Getting Real—the Five Practices

Sitting in a MVP (Mathematics Vision Project) Integrated Math 1 professional development (PD) class early this week, minding my own business, probably checking Twitter for any knowledge nuggets or notifications leading to that dopamine rush, when I hear a teacher proclaim her recommitment to popsicle sticks as a means to improve participation in her class come fall. I winced. I remember being praised by my principal for having a cup of popsicle sticks on my desk and the nod of approval he gave me when I used this revolutionary technique to call randomly on unsuspecting students.  About this time each summer I started eating popsicles with abandon hoping to have enough sticks saved by the end of August. Oh my goodness. How far we’ve come!

kari pops
Kari Vaughn, now FCAS; former princess popsicle eater

A dominant theme from PD a couple summers ago was the practice of acting intentionally in instruction and planning and assessment and in each and every teacher move except in calling on students. We were still rolling the roulette wheel hoping fate would carry us the rest of the way. We were upping participation, but not steering the learning ship in any particular direction.  At the close of many a class, we found ourselves on education’s version of Gilligan’s Island, floundering hopelessly for a solution to the wreck that just occurred in class. It never occurred to me there was a better way because fate served me well, much of the time. But not every time and my luck ran out.

How many times have you been burned by a student who boldly states the exact misconception you were saying to dispel; or a student who confidently states something totally and completely wrong? Having no idea what a student is going to say is a rookie mistake. What keeps sticking with me is a scene from L.A. Law  (1986-1994) where Corbin Bernsen, starring as divorce attorney Arnie Becker, has a woman, claiming abuse, on the witness stand. He pushes her to the breaking point about why she did not seek help from a neighbor on a particular occasion when she had been locked out of her house. She explains that she could not seek help from a neighbor because she was naked.  At that point, his whole case fell apart right before him. He was reminded that a divorce lawyer never asks a question to which he or she does not already know the answer. And so it is two decades into the 21stcentury in the mathematics classroom.

Now, at long last, the Five Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematical Discussions by Smith and Stein, affectionately referred to as “the five practices’’ is gaining traction and getting real.  When we, as teachers, invite a student to share insights with the class, we already know what they are going to say. It’s still organic, it’s just that we are sorting and selecting student insights in a planned way. And when I say we, I assume every teacher is now doing this or at least striving to take steps toward orchestrating classroom discussions in such a way. Just when I think that, I over hear the popsicle stick comment and I know, the work here is just starting.  I know I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the training and experiences I have had using Open Up Resources 6-8 Math authored by Illustrative Mathematics.

At HIVE19 in Atlanta, Brooke Powers (@LBrookePowers) introduced us (Martin Joyce (@martinsean), Morgan Stipe (@mrsstipemath) and Jen Arberg (@JenArberg) to a video that we then showed during our Five Practices 6-8 breakout groups in session 3 in the Community Track. This video created by and starring Dr. K. Childs, set the stage nicely as we dug into a lesson specifically on the five practices. I am sharing it further by linking it here. I hope this makes an appearance in your back to school training sessions. I also hope this practice extends to other content areas because good practice is good practice.

Pot of Podcasts

A couple years ago I started randomly sampling podcasts for teachers. I think I was doing something boring in my kitchen and didn’t like the thought of wasting time so I decided to multi-task. I started with #Hacklearning, but didn’t stick with that one long because I felt like I was being asked to pay for tangental items continually and, well, I’m a teacher so I’m just not going to spend money without some unbiased recommendations from people I trust. Plus, many more became available that were math centric.

Podcasts in my rotation I have listened to while I am sweeting at the gym or am sorting papers or some other mundane tasks are listed:

  • The Cult of Pedagogy
  • Truth for Teachers (Angela Watson from 40 hour week fame)
  • The Numberphile Podcast
  • Math Ed Podcast
  • the Google Teacher Tribe Podcast
  • The Teacher Podcast
  • Mr. Barton Maths Podcast (one of my favorites–can get deep)
  • Making Math Moments the Matter (Fairly new but organic so I kind of like it–#MTBoSers Jon Orr and Kyle Pearce)
  • 10 Minute Teacher Podcast
  • My Bad (One of my earliest finds which I don’t listen to any more since I finely found content related Podcasts)

The list above in not sorted or rated in any way, shape or form. I welcome introductions into podcasts not listed. Share your favorite podcast!!

 

 

To Share or not to Share?

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After a major professional development event, I try to blog my takeaways as my way of reflecting and committing to action steps. But with #OURHive I’m hesitant. I know as an attendee of many jealously camps, I appreciate such blogs as a way to collect resources discovered and shared at the event I was not fortunate enough to attend. So why the hesitation? It may be because I don’t consider a session I facilitated a session that is worthy of comment. But of course it is. It’s just a private reflection for now. I do have a couple things I’m ready to share though.

When I attend a major PD, I tend to notice a main word or concept. I’m struggling with that too though. My immediate reaction is “organic” tying that to the ungroomed responses we want from students. That stands in contrast to formulated responses of years gone by expected from learners who are given formulas, aka recipes, into which numbers are plugged and answers are spat out. In our quest for conceptual understanding we expect raw, unfinished ideas, ripe with unfinished truths and misconceptions. Teachers are in search of organic “mather” that can be synthesized into understandings that form a platform from which the next concept can be launched. Words are simple. Actions are complex, intertwined and squishy as we persevere toward the learning goals of the day. Skillfully executed, lesson synthesis brings connections and closure to the day.

I have a problem though. #OURHive left me with more than one key word. Shiny has to be crowned the second key word. Because I missed the opening keynotes due to getting my room ready for my session, I picked up on the word late in the game. I heard it used frequently though and I interpreted it in my own way. I took it to mean teachers shine when they do well and they become even more shiny as they improve. I can’t help but be reminded of a time in a previous career when I was told I was a “diamond in the rough.” I was not shiny whatsoever. The comment made me feel as though they had told me I didn’t sweat much for a fat girl. This is different though. The pretext is that teachers are already shining. Their new work and new learnings just help them shine ever more. That’s a nice thought.

I will compile the nuggets of information and teaching tips I received in another post. Until then, don’t seek illusive perfection, but rather continual improvement. Teach on. Learn on. Love on.

 

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