2017-10-16 What a Week

Returning from Northern California this past weekend, I was thinking about all the challenges that we had to accomplish this week with a mixture of dread and excitement.

Monday

The week began with the implementation of my newest game created around the 4.MD.3 standard. The game also involves six other standards interlaced within the clues students must solve to unlock the locks. I planned the game for 30 minutes for the fourth graders. The two 4th grade classes that would attempt the game were new to this learning experience. Normally I don’t like to give the first rep of a game to include grade level content, but this was a challenge I had to meet. The energy in the room from the two reps taught me a lot about the quality of the game, and some interesting facilitation pieces that make the game a lot more accessible for all learners.

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The students did a great job of working together, though not fully to the point of genuine collaboration, which is wonderful since students pointed that fact out in the debrief. The biggest change idea we implemented from class to class was students working in groups from the start of the game. While this isn’t new for me, it was new for doing it for the first time at this grade level. I usually like to let students go without too many structures for a first rep and let the chaos become a need for roles. Starting out with groups forces them to slow down, and focuses them on solving the problems, not playing with the locks…something that I hadn’t predicted…I am more a believer in structured learning from this point forward.

Tuesday

Although we introduced the lesson last week in this amazing special education class, I wanted to remind the students of the work we had done to get to this point. Starting with my approach to Numberless Word Problems, students went through a sequence of four NoticeWonder questions as the story grew in complexity showcasing the learning goal. The students would then write a question from their wonderings, and then come to a consensus on the question they were going to ask for the whole class. In our case, we helped facilitate this part, to give the language of the task we were attempting to solve. Background information about this group of students: The students love, love, love Youtube. So our lesson was built around trying to figure out the best deal if Youtube were to offer you two choices for a contract to make films for their channel.

Each group was given a different representation, that is each group had a different contract offering. The students had to sequence both the amount of views and the value per views, with some of the numbers not filled out. Since every tent was not filled out, students would have to make sense of the pattern and fill in the missing pieces, i.e. the part of the standard students were meant to cover. Each student had a job

  1. Two students hold the two ropes (turned into just one rope for us)
  2. One student sorts and sequences the money tents
  3. One student sorts and sequences the view tents
  4. All students contribute to sequencing through discussing their NoticeWonder pieces

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The end result is to get the groups to come back together and decide which is the better deal and why. The use of the Numberless Word Problem approach to introduce the context gave the students a powerful intuition to come up with a question (which is guided by careful questions), and then using clothesline math to explore the learning made for two powerful hits. I will be following this approach in third grade next week (on Wednesday and next week), as we go through a sequence to solve 3.OA.4 through 3.OA.7, and students will create a book afterwords.

We also launched a dream of mine that has been in the making for the past five years, and really come into focus the past two years. We started a Breakout EDU Academy with eight teachers covering third grade through sophomores in high school. This initial group will become Jedi masters by December. Once January comes, they will adopt a padawon, and together, they will create a training from our district offerings and turn it into a game. The padawons become masters in May, and will adopt a new class for Fall, the Jedi Masters will become the Jedi council and oversee the operation from this point.

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Wednesday

I had the opportunity to introduce the 3rd graders to the NoticeWonder component of the Numberless Word Problem that starts our journey on becoming mathematics authors. The students had a variety of great observations, but the 30 minutes was not enough time to have the students go beyond.

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Another big task on Wednesday was a collaboration for the next day’s training. Our team of secondary math teachers are fostering student grit through a football theme. One of the learnings is focused on an article titled, “17 Reasons Football is Better Than HS.” We are utilizing the PDSA cycles to implement changes and looking if we can find a change idea(s) that will help our students gather grit.

Thursday

Our plan was to have two repetitions of collecting data around the strategy we had implemented in this classroom as the students tried the performance task. Using the data we would see what adjustments we could make for future implementations.

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Our day took a few turns and the students were amazing in their flexibility of tackling the task and answering questions. We tried a new change idea in the second observation as we were more pointed and went about a little bit of teaching the students how to take a performance task, like breaking it down using the strategies the teacher had taught them, and sequencing through the performance task.

The day was really interesting and quite surprising in many ways, one of which I will share here. The teachers were asked to provide me with feedback on how the day went. I am always looking to improve, and these are some of those results. For your information, the scale is 1= unacceptable 2= poor 3= satisfactory 4= good 5=very good. 

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I am curious what your take aways are from this, I am still processing the thinking. That being said, their comments were illuminating on a variety of pieces to make this both more meaningful and impactful for them and their students.

Friday

The week ended with an all day event for many fourth graders in our district (and neighboring districts) as they learn about life in the time of the pioneers (California history). The entire Zalud Park in Porterville is taken over as 1,200 fourth graders go through a series of stations, each with a learning experience about the times.

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The students get to find out what life was like through first hand experiences of that time and get to be outdoors and share friendships with school mates. Just an aside, at lunch watching students laughing, rolling down hills, and just being happy kids while at school is what makes being in education worthwhile. Days like this day are a great reminder we are in the people business, not the test getting, show me the best score you can get business, but I digress.

Saturday

In mountains near Yosemite National Park, a group of different math teachers met to listen to Dr. Timothy Kanold, author of Heart!. The surprise was complete when I see several of my old teaching colleagues are seated at the back table, so I asked if I could join them. Immediately I was seeing a lot of fantastic familiar faces, which going up solo and not knowing what to expect this was a huge surprise.

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The most incredible thing happened when I ran into an #eduhero, Duane Habecker, who was also in attendance. We have established a learning connection, we will be able to meet up face-to-face soon to get better together. And the learning from the day was phenomenal. I am enacting these five things moving forward, and I do not doubt it will make our learning better and impact students directly. My five learnings are:

  1. Creating an agreed upon VISION for the group is fundamental
  2. Every decision (or action) needs to be research based
  3. Every decision (or action) needs to move the VISION forward
  4. Always celebrate the small wins excessively, and push for the long term goal
  5. Always start with an Essential Question tied to your VISION

So, all that to say, I was righteously anxious driving home last weekend, but I am always so glad for so many wonderful learning opportunities and how impactful those things are.

PS I didn’t link the lessons I am referring to in this entry. If you’d like me to share, please leave a comment, or otherwise connect with me, and I’ll gladly do so. I would love to hear your feedback, I am a little nervous publishing my feedback, but I need to be transparent and grow. I am wishing you all the best in your learning journey and hope we can grow better together.

2017-10-02 Improvement Science & Mathematics

The past two weeks have been an intense dive into the work we started over a year ago, and the feeling that we’re finally digging into something will set in.

We will find a process by which we can triple the scores on the state standardized testing in mathematics at the fifth-grade level. If we are successful, or not, we are learning a lot about our system, and we will be sharing that out at the termination of our process.

To determine if we are successful, we have utilized the power of Improvement Science. Although I have been learning the process of Improvement Science for 1.5 years, I feel comfortable discussing all of what I don’t know when it comes to this complex set of machinery.

I am working on putting all Improvement Science into a visual, comprehensible approach and it gave me the opportunity to work on my creative graphic designs. The series of several images and video are a result of that time and learning.

Students learning, students engaged in the growth mindset, and all this great stuff is just so exhilarating to be apart of this unfolding story. As the journey continues, I’m excited about the learning that will continue to grow from this process. One simple example is the productive analysis of learning when teachers from different sites come together to plan, watch, listen, and grow better together.

Here is my first repetition of making Improvement Science a visual learning experience.

Or you make click below at the PDF as well.

Improvement Science

2017-09-11 Coding a Newsletter Template

A journey from last year that I really enjoyed doing was creating a monthly newsletter that indicated the successes we were having as a district mathematically speaking. While I enjoyed creating the newsletter, I was never happy with the design, and always thinking about how I could make it better. Well I went from using pages to Google slide decks (because I love, love, love slides) and still ran into a similar issue…actually I think the Pages version was way better which makes it worse….well new journey this week, I am excited to be working with a teacher and their coding and design clubs, as I am going to pose as a customer to order a new newsletter and they are going to design it for me. I am going to “hire” them and they will design it for me.

I will give them a list of specs and a “budget” to work from, they are posing as a small startup company and this is one of their first jobs. I am super excited to see how this will go and I hope I get a sweet newsletter out of it too!

2017-09-04 Numberless Word Problems

There are two things that I learned about toward the end of last school year that got me so excited I couldn’t wait to try them, Numberless Word Problems was one of them. One of my #eduheroes, Brian Bushart (@bstockus on Twitter), created this idea some time ago, and I was just learning about them. So, I wanted to get a couple reps in ASAP, and I was able to get a couple of reps in before the end of the year, and it confirmed my initial excitement.

With this school underway, I want to jump in early and often to get everyone on board with this idea, exposing all students to this opportunity and making it an ever growing area of powerful learning. On this journey last year, I was able to modify this into a sequence of learning events, where we start with a #NoticeWonder activity that builds the Numberless Word Problem the students create. Since students create the word problem, whether or not there are numbers is there choice, and it is so interesting what they come up with. The students smash their questions together to make a new question, and then they answer their question (or switch with another group and answer theirs) four ways.

Once the students have shared their answers and we’re all on board with the questions and answers, we compare our information to the state standards example(s). Students are always surprised that their questions are much harder than the state examples and think the state question is easy. Compared to previous times when given the state question, they typically shut down because it’s “too hard,” I’d say this is an amazing outcome.

Anyway, it’s still a work in progress and I’m super excited about it. Thanks Brian for sharing and making us all a little better.

2017-08-28 PDs

This week was the week of Professional Developments (PDs) with my creation and delivery of Interactive Math That’s Meaningful (Horrible Title, I know) and 3 Powerful Math Routines. Each one has some amazing pieces to it that I am very proud of, and both have some areas I do not feel meet my goals. Time and reps will let me know if my feelings are accurate, and it will reveal where other holes are and where great stuff is as well. It’s pretty hectic this week, so this is just short note to remind me to breath.

2017-08-10 Breakout EDU Middle School Math

With the sounds of a sharp, repeating, and blaring noise the herds of young bodies began their almost zombie like motions to their assigned classrooms. Those who were new to the school, looked anxious, schedules out and a mixture of puzzled and nervous expressions. The contrast of the mindless shuffle to class to the anxious, confused, and fresh faced ones as they avoided being trampled by the zombie herds was almost laughable. Oh to be 12-years-old again….never mind, I’m good.

Although I was there to set up the Breakout EDU game, I couldn’t help to enjoy the nervous energy of the first day of school. The timeless roles of adolescents playing its course in all of their lives and the social aspects of this age are always fun to watch and enjoy. The end of the summer felt too soon, and the beginning of this school year didn’t feel like it was upon us….but ready or not, it was shown time.

The wonderful joy of having such a fantastic middle school staff is their openness to experience, and a few days before the start of school I was asked by two eighth grade math teachers to help facilitate a Breakout EDU game for the students’ first day. It was on!

Together we came up with a plan with the two boxes we had, one in each room, one class would do odd periods, the other class would hit even periods. I would jump back and forth, facilitate one, then let them facilitate the next. We worked out how the game was set up and what needed to be done so students wouldn’t inadvertently see how to break the game.

So here we are, first period of the first day of school, and it’s show time!

The magic that is Breakout EDU took hold, slow at first, as students had to break down that first day awkwardness. As different students found and placed together the various clues, the class wasn’t going to make it, so I asked the teacher and he wanted to make sure it was successful, so I aided in small ways, and they were able to do so.

(Update 2017-09-11: The students haven’t experienced the game since the first day, and six weeks into school they are begging their teacher for another game…so I guess they did love it)

2017-05-19 – Day 9 – Announcing Summer Book Study for #TWOTCW and #Mathconceptions & CVNiC Work

With the school year winding down, let’s  begin refilling ourselves, building our personal learning network, and improving our practice. Steve Wyborney‘s The Writing On The Classroom Walls #TWOTCW is a powerful teaching tool and bucket filler we will use in our first #Mathconceptions Book Study of the summer. Shane Ferguson (@MrFergusonMJHS) and I are super excited to have Steve lead us through our slow chat, highlighting key components of learning from point of view of misconceptions. Our chat will begin in June, with a pre-chat conversation starting on May 22nd. 

The year ends in more ways than one, we had our final get together of our CVNiC group today and we shared a lot of learning, reflecting, and guiding our path for the next school year and beyond. Although I could only be there for half the day, I used my new favorite tool for capturing learning (SnapChat and thanks to Ann Kozma @annkozma723) to capture that learning. The video below highlights my learning from this morning.