Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Exemplars Math

This year, my district is encouraging math teachers to use Exemplars in the classroom. Exemplars consists of one real world related problem that students solve individually, in pairs, or in groups. Not only do students have to find the answer, but the whole idea behind Exemplars is that students prove what they know.

Without me getting into too much detail, I'll try to explain how I use Exemplars in my classroom. My grade level as a whole does one Exemplar each 6 weeks. I spend about 2 hours on it, spread out over 2-3 days. I require my students to use the district problem solving method to help them organize their work. This is a document I made that I show my kids on the SmartBoard whenever we do Exemplars to remind them what goes in each section.

The first day, I have students work on the problem on their own. They are required to make the problem solving chart I linked to above. Since writing is a big part of fourth grade with the state test and all that, I do require my students to write in complete sentences. It's a good habit to get in. :)

The next day, I put students in groups to discuss the problem. They'll make any corrections necessary, then put their answer on butcher paper using the same problem solving method. I assign groups, putting between 3-4 students in each group. I try to include one high and one low in each group, while balancing out any discipline concerns. I make different groups each time we do Exemplars.

The students really enjoy this activity, and usually do a good job with their posters. I encourage them to go into as much detail as possible. Some students are better at this than others.

The problem we are currently working on asks how many speeds a bike has if there are 3 gears on one handle and 7 gears on the other. Below are some examples of their work from today.


As students turned in their posters, I read over then to determine the "best". The "best", as I told my students, is the poster with the most detail and that does the best job explaining their strategy and answer. I gave the winners from each of my two classes a pass to not wear shoes in class for a day. It's free, and they were so excited about it.

We're going to spend one more day on Exemplars for this grading period. Tomorrow, I'm having my students do a gallery walk to evaluate the posters, both what was done well, and what needs improvement. Instead of having them look at all the posters (after all, they all say pretty much the same thing), I'm assigning each student to 4 posters. I picked out the two with the best explanations, and all of my students will be required to evaluate one of them so that they can see what a really good poster looks like.