sessions focused on the 5 Practices for Facilitating Productive Mathematical Discourse (Smith & Stein) which is a framework to support teachers in leading math discussions that are more than solution “show & tell”. In our new section, Magma Academy, you will find specific information about instructional routines as well as the 5 Practices, and how to use them with Magma.

  • Same But Different - a wonderful way to compare and contrast two different solution methods and make connections to the underlying mathematics.
  • My Favorite Know - a great routine to help students become more aware of and able to avoid common errors while also noticing elements of a solution that are correct. 
  • Stronger & Clearer - a way to support students in revising and improving their solutions.
  • The 5 Practices - a framework to support the process of planning, anticipating, monitoring, selecting, sequencing & connecting to facilitate productive mathematical discourse. 

All three routines have rich histories outside of Magma, and all three support student discourse in pairs as well as whole class discussions. In addition, you will find information about using the “5 Practices for Facilitating Productive Mathematical Discourse".

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