Purposeful Student Talk

I recently went to a Solution Tree conference (which was awesome BTW. . . if you get a chance to go, GO!) and a powerful quote stuck out to me that connected the idea of student talk vs. teacher talk.

A great teacher is not “one who explains things so well that students understand” but “one who gets students to explain things so well that they can be understood.”

-Reinhart

As I reflected on this, I realized this captured a main goal of mine as a specialist in working with PLCs and addressing the second question of PLCs: How will we know students are learning? To answer this question, I think teachers need to implement strategies that empower students to communicate mathematical ideas to prove their understanding and not simply rely on the teacher doing the talking. So, when I got back from the conference I talked with my PLCs and they agreed that this is an important issue and wanted to create time to discuss specific strategies teachers will implement to have students purposefully talk (this idea of purposeful talk also came from a principal I work with. Thank you to that principal!) Since talking to them and thinking of ways in which we could do this efficiently and effectively, I have seen more and more research and ideas supporting this idea of teacher talk vs. student talk. For example, a few days ago I was reading a book by Deb Teitelbaum and she wrote, “the rule of thumb for calculating the amount of direct instruction your students can handle is to take their age in years plus or minus three.” That means freshmen students need a break from direct instruction/teacher talk about every 11 minutes. Then today I was tagged in this video (thank you to that AP) which explains this idea of teacher talk and gives the shocking research that on average, “teachers ask an average of 200 questions per day and students ask an average of 2 questions per student per week.” After seeing all these supporting claims, it was reconfirming that what I’m doing is important and necessary work. So, I decided I needed to finally finish this post and here’s how we’re making this purposeful student talk happen.

At one school, the team of teachers is taking every Tuesday to look at the week ahead and plan out one strategy per day that they can commit to doing. We started this week and it was a really successful and engaging experience. We are drew from Lead4ward and 7 Steps to a Language-Rich Interactive Classroom strategies. Each teacher has the Lead4ward App (if you don’t have it, download it now!) and almost all have been to a training I did on the 7 Steps. So it was a great way to not reinvent the wheel and instead, turn to these resources that have been proven to be successful as a quick way to align strategies to instruction. I typed up their ideas in a Googledoc where their lesson plans are housed as they wrote them on the physical notes/practice papers that they had already planned for the students that week. I loved how it gave the teachers a broad overview of the week while also zooming in on specific strategies to increase student learning and communication each day. This week those teachers are using total response signals (7 Steps Strategy), sentence stems (7 steps strategy), and a summarize response (Lead4ward). I think this conversation of stopping the teacher’s instruction and allowing students to process, talk, and do was really powerful! It also helped teachers process how they wanted students to be grouped and when in the lesson they would be purposefully talking.

Next week, I plan to do a similar task with my other school, but instead we will use a Chalk Talk protocol to generate strategies together. I am looking forward to how this method of discussion flows and seeing the teachers engage in this meaningful planning.

 

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Chicken Wings and Math

This hilarious Twitter post just went viral and shows kids (and adults) why we need math. After seeing the post, I started thinking how could we incorporate this into a math lesson, because clearly we need some simplifying or justification on what is going on here. If you read this article in Today, you can see several other mathematicians are thinking the same thing. What’s the deal with the 25th wing? According to the menu, each wing costs either $1.10 or $1.15 (why is it sometimes more?) until the 25th wing, and that one is only $0.55…but the 26th is back to $1.15…?! The internet reacted and “there’s gotta be a better way to convey this information!”

WingsSo, teachers, we could use this as a lesson to talk about so many standards!! I’m thinking in just Algebra I there are several. For example, TEKS A.3B, rate of change. Is it constant? Should it be if I’m buying multiple wings? When does it change? TEKS A.2A, domain and range. Is the information discrete or continuous? Why? What’s the least amount of wings and most? And that scale…it was going up by 1’s, then 5’s, then 10’s, then what? Can I even a certain amount like 55 wings? A.2C, writing linear equations from a verbal description. But it’s not linear, so maybe we need A.4A and A.4c to look at correlation coefficient and writing equations from data. Whew. I think this could definitely apply to all levels of math-elementary, middle, high, college! Let me know if try it out and what your kids think.

PLC Essentials

As a specialist I regularly support and work with PLCs and wanted to reflect on PLC practices and successes I am seeing at the campuses I work with.

Firstly, PLCs should be centered around four essential questions:

  1. What do we want students to learn? (standards and learning targets)
  2. How will we know if they have learned? (common assessments)
  3. What will we do if they don’t learn? (interventions)
  4. What will we do if they already know it? (differentiation)

With our new curriculum documents, I am really seeing teachers have authentic conversations around #1 and #2. The teachers I work with are writing learning targets together in their PLC rather than first turning to what activity they’re going to do each day. This shift enables teachers to know what exactly will need to be in the activity with fully fleshed out learning targets. Both the schools I work with are writing learning targets based on standards and this rich conversation is helping teachers understand and know the standards even better. I hope we can start to write “success criteria” soon in which we identify the thought process that our students should go through to have success on their learning target. I recently went to a training on this and I think writing success criteria is a crucial step for allowing students and teachers to measure learning. By making these visible, students can also start to take more ownership in their learning.

Another key component of the PLC is creating common assessments before the activities. It is so important for teachers to know what students will be assessed on before actually teaching it. The commonality of the assessments enables teachers to look at their assessment data and analyze misconceptions and errors. One goal I have is that I want to be more of a part of this data debrief this year and help teachers identify interventions they can do daily/in the moment as well as after an assessment.

Lastly, PLCs are not meant to be just an hour meeting separate from the daily work in our classrooms. I love to see and hear the teachers I work with collaborating in the hall in between classes together. The way in which they authentically and naturally talk about how well it went in their class or seek out advice about the lesson is inspiring. I’m not even sure they realize they are addressing the 3rd and 4th PLC questions when they do this, but as a specialist, I get to see how these discussions lead to positive changes and additions in their classrooms from period to period. With this collaborative environment I see more student success and teacher efficacy.

Pre-AP PD

This week, I gave a Pre-AP/GT training for my district and I have to say, I learned a lot in preparing and delivering it. As a pre-AP/GT teacher, I thought I was doing best practices by giving my students real world scenarios and extending their thinking with scaffolding probing questions, and while this was great, I had NO idea I was lacking a huge component of pre-AP by actually connecting to AP topics and/or the AP exam. In my training I hoped to have teachers learn about our district’s philosophy and framework of Pre-AP, analyze data from the AP, and then take this knowledge to find ways to “Pre-APify” their performance assessments and projects.

After the introduction of Pre-AP, we dove into some AP data and provided teachers an opportunity to see AP topics and how students performed on the topics in the test results. Then, I showed teachers this performance assessment which I actually had to tweak for this training…as I mentioned, I was missing that piece linking to an AP topic. This new version still asked students to find midpoints and distances on a map then I added the part that had students extend their thinking with an AP connection of optimization.

After presenting this task, I created a process for teachers to do the same with their own tasks and projects. I had teachers sit by content and map out their year of performance assessments/projects. By sitting together in content teams, teachers were able to discuss ideas they had done and collaborate on how one teacher’s idea might look in their own classroom. We rarely get a chance to talk to other teachers from other schools, so I think (and *hope*) this was a really valuable collaborative time. Some groups even made a Google Folder and compiled project ideas together. As they mapped out their calendars, I asked teachers to list the AP topic they thought they could incorporate into their project, then they noted the Pre-AP routines, practices, and formative assessment structures they do as outlined in our district framework. They did this with a document I created that organized their thoughts according to our Year at a Glance documents. Next time we meet, I am planning to have teachers create the lesson plan and student materials needed to make these projects/tasks happen.

This training really opened me up to exploring higher level content and how we can help our students be exposed to them early on in Pre-AP. It put me a bit out of my comfort zone, too, because I haven’t studied these topics in so long so I had to admit I wasn’t always sure how we could connect the topic, but that I would research along side them. I wanted to have all the answers and an easy way to incorporate the AP topics, but it’s harder than I thought to really understand how to provide authentic opportunities!! For example, one group is thinking about doing a project on roller coasters and polynomials and in the moment while they were brainstorming I wasn’t sure what AP topic connected. But since the training, I have been researching some ideas about rates of change (average and instantaneous) with polynomial graphs and I think this could fit perfectly. I hope we can scaffold some questions as to how to find the rate of change on a polynomial graph and why this is important/what it affects in roller coasters. Finally, one teacher mentioned that they would like to have AP teachers involved in collaborating ideas to connect Pre-AP content to AP topics, and I totally agree…they would be so helpful in this, so I hope to have some AP teachers present next time as well!

I look forward to the next time we meet and hope these projects give students more challenge as they explore AP topics.

7 Steps to a Language Rich Classroom

I recently gave a professional development focusing on the book, 7 Steps to a Language Rich Classroom. If you have EL students in your classroom and/or struggling learners, this book is a great, easy read. I was actually trained several years ago on these strategies so it was nice to have background knowledge as a participant and be able to take things I liked from the training and make it my own as a presenter. My goals in the training were 1. To increase student participation in a teacher’s classroom and 2. Develop strategies for EL learners to help them acquire and use academic language in the classroom.

I began the training with this video as a way to simulate what it feels like to be a struggling learner without scaffolds or procedures in place to help process the information. After debriefing, we then dove into the book as I presented chapter 2: Have Students Speak in Complete Sentences. I chunked the chapter and asked participants to read sections focusing on key question/sentence stems. The groups paired up and discussed using sentence stems before sharing out (sentence stems is one of the strategies the book highlights as helpful to ELs and struggling learners.) After the training, one participant commented that she got more out of this training than most others because I forced them to use these sentence stems in their conversations, therefore structuring and focusing their table talk…in other trainings she said she and her group would veer off and side talk. That was my intention and with that validation, I will definitely continue to use sentence stems in my future trainings! 

I then Jigsaw-ed the rest of the chapters

(1 Teach students what to say when they don’t know what to say

3 Randomize & Rotate when calling on students

4 Use total response signals

5 Use visuals and vocabulary strategies that support your objective

6 Have students participate in structured conversations

7 Have students participate in structured reading/writing activities)

by having participants create a summary poster with explanations of the chapter strategies and key quotes. After each group presented, I asked participants to record what strategy they planned to use in an upcoming lesson during the first few weeks of school. I told the participants that in a few weeks after school has been back in session and teachers *hopefully* feel a bit more settled, I will send out an email following up with each participant as to how the strategy they chose is going and if I can do anything else to help them with that particular one. I am excited for this because I feel like at the end of some trainings, I receive so much information and have grand plans, but I don’t actually follow up with my ideas. This way I can help teachers stay accountable to themselves and also provide support. Stay tuned for how it’s going and new tasks I get!

Developing a Professional Development

I am starting to plan a professional development for our district and I wanted to put together some ideas before my colleague and I meet together next week to continue planning. After being inspired by MTBoS on Twitter, I suggested an idea of presenting some things I have discovered from the group/hashtag that I love. Our theme then transformed into “Tech Tools for Teachers.” Below are some ideas I am thinking of incorporating. Feel free to comment about expanding upon these ideas or including others.

  • #MTBoS- This is such an incredibly rich resource, but I don’t think a lot of teachers in my district know about it. I want to show teachers the hashtag and allow them time to post to it or search for ideas they may be looking for…maybe they will become a found one of Dan Meyer’s “lonely math teachers” http://blog.mrmeyer.com/2018/lonely-math-teachers/.
  • Open Middle (https://mrstaplinsmath.wordpress.com/2015/05/26/open-middle/)- I showed this resource to a couple teachers I support as well as other specialists I work with and they loved the idea of this enrichment for students that is already created and easy to use. I want to show this to teachers and then allow them time to explore or create their own “open middle” type problem.
  • Desmos Card Sort- I found this resource while looking for a card sort activity for some teachers. I love how easy it is to use and how a teacher can quickly create graphs or use images (http://learn.desmos.com/cardsort/).
  • Lead4ward App- This is not something I found through #MTBoS, but falls under our tech tools. I know a lot of our district uses Lead4ward, but I’m not sure they know about the App. I was introduced to it at a Lead4ward training (btw I HIGHLY recommend the training) and loved the on the spot resources it provides, especially the “Quickchecks.” Again, I want to give teachers time to explore and plan.

I know this is a lot of kind of random resources, but I think we can find a way to connect them all and allow teachers the time to discover new things to use in their classrooms. Any other ideas for our training?! Comment below!

Quiz Quiz Trade

It’s been a busy start to school and I haven’t written in a while, but I’m back at it tonight. I wanted to share a quick formative assessment you can use with your students that a teacher on my team shared with us. This is meant to be used with something that students can do and say quickly. We used it to check student’s understanding of Functions and Relations after teaching/reviewing it the day before. My coworker, Nicole, created cards of graphs, coordinate points, tables, and mappings that were either a function or relation with the answer on the back (thanks for making these, Nicole). We gave our students one card each and explained the directions:

1. You will show the picture side of your card to another classmate and ask, “is this a function or relation?”

2. If your partner gets it right, they will ask you the same thing about their card.

3. If you’re right, trade cards and go quiz someone else in the room. If either of you get it wrong, be sure to explain why before trading cards and moving on.

4. Your goal is to quiz everyone in the room before time runs out!

Honestly I was a little nervous of doing this activity because I have some very active classes, but this helped start our class with a kinesthetic activity to get some energy and talking out in a productive way. We did this as a quick 4 minute warm up, so it was something they could stay on task with that was different than a traditional paper to pencil warm up…the timer that I displayed on the board also helped regulate it for my more active classes. I also would encourage you as a teacher to play along…I got a card and played with them which helped me hear which students knew the concept and which needed more intervention on the topic.

Happy quiz-quiz-trading!!

Exterior Angle Sum Theorem

extI made this quick activity for students to discover the exterior angle sum. I just printed several quadrilaterals and pentagons, cut out the exterior angles, and put them mixed up in a Ziplock bag. I gave students 5 minutes to work with a team of 3 to somehow figure out what all the angles added to. I didn’t give them much direction beyond saying they needed to put the color edges together to discover it. Walking around the room, students kept calling me over to check their hypothesis as got really into it to be the first to figure out the theorem. It was a quick way to have students discover a simply topic rather than me just directly telling them…and it worked…two groups found it out in the 5 minutes!

Entry Cards for Review

I can’t take credit* for this idea, but it is one I am loving and want to share…it’s quick entry question cards. Here’s how they work: I made about 10-12 cards and as each student came to the door, I stopped them, showed them a card and asked them the question. They told me their answer and if they were right, they got to come in and the next student behind them got a different card. If they were wrong, I told them a hint to help them answer correctly and then after they did, they were showed a new card with another question until they got one right and could come inside (if you have a long line of students, you could send them to the end of the line). Just be sure the questions are quick enough to answer in a few seconds. Kids liked this as another way to review before the test and to quickly check for understanding, I even had kids say, “ask me another!” I’m definitely going to start doing these more often with spiraled material and also on quiz/test days like today with the material for the test. capture-1

*Credit: A teacher from my team saw another teacher do this a few years ago.

New Beginnings

It’s been a while since my last post back in, eek, February!! But, a lot has changed and kept me quite busy. On May 31st, my husband and I welcomed our sweet baby boy, Roe, into our lives. And as if that wasn’t excitement enough, the following day, I accepted a position teaching at a different high school in our district. Summer was incredible with Roe. I learned a lot about being a mom and as I continue to learn more every day, I am so grateful my husband and I had 2 and a half full months with him at home.

School started last week with teacher in-service and the students arrived this following Monday. I was overwhelmed with how welcoming the teachers at my new school were. In-service gave me the opportunity to get to know the math department and work closely with my Algebra 1 team of teachers. I am looking forward to the year with these colleagues and so as I start out the new year, I want to make some new goals for the year.

#1.Utilize the textbook with distinct plans: This year, we are piloting a program at our school using the Springboard Algebra 1 textbook with fidelity. I, and several other teachers in the district, tried using the textbook last year, but because of its challenging and seemingly daunting approach, we all ended up abandoning the textbook and reverting back to comfortable ways of teaching the content. Now, typically I am not even an activist for using math textbooks, but this book had been so aligned with our state standards and rigor, that the district found that those who did use it more often in the classroom saw higher results on our state test and better academic performance in the classroom. So, our school agreed to be a pilot school for using the textbook with fidelity. Knowing that data will be drawn from our school, and most importantly knowing that previous data has proven high student success rates with this textbook, I want to stay ahead of myself with using it. I want to be sure I have done two things in planning each lesson with this new book (I  often do these while planning in my head, but writing it down here might make me more accountable…and I think these might be my goals for our Texas Teacher Standards, so I’m pre writing them out here).

1. Prepare for student misconceptions and errors (in planning each lesson, I will mark  an “E” in the text where I predict this.)

2. Create questions which delve deeper into student understanding and inquiry.

#2. Help students be organized: To do this, our team is using interactive notebooks with our students. I usually require binders and am pretty good at having students put things in their binders for the first month or so. But, after that I start to forget and before I know it, students have exploding binders and all hopes of organization have been crushed (along with their precious notes). I think our interactive notebooks are going to be a really beneficial place to keep their notes (foldables and non foldables) and examples as well as a great way to teach students how to stay organized. I’m excited for the team to help me stay on top of this as we work together to build these with the students.

So, with these in mind, the first week is almost over. I definitely miss and want to say thank you to the faculty and students at my old school that I was at for 7 years. Although I will miss them all, I am really looking forward to the year ahead with a new group of teachers, students, and traditions. I’m grateful for those who inspired me over the years and am motivated to continue learning and growing in this new adventure.