Index cards: a not-so-novel approach

So the title for this post is clearly a little tongue in cheek – Carl Linnaeus invented the Index Card in the 1760s, and they’ve had a wide number of applications since then, including to education. On twitter tonight, though, a post from @EduTweetOz got me thinking about how I use index cards in the classroom, and the fact that for some beginning (or established) teachers, their use in the classroom may be a little novel.

I always keep a stash of index cards in my teacher pencil case and I find them a handy tool in the classroom. Some of my favourite ways of using them are:

  • My Favourite No” – I frame this as an activity at the start of a lesson, where I’ll put a problem on the board which is either novel (testing students ability to apply what has been taught in previous lessons), or is a recap of what has been learned previously. Example: “Question: find the surface area of a triangular prism (year 10 maths). Students complete the problem on the index card, I collect the cards, and flip through, looking for common sources of error. I then copy the problem to the board exactly as the student has written their solutionAs a class we go through the student’s problem, discussing the sources of error and affirming what has been done “well” in their attempt at solving the problem. 
  • As an exit ticket to review the content that has been covered that lesson. It might be a problem relating to the maths work covered that day (or earlier in the week), to write an introductory paragraph on a content covered that day in a humanities subject, or to write a sentence using new vocabulary learnt in a language subject
  • Asking students to write their own problem, relating to what has been covered that day, and then get them to solve it. Extension: ask students to identify where the ‘sticking points’ might be for other students.
  • Reflection. It’s no secret I’m a big fan of integrating reflection/metacognition into my classroom (I’m writing a PhD on it), and I love to tie together a lesson with some reflection questions. Some of my favourites are:
    • What was the most important thing you learnt today?
    • What was the key idea of today’s lesson?
    • What are you finding most tricky at the moment?
    • What are you finding is helping you learn at the moment?
    • What questions do you still have for me?
    • What is stopping you from reaching your potential in (maths) at the moment?
    • What is a success you’ve had lately?
    • What are some of the key terms from this week’s lesson?
    • What is an important formula or rule you have learnt lately?

I’ve enjoyed spontaneously pumping out this post this evening; I have been thinking recently about getting back into blogging and sharing some of my thoughts. My PhD is slowly edging towards completion – I’m hoping to have it submitted mid-year.

I would love to hear your thoughts about using index cards or similar materials in the classroom – how do you love to use them and what do you find effective? I have heard of other teachers using post-it-notes effectively to enhance their practice and communication with students.

Until next time (which hopefully won’t be another four years away),

Madeline.

 

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About madelinebevs

Mathematics and religion teacher and researcher. Runner. Home-renovation enthusiast. PhD Candidate. I'm excited by education. Having taught high-school mathematics for several years I am currently studying a Master of Education (Honours) in mathematics education, with the aim to ‘upgrade’ to a PhD later this year. My research is addressing how the constructivist epistemology (more specifically explicit instruction in metacognitive and self-reflective strategies) influences students’ affective domain. Mathematics education and research excites me greatly. I’m thrilled that I have the opportunity to write and work in this area. This blog will be (mostly) a collection of opinion pieces published several times a week on contemporary issues in mathematics education, with an Australian focus. More often than not topics will be generated from recent news headlines.
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2 Responses to Index cards: a not-so-novel approach

  1. Great post Madeline. Big fan of post it notes. Love a good critical friends protocol, pink post-its for ‘wonders’ and green for ‘likes’, or a block party protocol sharing challenges or key learnings.

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