Reflecting on My First Year Experience with Open Up Resources

Please let me disclose up front that I am a user/fan/evangelist of Open Up Resources (OUR) and have absolutely no affiliation with them whatsoever. I do, however, have enormous respect and gratitude. Statements here are opinions and reflections on my experiences. Your mileage may vary.

2017/2018 was the best school year in a long time. I learned a lot; I was organized; I felt prepared; I tried several new things; and most importantly, I left school June 14thexcited to return eight weeks later to build on the year’s successes and improve any mediocrity and shortcomings.

My school dove into OUR headfirst and didn’t come up for air until at least Christmas. My district provided training all along, but given my course load, I was not able to attend the large majority of training as desired. I wrote about my initial experiences here. I finally got into a groove and became much more efficient in preparing for my Open Up classes. Rather than preparing daily as I had done September through January, in February I started batching my lesson preps. By April, I built my PowerPoint for an entire week in one file. At the close of each day, I deleted the slides covered and saved the rest of the file for the next day. Because I used Variable Random Grouping each day, I needed a new seating chart slide anyway. I finally began importing the pre-made slides provided by Open Up. I imported the slides I wanted and just edited my student sheets using textboxes for more efficient printing rather than duplicating them into my homemade ppt. Send me a message and I am happy to grant you access to my files. Samples may also Files may be accessed through the PowerPoint I am preparing prepared and edited for TMC18.

Here is a simple graphic of the way I think OUR looks. Move clockwise, beginning with the Warm-up.


The job of synthesis is to connect every aspect of the portion within the lesson as well as to connect new learning to prior learning. If there is ever any ambiguity about connections throughout the lesson, they are hammered home during the final synthesis. If the final synthesis is skipped, there is an obvious hole in the lesson. Each portion of the lesson is also synthesized as one lesson phase transitions to the next. The relative sizes of the circles in my graphic are indicative of the amount of time allocated to each portion of the lesson. Lessons follow this consistent pattern throughout the course.

I like how the Cool-down bleeds into the Warm-up in the graphic. Fairly early on through the year, I began reviewing the Cool-down at the beginning of the next class. This allowed learners to review my feedback on the Cool-downs as well as to access newly acquired knowledge for the prior day’s learning experiences. That is a example of how I made OUR my own.

Another example of making OUR our own at my school is a sixth grade math teacher came up with the idea to have learners place completed Cool-downs in green, yellow or red folders depending on their individual confidence levels. The information gleaned from the placements was telling in a couple ways. It was easy to spot false confidence. It was also helpful to see at a glance how students were evaluating their own learning. We still sorted and wrote meaningful feedback on the Cool-downs each day.

Here are errors that I made this year that I want to spare anyone else from making.

  • Notice the graphic. Without the synthesis, the lesson has a big hole in it. Don’t shortcut that, rush it or heaven forbid, skip it. Be explicit as you make connections. What we as teachers think is obvious, may not be to learners and frequently, they just need that small nudge forward to make the desired connections.
  • Give at least 5 minutes for the Cool-down. Some kids can demonstrate understanding with more time. If they don’t nail it, you need to figure out what you missed along the way. This is valuable information and not a step that you can afford to skip.
  • Keep the pace up from the very beginning. Trust the curriculum. Concepts will come around multiple times from multiple angles. It works well. The authors are geniuses. Respect and trust it.
  • Focus on student work and having students share their perspectives on your cue. Sequencing student responses is an art that I am far from mastering, but it is valuable to student learning.
  • Allow enough time for assessments. Learners are actually excited about showing what they have mastered.
  • Score assessments with an open mind and an open heart. Learning is a process and you are looking for progress toward mastery. This material is challenging in a whole new way. Don’t defeat learners before they get a fair chance. Fairly recognize progress.
  • Stay organized. The curriculum makes that easy. Follow the OUR sequence even if your district thinks they know better. They don’t.

I am most excited about the improvements I plan to make this coming school year.

  • My district is getting student workbooks, so I will not have nearly as much copying to do. I will still copy the Cool-downs, but I have those all set.
  • I am going to take my own advice and focus on sequencing student responses more deliberately and improve my process here.
  • I am also going to improve my syntheses. I really didn’t help my students make the connections and recap the concepts the way I should have last year.
  • I am going to keep my pace up in the beginning so I do not have to condense and shortchange my learners at the end.
  • I am going to use VNPS (Vertical Non-permanent Surfaces) every chance I get. Learners did far too much sitting last year.
  • I want to adapt some student tasks to Desmos so students have the opportunity to dialogue with other learners and critique their work. Desmos is well suited for this.
  • I have to work calculator use into the lessons. No calculators for learners at first for sure, but after my students have conceptual understanding, I need to teach them to use the tools at their disposal. I totally dropped the ball on that one and need to figure it out.

I could write for days about how jazzed I was each day as we learned math in an entirely different way this year. I could tell you how I learned something new each and everyday, not only about student learning, but also about math. You need to experience that for yourself though. Please be smart enough to do that the week or at least day before your students do. It will make you so much more efficient and effective than I was. I eventually got ahead of them, but not far. I am excited for next year for sure!

OUR made me love, adore, and treasure teaching Math 8 for the first time ever. It was fun. It was meaningful. It was amazing. I cannot thank OUR enough for bringing joy into my classes through quality curriculum. I would have never thought that possible, but I lived it.

After finishing the year, I am incredibly in love with OUR. I hate myself a bit, but that is true every year. No matter what I do, I feel like I could have, should have done more. However, OUR helped me give my learners more conceptual understanding than they have ever had. The stage is set for explosive learning in high school. This is both my prediction and prayer.

49 thoughts on “Reflecting on My First Year Experience with Open Up Resources

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      1. I would love to see your files as well…I am a first year, with no training and will be printing everything… Trying to figure sequential order etc. But I love trying new things!
        I just put my email in the “following” section..


      2. Hi Marlina. Good luck! I am excited for you. All of my resources are now embedded in the powerpoint link that is in the bog file. See screen 6 in particular. If there is a way for me yo see your email as a follower, I’m not sure what it is, so just use the link in the blog. Enjoy!


    1. Extremely helpful! I’m excited for the new school year and the growing my students. I would love for you to share your slides with me if possible.


    2. I would appreciate being added to the list as well: I will be the only person at my school using OUR and won’t have any PD, so I’ll need all the help and encouragement I can get. Thank you, Sara!


  1. Hi! I’m looking to help a first-year Math 8 Teacher in my school. Can you please send me your files? I enjoyed your reflection and know that you will grow this year.


  2. Thank you for the thoughtful reflection and the generous offer of sharing your files. Yes, please, I would love to see your Math 8 files. Thank you!


  3. Thanks for writing up your reflections, Sara. We’re thinking a lot about OUR at Desmos lately. Can you let me know how you decide to use VNPS v. paper v. Desmos from day to day? What’s your thought process like?


    1. You are welcome Dan. I will email you my thoughts in the next couple days about your v. questions. Art. Not science. That’s the short answer and I don’t find that acceptable.


  4. Even more excited about OUR after reading about your successes, and ways to make changes! Would love to see your files and see how those will fit my classes.


  5. Good morning. We can’t access the assessment part of OUR in Canada, but I’d love to see your files anyway. I’m going to start getting into the lessons this year.


  6. This is great! Love all of your thoughts and ideas! I’d love to see your files as well! We used OUR this past year (and it was also my first year teaching).
    How long are your class periods? How did you fit in homework, and homework review? Were most of your kids performing at grade level when they came to you? That was difficult for me this past year, with many students struggling to get through some of the lessons—-it took us WAAAAY too long to get through it.


    1. You are so welcome. Send me your email and I will get you the files. You may PM me on twitter if you like.
      Theoretically 70 minute class periods, but they end up being more like 60.
      I do not believe in HW and reviewing it is a wast of time.
      I had great kids this year. Most were on grade level, but few above grade level.


  7. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. It has really helped me in knowing what to concentrate on and think about as I am getting started. I will be using OUR for 6th grade this year and would love to see any files you have made and are willing to share! thanks again.


  8. Hi! I tried one 6th grade unit of OUR mid-year but gave up because it took so much time to prep PowerPoints. Would love to see how you did it. Will you share your files? If there’s a 6th grade teacher at your school who’s also willing to share, I’d love to be in touch! Ty!


  9. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and ideas! I will be using IM/OUR for 7th and 8th grades this coming year and I am really excited (as well as nervous) about it. It would help so much if you could share your files:


  10. Thank you for sharing, Sara! I am teaching 7th grade this year, and we have 45 minute periods. You emphasized pacing a lot, do you think OUR lessons can be meaningfully explored as-is within 45 minutes? Or should I begin prioritizing/cutting Activities?


    1. You will have to be very disciplined and efficient. If you are ultra-prepared and train your students to have a sense of urgency about their learning, you can do it. You will learn so much your first year about timing and you are the only one that can make that happen for yourself. Just know, like the rest of us, you will not be perfect your first year doing this and that is ok.


  11. This was a great read! This will be my first year using OUR Math 6. I would love to see your files! I am feeling very overwhelmed trying to plan and squeeze it all into 45 minute periods. Thank you.


  12. Hello! Thanks so much for sharing! My school also started using Open Up Resources. I would love to see any files for Grades 6-8!! Thank you again!!


  13. I am a first year grade 8 going one to one chromebooks and in a new job! Thanks for all these tips. I need as much support as I can get.


    1. The lesson synthesis is led by me. I may bring in additional examples, high light connections made to prior learnings, and wrap up the lesson as tightly as possible. The lesson summaries in the student workbooks (if you have them; I did not last year) I leave for students to review solo or with their families. Sometimes I will go through the summaries though and have students high light new vocabulary.

      Lesson synthesis is active. There are required/necessary actions on the part of the teacher–intensional teacher moves that take all the seedlings of the day and plant them in an orderly fashion so they are ready to continue to grow more and better and purposefully as time passes.


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