Good Teaching

Whew! It has been a busy couple of weeks. I have been asked to facilitate several different PD sessions, at sites and with our site coaches. I’ve enjoyed it, and really love to teach and build capacity, it’s always difficult when it happens all at once. For starters, our school board was recently presented with our latest benchmark results in math and the results of the Scholastic Mathematics Inventory (SMI) from our students in grades 5-8. These were not good, and the board has become quite interested in K-12 mathematics. This is good news for me, although, it creates a steady stream of needs. I am quite in demand at sites and in coaching meetings.

First, at one of our Title 1 sites I walked teachers through a coherence activity for the CCSSM in comparing and ordering. I took this set of vertically aligned standards and cut them up, asking teachers to put the correct standard in the correct grade column. Although many of them felt that this should end at grade 2, they soon realized that so much of the work done in K-2 prepares students for success in fractions and other topics in grades 3-5. It was a great exercise, and the teachers were having some wonderful discussions about how to plan lessons, monitor student understanding, and best of all, that they needed to know more than just their grade level standards.

In our coaches meetings I have been working with the MS and HS specialists to create some workshops around performance tasks and the SMP. We started as a whole group for one meeting, asking the coaches to come up with the SMP and then to discuss how they should be informing instruction and embedded into teaching. From there we broke up into grade level groups and worked on some performance tasks, discussed classroom activities and routines that would lead to success on these tasks and increased comprehensive understanding in mathematics. Today we looked at student work, discussed how the student responses helped us to understand what students knew and understood about the mathematics, and implications for classroom instruction. There were some great discussions, and coaches had some “AH HA” moments in looking at the student work. I sent them back to the student work several times, and they realized that one look wasn’t enough, more became clear as they looked and discussed the work in detail. They also talked about how important it is to look at student work together, to calibrate grading and inform instruction, as well as for review and re-teaching. We also talked about lesson and unit planning and how this information could help to plan more strategically, and help teachers to understand where the low entry point may be for many units and topics.

Finally, I am being asked to come out to sites to lead grade level groups in assessment analysis and strategic planning based on assessment results. This is very exciting, and while I love working with these teacher groups and enjoy teaching them how to do these things and collaborating with them, we have 19 elementary sites and I just can’t do it all. I’m really needing to build a strategic plan for increasing the capacity of the on-site coaches to do these things, and to increase their knowledge.

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