Made4Math - Graffiti Boards

I have had so much fun finding new blogs, looking at classroom and project pictures, and reflecting on all of the contributions for #made4math!  I am so fortunate that I stumbled into this amazing community of math teachers and bloggers.

Today's idea is an easy strategy that can be implemented on day #1: using a "Graffiti Board" in your classroom.  (I am a floater teacher and share board space in my classrooms, so my personal examples are not Pinterest-worthy; however, I have included one example of a semi-permanent board, and I'm certain there is a lot of creative potential.)  

This strategy came from a differentiation institute, and the session presenter suggested graffiti boards for two purposes: assessment and building class culture.  I have tried this tool for a few months, and I have used boards for both purposes, and it is a strategy that I will implement next year.  (And my HS students seemed to respond well, or at least they enjoyed writing on the board!)

Making your own graffiti board is as easy as 1, 2, 3.
  1. Write any question (or word, thought, quote, etc.) on your board before class begins.
  2. Get students to respond (as they enter or leave the room, or at another designated time).
  3. Comment or somehow use the results.
Graffiti Boards as a Quick Assessment
My first graffiti board was a pre-assessment, and I asked my students what they remembered about logarithms.  I wrote the question on the board before class, and hoped students would respond.  Obviously, only a few did, so I needed to work on step #2.   (Resolved: I left more markers out, and as students entered, I simply asked them to answer the question on the board.  After a few mornings of "graffiti time," most kids entered the class hoping to be able to write on the board.)

The second board is an example from the middle of a unit.  Several of my boards asked, "How are you feeling about ______?" which also led to conversations about problem solving, confidence, study skills, and growth mindset.  (From the board results, I allowed AM to move on to the next lesson, I talked to the "1's" individually about tutoring, and I changed the pacing of the lesson a bit.)  

After using a number-line graffiti board every week or so, we even created another type of language in our class. "Work with your partner until you both feel closer to a 4," or "Ms. L, I'm feeling about a 2 on solving log equations, so when are you available for tutoring?"

One of our chemistry teachers created a much prettier example of a graffiti board to use with a week-long project.  Each of her students made a "marker" using a popsicle stick with a magnet glued to the back and his name written on the front of the stick.  As the project evolved and as students uncovered research, they moved their names along the scale to answer the posted question.  ("In order to combat dependence on fossil fuels, the US should build more nuclear fission reactors."  Do you agree, disagree, or are neutral?)  I loved that she was able to create a single, permanent board for 4 of her class periods, and it was great to see her board change after each day of research.

Graffiti Boards to Encourage Participation
The other use of graffiti boards is to encourage participation, create a positive classroom culture, and build rapport.  At the differentiation institute, I learned if students write or speak at the very beginning of class, they are more likely to participate throughout the class. 

I started my class blog in February, and I offered the first post as a tiny extra credit--just to see how the commenting worked, who would participate, how did we like the idea of blogging, etc.  I used a graffiti board to remind the kids about this bonus opportunity and to see if they were willing to comment on our class blog.  (Results: yes, I would write another blog entry, and I would expect many student comments for the first post.)

On occasion, I asked a non-math question on the graffiti board, just to get everyone to write something as they entered the room.  The questions were usually silly so I don't have pictures, but I would write the question and students wrote their answers all over the board.  Example questions are as follows:
  • Who's your favorite character on Glee?  
  • Before the release of Hunger Games: would you rather live in District 12 or live in the Capitol? 
  • What are you looking forward to this summer?
  • To ask the first week of school: what is the best part about starting a new school year?
I would always share my answer, we would discuss the question for 1-2 minutes, and students found similarities in the responses, which helped build class relationships.  The kids loved the "Would you rather...?" questions and wanted that type of board more than any other. :)

Other Ideas
Graffiti Boards in a Flipped Class
An idea for a teacher who flips his class is to write a problem on the board that relates to the previous night's video, and ask students to rank their understanding of the problem AND sit at a table corresponding to that number.  For example, students who are completely lost (or who didn't watch the assigned video) would be "1's" and sit at table #1.  As the teacher works the groups, he knows whether to provide a lesson intervention or an enrichment, simply based on their table number.

Graffiti Boards in Staff Development
In a small group meeting, we used the board below to assess our knowledge about mindset.  "Growth Mindset" was written in the middle of the board, and we all went to the board and wrote our definition or ideas about the main topic.

Student Responses and Technology Thoughts
Last year, we allowed students to use their cell phones for instructional purposes, so I tried Poll Everywhere and GoSoapBox (when it was free).  Our district is now moving to BYOD, so this summer, I have been playing with Socrative and Wiffiti (especially now that I am working on tweeting) and we have several sets of "clickers" floating around the school.  I definitely love the idea of using technology to help assess my students, but for the quickest, easiest, last-minute set-up, nothing beats a graffiti board--writing a question on the board and asking students to respond.

Would a graffiti board work your classroom?  I would love any suggestions or examples of how you have used the boards in your room!