Originally posted on the RPS Elementary C&I website on 11.21.2017.
Remember the days you spent hours creating beautiful lesson plans (for imaginary students!) only to be reviewed and assessed by college professors who perhaps have never taught in a K-12 setting? While we may have moved away from writing lesson plans that include the detail necessary to earn passing grades, formal lesson planning may be an exercise worth revisiting.
Examining a traditional lesson plan template forces us to consider who our students are as learners, the learning objective of each lesson, what mastery of that objective will look like, and the materials needed to engage our learners by differentiating for their needs. Your overall instructional plan will also include interventions and extensions for those who fall below or far exceed the learning target.
That’s a lot to plan for, and for some, our pedagogical tool boxes are just full enough to carry us through the instructional phase; however, mindfulness about the desired learning results and evidence of learning should not be overlooked as we plan. Through John Hattie’s extensive research on student achievement published in Visible Learning (2009), we know that there are some educational practices that are more impactful than others. He found, “effective teachers set appropriately challenging goals and then structure situations so that students can reach these goals.” Being mindful about what we want our students to know and be able to do as a result of the learning experience and determining what that learning looks like is what Hattie termed “teacher clarity.” Teacher clarity ranked in the top 10 or over 100 positive influences on student learning that Hattie studied. He further defined teacher clarity as “organization, explanation, examples and guided practice, and assessment of student learning,” which brings us back to the lesson plan.
The process of creating a narrow focus for learning when lesson planning—writing it down and determining what success looks like—is one of the most effective things we can do as teachers. Making the learning visible for our students, offering precise clarity about what they are learning and what it should look like when they have learned it, matters. When we consider that framework, creating meaningful and engaging learning experiences becomes more targeted.
Identifying academic learning targets for each lesson as part of more formalized lesson planning will help us problem solve the “what ifs...” What if students appear bored? What if they struggle so much they give up? What if they get through the learning experience in half the time I had planned? What if they just don’t get it? What if…
What if my lesson plan included:
You might be thinking: “Won’t this take a lot of time to plan? I teach many grade levels or different content within the same grade—I am not sure I have time.” Determining the learning objective and success criteria are often already embedded in curriculum; making a purposeful plan to share them with students in a meaningful way may take time. Most classrooms post daily learning objectives already; taking those visuals a step further to include what success looks like may be the first step you could take to make the learning more visible.
Planning instruction that engages students, increases student voice, includes instructional dialogue, and is differentiated takes time; however, you do not need to reinvent the wheel. Many instructional strategies work well within many different content areas and for various ages and can be used in rotation. See what works for you and your students. Knowing what it looks like when they have met your objective, though, is an important piece of the plan.
Making changes to how we’ve always done something is uncomfortable and can be difficult and overwhelming. Try not to take on too much or overthink—start small. Don’t keep the learning objectives and what success looks like a secret to your students—clarity precedes competence! Successful experiences builds confident learners and teachers.
This post brought to you by Kari Kolling-Anderson, Instructional Coach at Gibbs Elementary
Feel free to connect with Kari on Twitter @KollingAnderson, via phone at 507-328-4122, or via email.
Hattie, John. Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement; Routledge, 2009.
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Math + Football
I recently ran across an interesting article complete with video from Sports Illustrated called, “A Calculated Decision: Why John Urschel Chose Math Over Football.” There’s a powerful message at the end about choosing your own path in life that shines through. Plus, his passion for mathematics is inspiring. This would be a great piece to share with your students or could become the foundation of a great new lesson!
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Minnesota STEM Resource Teacher Center
If you're looking for a resource to help you more fully understand the Minnesota Academic Standards in science and math, then check out the Minnesota STEM Resource Teacher Center. SciMathMN (a non-profit business) and the Minnesota Department of Education created the “frameworks” (resources) to help teachers easily translate Minnesota state standards into classroom practice.
From the login, you can search by subject and grade level to find clusters of standards for your courses. (If you don't already have one, you'll first need to create an account.) Within each cluster, you will find pages of information that will bring you deeper into those standards. It's under these heading that you will find a treasure trove of information:
To get a feel for this resource, click on one of the following hyperlinks for a sampling of standards that you teach:
If you would like to explore or discuss these resources with me, or should you like some help implementing these in your classroom, please reach out to me, Dan Devine, or an Instructional Coach. We'd love to help you!
This post brought to you by Carol Lucido, the K-8 District Math Coordinator
It’s seventh hour and students begin to settle into their seats. Their teacher has greeted them at the door and when they come in they look up on the board for the question they are supposed to answer in their journals. Sounds pretty typical, right? The next part is where the magic happens. After they’ve written for five minutes they get into small groups of four and everyone shares one part of their writing. There is no teacher directing their discussion but students know the routine and they all talk, share, and laugh.
The power in this classroom is that everyone in class is expected to do everything. All students write, all students share, and all students give feedback to each other. No one is able to opt out and all are engaged.
In many classrooms, this same scenario often happens but with one change. After students write or respond, one or two students are chosen to share. Typically, these end up being the same students each day, while the same students remain silent. This silence turns into apathy. Eventually, disengagement.
In 2014, Alexis Wiggins, a fifteen year teaching veteran and daughter of Grant Wiggins wrote a blog post about what she experienced after shadowing two students before beginning as an instructional coach. This is a summary of her first two key takeaways:
Key Takeaway #1:
It is clear to see that team "A-Mazing" has used a preparation system that is more likely to lead to successfully maneuvering through the corn maze without a map on the day of the competition. The competitors who have experienced the struggles associated with problem solving without maps are more likely to be comfortable with struggle and be fearless in attempting to solve problems placed in front of them.
Many RPS teachers are using short daily exercises such as number talks to help our students feel increasingly comfortable in solving math problems and to validate individual student thinking. Number Talks use Upside-Down Teaching to foster a can do student mindset. Think of Number Talks as short math problem (loop in the maze) that takes about 10 minutes for students to navigate. The students find their own solution and then describe how they found their answer to the rest of the group. Number talks happen almost daily and are meant to foster students who are more confident and comfortable solving new math problems (entering the maze).
We are actively engaged in a teacher workshop to find Rich Mathematical Tasks (Mazes) for our students to navigate. Our teachers use Upside-Down Teaching when helping our students to navigate through the rich task (Maze). The strength of the rich task is in the discussions that students use to see all of the paths through a real world problem and to more deeply understand the concepts being studied. It is analogous to seeing the maze and its beauty in entirety.
Finally, we are working through articulation to align our curriculum with a focus on prioritized learnings to answer which concepts in the overall mathematical universe are worth our attention. It is analogous to deciding which mazes or sections of mazes are worth our attention. Articulation is about making sure that our students are flexible thinkers who are empowered to take on the many unknown challenges in their future. It is analogous to our students knowing how to navigate mazes, not about our students knowing a specific maze.
In Summary, the math teachers in RPS are in the middle of a process that is moving towards a new scope and sequence while developing a new and different pedagogical method in mathematics instruction. There are many RPS teachers using Upside-Down teaching in RPS. If you would like to increase your practice with Upside-Down teaching, enlist the help of a colleague or instructional coach who is experienced in its practice. By incorporating more Upside-Down teaching in your practice, you will open the eyes of your students to discover deeper connections and different pathways to mathematical success.
For this reason, I am always looking out for new, easy-to-implement, instructional dialogue strategies that can be applied in any classroom. Strategies that I can weave into my own instruction—strategies that I can share with you. So, this past week, when I was lucky enough to attend the ASCD Conference on Educational Leadership, I kept my eyes peeled. Even though the foci of the conference were instructional leadership, leveraging resources, and supporting staff and students—and not on instructional best practices—I lucked out. I experienced two new-to-me structures that assist students (and teachers) in peer-to-peer instructional conversations.
A | B Partner Pyramid
- Have students find a partner, labeling one ‘A’ and the other ‘B’
- Have them stand or sit shoulder to shoulder, ‘A’ facing the board/screen and ‘B’ facing the opposite wall
- One the board/screen, place images/terms/etc. that only ‘A’ can see
- Have ‘A’ describe each image/term/etc. (provide limitations, such as not being able to use any part or form of the word in the description) and ‘B’ guesses—they do not go on to the next image/term/etc. until ‘B’ lands on the correct response
- Once done with that set of images/terms/etc. have them switch roles and put up new images/terms/etc. for a second round of guessing
Suggestions & Modifications:
- Have the option of passing X-number of times
- Have the images/terms/etc. flash up on the screen when you click by animating them on the slides: that way you control the pacing
- If having one student face away is logistically difficult, have partner ‘B’ simply put their head down, cover his/her eyes, or hold a folder in front of his/her face
- Create a 4-square graphic organizer like the one shown below, adjusting the questions to fit your content
- Have students complete it on their own, with a minimum of one item per square
- Put students in groups of 2-4 and have them share each of their 4 quadrants—during this time, students answer each other’s questions, add to their own quadrants based off of other students’ contributions, etc.: let students know that one of them, selected at random, will be sharing out later
- Have students share out full class: try doing this by having them number off 1 to 4 and then randomly selecting the number (or using virtual dice to keep it truly random) for who will share, plus mixing up each time which quadrant s/he shares (this process really helps foster engagement, because if you’re choosing at random who and what will be shared, then all students must remain engaged throughout)
Suggestions & Modifications:
- Save paper by projecting this on your screen and having students sketch it out in their notebooks
- Ensure that each quadrant reaches a different level of Bloom’s Taxonomy
- Since synthesis helps the brain store information longer, before they are called on to share out have each group summarize what it is they want to share about each quadrant—then have them trim each of those ideas into 4 words or fewer (fictional bonus points for alliteration and/or rhyme)
Waack, Sebastian. “Hattie Ranking: 195 Influences and Effect Sizes Related to Student Achievement.” Visible Learning. 1 Nov. 2017.
Wiggins, Grant. “What Works in Education—Hattie’s List of the Greatest Effects and Why it Matters.” Granted, And… 7 Jan. 2012.
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