My Favorite Routines

By Aristotle Ou posted 02-12-2018 11:47


Demonstrate kindness

Challenge yourself and smile

Learn from your mistakes

What will I try differently this year? What went well last year? What didn’t go well? How can I get my students to understand ______ better? My personal reflections led to me to make changes in my teaching, such as asking my students to reflect often, revamping my assessment practices, and incorporating more activities focused on building empathy. After trying so many new ideas every year, I find there are a few that I revisit and establish as tradition in my classroom. I’m going to share with you my favorite activities I use to improve classroom culture and student learning.

To improve classroom culture, I build in a routine of having my students write compliment cards for each other. This routine has been great for getting to know my students better and allowing peers to acknowledge each other for their great qualities. After students tear a sheet of paper into thirds, they are tasked with writing a compliment to someone at their table, someone else in class, and someone they do not know very well. My students are always excited to hear their compliments or inside jokes read aloud. The following are some examples of compliments written by my students this year.

“_____ I like how you help me and how you have a great sense of humor.”

“Thank you _____ for always being able to help us out when we need help and you always cheer us on through our problems. Hopefully we can be group members again soon.”

“_____ is a hard worker, helpful. She tries to understand what I am thinking and helps me have a greater understanding of something.”

“Dear _____, Even though I don’t know you that well, you are always so nice and really good at helping others.”

“_____ you are really fast and it’s scary but also really chill! Because then we win basketball games. I like that you give me money for tacos! So thank you!”

“_____, you seem really nice and cool. You were also in my P.E. class last year.”

“_____ is an awesome person to have in a group. She is very accepting of other people’s ideas, but has a huge variety of her own ideas to share, as well. She is always open to new ways to look at things. A great group member to have around. Super positive and upbeat. Loved being in a group with her!”

My favorite academic routine I incorporate in my classroom is structured similarly to AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) tutorials. I came to this decision after reflecting on finding ways for students to revisit their mistakes or misconceptions after completing a unit. I have students pick one problem from a previous assessment and present their work to their group on the whiteboard. The presenter describes their work and their point of confusion to their peers, and then the peers follow up with questions to help the presenter make sense of the problem and find the correct solution. This activity not only gives the presenter an opportunity to share their thinking and build their problem solving skills, but it also supports the inquiry model I want my students to embrace in my classroom.

My final favorite routine is writing haiku. Writing haiku has been a reflective practice for me as I consider conveying my message concisely in three lines and seventeen syllables. I wrote the haiku below in orange as a note for my students when they had a substitute teacher. In response, my students playfully drew in  stick figures and wrote the haiku in black. Writing haiku poems has become a great avenue for connecting with my students and sharing my passion for mathematics.


Teaching requires more than getting content across to students. As I continue to reflect on how help my students develop as compassionate mathematicians, I find myself revisiting routines including writing compliment cards, facilitating AVID-style tutorials, and writing haiku. I leave you with two of my favorite math haiku.

Irrational pi

Three point one four one five nine …

Do you ever end?

The square root of five

Both irrational and real

Will never be whole

#MiddleSchool #blog #learn #reflection

1 comment



02-26-2018 10:41

Thank you for sharing your ideas.  Creating a culture of kindness in our classrooms is so important.