Education is forever changing and sometimes you have to ditch the traditional and make some changes. I’ve made a lot of changes in my classroom the past few years; ditched the traditional seat-attached-to-the-desktop desks for tables with separate chairs….then changed the separate chairs into yoga balls and computer chairs on wheels…then changed the tables to dry erase desks. Kids can sit where they want, how they want and can complete their work in a way that works best for them. I changed my class makeup, yes, but I also added in some fun with a musical math activity. Disclaimer – I include
Why the change?
With the new “pieces” in my classroom, we’ve got movement in our room. Kids are bouncing up and down on the yoga balls, spinning (within reason!) in the computer chairs. I have kids on the floor on giant beanbag chairs and leaning against the wall with a pillow and a lap desk. When you walk into my room, it’s the furthest thing from “traditional”. My 7th graders like movement, so movement is what I’m going to give them.
Starting with the Basics
The first few lessons of my pre-algebra classes focus on the basics; the building blocks that we need to be successful in the more rigorous areas of math. My biggest hurdle is getting kids to buy into what I’m trying to sell, which is
Not “classroom music”, the classical elevator type music that you read articles about. I mean MUSIC. Hip hop. Rap (clean version). What my students have on their iPhones. That’s where this lesson came to fruition: Musical Chairs Math. A musical math activity that will move your students into a higher
How to Make Math Move Your Students
The Original Plan
It wasn’t in my lesson plans, it just happened. The original lesson was for students to sit in their chosen areas, and work through a Google Slides presentation that I had made with various expressions. They were to fill out a recording sheet identifying the variable, constant, and key operation words.
In the past, it’s worked, and accomplished what it set out to do. But on this day, although I didn’t look outside, I would have put money on a full moon. The kids were all over the place! Rolling more than usual. Bouncing on the yoga balls like they were trying to hit the ceiling. I knew I needed to spice it up and that’s how this musical math activity, Musical Chairs Math, came about.
Musical Math Activity: Musical Chairs Math
Step 1: Setting Up Your Students
I had the students make sure they were all sitting in a chair with a workspace in front of them somewhere around the room. I explained the assignment as originally intended; look at the expression on the slide, and identify the components we had just learned about.
Step 2: The Necessary “Talk”
Then, I asked if they had ever played Musical Chairs, and their eyes lit up. “Musical Chairs? Like in Kindergarten?!” I explained that if they could act appropriately, and if I could trust that they would focus on work instead of “Kiki, do you love me?”, we could play.
I also made sure that they understood that there were not going to be any warnings given; if they weren’t acting appropriately, the game would just be over. I think at this point they would have promised me the world to put on some music. This is where I learned a musical math activity could really tame a group of middle schoolers.
Step 3: Getting the Game Set Up
They opened up the Google Slides activity (that they usually would just sit and do independently), and I assigned each student a number. The students displayed their given number slide in presentation
The recording sheets and something to write with were to be left with the Chromebook for whoever was going to work on that problem to use.
The instructions were still the same. On each slide, you were to identify the variable, constant, and key operation words in the given expression on the recording sheet.
Step 4: Let the Muscial Math Activity Begin
Then I gave the second set of instructions: when the music begins, you are going to dance around the room; thus muscial math was born. When the music stops, find an available Chromebook with a problem displayed, and work.
I usually let this go for about a minute or two, depending on what the topic they’re working on is. When the music starts up again, you are going to dance around the room again and when it stops, find a different problem. BUT, before you go to the next problem, you must initial the work you did. This was where the magic happened.
Making Math Magical–A Surprise Result
I wanted them to put their initials next to their contributions so I could also walk around and see who was doing what, and checking to see if they were doing it correctly, providing reteaching and intervention if necessary.
BUT….something else happened. When I turned the music on for the third rotation heading into the fourth, I saw JW dance over to AG during the musical part and say, “Hey, I saw on the last problem, that you wrote quotient signals multiplication. Just wanted to let you know that quotient signals division”…and then he danced away.
I couldn’t believe it. Collaboration. Student-led learning. Student-led TEACHING. And they’re DANCING. And they’re LOVING IT. Does it get any better than that? This musial math acitivity was maxing out my happy teacher meter.
A Cross-Curriculum Musical Activity
The best part of this idea is that it can literally work for ANYTHING. Proofreading in ELA? Put everyone’s essays down, start the music, and let them edit someone’s work. Writing? Have someone write a sentence or two, start the music, and let the next person continue the story.
This time I had them use a recording sheet, but I also have them just work straight on the dry erase tables. Literally, any activity that can be done in steps or in sections can be done Musical Chairs style. If you have fewer steps/problems/stations than students, pair them up or let them share a Chromebook when the music stops. Students can revisit the same problem if that’s the only spot available and can check the work that is there (error analysis!). Let them dance, or make them walk, it’s up to you…but I can guarantee it’ll be a lesson they never forget!
Guest blogger, Kristy Sinkhorn, is