One of my former co-workers, who had just had her appraisal was grumbling that her senior teacher noted how noisy her classroom was. She said to me, ‘…but I like a noisy classroom.’ She didn’t mean to say that she wants kids constantly chattering away, off task. She meant that she likes it when her students are engaged with each other about what they’re learning.

When I was a new teacher, I was a bit nervous about allowing students the freedom of conversing too much. What if they start going off task and it gets out of hand? I can’t control all of their conversations….

But now, if my classroom has been quiet for too long, I feel like I need to get the kids talking somehow. There are definitely times when the students need silence to do their best work. In the same way, there are definitely times when the students should be sharing and learning from each other. And that was the idea behind this random math quiz review.

My students have recently completed a math quiz on percentages, fractions, and decimals. This was quite a difficult unit and I suspected a range of results for the quiz and I was right. I had distinctly three groups of students. The top group who got all or most of the questions right. The middle group who got the gist of the unit. And the lower group.

I usually go over the quiz with the students to revisit the missed concepts as a whole class. This is usually not an exciting lesson as I’m just going over the quiz. Usually there is too much silence except for the few students who ask questions and, of course, my voice. I thought I’d do it differently this time and decided to make use of the three distinct groups. I paired the ‘expert’ group with the students who needed some help. And then the middle group were paired up with each other to either work on a problem they both got wrong or teach each other. I did the pairing before the class according to their quiz results and the social make-up. I made sure that the students knew exactly what were were doing and set the ground rules and explained that whoever is teaching needs to be respected like the teacher and that it is strictly teaching and learning time.

The students set off into different corners of the classroom and were busy teaching each other and asking questions. I would say 100% of the students were engaged. I roamed around and listened intently to all the conversations and I was just so pleased with how they took on the role of ‘teacher’ very seriously. The students who were learning asked genuine questions if something needed to be explained and the ‘teacher’ students used different strategies to show their peers ‘how’ they arrived at their answer. I saw students drawing pictures, writing out solutions, and slowing down their counting to show how they got their answer.

There were a couple of boys who usually struggle with math and they actually got to teach other students with some of the questions and it was just neat to see how proud they were of themselves.

It was a randomly simple lesson but it was nice to see a very buzzing classroom, especially with something that is usually a boring lesson.