Category Archives: Coaching

Reflections 2016-2017

  Teachers are trying to survive the last 3 days of school.  Bulletin boards are being tossed, broken pencils are discarded,  and trash cans all over my district are being filled.   As I sit and watch all the end-of-the-year activities, I can’t help myself but think and reflect on the past year.   And it was a wonderful year.

My year in review….

  1.  Presenting at CMC was nothing short of incredible.  As my mind rewinds to my short days in Palm Springs, I catch myself smiling at the memory.  Yes, it was a lot of work–7 months of planning, collaborating, and practicing—>but it was well worth it.  You can read about it here.
  2. Publishing for the California Math Council’s magazine,  Communicator. Stacy’s and my work on the flipped hundred’s chart went state-wide. Teachers from all over the state were retweeting the blog post.  And because of this, my little blog post got over 600 views (and still counting).  That maybe small potatoes in comparison to some blogs, but that’s big news to me.
  3. Graham Fletcher and 3 Act lessons For two days in January, I got to see, meet, and “hang” with Graham Fletcher.   Terrific math specialist who presented conceptual ideas surrounding 3 Act lessons.   And what is even more amazing is that he linked this site with my 3 acts onto his.  Educators around the world have been viewing my lessons.  In addition, he liked what Stacy and I did with one of his lessons so much, that he included on his website. Overall, Graham Fletcher is the real deal. He’s really sincere, humble and full of magnificent ideas.

      

  4. Clotheslines – this routine started a few years go when I saw Andrew Stadel present it.  However it was presented for the middle school/ high school teachers.  I took the idea and developed it for elementary teachers.  And it grew exponentially in popularity around my district.  Since publishing my cards, this page has been getting more and more hits. 

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    A sample of cards for kindergarten
  5. School Wide routines –  I presented to a few schools about some of the engaging routines that they could be doing in their classrooms with their students.  As a follow-up to my presentations, I’d start surprising the staff with some “mathiness.”  I started school wide estimation contests and had posters of “Which One Doesn’t Belong” in staff lounges.  Teachers were hard core/competitive with coming up with  answers.  However, the conversation continued well after my presentations and that was the point.  To keep the conversations going….and hope that they’d try it in their classrooms.

    6. More of everything… In my reflection last year, I made it a goal to just have more of everything.  And I got that.  I was in so many classrooms.  During my busiest day, I was in 6 classrooms, plus was scheduled to meet with my boss.  I ran marathons on certain days.  But once again, to empower teachers, see smiling kids enjoying math and understanding it—was all worth it.

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Looking forward…

I’m having difficulty writing this part.  The reason is that I’ve been told my position has been dissolved.  I’m going back into the classroom.  For months I’ve had to carry on with my work knowing that my hardworking, dedicated teachers would no longer be receiving my support.  I was crushed.   It is only recently that I’ve come to terms with the district’s decision.  

With that said, I have accepted a position in my district teaching 6th grade at an elementary school.  There was a lot of strategic thinking involved in my decision. It happens to be my son’s former school.  This school is also where the staff really made an effort in trying out my math strategies techniques.  It’s also where my collaborator, Stacy, works (she’s already asked me to be kindergarten buddies with her–and we are going to be doing some awesome math projects).  And when it was announced to the staff that I’d be joining the team, the staff was excited and so happy.  The math wizard has a new home.   

It would have been too easy to head back to middle school and fall right back into my routine.  Going back to my elementary roots after 16 years at the middle school level will be a challenge.  But I’ve never met a goal that I couldn’t reach.   I love taking on a new challenge.  

And there is plenty of other opportunities to look forward to. First of all,  Stacy and I submitted two proposals to speak at conferences.  The first proposal was submitted to the CMC North conference in Asilomar.  The second proposal was submitted to a kindergarten conference in Pasadena.   We are not able to make it to the CMC South conference this year, but we have several ideas for the next round of proposals.  Secondly, I’ve been recently asked to join a team of people to present at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.  Andrew Stadel has contacted me and I’ll be representing the elementary side of clotheslines.  

Recently, a teacher asked me if I regretted taking the position.   I don’t live a life of regret.  I’m really proud of the work that I’ve done. My work has never been about me.  It’s been about the teachers and the students.  To see teachers smiling and invigorated by new strategies has been a thrill.  To see students engaged and excited to do different activities and lessons was amazing.  And to see my work being talked about via Twitter or this blog has been fulfilling.  Finally, if I didn’t take this position 2 years ago, I wouldn’t  have had the stories and experiences I can talk about now.  None of this would exist.  

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I saw this at Target and it reminds me to be the best no matter where I go during this next chapter in my career.

 I’m just going to see where life takes me.  I am open to all possibilities and opportunities.    That’s all I can do.

Until next time,

Kristen  

 

 

 

 

Where did the numbers go?

Back in January (yes, I’m back logged a few months) I did a professional development for 4 – 6th grade teachers.  I was asked about presenting something that could help with the ever-looming testing in the spring.   My purpose was to introduce them to the strategy of Notice & Wonder while showing them what a numberless word problem was.  I emphasized the fact that we have to slow down the problem solving.  The students need to focus on content rather than just grab numbers and add them together (I call them calculator kids). Both strategies (and my presentation) were a HUGE success.   Each teacher not only left with a base knowledge of notice and wonder, they also left with 2-3 numberless word problems to try in their classrooms.  One 5th grade team tried them out the very next day.  

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Teachers got to write their own numberless word problems.

Fast forward a few weeks, when I met with my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. P.   We planned a lesson which would introduce the kiddos to a numberless word problem.  During our planning session, we came up with the idea of putting a bunch of problems together so that the students could review all the previous material.  Little did I know, this one planning session turned into me running between 3 different schools showing all 3rd and 4th grade students numberless word problems.  

Now let’s begin with my favorite —the marble problem.  I did separate marble problems for both 3rd and 4th grades.  And both problems created the most conversation.  

I got the students into a routine by starting off with “notice & wonder” before drawing any concepts or figuring any of the problem out.  I created this template to help the students navigate through the problem.  It also helped that they kept track of their thoughts throughout the process. 

3rd grade  (each number was a separate slide of a powerpoint)

  1. Jeanne has marbles.
  2. Jeanne has marbles.  Some marbles are blue and some marbles are yellow.
  3. Jeanne has marbles.  Some marbles are blue and some marbles are yellow.  The rest of the marbles are green.
  4. Jeanne has 12 marbles. Some of the marbles are blue and some marbles are yellow. The rest of the marbles are green.
  5. Jeanne  has 12 marbles.  3/12 of the marbles are blue and 2/12 of the marbles are yellow.  The rest of the marbles are green.  How many marbles are green?

Was a little apprehensive about doing a problem on fractions with 3rd grade, but they stepped up to the plate and were superb with their problem solving. 

Here are a few pics to see…

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4th grade – each slide was a separate slide of a powerpoint.

  1. Ty has more marbles than his sister, Pam. 

2. Ty has more marbles than his sister, Pam. Pam has many marbles. 

3. Ty has more marbles than his sister, Pam. Pam has many marbles. Louis has marbles.  

4. Ty has 6 times as many marbles than his sister, Pam.  Pam has many marbles. Louis has marbles.

5.  Ty has 6 times as many marbles than his sister, Pam. Pam has 34 marbles. Louis has 202 marbles.  Who has more marbles, Ty or Louis?

By the time we got to number 3 (…..Louis has marbles.) the students were freaking out.  “Who’s Louis?”   “Why does he need marbles?” 

By the time they got to the last layer of information, they were excited to find the answer.  More importantly, they knew what they needed to do.

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Final thoughts….

  • “Layering” the information of a word problem really helps the students focus on the content of the problem.
  • It slows down the problem solving process.
  • Students get to create a mini – movie in their heads before they are slapped with numbers and the question.  
  • The teachers noticed that by the time students got the question, they knew how to solve.  They were also able to draw out and model their thinking. 
  • One big AH-HA was that students don’t know how to properly give an answer.  They need to work on being specific with their thoughts.  For instance, students would tell me 7.  I asked them 7 what—7 flamingos at a dance?  7 cows jumping over the moon?  Students need to be able to write/type out their full complete answers to get credit on the tests.
  • The notice/wonder routine is really inclusive.  Teachers were amazed at how many students were engaged and participating.  Everyone of the students had something to say.  
  • Lastly—Mrs. P did a notice and wonder talk with her students about the whole numberless word problem.  This is what they had to share….IMG_1652

 

Such a worthwhile routine especially before testing where there are MANY word problems.  Here’s hoping that all of it transferred to the test.

Crossing my fingers…

Kristen

Calif. Math Council – 2016 (Pt1)

It’s Monday night and I sit here beaming because my weekend was awesome.  I was fortunate enough to attend California Math Council’s Palm Springs conference.   It was a weekend of connecting with fellow math educators, getting inspired, and always learning.  Not only did I get to attend, I got to present—which upped the ante A LOT!  

 

7 months of preparation ….convincing my collaborator on the idea, writing the proposal, editing, getting accepted, doing paperwork for my district, piecing together our presentation, gathering supplies, and figuring out who should say what, and multiple rehearsals—- had all boiled down to 90 minutes on Friday morning.  It went by in a flash.  But it was lightning in a bottle.  

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We are ready!

Friday morning at 8:30 am, my collaborator, Stacy and I started sharing our story (mostly Stacy’s story) to about 20 math educators.  Turned out that most of them were kindergarten teachers.  In introducing myself to everyone and asking where they were from, one participant said “I wasn’t going to miss this because there’s never any sessions for kindergarten.”  And in my mind, I thought to myself, “then this is where I’m supposed to be.”  

After starting the presentation, we found our flow.  The nerves went away and we did our thing.   I handled introducing each of the routines and the technical “mathy stuff” like standards and content while she told her story of what happened in her classroom. And it worked.  The participants listened intently.  They took notes. They actively participated.  We had conversations. We reflected.  Stacy looked at me at one point and I could see what she was thinking…It’s working!  Yeah…I know.  

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Participating in a Clothesline activity

 

When it was all said and done, Stacy and I were thrilled.  Feedback was positive.  Participants were happy with their give-aways.  Someone asked me if we could come back next year.  Too soon to tell, however—never say never.

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There’s a saying…You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with! I’m fortunate to have a teacher like Stacy who’s willing to take a leap of faith, take a risk and try something new – all for the good of her students.  Our collaboration is built on trust and honesty.  We value each others opinions.  We push each other’s thinking because we know something powerful will come of it.  She is just as much a coach to me as I am to her.  

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We did it.  #mathnerds

To all those TOSAs, TOAs, instructional specialists, & coaches—go find YOUR Stacy. (Sorry–this red head is taken) Find a teacher that will push you as much as you push them.  Develop that repoire.  Nuture the coaching model.  Help each other get better.  

And Stacy…thank you for being you!

 

Until next time,

Kristen

 

Deep thoughts…

Last weekend, I attended a memorial service and a birthday party on the same day.  The range of emotions went from sadness and tears to laughter and smiles –all within hours of each other.

Of course during the service, my mind started wondering to all sorts of places.  The deceased was a father of a teacher who had encouraged his children to get a college education.  Upon hearing this, thoughts of how I became an educator started entering my mind.  It was my father who told me “Education is the one thing that no one can take away from you.”  That one piece of advice has been my mantra during my career as an educator.  And it’s importance seemed so tangible that I wanted to be a part of it.  I wanted to pass on such knowledge and make a difference in childrens’ lives.

Education is a gift to all of us.  We have heard that adage of “it takes a village to raise a child.”  There’s beauty to that sentiment.  We are all educators–whether we are teachers, parents, grandparents, young, old, male, female, or human beings.  We all have something to teach and instill into each others lives.  We all have something to learn from each other.  Some of us—myself included—have been fortunate to make a career out of it. It’s an extraordinary feeling to instill one memory, one quote, or one smile into someone’s life.   I knew of the joyous feeling of teaching teenagers for much of my career, but now my work with adults is even more satisfying and humbling.

And that brings me to the birthday party I attended later on that evening.  The festivities was for a former student who looks to me as her mentor.  She was one of my favorite students of all time.  Why?  Because she may not have been smartest or fastest math student that walked into my class.  But she was one that showed the most heart and gave me the most effort.  She was/is the definition of integrity.  She made me strive to be better teacher.   And I have found that those kind of students are few and far between.  And as an educator, you never know what kind of impact you have made on any child.

And so, as I sat there at her Sweet 16 party, I didn’t see my former student.  I saw a young woman whom I was lucky enough to cross paths with.  I sat there with pride because I had something to do with her life.  I hope that I made a difference in her life as I did with many others.  I hope everyday that I’m making a difference when I coach my teachers with their math curriculum.  I hope that the joy, the excitement, and my love of math (#mathnerd) gets passed onto them.

I’m suddenly lost for words as to how to close this essay/blog post.  So instead, I decided to include pictures of past students, current students, and people who have been educators in my life.  I write this with the greastest humbleness because not only have I’ve been their educator but they have been mine.  All of these people inspire me to be the best teacher I can be.  We all have something to learn from each other….and I’m grateful to be any part of that learning process.

Until next time…keep learning, keep educating, and make a difference,

Kristen

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One of my students is a professor! Holy PhD!

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My mother and father were my first educators.  And I’m always learning from my husband and my son.

Change happens! Hello 16-17!

It’s a new school year!  And that means a whole new year as math coach! I say BRING IT ON!

My district has been in school for the past 3 weeks.  So much change from last year to this year.

There is something to be said about change.  Change is good.  Change pushes our practice.  It forces us to question.  It forces us to re-evaluate our situations

Over the summer, the district directors made the decision to move the coaches to the schools (rather than being in the district office).    This was a move that I welcomed considering I was hardly at my desk.  I liked the idea of being closer to the teachers, seeing sunshine again (didn’t have a window in my old office), and especially hearing kids outside my door.  I didn’t know it, but I really missed it.  It’s a constant reminder for me to keep doing what I’m doing.  And I’m in love with the school that I moved to.  The teachers are so welcoming.  They even invite me in for lunch when I’m on campus.

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I get visitors all the time now.  They come to see Dr. Math/Math Wizard and get their hugs.

I’ll admit that the move hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows.  It took a while to get a desk delivered.  (When it was delivered, it was locked.  When it was unlocked, there was someone else’s stuff in there.  Awkward!)  Don’t have a work laptop or a printer yet, so that’s caused me to keep running to the district office to get copies made and print things out from my thumb drive.

Another positive change has been that out of the 8 elementary schools, I’ve been assigned 4 schools to work with.  Luckily they’re the schools I mostly worked with last year.  A little more driving is involved with trying to hit all 4 schools, but I always come out smiling afterwards.

Now…what have I been working on?  The answer is–sooooo much. These first few weeks have been jam packed!  I got the pictures to prove it!

The first day of school, I was invited to see ten frames being used by one of my 3rd grade teams.

A few days later..I joined my 6th grade teams to sit with them in a training with a math project they are doing.  We went over conceptual lessons using integers.  Here they are using number lines. IMG_7860.JPG

In the first days of school, I was invited to demonstrate how to do a 3 act lesson with the 2nd, 4th and 5th grade kiddos.  (I-heart-3-acts).  And what I love even more is seeing the teachers engaged in what I’m doing.  They are eagerly taking notes, asking questions, and being students themselves.  I was also invited into my son’s classroom.  It’s so special to be able to teach your own kid.  And it was awesome for him to see what kind of teacher I really am. That’s a memory I’ll hold on to forever. IMG_7895.JPG

During the second week, I was asked to do a numbers talk and a number line with 3rd grade.  I love using the number line because it helps the students make sense of numbers.  They can contextualize meaning from it.  Plus I really like finding different variations/representations on a number.  I’ve seen it done at the secondary level and it really surprises me that someone hasn’t done this for the elementary level.

Last, but certainly not least, there was rice.  Yes…there was rice.  My dear friend/colloaborator Mrs. Z asked me to dye rice for her so that she can create a sensory/exploring center for her little kindergarteners.  How could I say no?   It took 3 days and 3 nights to color 60 POUNDS of RICE!  You read that correctly.  60 pounds of rice.  I’m sure there was some sort of proportion lesson in there (3 cups of white vinegar, and one bottle of food coloring= 20 lbs of colored rice), however I was so inundated with blue rice, red rice and green rice…that I’m not sure I can eat a sushi roll or have rice pudding again without thinking of this experience.  The operation as a whole took up half my garage.  But the kindergarteners are loving it.  And Mrs. Z is a happy camper.  IMG_7879

Speaking of Mrs Z and her kindergarteners…there is great news to spread around.  She and I have been chosen to speak at the California Math Council’s Palm Springs Conference in November.  After our initial excitement, she and I realized that we have 90 minutes to fill with all the great learning we created in her classroom.   We are revising our presentation, but we are highly anticipating the whole experience.  There will be plenty more on that in later posts.

Until next time….

Kristen

Reflections of a 1st year coach

This 2015-16 school year is wrapping up ever so quickly. As I’m doing with my teachers, it’s only befitting that I complete one myself—and that’s my own end of the year reflection.  I must practice what I preach and do my own debrief.

My year in review….

  • I’m on all 8 elementary campuses  This doesn’t sound impressive (I work for a small district), but it was one of my goals and I achieved it.  I left my middle school math position only knowing a few elementary teachers.  It was always a hurdle (not an obstacle) to work in some way, shape, or form and get on each elementary campus.  It took a full year…but I did it.  Curiosity fostered, word spread, and my grass-roots campaign was a success. I now have around 40 teachers that I support.giphy-2 
  • More PD than a girl can ask for – I haven’t been to that many conferences as a classroom teacher.  As a math coach, I got more than my fill this year.  No regrets.  I went to the Calif. STEM conference, followed by Calif. Math Council conference in Palm Springs, a few days in Beverly Hills at a HMH Leadership Summit, and then a big finale up in San Francisco at NCTM’s annual conference.  I heard and met such influential people such as Dr. Jo Boaler, Marilyn Burns, Graham Fletcher, Robert Kaplinsky, Andrew Stadel, Emily Diehl, Annie Fetter and so many more.  My head has been spinning with everything that I’ve learned.  It’s been quite a year for my professional development.  
  • Our work – I specifically use the word “our” because I share.  I share plenty of routines, suggestions, and help, but I’m a strong believer of collaboration. My teachers and I have worked on Brian Stockus’ numberless word problems, 3 act lessons from Graham Fletcher, Robert Kaplinsky’s Open Middle problems, Fawn Nguyen’s Math Talks, situations from “Would You Rather?”, used “Which One Doesn’t Belong” pics, and so much more.  We’ve read from blog posts from Kristin Gray, Joe Schwartz, and Graham Fletcher. A big thanks to MTBoS for their inspiring work.   And our work will continue next year as my teachers are looking to push their practice further.  The upcoming year makes me giddy with math excitement!!!!giphy
  • Not just a coach – Even though my title says K-6 math coach, I have learned that this job encompasses so much more.  I not only supported, but I listened, I learned, I cried (yes..it’s true), I thought, I noticed, I laughed, and I empowered my teachers.  I’ve been their biggest cheerleader, their collaborator, their therapist, their friend, their colleague, and their shoulder to cry on.  I have also learned that my most poignant and memorable moments are not only the victories with my teachers, but the downfalls too.  And that’s ok.  We’re all learning together.  But in the end, I got my biggest rush from seeing my teachers walking taller, smiling from ear to ear, giving me high fives, and celebrating their achievements.  My teachers knew that they were doing marvelous work.   There were days where I’ve skipped lunch to run from classroom to classroom, but it’s all worth it to have seen the students benefit from the awe-inspiring teachers I work with.  The tears I’ve shed for them have been out of pure joy and excitement.  
  • Many names   Hilarity has been running amok when I walk into certain classrooms. Apparently, my teachers and their students have been giving me nicknames. It started with a kindergarten teacher calling me the Math Wizard. (Wow…should I start wearing purple cape and big pointy hat?) Fourth grade calls me the Math Master.  Not to be out done —6th graders have started referring me as the Math Goddess. (I picture myself with a white toga and gold jewelry.  Or maybe something in a painting from Botticelli. )  And lastly, a visit to some 3rd grade teachers got the me title of “The  Crack Dealer”…because my math is so good it’s like crack. (How these teachers know about crack…I don’t judge.)  I look at it as a form of sentiment.
  • Starting this blog – This blog has been such a success.  It’s been my success in that I’m documenting all the good work being done at my district.  I’m sharing ideas.  I’m being a part of a bigger network (#MTBoS)).  My teachers are enjoying that their work is being publicized.  One teacher was walking around telling people “I’ve been tweeted.”  Other teachers printed out some of my blog posts about their classrooms and posted them at their Open Houses.  And it’s been a magnificent outlet for me.  I have learned coaching can sometimes be a solitary job.  We are in the background. Our work is intangible. However this is certainly one way to connect to the bigger world out there.  

My hopes in the new school year…

  • PresentingI, along with one of my kindergarten teachers, submitted a proposal to speak at California Math Council conference.  We should be hearing by June if we are chosen.  It’s been a goal of mine to be a presenter and I’m lucky enough to have an amazing collaborator that’s willing to do it with me.  Fingers crossed.  Even if I don’t present, I’m bringing a bus load of teachers with me so that they can share the excitement and inspiration of a conference.
  • Publishing – While at the NCTM conference, I approached the Calif. Math Council booth and thanked them for my free ticket (I had won via Twitter).  We started chatting a bit. One thing leads to another and they are asking me to write an article for them because they never have enough elementary articles to publish.  I walked away with the silliest grin on my face.  How cool would it be to have my thoughts read by teachers -?  The thought is mind-blowing!
  • More – More teachers to support, more students benefitting, more ideas of professional developments (that I can give), more lessons to design, more empowering, more smiles, more laughs, more math!!!
  • This blog – Over the summer, I hope to grow the capacity of this blog.  I want to share my 3 act lessons with everyone.  I haven’t had time and some of my lessons are unfinished, however I still want to build more content.  

It’s been an incredible year of learning.  I wouldn’t change anything about it.

And, I finally have to give a shout out to my husband, son, and parents for putting up with my craziness this year.  I couldn’t do what I do without their love and support.  They are my cheerleaders.

(I’ll continue posting over the summer months as I always have plenty to say.)

Until next time,

Kristen 

NCTM Conference 2016

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) annual conference  can be summed up into an equation.  3 days of math awesomeness = one year of inspiration.   (at least that is my hope).  The experience is empowering, motivational, and humbling.  You meet, you talk, you laugh, you notice and you wonder.  You learn that there is a whole network of people outside of your little bubble of a district.

During my time at the conference, I had my “A Ha” moments that I gleamed from so many fabulous speakers. If you aren’t familiar with anyone of these people…stop and google now!

Graham Fletcher

  •   Foster curiosity in your classroom
  •   If it’s important to a kid, it’s important to us
  •   Embrace your high 5’s in math

Annie Fetter

  •   People can’t understand solutions to problems they don’t have.
  •   Students can’t answer questions they didn’t ask
  •   Many students think that math is something done to you, not something you do
  •   SWBCA – Student will be curious about…

Robert Kaplinsky

Is it better to have power or have influence?

Gail Burrill

  •  Think deeply about simple things
  •  Never say anything a kid can say
  • I know what my students understand when I see them in a place they have never been
  • Let the students do the work
  • Find a voice

Graham Fletcher (during a different session)–Watch him here…

  •             You are a story teller…math is our story
  •             Know your standards –Be a wise consumer
  •                         Standards 1st
  •                         Textbooks 2nd

Brian Bushart – Watch him here….

How can we provide students room to explore, to play, and to find joy in doing math?

The best part of the whole conference was being a part of something larger than myself.  There’s a network called MTBoS – otherwise known as the Math Twitter Blog o’Sphere.  It’s an insightful, welcoming, and sharing community of educators that network with one commonality—we are passionate about teaching math.  And I say we because this week I met so many from this network and I had the cool sensation of being a part of something bigger.  Meeting people that I have chatted with via Twitter (@aprilf4175) was amazing.

And so I heard a bunch of “calls to action” from a bunch of respectable educators.  However,  I have settled on one of my own.  At one point during one of the sessions that math coaches were invited to, I had a moment of clarity.  I realized that as much as I would like to make big changes happen and be a voice in my district, it’s not going to happen.  But “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.”  As Robert Kaplinsky pointed out, is it power or influence?  I’d rather be influential with the people I work with the most, my teachers.  I can influence them to be empowered, to stretch their practice, to try new things, to play, and to have fun.

And so the work continues. I’m invigorated, motivated, and thrilled with prospect of the future.

 

Until next time…

Kristen

 

A Series of 3 Acts in Kinder

Mrs. Z and I have been hard at work since being back from spring break.  We have been planning 3 act lessons on subtraction and more measurement.

The first 3 act lesson was designed with the concept of subtraction.  We collaborated and designed a lesson on popping balloons. I blew up 10 balloons, made a video with my son popping the balloons, and was all ready.  Seemed like everything should go as planned.  NOT!  Due to technical difficulties, the video didn’t 100 percent run correctly (audio and image were out of sync).  Ugh.  It was really a bummer.

However, there’s always something to learn despite a down fall.  Mrs. Z and I did learn that we need to take the time to plan our delivery of the lesson.  Maybe we were overconfident with all that we’ve accomplished.  We needed to stick with the basic coaching model of planning, delivery, and debrief.

And so that brings us to our lessons for this week.  We first brought back Alex the Alligator.  Mrs. Z wanted to have the students use another unit of measure besides the unifix cubes we had used before.  We used the yellow and red chips as a different type of unit.  (Check it out Remember%20me-alex).  The premise is that Alex couldn’t see behind him and wanted to know how long he was.

After showing the students the hook (Alex with one chip), Mrs. Z took estimates.  What I really liked about this part of her lesson was that Mrs. Z has been talking to the kids about what a reasonable answer is.  Usually her kinders love to give her an estimation of “ONE MILLION!”  Now she’s honing their estimation skills to a more likely answer.  IMG_6520

Act Two/Three of Alex involved having the kids see what too many of the counters looked like.  From there, Mrs. Z’s plan was to have them figure out the correct amount.  She figured that they could figure it out themselves if we left the picture up.

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Here’s where the lesson got dicey and we quickly realized it.  Mrs. Z asked the students if they could draw Alex and the number of counters (like her previous lesson).   Some of the students just started drawing their own alligators and measuring their own drawings.  Some were doing what we had hoped by drawing an alligator and showing us he was 14 counters long.

We also remembered that we gave them 11 x 14 paper last time instead of an 8 x 10. Like I said before…despite any down falls, we always learn something.  That’s what makes any of us want to be better.  We debrief, we learn, we plan something better for next time.

A few days later, we planned for the Cookie Monster.(cookie-thief-smaller-numbers-color-correction-2).  Rather than just doing another subtraction lesson and doing a subtraction sentence, Mrs. Z suggested we try this lesson with number bonds.   (Side note – I love collaborating with Mrs. Z in that we can start planning for a lesson and discuss different strategies, but then come up with something new.)

Act 1 – First Mrs.Z introduces Cookie Monster and shows the video.  The students love the video and we start to do a notice/wonder.  Here were their responses….

  • I think there’s 0 cookies left.
  • The boy ate them (we asked how does he know) –I heard him eating them.
  • They’re all gone (again–how do we know?)
  • The boy was hiding – he left 2 -3 because he was full.
  • The box is long…so it must hold 10.
  • The box was closed so it must have been a full box.

Next we went to the carpet to estimate the number of cookies.  Again, Mrs. Z asks, “What’s a reasonable answer?”

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Some students were still having trouble figuring out an estimation, so Mrs. Z said “show me with your hands what the box looked like”

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Act 2 – we showed the students how many cookies were actually in the box (to start with).

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Then we showed them how many were not eaten.  And promptly, the students started with their number bonds.  It was terrific in that the students were visualizing what 2 numbers combined to make 13.

And as the grand finale, Mrs. Z had them complete a number sentence.  And to prove their answers correct, the kinders started a number line and crossed out 6 “cookies” to show that there were 7 eaten.

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What brought the house down was showing this video of Cookie Monster baking. We must have watched it 2-3 times.  Go and see it here….Cookie Monster and Siri.

After a week of 3 Acts, here are a few thoughts…

  • No matter how well you do plan for a lesson, technology will somehow fail you.  Ugh. Go with the flow and make it work.
  • Planning the delivery of a lesson is important.  By the third go around, we made sure we knew how the conversation was going down.  The 3rd lesson had much more flow to it.  There was a rhythm.
  • Clarity is imperative.  Being specific with our instruction helps.  However, when things don’t go correct, be resourceful and turn it around.
  • A shout out to Mrs. Z because she’s really forward thinking with her students.    Her students know to they must prove their answers (or show the evidence).  For instance, how do we know you have drawn 13 circles?  She has them number each circle.  Perfect for the CCSS.

This week, I’m off to NCTM for a few days.  I’ll catch you all in San Francisco.

Until next time…

Kristen

 

Share your thinking!!!

I love it when my teachers take an idea and run with it.  Not only did a teacher run with it, but added even more to a suggestion.   And that’s what I saw today.

One 4th grade teacher that I’ve been coaching (Mrs. P) had asked me to work with her on number talks.  She had wanted me to demonstrate a few on division and fractions before she tried one herself.  And that’s exactly what happened.  A few weeks back, I did one on division (one that I’d seen on the Teaching Channel) and I did another one on fractions.   I whole heartedly admit that they didn’t go as well as I had wanted, but we live and learn.

This week, we continued our work on number talks especially with fractions.  We went back to the basics.  We watched a video online (Dr. Jo Boaler) and went over the purpose of the talks.  Instead of over-complicating matters, we agreed to simplify the process.   Let’s use number talks to gauge where the students were in regards to their background knowledge of fractions.  Perfect.

We started off with a visual from Which One Doesn’t Belong.IMG_6186

I sat back and listened intently to what the students were saying.  One student says “It’s not about which ones don’t belong, it’s about which ones DO belong.”  Mrs. P asked him, “How so?”  Some of the students noticed that the top two fractions were equal.  Some students noticed that the bottom two were improper fractions.  They also noticed that the bottom two weren’t equal but similar (being improper fractions).  The students loved to agree and disagree with each other as long as they voiced their reasoning.

Mrs. P and I debriefed really quickly at the end of that session.  She had the biggest smile on her face as did I.  It was a success.

But then the awesomeness kept going!

She asked the students to create a thinking map with another WODB on fractions.IMG_6188

She turned the whole idea of numbers talk with WODB into a full class activity.  Each student had to first pick a fraction (that they thought didn’t belong) and then write down their reasoning.  The students were interviewing each other.  There was tallying going on.  There was “writing in math” happening!

This was incredible!

Some examples –

 

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The check marks represent how many agreed with that statement.
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The students even interviewed me.

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Here’s why I think it worked –

  • With number talks, you may not hear from every student.  By doing this, the teacher got to see/read about their knowledge of fractions and get every students’ participation.
  • Teachers have difficulty figuring out how to incorporate writing into math.  This was one example of how to overcome that.
  • Students are using math vocabulary to explain their reasoning.
  • In this class, the students don’t always collaborate well.  This gave them time to work together.

Mrs. P and I have been on this math journey together.  She’s the type of teacher who wants to push her practice and just do better with “mathy” stuff (her words).   I appreciate that we can have real conversations without worry of judgement or pressure.   It’s exciting on my end to see her grow as a teacher.  She’s one of the reasons I love being a coach.

Kristen

 

 

 

Kindergarten Rocks!

Today I spent some time in a kindergarten classroom.  Those tiny humans are inquisitive, direct, and full of spunk.  What I love about them is that there’s a whole world of wonder waiting for them and they’re ready to soak it in.

And let me tell you something about the kindergarten teachers.  They are ROCK STARS!  Especially the one I worked with today, Mrs. Z.  We spent sometime last week planning for a lesson.  She had given me a list of topics they were covering and she wanted my help to plan something.  During our planning time, I introduced her to Graham Fletcher’s 3 Act Lesson and Which One Doesn’t Belong.  We also read Joe Schwartz’s blog on the same 3 Act lesson pertaining to Shark Bait.  She was totally thrilled, but wanted to  plan her own 3 Act lesson.  Now it was my turn to be totally thrilled!

Here’s how the lesson went.

As a warm up,  Mrs. Z started the class with Which One Doesn’t Belong….except she did it Kinder Style!  What’s Kinder Style?  Kinders work on sorting by attributes.  So she posed the question “how would you sort these?”

These smart little people came up with 5 different ways to sort these dice.  There categories would be color, size, shapes (Numbers versus dots or circles), corners (big and small), and the number 5.  They were absolutely engrossed.

Next she started the 3 Act lesson that we designed.  Act 1 – She introduced Alex the Alligator (alligator – K). We needed to find out how long Alex was.   She took some guesses (which varied from 8 cubes to a million!) And then the students got to work.IMG_6029

Act 2 – We handed out the clues.  We made sure to keep grouping the colored cubes in 5’s so that they could practice their counting and cardinality.

The students vigorously got to work.  The hunt was on to find the correct number of cubes and the correct color.  As Joe Schwartz noted, it was important to print out colored context clues for those students who couldn’t read yet.

Once the students were finished, we compared cubes on the carpet.  Mrs. Z reviewed their estimations and revealed the answer on the Powerpoint.  She also went over which estimations were the smallest and the largest.

Act  3 Once the estimations were finished, she asked the students to draw their own Alex the Alligator and show how the alligator was 18 cubes long.

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Nathan drew blocks around the number 18.

 

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William drew 18 blocks on the bottom.
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Those are some ferocious teeth.  18 dots represent the cubes.

Final thoughts….

Mrs. Z and I did debrief (my favorite part) at the end of the day.  We both agreed that kinders need a story to go with the 3 act lesson.  They need context to wrap their heads around why they are finding the length, height, etc.    She also wants to create 3 act lessons that have 10 solid colored cubes plus a few more so that she could start addition problems with the kinder.

My favorite part of our debrief (and I’m paraphrasing)–

Mrs. ZI’m so glad you are helping me.  I don’t want to be that teacher that just hands out a worksheet.  I want to be better than that.  I want to keep learning.  

Well put, Mrs. Z.  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Kristen