Sidewalk Chalk!

by Rebekah Cook


        In training to become a teacher-coach, a veteran teacher was asked to shadow two high school students for two days.  After the first day, she exclaimed she “was drained, and not in a good, long, productive-day kind of way,” but rather she felt “that icky, lethargic tired feeling.”  After experiencing high school from the perspective of the student for merely two days she was convinced every teacher should do the same their first year teaching.  She reflected upon her experience with the following three takeaways:

  1. Students sit all day, and sitting is exhausting.

  2. High school students are sitting passively and listening during approximately 90% of their classes.

  3. You feel a little bit like a nuisance all day long.


After I read this article about this teacher’s experience I thought to myself, “Hmmm, I wonder if this would be the case at Skyline HS?” Honestly, there is no way I think students are sitting and passively listening 90% of the time.  In particular, I think of all of our wonderful STEM and VPA classes where students are constantly standing and moving around to create, solve, explore, and get their blood flowing to their bodies and, most importantly, their brains.  As an individual mathematics teacher it has made me reflect on what I can do to encourage movement in my classes on a more-than-regular basis.  Planning more into our lessons can be tough because teachers have such a large amount of content we are expected to cover in a short amount of time.  But why deliver the content if it ends up lost because students are so worn out from sitting and getting information?  

       When my colleague, Mr. Fujimoto, shared how he had used sidewalk chalk to have his AP Calculus students draw 3-D rotations OUTSIDE, I pounced on the idea of using it with my Algebra 1 students, the giddiest of them all.  We spent two lovely mornings outside graphing and comparing different types of functions using sidewalk chalk.  Students were energetic, involved, and engaged, doing nothing close to sitting and passively listening.  Students were anything but a nuisance as I spent very little time having to correct any sort of inappropriate behavior.  And, now, whenever I want them to recall the content from that day I simply refer to the “sidewalk chalk day” and they remember.  Hmm… I think that veteran teacher might be on to something here.