Have you ever taught a lesson and realized too few of your students learned what you taught? You’re not alone! We’ve experienced this numerous times in our years as classroom teachers and in our current roles. In this blog post, Gabe shares his experiences from teaching and his role as elementary school principal. Together, we share insights from our collaboration and shared experiences.
After 20 years of working with elementary school children, I finally started to find answers to the pedagogical questions nagging me since my first days teaching mathematics. I also realized how powerful it is to expand my understanding of math concepts beyond the narrow scope I’d experienced — and taught — my entire life.
As a systems thinker, I’d constrained math instruction to a series of prescribed steps, completely disconnected from the mathematical concept. I streamlined tasks into a sequence that could be introduced and modeled — steps that students could rehearse as many times as necessary. Most lessons were a version of,
“Here’s the lesson objective, relevant vocabulary, and the steps we need to follow. Now, we will practice these steps as many times as we can before lunch.”
Over the past two years, I began to emerge from my constrained view of math instruction. More than any other aspect of teaching, math instruction is the domain I would revise if I could revisit my years as a classroom teacher. Now, as the principal of an elementary school, my role is to be the lead learner. To me, this means I must first experience the steps it takes to learn new instructional strategies and implement them in classrooms at various grade levels. To do this, I schedule the time to co-teach math lessons in classrooms at the school where I work.
Learning from Teaching
As teachers, how do we learn in and from practice?
One way is to study practice, both our own practice and that of others. In this blog series, I’ll share some of the ways I learn in and from practice, focusing on student learning and the intersection between teaching and learning. Centered in my work as an elementary teacher and math coordinator, I’ll write, and sometimes co-write with colleagues — this week with Nick — about some of the experiences I’ve found most useful for my own learning and practice. Each blog post will include a framework or questions to engage and support others in implementing these ideas and inviting ongoing collaboration.
Professional Conversations Around a Tch Video Clip
Have you ever really thought about how watching a Teaching Channel video can contribute to your professional learning?
In our work together as colleagues, we often use video to dive into the details of children’s thinking and to explore teachers’ in-the-moment decision making. Nick and I recently watched a Tch video clip that features a kindergarten class engaging in a true/false routine. As we watched the clip together, we thought about some of the different ways we saw students participating, what we learned about their thinking, what we wondered about, and we reflected on how the teacher supported the conversation.
Hour-long lessons? Asking students to work quietly at their desks? Not in early childhood!
Effective preschool teachers have perfected the art of infusing learning throughout their day so students can learn in continuous, small chunks while engaging in hands-on activities. Our latest video series, created in partnership with Development and Research in Early Math Education (DREME), features six engaging lessons that build on young children’s mathematical thinking. These videos do an amazing job at getting us to rethink what is possible in early childhood math.
While we were filming these lessons, we got a chance to capture six strategies that can be used to teach math throughout the day. These strategies get kids moving, connecting, and building understanding. As you watch, think about which strategies you would like to adapt for use in your classroom.
Children, even the very young, engage with the world in mathematically-rich ways. As researchers and professional development facilitators in mathematics education and early childhood education, we have the privilege and joy of spending time in early childhood settings and engaging with those who teach our youngest students.
Through our collaborations with early childhood educators, we get to learn how teachers leverage both formal and informal classroom spaces to spark mathematical engagement, listen to children’s mathematical thinking, and enrich their budding mathematical ideas. Our partnership with Teaching Channel helped us to capture some of the complex work of learning and teaching in early childhood classrooms.
When you think about STEM, you might think about high school students doing an egg drop design challenge or middle schoolers building model roller coasters. But even our youngest students are ready to engage in STEM.
In our latest video series, created in partnership with Fairfax Futures, we explore what STEM looks like in early childhood. Young children naturally engage in the scientific method. They observe the world around them, make predictions, try out ideas, and revise their thinking. To help students develop these key concepts, the teachers in these videos present students with developmentally-appropriate math and science activities. They root their lessons in connections to literature and their students’ home lives, asking open-ended questions to help students develop understanding.
Are you using number talks in your classroom? If not, it might be time to start! Number talks are a great way to build students’ number sense through a short daily math routine. In her book Number Talks, Sherry Parrish describes them as:
- A five to fifteen-minute classroom conversation around purposefully crafted computation problems that are solved mentally.
- The best part of a teacher’s day.
Ready to get started? Follow these tips.
Join panelists Tch Laureate Kristin Gray and Jody Guarino with host Paul Teske for a mobile-friendly Shindig webinar on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, at 3:00 p.m. PDT. Meet with us as we learn about the purpose and structure of math routines as they relate to fluency.
- Watch video examples
- Participate in a number routine as a “student”
- Engage with colleagues in an interactive learning experience
Click here to register.
For More On Number Talks
Whether this is your first, tenth, or maybe even your last year of teaching, you’re probably still settling into your classroom and getting to know your learners. Each year, a new set of students brings new challenges and opportunities. Most likely, your class has at least one English Language Learner (ELL). In fact, one out of every ten students in public schools is an English Language Learner. And, in reality, all of your students are learners of language!
Teaching Channel is here to support you by adding more new video series about teaching and learning with ELLs to our library and our ELL Deep Dive. In this first series, we take you to Banting Elementary in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where Jessica Hegg and Kris Carey co-teach in a fifth grade, dual language classroom. They open up the walls between their two rooms and share the teaching of 45 students in a class where 75% are ELLs. Watching Jessica and Kris in action, we not only see effective strategies for bridging content and language, but also a model for how two teachers collaborate and share their strengths to create an amazing learning environment.
Spanish, Somali, Hmong, and Telugu are a few of the 48 languages spoken in the School District of Waukesha (SDW). At SDW, we’re proud to say that our student population brings many assets and global experiences to a suburb west of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. However, our largest population of students is Spanish speaking.
This has proven to be an opportunity for bilingual education in SDW. The research from Wayne P. Thomas and Virginia P. Collier, 1997, 2010, shows that students who participate in high quality, dual language programming for five to seven years, where at least 50% of learning is in the partner language (in this case Spanish), outperform their peers academically.
Have You Tried Number Talks?
What strategies are you planning for building number sense and problem-solving skills this year?
Check out our Number Talks collection to see a daily, short, structured way for students to talk about math with their peers.