While many of you are gearing down for the summer months (or are already enjoying your freedom), my job is kicking into gear. I am sad to be losing my summer (I can hear the sounds from the local pool from my back porch), but at the same time I’m looking forward to working with admins/teachers who are excited to learn new things.
All of our grades will be 100% CCSS-aligned by next year. Our K-2 have been doing CCSS for about 3 years, and grades 3-8 had fully implemented CCSS this past school year. Our high schools will be the last group to transition and those teachers have spent the last few weeks gearing up for that shift. The standards for Common Core are quite different from our previous state standards. In the past, we might have 60 +/- standards for a grade/course that were equally important. Some of those standards might be repeated for 2-4 years in a row to “ensure” retention/understanding. This, in my opinion, wasn’t efficient.
Teachers had too many standards and not enough time, so they were hitting it and moving on while hoping it might “stick” with the next grade. And our assessments were just… well, they were CRAP, to be honest (but that’s a rant for another time).
In talking with teachers last August, I kept hearing phrases like, “We don’t really know what to expect with the PARCC assessment.” So I started digging and, in December, showed the collaborative team leaders across the district how to read the test specs and put that information together with the performance level descriptors. This gave them a better understanding of what to expect on the PARCC (prior to the release of the sample test) and a lot of teachers were surprised about how much of a role the Standards for Mathematical Practice would play on the PARCC. (SIDE NOTE: I am working on a “How to Read PARCC” blog this weekend as well and will link as soon as it’s finished)
But for teachers to really be successful in this shift, I wanted to make sure they had support from administration. Math class doesn’t always look like they remember it to be or what they experienced. And it’s difficult to appreciate the difficulty, wonder and complexity of that shift if you can’t experience what math SHOULD be like. Or at least, that was my thought when we had our final meeting with administrators across the district.
My ELA comrade did a fantastic job showing our administrators a video of a wonderful elementary teacher in our district. She walked them through the video and the led discussions in the important parts of the CCSS ELA lesson. She had them point out student discussions and interactions so they could envision what they should see in a CCSS classroom.
Because there are no In-N-Outs in Mississippi, we had to talk about it for a bit. Several admins recognized it because they knew celebrities were known to frequent those establishments after awards ceremonies.
I started with Robert’s picture of a basic In-N-Out cheeseburger.
In groups, the admins had to come up with a list of characteristics of an In-N-Out cheeseburger based on the picture. Once they had their basic definition, we went around the room and each group had to share one characteristic of an In-N-Out cheeseburger. I wrote each characteristic on chart paper and then we discussed it as a group.
The conversation went a little something like this:
Me: So Jill, what’s a characteristic your group noticed about the In-N-Out cheeseburger?
Jill: It has a bun.
Me: Just “A” bun?
Jill: …a pair of buns?
Me: Can you be more specific?
Jill: it has a top bun and a bottom bun.
Me: Awesome! Does anyone want to add to Jill’s characteristic?
Keith: Well, the buns are not identical – the top bun appears to be thicker than the bottom one.
Me: That’s a great observation! Would anyone want a cheeseburger with matching buns?
Group consensus: not really
**Different admins shared their reasoning, all personal to their preference of a burger over a sandwich.
Me: Terry, tell me a characteristic your group noticed about the In-N-Out cheeseburger.
Terry: It has meat and cheese.
Me: Tell me more about that characteristic. How much meat and cheese?
Terry: It appears to have a slice of American Cheese on top of one all beef patty, Hedge.
**At this point, the admins started really getting into “being specific”.
“It appears to have two red ripe tomatoes.” Me: Really? Two whole tomatoes?”–>nice discussion
“I spot a layer of lettuce.”
“Hedge, hopefully that’s some type of sauce or mayonnaise down there on the bottom.”
Me: It could be snot. 🙂
So once we got a list of characteristics for a cheeseburger (which I could SHOOT myself for not documenting), we agreed that this is our understanding of the basic definition…
Me: Our basic definition of what?
Jared: A cheeseburger.
Me: Any cheeseburger?
Jared: No, an In-N-Out cheeseburger.
Me: Welcome to mathematical practice #6 – attending to precision.
Then I showed them this:.
**I should probably mention here that it was around 10 a.m. by this time and part of the engagement was that the admins were HAWNGREY.
Me: So based on our definition of an In-N-Out cheeseburger, what does a Double Double have that a cheeseburger doesn’t?
Angela: double meat, double cheese.
Me: So a Double Double is an In-N-Out cheeseburger with two extra slices of meat and two extra slices of cheese?
Me: So think of the transition from a hamburger to a cheeseburger. A cheeseburger is a hamburger with a…
Patrick: layer of cheese.
Me: Exactly. So a Double Double is a cheeseburger with…
Sheila: an extra layer of meat and cheese.
Me: BINGO. A Double Double is a type of cheeseburger like a square is a type of quadrilateral. Did you know that a lot of restaurants have a secret menu? Well, just like McDonalds and Taco Bell, In-N-Out has a secret menu that you have to know a little math to order.
**Showed admins this picture::
They gasped and made faces that ranged from wonder/awe to nauseous.
Me: So what do you think this secret menu item is called?
Robyn: a heart attack
Kristina: Why would you even…
We then went through some discussion about:
- What does this have in common with a cheeseburger?
- How many layers of meat/cheese does it have?
- How might we name this if we know what a Double Double is?
So we talked about a “3×3”, a “4×4”, and they finally figured out this was called a “20×20”. But in the discussion, I always made them come back to describing each in terms of our definition of a cheeseburger with additional layers. Ex: a 3×3 is a cheeseburger with 2 additional layers of meat and cheese, a 20×20 is a cheeseburger with 19 additional layers of meat and cheese.
Then I showed them the Mac Daddy secret menu item
and gave them a little bit of the history.
They quickly deduced the name of the secret menu item (100 x 100), and I told them to come up with some questions they had about what they saw. Some samples include:
- How would you divide that burger up?
- Did they make the box or did they have it already (and if so, what comes in a box like that)?
- Would you be allowed to order that in the drive-thru window?
- If a single person eats the whole thing at one sitting, is it free?
- How long would you have to wait for that?
- How many calories would be in that burger?
- How much would it cost?
Because they were pretending to be 5th graders, we focused on the cost question.
Me: Dahlia, will you repeat your question?
Dahlia: How much is a 100 x 100 cheeseburger from In-N-Out?
Me: Notice that in 15 minutes of being 5th graders, you have already built a culture of being specific when you ask a question without being told. Precision in our questions and answers becomes routine. So what information do we need to be able to answer Dahlia’s question?
Jeff: We need to cost of a cheeseburger.
Me: Tell me more about why you said we need the cost of a cheeseburger.
Jeff: All those secret menu items build on a cheeseburger, so we need to start with that.
Me: Awesome. And if only there was a way to know how much things cost when you went into a restaurant…
Teresa: We need the menu.
There it is. Discuss.
Me: What was the big question again?
Admins: “How much does a 100 x 100 In-N-Out cheeseburger cost?
Me: I want you to write that at the top of your whiteboard and leave some room to collaborate on an answer. In groups, I want you to discuss the question, come up with a solution, and construct a written argument to prove your answer.”
I was very strategic when I handed out the whiteboards (wicked grin). I knew that each group of admins had a “worker” that would probably get bullied into doing all the work. I gave that person the whiteboard and marker and would whisper, “You are in charge of the board, but you get to choose who does the writing and it cannot be you.” I wish you’d seen the evil grin and empowering looks on those administrators’ faces. They knew I knew.
So they did their initial “proof” of the cost of the 100 x 100 In-N-Out cheeseburger. As I circled the room, I would ask questions, answer questions with questions, and generally drive them as nuts as I did my students with my “be less helpful” attitude. As I circled the room, I took pictures with my Fuse app.
Sorry…. Attention Deficit Disorder Side Note:
Fuse is a free app that is an extension of Camtasia and SnagIt by TechSmith. Educator pricing for SnagIt is about $29.95, and it is by far the BEST money I’ve ever spent. Over the last five years, I’ve used SnagIt several times a week for so many different reasons (that could be a whole blog post on its own). It’s great for screencapture and screencasting. In Fuse, I can take a picture or select a picture from my library:
Once I choose the picture, Fuse asks me where I want to send it:
and within seconds, the image shows up on my screen in SnagIt for the whole class to see:
To connect Fuse to SnagIt, you select “Connect to Mobile Device” and scan this QR Code:
You have to be on the same wireless network for this to work, but this is a fantastic resource to immediately showcase student work OR to allow students to show you evidence of their learning by connecting their mobile devices to your SnagIt. Sweet, sweet, sweet.
Anyway, this was the first picture I shared with Fuse:
When it projected on my screen, the admins stopped dead in their tracks. I thought the lunch caravan had showed up and they were about to trample me to get to food. Nope. They were transfixed by the image on the screen.
“How did you do that? You’re standing right here…”
We did a mini-tech lesson on Fuse + SnagIt, but I had a reason for the image.
Me: We always want to consider our audience when constructing our answers. Any suggestions for this group to help clarify for the audience?
John: They might want to circle their final answer so you can find it.
Then I showed this one:
Me: Tell me what you like about this sample.
Deedre: I like that they didn’t just circle a final answer. I like that they gave you an answer to the original question.
Me: I like that, too! Does anyone have a question for this group?
Danny: Why did they use 99 patties? We didn’t do that.
Then the group got to explain their reasoning to Danny and they talked back and forth about their methods.
Me: Would anyone like to offer a suggestion to this group before they turn in their final board work to me? Something to help clarify?
Sheila: I like how you suggested that we kept the units all the way through our work so that you could follow our thought process. I would suggest that to them for the bottom left work.
Me: That’s a great suggestion, and is actually part of math practice #3: “Construct viable arguments”. The more precise we are with our units and our work, the easier it is to communicate our understanding to someone else. Continue your work.
As I circled around, I noticed that some groups were adding to or erasing previous work. Their answers didn’t change, but the way they constructed their arguments did. I put another sample on the screen:
Me: Comments? Questions?
Jill: I like how they wrote everything out for us in words and then did the subtraction on the right to clarify the 90 cents. But I had to think for a second about what “CB” stood for.
Me: So it would help you if they clarified that abbreviation somewhere on the board?
Jill: yes, maybe off to the side of the word cheeseburger?
**the whiteboard group members then made the addition to the whiteboard without being asked.
Me: Do you notice that as we look at student work, you’re making adjustments to improve your own work without being told? Students will do the same thing when we give them a chance to communicate. Please encourage this when you observe math classes!
Now we are going to do the other part of math practice #3: “critique the reasoning of others”. You’re going to get another group’s work. With a different color marker, make comments and suggestions on their work by offering constructive feedback. Statements such as, “I like how you…” or “It would help me if you…” or “Can you explain how you..” Feedback gives each grous ideas on improving their communication of their solution that they hadn’t considered before.
And they honestly did a great job. I was very impressed and told them as much.
Some things I pointed out at the end:
- At times, the room was pretty loud. In the noise and chaos, however, mathematics was the focus as you all discussed, disagreed and worked together as a group. If you walk into a math classroom and it looks chaotic, take an honest look – is it REALLY bad classroom management? Or is this teacher making use of the discourse to allow students to justify and critique reasoning? If you deduct points on a teacher’s evaluation for a noisy classroom that is functioning like you just experienced, you’re killing the awesome power of mathematical communication. DON’T DO THAT. Please don’t judge your expectation of what math class should look like based on how you may have experienced it when you were young.
- If you walk into a classroom 5 times and students are in silent rows/columns doing worksheets for four of those observations, in my opinion, that is not the intent of the heart of CCSS. Start asking questions about how that teacher is incorporating the mathematical practices into the culture of the classroom.
- You all have previous experiences of math classes that include humiliation, shame, and boredom. Did this feel like what you’ve experienced in your past math classes? This is how math should feel to students. We need to find out what they’re interested in and bring the math to them.
- Are some teachers using their cell phones in ways they shouldn’t during the school day? Probably. But we cannot create a zero tolerance policy to police a small percent of teachers and stifle the awesome learning opportunities and ideas of the greater percentage. It is completely hypocritical to have a district mission statement that encourages the development of “21st century skills” for our students, yet we do not allow our teachers and students to use 21st century TOOLS. There was a time when graphing calculators were banned in the classroom, but now they appear to be a common item. Do students still use them improperly? Sometimes, yes. But as teachers, we incorporate proper use of graphing calculators into our classroom management plan and procedures. We can do the same thing with cell phones.
After I did a small 10 minute intro/discussion of the flipped classroom, I knew my time was up with the administrators (Human Resources and Purchasing had to talk to them as well).
I had to jet back to my office because I was also working with K-2 teachers on assessments on the other side of the building. Within a few minutes of being in my office, about 5 administrators showed up. They were excited and inspired by what they did and what they saw. They had ideas for how to use demo lessons with their staff and/or how to use Fuse within the classroom. By the end of the week, I started getting e-mails from other administrators about the same thing. They said they wanted to see students as engaged as they felt in that lesson.
What I learned:
I should’ve done this at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year. I was so focused on teachers, that I didn’t really think about educating my principals on CCSS math. But it was a great experience and I highly recommend it to other coaches/specialists or even teachers. The administrators were very engaged in the math and ELA pieces of it and they said it really opened their eyes. Some admitted that they evaluated teachers based on what they thought math should look like, and they realized they were wrong.
One even commented, “If I’d been taught math this way, I might have actually learned it.”