Cultural Shifts

We spent some time this morning analyzing cultural shifts in our work using the Solution Tree document below. I really liked thinking about what successes I had this year and what growth could still be made in my work with PLCs, with teachers, and with professional development culture.

As I am working on writing curriculum, I am excited for the shift “from providing individual teachers with curriculum documents such as state standards and curriculum guides…to engaging collaborative teams in building shared knowledge regarding essential curriculum” (page 187).

I also have found myself moving “from the expectation that learning occurs infrequently (on the few days devoted to professional development)…to an expectation that learning is ongoing and occurs as part of routine work practice” (page 189). I have continued to seek out more PDs, explore Twitter regularly, and reflect upon these to improve myself and discuss ideas with teachers.

One thing I want to continue to grow in is “from teachers gathering data from their individually constructed tests in order to assign grades…to collaborative teams acquiring information from common assessments in order to (1) inform their individual and collective practice, and (2) respond to students who need additional time and support” (page 188). I want to help teachers find more authentic ways to answer this PLC question #3 and support these students who need differentiated learning when they still don’t understand.

Finally, as I plan PD I want to work to move “from assessing impact on the basis of teacher satisfaction (“Did you like it?”)…to assessing impact on the basis of evidence of improved student learning (page 189). This means following up more with teachers after PDs, being in specific classes of the teachers who attended, and creating a measuring tool for PD effectiveness.

I want to challenge teachers, PLCs, campus leaders, and school administrators to take a look at this document to celebrate your successes this year and then identify shifts you want to make next year. I think it’s important to focus on the shifts that are in your zone of control. What shifts did you make in your classroom/PLC/organization that make you proud? How did you do it? What goals do you have for next year? How will you make those shifts? Who can you work with to make these happen? What are some first steps to get you there?

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Do Ink Project

I had so much fun working with a teacher on an end of year project using Do Ink which is a green screen app. Before I start this post, I want to say thank you to the teacher I worked with and the IT specialist who helped me understand the Do Ink app. The teacher I planned this project with had her students create posters on a topic and solve the problem using multiple representations prior to telling her about Do Ink. When I presented her with the idea of using Do Ink to communicate their ideas it seemed to fit perfectly with using their posters as the background image and talking points. So, I created a student handout for instructions and processing what students were going to say in their video (we used steps 3-7 of this handout and used the teacher’s original task instead of #1 and 2).

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Here is a video (above is just a screen shot) of a student explaining her poster (by the way, this was the first time I had seen their finished products since I came in on the filming part and you will notice a couple mistakes such as step 1 and the graph being quadratic not exponential in this example. When I saw these in the moment of filming, it was a great chance to talk through finding errors and justifying why and how we can correct them before turning their work in. She also is media released so I could post here). Below are some things I learned from the process:

  1. If you’re reading this and thinking you don’t have a green screen, think again! All you need is large green butcher paper or a green sheet. Also, double check with the library at your campus…I found out each of our campuses have them and they purchased 5-10 Do Ink apps (they cost about $3 each).
  2. Having students write a script before is really helpful. Students felt more confident and were more precise in their mathematical language when they were prepared with what they were going to say. When you are filming this is a great opportunity to hear students process their work, make sense of the math, and communicate their learning. See the student handout that I created for the some ways to help students write before they speak.
  3. Some students liked being in the video together in pairs. So we decided one person would ask questions to prompt the other person explaining their poster. For example, one person might say, “what was your topic about?” or “how did you use your graph to solve” etc.
  4. I really enjoyed having students learn the app. They had fun playing around with the sizing and position of their videos and it gave them ownership over the finished product. I had several students ask me to email them, not just their teacher, their project…I love that they were proud of what they created!




Let me know if you end up trying Do Ink and how it went!


This Month in Classrooms

Here is my second edition of “This Month in Classrooms.” I hope this can provide some insight into the great teaching I see and also give anyone ideas they could implement in their own classroom.

I started this month with an opportunity of walking classes with an education consultant, Kelly Harmon. She focuses her work around learning targets and success criteria and so it was really interesting to understand more of how I can help teachers write these to achieve higher levels of cognitive learning. In math, it was cool to see that a lot of teachers already have success criteria on their notes by providing students with steps for accuracy and understanding. This will help teachers understand that learning targets and success criteria are not new, but rather we can be amping up our “we will” statements to synthesize and process learning. Furthermore, walking with her really helped me differentiate classrooms that had high levels of engagement and debrief how and why they were like that. She told me a huge nugget of information that to reach knowledge utilization (the highest level of rigor on Marzano’s taxonomy) and produce this engagement we must be asking our students to first hypothesize and then prove their learning. Math lends to this well, but we have to be willing to let go and ask our students, “what do you think and why” before simply telling them what to do. Our learning targets and success criteria should reflect the thought process we want our students to do to achieve high levels of thinking with cognitive complexity and student autonomy.


At another campus in Algebra I, I loved this strategy of allowing students to present their work and their thinking by passing the microphone to students and projecting their calculator to the Smart Board projector. It was so cool hearing students explain their thinking and walk through their process in their own words. The teacher later told me how happy she was to hear that students were working the problems in ways that she hadn’t even explicitly taught them.


I really liked this simple, low prep review game I saw in another class this month. Students completed a traditional review in pairs, but were asked to stop and check every 2 problems. If they got both correct, they got to fill in their initials in one spot of 1-100. At the end, the teacher would randomly draw a couple numbers and that pair would win a prize. I liked that there was immediate feedback of accuracy rather than having students check their answers at the very end. Also, students were motivated to do as many problems as they could to have a better chance of winning.


In a calculus classroom, I saw some amazing projects about volume cross sections. The attention to detail and creativity on these were impressive!


Lastly, I was super excited to see an idea I had shared with a campus last year being implemented this year: entry cards. I love this because every student is asked a question before entering the room. It can serve as a refresher or a preview, and it is something different and more engaging than a traditional warm up. Furthermore, it gives the teacher an idea of where their students are as they are coming into class and providing an opportunity to address misconceptions in an authentic, immediate way.


Thanks to all the teachers who let me visit their classes and see the great things ya’ll are doing!

To see Volume 1, click here.