Since my start at Durrington this year part of the focus of my department has been to improve our use of “I, We, You” modelling in our Maths classrooms. We have become increasingly aware of how important modelling is, and although in Maths we have always loved a good worked example, now we are really concentrating on this aspect of our teaching so that students can gain the most benefit from it. The use of modelling in the classroom is so important that it encompasses more than one of Rosenshine’s principles of instruction. But it is not enough just to put up an example on the board and it is worth taking the time to think and plan carefully what to say and how to provide the best model. Here are some thoughts I have had about the use of “I, We, You” in my classroom:
Phase 1: “I do”
Ideally students have their pens down and are fully concentrating on the “I” phase. I do not want them to have the extraneous cognitive load of trying to copy down and set out their work at the same time as I am going through the example. For this reason I will sometimes do a “silent worked example” where I model all the steps, but do not talk, so the room is silent and the students can fully concentrate on what I am doing. Some of my classes need training to do this, though – students are often tempted to put their hands up and try to pre-empt the next stage of the example, even when I am not working through it silently. I try to bring in metacognition here. I want my students not only to be thinking about what to do next, but to be thinking about how and why they know it is the right thing to do next. I am now starting to tell them that I don’t want any hands up because if they feel they do know how to tackle the problem I want them to be recognising the thinking and reasoning that they are doing rather than just giving an answer. I always write the example out step by step as I do it rather than have it appear magically all at once. I talk through not only what I am writing, but the decisions I am making and the thought processes I am using to get there. Hopefully, my keen students will be going through these same thought processes already, and they should be recognising this. If I have done my worked example silently first time round, I will always talk back through it afterwards using the same process. I will then give students some time to silently copy the example into their books, and I am encouraging them to annotate their examples to show the decision making processes – these are the notes that they will find most useful when they look back through their work.
Phase 2: “We do”
I will then reveal a very similar example for us all to complete together in the “We” phase. I do not want this example to require any more complex reasoning that the one I have just been through – otherwise I would be asking them to do something I had not previously modelled. I like to keep the “I” phase still visible on the board with all the steps and annotations – even though they have copied this into their book I like to have a visual cue at the front of the room. Sometimes in this phase I do invite hands up, more often I use cold calling to ask students to do particular steps, and I always return to a student who was not able to answer a question first time around. I also like to use mini-whiteboards – I particularly like to pick a board from one student to show the rest of the class and ask why they have done a particular step. The question of “why?” is a really important one here as I am trying to get them to understand the reasoning behind the problem solving process, not just to find an answer.
Phase 3: “You do”
This is where I set them off on some independent practise. In my lessons this will usually be a short phase of only a few carefully chosen questions – I do not want to stray from the key concept behind the worked example I have done, but I may well use variation strategies to attempt to deepen understanding. In Maths this often involves using more difficult numbers in the same context such as negatives, fractions, decimals or expressions as part of the question or in the final answer. This also has the benefit of allowing students to constantly revisit these basic skills in different contexts, and of not being scared off by getting “weird answers” and assuming they have made a mistake! I also try to put just the final answers to the first few problems on the board soon after independent work has started so that students can self-check and can ask me quickly if they are still having problems.
Some students still may not be ready for the “You” phase though, and I am increasingly finding that some of my year 7 mixed attainment class benefit from some further incomplete worked examples to give them a scaffolded start to independent work. Here I write the first couple of questions out in a partially completed form so that they have some of the working completed but some missing boxes to fill in. Ideally I would use “backwards fading” and omit the last part or parts of the example leaving them more and more to complete by themselves.
All I need now to make my “I, We, You” modelling even better is a classroom with wrap-around whiteboards so that I have room to put up all that I need to at one time!
Deb Friis is a maths teacher at Durrington High School. She is also the Research Associate for Maths and will be delivering our training on Improving Mathematics at KS2 and 3 on Wednesday 5th February 2020: https://researchschool.org.uk/durrington/event/improving-mathematics-in-key-stage-2-and-3/