Saturday, June 1, 2013

CCSS Workshop 2013

I did my first workshop this past week (5-30-2013), discussing the transition to Common Core State Standards, with a focus on the 8 Standards for Mathematical Practice. I'm working with K-5 elementary teachers, a couple of middle school math teachers, some support teachers, and a couple of administrators in the room. I'll admit, I'm not as eloquent a speaker as Steve Leinwand, but there might be a few times where I actually make sense. I'm throwing this video out there for some feedback. I don't expect you to watch the whole thing so I've provided some chapter markers you might be interested in. At the end of the notes for each chapter, I reflect by creating a wish-list of moves I would've done differently. They come across as rhetorical questions, but feel free to chime in. However, here are a few angles I'd appreciate you considering:
What did I forget to talk about?
Where could I have been more explicitly clear?
Where coud I have used a better strategy? ...and so on.

Opener: 0:00-10:10
I use an estimation task (Day 127) to kick things off, providing teachers with the handout Michael Fenton created for and my students. The handout has been through many revisions and I think we have a final version that's a winner.

I use the whiteboard to write the "Too Low", "Too High", and "My Estimate" of a few teachers, asking for reasoning along the way. We watch the answer and discuss.
8:15 is a precious moment where a teacher asks, "Wait a minute! What was it (the song length answer) really?" I love how a teacher is demanding more information. I wish I spent more time expressing the importance of her question. I feel rushed because of all the workshop content I have prepared. I wish I had allowed the other teachers to address her question more. I do with my students, why didn't I do this here?

Active Notebook Part 1: 10:15-12:55
Teachers glue their Estimation 180 handout to the inside cover of their workshop Blue Book and the Table of Contents to the first sheet while listening to Can't Buy Me Love.

Preview of Workshop: 12:55-20:50
I attempt at working on the following question throughout the workshop,
What's our role as we reshape the classroom with the Common Core State Standards?
I share with teachers what today will not be and what today will be. On a parallel universe I share with teachers what I perceive the CCSS to not be and what I perceive the CCSS to be. Then I share a few personal items from this past school year. Seeing that I'm doing a workshop with multiple grade level and content teachers, I'm expressing the focus of the day to be the 8 Mathematical Practices and what we do in the classroom. How do we help facilitate the learning?

Estimation Task #2: 20:50-26:45
We use Day 129 where teachers see that the song length is also the track length. Listen to their reasoning. I love this! Hearing this reasoning from teachers and students is one of the many joys I get from doing these daily estimation tasks. However, I wish I did a better job (23:50) of getting the teachers to justify their reasoning and "argue" a little more than I did. I wish I created a little more tension. Check out (25:00) the excitement of the teachers as they watch the answer.

I introduce the language of creating a task that has a low-entry point and could see that many teachers had no idea what I was referring to. Not their fault. However, I like their reaction when I translate "lower-entry point" to being easier. I wish I explained "low-entry point" better. I wish I had explained it as creating a task where most, if not all students have an equal opportunity to engage with the task, regardless of their mathematical proficiency. I wish I expressed the importance of providing students with a task where math vocabulary and thinking come as a natural result of solving the task.

Math Tools & Two Uses: 26:45-33:55
I ask teachers to glue a picture of a math tool to the front of their Blue Book and write down at least two uses for each tool. They have two minutes to complete this task. After We Will Rock You, I ask the teachers for their uses instead of telling them. This serves two purposes. Yes, I have a list of uses that I anticipate them to come up with, but I want to hear from them first, selfishly providing me with additional uses that I didn't anticipate. Secondly, I'm using this activity to illustrate how students need to provide the answers in the classroom. I wish I could have given this more time in the workshop where the teachers actually used the tools in the manners they suggested. I also should have had the teachers write down all the uses we came up with.

Introduction of 8 Mathematical Practices 33:55-1:04:00
Again, I'm feeling rushed for time! Yes, I said it, "Let me talk about these 8 Math Practices real quick." Real quick? How silly of me. These practices are not something to gloss over. Don't worry, we spend ample time doing a Jigsaw activity so teachers are out finding information about them. I provided the teachers with the handouts found at Jordan School District's site. The practices are presented in a manner representative of the grade level you might teach. Thanks Fawn for this link.  I could have explained and facilitated this a lot better, but the redeeming value is hearing teachers that were appreciative of this specific activity because they were "forced" to explore the practices instead of just receiving a handout with the information embedded. If I were you, I'd skip the section (39:30-52:00) unless you want to hear some of the teachers talking in their groups as they rotate around the room to their four different stations. I'm proud of the rotation table I provided and how teachers travel together according to their "math tool." DON'T miss the "perfect high-five" at 38:10. I love that a teacher commented that "perfect" is subjective. I say this all the time to my students.
At 52:30 I give teachers time to regroup and complete the practices by receiving information from the other teachers in their group. I recap (1:00:00) and then show teachers how to create a pocket (1:01:00) inside their Blue Book so they can store a Quick Reference "teacher" version (I referred to as "adult") of the 8 Mathematical Practices.
I wish I gave more time for reflection. I wish I reviewed each practice with the whole group by having them share out loud something they learned. During the Jigsaw activity, I was told that my time with the teachers was cut short by about ten minutes so I had to hurry things along. Arghh!

Find My Mistake: 1:04:20-1:13:00
I made an executive decision to skip the model lesson I had prepared for the worksop. I'm glad I didn't skip the Find My Mistake segment of the workshop. I'm very adamant about teachers finding the mistake quietly here. I encourage them to share with each other before we review with the whole group. I give props to Michael Pershan for You can hear kids in the hallway, alerting me that our workshop is coming to an end very soon. We listen to each other make corrections or talk about the misconception and why us teachers are good at knowing the content we teach. We're constantly telling students what their mistakes are and telling them how to fix it. Let's switch that role. Make the students find, correct, and tell each other what the mistakes are, especially items that use algorithms. Remember, most of the teachers here are elementary teachers. I also point out that I haven't been jumping for joy every time a teacher gets an answer correct. Instead, I try my best to throw it back on the class for what they think, allowing them to critique the reasoning of others. I love how estimation and number sense is addressed with teachers on how to help encourage students to avoid these mistakes.
I hit a nerve (1:10:45) when I was asked, "What about simplifying?"
I could very well be wrong here, but my current understanding is we (as teachers) are to allow for multiple representations of the correct answer, unless explicitly instructed otherwise. In other words, ten-eighths is just as acceptable as five-fourths.
I wish I reviewed with the teachers the importance of doing an activity like this quietly and individually first, before group discussion. I wish I expressed how much I love group work and collaboration, but need to remember both teachers and students need that quiet time FIRST. The worst is being in a group where one person dominates the conversation and you don't have time to think or worse, problem-solve. I wish I had covered this with the teachers.

Summary: 1:14:15-1:19:00
I provide teachers with a fill-in-the-blank handout to glue to the inside of the back cover. Again, watch their reaction when we get to "low-entry" point. I hope I drive it home when referencing the "Cent-ed Whiffle Ball" task I recently did in Geometry. I remind myself and the teachers to listen to the students. I'm constantly working on allowing students to finish their thoughts. Don't cut students off or finish their sentences for them. I ask teachers to create a couple of goals. I provide the teachers with a list of resources found here. I like how they (at least some of them) want another in-service/workshop.
I wish I emphasized the importance of knowing the 8 Mathematical Practices better and to use the summer to better prepare for next year. I wish I had more time to pump up these points in the summary. I wish I had more time!

Unleash yourself in the comments if you will.



  1. Really enjoyed the video and I think we always leave with a list of things we wished we had done differently. I especially loved that the teachers were active learners and engaged in the math. The parallel Is Not/Is showed a nice relationship b/t the teachers learning to students learning in a CCSS classroom (this part is something I will definitely embed in my next training).

    I understand the standards to be the same with respect to "simplifying." It always seems to strike a nerve with my 4th and 5th grade teachers as well.

    Overall, I think the presentation was fantastic and I will definitely take things back to use. I guess my only question, and this is just because I urge my colleagues to not say "You need a common denominator to add fractions" to the students, but you had that written on the math mistakes section of the presentation. Is there something else to put there that would encourage a different train of thought with teachers?

    Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Hi Kristin,

      Thanks for stopping in and leaving some feedback. I appreciate the kind words and am glad you found some useful parts. As for the question about needing a common denominator when adding fractions, I'm curious to know what else could be written on the board to encourage a different train of thought. I think the answer is relative to where the students are in exploring operations with fractions. Have they just begun exploring fractions? If so, then using the terminology of having a "common denominator" seems silly and inappropriate. Therefore, I would encourage students to draw a picture to support their answer. If they have already explored fractions, using pictures and other representations, and are more comfortable with the algorithm, then using "common denominator" seems appropriate in my mind.
      Again, thanks for the constructive feedback. It will be used and applied.

  2. These teachers obviously respect you, and you command the room like a natural leader. The teachers also appeared very engaged the entire session. Big props on both counts.

    You stated very clearly at the beginning that the objective of the workshop was to know "the role of the teacher under the Common Core." You also debriefed your target at the conclusion of the workshop very well. More props.

    I have used those SMP posters from Jordan District that Fawn pointed out, also. They are a very useful and popular tool.

    My suggestion would be to tie each activity of the workshop back to those posters (back to the practices). You appeared to highlight the use of tools, and demonstrated three very cool activities, but "the new role" remained the bookends of the workshop (beginning and end). It may have been helpful for the teachers to reflect on two points after each activity: 1) Which practices from the posters are evident in this activity?, 2) How does "your role as the teacher" different in facilitating those practices in this activity?

    Your objective is spot on. So I suggest that you state it up front, rephrase it at the end (as you did), and revisit it all the way through. Hope this helps.

    1. Thanks for stopping in Chris. I truly appreciate your feedback. You are absolutely correct about revisiting the objective all the way throughout the workshop. Having teachers reflect on the two points you mentioned is something I wish I made the time for and executed. I thought about doing it during the estimation tasks, but it makes so much sense for the "Find My Mistake" portion and Math Tools activities as well.
      Again, I appreciate you taking the time to check everything out, leaving me some detailed and constructive feedback. Please know that I will definitely use and apply it in the future.

  3. You are so brave to post this AND to have watched it so carefully, enough to guide us and find the questions you want answered.

    The modeling of what a dynamic classroom looks like was most beneficial. I may have missed something, but I would have liked more inbetween ties to the how this is common core (similiar to your wrap up at the end). Did you ever say why they were making an INB? (I may have missed that).

    Kudos to you and a lot accomplished in a short amount of time. Contextualizing is uber the woman said in the mistake section: there is obviously more than a whole there...go ahead, but a picture up on the board please...just to drive this point home! (Having in the participant's notes, a picture of a cookie say, and some more, might trigger the reminder.

    Best, Amy

  4. Lots of great stuff going on here. Here are some thoughts I had:
    • I completely understand feeling like there isn’t enough time to cover everything you have planned and having to make tough choices. The only way I have found to avoid this is to drastically narrow the scope of the presentation. However if you don’t know whether you’ll have more opportunities to work with a group of teachers, sometimes that is also a hard choice to make.
    • Regarding what CCSS is and is not, my advice is regarding how you word them. Be careful with statements that seem like they are “always” or “never” statement. Also be careful of statements that make teachers feel judged or that everything they have been doing is bad. If you word it as NOT “Giving students only one way to understand mathematics” then it will take some of the blame off. Alternatively you could express it as expanding or building upon their teaching methods.
    • Similarly, consider NOT “Telling students answers” versus NOT “Focusing primarily on getting correct answers”. They both provide the basis for explaining that students need to more deeply understand the material but the first one might make teachers think “Wait, the CCSS says I can never tell students the answers again?!”
    • It was great that you made yourself vulnerable and showed the challenge you took and payoff you had. That will help teachers realize that you are willing to walk the walk.
    • At about this point in the video I thought that you remind me so much of the way Dan carries himself.
    • I like the way you set up the practice and content standards. You might add how the practice standards relate to the outgoing Math Reasoning standards in CA and how the Practice standards are the same for grades K through 12.
    • Regarding the activity you did on the SMP, I think it is a great start. I have yet to see any activity where everyone did an activity and perfectly understood them all so this definitely helps. Clearly they made some progress today.
    • Something you might add to your activity would be to ask them to point out where they demonstrated each of the SMP during the problems that they had completed.
    • All your reflections are good. I don’t know the answer to many of them but clearly with more time it is easier to do all the things you want. Reflection is certainly the key to growing and improving.

  5. Echoing what Chris Shores said, you definitely have command of that room, and knowing how difficult the time constraints placed on you can be, you did an incredible job.

    To you point regarding letting students find, correct, and alert each other to what the mistakes are, I'm finding that is extremely important in my technology class regarding how students learn and better understand the technology - devices, applications, interactive on-line components - they use on a daily basis. At the beginning of EVERY project that involves utilizing a program they've never used before (which I determine with an old-fashioned show of hands), and after explaining requirements and goal of the project, students are given "play time" to maneuver through programs they are unfamiliar with so they 1) can become a bit familiar with them before they begin 2) are less likely to be distracted by the shiny lights, cool effects, and interesting sounds, and 3) will not feel intimidated by the technology.

    Giving the students control/ownership over their education and what and how they learn, is paramount to their success.

    From what I can see, although I know you wished you had done this and that, you worked with the time you had to give everyone a better understanding of what you are trying to accomplish and then provided them with food-for-thought on how they could attain those goals with their own students.

    I do want to address something you said at the end of the "Find My Mistakes" section regarding hitting a nerve with simplifying, and I am going to be frank.

    In today's world of everyone's a winner, I am all for accepting that there are many ways to do something, even in math. If I want to know what 4 X 6 is equivalent to, I can simply multiply my factors (as long as I know them), I can skip count by 4, 6 times, until I get my answer (and vice-versa), I can use counters or blocks or whatever method works. However, when it comes to a topic like simplifying, what's wrong with expecting a student to present an answer in lowest terms? I feel that many students miss out on valuable skills when, in an effort to not hurt anyone's feelings or make anyone feel unintelligent compared to their peers, we are depriving our kids of something because we are allowing them to get to a certain point, tell us (and I understand this does NOT apply to all students or all teachers) it's too difficult for them or they don't want to do it, and then accepting the result of their surrender.

    Let's expect as much from them as we do from ourselves and I guarantee we will find that they appreciate the knowledge and will be better people for it.

  6. You are an incredible teacher and mentor. Presenting the 8 mathematical practices in an hour is a daunting task. In that time you did an extraordinary job on constructing and critiquing. Your estimation, and math mistakes activities address this well.

    If you had the entire day you could have discussed all eight in more depth. If there's future PD planned, I make the following suggestion to address the first mathematical practice: Make sense of problems and persevere. Perhaps you could give the teachers a group worthy task that allows them to experience productive struggle. The task is designed with multiple entry points and everyone in the group is held accountable. If the group is stuck, you pose questions or provide them with a resource card for them to consider.

    Our district has been creating these group worthy tasks during our professional development time. They do incorporate multiple practices but there's a particular focus on making sense of problems and persevering.

    Kudos to you!