Classroom Management or Classroom Environment?

As the school year begins I’ve been thinking a lot about classroom environment. Our district uses the Danielson Framework as part of our teacher evaluation and one of the four domains identified is Classroom Environment. As an aside, when The Framework was first published it was designed to be a reflective tool not an evaluative one.  If you are not familiar with The Framework for Teaching, Charlotte Danielson identifies four domains of teacher responsibility. Domain 2, Classroom Environment, includes five components that make up this domain.

danielson

For some reason whenever I hear “classroom management” I immediately think of procedures, student behavior, and physical space. Do the students know where the supplies are? Are they efficiently transitioning between learning activities? Do students know the procedure for when they return from an absence?  That’s just the business of learning.

Two components I want to focus on are the first two from Danielson’s list: 1) respect and rapport and 2) a culture for learning. I LOVE how the wording below captures the essence of both while merges the two ideas into one. It even addresses the expectations of both teacher and student as it relates to learning:

respect learning

I came across this language three or four years ago at a summer technology workshop hosted by our district. The words never escaped me. Kate Kieres traveled from Pennsylvania to lead the PD and referred to it several times.

When sharing this with students we obviously discuss examples of respect, but instead of posting a list of do’s or don’ts,  I prefer to capture it in question form as the basis for our classroom norms.

Creating a culture for learning requires students to be in an engaging, collaborative environment that empowers all learners. That’s my responsibility. When students ask…

What am I learning from others?

When students consciously ask themselves, What am I learning from others? attention is immediately drawn to the learning experience. It demands critical thinking and processing. It invites inquiry, debate, and feedback. An example could be a simple turn and talk where students share a problem solving strategy, but the caveat is the intentional self reflection while the conversation is taking place, “What am I learning from you?”

How am I contributing to the learning of others?

Similarly, students should be cognizant of how they contribute to the learning of others. Either in pairs, small groups, or whole class discussion it is my responsibility to create a learning environment where every student voice is valued.  That means every student needs to be into a position where they can participate and not feel they have nothing to offer. A group-worthy task with roles and responsibilities or an open middle problem are ways to give students the opportunity to contribute to others’ learning.

As classroom norms

My support classes are only 30 minutes. Time is precious. By referring to the norms What are you learning from others? and How are you contributing to the learning of others? I can quickly redirect behavior. It makes the statement that this is a learning environment and these are the expectations, on both the students’ part and mine.

 

 

Intervention Goals and Goal Setting

I’m so grateful to @jreulbach and her blog  for resurrecting #SundayFunday.   My position as a 6-8 math interventionist (a relatively new position) has prevented me from blogging regularly but I hope the weekly prompts will get me to write more often. My responsibilities continue to evolve, but my main projects are providing grades 6-8 homeroom math support, co-teaching four classes, and overseeing our Title I after school math program.

Our homeroom intervention program is a work in progress. It is NOT a formal class, but the identified students (below 30% percentile MAP and teacher recommendation) are scheduled to attend math support twice weekly. The two previous years, support time was dedicated to re-teaching and supporting the daily classroom instruction. This year I will also be targeting specific skills for intervention.

One goal I have for myself is to spend time identifying quality intervention programs that best suit our students. One resource I’ll be looking at more closely is this document from Hanover Research. I’m also quite fond of Marilyn Burns Math Reasoning Inventory .  I’m not sure if my district will be purchasing a program or if we will be creating our own. Either way the work is cut out for me. If you have a favorite or have struggled with a particular set of resources please add your thoughts in the comments.

Along those lines, one goal I have for my homeroom support students is for them to set their own goals and monitor their progress. I created this google spreadsheet for them to complete.

Below is a screenshot. The student would fill in the blue and green and the graph would self generate.

Goal setting

Students can use the continuous learner characteristics as the basis for the goal setting plan.

If the electronic version becomes too cumbersome I guess I’ll go back to paper.

I’m interested in learning how goal setting has worked in your classroom as well so please chime in!

 

Using derived facts to compensate for lack of fact fluency

Jacob (not his real name) is a 6th grader who struggles with his multiplication facts. Recently I sat one-on-one with him to capture his thinking as he completed Jo Boaler’s math cards multiplication matching activity. He had one prior experience with the activity when he worked with a small group during homeroom math support, but this was the first time he was completing it with me.

I shuffled the cards and  handed Jacob the deck. I did not mention any strategies to get him started. I wanted to see how he would get himself started. He began by keeping the cards in the deck–faced up. He removed the top card, looked at it, then placed it at bottom of the deck, as one would do if you were working with flash cards.  He went through three cards before stopping at 9×7, where he spent about 30 seconds mentally calculating. “Sixty-three,” he said.

9x7

“How did you figure that out?” I asked.

“I knew 5×7 was 35, and I kept adding 7s.” I noted he is using a derived fact, using a fact he knows to find out the answer to one he doesn’t. 

Jacob placed 9×7 on the counter top then immediately drew 7^2 then 8^2. “I don’t remember what those are,” he said placing the cards to the side.

The next card he drew was 9×4. It took him about 25 seconds to complete the mental math computation. “36,” he said, then created a new column for 9×4.

two cards.jpg

 

“How did you calculate that?” I asked.

“I knew 9×5 was 45 then took away nine.” It’s becoming obvious he is using landmarks or friendly numbers, then adds or subtracts accordingly.

The next card he drew was a 7 by 9 array. He knew to place it in the 9×7 column he just started, but when I asked him the product of 7 and 9 he had forgotten. He counted the squares, but he counted each square in an inward spiral motion, working his way from the outside in.

“Sixty-four,” he said.

three cards

I suggested he count again. He counted each square in spiral form again and said, “Sixty-two.”

I asked, “If there were 10 columns of 7, what would that be?”

“Seventy. (PAUSE) Oh, it’s 63.”

“Why?”

“Because I need to take away a seven.”

Before we moved on, I wanted Jacob to think about a strategy that would help him complete the activity efficiently while at the same time revealing his mathematical thinking.

“What do you think we can do to help us with this activity before we forget what 9×7 is? I’m pretty sure there will be another card that represents 63.”

At this point he spread out the unmatched cards, found 63, then placed it at the top of the column. Then he began looking for another card.

four cards

“What are you looking for?” I asked. He found the 4 by 9 array to place it in the 9×4 column.

five cards.jpg

He looked at the array for about 15 seconds then said, “9 times 4 is 36.”

“How do you know?”

“I made it 10 times 4, which is 40 then I took away 4.”

I didn’t ask him but I assume he was searching for the 4 by 9 array to give him a visual representation to support the same friendly number strategy he previously used.  He then proceeded to look for 36 and placed it at the top of the column.

We spent the remaining 15 minutes completing the activity.

At the end of the period I mentioned to Jacob that I was pleased to learn he was utilizing a strategy to compensate for an overall weakness in his multiplication facts.

To my pleasant surprise Jacob actually has strong number sense. He is decomposing numbers and using derived facts to think about multiplication. He is utilizing that strength to compensate for a lack of fluency with other math facts. In addition, he is using visual models to construct his math arguments and uses them to defend  his derived fact strategy.

I’ll be working with Jacob next year and it is our goal to improve this fact fluency. This observation gave me insight into Jacob’s mathematical thinking. He has more number sense than I previously gave him credit.

Special thanks to Capri Paluch (@CapriPaluchD95) for helping me process this observation.

Making Thinking Visible # 4: Recognizing the need for clear learning intentions

Chapter 4 is a great resource to tap into. The routines for “Introducing and Exploring Ideas” are varied and strategically target making observations, uncovering new ideas by connecting prior knowledge, and considering problems from alternate perspectives. Some of the routines are variations of what I’m already familiar with or am currently do in the classroom, so I was reading to learn what I can add or focus on to improve student thinking.

What it really boils down to is clear learning intentions. If learning intentions solely focus on skills, we’re missing the opportunity to develop students as thinkers.

A few of the routines are described below.

The See-Think-Wonder routine, similar to I Notice…I Wonder, invites students to inquire. To maximize the benefit of the routine students may need to experience it several times in order to break through the surface level to dig deeper. My co-teacher and I used this routine to introduce exponents to our 6th graders. We showed this Best Offer video twice.

lump sum
Most students noticed a stack of money. Few noticed the money was bundled or how the bundles were labeled.
exponent
Many students saw the amount of money growing, but were puzzled with what was going on.

Using the video, students were asked whether they would prefer a lump sum payment of $50,000 or be paid exponentially, starting with two dollars. As the students experienced the routine many of their wonderings were surface level. At that point it became clear that the routine needs to be reintroduced so students have opportunities to practice digging deeper.

Another routine I enjoyed reading about was Zoom-In as it will be useful when exploring rational numbers. I’ll likely create a powerpoint to overlay a variety of rational numbers, integers, and whole numbers–attempting to connect prior knowledge with classification. The idea behind Zoom-In is to show a small section of an image and slowly zoom out, or pan from left to right, revealing other aspects of the image.

Yet another routine, the Explanation Game, piqued my interested. The goal is to elicit thinking on the parts of something. It reminded me of David Wees (@davidwees) and his collaborative efforts on the Contemplate then Calculate instructional routine which emphasizes the mathematical practice make use of structure. I’m particularly familiar with this task…

…which asks students to explore structure to find short cuts when calculating. Connecting it to the Explanation Game, students describe the features of the problem, explain their short cut, give reasons for why it works and describe alternatives.

Chapter 4 is a great reminder of existing instructional routines. What is also quite useful is each routine’s description includes its purpose, how to select appropriate content, implement or vary it–all essential when making learning intentions explicit.

Making Thinking Visible #3

A few thoughts and connections while reading chapter 3: Introducing the Thinking Routines. Thinking  routines can be used as: 1) a tool to elicit thinking (i.e. a Think-Puzzle-Explore which is related to a KWL) , 2) a structure to support student thinking (i.e. Generate-Sort-Connect-Elaborate, related to a concept map) or 3) a pattern of behavior where thinking routines are embedded in the classroom culture. When embedded the routines “build an arc of learning” throughout a unit of study.

As I learn about each of these routines in greater depth I’ll be able to explain in greater depth, but already I’ve noticed the tool and structure are closely intertwined. I’m going to take a risk and predict one way these routines would play out when students are learning factors, greatest common factor, and least common multiple.

Present the Think-Puzzle-Explore routine to reveal the level of understanding of  factors. What do you think you know about factors? What’s puzzling about factors? Let’s explore and investigate what puzzles you. I’d likely give each student a document with the prompts to record their thoughts before discussing.

In the middle of the unit prior to GCF and LCM, the Generate-Sort-Connect-Elaborate thinking routine is introduced. Here students would brainstorm identify the differences between factors and multiples. The would be done individually at first then shared and organized  with a partner. A finished product may look something like this:

thinking map

At the end of the unit perhaps the perspective taking thinking routine called Step Inside would help students distinguish between when a problem requires finding the LCM and when it requires the GCF.

I think this scenario is pretty accurate in demonstrating how thinking routines can be used as a tool, a structure, and as a pattern of behavior.

More discussion is on Twitter #eduread.

Making Thinking Visible #2

My reflection and critique of Chapter 2, Putting Thinking at the Center of the Educational Enterprise,  begins with this quote:

What kind of intellectual life are we presenting to our students in our individual classrooms and in our school as a whole? What are my students learning about learning? What messages am I sending through the opportunities I create for my students about what learning is and how learning happens? (p48)

What am I modeling in my classroom? What types of thinking occur in the classroom? As I read chapter 2 I kept relating it to the importance of having clear learning intentions. In my previous post I noted how our math classes do a fine job of identifying the specific skill to be learned, but the thinking objective is not clear–it’s left as an assumption. When it’s left as an assumption what happens in class is the teacher does all the thinking.

To make thinking visible, the first of three strategies, questioning, was introduced. One of the authors provided a scenario in which he modeled the questioning strategy to a group of teachers. Having a strategic list of questions–knowing how you are going to direct the learning–is crucial. Yet when the teachers implemented the strategy, they reported students were not responding with higher levels of thinking. The teachers neglected to listen deeply and ask follow up questions. Listening, strategy #2, was explained in depth using this scenario.

Be it anecdotal records, formative assessments, whiteboard work, photos, videos, etc.–any artifact can serve to document (strategy #3) student thinking and be used to advance learning.

I’m not sure it this will be elaborated upon on in later chapters, but I’m looking to read about balancing surface and deep level thinking–juggling when to take students into the deep end and when to stay in shallow waters. I’m certain that depends on the individual student. The reason for my raising the issue is thinking deeply is serious mental exercise. Students need to develop the mental stamina, so perhaps a  variety of thinking activities is in order.

I do believe students need to see their teachers as authentic thinkers and learners as well. Case in point, towards the end of the school year a colleague and I were wordsmithing a conference proposal. This was taking place in the colleague’s classroom, after school, with a student present. At the end of our lengthy discussion the student remarked it was the first time he had seen adults struggle as much as kids do.

Continue the conversation on Twitter at #eduread.

Also check out key quotes found on this post.

 

Making Thinking Visible Chapter 1 takeaways

After reading Ritchart, Church and Morrison’s first chapter of Making Thinking Visible, here are some takeaways:

Chapter 1: Unpacking Thinking

“What kinds of thinking do you value and want to promote in your classroom?” What kinds of thinking does that lesson force students to do?” These two thinking questions are at the heart of Making Thinking Visible.

Every time I annotated or highlighted a takeaway from Chapter 1 I critiqued my practice. For example, “…understanding is not a precursor to application, analysis, evaluating, and creating but a result of it.” I noted how this belief can lead to greater access and equity, After all you don’t have to be fluent with your math facts to solve complex problems. I also thought about how our math team sometimes schedules a group work task at the end of the unit—after the students have completed a string of procedural problems. Often times a task at the end limits the student’s opportunity to think.

Another quote from Chapter 1: “In most school settings, educators have focused more on the completion of work and assignments than on a true development of understanding.” I kept thinking about Michael Pershan’s relentless pursuit of analyzing student work and making sense of it. I also thought about this in terms of our PLCs. We can do a better job of collaborating to improve student learning by studying student work.

I also noted that our lesson objectives do a fine job of articulating what students will be able to do from a procedural standpoint, “I will be able to convert between fractions, decimals, and percents” but the thinking piece needs to be clearly defined. The book’s eight high leverage thinking moves, were previewed and I’m looking forward to studying them at length.

  1. Observe closely and describe what’s there.
  2. Build explanations and interpretations.
  3. Reason with evidence.
  4. Make connections.
  5. Consider different viewpoints and perspectives.
  6. Capture the heart and form conclusions.
  7. Wonder and ask questions.
  8. Uncover complexity – go below surface learning.

I’m also interested in discussing Bridget Dunbar’s comment about metacognition.

MTV

Pam Wilson’s post does a fine job of capturing the salient points of Chapter 1. Check it out and join the conversation on twitter using the #eduread and #makethinkvis hashtags.