There were so many amazing opportunities. Each time we met, participants rotated through “classes” much like in high school. We had technology training, mathematical content instruction, introduction to mathematical strategies for English Language Learners, assessment and feedback guidance, collaborative lesson planning sessions, and exposure to college and career readiness. We read several books throughout the year including Number Talks Matter by Cathy Humphreys and Ruth Parker, Formative Assessment in Practice by Margaret Heritage, and Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler. Core to the project was Lesson Study. This is where the synthesis and magic happened.
With 120 members, PRIME was divided into cohorts, preferably by grade level and school. My cohort consisted of 3 teachers from my school and 2 teachers from neighboring schools. Three of us taught sixth grade and two taught fifth grade. We were assigned a math coach that we all loved. Shout out to Coach John, @lazarcik. I sent out a Google Forms survey to see what they had to say about Lesson Study.
We completed four lesson cycles throughout the year. Each cycle consisted of a group planning session, implementation of the target lesson, videotaping during the lesson, and a group reflection session. The planning and debriefing sessions were powerful. Here’s what one participant had to say, “I most liked our group gatherings as time to plan and to debrief about what worked and didn’t for our lessons. It has been beneficial to hear how the same lesson worked in our different settings and then the tweaks that we each made to become successful.” Many different strategies were used as we implemented lessons. Each one was well received by students and had successful learning effects.
Since we live in an area where we have many second language learners, a number of strategies aim to equalize access to the curriculum. In order to strengthen mathematical content vocabulary, we used the Frayer Model. Using a four square grid, most of our models included a definition, characteristics, examples, and non-examples. This strategy was great at the beginning of a unit of instruction or lesson with new content vocabulary. For more http://www.theteachertoolkit.com.
We also began using a discourse strategy called Mathematically Speaking. Students are given two math problems to solve independently, then are asked to listen to a peer discuss his/her process of solving the problem. While the partner is speaking, the student listening is tracking content vocabulary that is used. Students are provided sentence frames which allow for language support. Roles are then reversed with the second problem. Here are some samples from my class.
We also instituted discussions as a regular part of our instruction. Using Math Talk, students were able to clarify their thinking, deepen their understanding, and strengthen their communication skills with a partner, small groups, and whole group settings. Listen to what one of the cohort members had to say, “My students are more comfortable discussing math, especially how they got their answer. At the beginning of the year, students were more interested in “getting the answer” and moving on. As the year progressed, they understood that there is more than one way to answer and that it is important to understand how they arrived at the answer." Many of us used the attached poster as support.
The strategy which is my personal favorite is Number Talks. In a number talk, students come together as a group. The teacher poses a question, usually on a piece of chart paper or the whiteboard, and students are asked to solve the problem in their head. No manipulatives, paper, or pencils are used. Once students have been given time to come up with a solution, the teacher begins writing down student's strategies for solving. At first, many students describe a traditional algorithm. But the teacher then asks for another way to solve the problem, then another. Through the process, students develop computational fluency using a variety of number relationship groupings. The process is powerful! It’s difficult for the teacher at first to scribe the students descriptions, but the teacher develops fluency as well. I was video taped by our county office of education. I’ll post it here once it is released. For more, read here http://www.mathperspectives.com/num_talks.html.
The hands-down favorite of the group was the Lesh Model. The purpose of a Lesh Model is to conceptualize math in multiple ways and to collaborate with peers to develop understanding. A four window grid is used. Common entries included a model, a diagram, written words to discuss how a problem is solved, language of the discipline, numerical and/or algebraic equations, solutions, unanswered questions, analysis of group work, and real-life contexts. At first, we assigned grid entries, but later allowed students to choose entries that they thought were the most relevant. Here’s what one teacher had to say after implementing the Lesh Model for a year, “My students finally switched from thinking of only computation and started using other strategies which included modeling to solve a problem. They really took to heart the collaboration and making sure everyone in their group understood how to solve the problem.” The Lesh Model was probably the most transformative strategy that we implemented both for the students and ourselves. The onus of learning was put on the students. Students came to understand that grappling with a difficult problem was part of true learning. As teachers, we became facilitators of learners and experienced tremendous pride when students discussed, revised, and questioned each other. The process was valued as much or more than the solution. Take a peek at my students working on a Lesh Model.
Our first year of PRIME was full of growth. (Oh, we learned a lot about the Growth Mindset. Check out the November blog.) In education we're often asked, “How do you know when you're successful?’ For PRIME, the following testimonies answer that question. “My personal growth mostly revolved around purposeful planning. Instead of relying on the teacher’s manual to guide my lessons (sometimes without much thought), I started becoming more intentional about my lessons. Planning formative assessments, making lessons relevant and engaging, and allowing for more collaborative work became the norm.” “I became a better coach. Better at diagnosing PRIME strategies.” And, “I feel more comfortable teaching math, especially getting out the manipulatives. I feel more ready to teach math at a conceptual level.” And speaking for us all, “Year 1 was a reminder to me that I always can learn and implement new ideas. By being part of the cohort, it forced me to try new strategies which ultimately I loved doing with my students.”
I’d like to thank my amazing cohort for the fabulous year of learning and fun. Traci, Annette, Susie, Jordy, and John, you’re the best!!! Together, we built positive relationships, honed collaboration skills, mastered math standards, and fostered the growth mindset in ourselves and our students. It was a great year indeed. Can’t wait for PRIME Year 2!
Loving my math cohort!!!