Friday, December 7, 2012

What Makes You Say That?

Today, we shared an artifact from the "Routines for Digging Deeper Into Ideas" chapter of the book.  I brought an artifact from the routine entitled, "What Makes You Say That?"

This CONNECTED to what I already know because I used the routine to try to give a boost to a routine that I already had in place with my third and fourth graders.  Every Friday, students go over their Math4Today, which is a mixed math practice that students do throughout the week.  On Fridays they do the assessment side of this page and individual students come to the front of the room to teach the class how they solved certain problems.  When they are finished demonstrating, they ask, "Are there any questions?" And the rest of the class asks them questions about their thinking.

Our routine of going over these problems together and asking questions had lost its purpose.  Kids were checked out and weren't engaging in as much math thinking as I wanted them to.  This protocol EXTENDED my thinking in new directions.  I used "What Makes You Say That" as a sentence stem and asked students to listen carefully to the speaker and to be prepared to ask them a question about their thinking starting with, "What makes you say that..."  We did this for two Fridays and I scribed the questions that I heard third and fourth graders asking each other.  

Here are some of the questions students asked each other... What makes you say that:
  • the total is $28?
  • you have to do 50+20?
  • you can't use dollar coins? (when calculating the number of coins to make a certain dollar amount.)
  • a quarter is worth 25 cents?
  • that you had to borrow? (on a subtraction problem.)
This was a very successful routine because it made my students think deeper about the questions they were asking each other.  They took on the role of teacher as they asked each other questions to prompt the speaker to add more detail about their thinking.  It also added some energy to a routine that students were getting too comfortable with.

A CHALLENGE or PUZZLE that I have is, how do continue to make this routine fresh so that my students continue to think deeply about their thinking?  I commented to someone in my group that I anticipate using this routine for a couple of months, then changing it up again.  I certainly think my fourth graders will be able to eventually do this routine on their own in small groups on their own.  Their is a difference between the responses I got from third graders than the responses I got from fourth graders.  The third grade responses were much more literal and followed a pattern of asking the speaker if how they know their answer is correct over and over again.  The fourth graders were much better at challenging the speaker and making them really justify their answer.  This routine may stay in place for third graders all year, while I may need to step it up for my fourth graders in the spring.


  1. I am planning on using this strategy in the future. I looks like it might be wise to model the types of questions that are asked or provide students some sentence stems. I get leery too, of overusing a strategy, but I liked how you added a new component to keep it engaging.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thanks for putting together this blog and sharing Jeff! I also agree that a forced and overuse of strategies (making them specific routines) concerns me as well. I think it is nice to have these "routines" in a tool bag for use when they seem to fit, but I think we need to keep in the forefront of our minds that our goal is to make the kids flexible and deep thinkers. Sometimes I find the idea of teaching a routine actually has the potential of masking the actual thinking. We can end up teaching the kids a bunch of routines and they get the impression that this is the targeted learning goal.

    I have my own high school students, and I always find it interesting when they come home and talk about a teacher's new "technique." My daughter shared at the dinner table the other night, "My teachers must all be reading a new book because they're all doing . . . " She lamented, and my son chimed in, on how artificial and forced it often feels and that the teachers they connect to are definitely the ones that naturally and authentically push their thinking and hold high expectations. If pushing kids thinking is something that is just done through a routine and not throughout their day and at every possible opportunity, I think we miss the boat.

    I personally found the "What Makes You Say That" routine a particularly interesting one. I can't quite wrap my head around the idea of it being a "routine". For me, it is more a philosophy. I probably ask my kids this or a similarly worded question a thousand times a day - not because it a routine but because I want them to be able to explain and substantiate their thinking and I am truly curious as to what they are going to say. I thought it was an interesting choice to be written down as a routine.


    1. I would agree that I find it interesting they defined "What Makes you say that?" as a routine. For me, I guess it is a routine but one that is so embedded in our daily discussions that it feels a part of the culture of our room. Even at 4 years old, it is a way for me to guide the children to substantiate and defend their thinking to me and their peers. Just like anything, once we know a process and it becomes a routine,there is a risk that it becomes the focus. It makes me think of just how important it is to be familiar with a routine so as to be very intentional about how and when to use it.

  4. I have had the intention of using, "What makes you say that?" for a while now. It is was inspiring to read about the way your kids began to use it with each other. No better way to make a claim and provide evidence, eh? Thanks for sharing this routine!

  5. Jeff,

    I loved looking at all the pictures of your kiddos involved in this routine. You could not only read about their excitement and involvement, but you could see it in the faces as well. Establishing a community that supports thinking talk in a safe and fun way for, "What makes you say that," will continue to foster deeper level thinking and growth among your kids. This was neat to see in your Math content class.