Category Archives: Assessment

Newly-Ed #blogitbingo #coherentvision


Old. New. Borrowed. Blue.  Commitment.

The past 2 days have filled my brain to overflowing.  I left GRREC both days feeling… alive.  Overwhelmed.  But alive.  That sounds weird, I know.   But I was not surprised, just saddened, with the a statistic shared from Gallup:

Only 31% of our teachers are fully engaged in our schools.

The people who are supposed to be engaging young minds are not engaged themselves.  And I was one of them.

I’m not sure what happened, how I ended up in that place, when it happened.  I”m not even sure I knew I felt that way until yesterday.  My realization began with this question posed on the opening slide of our 2-day venture.

Are Your Best Days Behind You or Ahead of  You?  Chicago Tribune 2002

I left yesterday with a smile on my face, excited to call home and share some of what I learned with someone!  And when I looked so forward to returning to our session “Leading and Sustaining a Coherent Vision for Mathematics Teaching and Learning” – I knew this was a turning point for me.

Defining our vision.


Is our vision coherent?  What we hope to become…but we must be patient because it may take a while to get there.  These are the non-negotiables, our professional duty.  Are we compelled by our vision?

Do we mean it or not?  Do our actions / ways honor it?  Does our instruction / behaviors advance our vision?  We agree to the vision, do we hold each other accountable?

I was reminded of a reflection our department did several years ago, what we wish to see in a dream math student and what actions can we take to support students to reach our dream student?  Here was our poster from 2014…

dept vision dream math student

Like so many other things, I’m not sure we ever had follow-through with this task.  But I wonder how differently our reflection would look if we repeated it today?

Here are a couple of examples of other groups’ work on Monday… They used the acronym DRIVE and SOAR.  Other groups used CARDS (school mascot) and MATH.  He shared one with Math Teachers lend an EAR:  Equity, Assessment and Reflection.

My big takeaway – that we arrive at consensus, an image / tag that we can quickly share / refer to with parents / students / other stakeholders.  Then we make every decision – based on our shared, defined vision.

Within the discussion, Dr. Kanold defined consensus as – everyone’s voice is heard but the will of the group prevails.  If I’m honest, I cringed.  Am I willing to let go of new things I want to try and do?  What if an idea is outnumbered?  What if I never get to try anything new?  So I presented a question on our parking lot.

His response today – we are constantly in action research in education.  Part of the team can try a new idea.  But our agreed upon vision becomes the authority.  IF we want to try something new, we must ask IF it advances our vision?  Does it exceed our opinion?  Why?  Provide evidence / research.  Try it.  Compare.  If it works better for student learning, everyone agrees to use it.  If not, then stick with old way.   In the end, I (we) have to sacrifice my opinion(s) in an effort to advance student learning.

Over the next several days, I plan to revisit my notes and share a summary to reflect / process / plan considering these big ideas from the past couple of days:

  • Instruction / Planning Whole group vs Small group discourse
  • Check for Understanding vs. Formative Assessment
  • Common Assessments & Tools to evaluate quality
  • Homework
  • 4 Critical Questions of a Collaborative Team Culture
  • My Intentions for the upcoming year…

On a 1-5-10 scale of Stinky, Good, Great – I will give our #coherentvision days a 10!


Do you have a successful PLC?  Please share some things that made it work for your team!


Make This a Quiz (g-forms)


So yesterday I had the opportunity to share some online resources with colleagues in my district.  What a great day.  I enjoyed the conversations with teachers from different schools, grade levels and content areas.  It really caused me to wonder how these tools might be utilized in their classrooms and their sharing of ideas was awesome!

I’ll be honest.  I was scared.  I’ve done several sessions at conferences or for the sake of sharing information, but never to really teach, with the purpose they would gain a skill or idea and be able to walk out with the ability to use it in their classrooms.  I was very nervous.  What if it was a flop?  What if I went too fast?  What if I assumed too much?  What if I assumed to little?  What if I failed at helping them?  I value their time and wanted it to be beneficial.

The biggest goal of the day was for them to experience google forms from a student’s point of view and then learn to create one; experience quizlet from a student’s point of view and then learn to create one; and finally experience Desmos Polygraph as a student – hoping to peak some interest in learning more about this awesome tool!  We spent the first 2 hours exploring, practicing some skills and the last hour was open for them to create a task/form/stack and/or search for items they could actually use when the school year begins.  I feel this was important.  So many times, we’re given something but never time to really practice using it.

It was an awesome day – everyone was so gracious and great to work with – asking questions, exploring.  Based on their feedback, I feel like everyone walked away with something.  (Thank Goodness!)


This chick was over the moon excited about the Quizzzes tab in g-forms.  What?  I think I’d heard some talk of it, comparing it to flubaroo.  But somehow it had not actually processed until yesterday.  Here’s a follow up video I posted for my colleagues from yesterday – to show their way around, some ideas / things to do.  Please overlook the amateur screen-cast, but you can at least get an idea.

  1.  Once you’ve created your form, go to settings and choose Make this a quiz, make choices and save.
  2. Edit a question, choose answer key to mark correct answer assign points.
  3. Choose feedback to offer feedback for both correct and incorrect answers.  Even better – the option to set up a link to another resource within the feedback.  My idea is to offer questions / suggestions for incorrect responses and a link to online resource/practice/video to help with intervention.  But what makes me even happier is to offer a link within the correct answer feedback to a resource for enrichment/extension.  ***happy dance***  Yes, I realize the question I’ve included in slides is ridiculous, unrelated to links, etc but I was only playing to see what I could do!

Please share other ideas / suggestions you have or run across.  This is so cool!  Very excited about it.

Unit Organizer Update & Feedback Only Grading


Its been a good, very good, no, great start to the year.  Almost scary how smoothly it has begun.  But I will take it and be happy. Very happy.  I always have amazing kids.  They make me smile.  They make me think.  They make me love what I do.

I have read about comments only grading multiple times.  A colleague shared more research as part of an action research project last spring.  Reading and chatting Wilham’s Embedded Formative Assessment this summer convinced me I needed to give up grades on student work and offer feedback only.  So far, so good.  When I pass target quizzes back, I allow some time for students to mark on their organizers where they consider they are based on feedback I have offered.  I will definitely be sharing updates.

I shared a unit organizer here a couple of weeks ago.  It’s gone well, though I knew I wasn’t satisfied with it.  But this afternoon, Crazy Math Teacher Lady shared this


My thoughts are to modify my booklet style organizer to include this on the inside.  I appreciated the graph for each target.  This goes right along with some research from #efamath chat this summer.  It reminds me of something similar I had seen on @druinok’s block a while back.  I like how Lisa has a place for students to record multiple assessments.  This is a great layout!

I plan on keeping a vocabulary knowledge survey on the front as suggested by Math = Love.  Here is a sample of mine


And keeping the assessment grid on the back for personal reflection…


I re-intoduced an old assignment from a few years ago in my first units…students were asked to write their own unit assessment using our learning targets.  Most seemed to put good effort in to interpretting what each was asking.  Offering written feedback gave me a chance to address some of their misconceptions, mostly notational issues in diagrams they had included or clarifying some vocabulary.

My intentions were for them to go back through their INBs, notes, target quizzes.  A couple of times in class, I fielded specific questions they had.  Based on what I observed, I believe it was a useful task.

I am looking forward to my new organizers!  Thanks to Lisa, Sarah & @druinok for sharing such awesome ideas!

Happy Birthday #Made4Math !!! Formative Assessmemt Reminder Cards


First, just let me say a big THANK YOU to @druinok for beginning #made4math and to all of the generous folks who have openingly shared their classroom ideas, lessons, tips over the past year.  I was overwhelmed with how quickly it took off!  Still, today, I am amazed at the generosity of this community.  I have learned so much and my classroom was definitelh impacted by your awesome ideas!

My share for today was initially a result of a convo with @rachelrosales and @druinok, brainstorming ways to organize reminders for the numerous formative assessment techniques…something simple, at your finger tips. 

I loved @druinok’s post today and her Student Engagement Flipchart.  Very.Nice.  It will definitely be on my to-do list for a future project.  However, I am choosing to share a similar idea, just a bit different format.  I cut down index cards to fit sports card pages… pack of 10 for $1.  I am able to display up to 90 of these reminders ranging from formative assessment techniques to various strategies for student engagement, reflection, etc. 

Front side of card has title, with some information…


Back side of cards has description, suggestions, reminders…


I have placed the pages in a small 3 ring binder which can easily hold more pages.  Currently, I am trying to include summaries/reminders of techniques I have used or see being easily modified for math class.

Looking forward to learning and sharing more FA techniques with my amazing PLN!!!

Pam Wilson, NBCT
Currently Reading
5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematical Discussions, Smith & Stein
Teach Like  a Pirate, Dave Burgess
From Ashes to Honor, Loree Lough

Summer Reading List






Embedded Formative Assessment Dylan Wiliam
Already completed an online chat with this book and looking forward to starting a face-to-face chat with colleagues from Science, World Languages and Family/Consumer Sciences this week!  Accountability is key and having these folks just down the hall as springboards for ideas, peer observations for accountability and encouragement when things don’t go exactly as expected…exciting! 

Practical ideas from years of research.  This book contains many, many doable techniques.  Chapter 1 explains how improving educational achievement impacts economic growth as well.  Chapter 2 sets the foundation, explaining what formative assessment is and is not.  I have read much about Formative Assessment the past 3 years and was already a believer, but this book offers great, practical techniques that I will be implementing next school year!

Teach Like A Pirate! Dave Burgess
The title itself is fun, but reading the reviews convinced me to put it on my summer list! Just flipping through and stopping at random spots…confirms this book will offer some fresh perspectives and ignite one’s teaching!
Join our chat #tlapmath or I believe there is a Monday evening #tlap chat as well!

5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematical Discussions Smith & Stein
Again, joining in an online chat #5pracs with several across the country.  Short read with some powerful suggestions. 

Make Just One Change Rothstein & Santana
This was suggested by @jgough earlier in the spring but I just havn’t gotten around to reading it yet, but looking forward to learning how to get my students to ask their own questions!

My later on list…






Creating Innovators Wagner

Teach Like a Champion Lemov

The Lady Tasting Tea, Salsburg

Teaching Numeracy: 9 Habits to Ignite Mathematical Thinking, Pearse & Walton

The Falconer: What We Wished We Had Learned in School, Lichtman, Grant, Sunzi

Some excerpts from the John Van de Walle books

Some past favorites list:





Summer reading list, high school math

#75facts Book Chat Begins Monday 9/24


Mathematics Formative Assessment: 75 Practical Strategies for Linking Assessment, Instruction, and Learning

Mathematics Formative Assessment: 75 Practical Strategies for Linking Assessment, Instruction, and Learnin

Page D. Keeley (Author), Cheryl Rose Tobey (Author)

They refer to the strategies in the book as FACTS – Formative Assessment Classroom Techniques thus the hashtag #75facts.

If this will be your first online book chat – its simple – read assigned material, log on at designated time and share!  I’ve heard from several of you that you’ve gotten your books in hand – so let’s get started next Monday – September 24.  Meet up on Twitter at 8:30 cst and use the hashtag #75facts in your posts.

I know this will be a great opportunity to share and learn from others!  Several of the FACTS may be strategies you currently use – so there will always be opportunity to share what this looks like in your classroom.  The FACTS may also trigger a new idea on how to modify and improve techniques.

There are 75 FACTS which means this chat has the potential to continue the entire school year – so, if you are new – please join in!  We want you to be a part of this!


This book is a bit different than ones we’ve used in the past, so you are encouraged to get started and read ahead – getting ready for implementation – however, we’ll begin our chats by discussing 1 chapter each week.

Chatper 1 Introduction – defines FACTS, shares research, making a shift to a foramtive assessment centered classroom.

Chapter 2 – Integrating FACTS with Instruction and Learning

Chapter 3 – Considerations for Selecting, Implementing and Using Data from FACTS

My initial thoughts are to focus on 3 FACTS each week – you can choose 1 of those 3 to implement (or any prior FACT), reflect and share during our discussions.  We can see how this goes and always modify as we see fit.

Chapter 4 – Getting the FACTS is where the 75 FACTS are presented.  Each FACT covers 2-3 pages, so the reading is not the time factor here – implementation is where your time will be focused.  Don’t let this overwhelm you – if you don’t get one implemented, this by no means implies you should skip the chat!

Each FACT follows the layout:

  • Description
  • How it promotes student learning
  • How it informs instruction
  • Design and administration
  • Implementation Attributes
  • Modifications
  • Caveats
  • Uses with other Disciplines
  • Examples, Illustrations
  • Notes/Reflections

If you have not already, please enter your name in the form so we can ensure we keep you posted!

I will get a form in place for you to share any blog posts about #75facts soon!

#MyFavFriday – Kagan Geometry


Last week I stood glancing at a shelf of books left behind by my colleague.  I’m not sure why I didn’t notice it before – but there on the middle shelf was a Kagan Geometry book.

Two days this week I’ve smiled at the end of the day and it felt great.  Becky Bride has compiled simple to implement, engaging activities.  I’ve read snippets about the Kagan books – but never really sat down to read/do any of the activities.


One of the activities this week was using a strategy called Boss – Secretary.  Students work in pairs.  The boss tells the secretary what to write, explaining their reasoning for the steps/work.  IF the secretary sees the a mistake, he/she respectfully points out the mistake to the boss and praises her/him when they corrects their work.  If they work through it correctly, the secretary is asked to praise the boss, vice-versa.  After completing a problem, they switch roles.
The students have been funny with this simple, yet VERY effective activity.  Speaking of resumes, tough bosses, etc.  One asked today – do I really have to praise them when they do it correctly?  I’m really not a praise-y kind of person…  I said a high 5 would suffice.
Here is what I love about this – Students are talking/explaining their work so the secretary can do it.  Secretaries are listening, following directions, hopefully picking up on any mistakes.  I’ve heard multiple times – student exclaim – oh, now I get it.  They’ve all said they like this activity – its helped them really figure out “their thinking” – having to say what they’re doing – is difficult, and sometimes what they say/tell the secretary to write it not exactly what they meant.
This is a great formative assessment activity to observe / listen to students.  I’ve learned a lot about their thinking this week and I believe they have as well.  When students, notice plural, ask to do an activity again because it really helped them, well – isn’t that what we’re here to do?

INB LHP assignment

As a left-hand page assignment in the INBs, I asked them to pick one problem they completed as a secretary – and they had to write out the boss’s diaglogue to solve the problem.  (midsegments or isosceles triangles this week).
Another activity in the Kagan book was something I have completely taken for granted… Processing altitudes.  Students draw one of each type triangle, and are asked to draw an altitude. Pass their paper to the next person, who then draws another altitude, etc.   Even after a couple of examples / illustrated definition for reference…they still struggled with “drawing” it.  What?  If they cannot draw an altitude, how can they actually know what one is in order to use it to solve problems?

Applying Some Brain Research

Its been many, many years since I taught geometry – but I always remember students confusing medians, altitudes, perpendiuclar bisectors and angle bisectors of triangles.  I remember attending a David Sousa How the Brain Learns training several years back.  An example was shared how students often confuse concepts that are closely related because they are often times taught on the same day.  Concepts are stored by similarities, but are retreived by differences.  When we teach similar things on the same day, they are stored together, at the same time – when students are asked to retrieve that information, there’s not enough distinction between the two – therefore, they are often mixed-up, confused.  Hmmm.
So do I choose to teach each of these similar concepts (special lines/segments in triangles) on separate days – but is that even enough space between?  Should I skip a day between them?  Anyone with experience pacing it out this way – please share successes / need to make adjustments!  I really think this is an opportunity, by using Bride’s processing lessons – to make a difference, giving students the chance to build concrete understanding of these other-wise intertwined concepts.
If you’re not familar with the Kagan series – I think its definitely worth checking out.  There is very little prep time – other than working through the lessons yourself.  All blackline masters needed are included in the book!
I am soooooo excited about using more of these strategies in the weeks to come!  🙂

Wait Time & Wait Time II


Stronger questioning techniques has always been an area of needed growth – I have improved through the years – but in order to be my best – it requires me to be very intentional.  I understood the idea behind wait time – but when I read A Student’s Perspective of Classroom Culture – how no wait time and allowing callouts from a handful of students is frustrating for the student who wants to be engaged and learn.  It reminded me of times I had the same experiences – when I was trying to think, wanted to answer, but someone else was calling out the answer before I could even get my thoughts together – and the teacher moved on…

This past week at my KLN (Kentucky Leadership Network) meeting – we were given a modified pair-share as we participated in our book study of Mathematics Formative Assessments – 75 Practical Strategies for Linking Assessment, Instruction and Learning (Keely, Tobey 2011).  I was in a group assigned to #72 Wait Time Variations found on page 212.  Ok, I thought, I know I need to pause 3-5 seconds following a question before calling on a student…as I began to read my assigned reading.

The first line referred to Wait Time as “The Miracle Pause,” (Walsh & Sattes, 2005).  Rowe found in her research:

“teachers tend to leave no more than one second of silence before addressing an unanswered question or asking someone to answer it. When teachers increase their Wait Time to at least 3 seconds, class participation increases, answers are more detailed, complex thinking increases and science achievement scores increase significantly.  Wait Time II involves the interval between when a student answers a question and the teacher responds.”

Wait Time II grabbed my attention…something, I’m not sure I’ve ever done consciously.  As I read more – the authors encouraged  to use a 3-5 second pause AFTER the student answers and before you respond to their answer – this allows both the student and the class to think about the response…  GREAT. IDEA.  Makes so much sense – seems so simple – so why haven’t I thought about it before? I know I’ve repeated a student response and paused – but I believe this will have a positive affect in my classroom.

This Formative Assessment Classroom Technique (FACT) “informs instruction because it encourages longer, richer answers, the teacher gains a better sense of what the students know and the reasoning they use to formulate their ideas.  Practicing Wait Time increases the sample from which teachers can gain information about the progress of learning in the class.”

On page 214, the following effects on teacher practice have been attributed to Wait Time:

  • teacher responses are more thoughtful, tend to keep the discussion focused and ongoing.
  • the quality of teacher feedback improves
  • teachers ask fewer questions – the questions asked require increase in cognitive demand
  • more is expected from previously nonparticipating students

In many cases, students are used to rapid-fire questioning (the one who answers fastest, must be the smartest).  Its important when beginning your growth focused on wait time – to explain to students “WHY” wait time is used and the reason for your long pauses.  When they understand the why, the long pauses will not be uncomfortable or as one of my students phrased “awkward.”  There is a suggested Wait Time Poster found on page 215 – definitely worth a look.  It, like many classroom routines, will need to be practiced before it becomes the norm.  Don’t give up…

Each FACT is organized with

  • Description
  • How the FACT supports student learning
  • How the FACT informs instruction
  • Design & Administration
  • General Implementation Attributes
  • Modifications
  • Caveats
  • Use with Other Disciplines

Whether I find new strategies in this book or names for simple things I’ve done for years – I feel it will be a valuable resource for improving my classroom strategies – providing new ideas or great reminders of “Practical Strategies for Linking Assessment, Instruction and Learning.”

Just Knowing You Are Doing Things the Right Way


I had moments of frustration today as I sat listening to Eric Twadell share his experiences with inplementation of formative assessment and standards based grading.  I expected to learn more specifics – the HOW to implement it well – when what we were doing (his intentions) was participating in engaging table discussions to lead us to an understanding of the WHY its important.

He is a strong speaker – very purposeful in his presentation.  The focus was on what we believed – his questions allowed us to reflect on our individual classrooms/settings and through sharing and answering his specific questions, we were able to set a foundation.  He said “Its about leading change from the inside out.”  If we can help our teachers understand why its important, the change will be more effective.  We are very similar to our students – when told to do something, some will comply and complete – so they can check it off their to-do list and others will not.

I was discouraged when many of the examples being shared were very similar to things I am already doing in my classroom.  But a colleague reminded me that sometimes just knowing you are doing things the right way can be empowering.  Wow.  I do feel I am moving in the right direction.  It was a realization – that this is how my students feel / learn.  When they know they are moving in the right direction, they are more likely to keep moving.  Does that make sense?  When they are unsure of themselves, there is little or no effort.  I must be aware – able to give them descriptive feedback that allows them to move forward.  I’ve know this for a long while – but today, it really sunk in.  Today was my feedback – to help me reflect on my practices and continue to move forward.

I am more confident to continue improving some of my strategies for pre-assessments, student self-assessment.

Although a work in progress, I realize our unit organizers will help students answer the three questions in a formative assessment environment (Stiggins):

1.  What am I supposed to be learning today?

2. Where am I at now in my learning?

3.  What do I need to do to close the gap?

Today has helped me realize – I need to bite the bullet and be more collaborative with colleagues.

“People improvement is the key to school improvement.”  Eric Twadell

More Good Questions


More Good Questions has really gotten me to start thinking about the questions I ask my students.  Its so easy to stay with the traditional skill/drill I grew up on – but I am encouraged by some things my students are coming up with when given the opportunity of an open question.

Yes, a few of them are still struggling with “where to start” but now they are at least giving me something – whereas the first couple of attempts – blank stares, blank papers, blank looks.

Today, students were given the opportunity to retake their pre-test to look for any areas they may not have mastered yet.  As a review, I placed a graph of a line on the board.  I asked, “What can you tell me about this line?  How many different ways can you write/describe this line?”

I will add my slides from their discussion tomorrow.  If you can picture a line through (0, 2) and (5, 0).

Timer set.  Go.

Here are some of their responses.

  1. Its a linear function.
  2. Its decreasing.
  3. Slope from the graph is -2/5.
  4. It will never be in the 3rd quadrant. (ok, didn’t expect that one).
  5. It has intercepts at (0, 2) & (5, 0).
  6. y=-2/5x+2
  7. 2x+5y=10
  8. y-4=-2/5(x+5)  which led to a student stating, “I wrote point-slope for too, but its not the same as ___.”  Discussion.
  9. A table of values was given with intercepts as well as (-10, 6) (-5, 4) (10, -2).
  10. Another verified the rate of change with the table of values.
  11. The inverse is y=-5/2x+5 (nice surprise)
  12. A line parallel is y = -2/5x + 4
  13. A line perpendicular is y = 5/2x+2
  14. It could model a budget of $10, Candy(x) is $2, Coffee(y) is $5…how many of each can I purchase and spend exactly $10?

Many students were able to be part of the sharing/discussion.  I felt it was a great review of topics – with one simple graph of a line as the starting point…I attempted to follow #sbarbooks suggestion to look for students with fewer things on their list and call on them first to allow for their participation.

I hope to continue to gather ideas from More Good Questions that I can easily incorporate into my classroom.  I am looking forward to a book study with my department as well and seeing where it leads our students.

I highly recommend this book by Marian Small if you do not have – its worth the purchase!