(e.g., boys and girls, ELL and 
special needs students), not just the hand-raisers.
PRINCIPLE: Equity requires participation.
Student Vital Actions
Explaining one's ideas and hearing the reactions of others promotes learning. In classrooms in which a few students do all the talking, these learning opportunities are distributed inequitably. Over time silent students may come to believe they are not expected to talk, and may disengage entirely. When all students are given the time to explain their thinking, a greater investment of every student in the instructional activity is demanded and rewarded, and the opportunity for students to serve as learning resources for each other is maximized.  
All students participate.
Classrooms in which a few students do all the talking give other students permission to disengage. The idea that some students are ”not good in math” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When all students are given time to explain their thinking, a greater investment of every student is demanded and rewarded.
Which students are participating?
Most frequently used: when the whole class is discussing the mathematics.
A LITTLE RESPECT The problem:  Mutual respect is a prerequisite for the collaboration needed for many students to succeed. For students with negative experiences with schooling and mathematics, developing this respect can be challenging but it is critical. The move: Allow students to contribute to the creation of classroom norms for respectful and productive discussions. Remind students that the class negotiated and arrived at a set of norms to which everyone must adhere.  Teacher Tip:  Many students come from homes and communities where there may be a playful level of “disrespect” that is considered normal and acceptable. Students may not feel respected when the norms of their home or community are considered unacceptable in the classroom. By showing a willingness to negotiate on some of these norms, students will feel more comfortable and participate more confidently and safely.
Why does this matter?
Most frequently used: during the initial phases of a lesson. during the "last third" of a lesson. within small groups. when the whole class is discussing the mathematics.
WHAT WAS THAT? The problem:  Students must be active and engaged in classroom activities in order to learn. However it is not always apparent if a student is engaged or disengaged.  The moves: During classroom discussions, ask students to repeat or rephrase what another student just said.  Keep a public list (e.g. on a whiteboard) of the ways in which specific students are positively contributing during group tasks. Design tasks that require all students to participate in order to complete the task. Teacher Tip:  Some students are naturally quiet. They may appear to be checked out during a class discussion, but may actually be engaged and thinking deeply about the conversation. These students may be helped to more actively participate by asking them if they’d like to share their thoughts.
FIND THE PATTERN The problem:  The lack of participation by groups of students may be a symptom of an instructional blind spot.   The moves: Check to see if there are recognizable patterns between participation and prior achievement or social groups (e.g. ELL, race/ethnicity, or gender). Consult with colleagues who have more experience, knowledge or affinity with groups that are not consistently participating in your class class.  Ask a colleague to observe students in your class and see if they can identify any patterns of participation by student groups in your class   Teacher Tip:  Our race, gender, language and social status can cause blind spots in our teaching. Sometimes a trusted colleague observing a lesson can provide objective feedback on our practice.   
ALL IN The problem:  When particular students are identified as math whizzes other students are inevitably seen as math dummies. Some students have learned that if they keep their eyes down and stay silent, no one will notice them. If they are called on, they respond, “I don’t know.”  The move: Treat each student as a contributing thinker to the classroom discussion. Treat confusions and mistakes as belonging to everyone (not as a result of student characteristics). Hold students accountable to explain their thinking and share reasoning. When students are confused ask them to show where they got lost or ask a question that can help them move forward (more than “I don’t get it” or “how do you do it”). Teacher Tip:  This move lets students know that in this class they are never “off the hook.” You and the class are always interested in their thinking, even if at the time their ideas may not seem correct. This move pushes students to articulate what they do know even if they can’t solve the problem. Thus it allows teachers to help students extend their way of looking at the problem by asking them a question or giving a hint that can get them productively engaged. Often when students explain their confusion they come up with ideas to try themselves.
Most frequently used: within small groups. after a classroom culture is established (advanced move).
WHAT’S MY JOB? The problem:  One or two members of a group often complete the tasks assigned to a group of four students. The student(s) who completed the task may have been able to do so because it was too easy, and the others didn’t learn anything while watching their more-ready peer(s). Social status among peers can also influence who leads and who is passive. The move: Assign rotating roles, and provide routines for collaboration so that every student is actively engaged in each task, and has experience in all roles over time. Teacher Tip: Roles might go beyond problem solving tasks to include, for example, responsibility for making sure everyone has a chance to talk, or responsibility for summarizing what the group agrees and disagrees about.You might offer sentence frames and facilitating questions that enable and deepen group conversation.Being explicit about the specific task and product of the group can help group productivity.Group work can be counterproductive if not well designed.  Design group tasks that align complexity with the number of participants required to successfully complete the task. Before creating groups, consider whether the task might be better for partner or individual work.
Most frequently used: during the initial phases of a lesson. within small groups.
GOOD GROUPING Problem: Group work can be counterproductive if not well designed. Before creating groups and distributing tasks, consider if the task might be better designed for partner work. The moves: Use individual work to help students activate their prior knowledgeUse partner work for giving as many students as possible a chance to share their thinking and to promote variety in ways of thinking.Use small group work for problems that require more students to contribute their thinking.Use whole class to introduce or spread ideas and to create a shared understanding of the mathematics. Teacher Tip: Switch liberally between partner, small group and whole class structures in response to student learning needs. When many groups are stuck, have one group share an idea that can move the class forward.
First Steps:Creating a Classroom Culture
BETA VERSIONPlease email us comments and corrections at Thank you!
Students revise their thinking.
What is a Teaching Move?
Tap on any of the Student Vital Actions to explore teaching moves!
Students talk about each other’s thinking.
Students engage and persevere.
What is a Student Vital Action?
Students say a second sentence.
ELLs produce language.
Students use academic language.
Students say a second sentence.
Students engage and persevere.
ELLs produce language.
Students talk about each other’s thinking.
The Common Core State Standards in mathematics are the first to articulate “practice standards:” expectations not only for what students should know, but for what they should be able to do. Teachers and administrators are now confronted with the questions: how would a classroom look if students were developing these practices? What would we expect to see students doing? A SERP team worked with Bay Area district partners to produce an answer to this question in the form of 7 “student vital actions” organized for simplicity and ease of use on a 5x8 Card. The vital actions are intended to be catalytic rather than comprehensive. There are many other things students do to learn, but these 7 are concrete, observable, and leverage related important learning actions. Learning is active; the vital actions attempt to capture the spirit of that action. They are intended as a productive starting point for shifting the focus from teacher actions to student actions–one that will be continuously improved as we learn more. We welcome your feedback! Please visit the 5x8 Card Website for additional information. 
What is a Student Vital Action?
Student action is influenced by the classroom culture and leadership of the teacher. A teacher plans, assigns, prompts, spots trouble and responds, sees opportunities and seizes them, sees disengagement and re-engages. When a teacher acts to make a teaching episode productive, we refer to the teacher action as "a move.” Every teacher has a repertoire of moves that serve different purposes in different situations.  The 5x8 “deck" lists a selection of teacher moves that promote student vital actions. Teacher moves can make lessons flow toward the mathematics of the unit, and they keep students with a variety of dispositions and prior knowledge engaged in the discussion. Teacher moves also advance the discussion from initial ways of thinking toward grade-level ways of thinking. Which move should a teacher use? It depends on the purpose and the circumstance. Often, more than one move is worth trying. If one doesn’t work, try another. Good teaching entails paying attention to students’ ways of thinking and responding to it. When observing, work from student actions (good and bad) back to the presence or the absence of teacher moves. 
Why are some moves better to use toward the conclusion (or final third) or a lesson? The goal of a lesson is to have all students reach a shared understanding of the target mathematics. In the first phase of the lesson, students may create various representations of different ways of thinking.  In the second phase, teachers can organize presentations of these ways of thinking and a summary of the mathematics that help students "step up to the target." Presentations begin with the easiest-to-understand way of thinking and conclude with the way of thinking that represents the lesson target. Following student presentations, the teacher can give a summary of the mathematics that involves quoting from student presentations, highlighting correspondences between the various representations shared, and opportunities for students to ask questions. By helping students connect their way of thinking with increasingly more complex ways of thinking, students are able to "step up to the target mathematics". 
Why are some moves recommended for the Whole Class? While some moves can be effective across multiple class structures (pairs, small groups, whole class, et cetera), other moves are particularly effective with the whole class, or are only relevant to whole-class structures.  By noting the class structure, the 5 x 8 resource supports users who want to think about how to promote vital actions within particular class structures. 
Why are some moves considered advanced? In general, the teacher moves in the 5 x 8 resource do not have prerequisites.  Any teacher should be able to try them and be successful. However, moves marked “advanced” may require more groundwork or particular persistence on the part of teachers in order to be successful. 
Why are some moves recommended for Small Groups of Students? While some moves can be effective across multiple class structures (pairs, small groups, whole class, et cetera), other moves are particularly effective with small groups, or are only relevant to small groups.  By noting the class structure, the 5 x 8 resource supports users who want to think about how to promote vital actions within particular class structures. 
Why are some moves better for the initial phases of a lesson? The goal of classroom activities is to have students understand a concept and master the related skills. The challenge for teachers is to help the students move from their initial way of thinking about the problem(s) in the lesson toward the grade level target. In the first phase of a lesson, teachers elicit students' divergent ways of thinking about a topic by allowing students to work in pairs and small groups. Students begin with their own way of understanding, and, by working together, the class creates examples of different ways of thinking about the mathematics. The students’ different ways of thinking are the " stepping stones" that take them from their starting point to grade-level ways of thinking.  Representations of these ways of thinking (students’ work and their talk about it) are the “stepping stones” that teachers use to help students get to the target.  During this first phase of the lesson, it is helpful,teachers circulate among the groups to: 1) ensure that they are struggling productively with the mathematics and intervene to re-engage struggle when needed, 2) select student work that is representative of diverse ways of thinking and will help students step up to the target ways of thinking, and 3) determine the order in which student work will be presented. The easiest way of making sense of the problem should be presented first (usually concrete thinking), and the closest-to-grade-level way of thinking should be presented last.