Category Archives: Coaching

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

Victories of coaching

 

Have you ever felt like this after coaching?

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This is what I’ve felt for the past two days.  Proud, satisfied, exuberant, joyful, and just happy.  My work has been so fulfilling.  I’m one of those people who loves to put a smile on other’s faces, get them laughing, and realize that we have to enjoy life despite any hardships we endure especially in education.  We gotta have a laugh.

My victories will be written extensively in other posts, however I had to share right away.

Briefly…I presented on “Writing in Math” and it went extraordinarily well!   I was on Cloud 9!   Teachers who came were left with a lot of wheels turning.  Other ELA coaches were pondering as well.   More on that coming soon….(in another post).

Secondly, I felt like a proud parent/mama of some of these teachers because I’m seeing the “fruits of my labor”–for lack of a better term.  One teacher is facing her fear of math and becoming empowered, excited, and confident.  She loves the trust we’ve built with each other.  She knows I’m not there to judge her, but just have a professional conversation.  She’s brimming with ideas for us to do.  Yesterday, I came in to watch her do a numbers talk and then I did a division activity with her students.  By the end of the hour, I was jumping with joy (on the inside).  There was really rigorous work going on–not only by the teacher, but by the students.  It was amazing to see.  By the time I went back to my car, I was so overjoyed that I started to cry.  Tears of victory. Tears of joy.

And then today, we debriefed about the whole lesson.   The conversation was so rich.  Thought provoking questions.   Plans for the upcoming units.

But what really moves me is that the teachers that work with me value being teachers.  They are pushing their practice.  They want to learn.  They want to think outside of the box.  They want to try.  It’s nothing less than extraordinary.

However proud I am of my teacher(s) and the work I do with them, the victory isn’t my win.  The victory is theirs.