Math Focus Walks

Saturday, February 20, 2016

     For January, and half of February, we used our building meeting time to focus on one subject area.  We decided to give some time to doing something well, and the first focus +Karen Marino and +Jodi Meyer  (our principal and AP) chose was math.  With the help of our k-2 Math Core Leader, +Vianney Sanchez, and our 3-5 Math Core Leader, +Virginia Burdett, we had building PD that focussed on integrating the 8 Mathematical Practices into our instruction.  

     The Mathematical Practices are so important, because without them, students would just have math skills and strategies covered by the standards.  By teaching the math standards, but using the Practices to help design our instruction, our students will really start to think deeply about math and see patterns and think flexibly in how they solve more complex problems.  During our math focus, we were actually also introducing the Mindsets for Learning (Mraz and Hertz) in a slow chat across our school.  They apply so well with the Math Practices, so +Karen Marino actually linked them together for instructional purposes.  Here is her thinking:

     Another focus of our building meetings, in addition to the Practices in general, was using manipulatives to problem solve.  Karen had us, as teachers, do the work of students and solve problems using maniplulatives in multi step problems.  Ginny and Vianey then had us talk about how we organize our math materials for ease of use by the students.  In Vianey's session, she asked (slight paraphrase): How do you organize your math manipulatives and materials so that students can get them and use them when they need to?  I love the idea of allowing our classroom organization to allow for the students to use materials when THEY need them.  That is getting us closer to student centered classrooms.  :) 

A screen capture of one of my notes in Notability
     PD is one thing, but actually observing math in action is where we can really learn from others and reflect on our own instructional practice.  So, +Jodi Meyer and I introduced the idea of a Focus Walk to the staff, were we would go in and look for specific things for a 15-20 minutes period of time.  We wanted to look for the learning targets, what the students were doing, and questions/reflections we might have.  Those lenses will continue for our writing and reading walks later this year, too.  This time, we were specifically looking for evidence of the math standards and the math practices, or deep and surface learning.  We also said we could look for optimism, flexibility and persistence, since those were the building mindsets we had introduced at the time.

     I sent out a google form asking what time they taught math on Wednesdays.  If they were open to having visitors, they filled in their time slot.  I then looked at the form, and grouped classrooms into 30 minutes blocks (20 minutes for observations, and 10 for a debrief after). I sent the blocks of time to our ESL/Reading/DRC staff and asked them to mark times where they would be available to cover a class that day.  I then sent the form to the teachers, asking all teachers to fill in a time where they chose to observe.  We asked, if possible, for co-teachers to choose two different slots so that less intervention times would be affected.  Once we had the schedule, we were ready to observe!

     On average, the staff was able to walk between 2-3 classrooms and observe math in action.  Afterwards, we debriefed as a group.  I basically got the conversation started, and the teachers made honest observations and reflections, and some got new ideas that I saw applied even later that day.  Before we left each debrief, we agreed to spend 5 minutes looking at our own classroom through the lenses of the Focus Walks before our building meeting the next Tuesday.

     We started our final math building meeting watching a short 1 minute trailer that I had compiled of our walks (View it here!)  Then, we compiled a list of the instructional variables that we saw across the building.  We determined that those variables alone do not make our teaching good or great (thanks to the work of Dr. Mary Howard).  We broke into groups, and wrote things that we consider "good" or "great" in our own math teaching reflections, or from the walks, and put them onto charts.

     After the meeting was over, Ginny created a (K-2) and (3-5) Math Practices resource document for us, based off of the conversations had about what the practices looked like in OUR classrooms. Her hope in creating these documents were that you could utilize the resource while planning in order to deliberately incorporate the practices into your teaching.  Here is the K-2 Practices, and the 3-5 Practices.

     I am incredibly proud of our staff.  They not only focussed on improving their math instruction, they also opened their doors to other teachers and reflected on their own teaching.  They made changes, big and small, to benefit their students.  Our support staff gave up part of their services on one day to benefit the universal instruction, and for that I am very grateful.  Thank you all for the work you did. 

     Now, let's talk WRITING!  :)

1 comment:

  1. It was a wonderful 6 weeks full of learning for everyone!!!!