Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Some Thoughts for Open Response Lessons

In recent weeks I have been teaching and observing a variety of Everyday Math lessons.  In RSU 5, K-2 teachers have the advantage of piloting the new EM4 units that have two-day Open Response and Re-engagement lessons imbedded within each unit (in addition to Open Response questions on every other unit assessment).  Grades 3-5 will have this next year when EM4 is released for those grade levels, but in the meantime we are working with the Open Response problems in the old units, and are turning them into two-day lessons.  It is clear to me that turning the old Open Response questions (from the end-of-the-unit assessments) into two-day lessons is not easy and causes anxiety for some.

Here are some things to consider, in the form of a Q+A session, when preparing and carrying out your Open Response lessons, whether you are teaching the new K-2 units or the older 3-5 units.


  • Open Response is all about students showing and sharing their thinking.  One of the hardest things for our students to do is respond to questions that start with the word, "Explain," especially when writing is a challenge for them.  I have created a half-sheet to help with this that contains three guiding questions for showing students' thinking processes.  The questions are:  What do you know?, then What do you need to find out?, and finally, What did you do to find out?   I offered these questions to a third grade group before I even handed out the actual Open Response assignment.  I had introduced the Open Response task to them, writing key bits of information on a white board, but I asked the students to share some possible ideas for solving the problem first.  Then I gave them the half-sheet with the three questions and asked them to write all the information they already know about the problem, followed by exactly what it is they need to find out.  Then, after sharing ideas for solving the problem with a partner, I asked students to write their strategy on the half-sheet, as an answer to the third question.  Only at that point did I pass out the actual Everyday Math Open Response assignment for them to work on.  This way, when they get to the section that asks them to explain their thinking, they already have something written down to refer to.  Otherwise, students often rush to solve the problem and get stuck when it comes to actually explaining what they did to find their solution.  As the year goes on and students become more familiar with Open Response lessons, they may not need to be prompted with the three questions and you can take the half-sheets right out of the sequence.
  • Open Response is one of the most important parts of our students' learning experience.  These lessons give them the chance to communicate their thinking to one another, and analyze each other's thinking.  One of the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice is for students to construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.  Everyday Math breaks each the Standard for Mathematical Practice (SMP) into several more specific "Goals for Mathematical Practice," or GMPs.  One of the GMPs for this SMP is:  Make sense of other's mathematical thinking.  This is all part of the overall mathematical goal of helping students to become more confident and capable of working with others to solve problems.  The Smarter Balanced assessments will use problem-solving tasks to assess not only whether or not a student is capable of solving problems, but whether or not a student can show his or her thinking that led to a solution.   
  • Open Response lessons are two-part lessons, so students can begin building and testing their strategies on day one, and revisiting and revising their strategies on day two, as well as refining their explanations (showing their thinking). Expect a lot of difficulty at first; many students are not used to this kind of thinking and problem solving.  You will see progress throughout the year.





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