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Last week I had a video conference with teachers from the Choueifat Lebanese School in Beirut. These teachers have been working hard for two years to use our framework in their school, starting with joyful and efficient classrooms. They are doing a terrific job in transforming their classrooms into student-centered, fun spaces that maximize learning time.

They asked for some more specific tools specifically with stimulating discussion in English class and more ideas for social studies and mathematics.

First, teachers of all subjects and grade levels should do this in their classrooms. This is also a list of Tips, Tricks and Strategies for joyful and efficient classrooms that I collected from other blog posts.

Here are some resources for class discussions: Socratic Seminar and Criteria for Seminar for IB

As for social studies, the possibilities are endless! This is one of the disciplines that allows for rich discussion and debate. First you need to get beyond the facts and discuss big ideas in history or modern society. Why did we go to war? Why did our country do this? What is the perspective of women or poor people in this situation? Once you have your controversial question, here is a giant list of classroom strategies.

Finally, I often hear that it is difficult to transform a mathematics classroom. Here’s how you do it:

1) The first step is to get the students talking about the math. This can begin simply by having students literally write out how they solved a problem. “Well, first I lined up the decimal points, then I added the numbers all the way to the right, then I wrote the ones value (number 8) below and carried the tens value (number 1) to the top of the second column.” And so on. At first it will seem difficult and pointless. But there are countless studies about the benefits of “math talk” and it sets up the classroom to be more ideas focused than simply solving problems.

2) Now pair the students up and have them discuss how they solved a problem. First give them the same, easy problem. Then you can give them different problems. Then you can have them work together on a challenging problem. The key is talking about math.

3) Now that you’ve established a good amount of discussion in your class, you are ready to do more elaborate activities in math class and will find the ideas that other teachers are using (races, using notecards on the walls to search for answers, group work, etc.) are more applicable to your class.

Math is often the subject that brings the most fear into the lives of students. It is, therefore, especially important that math teachers do this with your students and take this quiz to see how you can bring more joy into your classroom. Do you have any more specific questions? Write to me and let me know how I can help!