Thursday, August 30, 2012

Some Big Ideas from MIF Training

Welcome back everyone. I'm glad we could all attend the Math in Focus training with Shelly DuBose, and I know I am looking forward to the rest of our work with her.

I thought it might be a good idea to distill a few of the big ideas from the training here as a reference as we all start our work with these materials. It seems like a few critical pieces are

  • Yes, it is hard. And it will be hard for the kids. But it won't always be hard.
  • One of the key ideas in MIF is attitudes toward math, which includes perseverance and grit. And that gets developed through challenging tasks. So, in some ways, it should always be somewhat hard for kids. That's OK. We all grow through challenge.
  • Kids get to operate where ever they feel they need to on the continuum of concrete to pictorial to abstract, even on assessments.
  • MIF is designed for you to cover fewer topics at greater depth. So slowing down (to a degree) is just fine.
  • You won't begin book B until after Valentine's day, because the meat of the work is in book A.
  • Dip into the transition guide as you need to (at
  • Transitions seem to ease up after chapter 3, when the prior knowledge starts becoming things you have taught this year.
  • There are 3 levels of mastery: 1. Computational  2. Direct Application  3. Novel Application
  • That said, there are items on the assessments for each chapter that are hard, and were not designed so that every kid will answer them right. Let kids know this that ahead of time.
  • Try to trust the materials and the process; we don't know everything about the program now, but in a year, we will know better what its strengths and weaknesses are. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Scheduling Work In May

We will begin looking at our master schedule for next fall in May. While in the past people have had the opportunity to be involved with scheduling, this year this process will be more formalized, and we will have small working groups on May 9 to begin asking and answering some questions.

Each grade level and teaching area will be represented in the conversation, and there will be one "at large" slot as well. As of right now, all the slots are filled, but you are welcome to attend any session if you don't need a sub.

Here are some of the questions we need to ask ourselves:
1. How do we best accommodate interventions?
2. What do kids get pulled out of class for? How do we deal with these different purposes? How can that make the least possible impact on the whole class?
3. How would we like to look at the scheduling of assemblies and special guests?
4. How can we deliver specials in the most efficient, effective way?
5. How do we feel about lunch and recess in multi-age groupings? Are there alternatives?
6. What scheduling priorities does your grade level/working group have?

If you are representing a group during these meetings, it might be good to chat briefly with the stakeholders in that group to make sure you know what their perspectives are.

Teach Like a Champion: Draw the Map

Yet another technique from Doug Lemov, this one called Draw the Map. When Lemov examines how classrooms structure their environment, he encourages teachers to ask themselves the following questions about student interactions:
1. When should students interact in school?
2. How should they interact in school?
3. What does the ways kids sit signal and incentivize about different interactions?
4. Which kinds of interactions support which kinds of lessons?
5. What other kinds of ways can students be socialized to interact appropriately without necessarily building the classroom around that one idea every day?

He asks teacher to consider what behavior expectations they have for their students, and if their seating arrangements promote those goals. For example, do you want kids to make eye contact with you, but are some kids seated so they look at other kids, but not you? Do you like a quiet work environment, but squeeze kids together facing each other?

He also recommends considering the empty space in the classroom; can you easily maneuver to stand next to any child at any time, without disrupting someone else?

As we start to wrap up this year and think about next year, it might be a good time to start thinking about how we use space to promote our goals for kids.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Scheduling Workshops

As most of you know, Ted asked me to schedule some 45 minute sessions to discuss big picture schedule issues for next year. He would like each grade level and each teaching area represented in this discussion. So far, we still need one person from grades 4 or 5 to participate, and a person from grade 3.

Some of the topics we plan to discuss are alternative specials schedule, interventions, pullouts, special event/guests, mixed age recess/lunch and scheduling priorities.  

Here are the current groups for this discussion on Friday, May 9
8-8:45: TV, SS, AN
9-9:45: DA, NC OPEN SLOT
10-11: SD, OPEN, OPEN

If you would like one of the open slots, let me know ASAP!

Final Round of Grade Level Workshops and Skills Clinics

Here is the final round of grade level workshops and skills clinics with dates and times.

Monday, April 9 8-11:00: Intervention Specialists
Monday, April 16, 11:30-2:30: Content Specialists
Thursday, April 19 8-11:00: Grades 4/5
Friday, April 27, 11:30-2:30: Grade 1
Tuesday, May 1, 11:30-2:30: Grade 3
Wednesday, May 9, 11:30-2:30: Grade K

Skills Clinic schedule is as follows:
Thursday, April 19, 1-2: Jane Hill (KF, NP, JS, JS)
Friday, April 27, 10-11: Progress Monitoring ONE SLOT LEFT! (KF, SS)
Tuesday, May 1, 8:45-9:45: Online Math Resources (KF)

Teach Like a Champion: Shortest Path and Double Planning

Two other techniques Doug Lemov highlights in his book are to take the Shortest Path and to Double Plan.
Let's look at Shortest Path first. Lemov warns that is easy for teachers to ignore the shortest path for the showiest path. When we do that, we add in extra time and effort for things that do not improve the outcome for students, but might look like more fun. Essentially, when taking the Shortest Path, a teacher is always aware that the goal is to get as many students to the goal as possible in the shortest time. Don't create a lesson around other perceived criteria.

A warning, though, that the shortest path is not alway the same for each activity or lesson. A champion will look for the Shortest Path in many different places and techniques.

In Double Planning, Lemov suggests we always plan not just for what we, the teachers, will be doing during a given lesson, but also for what the students will be doing as well. This is a great place to think about and encourage different active engagement techniques. In fact, Lemov sometimes suggests that teacher write lesson plans on a T chart, with one side being devoted to the teacher's actions, and the other devoted to the student's actions. This will help you see the lesson from the eyes of the student, and again, remind us that learning, not teaching, is the goal.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Teach Like a Champion: Right it Right

Returning to Doug Lemov's book, Teach Like a Champion, let's look at his second technique: Right is Right.

Lemov describes the difference between a partially right answer and an all the way right answer. Demanding an all the way right answer makes children pay more attention to the details of the question and shows them your question matters.  Also, as soon as kids hear you say yes or right, they check out of needing to go any further.Great teachers, he says, always expect an all the way right answer. To do this, he says you should

  • not round up. Don't add to the student's answer to get the expected details, then attribute the added information to the student.
  • hold out for all they way. Don't confuse effort with mastery. Praise effort for what it is. Praise a correct answer for what is is. Don't say "yes, right, except. . . "
  • expect students to answer the question you ask. The right answer to a different question is not what you need. 
  • expect the right answer at the right time. Don't let kids get ahead of you; if they do, they are likely getting ahead of important ideas and others in the class.
  • use (and expect kids to use) technical vocabulary. Push kids for the precise, technical vocabulary that they need for the highest levels of learning.

As Lemov says, always expect the types of answers students give to be ones that push them the extra step, and are the types of answers given by kids in the most top performing schools.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Math in Focus

Math in Focus will be our next program to review. It will be available to you on Friday. It is based on Singapore Math. In the mean time, here and here are PDFs that the MiF rep sent to us regarding MiF and the Common Core .in grades 1 and 4 as examples Take a look if you have some time, since that will prepare you to dig in to the materials. We will meet here in the library on Friday afternoon to give the MiF overview.

Everyday Math

Everyday Math materials will be in my room until Thursday. If you would still like to look at them, please come down and check some out. Just as a reminder, kinder is currently using EM, as are 4 and 5. Lorrie has also used EM and can also be a resource for you. Here are some basics about the program.

  • Daily Structure 60 min+ (Review with Math Message, Facts Practice, New Concept, Ongoing learning and practice with games and math boxes, HW) 
  • K-2 Calendar Routines (not explicitly laid out for teacher- not spelled out in lesson). Calendar activities are less extensive and more focused just on traditional calendar activities
  • Concepts are taught in units and then they spiral back into lessons within Math Boxes
  • Students have their own workbooks called Math Journals 1st-5th
  • Online suite of tools 
  • Minute Math has some extra “quickie” problems by strand that teacher can use whenever 
  • Teacher’s Manual lays out when concepts are taught throughout the program.
Please give us all feedback on the use/structure/approach of EM!

Reviewing Math Materials

The math materials review is underway. We will be looking at 3 different programs: Everyday Math, Math in Focus (Singapore Math) and Saxon Math. Thanks to all of you who have come in to grab some materials and check them out. Here are a few general considerations as you look at the materials.

Everyday Math
Math in Focus
Saxon Math
Units based with spiraling review: Mastery by end of the year
Units to mastery
Incremental, integrated by lesson: mastery by the end of the year
60+ minutes
45-60 min (not including calendar routines)

60-75 min

 The bottom number is the dates we have the materials here in our school.

You can find the form right here for reviewing the materials.