Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Digging Into the Scores: Thinking Strategically About Teaching Well

As I dig into a set of scores, I am thinking about how we can think strategically with regard to teaching math well. What do I notice?

Students who practice have a significant advantage.
On Twitter and other social networks the idea that students have to do math to learn math has been trending. This seems obvious, but what happens at times is that some children get only the whole class introduction and do not have substantial opportunity for practice. This may happen for lots of reasons, but it's an important strategic element to think about as we think of programming for children.

Willing to Risk; Learning to Learn
Some students are very unwilling to risk and/or don't know how to learn. In many cases, these students are fearful of putting themselves out there as dynamic learners simply because they don't trust themselves and don't think that they are capable of learning. In many cases these students may come from homes that fear education or situations where they haven't had positive opportunities to learn, to fail, to discuss learning. These students need lots of coaching around self efficacy, confidence building, growth mindset, how to be resourceful and ask questions--these students also generally need a lot of loving care and guidance. This is a situation where a positive strategy is to add one-to-one and small group academic/social-emotional/learning-to-learn integrated coaching with skilled staff on a consistent basis.

Teaching All Standards
Students need to be taught all the standards they will be tested on; and they need to be taught these standards in good time well. That means that educators have to understand the standards well and think strategically and holistically about how to teach those standards for mastery. At the start of every school year there should be a strategic plan about how to teach the curriculum well, and that strategic plan should evolve as good analysis of scores and efforts are put into place with collaboration by all stakeholders.

Teaching with All the Right Components
There are many elements that help us to teach math well and those elements include the following:
  • project/problem based learning
  • tech integration with worthy tech programs and platforms
  • skills practice
  • hands-on learning opportunities with related manipulatives
  • real world applications through problem/project based learning, videos, field studies and more
  • explicit teaching and practice
  • vocabulary and language development including math reading and writing
  • creation and manipulation of models via drawing, online work, and making
  • discussion, debate, and conversation about the topic
  • asking great questions
  • managing your own learning and self advocacy
  • explicit practice with test taking venues, problem types, and resources as well as letting student understand the best strategies to use when taking various tests  -- every test has its own list of optimal strategies. 
Collaboration of all Stakeholders
It takes a village to teach math well and that village includes family members, students, administrators, and community members. As we work together we have to coach each other along and support each others' efforts, In general this kind of work profits from patterns such as regular newsletters, meetings, assessment, conversation, improvement and more. It takes the dedication and commitment of all to help students forward their math learning and achievement.

I'm sure that I could add a lot more to this list.

As students take multiple tests this spring, it's a good time to think about how you will strategically plan for and carry out the math teaching/learning for the year ahead. It's also important to remember that you will have to revise the plan as you go though in order to respond to the learners in front of you.

I welcome your suggestions as I think ahead. Thank you!