I Heart AP Summer Institute! (day 1)

I'm attending a calculus AP Summer Institute this week (thank you RISD for sending us to APSI every 4 years!) and even though I'm not teaching calculus next year, I enjoy working math problems, and I have a few great take-aways from day one:

To remind students that it's not just about the answer, our instructor said she has a poster of "WHY?" on her front board.  I would love to display a giant WHY poster to remind my students and to remind me to always look beyond the answer.  During our sessions, I bet we'll be asked "WHY?" many, many times over the course of the week.  (And since WHY has been part of our instructional journey, the question has even more meaning for me...start with why!)

One of our first activities was to explore limits numerically, using problems like the one below. Instead of simply having us fill in the table together, each person in class received a different card with a problem and the instructions "one hundredth to the left" or "one thousandth to the right."  She told the entire class the magic number was -3, and then we evaluated our function at those particular points, i.e. one hundredth to the left of -3 = -3.01. She then collected all of our answers and we filled in the tables to find the limits.   

Creating the table with the class was fine, but the cool part was our debrief. We shared out how we found our answers, and we had so many different methods of evaluating the functions--tables, graphs + trace key, "plug and chug." We were using the TI-89 calculators, which were new to a lot of us, so the activity was primarily an exploration of the calculator.  Our instructor said she uses this activity with complex functions, and students first have an opportunity to practice their calculator typing skills, and then she challenges the students to find the answer in as many ways as possible.  Since we're always trying to explore functions using multiple representations, I loved the flexibility we had in finding our answers, plus it was so interesting to hear how others solved the problem.  Check plus, this strategy can be used in any math class!

One other thing to ponder: our instructor said she does not give her students formal notes; instead, she jots things down on a side board, points out key terms, and creates lists of items.  It is the student's responsibility to learn how to process the information in a way that is meaningful to him/her, and then take the notes using their best method.  She said students often take pictures of her side board of information, and they return to class the next day with their notes organized.

On the ride home, this novel idea of note-taking was a big discussion in my carpool.  No "structure" for note-taking? Gasp! Would that work? I know the left side of INB is for reflection and can be more unstructured and creative, but seriously, no structure?  We plan to ask more questions tomorrow to see if our instructor presents skills-based lessons in this manner.  We did think this idea would work well for concept-based lessons, and that was our model lesson today--the idea of a limit--but we thought skills needed some steps, procedures, and algorithms.  Our entire vertical team is pretty standard ("old school") in the note-taking world, and a math class with no set note-routine might be a bit scandalous! ;)

One last note: I'm in the middle of planning our before school site-based staff development, and 7 hours is a long time to sit and learn.  The first morning of APSI is typically procedural (going over the AP audit, introductions, structure of the week, etc.) but the material was important and had to be covered. Hmmm...Reminder to self: just like the stuff we have to cover at the beginning of the year, whether in staff development or in our classrooms, chunk information, break up the tasks, provide time for interaction, provide variety, take stretch breaks, talk to your neighbor, pair-share, etc...

A lot of good learning today...

Love for Let's Geddit!

Last spring, I discovered a new web resource called geddit, and after playing with it just a little bit, I'm determined to figure out how to make this resource an integral part of my class this year.  (When a website mentions "formative assessment" and "differentiation," I know I have to investigate!)

Teachers prepare a lesson, topics, and questions (mostly in advance) and students "check in" and provide answers and self-assessments as the lessons progresses.  During the lesson, students can change their assessment about the topic and material, and teachers can monitor the class' progress.

Teacher perspective, lesson & question planning

One great thing about the advance preparation is that it really makes me think of the questions I want to ask in class.  (And now, I know I want a variety of Mastery, Understanding, Self-Expressive, and Interpersonal questions.)

Teacher perspective, topic addressed and student feedback

Once you start the lesson, you ask a question and give students an opportunity to check-in.  I created this lesson in May, but I didn't get a chance to use it with my classes, so I used myself as a student to get these screen shots.

I used my iPad and the geddit app for students to demonstrate the student responses.

Student perspective, answered question and check-ins

Student perspective, topics addressed and check-ins

Student perspective, changing self assessment from low to high
Student perspective, hand raised

During class, you can quickly assess how your students are doing, based on their self-assessments.

After the lesson ends, you get all kinds of reports and data of all of the students' responses, including how many times students checked-in, who specifically might be struggling, and their questions, responses, and any comments to you.

It was also easy to upload pictures to use as part of the lesson or a "quiz."  For this image, I used my iPad and a note-taking app, took a screen shot, and opened geddit on my iPad to upload the image.

Teacher considerations: as I mentioned earlier, this resource requires quite a bit of pre-planning and work on your end, but I want to prepare my questions in advance, so that's good!  (You also have the option of a "quick question," so it doesn't all have to be advanced work.)  You now have the option of stopping and resuming a lesson, so you can prepare work that spans several days to get ongoing assessments from your students, so that's a plus.

One other issue: I like to write notes using my iPad, but I needed to see the student feedback, so I needed two devices to make this work for me.  Since I am a floater teacher, it was a bit of a pain to lug around an extra device, and I had to figure out in each room how to set up my space to be able to see the students' responses as we moved through the lesson.

Another good thing: taking time to stop and assess was a great reminder to "chunk" information and to slow down to allow students time to process.  I think I'll have a student volunteer be my geddit assistant--someone who stops me and reminds the class to check-in. 

Classroom management considerations: our school is BYOD, and I have a few iPads to use during class, but this resource is definitely an individual student response system.  With some of the other apps, I allow students to work in pairs or with tables, but for geddit, I wanted individual assessments, so I wanted everyone to have a device.  

Students must log in and join your class, so there are always the "I can't remember my password" issues, plus the "I can't get on the network" kind of days.  Because I expected students to have logins to several websites and apps, I plan to have them create some kind of reminder (a Google doc, perhaps?) with all of their passwords listed.

I started using geddit prior to spring break, and students were always itching to be on their device.  I think for next year, I will have the stipulation that if I see your device out, I must see multiple check-ins throughout the class.  If you're not checking in (and using your device for educational purposes, such as formative assessments) I'll pick up your device!

I think if I start using geddit at the beginning of the year, and if we work out all of the classroom management issues, this resource will be a terrific addition for my class and for my quest for ongoing formative assessments.  The developers continue to update the program, and they are quick to respond to any questions.  The students found the app easy to use, and once they got over their silliness of comments and of virtually raising their hands, they appreciated the feedback.

Has anyone else used geddit?  Any other suggestions for class management and questioning issues?  Features that you love?

Flexible Grouping, Flexible Teaching!

On my journey to differentiated instruction, I know one non-negotiable of DI is strategic flexible grouping. During the past few years, I have worked diligently on grouping my students, but I know I need to improve the strategic part of my grouping process. 

(By the way, I use the "Touch Blur" app to blur students' faces.)
I also learned that differentiation doesn't always mean group work, nor does it mean that groups are based solely on ability levels.  Some lessons require "whole group" instruction, and then we can move into individual, partner, or small group work as necessary.

Types of Groups:
And groups may be based on...
Whole Class
Small Groups
Similar Learning Profiles
Individual Work
Random Selection


In addition, I learned you must establish a community in your classroom to make the different groups most effective. Students must be willing to talk with each other, take risks together, and know how to truly collaborate on their work.  To help with the community building in class, as soon as I change my groups, I ask students to introduce themselves and answer a question that requires collaboration.  (Rate yourself from 1-10 on how you're feeling today, and average all of your ratings.  Come to a consensus about the best thing to eat in the cafeteria.)  I love Sarah's idea for establishing group norms, and you can download her posters from her blog.  And finally, let's not forgot about the classroom management aspect of the group process. When working on building community and flexible grouping, it's so important to have those procedures in place about moving desks, turning in work, getting materials, ...

To help students understand that grouping is a norm in our class, at the beginning of last year (and I will repeat) we did a quick "line up" activity.  I had huge classes, so the students actually remained seated, but I participated, too. I projected the list shown here, and we went through the items one by one. It is more effective when you can demonstrate a line up and have your kids move from one end of the spectrum to the other, but they got the point by their self-assessments. After we went through the entire list, I asked questions such as who had a chance to rate themselves as a 4 or 5?  And who rated themselves a 1 or 2 at least once?   The final reflection: in our class this year, there will be times when you will be an expert and times when you will be a novice. You may sometimes be grouped with like team members, but sometimes, I will want you to "stretch," and you may be grouped outside of your comfort zone.  (Here's an opportunity to share a bit about making mistakes, grit, and growth mindset!)

The line-up activity is great for establishing the understanding of groups based on readiness, but since I'm on a quest this year to group by learning profile, I think (hope!) it will work for the idea of any changing groups.

Unfortunately, I only strategically grouped a few times last year, but it was a great victory for me when a student walked in and asked, "Do you want us to sit in our CAP groups or our random groups?"  So at least I'm getting the grouping thing down a bit better.  Another bit of great feedback--an end of year note included the comment, "I learned to collaborate with my peers, some of whom I had never talked to before."

Unsolicited advice: if you want to start changing up your class, try random groups, but make certain you include the aspects of community, group norms, and class procedures.  If  you're looking for ways to try random grouping, there are so many available resources.  Our science teachers recommended this site to create random groups, and I found a collection of sites to create groups here. On this post, Beth at Algebra's Friend also suggested Super Teacher Tools to generate groups, and this site provides no-tech options for grouping students.

So now I have the grouping component ready to try again, and I really want to focus on differentiating by learning profile...next steps: put the two together and work on specific lesson components!

Any suggestions for creating a community of learners in your classroom?  How do you create groups?

Planning Ahead with Learning Profiles

Based on this #eduread and after exploring my new book Math Toolshere's a very tiny bit of what I have so far for week one of school.  (Eeek, it's only early July!)

Since in the first week we will be in the getting to know you stage, I'm opting for a very quick assessment to determine students' learning profiles as Mastery, Understanding, Self-Expressive, and Interpersonal.  At my recent ASCD conference, the presenter used these images to analyze our style as instructional coaches, and the simple images created such rich discussions, so I hope that will happen in our class, too...but since it's week one, I may be overly optimistic!  

I'll show them this slide, have them share out a few ideas, discuss a few more specifics from this document, and have students record their responses on this Google form so that I will have a record of their preferences.  I plan to seat students according to this learning preference during the first couple weeks of school.

I teach pre-calculus, and we start our year using a unit circle approach to trigonometry.  I looked over my unit objectives, and I knew in the past, my students really struggled with understanding coterminal angles, determining which quadrant an angle lies, finding reference angles, and (when it's first introduced) finding exact trig values using the unit circle...so that's where I wanted to start my differentiation. (I know differentiation is a proactive approach to teaching. I already know where kids will struggle, so I need to plan ahead to anticipate their difficulties.)

For today's post, I am just sharing one small formative assessment idea, but it's a start, and I bet it will get easier as I keep practicing.  (#growthmindset!)  After receiving my Math Tools book, I skimmed through the ideas and jotted down the ones that I already used or the ones that appealed to me.  The book provides tools for each category of Mastery, Understanding, Interpersonal, and Self-Expressive, and the final chapter uses a combination of all four of the learning profiles.

Because I know the kids usually struggle with coterminal angles, I want a more thorough check for understanding after that lesson.  For the last 5-7 minutes of class, I plan to use these questions as an exit ticket.  Students will choose the one question that appeals to their learning profile and turn in their responses for me to check and plan for the next lesson.  If students finish early, they may try another question, or they may share their responses with their group members.  For this assessment, I want to see their level of understanding of coterminal angles and learn where they are still struggling.
Since this will be our first "experiment" with these learning profiles, I will make certain we have time to reflect about the students' choices of question and how I will use their work to inform my teaching decisions.  I want the students to be comfortable with their first groups, we'll be practicing procedures, and the first week is so hectic, so I think this will be a safe formal assessment.

It took me less time to create this small assessment than to write this blog post, so I am hopeful that I will be able to eventually have a collection of questions, assessments, and tasks...but for now, I'm starting with asking where do the kids struggle, and what I can I do to check their level of understanding and deepen their level of understanding.  If I can start by creating two-three "things" per unit, I'll be a happy camper.

Update:  I knew I rarely included Self-Expressive type tasks, so I wanted to focus on creating those types of questions.  Going back to Math Tools, I wrote these questions to use at some point during the unit.

Have you found ways to incorporate these learning profiles into your lessons?  What do you think?

#tlap GPS

Last summer, I loved reading Dave Burgess' Teach Like a Pirate, and I keep re-reading parts of it to get re-inspired.  Earlier this summer, he issued a "challenge" for teachers to create their own personal GPS, and I've spent a couple weeks tweaking my words.  (I love this idea so much that we're even adding it to our agenda for our new teachers!  Can I do so same thing for my classes and my students?)  

I'm trying to think about my job as a teacher and as an Instructional Specialist, and as of today, I think I have my words.

By the end of the year, I want others (students and teachers) to feel...
  • safe,
  • inspired,
  • challenged, and
  • accomplished,
  • all in a manner that is different from other classes or meetings.

This activity also reminds me of one of my favorite end of year assignment, which is to have my students create Six Word Memoirs, an idea I took from Math Teacher Mambo.  I haven't compiled all of my pictures from this year, but their work was even more creative.  I created my first six word memoir while actively monitoring an AP test, and I think it captures both my math teacher job and Instructional Specialist job: 
I love to help find solutions. 

Did you participate in the #tlap GPS?   Do you have your students write goals for the year?

So, What Exactly Is My Job?

I have enjoyed reading all of the posts about favorite classroom things and classroom structures...so that made me think: what is the "structure" of my job?  Next year, I will have a new job partner, a new head principal, and our district has completely restructured the upper echelon, so I thought it would be wise to pinpoint a few things, just in case anyone else asked about my job. ;)

My job title is "Instructional Specialist," and my job description in one sentence is that I spend my time supporting teachers and students as we work to fulfill school and district goals.  (Oh, I also teach two math classes.)  I have no administrative power, but I'm involved in a lot of school stuff, so I do have quite a bit of influence in campus decisions.  The IS job looks different on each campus, based on each school's priorities.

Last year, my IS partner and I decided we needed more focus for our jobs, so we posted a list of our priorities.  When people started asking about this or that, we asked, "Is that on our yellow sheet?" and it made it a bit easier to say "NO, I don't think we can do that." (I admit we often stretched a lot of our job responsibilities to fit categories on the yellow sheet!)

My schedule is very erratic each week.  I attend PLC (common planning) meetings for math and social studies.  I work with new teachers, I support our mentor teachers, and I pretty much am "on call" for any teacher who needs help...with lessons, tutoring plans, technology, classroom management, group work, intervention plans, testing...  We plan our site-based staff development, and we plan all meetings and professional development for our new teachers. I write and monitor our Campus Improvement Plan, plan all of our Instructional Leadership Team meetings, and visit as many classrooms as possible.  After reading Simon Sinek, we created a WHY for the Instructional Specialists, which is "Every day, make someone's life better," so bottom line, we look for ways we can help others.  (For a second WHY, we also borrowed Home Depot's motto: "You can do it, we can help!")

When I started my job as IS, the best information I received was "Your time is not your own," and that is absolutely true, although I usually have free time between 7:00 - 7:25 AM. ;) Our office is very centrally located in the building, and we have one of our test scan machines in our office, so our office door is always open, and I'm glad we have cultivated the feeling of trust and belonging in our office.  We host planning meetings and informal meetings in our office.  Teachers seem to love being in here (but that could also be because we have a few super comfy chairs and a coffee pot!)

Because I float and do not have a classroom, I frequently have tutoring in my office.  I have seating for about 12 in the office, and my students seem to enjoy hanging out in here as much as the teachers do.

Last year, I followed the trend on Pinterest, and created the door signs for our office door.  These signs made me happy every time I entered.  

My other office favorite is my collection of college pennants, donated by some of my former graduates.

Fun times on my job: last year for our new teacher in-service on campus, we had the cutest set-up, complete with a decorated classroom, personalized magnets, and breakfast.  At 8:00 AM, we decided the air-conditioning was definitely not working (and we're talking about August in Texas) so we ran around the building to find another suitable room for our supplies and 25 new teachers (but missing the cute set-up!) :(

A "real" fun part of the job: we're told, "Make certain that you do something to honor your mentor teachers!" so in some cases, we get to be party planners. :)

My creative talents were also put to the test when the district wanted schools to create technology-themed centerpieces for their Summer Leadership Meetings...and guess who was assigned to create that centerpiece?  Of course, the ISs will enjoy doing that!   (We did win 3rd place, which got us the new coffee pot, one of the office favorites, though!)

Oh yes, we need a two-minute video of what your school is doing to implement differentiated instruction.  Show what you've done and your plan for the future, and it must be in iMovie format, and it's due in three days... who does this on our campus?   (I loved learning how to use iMovie, though.)  

During my first year as an IS, one of the most challenging aspects of my job was that I allowed my instructional specialist responsibilities to creep into my classroom.  Teachers would stop by during class and ask questions, I would check email during class and learn that someone needed something now, and I tried to address all issues at all times.  The last few years, I promised my students that during our class period, I would be completely devoted to them.   I try to warn them when my IS job schedule interferes with the week (and limits tutoring, for example) but I communicate with my students via my website or email, and my math colleagues jump in to help with tutoring and make-ups.

At times, I really miss my own classroom and a schedule full of math classes; however, I love my job supporting teachers and students.   I enjoy working with and learning about other content areas, and I love the professional development side of my job. Side note: according to my FitBit, I average about 7,000 steps a day while at school, but in May during testing season (EOC tests and I proctored a bunch of AP tests) I got about 11,000 steps per day.  As with all teachers, I love that my job changes daily. Flexibility is always the key, right? I have learned so much on this job, and I have appreciated all of the new learning and growing opportunities.

Are there instructional coaches on your campus?  What are their job descriptions?

My Motivation to MoveIt!

I just saw this post on Teacher Tech, and MOVEIT is now my new favorite Chrome extension!  During the past week, I have spent way too much time sitting at my computer, and this extension reminds me to jump up and get moving.  You may choose an interval of time (15 minutes to 55 minutes) and at your chosen interval, you get a pop-up reminder on your computer to take a short brain and exercise break.  

The exercise breaks have been things like hop on your left and then right foot for 15 seconds, jab or punch the air for a count of 10, run in place for 15 seconds, and touch your left foot with your right hand, then alternate and repeat 10 times.  

When I have been on long grading stretches, I have tried the "Pomodoro Technique," where if you work for 25 minutes and then take a brief break, you supposedly increase your productivity.  (It seems to work for me!)  I love the addition of the bit of physical exercise, which the MOVEIT extension provides.

With students, we hear about the 10/2 strategy, which encourages us to teach in chunks of 10 minutes, and then allow students to process and reflect for 2 minutes.  I started using this strategy with my ESL students, but now I try to allow chunk and process time in my classes and in my staff development presentations.

I've just had the MOVEIT extension installed for a few hours, and I have enjoyed every little opportunity to get moving.  I wonder if I could incorporate the quick exercise breaks into our long days of staff development?  Does anyone else have moving breaks during professional development?

Time to get moving!

What I WANT to Know About Learners

As I mentioned on an earlier post, I am now obsessed with the idea of differentiating by learning profile.  I know I have a good understanding of what learning profile really means, but now I'm to the more difficult implementation stage.  I'm happy that I found a colleague who will help me fine tune some of these ideas, and I have found an overwhelming amount of information online to help with this part of the journey.

What I WANT to know (and do)... 
From a teacher's perspective, I want to know how to vary my questions, tasks, and assignments in order to address the variety of learning profiles in my classes.  I'm still at the point where I'm thinking about a giant juggling routine, but I want to make this more manageable: how to group my students, how to ask questions, how to get students to ask questions, and how to create thoughtful assignments and assessments.
  • I found this awesome reflection after our #eduread.  @mwbigger classified different types of assignments and assessments according to their Silver-Strong profile.  He also referred to Sarah's post about 26 good homework ideas.  For some homework assignments, I would love to keep a generic list of possibilities from each of the learning profiles and allow the students to choose their favorite (or maybe one from their style, one from another style?).
From the free preview chapter of the Math Tools book, I found this chart, and I know that will help when I'm designing the work.

I keep reading about Task Rotations, and I think I could start by creating something like this to use on our "bring it all together" or review days.  The difference between the task rotations and menus is that for the task rotations, you must complete all 4 tasks, and each task intentionally addresses one of the four Silver-Strong learning styles (mastery, understanding, self-expressive, interpersonal).  I found this example on a page of Thoughtful Classrooms' free resources:

A "low prep" idea: I plan to use the vocabulary for each of the profiles, so I could ask my students to identify the types of questions I ask during class.  If they're seated with their like profile groups, I could ask them to change my question to one that "fits" their profile (or make up an additional question, if my question matches their profile).  To stretch themselves, they could exchange questions with another group and answer at least one question from each category.

I hope each week that I'll say things like, "The next part of class will appeal to those of you who are interpersonal learners; otherwise, you'll have an opportunity to stretch outside your comfort zone a bit," or "If you have a self-expressive learner in your group, then s/he will be able to help you think outside of the box for this activity."

Next steps...I'm ready to look at my own calendar, assessments, and lessons!

Any examples of task rotations for math?  Have you grouped your students based on different learning profiles?


What I KNOW About Learners

OK, thanks to an earlier #eduread, I am now officially obsessed with teaching and differentiating by understanding learning profiles.  I feel like I'm a bit late to this party, and I found so many resources that I finally had to force myself to stop reading, bookmarking, clipping, and flipping articles and posts.  I also had to restrain myself with additional purchases, but I finally settled on one more book, Math Tools, Grades 3 - 12... by Silver et al.

I was thinking about a KWL chart for differentiation by learning profile, and for now, I have a lot of Ks and Ws!

I KNOW that differentiating by learning profile increases efficiency.
I know I have a better understanding of what it looks like to differentiate by readiness or interest (but just because I know what it means doesn't mean that I'm an expert!)
When I first started teaching (ahem...years ago) I thought learning style simply meant auditory, visual, kinesthetic, but now I know that a complete learning profile involves so much more.

During the past two years, my students and I have dabbled with understanding Gardner's Multiple Intelligences and Sternberg's Intelligences (creative, analytical, and practical).  Our  #eduread article introduced me to the Silver-Strong profiles (mastery, understanding, self-expressive, and interpersonal). And hooray, hooray, I just found an older ASCD article and then an image on this slide-share that put everything together for me!

I know I need to educate my students about the different profiles, that the styles fluctuate depending on the context, and that no one profile is better than another!
  • Idea for the first week(s) of school: give students a variety of inventories, have them create a learning profile a la the "Me at a Glance" pages on Sarah's blog.  For the Silver-Strong inventory, I found this post on Math Hombre's page, and he adapted the inventory to math. Teach the vocabulary.  Help students understand the philosophy of strategic flexible grouping.  (Some days we'll be grouped according to your strengths, and some days we'll make you work outside your comfort zone so that you'll be stretched!)  Work on the management aspect of how to let kids know the seating arrangement o' the day.  Create a Google form for students to record their preferred learning profiles.  
  • Oh, I also know that mindset will be part of this conversation, too.  If we're grouping kiddos or if the questioning/task is outside of their preferred learning profile, what can I do to help students persevere? What are their options when they struggle? 
  • I know that building a classroom community is an integral component of the big picture of differentiation, so with our discussion of learning profiles, I will also help students learn the importance of respecting the differences in all of us.
Unfortunately, I have absolutely no tangibles...YET...but at least I have a nebulous idea for the "2nd curriculum" objectives for the first week(s) of school.

A future post will focus on the WHAT.  What I want to know, my goals for the teaching, questioning, and assessing aspect of this idea.

Thanks for reading!  Any other insight on learning profiles?  Do you have favorite inventories that you have used?  

Classroom Management and #ASCDCTE14

Post #3 about the ASCD Conference, and I'm ready to reflect on goodies from one awesome session...

A large part of my job as Instructional Specialist is to support our new teachers, and a top concern for new teachers is classroom management.  In addition, I support all of our teachers on implementing school and district initiatives, and when we're talking about flexible grouping with differentiation, PBLs, and managing technology and devices, we must also have conversations about classroom management and procedures.  It seems like we assume veteran teachers have the management part down, but that's not necessarily the case; therefore, it was a no-brainer that I attended a session on classroom management.

(Side note: I didn't realize that many of the presenters would be pushing their own websites, materials, and books at this conference, but because this message and the presenter were so amazing, I'll include those links!)

If you ever have an opportunity to see Grace Dearborn present, run to her session!  She had our room of at least 300 people completely engaged, laughing, sharing, and accepting her every word as golden.  It's kind of sad that she is no longer in the classroom because I imagine she worked magic with her students...but at least she is sharing her wisdom with others.

Her session was Conscious Classroom Management, and the goal of her session was to provide "Stuff you can use."  Mission accomplished! She shared a few oldies but goodies, but it's always good to hear reminders about these strategies:

  • 2 x 10 -- for your most challenging student(s), if you spend 2 minutes a day for 10 days in a row having a personal, non-academic conversation with that student, behavior will improve.  If a student is absent (ill, suspended, etc.) for several days, you must start over with the 10 days.  Be consistent as possible.
  • "Procedures Precede Content" -- teach and reteach your procedures, and again, be consistent. (She used the example of the safety procedures on airplanes.  Have you ever not heard the flight attendants go over the airplane rules with visuals, demos, and talk-throughs??)  She even provides sample procedure quizzes on her website.  Another suggestion: if you have trouble with the consistency part, i.e. you don't always make your students raise their hands, give yourself a visual, such as a picture of a raised hand, posted in the back of the room where you'll see it.  Also, really spend the time in class to practice the procedures.  For example, require your students to move their desks into groups of 4 within 20 seconds.  Get out the stop watch, make them practice, explain how it must be done, and make them practice again. (One of her engaging strategies: she told us we had "32 seconds" or "17 seconds" or "2.18 minutes" to share--it was never a round number, which really amused me for some reason.)
The new stuff...she was all about visual cues for procedures and management, and that idea was such an a-ha! She took pictures of what she wanted and had those images projected or posted around the room.
  • On test days, as students entered the room, she projected a picture of a desk that was cleared except for a pencil and calculator.
  • For science lab days, she had a picture projected with all equipment needed for the lab (goggles, lab book, pen, calculator, 2 beakers).
  • On her bookshelves, she had two pictures.  The "YES" picture showed her books in order, spines vertical, supplies in the correct containers, everything neat.  The "NO" picture showed the same bookcase with the textbooks mixed together, supplies thrown around, loose papers on the shelves, etc. (She also used this strategy for her youngsters' toy chest at home.)
  • A funny: for the elementary teachers, Grace shared the struggle of dealing with kids who tattle. To remedy that, a teacher posted a picture of a giant ear on the wall, so when kids started to tattle, she said, "Tell it to the ear!"  The teacher said after recess, there might be a line of kids waiting to "tell the ear" what had happened.  Grace also said a high school government teacher posted a big picture of President Obama, and when his seniors started to complain, he said, "Tell it to the President!" and he said kids would actually talk to the poster! :)
Grace was also all about creating rubrics with her visuals, and then she could tell students they needed to get from a "3" to a "5."  She had students demo each number on her rubric, she took pictures of each scenario, labeled each picture with the appropriate number, and then posted or showed pictures when necessary.

  • For high school students, she had an issue of kids packing up before the end of the period, so she created a 1 - 5 rubric for her end of the period procedures.  A "1" was where kids were lined up at the door, ready to leave.  For a "3," some kids were seated, some were standing, some had backpacks on, some students were still working.  A "5" was the ideal situation, and kids were still seated with work on their desks.  She posted the pictures around her door frame, and some days had to say, "I see most of you are at a 3, but I need you to be a 5 before you are dismissed!"  Kids could simply look at the photographs to see what they needed to change.  
  • For her elementary example, she created a similar rubric for kids lining up in the hallways.  This document shows her photos and rubric, plus it gives a couple other examples of using visuals for classroom management.
Added bonus: the images of the expectations would be so useful for our English Language Learners!  We have a large ESL population, so I think this strategy would really help those kiddos understand.  

Another side note: I do not have my own classroom and float into two different classrooms, but it would be easy to keep the photos on my iPad and display them when necessary.

Any other favorite classroom management tips?  Have you ever used visuals or a rubric to help your students learn your class procedures?

A Lot of Learning at #ASCDCTE14!

I love reading blog reflections after conferences, seminars, and summer institutes (@druinok & @KimAxtell!) and it's a wonderful way to document the great things learned.  Last weekend, I attended the ASCD Conference on Teaching Excellence, and I now have enough new information to keep me thinking and reflecting for at least a month! But before I get to the content, a few side observations...

  • Attending a conference is expensive! I had the ASCD + Texas resident discount, plus my mom lives minutes from the conference location, so I stayed with her.  In addition, she dropped me off each day so I didn't have to pay for parking.  But whoa, how do all of those people and/or districts afford to vacation it up at the conference at the Gaylord? (Next to do: investigate grants for PD!)  It was only mildly embarrassing that I had to tell someone that I was waiting for a ride from my mom. :)
  • I was surrounded by great educators.  One of my presenters was one of Benjamin Bloom's students, yes that Bloom.  I've been fortunate to see Carol Ann Tomlinson before, and I am in awe of her wisdom and thoughtfulness about differentiation, and I am captivated when she speaks.  Her keynote brought tears to my eyes.  One of my presenters was her student, and she was also just as incredible!  I also saw a mind-blowing presentation by Jane Pollock, one of the co-authors of Classroom Instruction That Works, so I guess she's one of Marzano's BFFs.
    • ...however, I learned that just because a person holds multiple advanced degrees and is an educational consultant and author, it doesn't necessarily mean that s/he is an earth-shattering presenter.  Most of my sessions were fantastic, but I heard other comments that were not so great.
  • I was surrounded by great educators part 2.  All of the participants seemed to be amazing educators too, and that was just as energizing!  I met professors, administrators, instructional coaches, curriculum directors, and teachers...all who were excited to learn and find ways to help students succeed.  I don't think I've ever attended a conference that had so many out of state and international visitors.  The people from New York were not happy with our heat and humidity, and the principal from New Zealand said it was snowing back home.  Gotta love summer in Texas.
  • This conference was definitely not tech-y, which was rather interesting and refreshing.  In February, I attended the TCEA (Texas Computer Education Association) conference, and it was almost impossible to meet people because everyone was glued to his device.  During past conferences, I always loved visiting with people at my table, in the hallways, waiting for the next session...but when you're at a tech conference, we're sometimes too engaged with our social media, etc. to have conversations.  At this conference, however, we saw "regular" power-points, and we were never asked to use back channels, poll everywhere, or any other tech response system.  We engaged with our neighbors, and I loved the face-to-face conversations!  There were only a few sessions devoted to technology, but I chose to attend presentations about formative assessment, grit, differentiation, coaching, etc.
  • You chose either 90-minute or 3-hour sessions, which meant in 2.5 days, you didn't have time for a lot of presentations.  At first, I wanted to attend more sessions, but with that amount of time, you really had more opportunities to learn deeply, process, and engage with those around you.  Thumbs up!
I've already blogged about my first session, which was on Fostering Grit; it also coincided nicely with tonight's #eduread

So one quick take-away of something new and tech-y: a teacher shared info about the site http://dropevent.com/, and it's a place where you can quickly upload pictures to a shared site.  (The site is really for parties, weddings, events, etc.)  You can create an "event," and anyone can share photos by emailing to a specified address or posting them on the site.  The event expires after 6 months, but you can download all of the pictures before they expire.  If you want to practice and see how it works, feel free to upload a picture to my "Testing" event: http://dropevent.com/gallery/pho56503 .

My first idea for how to use this is for our site-based staff development.  I could have our new teachers take selfies in the morning, and we will all have pictures of each other and of the day (and important building locations.)   I might also have our teachers take pictures of their classrooms or favorite parts of their classrooms, and then we would have a collection of all kinds of cool classrooms.

For a class, I thought we might take pictures of work, projects, or even daily notes and submit them to the site.  In math, we could ask students to find a picture of a __________ (scalene triangle, parent function, graph in a newspaper, polygon...) and upload the photo before the next class period.  You do have the option to moderate the pictures before they are posted, and I would definitely take advantage of that restriction with my classes.

This Drop Event site was shared at a "networking" breakfast, and the day only got better from there!  I have so much to share and so much to remember...so even if I don't fulfill the July challenge, I might be able to get several posts out of this conference! :)

Super nerd-alert: while I was in the book store, my DI hero, Dr. Tomlinson herself, was just sitting there, waiting to sign books and talk to people!  So I had her sign a book, and I asked if I could take a picture.  An ASCD staff member asked if I wanted to be in the picture too, so the rest is recorded for all of history.  There are actually a few people at school who will be so envious that I got a picture with the differentiation rock star. :)

Yep, that's CAT herself!


Glorious Struggles and Good Failures

It really is crazy (in a good way) when education worlds collide.  I guess that means the conversation is an important one, and people all over are really reflecting on what we can do to help our students succeed.

Last week during a district staff development, we watched Angela Duckworth's TED talk on Grit, and our school leadership teams discussed ways to help reinforce the idea of a growth mindset and the importance of perseverance in problem solving. This weekend at an ASCD conference, my first session was on "Fostering Grit," and our presenter referenced Carol Dweck's work on mindset and Duckworth's research on grit. Finally, this week's #eduread article was also about developing perseverance in problem solving, specifically with math problems.

Message received!  I need to be intentional about teaching students (and teachers) the importance of grit, how to develop a growth mindset, and that failures help you learn and succeed.  After finishing our article Faster Isn't Smarter, I knew this objective needs to be a priority.

Luckily, I'm not starting from ground zero, but I know I can do much, much more.  For the past two years, we have talked mindset in my classes, and we call my challenge problems on assessments #growthmindset questions.  When I first started my work as an Instructional Specialists, my work partner and I heard the phrase "Glorious Struggle," and we used that when we were having a hard time with our job (which was quite often during the first year!) and I taught the same phrase to my students. Yesterday, I created my first TEDEd lesson on Duckworth's talk, and I will ask my students to watch and reflect on her message. In the past, I talked to my students about "Famous Failures," and last summer, I created the Google presentation with quotes on failure, success, and struggle, and shared it with them.

Our presenter at the ASCD conference was Thomas R. Hoerr, and he leads a "Multiple Intelligences" school where teaching grit is one of top objectives for teachers and students.  In his session, he offered six steps for teaching grit, and these ideas also align with some of the points in Cathy Seeley's article.

Teaching for Grit
  1. Establish the environment.  Students must realize that they are cared for and supported, even when they're struggling. (How many times have we heard that it all boils down to relationships??)  When teaching grit, how can we acknowledge effort and improvements?  How can we make it "cool" for students to be seen working hard?  Have posters in your room or hallways about effort, success, and hard work.
  2. Set the expectations.  Students must understand the value of grit and accept that learning is not always easy or fun. Seeley says the same thing in her article.  Teach that mistakes are good lessons, and there are such things as good failures! (At a different session, we watched "My Favorite No," which I think would help here.)  Teach the students about the brain research, too!
  3. Teach the vocabulary.  Hoerr asks his teachers to frequently use words like grit, growth mindset, frustration, and comfort zone when talking with students and parents.  (Seeley had the same reflections in the "For Families" section of the article.)
  4. Create the frustration.  Another way that my edu-worlds collide: Hoerr suggests to differentiate by process, and ask students to solve problems using an intelligence that was not their dominant intelligence.  (Referencing last week's #eduread article, instead of using the Mastery or Understanding styles, require students to solve a problem as a Self-Expressive or Interpersonal learner.)  Another idea, tell students that "Today is a GRIT day," and the tasks, instructions, or the final product will be intentionally challenging.  Seeley called it constructive struggling, which I loved!  In math, create problems that are complex and require more than just a rote procedure.
  5. Monitor the experience.  Watch your students and their emotions.  Solicit feedback during the gritty experience, either using non-verbal signals or a Likert scale on the work and frustration level.  We don't want students to feel pointless frustration.
  6. Reflect and learn.  Ask the students to share why they didn't give up on a particular task.  What did they do that will help them in the future when they're frustrated again?  
Hoerr also provided a few steps for how to teach students to keep persevering, and this is something that I will start at the beginning of the year:
  • "Anticipate the level of difficulty."  Ask student to self-assess and guess how difficult they think today's work will be.
  • Before beginning the work, ask students to reflect on a time where they have succeeded on something (in academics or outside of school).
  • During the task, require students to give 5 full minutes of full-force effort.
  • Remind students of the power of a "good failure."
So teaching (and learning more) about growth mindset, grit, and good failures are back at the top of my priority list; what else can I do to help my students learn about grit and perseverance?  How do I incorporate those "gritty" problems into my curriculum?  (One per day?  Once per week?  One on each assessment?)  I also need to start planning now to create tasks and problems that are complex and will create those glorious struggles and good failures for my students!

Again, so much to think about...looking forward to the upcoming #eduread to help reflect on these questions!

Jumping to the top of my to read list: Paul Tough's book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character
(Side note--his recent NYT article was another great commercial for teaching grit and perseverance as a "2nd curriculum," and sounds like AVID for college!)


Trying Out TED-Ed

I spent a weekend of fabulous learning at the ASCD Conference for Teaching Excellence, and I plan to post some reflections during the next couple weeks...but for now, here's my first follow-up.

In the past few years, we've heard more and more talk about growth and fixed mindsets, and I'm now a fan and believer of Carol Dweck's work.  (If you want to join a great conversation, check out the #eduread chats on Wednesday nights!  Our discussion for July 9th, 2014, will be over Dweck's article "Even Geniuses Work Hard.")  The more recent trend has been about grit, and my first session at the ASCD conference was with Thomas R. Hoerr, who presented on Fostering Grit.

During the past couple years, I've discussed growth mindset with my students, but I've wanted to try something more tangible with them, and after hearing Dr. Hoerr's talk, I knew I needed to give them some more specifics.  Last week at a different staff development, we watched Angela Duckworth's TED talk on grit, and I thought that video was short enough for my students...but how could I get them to do a bit of reflecting?  Enter the lessons on TEDEd.

Without too much time or trouble, I've created two TEDEd lessons this morning: one for my students and one for our faculty.

First, you find any YouTube or TED Talk video, and create an account on TEDEd.  Once you choose your video, the lesson creator for TEDEd allows you to write an "objective" and create multiple choice and short answer questions about the video.  For the multiple choice questions, you even add the exact time where the video refers to the answer, so if viewers answer incorrectly, the video returns to that location to help students find the correct answer.  (You may create up to 15 questions, plus you may edit and re-order the questions at any time.)  Students must create an account with TED to be able to respond on the site and receive feedback; perhaps I'll create a Google Form that mirrors the questions so that they may respond there...still thinking.

Next, you may add additional resources, links, and images that allow the viewers to "Dig Deeper."  For my students' lesson on grit, I found links to Duckworth's grit test, a video on growth/fixed mindset, and a link to Dweck's work on how to change your mindset.

There is also a place for discussion, if you would like to add that feature, but I'm asking my students respond on a protected Google doc instead.  You may add or delete any of these sections for your TEDEd lesson.

And last, there is the "...And Finally" section.  Here, you may type additional reflections, take-aways, and what happens next.  For our faculty's TEDEd, I plan to flip this video and ask that they view it before the first day of professional development.  We'll begin our discussions with the "...And Finally" reflections.  Over the past several years, we've discussed Simon Sinek's Start With WHY, and his latest TED talk is Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe.  My TEDEd lesson asks us to reflect how his ideas of leadership, safety and trust look in the school, departments, and in our classrooms.

I loved learning about the lesson possibilities on TEDEd, and for my purposes this morning, the features were fantastic.  I can't wait to try these videos with our students and teachers.  Watching and reflecting on Angela Duckwork's talk may be part of my assignment on day #1!

My stack of reading continues to grow...


Learning about our Learners

It's been so long since I've written anything (and I never blogged much overall) but the Read...Chat...Reflect #eduread article chats have so inspired me (and challenged me!) that I had to write. :)

This week's article was "Creating a Differentiated Mathematics Classroom," and since our district has been on a journey to differentiated instruction during the past three years, I am always on the lookout for DI ideas specific to math.

I've had a lot of professional development on DI, and I'm in the Dr. Carol Ann Tomlinson fan club, so if you're not familiar with the tenets of differentiated instruction, here's a quick summary of what I know...

The principles of DI include high quality curriculum, ongoing assessment, *instruction that responds to student variance, all working within a classroom community.  (Dr. Tomlinson's latest edition of The Differentiated Classroom has changed a bit of the wording. When we first learned about DI, we separated *this tenet into flexible grouping and respectful tasks.)  Teachers can differentiate through content, process, and product, all according to the student's readiness, interests, and learning profile.

In addition, differentiation by interest increases student motivation, differentiation by readiness produces growth, and differentiation by learning profile improves efficiency.

As as a math teacher, the "easiest" way for me to understand differentiation was by student readiness.   I thought, "Sure, I can do a quick assessment to see where my students are struggling," and respond to their needs.  (That only took two years, and I'm definitely not an expert, but I have a growth mindset about learning about assessment!)  I'm still working on writing awesome pre-assessments for my students, though...that is a real challenge for me!

I struggled with understanding learning profile, but the first thing I tried was to have my students assess themselves on their intelligence type.  (They learned a tiny bit about Gardner's Multiple Intelligences, they completed a survey and responded on a Google form, so then I had a record of their personal assessments.)  I created seating charts and groups based on their preferred intelligence, and they enjoyed sitting with like-minded students, but I didn't do much else with that grouping.  (sad face)

This year, I tried an additional activity to use learning profile, and it was moderately successful.  In recent trainings, I enjoyed "CAP" activities, so that's what I tried to duplicate for math...but I only did this one time.  (another sad face!)   I talked my students through the creative-analytical-practical descriptions of Sternberg's Theory of Intelligence, and they quickly self-assessed their intelligence on this Google form.

Column 1: Creative; Column 2: Analytical; Column 3: Practical

My students divided into their C-A-P groups, and they had the remainder of the period to work on this assignment.  We were creating and solving sinusoidal models, and I originally thought this type of assignment was general enough that it could be used with a variety of future lessons.  (Sigh.  Perhaps if I had been faithful about blogging, I would have returned to this idea!)

I'm now trying to picture how this week's #eduread article will add to the entire schema of learning profiles in my classroom.  Several teachers in our school refer to the True Colors test, which is loosely based on Myers-Briggs, and I like how the profiles in this article align with the colors.  (Mastery = Gold, Understanding = Green, Interpersonal = Blue, and Self-Expressive = Orange)  Someone in our district found this learner profile worksheet, and I like the structure of this handout.  I also saw the "Me at a Glance" post for interactive notebooks at Everybody is a Genius, and I loved all of her ideas about putting all of the strategies on a page.

I guess the bottom line is to know your students, craft lessons based on their needs, and be purposeful about students' work and assessments.  (Whew, is that all???)  I'm looking forward to the #eduread chat to help solidify my thinking about differentiation and learning profiles in mathematics!

A few of my summer educational reads...

  • The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners (2nd edition), Carol Ann Tomlinson
  • Trust Matters: Leadership for Successful Schools (2nd edition), Megan Tschannen-Moran
  • Instructional Rounds in Education: A Networked Approach to Improving Teaching and Learning, City, Elmore, Fiarman and Teitel
  • Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain
  • (re-read) Teach Like a Pirate, Dave Burgess


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