I’m a huge fan of The Office and I always get a chuckle out of how Michael starts off all of his meetings in a crazy, memorable way to energize them. Even though he might not be your typical boss, he always gets their attention, right? As the boss of our own classroom, we have to do the same thing.
Grabbing our students attention at the beginning of class can make or break the day.
A few years ago, I went to a Guided Math training that will forever be one of the best trainings I attended. At this training, I loved listening to Dr. Nicki Newton. You can learn more about her brilliant ideas with guided math and running records by clicking the link here, but I want to share about one particular guided math component she taught me about: energizers.
Energizers are essentially a way to hook your students and get their brains ready for the day.
It is the perfect opportunity to spiral in old skills, work on number sense, and practice having conversations about math. I know that this school year is different because some of us are teaching virtually, some of us are all in-person, and some may be hybrid, but energizers will work no matter which form of teaching you are doing right now. In this post, I’m sharing energizers that can be found online and be easily done in a zoom session, but they are also ones that you can easily do in the classroom, too.
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Let’s dive in to a few of my favorite energizers:
This energizer works in any grade level for students of all skill levels.
How it works: You can choose from different categories such as numbers, shapes, and graphs. Students are shown a picture with 4 things and asked “which one doesn’t belong?” The great thing about this is that there are no wrong answers! With each image on this site, there can be a justification for why each one doesn’t belong and it is up to each student to decide their own reasoning. When you hear student responses, it can help you determine which ones are thinking surface level, and which ones are able to go deeper. Some of the things my students say have really surprised me because even I don’t think about it! During our conversations, I will reverse their thinking and ask students “If I said that ___ does not belong, what could my reasoning be?”
Steve Wyborney is my #1 hero when it comes to resources for energizers. The Estimation Clipboard is only one of many that he has on his site that I use.
How it works: Students are shown one image (top left in the example shown) and have to choose a reasonable estimate. Then, you reveal the exact answer and they can see how their estimate compares. It’s okay if they don’t get it right! After this, a second image(top right) will appear. Students have to use what they now know about the first image to estimate for the second image. Then, they are shown the exact answer for the second image and the third image (bottom left) appears. The pattern continues through the fourth image (bottom right) until all estimates and correct answers have been shared. This is a great activity for practicing reasonability and estimation!
This energizer is perfect for primary teachers! It allows students to practice a necessary skill and have conversations about how many dots they see.
How it works: Students are shown a slide with dots. The goal is for them to subitize to count, rather than count the individual dots. This creates great conversations of how students chose to group the numbers when they counted.
If you’ve been following me for a while, then you know how much of a crush I have on Graham Fletcher. He is my math icon and I have had the pleasure of attending his trainings twice and watch him in-person as he taught a 3 Act task with a 4th grade class. He has a plethora of progression videos that I feel like have helped me better understand where my students are coming from and where they will go.
3 Act tasks work as an energizer when you break them up into individual tasks. You can also do these as a lesson. At one of the trainings with Fletcher, he told us that the way he suggests using these tasks is at the start of a unit. This will allow you to see what your students know vs. don’t know and what strategies they feel comfortable using.
How it works: In Act One, students are given a tiny piece of information through a video. After watching the video a couple of times, students record the things they notice and the things they wonder. There are no wrong answers to this part. If there are things they wonder about that I can answer right off the bat, I answer it so that they can move on from what they wonder and focus on the problem at hand.
The goal is to have students understand what is going on in the problem before giving them an equation to solve.
During this Act, as a class, we generate a main question, which is the question we end up trying to solve. We also work together to make a low and high estimate and then students get to choose their just right estimate.
In Act Two, students decide on something they need to know to solve the main question. This Act also includes a little bit of information to give students to help them solve the main question. Then, students work to solve by using the information given. Students are encouraged to use any strategy or method to solve so that the teacher is able to see exactly where they are at. When I was watching Fletcher teach a 3 Act task, at two separate times he told the class that if they felt stuck with where they were at, he would be at the carpet to help them. This gave him the opportunity to pull a small group and it allowed students to be responsible for their own learning.
Act Three is all about coming to the final conclusion. There may be a video or an image revealing the final answer. This is a time where students can also share their strategies and how they chose to solve. During this task, I like to write out the entire task as a word problem. This helps connect what students did with something they may see on an assignment.
This website also gives a great description of how 3 Act Tasks work and what each Act accomplishes.
Are you interested in trying out energizers, but don’t know where to start? Start here!
Steve Wyborney has four different energizers in this bundle that is created for grades K-12. It includes The Estimation Clipboard, Splat, Esti-Mysteries, and Cube Conversations. I have done all of these in my classroom and really enjoy each one! All of his activities are great because he includes directions and slide transitions that has the questions to ask students to help guide you as you are introducing it to your class.
I challenge you to add an energizer into one of your lesson plans for this upcoming week. Let me know which one you try!
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