Tag Archives: Coaching

Ten Percent Increase – Pt.2

During the last blog post, I described the circumstances at the beginning of the year (September 2017).  Teachers were fired up about comments made by our superintendent.   As a matter of fact, there were teachers who attended and spoke at a board meeting.  Let’s just say the board wasn’t thrilled by our superintendent’s words.  

And this brings us back to my school.  My principal called me into her office one afternoon and we had a long chat.  She wanted to make the after school intervention strictly about math. (We already do 4-5 hours of reading intervention each week within the school day).  She wanted to overhaul what was happening.  She wanted the after school program to have direction/purpose.  (I don’t know what the program was like in years prior).  She asked me what I could do for the school.  Um…..where/when do I begin?!?!  Off the top of my head, I bounced some ideas to her.  She liked what she had heard.  I got to work on the preparations.

She was looking for consistency across all grade levels.  She was looking for routines beyond the textbook.  My K-5 colleagues had been dealing with Envision Math for years, so they needed something fresh.  Biggest obstacle of all, we needed to make math engaging and worth a child’s time to come after school for 3 extra hours a week.

Here are questions that I grappled with before I started planning.  How do I hook students into an engaging hour of math afterschool for 3 hours a week?    How can they become active leaners rather than it becoming a study hall/homework help?  Most importantly, how do I convince my colleagues that my program is worth their time and energy?  How do I get everyone on the same page?

And for the next 6 weeks, I was teaching 6th grade and designing a full math intervention (from the ground up).

  • First I built a schedule and it looked like this…..

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Take notice that this was a schedule built on everything I learned in the past 4 years in conferences and via Twitter.  My principal was giving me the chance to train our teachers on all that I had learned (well….maybe not ALL…but certainly a lot).    

Here’s the breakdown of each component.

Number Talks – consisted of a bunch of pictures from my files and other websites.   Each teacher was given a a file of over 200 pictures that included “Which One Doesn’t Belong”, dot images, and powerpoint of any number talk images.  Some pictures were found on ntimages.weebly.com while others were pictures I have collected over the years.  All teachers had to do was find a picture they liked, show the image, and have a conversation.

Fluency Games – rather than practicing our fast facts with worksheets, students would engage in games/activities in which they practiced their facts.  I gathered all kinds of games from Pinterest or TPT (Only the free ones that looked worth while).  

Front Row/Freckle – this is a free website for students to get more experience with problem solving.  It’s engaging (unlike some others I’ve seen).  Students gain coins as they  conquer different topics.  They love it!  

Numberless Word Problems  Brian Bushart introduced math educators to numberless word problems.  Taking the numbers out of a word problem and then “layering” information helps students focus on the context of a problem versus becoming “number pluckers.”   

Performance Tasks  –  In the Envision text my teachers were using, the performance tasks were really weak.  Performance tasks can be effective for students to apply what the skills they have learned.  With a discerning eye, I gathered performance tasks for 7 grade levels (kinder – 6th) for them to practice with the students.  

I wish I had a picture of all the binders of information that was given to the teachers.  7 grade levels worth of all these magnificent routines.  Each binder was at least 1 1/2 inches thick.  Each teacher had number talk pictures downloaded onto their desktops ready to go.  They were thrilled.  Maybe I went overboard with providing  them with each and every single piece of this puzzle, but I didn’t want any excuse as to them NOT doing the program.  The only thing they had to do was figure out which performance tasks or game to use.  No research needed.  And NO EXCUSES.

It was a labor of love to put the program together.  However I would be remiss if I said it was all me.   It wasn’t all me.  I can put together an A+ program, but it achieving a 10% increase was a team effort.  There was buy in from every teacher at my school (including the Transitional Kinder team!)  There was support and leadership from our principal.  It was a school wide effort to help the students.  

  • We were the only school in our entire district to pull a double digit increase in mathematics.
  • 6th grade nearly doubled their scores!  
  • Every grade level increased!

I need to get packing for Palm Springs (CMC – South).  Excited to do not one, but 2 sessions on Clothesline.  Stop by and say hello.  

Until next time,

Kristen

Ten Percent Increase- Pt 1

Oh the joys of the start of school.  The smell of the newly sharpened pencils, clean unmarked whiteboards,  and teacher’s CAASPP scores being reviewed.

As part of my district’s annual tradition, we always start off with a district wide kickoff.  The Board of Ed waves and smiles.  Our district’s Teacher of the Year says a few inspiring words.  Teacher with mucho years of service are honored.  Lastly, schools’ scores are announced.  This year my school’s math scores went up 10%.  That was the highest math gain in our entire district.  Our superintendent also gave us a shout out in his speech.  

And that brings us to an interesting story of how we got the 10 percent increase.  

(Sept. 2017) Within my first month of joining the elementary school, our superintendent came to a staff meeting to do a Q & A with our staff.  It was an opportunity for him to speak to teachers about the going-ons of the district.  I saw it as the perfect time to ask him my burning question–math.  My exact question to him was I know that the district’s focus for the past few years has been the reading initiative, but what are you doing for elementary math?”   Since my position as the elementary math TOSA was dissolved months prior to this question, I wanted to hear directly from him .  My elementary colleagues were upset that they had gotten rid of my position (so many of them had been making such incredible strides in their teaching), however they had my back in asking this question. They also gave me a warm welcome in joining their staff.

The superintendent was completely taken by surprise and started telling us of his wife who teaches 2nd grade.  She and her colleagues always taught math like a checklist of standards.  They rather teach art instead. And so in his mind, he figured “elementary teachers don’t like teaching math.”   

Now let me paint you a picture...  with his statement…you saw wide eyes and gaping mouths.  You heard absolute silence (with the exception of a few gasps).  When the teachers’ minds finally processed what he said, slowly many of them started raising their hands and shouting “I like teaching math.”   His reply was “really, because your scores don’t show it.”  At that moment, there were a few people ready to start flipping tables.  

Now… I could very well give my opinion about this encounter with our superintendent, but I’m just gonna leave it alone.  Let’s just say that he didn’t leave with a fan club.  

If anything, this encounter got the teachers fired up.  In the days following, many of the teachers broke out their math t-shirts and truly showed their love of math. (It was also rumored that he was going to come back for a tour and they wanted to send him a message)  Here are a few of them…

 

Now…I know this doesn’t explain our ten percent increase.  However, it is the precursor to the rest of the year and the work that was done.  

In the next blog post….I’ll explain details our the math intervention that we put in place.

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

 

 

 

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.