BANSHO- Documenting the journey


My journey with Bansho Board Writing begain something like this:

Me: Banjo? 

Colleague: No, BAN-SHO. SHHH, not JJJJ

Me: Oh, ok…. so what exactly is it???

I now realize that my question to my colleague of « what exactly is it » reveals that I was expecting it to be a « thing », an « activity » or something that you « did »- a sort of « I did Bansho, so… what’s next? ».  Through classroom embeded, collaborative inquiry experiences, I am learning that Bansho Board Writing is more a process, a learning journey for myself and my students with regard to content and less a destination.  It’s way deeper and interesting than I had ever thought.

To that end, this post was not an easy one.  I’ve taken over two weeks to get my thoughts down- lots of starts and stops, writing/erasing/rewriting, etc.  Explain or share my story?  I’ve opted for the latter.  I am still learning.  So this post is really about documenting what I have learned so far and what I would like to learn more about with regard to Bansho Board Writing.

If you are at the beginning with all of this Bansho stuff, as in you also wondered if I wanted to write « banjo » in the title, I suggest you take a look at this document produced by the Ministry of Education of Ontario.  It is a great summary of the depth and the complexities of Bansho board writing.

bansho monographie


My experience with Bansho is based on the following adaptations:


In no particular order, here are some of my thoughts:

  • Do it together.  In my opinion, collaborative inquiry is the way to go, especially when starting out.  That’s what we’ve done so far and it’s great to be able to question, discuss, reflect, try, propose, etc. with other teachers.  We all bring different levels of understanding with regard to the students, the content, the representations, communication strategies, etc. and to utilize our indivdual strengths collaboratively really pushes our thinking in order to « produce » quality learning opportunities for the students.
  • Safety first.  Collaborative inquiry is  great, but a teacher needs to feel safe in order to take risks and give/receive constructive criticism/questionning.  Being that this was a new approach, taking risks in front of « someone from the school board » or colleagues within the same school was not necessarily an easy thing.  I think what helped was the fact that I had previously worked with the teachers involved.  This prior relationship helped establish a level of confidence between us.  Just as it is students, positive and encouraging relationships help foster a growth mindset in teachers.
  • Read and share.  In order to familiarize ourselves with the mathematical content in terms of representations, symbols, vocabulary, etc. as suggested in the « Identify the Mathematical Focus of the Lesson » portion, I tried to bring professional resources such as research articles, books, teaching guides and articles that were closely related to the curriculum expectations identified by the classroom teacher that we were Bansho-ing in.  We didn’t all read all the resources.  We seperated into groups of two and selected a resource to read.  Each group selected a different ressource than another group- the idea being that each group was responsible to read, discuss and identify important elements that could be useful to the group when planning the Bansho.  Each group then shared their findings and we recorded these on a visible and vertical surface (chart paper, whiteboard, projection, etc.).  I believe that this practice provided time for teachers to actually read research and other quality resources that they otherwise would not necessarily explore as they are already taxed for time- one way to help link research to practice.
  • Anticipate their moves.  Solving the problem that has been chosen for the class in as many different ways as possible is key.  I would add that finding ways to « solve » it with common student errors or misconceptions is even key-er, as in, more important.  They will show up in the classroom and instead of thinking « What do I do with that!? » in real time in front of the students, discussing it with colleagues ahead of time helped us have a game plan – do we address it? if so, how?  if so, now or at another time? etc.
  • Practice.  No really. After we had anticipated solutions and selected the ones we wanted to post on the board, we discussed what key questions we would ask and how to ask them in order to draw out connections and ideas from the students that would lead to our chosen learning outcomes.  What was even more difficult, however, was how to annotate student thinking on the board.  Which models or representations should we include?  What words should we write? Lines to connect portions of solutions or physical juxtaposition of solutions?  Which symbols should we use?  Do we litteraly draw a hand if they used their own to estimate a measurement?  What about manipulatives- draw them or use numbers to represent them?  If and when we were in general agreement on the annotations, the physical organisation of the board was not easy either.  Running out of space on the board is not fun- for us or for the students.  Doing all of this on the fly in front of students can be done, but would not necessarily be the best.  Practicing our board writing skills before entering the classroom helped a lot.  Without the students present, we could write, erase, re-organise, try out and test our ideas.
  • Assessement.  We tried to utilize the following planning and recording template (created by my colleague Céline based on an adaptation from Kathy Kubota-Zarivnij).  During the planning portion, we recorded a selected number of solutions, ones that we antcipated would be the most common.  We left one or two spots open in case we saw an un-anticipated solution that was utilized by a number of students.  The numbering didn’t mean that « 1 » was the first solution to be on the board or that it was the most efficient/best.  Rather, it was used as a reference to a particular solution.  To the right of the names of the students, there is a column for « exploration »- the « while the students are solving the problem » part.  In this column, we attempted to note the solution that a student was utilizing by recording the number associated with that strategy.  In this way, we could quickly have an idea of what strategies all of the students were using- all the same?  all different?  efficient?  misconceptions?  The column to the right of « exploration » is the « practice » column.  The idea being the same, we could record what strategies each student utilized to solve the practice problem.  We could then analyze if students used a different strategy- maybe they changed their mind following the consolidation and discussion- or maybe a student continued to use and inefficient strategy despite the consolidation portion- we need to plan something to help the student.  I imagine, in the long run, that these recording sheets could be analyzed further to identify trends in the use of particular strategies and identify which ones should be further practiced/developped.bansho planning
  • A revelation.  My prior thinking on learning outcomes was that they « needed » to be shared prior to a lesson or series of lessons and along with success criteria.  Ontario Bansho board writing has shown me another way.  The « highlights summary » portion of Ontario Bansho is placed at the end.  During this time, we ask students « What did you do today » in order to make explicit key learnings, learning outcomes and success criteria.  In this way, students co-create and co-identify what is important based on the math, actions, decisions, discussions and thinking that they did while solving the problem- they actually understand the learning outcome and sucess criteria.  Mind blown.


I once heard (and realized when I was in university) that « the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know very much« .  That’s kinda how I feel about Bansho board writing in a growth-mindset-ish way.  I am more curious now than I was when I first heard about Bansho.  Answers to my previous questions have now led to more questions.  For the upcoming school year, I would like to explore some of these questions:

  • Would a 2-day collaborative inquiry model work?  This past year, we tried to plan, implement and reflect all in the same day.  A little hectic to say the least and I wonder how effective it was in changing teacher practice.  This year, I would like to try a 2 day model- 2 days within a two-week span, not necessarily consecutive days.  Day 1 would be to research the content, plan and practice the Bansho.  The 2nd day would be dedicated to quickly review the plan, live it with students, reflect and plan next steps (maybe a second Bansho?).  I wonder if 2 days is too much time for teachers….
  • What’s the title?  Dan Meyer presented a session at AFEMO 2014.  He led us through the « You Pour, I Choose » task.  He didn’t tell us the « name » of the task.  What I found interesting, among other things, was his question of « If we wanted to give a title to the math that we did today, what could it be? ».  This forced us, the participants, to synthesize all the math that we did in one neat little and catchy title.  In the end, it also provided us with a few words that acted as a tip of an iceberg for all of the mathematics that we lived.  Easily recorded and easily recalled.  I would like to try this out with students at the end of a Bansho.  It is similar to the « Highlights and Summary » portion but I wonder if the effect would be different and if we were to reference the title a month or two after the Bansho, would the students be able to recall the information with more ease?.
  • One or the other…maybe not.  For me up to now, students have used 1/4 piece of chart paper to record their solutions.  During the consolidation portion of the Bansho, we would stick 4 different solutions on the whiteboard in order to compare, connect, question, identifiy, etc. solutions.  One challenge with this practice is the fact that students could not always easily see the solutions on the paper (i.e.- too small, not clear, not organized, etc.).  My colleague Céline, on the other hand, experimented with Google Slides.  Students still worked on a large piece of paper, but teachers took pictures of « interesting » solutions or portions of solutions.  These were then copied to a slide in real-time while students completed their solutions.  The consolidation and discussion was then done utilizing a projector and screen.  A slide was shown of the selected solution and the annotations were done via the connected computer.  In this way, the solutions were larger and easier to see.  For this coming year, I would like to explore more deeply the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches.  The paper approach seems easier to physically juxtapose two solutions, or to quickly annotate thinking on the whiteboard with a dry erase marker, yet some students might not be engaged in the discussion if they cannot see the solutions.  The virtual approach is interesting in that students would more easily see the solutions (especially if they have their own Chromebooks) and the Slides document could be organized in a folder in Drive for easy reference and review; however, making a sketch or a model to represent student thinking is not easy when using a mouse.  I’m interested in trying both approaches or maybe in finding a way to utilize both during the same Bansho.


So if you’re interested in more there are a few resources that could be of help.  The first is the document that I already mentioned produced by the Ministry of Education of Ontario « Bansho (Board Writing): Collective Knowledge Production in Ontario Mathematics Classrooms« .  Another resource I can offer is the slides from a double-session on Bansho that I attended at OAME 2014 called « Bansho (Board Writing)- Provoking Collective Knowledge Production and Knowledge Mobilization (Advanced Session) » (Kathy K.-Z. and her colleague Pat Margerm presented).  There is some good stuff in that one and more pictures.  Googling on Bansho will produce more info, though I can’t vouch for any of it!  Lastly, you could always message me through the comments section at the end of this post, contact me by email or by Twitter- see the « MOI » section for my info.

That is all.


4 réflexions sur “BANSHO- Documenting the journey

  1. Toujours intéressant de te lire et de te parler. J’aime que tu te donnes des objectifs et je te souhaite beaucoup de succès pour les atteindre. Je ne sais pas si les élèves du moyen sont aussi « tweeter » que nous, mais une façon d’aborder la consolidation « à la Dan » serait peut-être de demander aux élèves d’écrire l’objectif de la leçon en 140 caractères ou moins et d’inclure des #. Moi ce sera mon objectif, quand je retournerai en classe en 2016-2017, je vais utiliser des comptes twitter pour garder des traces de de consolidation en temps réel. Bon c’est officiel, je retourne en salle de classe, c’est écrit 🙂


  2. Thanks for this post Pierre. I have looked at using Bansho quit a bit and still struggle to wrap my head around it. Your post is definitely helping me make sense of it all.
    When reading through your journey, I was making a lot of connections between Bansho and Peg Smith’s « 5 Moves ». I found two big similarities between them. The first being, the emphasis in the planning upfront that is required of teachers, and the second lying in the importance of closing/sharing of student work. These two pieces alone are strong indicators when evaluating the effectiveness of a lesson. Unfortunately, I find they usually take a back seat to « the work session ».
    I’m looking forward to you sharing more of your journey as we dive into the new year. More please!

    Aimé par 1 personne

  3. Hey Graham,

    Thanks for the comments. Yes, in my limited knowledge of the 5 practices, there are a lot of similarities with Bansho. As you mentioned, a crucial element that is usually glossed over is the planning portion- anticipation of student solutions/strategies, planning ahead of time what solutions we want to put on the board in order to render certain important mathematical concepts explicit to the minds of students, the organization of the board in order to facilitate connections and how and what to annonate. The planning portion takes work, but I truly believe that it not only helps to ensure that the discussions will be productive and will lead to our learning goals for the lesson but it also serves as professional development with regard to the teacher’s understanding of the content. If you have questions or would like to know more about a specific portion/topic about Bansho, please let me know and I’ll do my best.




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