Sunday, August 31, 2014

#mathchat5 Begins: Join Us!

Are you looking ahead and wondering how you are going to coach, teach, or mentor the fifth grade common core math program? If so, you may want to join us on Wednesday nights for #mathchat5.

Saturday's early morning #satchat birthed #mathchat5, a chat focused on fifth grade math standards that will occur every Wednesday night from 8pmEST to 9pmEST. The chat is open to all math enthusiasts, coaches, family members, educators, and others who are interested in the successful teaching of 5th grade math standards.

The first chat will focus on facts, math models, and the following math standard:

CCSS.Math.Content.5.OA.A.1 Use parentheses, brackets, or braces in numerical expressions, and evaluate expressions with these symbols.

To engage in #mathchat5, I suggest you do the following:
  1. Check out the #mathchat5 website
  2. Take a look at this week's chat focus and questions
  3. Review the 5th grade math standards
  4. Review the SMPs.
  5. Sign up on the participant/moderator list
  6. Add any resources that you think will be helpful for this week's chat to the resource list. 
  7. Add the #matchat5 date to your calendar.
For Massachusetts educators, and perhaps others, this weekly chat can serve as part of your "evidence" for your professional learning goal.

If you've never participated in a Twitter chat before, don't worry, as it is an open forum for questioning and sharing resources. It's important to remember not to state specific names of students, schools, or colleagues unless the citation relates to published or specific events that the adult is comfortable sharing.  It's is also important to stay positive and proactive as you seek to share best practice and learn about others' good work.

I look forward to Wednesday's share with all interested parties.

School Calendar: Schedule the Important Events

Last January my sister got the whole family on board for a family reunion, then last week we tried to get everyone together for Mom's birthday. The family reunion was better than ever because the lead time enabled almost everyone to set aside the date, but the birthday party was not as well attended due to not enough lead time.

The same is true for school. When the big events are scheduled in advance, educators, students, families, leaders, and community members are usually prepared and available, but when events are scheduled at the last minute there is usually a domino effect that includes a lack of preparation, bumping other events, and less attendance.

What are the big events for your school year? What classroom events do you want children to be prepared for and families to attend?  When have you scheduled those events, and how are you sharing that scheduling with others?

I'm at a new grade, so I'll have to consult my new team members about the traditional events and dates for fifth grade. I know we have the fifth grade play, and that date is already on the school calendar--a date I'll share with family members on Curriculum Night. The parameters for State testing have also been announced, and I'll share those dates too. We still need to discuss field trip dates and perhaps the dates for other events.

As far as the whole school, summer schedulers did a great job creating a fine tuned weekly schedule of specialist subjects and teachers.  That provides a framework for the year. Events from the Arts Department have also been set and noted on the calendar, events like choral concerts and instrumental events. Field Day is typically scheduled for the end of the year, and we'll have to check that before scheduling field trips, and school assembly presentations are scheduled through the principal so if I intend to have the class present, I'll have to plan the dates for that soon.

Big events require lead time and most other events profit from good scheduling too. There also needs to be some time set aside for serendipity and response too because every year brings surprises, events we don't expect, but end up including mostly for positive, productive reasons. Sadly, events do occur from time to time that respond to less than positive events, events that happen in families, the community, and at-large (hopefully it will be a year without many or any of those.)

Making the time to plan the school calendar in advance helps everyone to be available to support and engage in school events. This is an important start-of-the-school-year task.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

"What Starts Here Changes the World"

Last night Admiral McRaven was ABC's person of the week. I had heard about his speech from numerous friends and colleagues, but had not listened to his words. I also heard that his words had inspired a student I'll have in my class this year greatly. So this morning I listened to his speech--a speech that both inspired me and brought me to tears.

I will share his speech with my young students on the first day of school. Although it will be a stretch for them, I think it will be a good stretch because I'll make the connection that school is an opportunity for them to grow their skill, concepts, and knowledge so they can be the people they want to be.

I'll tell them that McRaven's speech is a metaphor for life. It is one man's story of hard work, dedication, and effort that led to success, and more than that, led to good work and a chance to make our world a better place.

Before we watch, we'll set up our STEAM Inspiration journals, and write McRaven's name on the top of a page. Then I'll encourage students to listen to the speech in ways that they listen best. If they like to draw while they listen, I'll let them draw as Admiral McRaven uses many wonderful visual images in his speech. If they want to write down key words, phrases, or their own thoughts, I'll encourage that too. Further, if they just want to sit and watch, or listen with their heads on the desk, I'll encourage that. I'll tell them that all year, we'll meet wonderful leaders, mentors, and coaches through our biography framework work, and I hope that what we learn will inspire each of us to find our own paths of success in life.

I'll play the video, and then I'll ask student to copy one or more of the following McRaven quotes in their STEAM Inspiration Journals:
  • "If you can't do the little things right, you can't do the big things."
  • "Find someone to help you paddle."
  • "Nothing mattered but your will to succeed."
  • "If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart. . ."
  • "If you want to change the world. . .keep moving forward."
  • "You will fail, you will fail often."
  • "If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moments."
  • "The power of one person. . .one person can change the world by giving people hope."
  • "Respect everyone."
  • "Never ever give up."
Then I'll ask students to reflect and write their thoughts about the quote(s) they chose for 10-15 minutes. After that we'll share our thinking for a few minutes. 

Admiral McRaven's words were meant for a college audience, but I find that when I stretch young children up to higher thoughts and words, they rise and feel empowered. Because McRaven's words spoke strongly to one child I want to reach this year, I will share his words again with all the students as a first day inspiration--an inspiration that will move us all forward towards our best efforts and work this year.

Think Sheet

How Will You Balance the Work Week?

My summer visit to the Walker Art Center
inspired me. As part of my efforts towards
balance, I hope to visit more art museums. 
Some educators naturally balance work, family, friends, and recreation. They bring that natural ability to give every aspect of their life an even share.  Then there are others, perhaps the dreamers, who have trouble with balance since we think big about every aspect of our lives and sometimes we think that we can do it all, when in truth, no one can do it all.

The best I can offer in this regard is yet another attempt to find more balance by setting a weekly routine that includes the following:
  • Reading, writing, and reflection
  • Teaching, collaboration, and student feedback 
  • Healthy activity
  • Family and home
  • Fun
Also, getting away from the usual routine at least once a weekend is a good idea too.  A time to do something that you enjoy and is outside of your weekly routine serves to inspire, relax your mind, and bring the joy into life.

I work in a system that values balance. Leaders typically do not email or call on weekends or late at night. They support educators' needs to support their families and have a personal life. This is a positive approach, one that I want to follow in my own life and work. 

Website for Team Planning

This is a glimpse of the website introductory page. It shows the topics included.

Cognizant that I was sending collaborating teachers a number of Google docs, I decided to create a website to host all important class information including the following:
  • Student Names List, Data Spreadsheet, Service Delivery, Home Study Assignments
  • Weekly Plans, Tasks
  • Calendar, Inservice Schedule
I made the website private so that only the collaborating educators, a team of about six educators and the building principal, could access the site. 

In a sense, this Google website is a shared file cabinet of information. We'll also share a rolling cart of student work and data folders that doesn't need to be catalogued, and that can be easily reached for a parent conference, decision making, or program design. 

A websites is a great tool for information share since it's easy to organize the information in accessible ways, access with ease at multiple locations, and update regularly.  I recommend. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Consultation Fees?

I've enjoyed my role as a consult to tech companies, start-ups and others over the past few years. I love to try out new tools and believe I have a good eye and mind for what works well when it comes to teaching students.

I also enjoy the work I do for my students designing, delivering, and co-creating learning experiences to move children forward with content, process, and confidence, That is the center of my work.

In the past few years I have stretched myself very thin trying to do both. I've learned a lot, and feel that the efforts have deepened, broadened, and strengthened my ability to teach and learn well.

So now, I've decided to consult only for a fee and not for free--Most likely, similar to most educators, I just don't have the resources to work for no compensation.  I'll continue to freely share via my blog, with chats, and at conferences as the dynamic share of PLN members is making education stronger and more student centered, and that's a good thing.

But as far as outside companies and private enterprises, it's time to share the wealth with educators too--we need to make a living like you.

What New Learning Path Will You Take?

As I reviewed the learning path lesson for students, I thought about the new learning path I would take to learn something new and to also model my learning for students.

When students see their teacher embarking on a new learning path, it gives them the courage and enthusiasm to start their own path.

At first, I couldn't think of a path. I had a few in the works, but they weren't paths I wanted to share with children. Then I received an invitation to participate in an online, free Stanford course.  I looked over the offerings and found a super match: Introduction to Mathematical Thinking. I had hoped to read a book about this topic over the summer, but I didn't. Then I signed up for a summer course which gave me a glimpse of this topic.  This course, according to the course description, seems like a perfect course for me--a course that will answer many questions that I have about mathematical thinking.

Also, this is the perfect journey to share with students for the following reasons:
  • This will offer me a challenge. I'll struggle; I'll make mistakes; I'll need to persevere and reach beyond my comfort zone; and I'll need their support. 
  • The topic will help me to help them as I want to impart a mathematical mindset to my students, and I find that taking higher level information and perspectives down to my fifth graders to be a terrific way to teach and inspire.
When students begin to choose their independent learning paths, I'll give them the time they need to choose a good topic. It took me a week to choose this topic. We'll also carve out the time to support our individual projects and coach one another towards success. 

What new learning path will you embark on this year?  How will you share that path with your students?  What do you hope to achieve?

Would you like to join me on this path? If so, let me know and we can touch base with one another as we learn. 

Note: Here's a copy of my learning path plan:

Teaching Math Standard by Standard with Meaning: One Example

What I love about math is that it brings order, and that order allows us to analyze, synthesize, predict, problem solve, imagine, create, and invent.

I want to help students see the potency of math. I want them to understand that math can make sense of complex situations, and help us to move to deeper thinking and powerful creativity.

The math standards are rich and deep. The language is precise, and the learning is substantive and positive.

Yet it takes time for teachers to dig in, learn, and translate these standards to young children with meaning and care.

How will we do this? We'll do it step-by-step and standard-by-standard.  We'll need to check in with our professional learning communities online and offline for accuracy, editing, and ideas--we won't always do it right, but with thoughtful effort, transparency, and the collaboration of the learning/teaching team (students, families, educators, leaders, and community members) we'll approach the mark of mastery for every child.

Today I began to dive into this fifth grade standard:

CCSS.Math.Content.5.OA.A.1 Use parentheses, brackets, or braces in numerical expressions, and evaluate expressions with these symbols.

I first thought about the work I've done with unpacking the standards and followed the process outlined in the video below:

Next, I began to think about the way I can explain parentheses, brackets, and braces to students. I want to start with a bit of conflict to create curiosity. So I'll start with the problem below and ask students to solve the problem on their own in their math notebook.

Then I'll ask, how could we make this problem easier to solve?  I'm sure that some students will say, "PEMDAS and Add Parentheses."  We'll review PEMDAS quickly using this video:

Then I'll show students the chart below:

I'll then ask students to rewrite the equation adding parentheses, brackets, and braces, and to try to solve again using what they know about PEMDAS.  We'll complete the assignment together after that.

After that I'll review the number project card assignment, and suggest that students try using parentheses in some of the equations they write. I'll give students the chance to review the help page on the math website as well, a page they can use to help them with the homework at home.

Finally, the next day, as a review we'll review parentheses, brackets, and braces with the page below and continue to practice writing equations as we practice number facts with the number card activity.

Professional Effort and Attitude

Schools of old were less structured and more informal while schools today are more formal and structured in many ways including standardized tests, professional protocols, evaluations, scheduling, and expectations.

I just read a host of mandated trainings both for the school system and for the State. The trainings included lots and lots of information. Primarily the trainings served to introduce multiple resources to guide professional work and to provide necessary information should specific issues arise related to harassment, bullying, neglect, injury, and more.

As a professional educator today, it serves you well to read the important information related to your work. It is also important to keep that information handy should you need it.  Also, it's helpful to embed the intent and protocols into your daily and weekly routines as well as your start-of-school efforts.

You can help students understand the protocols well too at the start of the year by reviewing the mandates that impact them such as anti-bullying rules and laws, school conduct codes, and academic expectations.

As you consider your professional growth and efforts, your attitude and actions matter.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Making Models with Multiplication Facts

Automaticity with number facts readies students for higher level math learning.

A good way to start fifth grade is to couple math fact review with model making.

One way to do this is to model the math facts using number lines.

Students "scoop count" or make "jumps" on the number line to show what it means to count by multiples of a number.

Once you and the students skip count on the number line together, you take time to analyze what you notice with depth. Chart the observations.

Not only is this a good way to rehearse multiplication facts, but it's also a positive way to revisit the use of number lines.

Other ways to make models with multiplication facts is to make arrays and coordinate grids.

A Promising Start to the School Year

As in years past, the entire faculty met to hear the superintendent's address on the school system's opening day. And once again, the Superintendent wove history, quotes from formidable leaders, and vision together to inspire our work, work that centers on the process of teaching thinking and learning skills while also meeting content standards and students' individual needs.

Our system continues to focus on HEART as the acronym that sums up our goals--a positive set of overriding goals.

Later our school principal had educators share stories of school time inspiration and success. The heart warming, humorous stories reminded everyone that heart is at the center of the work we do and the successes we are proud of.

Later I worked with my new teammate to plan the year's schedule, communication routines, and details related to the curriculum.  It was a good start with plenty of time to focus on the important details.

I'm moving from teaching all subjects to focusing mainly on science and math. The change has been dramatic in terms of work load change. Teaching half of the subjects and working with half of the leadership in that regard has made the job more manageable and doable--I have more time to focus on the specifics and details which I like. I'm wondering if this is a good move for all grades since teaching all subjects at this point in the learning/teaching evolution is a LOT of work, perhaps too much for one teacher.

The room is set, the team is made, the materials prepared so on this second day of prep, I'll focus in on more details in order to start the year with strength and care using my learning path post as a guide.

How have your first days of school been?  Where are the strengths and where are the challenges? Most importantly are you ready and do you have what you need to teach children well?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Classroom Choreography Counts

Art is... Lorraine O'Grady, artist, asserts that anything and anyone outlined within it is art.
There's a temptation to rush through the standards to meet the end point, yet that is not effective education.

The key is to choreograph the days, weeks, month, and year well--a responsive, interactive choreography that engages, empowers, and educates students.

A thoughtful mix of content, process, and disposition with a thread of intrigue and interest that keep the children coming back each day with curiosity and care not dissimilar to a very good book, musical, movie, play, or television series.

This kind of teaching, in a sense, is performance art. The kind of art I viewed recently at the Walker Museum in Minneapolis. An art that invites and incites audience participation and thought.

Use Learning to Learn activities to develop students' ability to learn with confidence, skill, and care. Also begin each subject area with the main foundation pieces--the kinds of learning they'll replicate often as they learn new concepts, skill, and knowledge in that content area.

Educators like parents have a unique opportunity to help young children reach their dreams and live a good life by carefully choreographing the learning program that focuses on individual learners' strengths and happiness--a program like the frames in Lorraine O'Grady's Exhibit.

The Math Year Begins with Facts and Models

We'll plot these ordered pairs. 
A solid foundation of math facts serves children well.

To begin the fifth grade year, we'll revisit and solidify facts by using those facts to create, study, and discuss math models.

First, we'll begin with the number card project. Students and I will look at the shape of numbers by creating arrays, decomposing numbers, and looking at number relationships.

Next, students will study the use of single and double number lines in relation to facts.

After that, students will complete fact patterns and plot those patterns on coordinate grids.

While we're reviewing facts and learning about the many models we can use to demonstrate number values and relationships, students will practice these skills at home using similar paper/pencil models, Xtra Math, That Quiz, and Khan Academy.

After the introductory activities above, students will take a fact assessment. Individualized practice schedules and goals will be set after this assessment. Students will also be formally and informally assessed on the standards below during the unit.

Beginning the year with these activities give students a review of fourth grade standards, a fact foundation, and models to use as we continue to study math concepts throughout the year. After this focus we'll move on to a dual focus including place value and standard algorithm review and practice.

These activities meet a number of fifth grade standards including the following:

  • CCSS.Math.Content.5.OA.A.1 Use parentheses, brackets, or braces in numerical expressions, and evaluate expressions with these symbols.
  • CCSS.Math.Content.5.OA.A.2 Write simple expressions that record calculations with numbers, and interpret numerical expressions without evaluating them. For example, express the calculation “add 8 and 7, then multiply by 2” as 2 × (8 + 7). Recognize that 3 × (18932 + 921) is three times as large as 18932 + 921, without having to calculate the indicated sum or product.
  • CCSS.Math.Content.5.OA.B.3 Generate two numerical patterns using two given rules. Identify apparent relationships between corresponding terms. Form ordered pairs consisting of corresponding terms from the two patterns, and graph the ordered pairs on a coordinate plane. For example, given the rule “Add 3” and the starting number 0, and given the rule “Add 6” and the starting number 0, generate terms in the resulting sequences, and observe that the terms in one sequence are twice the corresponding terms in the other sequence. Explain informally why this is so.
  • CCSS.Math.Content.5.G.A.1 Use a pair of perpendicular number lines, called axes, to define a coordinate system, with the intersection of the lines (the origin) arranged to coincide with the 0 on each line and a given point in the plane located by using an ordered pair of numbers, called its coordinates. Understand that the first number indicates how far to travel from the origin in the direction of one axis, and the second number indicates how far to travel in the direction of the second axis, with the convention that the names of the two axes and the coordinates correspond (e.g., x-axis and x-coordinate, y-axis and y-coordinate).
  • CCSS.Math.Content.5.G.A.2 Represent real world and mathematical problems by graphing points in the first quadrant of the coordinate plane, and interpret coordinate values of points in the context of the situation.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Knowing Your Role: Students and Teachers

Knowing your role well serves to pave a path to successful teaching and learning.

What are your responsibilities? Who do you serve? What are the expectations? How can you grow?

I've written a lot about role definition with regard to the changing face of schools and learning. The posts have been a response to new tools, structures, technology, and potential.

So once again, just before the first day of school, I'm thinking about my role and how I understand it. To me, my role is to serve children well in ways that propel their learning forward with confidence, engagement, and empowerment. It is my responsibility to choreograph the learning with apt tools, meaningful feedback, modeling, and care.

To meet my role with strength, I need to:
  • know my students well 
  • keep the paths of communication open between students, colleagues, families, and myself
  • understand the content and standards with depth 
  • design learning with and for students thoughtfully and creatively
What is the role of the student in today's classrooms?

First, students need to understand that schools serve them. Students have to believe that learning is within their reach, and it is the job of the teachers, students, and other school community members to help each child reach his/her potential.

Next, students have to understand that they also have a responsibility to bring their best effort, inquiry, and care to the classroom each day. They are part of a learning team--a team that succeeds when everyone supports each other. Not only is every child a student, but every child is also a teacher to their classmates and teachers in the learning community.

A school is a place for positive growth and care, and students are both recipients and contributors in that environment. 

There are lots of details with regard to roles and responsibilities of teachers and students, and those details are determined by a school's context. Typically many details will be defined while others will be left up to the judgement of the school's leadership and team. It's just as important to understand the details related to your role as it is to understand the overarching definition, and the best way to understand the details is through questioning, observation, and discussion. If you're not sure, ask rather than act as that will also serve to support your learning and leading well.

I've done a lot of thinking about my role with regard to what it is now, and where I'd like to move. I remain committed to the students as my primary focus in education. I want to serve them well and know all I can about optimal learning, growth, and confidence as that's what I hope my service will bring about to those I teach.

How do you understand your role as a student or teacher? What details do you still question?  Where would you like to move with respect to role and effort?  These are important questions to ponder as the school year begins. 

There's a Place for Direct Instruction

There is a place for direct instruction in school and life. Willingham's book, Why Don't Students Like School?, points out cognitive reasons why direct instruction works in some instances. The key is to not lecture all day or even for long periods of time, but to plan well for the short periods of direct instruction you employ in the classroom.

As I think of my first day of school lessons, I'm thinking about the habits I want to foster related to direct instruction. If student interrupt, call out, and loudly play with objects during direct instruction, the attention of the class (and teacher) become distracted thus extending the length and potency of that direct instruction. Therefore it's essential that children understand the expected behaviors for direct instruction. They need to know what's expected and why.

One part of my classroom is set up for direct instruction, student share, and quiet work. In this area, I will expect the follow behaviors for the following reasons:
  • Quiet voices as this is our quiet learning space, a space children and teachers use when they want to concentrate and share.
  • Listening because we can learn from each other, and when we give someone the opportunity to share his/her thinking, it's our responsibility to listen, and their responsibility to not talk for too long and to do their best to share with care.
  • Raising hands when you want to speak or share because that prevents calling out, and calling out just takes more time and disrupts the discussion.
  • Not raising hands when someone is speaking because it is a time taking distraction.
  • Respectful share because we want to invite the thoughts and ideas of others, and when our share is not respectful it takes everyone's attention away from the learning focus.
As we practice these behaviors during the first days of school I will remind students that the best learning is active learning, the kind of learning that they experience as problem solvers, collaborators, inventors, and creators. So when it's time for direct instruction, I'll try to make it pointed, meaningful, and brief so that everyone can profit from that instruction.

I'll also acknowledge that the pace of direct instruction won't be a fit for all. For some it will be too slow, and if that's the case it's okay to have their notebook out to grow the learning through drawing diagrams, writing notes, posing questions, or even, at some times, working on another learning quest. And for those for whom the direct instruction is too fast, I suggest that they talk to me about it so I can work to either change the pace or provide some pre- or post-teaching or instructional supports to help out.  

Willingham strongly notes that knowledge begets knowledge, and as educators it's our job to grow students' knowledge in multiple, responsive ways. One of those ways will be direct instruction because it's efficient, targeted, and successful at particular points in the learning cycle, points such as introductions, the "how-to" steps, correcting a common error, or relaying an important new fact or idea. Other learning behaviors such as cooperative work, problem solving, content creation, presentation, practice games, and thinking, writing, and reading are essential to the learning cycle as well. 

Apt choreography of all learning experiences and meaningful, productive protocols will create an atmosphere where everyone is an active learner who understands the expectations and elements that lead to individual and team learning success. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Students Use Backward Design to Create Personalized Learning Paths

Early in the school year, each child will design a personalized learning path using an enlarged copy of this template.

Students will start the process by listing topics and questions they're interested in.

Then I will provide a list of possible topics, topics I have lots of classroom information about, including the following:

  • Writing a Fiction Book
  • Writing a Poetry Book About a Topic That's Meaningful To You
  • Dinosaur Study
  • Garden Plan
  • Creating an App
  • Making Up a New Playground Game
  • Writing a Fraction Book for Young Children
  • Learning About a Famous Person Today or in History
  • Creating a Magazine to Share With the School
  • A Book About Animals on Our School Playground
  • A Town History Book for Children
Students will have a chance to add other topics.

Students will keep their plan and work in a folder online or offline, and they will have the chance to keep materials in a personalized container if needed.

When students' assigned work is complete, they'll be expected to work on their individual study. I will meet with these young researchers often to help them with their plans and work. 

Each child will be expected to make a presentation of their research sometime during the year to the class, at school meeting, or possibly another venue of their choice.

The objective of these self-designed learning paths is to show children that we're all learners who lead our learning life, and by using a logical, thoughtful process we can answer our own questions, make discoveries, invent, create, and present to others.  

Starting the year with this focus is one way to exemplify what it means to be a successful learner. Other ways to teach children about learning are included in this start-of-the-year Learning to Learn curriculum.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Donors Choose: Support a Valuable Project for Children in Need

Celebrate the start of the year by supporting
my sister's Donors Choose project
My sister, a fourth grade teacher, and I talk daily about family, school, and life in general. While my students benefit from tremendous support, many of her students struggle for a large number of reasons. For this reason, school dollars are distributed differently, and her students do not have the amazing tech tools in class that my students benefit from every day.

Last year she told me a story of a very bright child who was frustrated, and as I listened to the story, I felt sad as that same student in my class would have had multiple ways to build his knowledge thanks to the terrific individualized tech access we have at our school.

Similarly, many of her students have not had the opportunity to learn about the world in broader, more visual ways. In fact, one of her students was surprised to find out that President Obama was an African American--a fact that instilled pride and confidence in that student.

Her students are bright and eager like my students. Her students want to succeed like my students, and her students' families reach out to support their children with love and care like my students' families do. However, due to multiple economic factors, some of her students don't have access to the same learning tools that my students have.

You can help these students out.  If 100 people give $10. each, her students will have new tools that will help them achieve and succeed. Their future will be stronger due to the knowledge and skill these tools help to support.

Just yesterday The Gates Foundation funded half of my sister's grant, and I hope that others will fund the next half so that her students will have greater opportunity this year. Like many of you, my sister has been a dedicated teacher for a long time, and this would be a great way to honor her service and support students in need. Thank you!

Prepare for a Healthy, Happy School Year

It's that time when students, teachers, and parents are thinking about school preparation and start. How can you make multiple hours in the same classroom a comfortable, happy, healthy place to be?

Comfortable Clothes and Shoes
First, comfortable clothes. It's important that educators and their students wear comfortable, playful clothes because the business of learning today is active. Students learn at desks, on the floor, in the fields, and with multiple hands-on tools. Clothes that are too tight, hot, and constricting limit the learning. Similarly clothes that don't fit well create discomfort and even teasing. Too often new pants slide down too far making a child the object of teasing. Also many "stylish" clothes constrict students, mainly girls, from the playful jumping, running, and sports or outdoor play. Teachers too need to dress comfortably in ways that allow them to kneel down next to a desk, run outside, and play a game of kickball if that's their desire.

Also remember dressing in layers is usually the best choice in most schools as the temperatures inside often change as does the weather outside. When children can quickly layer up or down, this ensures comfort.

Healthy Snacks and Water
Next, lots of water and healthy snacks. Hungry children are too distracted to learn. Making sure your child has a water bottle and nutritious snacks that include protein will give them the energy they need to learn, and learning does take energy. I read recently that when the brain is doing intense intellectual work, the body actually responds like it's running a marathon, hence you get very hungry.  In lots of homes, family members forget to pack the snacks and water. To avoid this, you can make it part of your weekly routine to put a snack box in the backpack and a water bottle--enough to last a week.

School Supplies
Check your child's supply list so that you make sure he/she has the supplies needed. Often a quick trip around the house will find that you may already have a lot of the supplies required. If you don't know what your child needs, call the school and find out. If you can't afford the supplies requested, also notify the school so that teachers can prepare to have your child outfitted with supplies before the school year starts. Many schools have extra supplies for those situations.

WIFI and Computers
It's a great advantage today to have a computer to assist with your child's learning. The Chromebook is a very affordable way to get a computer for your household. If this is not affordable, then seek out local places where computers are available such as your local library and include regular visits to the library to use the computer. Also, if a computer is required for homework, talk to school personnel about access.  Affordable WIFI has been identified by the U.S. Department of Education. Watch this video to find out more:

Study Station and Home Protocols
The way we spend our time and use our spaces at home exemplify our priorities. Typically making some firm decisions about this prior to the start of the school year leads to greater success. For example the years we've made decisions about no TV during the weekdays, our children have done better in school. We're going to embrace a no TV before 9pm rule in our house to foster greater reading and home study for our high schooler this year. Also making the time to clean up and supply the at-home study station helps too. Whether the study space is the kitchen table, a desk in your child's room, or a family study space, make the time to clean it up and ready it for the school year with a collection of paper, pens, art supplies, and a computer and printer if possible.

School Year Calendar
Take a look at the school year calendar ahead of time, and plan vacations and family events on days away from school. Missing school for most students puts them several days behind. Student success depends on good attendance. Yet, it's also great to make use of school vacations to have fun as a family and knowing those dates ahead of time and making plans early can save you money and give you something to look forward to.

The Family Schedule, Meetings, and Priorities. 
Most American homes are busy hence it's important to meet as a family and lay out the school year schedule as well as who will do what. In the early years, my husband typically dropped the children off at day care and I picked them up. Later, as schedules got more complicated, we met as a family each week to look over the week's requirements and scheduled accordingly. Some families even plan their meals in advance so cooking is easier and healthier during the work week. The weekly meeting is also a good time to set priorities for the week and know which children need what kind of support. This is much better than last minute arguments and rushing to get things done. Trying to finish big projects two to three days before the due date is a great goal too--one that makes the projects better as there's time for error and last minute changes, and one that keeps the stress low too.

Communication and Asking Questions
If you're not sure about school procedures and policies, ask. Too often families and students fear asking when the question is the right thing to do. It's the job of teachers and schools to serve students well, and if we understand students' and families' needs with detail, it's easier to meet that goal.

Making the time to prepare and plan for a successful school year will support teachers, families, and students.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Good Work

My brother and I debated this morning. He's always a good resource for a growth producing debate. One quote from the debate that stayed with me was "Recreation is a discipline."  My brother is a big proponent of the good life and community, and with that perspective he's also a fan of the power of recreation.

We know he's not alone as research demonstrates the power that recreation has on good work and a positive mindset.

So with that in mind, I think about the balance that brings about good work.  What does it take to do your job well.  I offer the following short list:

Apt Communication and Collaboration
In the changing world of schools, this is an area of focus for me. I will be looking for the best ways to communicate and collaborate to serve children well in the new year. One resource that I've been led to is the book, Getting to Yes, which I look forward to reading.

Children First
With a continued focus on the servant leadership model, I will do all I can to put students and families first in my work. I will open the lines of communication via email, phone, and face-to-face, and make the time to focus on individuals.

With a primary focus on math and science, I'll begin to invest in learning paths that respond to these areas in relation to fifth grade studies. I'll also embed next generation test criteria and practice into these units so students are ready for the PARCC tests. Thanks to Sara Brooks for offering me a good resource in this regard. I'll also plan to participate in multiple twitter chats to grow my learning including the following:

  • #satchat: Saturday mornings 7:30-8:30
  • #edchat: Tuesday 12 noon or 7-8pm
  • #edchatma: 9/2 for next chat
  • #scichat: Tuesday 9-10pm
  • #mathchat
I plan to attend MassCUE and hope to attend Educon 2.7 and NCTM Boston if possible.

Family, Friends, and Fun
As my brother says, I hope to follow his advice, "Recreation is a Discipline."  

What does good work look like in your teaching/learning world? What else would you include?  I look forward to your share. 

Sprint or Marathon: #satchat Inspires

I hope to try Voxer soon. 
Today as I prepare to set up my classroom, I participated in the Saturday morning #satchat. It was the perfect choice as starting the day with a group of invested educators is a great way to motivate positive teaching/learning efforts.

#satchat is a Saturday morning chat from 7:30-8:30am EST (#satchatwc is later in the morning for those on west coast time).

Today's #satchat motivated me in two ways. First, Dennis Schug, prompted me to think about new ideas with the "sprint or marathon" metaphors. When should a new idea be treated like a sprint, and when should a new idea be treated like a marathon? This was a great thought for me, a teacher who likes to jump into new ideas and is sometimes frustrated when my enthusiasm is not shared.

I started to connect this thought to my desire to try out new tech. Since the onset of ed-tech, I've engaged with multiple new platforms in ready ways. Sometimes, after trying a new venue for five minutes, I know it's not for me or my students, and other times a quick look and try tells me that it's a keeper. New tech for me is more like a sprint--my experience helps me to quickly determine the value of a tech tool with regard to audience, growth potential, and use. The use of new tech tools has invigorated my teaching, student engagement, and learning for me and my students.

Yet, varying opinions related to tech use exist, particularly tech use for the under-13 crowd. Many still fear tech for young children, and others still don't understand its potential.  Rightfully, leaders want to be cautious as there are many rules related to tech for children under 13, yet there is substantial potential for these children too. Learning about tech at early ages when children's minds are open and agile promotes later positivity and flexibility with tech use. Also, tech tools, like no other tools, can help us to differentiate well keeping all children invested and learning with engagement and interest.

When I speak of tech use, it's not the scene that some imagine, a scene of a child glued to a computer. Instead, tech use in my class is a blended use. Children, mostly working in small groups, use the tech tools as a part of the whole learning experience--it's a piece of the learning choreography, a tool that supports, enriches, and clarifies the learning--it's the notebook-calculator-library-pencil-drawing tools-and-more all-in-one.  All committed learners today, young and old, understand the value of tech tools--the tools are amazing!

So for me, trying a new tech tool is a sprint, and for the under 13 crowd, I believe it's a sprint that should be supported with ready protocols so that teachers can seize the moment and serve a child or class well.  As far as the overall growth of tech tools, infrastructure, course design, well that's more of a marathon--ideas that take greater systematic thought and collaboration.

Secondly, today's #satchat introduced me to Voxer in a deeper way. I really want to try it out with some fifth grade math teachers to discuss teaching a specific standard. It sounds like it could be a super venue for that. Any takers? If so, please email me at

Thanks to the #satchat moderators for this weekly dose of inspiration, challenge, and learning--the kind of professional learning that truly moves educators forward to teach children well.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Focus on the Individual Learner

My theme this year is to focus on the individual learner.

I will start with surveying students and families with care so that I know each learner well. In addition I will carefully analyze existing formal and informal student data. 

Next I'll use the Learning to Learn curriculum to boost every learner's confidence and accessibility to successful learning. 

After that I'll carefully craft learning experiences with and for each student that respond to standards and students' needs and interests. 

I'll assess often and include families, colleagues, and students in the process of revision, goal setting, and design. 

Using servant leadership as my teaching model, I'll consider myself a servant to the students and work to meet their needs to the best of my ability. I'll seek the consult of experts near and far when needed, and speak up if I believe my words and questions will positively impact the children in my charge. I'll also continue to boost my knowledge, concept, and skill with a focus on math and science education. 

In school life there is much that calls for your time and attention, and that's why it is important to set the course priorities up front--priorities that put children first. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

It's a Big World

I've been on an amazing tour of the United States. We've visited several states touring cities and the countryside. I've had the terrific opportunity to talk to people from all over the world. I've enjoyed their stories and admired their sense of adventure, optimism, and care.

I've also been astounded by our country's beauty, and inspired to read, read, read about the history, facts, and stories related to each place I've visited. My children were similarly inspired to ask question after question as we adventured in dramatic landscapes like The Badlands and multiple cityscapes too.

As an educator, I am reminded that there is no better way to learn about geography, history, science, and math than experiences--actually seeing and exploring new places whets the appetite for investigation. Whether you are exploring nearby or faraway, it's essential to get out there and experience the world around you. I'll bring that fact back to my students this year as we explore the ecosystems around us. And since math education is one of my main charges next year, I'll make the time to help students learn math by using facts and figures to better see and understand their world and interests.

Further, as I've noted numerous times before, just making the time to get away and experience new people, places, and events, opens one's mind to the potential and possibility that exists for your work and life.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

School Year Warm-Ups: Math Smart

Dear family members, camp counselors, and child care workers,

Many helpful links are available on this website.
Now that the school year has started or is right around the corner, what can you do to prepare your children for the math year ahead?

  • First, do an attitude assessment--have you told your child you can't learn math. If so, change that attitude right now. Studies show we can all learn math, and there's no truth in those old myths about some being able to learn math and others not able to learn math.  Yes, some will have to work harder to reach success, but learning math is within everyone's grasp. So dispel the old myths about math, embrace the beauty that math holds, and give your child a positive attitude towards math learning.
  • Next, access technology. Computers are inexpensive, and are probably one of the most important long-term investments you'll make for your child's education. Go out and buy a computer that has Internet access. If you can't afford a computer, talk to school personnel as perhaps there's a way to finance one. There are also computers available in most libraries, and often schools are willing to let students stay afterschool with parental support to use computers.
  • After that, make sure you have WIFI.  The federal government has waged a deal with WIFI providers for affordable WIFI. Watch this video to learn more:
  • Then, try out these games and programs to boost your math ability. Sit down with your child and explore the games together. Decide which ones you like, then make a menu for math practice game playing.
  • And, build your child's fluency with facts.  Get those facts as solid as you can with games, flash cards, making posters, and more. The better your child's basic facts knowledge is the more able he/she will be able to move ahead with higher level math concepts.
  • Also, notice math in nature and the world you live in. Talk about math by wondering how many, what size, comparing/contrasting, and looking for shapes and angles.
  • Read math books--there's lots of fun picture books in the library that include math concepts. Just ask the librarian for help.
  • Cook with your child. Let your child read the recipes and measure the ingredients. 
  • Play math board games. Yahtzee was the reason I was so facile with math facts. My cousin Judy and I played this game endlessly every summer.
  • Work with money. Open a bank account. Find all the lose change in the house and bring it to a machine. Have a lemonade stand (in a safe place). Cut and use coupons. Make a money plan for the year ahead with respect to allowance, savings, and little jobs.
Most of all make it fun!  Math can be lots of fun, and if teachers and family members work together to dispel the old negative notions about math, we'll better prepare all students to succeed in this area with skill and engagement. 

We now live in a world that's dependent on mathematical thinking in almost every profession and discipline. Deep understanding and ability in math will help all children succeed.

What other ideas do you have for building competent, successful math students?  I'm open to your ideas, and thanks for your help!

Helping Struggling Math Students Succeed: Ideas

How do you effectively teach struggling math students?

As I reviewed new scores, I really began to think about this question in earnest.

I will start with the following strategies, and if you have more for me, please share.

Know the Learner Well
Often struggling math students are complex learners for a large number of reasons so by getting to know these learners well through conversation, discussion, and strategizing, I will be better able to work with them towards success. These are questions one can consider as you get to know your challenged math learner with depth:
  • Is there a language barrier?
  • Are there identified special needs?
  • Does executive functioning issues play a role?
  • Are there problems at home?
  • Is sickness an issue?
  • Does the child have visual challenges?
  • Is there a need for an attitude shift? Does the child believe he/she can learn?
  • Are there significant developmental deficits in his/her math understanding and knowledge--deficits that need to be strengthened? 
By identifying the struggling math students via standardized tests, surveys, and other measures at the start of the year, you can be ready for them by providing the following accommodations:
  • preferential seating
  • a schedule that provides them with extra small group or one-to-one support beginning at the start of the year
  • early meetings with family members
  • tailored home study routines with frequent check-ins
  • video or Skype lessons from home to help with home study
  • extra incentives
  • accessible tools
Explicit Teaching and Practice 
These students need lots of explicit give-and-take teaching at a just right pace. Make the time to pre-teach or reteach concepts with these students each day if possible. Willingham's book, Why Don't Students Like School, points to the fact that some students don't learn as quickly or as well as others and for those students to reach success they need to work harder and more.  Give these students the explicit teaching they need and the extra opportunity to practice.

Target the Most Important Teaching Points
Use online enrichment, project work, and problem solving to keep your talented, independent math learners engaged, while you make the time to teach the most important math points (the standards) to your struggling students. Give them the time and extra attention to solidify these these skills, concepts, and knowledge.

Multimodal Teaching and Model Making 
Teach in many ways with multiple modes. Find the best ways to build understanding with each child. Move from concrete to representational to abstract in this regard. Use models regularly to strengthen understanding. 

A Strong Foundation
Make the time to strengthen the child's math foundation. If he/she does not have early numeracy skills and strength, the student will not be able to grasp the higher level concepts. 

Next year I have the luxury of concentrating on mainly two subjects, math and science. The system has identified math a main growth objective for the grade level I'll teach, 5th grade. Hence one of my most important goals will be to keep these challenged math students center stage, and to work with the learning community to raise their level of confidence, understanding, and skill significantly.

If you've got some great ideas for this, please let me know. We've had some success in the past, but I believe that greater time and attention towards the issue will bring us even more success.  Onward. 

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Score Focus

A host of scores arrived during the summer days.

I analyzed the results and found that many met the mark and some still did not meet the mark.'

I considered the mark--it's a valuable goal.

As I looked over the results, I returned to next year's plans and did a bit of revision to better plan for the students who need a bit more and/or different support to reach the goals.

Since I'm moving ahead a grade, the students are moving with me and I know many of them well. I have a good sense of what will make the program more tailored to their needs. Additionally, the scores also proved to point out strategies that worked well--strategies that I'll continue to use.

While we have to be cautious about the data we collect and how we use that data so that we continue to teach the whole child, the data can be used well to better focus instruction so that all children succeed with essential skill, concept, and knowledge.

Receiving scores prior to the school year helps us to research and target new approaches as soon as the school year begins which helps us to teach children well.

Nuts and Bolts: The Daily Plan

The overarching curriculum, websites, plans, and goals are set for the year ahead.

There will be some revision once I learn of system-wide and school goals, but since I know my job description, I don't think there will be a lot of change for me.

Therefore now it's time for the nuts and bolts--the day to day planning and execution of lessons so that every child learns well. These are the details that matter when it comes to teaching well.

Day One
  • Introductions/Attendance
  • Desk set-up
  • Introduction to the classroom
  • Learning to Learn Lesson #1
  • Biography of George Washington Carver
  • Number Models
Day Two
  • Learning to Learn Lesson #2
  • Favorite Places in Nature continue
  • Number Models
  • George Washington Carver continue

Day Three
  • Learning to Learn Lesson #3
  • Number project starts/Khan Academy
  • Favorite Places in Nature continue
  • Start STEAM Inspiration notebooks
  • Homestudy: Khan Academy
Day Four
  • Learning to Learn Lesson #4
  • Number Models
  • Favorite Places in Nature continue
  • Start STEAM Inspiration notebooks
First Full Week:
  • Learning to Learn Lessons
  • Favorite Places in Nature Project completed and displayed. 
  • Number project completed and hung up in the classroom as a math reference.
  • Khan Academy routines and efforts  established.
  • Second STEAM biography shared and responded to in writing. 
Second Full Week:
  • Learning to Learn Lessons
  • Equations, Inequalities, and Expressions Unit
  • Fact Assessments, Study Menus
  • Ecosystem Vocabulary: Frayer Model Google Presentation
  • Khan Academy Study/Practice Continues 
  • STEAM Biography and response pattern continues
  • Place Value
The goals of the first three weeks are the following:
  • Students will understand how to use Khan Academy to support their math study and learning in personalized, effective ways.
  • Students will establish a routine of daily math practice at home using Khan Academy and other online/offline venues.
  • Students will get to know each other and how to work with each other well through the Learning to Learn unit and Favorite Places in Nature curriculum thus establishing a strong start to the classroom community.
  • Students will establish and follow meaningful classroom protocols.
  • Students will learn about, discuss, and write about famous STEAM leaders today and in history. 
  • Students will understand and use the vocabulary related to number talk, and students will learn about and apply the many ways we can express numbers in pictures, numbers, and words. 
  • Students will practice all math fact knowledge and determine goals and a personalized menu for daily skill study and learning. 
Related Posts
2014-2015 Learning Paths

Post revised 8/25

A Coach's Coach

An education leader I admire has her own coach.

She relies on her coach to help her achieve best efforts and endeavor.

This year I decided to follow this leader's efforts by getting my own coach--a coach that knows me well, shares my philosophy of education, and has broad experience in the field.

I'm looking forward to this personal support. I am also looking forward to experiencing coaching first hand, and replicating this kind of coaching in my own work as I work to coach each child ahead with care.

My favorite part of my job as a teacher is knowing each child well and working to help every child grow with confidence, skill, and vision for their future efforts.

Many school systems hire coaches to coach teachers ahead, yet in many systems these coaches have varied roles that may put the teacher coach more in a position of evaluator than actual coach depending on that person's job description, evaluation criteria, goals, and more.

There is a currently a growing field of life coaches, people removed from your day-to-day life who are able to coach your best efforts forward with care and a good sense of objectivity.

In a sense, these life coaches replicate a type of apprenticeship model that's existed throughout time.

I'm looking forward to greater depth and growth as I move ahead with this support.

Do you work with a professional coach? If so, how has this deepened and broadened the work you do? If you don't work with a coach, how might you add this to your learning/teaching repertoire in a formal or informal way--a way to help you achieve your personal goals and professional learning?

Purge: Classroom Design

I'm changing classrooms, and I have a lot of materials.

I'm planning two days before school starts to sort, stack, and arrange these things into a classroom design that invites students creativity, collaboration, and effective effort.

Right now you can find numerous posts on Twitter, blogs, and Pinterest related to classroom organization as teachers everywhere are in the midst of this partly creative and partly house-cleaning endeavor. In some schools design and classroom arrangement is prioritized by the acquisition of new style desks, chairs, work stations, and storage units, and in other places, teachers still visit yard sales and use their own money to buy what they can to organize their classrooms.

The hardest part of this effort, similar to cleaning my house, is getting rid of things. I have about a 1,000 books or more in my room. Books I've collected from my own children's libraries, friends, and neighbors, and books handed to me by colleagues and the school system. It's too many and my classroom is right next door to the library. Hence, I'll cull the collection down to a few hundred terrific fiction and informational books.

I also have lots and lots of craft supplies which I'll put in plastic bins in our Maker Station area.

Finally, I have a lot of old units and teaching materials. If I can easily locate it online, I'll throw the offline materials away. Also if I haven't used it in a year and it's not really, really special, I'll throw it away.

Our PTO gives us some money to buy supplies so I'll use that money to buy some beanbag chairs and specific craft supplies related to our first science unit.

Just like my efforts to simplify my home, the same is mostly true in school: less things, more time--time to teach, coach, and care for the learners in my midst.

Related Post
Charting the Course: 2014-2015 School Year

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Twitter Inspiration

Some mornings I wake up uninspired.

Whether it's allergies, too little sleep, a nightmare, or a day's list of tasks I'm not looking forward to, I don't have my usual energy on days like this.

Yet, with coffee and the Twitter feed, I usually turn that around. I peruse Twitter looking for a few tweets that inspire me.

Today, I read Frederic Brussat's @fredericbrussat tweet with the Ghandi quote, "To punish and destroy an oppressor is merely to initiate a new cycle of violence and oppression." This made me think of those in our midst who may squelch our spirits or belittle our efforts. How can we move past that to model what we truly believe in, and try to impact our environments with positivity and strength?  A good question to ponder.

Then Mark Liddell @markliddell posted this great YouTube video with the connection to math teaching/learning mindsets. I look forward to using this video as I work with students to broaden their math perspectives and thoughts. It's the kind of video I want to watch again and again to see what's really happening.

Now as I begin today's tasks, a list of have-to's not want-to's, I'll have two good ideas to ponder.  That's the kind of inspiration Twitter can bring to your day.  Onward.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Seeing Math

I like a big, deep goal to start the year with.

I like a goal that challenges me and keeps me thinking.

I have lots of tiny goals, but I'm thinking of one umbrella goal--the kind that spurs you forward with good work, work that is welcome by all in your midst.

After talking with a talented colleague this morning, I think that goal will be "Seeing Math." Yes, I want students to see math. When they hear a number they immediately see many variations of that number in images, 2D and 3D.

This will fit nicely with the emphasis on model making and problem solving.

How do you "see math," and what ways do you manipulate those images to solve problems, identify patterns, and estimate guesses.

How would you define "seeing math?" In what ways do you develop this visual literacy in students? What are the benefits? I want to think more about this and I welcome your ideas.

What Student Assessments and Surveys Do You Use at the Start of the Year?

Getting to know our students well at the start of the year is integral to a student's success. The information we collect from previous teachers, family members, assessments, and students themselves help us to know our students well. This information also helps us to target specific, meaningful learning goals, and begin to chart the progress towards those goals with strength.

If teachers collaborate around the kinds of information they collect and the structures for hosting and sharing that information, the conversations about students' growth and development are strengthened. On the other hand, if all the educators are charting growth with different categories, questions, and charts, then when it comes time to discuss student learning, the conversation takes more time as educators try to adjust their various information charts to the collective conversation.

While multiple arenas exist for data collection and review, it's important that the information we bring to the teaching/learning table is concise and easy to apply. With that in mind, I created this survey sheet to use at the start of the year for every child. The information categories pertain specifically to my teaching context and students. I can imagine that this sheet might undergo some change as colleagues and I discuss the process before school starts.

In addition, much of this information, will be added (or already exists) on easy to manipulate online spreadsheets. Yet, the paper copy will be helpful as parents, colleagues, students, and I meet to discuss goal setting, progress, and programs in the year ahead.

What kind of survey sheet or data collection system and process do you use at the start of the year to get to know your students? Do you set aside time to meet with previous teachers, family members, students, and colleagues to collect and review data and also set goals?  How do you use this information as the year progresses to help students create and meet their own goals, and to revise and target the teaching learning program.

There are many pieces to the jigsaw puzzle we call school, and some of the most integral pieces are those we fit together at the start of the year to know our students well, target the learning, and engage us in creating and carrying out the learning program with confidence and care.

How Do You Reach Your Professional Teaching and Learning Goals?

The class math website provides a ready resource for the learning community.
Too often we don't reach our goals because we're not specific enough.

Hattie's book, Visible Learning for Teachers, Maximizing Impact on Learning, provides a good framework to use when discussing and working on your professional goals for the year ahead.  By applying the following questions to your goals, you will find that your work becomes more focused and targeted:
  1. What do students/you aim to learn?
  2. What do students/you know already about the topic
  3. Why do students/you need or want to learn this?
  4. How will you know when students/you have learned this? What will it look like?
  5. What strategies, processes, and activities will students/you use to achieve the learning goal?
  6. How will students/you monitor their learning to see if they learned it or not?
  7. How can leaders, teachers, and peers help students/you to achieve the goal?
  8. When do students/you hope to complete this task?

In Massachusetts, teachers are required to have two main goals: a student learning goal and a professional learning goal.

Today, I used the questions above and applied those questions to the two goals I've set for the year ahead, goals that I will discuss with my evaluator early in the year.

Student Learning Goal: 
To Teach All Students All Grade-Level Math Standards With Skill and Success
  • 100% of students will learn about, practice, and present their knowledge related to each standard.
  • 100% of the students will reach their individual mastery goal. For most students this means precision, fluency, and facility with the standard (75% on assessments or above), and for some, who may be receiving targeted developmental math help, this means reaching a target specified by the learning team. 
1. What do students aim to learn? 
  • All CCSS Grade 5 Math Standards
2. What do students know already about the topic? 
  • I will assess this through early year assessments and results including fact tests, GMADE, MCAS, family/student surveys, conversation, and observation. 
3. Why do students need or want to learn this?
  • To be successful today, students need a strong math foundation, and these standards will help students to achieve that foundation.
  • To be successful at the grade level, it has been determined on a state and system level, that students will learn this information. 
  • Knowledge builds confidence and a strong foundation for future learning. 
4. How will you know when students have learned this? What will it look like?
  • I will know students have learned this in three ways:
    • Successful performance on "next generation" assessment task (problem solving) for each standard.
    • Ability to present a viable argument related to the standard in pictures, numbers, and words alone or with classmates. 
    • Successful performance related to a short assessment of the standards-based skill, concept, and knowledge. 
5. What strategies, processes, and activities will students use to achieve the learning goal? Initial Introduction to standard in a way that introduces vocabulary and causes cognitive dissonance (wake-up).
  • Short pre-assessment to gauge knowledge and needs.
  • Practice Menu including tech-related practice with multiple related sites, home study, small group work. problem solving, math talk, and student/teacher coaching.
  • Collaborative work, student/teacher coaching. 
  • Presentation and share.
  • Formative assessments.
  • Summative assessment. 
6. How will students monitor their learning to see if they learned it or not? 
  • Informal and formal assessments online and off. 
  • Online chart of scores, observations, and comments to guide teaching decision and work. 
  • Reteaching and targeted attention for those who need it. 
7. How can teachers and peers help students to achieve the goal?
  • Collaborative work, student/teacher coaching.
  • Online resource sites such as Khan Academy and others listed on website.
  • Ability to email teacher with family members for clarification and understanding.
  • Listening to classmates' present.
  • Class Math Talk, discussion, debate, and problem solving.
  • In-class reference books, signage, and bulletin boards. 
8. When do you hope to complete this task?
  • I hope to achieve this goal by the time of the spring assessment, a date which has not been announced yet. 
Professional Learning Goal: I will understand and teach each grade level math standard so that every child meets the mastery level goals set:
  • 100% of students will learn about, practice, and present their knowledge related to each standard.
  • 100% of the students will reach their individual mastery goal. For most students this means fluency and facility with the standard, and for some, who may be receiving targeted developmental math help, this means reaching a target specified by the learning team. 
1. What do I aim to learn? 
  • All CCSS Grade 5 Math Standards
2. What do I know already about the topic? 
  • I am familiar with each standards and have started a  website  that includes all standards and related teaching information.
3. Why do I need or want to learn this? 
  • To teach each standard well, I have to understand each standard with depth including the skills, concept, and knowledge that precede the standard as well as the skill, concept, and knowledge that follows. 
4. How will I know when I have learned this? What will it look like? 
  • Each lesson sequence on the website will be complete and open for the learning community.
  • The full set of unit lessons will be taught.
  • Pre-assessment as well as formative and summative assessments will be given and documented.
  • Follow-up reteaching and targeted support will be provided. 
5. What strategies, processes, and activities will I use to achieve the learning goal? 
  • Prior to the school year, I created the website, practiced the standards using Khan Academy, and attended a math course, Proportional Thinking, and The Wayland Math Institute.
  • During the school year, I'll follow this process for each standard unit.
    • Review standard unit on Khan Academy, system-wide websites, and via my PLN's and collegial  reference information.
    • Create the unit roll-out and document on the website.
    • Teach starting with vocabulary and pre-assessment, leading to explicit teaching and practice, formative assessments, more teaching, project/problem presentation and share, summative assessment, reteaching and targeted support, and reflection/revision. 
6. How will I monitor my learning to see if students and I learned it or not?
  • Informal and formal assessments.
  • Online chart of scores, observations, and comments to guide teaching decision and work. 
  • Reteaching and targeted attention for those who need it. 
  • Students engagement, motivation, success, and self-motivated learning and extensions in school and outside of school. 
7. How can leaders, teachers, and peers help you to achieve the goal?
  • I will listen to the stories of colleagues online and off via PLCs, grade-level meetings, Twitter chats, blogs, and conferences related to these teaching goals and apply helpful strategies that I learn about. 
  • Leaders and colleagues can help me achieve this goal by providing the following supports:
    • Necessary classroom materials: paper, pencils, computers, math resource books.
    • A 60-90 minutes a day of uninterrupted math teaching.
    • Steady, consistent support that meets IEPs, student needs,  and other accommodations. 
    • Permission and support for attending professional conferences: MassCUE, Educon 2.7, NCTM
8. When do I hope to complete this task?
  • I hope to achieve this goal by the time of the spring assessment, a date which has not been announced yet.