End of Block Debrief: Teaching Norms Through Group Reflection

As Navy Band finishes math block, Kevin pulls them together for a debrief: "How did it go during Studio Time, working on that problem set?" This practice of debriefing is typical in our classrooms and important, especially in the first months of school, in order to promote reflection in regards to the norms we work to cultivate within our mathematics community. This episode has generally positive feedback and reflection, but many times the feedback is critical and very direct.

Don’t skip this step! Make a debrief a part of your math block daily, especially in the first months of school. Don’t be overly congratulatory. Be sure to expect the kids, no matter the age, to operate as high level mathematicians and be explicit about areas that are breaking down. Push the kids to do the reflecting, nudging them to name what they see that must change in order for the community to function at the highest level. You are cultivating a learning community, and they must reflect on what is promoting and inhibiting learning at high levels.

When the kids inevitably name a particular child that may need to make a change, ask them to look at their peer and tell them explicitly what is needed. With this you are teaching the kids how to reflect and give feedback directly to peers, as well as how to state what one needs from others.

As you continue watching the video, notice Elina's language as she articulates that she and Ashrit "did pretty well together, but I feel like he could not zoom past me so much. He could explain it, like, slower...he knows a lot more math than I do right now." Not only did Elina spontaneously model to her peers that this is a safe place to be open and honest, but she also showed clear evidence of a growth mindset when she said that she isn’t yet at the same place as her partner, Ashrit. This is a crucial way of thinking that has been cultivated in only a few weeks of school due to many deliberate discussions in math and during our morning routine, Campfire, in which we have talked about growth mindset, challenge-seeking behaviors, how learning happens, etc. Elina shows she has internalized this growth mindset (effectively saying "I don't know how to do it yet, but I will") and recognizes that she can attend carefully to Ashrit's thinking as they work together during Studio Time and through this she can learn from him. This is another crucial aspect of our culture; we work to help kids understand the active stance they must take in their own learning. Elina knows that being able to follow Ashrit's thinking, asking questions if she doesn't understand, is a critical way to grow her own knowledge. She understands that learning does not just happen when the teacher is talking but in fact, when she listens critically to her peers.