I have done a lot of reading recently where it is suggested students explain their thinking as they solve problems. This idea is based on two ideas. First it is easy to find an app or calculator to provide all the steps and solution for any problem out there. Second, if a student can explain their thinking, it means they understand what they are doing.

Unfortunately if I asked my students to explain their thinking without gently guiding them into the process of knowing how to do it.

So how does one gently transfer explanations from the teacher to the student? I've actually thought about this and wondered how I could do it in a safe nonthreatening way.

The ideas I've come up with but have not yet tried because we are in our last 10 days of school and things are crazy but I plan to set these up over the summer for next year.

1. Create a matching activity with the steps in order and students have to match the reason to the step.

2. Create a matching activity with the explanations in order but with the steps mixed up. The student has to match the step to the reason.

3. Create a matching game with all the steps and explanations mixed up so students match the step with the explanation.

After they've played with these three matching games, I believe they will be ready to write down their thinking to the problems provided. Since I work with ELL students, they will need this scaffolding in order to learn what I mean when I ask them to explain their thinking.

In addition, the explanations could be expressed differently each time so students see it done with more than one way of explaining. This is important because many students get used to seeing problems done in only one way such as y = 22x + 5 rather than 22x + 5 =y or y-5 = 22x.

Many times students will explain each step using a different thought process than the teacher or the book and its important to encourage them to use their own words rather than trying to reproduce the book's explanations.

Let me know what you think. Do you have any ideas for this? Drop a comment if you do.