Vulnerability = ZPD for teachers

TMC17 Summary and Reflection

I was surrounded by greatness and for that I am grateful. I didn’t show up at TMC17 with my A game, but I improved as the week progressed. Why is that?

Attitude—After leaving Greensboro late because of a doctor appointment that came with unexpected news topped off with car trouble, I got to Atlanta three and a half hours later than expected. It all worked out rather well as I ran into some very nice MTBoSers in the hall and they invited a first timer and me to join them for dinner. Great restaurant. Great company. Thanks Steve Weimar, Megan Schmidt and Benjamin Walker.

Comfort level—I left TMC16 thinking I would not bother to come to another TMC. I got into writing proposals to present back in January and they were accepted and so I came. I attended the Desmos pre-con this year so that was nice. I read comments that non-amateurs were not very open to new folks at that point of the camp and that is unfortunate. I will say, though, that TMC non-amateurs were super great at speed dating the next day. Perhaps it’s because they were held hostage by a downpour, but regardless, they were there. They were participating and they were welcoming and I think they actually enjoyed meeting new people. That was a real turning point for TMC17. Somebody really needs to schedule rain for TMC18. I wonder who is in charge of that.

This year’s TMC was my 2nd so I had a point of reference. Last year I over-PDed, if that’s possible. This year, I came hungry. I enjoy My Favorites and the Keynote speakers blew me away. If you haven’t done so, please check out their presentations here. I chose good short sessions this year. Then I hit the mother load when I made the right choice for my three-day session. I was excited to meet and learn from the well respected @cheesemonkeySF. Boy, did she deliver. See separate post.

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Along with friends, I presented so I also came to TMC17 vulnerable. Little did I know that vulnerability was the theme of TMC17. Last summer’s marching orders were “be intentional”. This year I heard loud and clear to be vulnerable. Take risks. I see vulnerability as a teacher’s Zone of Proximal Development. Learning and progress happen for teachers when they open up and take chances and then reflect and refine.

Have a great, vulnerable school year party people!! May you learn and grow exponentially.

Reflection on TMC17 long session–From Drab to Fab

This is MY reflection and summary of my three day Twitter Math Camp (TMC) session with @cheesemonkeySF, aka, Dr. Elizabeth Statmore. This is my interpretation. I apologize if I misconstrued anything Dr. Statmore put before me. My intent is to honor her and to document my learning at the same time.

Differentiating CCSS Algebra 1 — from drab to fab using Exeter Math 1 & Exploratory Talk

Day 1:
A goal to be met in the first three weeks of school is to build a culture where students exhaust all they know and have available to them before asking for help when problem solving.

In order to get students to own the problem for themselves, make it personal to them. Change the names and places to be relatable to the earners. Put a story behind the problem.

Teach students how to approach a problem. This is the Know—>Notice—>Wonder sequence.

Use readers’ theater as a way to establish procedures and protocol for classroom routines such as Talking Points, Vertical Non-permanent Surfaces, and Number Talks. Elizabeth has done this through a script she has created called deleted scenes.

We actually got to practice this as a class and this helped me understand the purpose as well as the procedure. I had read Elizabeth’s blog on this, but never truly got my head around it. I am now ready to give this a shot. There are at least a couple people in the class that are going to give writing a script a shot. I hope these get posted and shared widely. Each member of a table group (4 students or so) has a copy of the script. (reuse for all classes.) Characters are assigned and the script is read, with each group simultaneously working through the script. Doing this as whole class leaves too many inactive learners. Up engagement and participation at every turn.

Use Talking Points to illicit emotions and access prior knowledge when moving into a new topic. Choose statements that are debatable and students have opinions about. The number 1 rule to adhere to and teach and monitor is: No comment, no emotion, no body language as the talking points are going around the table. As teachers we must model this. By doing so, we honor learner space and inner thinking. I repeat: NO snarky comments. Listen. Be silent and listen. In a circle, Talking Point 1 is read. The only person in the group speaking is the person holding the Talking Stick (or whatever article you choose). The talker states their reaction to the Talking Point and gives justification for their opinion. They then pass the talking stick to the next person who then gives their comment and justification. This continues all the way around the table group. Round two is the same procedure with the same Talking Point only this time the talker keeps or changes their opinion and gives justification. When all have completed the second round, opinions are tallied and the next Talking Point is run through the process. Some groups may get several Talking Points from the list completed and others may only get a couple. That’s ok. Front load the Talking Points so the important points are covered first. Shut it down and channel the emotion into learning the math at this point. I see this as peak interest and passion and then shift to content.

The learning cycle—Wash, rinse, repeat

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Day 2: The theme of today was Radical Differentiation and this was addressed through problem organization and people organization.

Organize problems

  • Challenge for all
  • Practice & support—more problems and challenges for speed demons
  • Extensions
  • Make sure the beefy problems are up front so all students get these
  • Challenging learners does not mean stumping them
  • Every learner deserves a win.

Organize people

  • Group speed demons together so they do not rob the other learners
  • Group the “katamari” together. These are the thoughtful, careful, deliberate learners, not strugglers, but rather the learners who know speed is not the end game.
  • Group free-loaders together.
  • If writing as a group, the talkers do not write and the writers do not talk. Trade devices when necessary.

Day 3: The final day, we were all in awe of Elizabeth and just wanted to learn everything we could from her. We asked what a day looked like in her class and she delivered.

She uses a broadcast clock to plan her class period, regardless of the length of the period. (I know I read about this someplace else, but I forget where, but it is genius.) Her clock looks something like this. broadcast clock Details below. Please note, unlike a real broadcast clock, the sectors in my clock are not proportional to the total time. (I simply do not know how to do that in Word.)

  1. Open class with a PowerPoint slide that has students self-managing. Do now, check “Home Enjoyment”, aka, homework, with table mates, identify burning questions with tablemates, and get any handouts or supplies needed for the day. This all takes about 4 minutes. Each class has a theme song that plays for the first minute of the opening slide. This helps learners shift into math class mode.
  2. Burning questions that students have about Home Enjoyment are addressed. Reserve the right to deem a posed question as NOT burning if learners can get there themselves and merely didn’t do so. This segment is as long as it needs to be, and no longer.
  3. Slide changes to a fanfare of sorts to reveal the EQ. Learners rely on the EQ for focus and grounding. Initial notes and direct instruction happen here. This is only 6 minutes. Tighten up. You get another chance at the end.
  4. Productive struggle/guided practice/guided sequential flailing happen at this sector. Have plenty of chosen problems, but front load them so all students get rich materials, not just those who get there first, aka, speed demons. Never give problems you have not done. Intentionally choose the sequence. Stumping learners is not challenging them and vice versa.
  5. If the situation warrants, have a close. Elizabeth does not see this as a nonnegotiable the way some instructors do. I appreciate that, but will try to get my head around when closure is helpful and when it is just a closer for the sake of that checkmark.
  6. Set a timer so you know when you have 7 minutes (or whatever your experience tells you that you need) for final notes and marching orders and a calm ending.

Synthesis

The productive struggle sector could be handled in a variety of ways. One way is to use Speed Dating—one side moves, each student is an expert in one problem, see Kate Nowak blog for details. This could also be Vertical Nonpermanent Surfaces, aka white boards. Alex Overwijk is the expert in this area. This could be the time for Exeter problems thoughtfully and purposefully sequenced for maximum learning.

Phrases—these just stood out to me as brilliant insights made by Elizabeth and paraphrased by me and others in our session.

  • You can’t develop patience quickly. (teachers or learners) Practice and honor the process.
  • Your learning should never be a threat to others. When you share your learning you gain and kids need to experience this. A rising tide floats all boats. Everyone benefits when students share their learning and insights with one another.
  • Speed demons commit cognitive theft. Honor all learners and protect the Katamari from robbery of their learning.
  • We don’t “fix” struggling learners, but rather, we help heal the disconnection from their inner mathematical selves.
  • Guided sequential flailing leads to learning. Problems are sequenced to support learner success.
  • Kids have to be able to get a win. Challenged ≠ Stumped
  • If kids have been robbed of their confidence, lend them yours. (Believe in them and let them know.) Take that burden from them so they may focus on learning.

Management Tips

  • Seat for discourse and production (separate the speed demons, katamari and freeloaders) when appropriate.
  • Honor learning and respect the process for self and others. Talking points procedure can reinforce this culture.
  • Music may be used for unity; transitions; class identification; sharing about yourself.
  • Students can self-start and you need to set the stage for that. Have this structure in place from the start so students own it and can rely on it, even if you are absent.
  • The Tibetan Singing Bowl is a peaceful way to focus students in a calming way. Help students be fully present and you be fully present for them.
  • Listen at every turn. Sequence. Listen. Learn. Breathe.

(Note, this is not intended as my TMC17 archive reflection. This is yet to come.)

Intro to Desmos for Middle Schools PD

screenshot-2016-10-17-19-18-02Last winter I decided that I needed to take the plunge and finally present at NCCTM. I had been using Desmos activities regularly in my classroom and even ventured into creating my own activities so I decided to share with my fellow middle school teachers. I couldn’t get into a Desmos training session last summer as I had hoped. I begged and pleaded, but it was not to be. Kristin at Desmos did hook me up with some major swag though! So nice. Pencils, stickers, notepads. My attendees were happy.

I hate going to a PD where I’m told not to teach as a talking head as I am in fact being taught by a talking head. I decided in order for my participants to really get the feel of Desmos activities, I would write my presentation in Activity Builder and they would activity participate that way. Here’s the link:

student.desmos.com Class code: SB73B (Yes, I know I have an error on my card sort. Fix that if you use it.)

We didn’t get through the entire activity in the 45 minute session, but the resource will be there forever for participants to use, copy, modify and train from if they wish. There are so many super good things at learn.desmos.com PD, but I just incorporated a couple of them into my presentation. I had to own it to sell it, you know? I also made a newsletter type handout for my participants. I promised to post it here because it has hot links in it. pd-desmos-newsletter-by-vaughn

Search “NCCTM Middle School Teacher Training by sbvaughn” if you want to copy and modify. One comment on screen 13. I linked to a sampler of activities put together by the Desmos staff. I set it up with the intension that some participants could play the teacher by creating a class code and some could play the students by using that class code. I wanted several minnie classes running throughout the room. Time got the best of me so this didn’t go off as planned.

I want to give special thanks to @heather_kohn who worked through my original presentation and made insightful suggestions for improvement. I, of course, can’t say enough good things about the staff @Desmos. The resources, the swag, the encouragement, the product, the passion, are more than any teacher could have even imagined so I will just say, thank you.

Making It Real

So, I went TMC16 and for whatever reason, I kept running into Denis Sheeran @MathDenisNJ. It was almost annoying. For both of us. I did get his book Instant Relevance https://www.amazon.com/Denis-Sheeran/e/B01JAWZQIE this fall and he told me he would love to hear what I think. So here it goes.

When I ordered the book, I thought, “crap that’s a lot of money at this time of year.” See, I just set up my classroom. Then the mail came and I thought, “Are you kidding me? This is the shortest book since Jonathan Livingston Seagull!”

So now I think this. ALL BOOKS THAT ARE MEANT TO HELP TEACHERS BE BETTER SHOULD BE THIS LENGTH!! I am so serious. I’m beat at night. I can’t do much more than 5 pages. I want to learn more and become a better me. I really do. But some books are so boring and so long and I have the attention span of a gnat. I teach middle school for crying out loud.

So, thank you Denis. I never felt bad or distracted or loserish as I read your book. And this happened.

I took pictures. I had a bag if rolled up coins in the mud room that have never made their way to the bank. I wondered what I was missing out on so I figured my kids could help me.

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I showed them a pic of the sac of coins. They guessed high and low. Then the best thing ever happened. One girl who I just moved from math 8 to math 1 (thank you county for being so great at giving us quality tools to place kids properly when they move in—sarcasm intended) said, “hey that’s like one of these things we’re working on. Can I show you?” She walks up to the board and does this.

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I am blown away. I should be smart enough to see all the connections, but I don’t. I need my students to do that. I love this gal. I love my job.

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My 1st class, math 8, worked as a class to figure out how much $ there was. I introduced the problem to my math 1 kids (periods 2 & 3) and then they pursued it to the end in small groups after they finished another task in class. They totally dug it.

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Math 2 kids are a bit harder to impress, but they finished the entire task as an opener as I progressed through fotes.

All of this is just my way of saying, thanks Denis. It works. I get it. I dig it. I’m doing it.

Practicing on real kids!

You have to love a PD where you get to watch other teachers as they hone their craft as well as get to practice yourself…on REAL live kids!!! The kids were on fire as they made models of houses. I wanted to take one home, but I didn’t. (I mean a kid, not their house. The house was swell and all, but talking with these kids was a treat!)

This set-up the need for area and scale and unit conversion in order to make cost estimates of building materials.

The problem created the need for the content. The content did not set the stage for some hokey, convoluted, boring application.

Kind of getting excited for Aug 29!!!

Best PD ever…it was personal

Today was extremely enlightening! We completed the Change Style Indicator. This is published by Discovery Learning International. This is truly the most accurate piece of the personality assessment activities we have done this week. (We will have more at our retreat in the fall. I can’t wait!)

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Elevator speech: How we each react to change is a unique part of our make-ups. There’s neither good nor bad, but there is a range with the majority of people landing in the middle as pragmatist. Clearly not me. So, pragmatist is in the middle and to the left are conservers (rule followers) and to the right are originators (wild outlandish wide open thinkers and starters.)

I’m an originator and I didn’t even know it—well at least I didn’t know it was a thing. I just knew I was very different from just about every educator, boss, friend, and family member that I know. I’m not lonely out there; I’m just different. To process this I will review 1) the characteristics, 2) my behavior in a group dynamic and how I need to turn that into something productive and how I can better help myself and others when in a group. (Two can be a group too.) Sounds fun, right?

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Characteristics of an originator that I qualify for: The only constant is change—so true in my classroom. I change seating arrangements regularly. I try new things probably weekly. I’m super excited to try something new. I’m about dangerous as I try out ideas from a new book. Sometimes I try them before I truly understand what’s really intended. I’m really honest with my kids about trying new things in my classroom. My desk is a complete mess, but if you need the locker list or the post-it note I wrote my gynecologist’s phone number on, I can grab it in a second. I really want to be organized, but I just can’t see it through. I love to have multiple projects going on at home at once. I have boxes of unfinished projects at home. I have an electric bass that I’m going to learn to play. The quilt I was making for my husband for a wedding present is about a third done. In a box. In the attic. I got married in 1987, I think? Details are not important. You get the idea. It’s just who I am.

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To a group I bring big ideas—that may not work—but they may. I approach group problems in a multitude of ways all at the same time. Look, there’s a squirrel. Before you can shoot me down, I’ve come up with six other approaches that may work. The idea that you want to try that is the same thing as we did last year isn’t going fly. Let it go. I need a pragmatist to help me get the conservers to MOVE! I need to be heard once in a while, but I need to listen more. I need to try to enhance what the plan is rather than get pissed that they aren’t going to test out something on 1,000 kids and their parents and then try to fix it. I get it!!! Finally. And here, I thought people just didn’t like me. We just didn’t understand one another. Or appreciate one another’s strengths.

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So let’s take a bit of a personal detour here. My husband does not allow me to rearrange the furniture every week. This is a good thing. He loves that I fix something new and different to eat that nobody has ever heard of as long as it’s good. (OMG, sautéed green beans and beet green stems. Pretty and delicious.) He also tolerates me making all the pillows and coats and leather crap I want. And take a felting class! My English teacher partner for the past 6, maybe 7, years reigns me in in the most delicate, beautiful, loving way. I’m out-there, but she grounds me. These are the 2 two most important people in my life on a daily basis (relax Austin, Kari, Mom, Dad, Beth, Becca—read that last phrase please). I’m lucky they each love me.

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Whoa baby. What to do with all of this? I’m excited. I did Myers Briggs. OK, fine. I’m a INTF. I’m also a Capricorn. BFD. I could read about any of those and they would be believable. But not this. This IS AMAZING. Thanks for listening.

 

 

CULTURE .01

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Today’s PD had us processing the culture and leadership in our schools. I got lots of helpful insights. No time for that tonight, however.

I am getting a new principal this year and I meet with him Thursday. He asked staff to prepare for some specific questions before we each meet with him. The three questions are the exact three questions our instructor said good leaders ask their people. I like him already.

Big take away for today…

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When something goes wrong…don’t dwell on what happened. Focus on why it happened. Stop with the war stories already! Jeeze! Whine on your own time. We have to focus on fixing what is broken and figuring why it broke so we can take better care of it in the future.