Friday, March 28, 2008

One sided conversations

I work as an instructional coach in schools all the time and love it. I pride myself in being able to listen to what teachers want and explore their needs. I'm a good listener (although I'm not sure my wife would say so). My frustration is that I'm doing all the talking in this conversation about developing math lessons.

I know that I haven't done a good job of advertising this project, or developing a consistent posting schedule, or lots of things but I'm still frustrated. I see people are coming to the blog and wiki, but they obviously aren't being pushed to add to the conversation.

I am enjoying being able to organize some of my thoughts and by publishing them I am creating a better understanding of my own thinking, and that is valuable. I am learning how to use the structures of wikis and blogs better; and understanding some of the pitfalls and just how big they can be (consistency, audience, strong thinking, etc.). It's been a good experience so far, but I'll be honest it is a little frustrating. I am getting tired of talking to myself.

I am going to make a concerted effort to increase my use and output on this project to see if it has any legs, but I have a concern that it won't take off. I'll be left with a good idea that I will need to reflect on, and analyze to learn what i need to do differently to make it more successful. I have this gut feeling that there is an audience for a project like this, but I haven't accessed it yet.

My plan for growth is to get a larger library of information posted, blog about it more consistently, reference it intentionally in my f2f work with teachers, explore for similar projects and add to their voices, and shoot a couple of twitter comments out to see if anyone else is interested.

This is a real interesting concept for me as a learner. I have lots of ideas. However, now that I'm not in a classroom to try them out everyday, see how things fit, and see how things morph into better ideas, I have no outlet for my creativity. That was the genesis of this little experiment, that and as a way of organizing my learning for my own thinking, but now it's gotten a little personal in that I'm out here and not sure if anyone is listening.

Content vs. Process

It is interesting that I focus on content almost exclusively in this early posts of this little experiment, but I value process almost as much, if not more, in my teaching. So in an effort to make sure that I open the discussion about processes. I am posting a short little article that I submitted to a virtual teaching newsletter. It is about note taking routines and structures with an example from a math class. I will open a conversation about note taking/summarizing at the wiki.

Note-Taking in a Hybrid Classroom

By Roland O’Daniel, CTL

This article features strategies from the Collaborative Model for Content Literacy developed by
the Collaborative for Teaching and Learning


In the hybrid classroom there is a unique opportunity for students to explore mathematical concepts on their own using on-line tools and then come together in a face to face setting to share what they have observed and learned. In the hybrid setting students often struggle with working in the independent, virtual learning environment and gathering important information while in that environment. Information must be synthesized in a very different way. Students have to identify what is important, what they understand, do not understand, and questions that they have. It is important to intentionally and explicitly develop structures in the classroom to help students interact with the material.

Note-Taking Skills and Strategies

Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock (2001) have identified nine strategies that work most effectively in their book, Classroom Instruction That Works. Among those essential strategies are summarizing and note taking. These strategies promote greater comprehension and understanding by inviting students to analyze a concept to interpret what is essential and then put the material in their own words. Skills that are utilized in good note taking structures include; substituting, deleting, and keeping some things and identifying the important components of the material presented.

In order to develop these skills in the hybrid classroom, teachers create intentional and thorough routines with the students. The routines must be supported and scaffolded in the face–to-face setting so that students will be able to understand the processes well enough to use on their own in the independent virtual environment. For instance, teachers might ask students to question what is unclear, to identify important topics, and to predict what will happen next in the material. One tool for helping students create these types of interactions with notes is a Double Entry organizer. In the left column students take notes as usual and in the right hand column students identify questions, make connections to previous material, and identify material that confuses them.

Teachers who use a Double Entry organizer allow students the opportunity interact with the material by stopping, have students review the their notes for interactions, and during lesson closure follow up with the interactions very intentionally through whole group discussion or small group share out. Teachers introduce and support this structure while in the regular classroom setting and then transfer the process to the independent learning environment. Doing so reinforces independent student learning and also models for students who are struggling with working in a virtual environment.


When students are in the virtual environment, providing the expectation that the same note-taking structure as the classroom is used will help reinforce the understanding and create better note takers. If students are not in a lab setting, providing note-taking guides that have prompts for interactions will help reinforce the process with students. It is imperative that teachers support the process in classroom discussions when the classes are back together, so that students see value in taking the time to review and synthesize the notes. The importance of note taking is more than just remembering the highlights of class. A good note-taking routine sets a tone of communication in the classroom and provides students a tool for learning the material more effectively.

Classroom Instruction That Works by R. J. Marzano, D. J. Pickering, and J. E. Pollock, 2001, Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Subjects Matter, Every teacher’s Guide to Content-Area Reading, Harvey Daniels and Steven Zemelman, 2004, Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Publishing.

Attachment A

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Pushing thought about Systems (of Linear Equations)

I've been doing some work with a couple of teachers who have the challenge of teaching in a hybrid environment, and we are pushing our thinking about how to try to engage their students in higher level conversations about the material. It has been a challenge for the teachers to work with a mandated software curriculum and manage the conversion into a hybrid environment at the same time. It seems to me to be a classic example of managing lots of changes and trying to figure them all out at the same time (very tough to do, in my opinion).

Anyway, I've put a couple example lessons on the collaboration wiki and am opening it up to input from anyone interested in talking about how to make the lessons better, discuss the strategies, tweak the resources, get feedback about how the lessons went if used with your students.

I will say one of the foci is to really push the development of taking notes and synthesizing their learning while in the independent learning environment. We (the teachers and I) have had several conversations about how to manage that process better. We've studied how to make formative assessment decisions while trying to develop note-taking guides for the computer lessons, without making them basic fill-in the blank and shutting down student thinking.

I look forward to capturing some conversation about this topic and these lessons.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Using a Wiki to Encourage Exploration

I haven't given up on this idea of creating a place where teachers come together to analyze lessons for how the lessons allow students to develop their understanding of mathematics through literacy (that would be writing, reading, and speaking/listening) strategies. I've created a wiki to perhaps create a modality that is more conducive to sharing.

So the goal of the wiki is to share lessons that you have created with other like minded teachers willing to create a common understanding of how to integrate literacy into your math class. If you want to add to someone elses lesson please feel free.

I envision this wiki to be a resource where people can share what they've created or adapted and get feedback on a lesson to make it even better. Just be sure to cite all resources that you used to get information. This isn't about being totally original, but sharing, tweaking, and improving good lessons.It's an experiment that's been rolling around in my head for a while. I hope that others share a view of how this might be a useful teacher resource.

It is important though that we model for our students how to cite our sources correctly. If it is not your original work make sure that we give credit where credit is due. Also, if it is copyrighted to make sure that you have permission to post.