Category Archives: #eduread



Chatting with @druinok always gets my wheels turning.  Reading her ramblings here  on homework and grading, reminded me of a structure I used several years ago.  I think I may have actually blogged about it.  Quick search on HW and it pops up, first on the list!

The post is title Lagging Homework – I suppose that was after the summer I read Make It Stick, Brown et al, and Henri Piccotio and Steven Leinwand.  But what I remembered about the post was the Structure I planned to use for students to self-monitor their HW practice.

There were 8 problems in each practice set.  At the top of the booklet were the numbers 1 – 8.


As students completed the problem, they were asked to circle the number.  When they entered the classroom the following day, answers were posted and they were asked to mark their circles accordingly.


After sharing this with @druinok, she asked if there was some way a student could mark the question number with a ? if they had gotten stuck/had a question.  Maybe mark with a half circle, upside down – to note they had emptied all their options?

Any way – I used this for several weeks that year and I am not sure why I dropped it.  I cannot remember any major event that would have taken my time away from continuing this structure.  Anyway – I am pinning this in my to-do folder to use again.

They idea for students to self – monitor, then after assessing, allowing them to reflect similar to what @druinok shared in her post linked above.

While looking through other posts – I ran across this one – Where the idea came from – I will assume a chat.  But I don’t recall ever actually following through on this one.  A Routine for HW Practice & Retrieval with Peers 

It would consist of having varied, but parallel sets = which would take some work in the beginning, but once they are done – well, they are done.  Maybe only have 1 practice set 1 day a week be varied to use this structure is more doable – what I mean Set 1 and Set 2 would be the same sets for all students, vary set 3, Set 4 the same for all students.  This would make the workload much more doable.

I love the idea outlined in the post – thank you – whomever shared it in the chat.  I can see it as being an informal assessment, no pressure, just practice quizzing.

I’m curious how you handle student self-monitoring with homework and practice sets…

Feedback with Flair #greenpens


In recent weeks, I have been re-reading Wiliam & LEahy’s Embedding Formative Assessment.  @druinok has shared that ASCD Express had many articles on Feedback in the most recent issue.  Somewhere in the reading / discussion, I recalled hearing about a green pen.  Who was it?  Almost immediately, @druinok shared a link, which led to other’s posts as well.

From Amy Gruen over at Square Root of Negative One…  a progression of her posts as her use of green pens evolved…

Green Stars, 2010

Bell Work Bliss Gone Bad 2011

Green Pen is the New High Five 2012

Giving Immediate Feedback without Breaking a Sweat  2015

And from Simplifying Radicals

Amy mentions Frank’s Orange Pens… in one of the posts.  My colleague and I have a similar system set up with our semester long spiraling Equations & INequalities Units.  You can read about it here.  I have everything updated and ready to begin next Monday for the Spring Semester!

Yes – this was the idea I was looking for – I believe it was @marybourassa who shared they use a pen on quizzes / assessments when giving students support, this way she knows who / how much she has given input.  I have tried this on several occasions and love that it feels like I have annotated our conversation right on the student’s paper.  AND  I can quickly see what the student did with our conversation as well.

Sometimes bellwork seems so, uh, I don’t know – useless.  Students wait on me to give the answers and just copy it down.  This way – I work with 4 or 5 students up front, then they become the teacher.  I can be available to those who are really struggling.

I have done this strategy before in my senior class last year.  It was pretty successful for the most part.  Yes, there are a couple of students I had to keep an eye on – but isn’t that sometimes the case?  I really have no idea why I’ve never carried it over to my Algebra I.

Well, guess what?  My green pens are ordered.

green flair

I’ll let you know how it goes!  And yes, I did order the Flair!  #feedbackwithflair


Revisit of Two Books #MTBoS12Days Post 5


Since much of my goal this spring is on Formative Assessment, I felt a need to review some of my past readings…

Looking forward to a revisit with these books over the next few weeks.

Looking through my notes/markings in the #75FACTS, I have used about 30 of the strategies outlined in the book.  It has been about five years since I really dug in to this book and the conversation about a volume 2 released earlier in the year, makes me want to revisit this one.  I plan to skim those not marked to see what ways I might be able to implement in my planning this spring.

The #EFA book – seems I made it to Chapter 5 and never quite finished.  I believe this was the year were we on 7 period day and I had 5 sections of Algebra I (3 levels) and AP Stats, the semester got a hold of me and wouldn’t let me go. ha.  After skimming the TOC and my notes, I feel this is a good book for me to be accountable to better quality FA this spring.


While looking for the Wiliam/Leahy book, I paused to look through the stacks I have at my house…  so much good reading in recent years thanks to the encouragement of my #MTBoS friends!



Making Thinking Visible, CH 3


Our commissioner of education @DrSPruitt made a comment at TAC meeting that really rung true for me.  My paraphrase, in pre-service training, we “learn” a lot – hear a lot of theories, names – but its not until we are in a situation that we actually value that information,  that we truly understand – have a need for it when we may develop an appreciation for the idea.

I think I even heard him say Vygotsky in there somewhere – again, a name I heard many, many years ago – I was even assessed on his theories in EdPsych, but the name has popped up on my radar multiple times this summer – which makes me wonder if I go back and review – what ideas will I see that I should focus more on in my planning for learning opportunities?

Anyway, my point being – whether we call them literacy strategies, thinking routines or some other fancy label – the goal is the same.  We want students to dig below the surface, interact with the information, grapple with it, process and make sense in a way that connects to their world and gather an understanding on a level beyond the sit, get, assess and forget.

As I reviewed Chapter 3 – an Introduction to Thinking Routines, I realized some things I missed years ago.  The layout of the book was structured in such a way, one could utilize strategies from each section while planning for units.  They have been categorized to allow for thinking early in a unit, middle of the unit and finally, as a culminating task to help connect all of the learning.  I see this as a help for me – to use the chart, find a routine that will amplify the type of thinking I want my students to do and create an opportunity for students to interact with the information / skill development.

The analogy to use the routines to create an arc of learning rather than a single episode – will help me to focus on running a thread through the unit to better support continued learning and connections for my students.

I believe it may be an overwhelming task for teachers who are not yet in the mode of listening to their students and asking for support of their thinking as they begin to implement some of the strategies.  However, we can encourage one another by reminding “to go fast, go slow.” (Creating Cultures of Thinking, CHapter 10).  Choose 1 routine and work with it for a couple of weeks.  Reflect on your implementation, ask a peer to observe and share their evidence with you – What they see?  What they think?  What they wonder? from a spectator’s viewpoint.

One you’ve reflected and tried again, feel comfortable, then choose another routine.  Look at your students and decide what it is you want them to do – skim the routines and find one that fits and try it…slow and steady.  Give yourself time to try it.  Reflect.  Adjust.  Try again.  Ask students to reflect (CCoT) – tell them the name of the routine and ask them their thoughts – what worked well, what was difficult about it, suggestions for making it better.  I’ve met some teachers who refuse to get student feedback – “what can a 15 year old tell me that would help?” Well.  Their the person in your classroom everyday.  They can offer insight from the students point of view.  We sometimes forget what it is like to sit in their seats.

I’m a believer that when we ask for student input – and we share a summary, how you may try to adjust based on their feedback, we model value in their thinking.  This creates buy-in from them – to observe how we are trying to improve the classroom to have greater impact for them.

Chapter 3 also share how Thinking Routines are tools, structures and patterns for behavior.  I see this as a progressive model in the learning environment.  We help model, support the idea of the routines and how we can use them as tools.  Students begin to internalize the structures to lead their own discussions and eventually they become patterns of routine behavior for student thinking.  The author’s describe how routines become part of the fabric of our classrooms through repeated use.

Just remember – for students who have never been asked to think this way – we cannot give up, only support and encourage them to continue.  For teachers who have never been asked to think this way or teach this way – we cannot give up.  We must keep challenging ourselves, support one another and encourage to keep reflect, adjust, try again.



Zoom-In and STW #makthinkvis


April 2013

Following our unit pre-assessment, I used the following slides as part of an introduction to Similarity and Right Triangle Trig. while implementing Thinking Routines Zoom-In (page 64) and See-Think-Wonder (page 55) of Ritchhart, Church and Morrison’s Making Thinking Visible.  This was used as a hook for student engagement as we introduced the unit.

Moving left to right, then down, each time pausing and allow students to share their thinking STW.

These are snapshots from The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Frankfort, Kentucky.  Avery Smith was my uncle.  A man I never knew, but every story I’ve heard was how selfless he was in everything he did.

vietnamsundial From the memorial website: The design concept is in the form of a large sundial. The stainless steel gnomon casts its shadow upon a granite plaza. There are 1,103 names of Kentuckians on the memorial, including 23 missing in action. Each name is engraved into the plaza, and placed so that the tip of the shadow touches his name on the anniversary of his death, thus giving each fallen veteran a personal Memorial Day.

The location of each name is fixed mathematically by the date of casualty, the geographic location of the memorial, the height of the gnomon and the physics of solar movement. The stones were then designed and cut to avoid dividing any individual name.

Students had several questions – wonderings about what type of math could be needed to design such an amazing memorial.

The follow-up was with random objects outside on the sidewalk at school.

We then utilized QFT Model for creating questions – you can read more details here.


We could easily refer back to their questions as we explored more in the unit.

Revisit of Making Thinking Visible, CH 1 #makthinkvis #eduread


This past week I finished reading Creating Cultures of Thinking.  Many great reminders of thinking routines and suggestions to challenge oneself to implement in the classroom.  While chatting with @druinok, she said she couldn’t wait to finish, so she could finally read Making Thinking Visible.  So, I thought I would revisit this summer.  Having chatted the book and implemented several routines over the past three years and reading the Cultures of Thinking – I thought it might provide an even more powerful opportunity for reflection.

Looks like @bridgetdunbar and @mary_dooms may join in on this round of chat too!

Ch 1 Unpacking Thinking

Things I’ve highlighted:

  • What kinds of mental activity are we trying to encourage in our students, colleagues, and friends?
  • What kinds of thinking do you value and want to promote in your classroom?
  • What kinds of thinking does that lesson force students to do?
    • These questions – stump me, too.
    • I must first make the various forms and processes of thinking visible to myself. 
    • CHALLENGE:  to ask myself these questions during my planning.
  • Careful noticing – because the mind is designed to detect patterns and make interpretations, slowing it down to fully notice and adjust describe can be extremely challenging.  
  • pg 7 ???  “we would do better to focus our attention on the levels or quality within a single type of thinking.”
  • ! understanding is not  a precursor to application, analysis, evaluating and creating, but a result of it (Wiske, 1997)
  • …we might consider understanding no to be a type of thinking but an outcome of thinking!
  • Compilation of several processes?
  • Work focused environment or Learning focused environment?
  • Tasks might be more fun than worksheets, but are they actually developing understanding?
  • Hands on =/= Minds on!!!
  • Mark Church:  Only then did I recognize that work and activity were not synonymous with learning.
  • This realization for me was around 2010…
  • page 10 exercise to try – to help me identify possible discrepancies.
  • A map of thinking involved in understanding – how closely are these connected to SMP?
    1. Observe closely and describe what’s there.
    2. Build explanations and interpretations.
    3. Reason with evidence.
    4. Make connections.
    5. Consider different viewpoints and perspectives.
    6. Capture the heart and form conclusions.
    7. Wonder and ask questions.
    8. Uncover complexity – go below surface learning.
  • Valuable to pause in class to discuss type of thinking that will be/was involved in the assignment.  Reflect on the routins (culture of thinking CH 7)
    • How do you feel it went?
    • Did it make discussion more productive and focused?
    • Do you feel you are coming away with a better understanding?
    • What was hard and what was easy about the routine?
    • What should we try to work on to improve next time?
  • Curiosity and Questions
  • “The questions we ask at the onset of our learning journey change, morph and develop as that journey moves forward…New questions reflect our depth of learning.”
  • How might we map this journey of curiosity?
  • Post and discuss initial essential questions, but have an anchor chart that we can record / build list of questions as we go deeper than surface learning.
  • Goals of Thinking?
    • Understanding
    • Solve Problems
    • Make Decisions
    • Form Judgments
  • What are other goals of thinking?  What are other types of thinking?
  • By being clearer in my own mind about the kinds of thinking I want my students to do, I can be more effective in my instructional planning. pg 15
  • Concept Map for Thinking:  What is thinking?  When you tell someone you are thinking, what kinds of things might actually be going on in your head?
  • How can I use this?
  • Week 1 of School – ask these questions.  Individual maps, small group discussion and combine.  Whole class.  Then use responses to create class wordle.  Print and put on display for first few weeks.

Here’s a wordle from three years ago, I located it in a draft for a post I never published.


My take-a-ways from Chapter 1:

  1. I need to think about and develop my own understanding of types of thinking beyond surface learning.
  2. I need to ask myself what type of thinking I want my students to do.
  3. Do the lessons/activities I have plan provide opportunities to develop understanding through the thinking I intend?


Creating Cultures of Thinking, Ritchhart #eduread bookchat


I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our June book chat with #eduread: Creating Cultures of Thinking:  The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools.  So many ideas affirm things I already do.  But even more challenge me to think beyond my current stage in thinking as a teacher.  I look forward to wrapping this chat up and revisiting Making Thinking Visible to reviewing some great Routines and build my planning tool box!


Some links to archives on Storify for Chapater 4 – 9 are provided below:

Ch 1 Purpose & Promise

CH 2 Expectations


CH 3 Language

CH 4 Time

Ch 5 Modeling

CH 6 Opportunities

CH 7 Routines

CH 8 Interactions

CH 9 Environment

CH 10 Moving Toward Transformation

May Day, May Day #MTBoS30 #5pracs


Thursday night, I printed off a packet of handouts from a session I’d led at KCM conference in 2012, simply because there was a data collection activity “Look Out Below!” I wanted to use in class on Friday.  As I flipped through the pages, I was taken back by what I used to do.  And it made me sad.  I walked in Friday morning, straight over to a colleague’s room and asked for accountability these last few weeks of school.

Multiple times the past several months  I have been directed back to 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions, Smith and Stein 2011. I read the in book even participated in a chat.  The following school year, I implemented a few lessons purposefully using this structure.  I found that the FALs from Mathshell often followed the same format.  It led to great discussions, thinking and sharing in my classroom.  So, what happened?  A rut.  I still used the structure, but not intentionally planning NEW lessons, just recycling the ones I’d become comfortable with.

Last November, I attended an ACT Boot Camp sponsored by@UKPIMSER, one of the strategies shared was the 5 practices!  This winter, we had 8 Non-Traditional Instructional Days in our district- where students / teachers participated in learning tasks during Snow Days.  Our department used NCTMs Principles to Actions book, focusing on the 8 Mathematics Teaching Practices, one of which was promoting whole class discourse, and using Smith & Stein’s outline.  This spring, I have come across several chats mentioning the 5Practices for discourse.

Just today, I read @marybourassa’s post Day 80 Ropes and Systems, that described how she used a chart to track observations and conversations inspired by this book.  I also read @bridgetdunbar’s Teach Math as a Story post as well as watched @gfletchy’s Ignite Talk on becoming an 83%er – one who is asking questions to effectively engage students… We must focus on task planning – better questions (Frank’s hot sauce!) in order to listen to our students rather than for their responses.  (S/O @maxmathforum 2>4 Ignite!).

As soon as I arrived home, I grabbed a box from the shelf to get out my #5pracs for a revisit.  And all these treasures were there with it!20160501_145551.jpg

As I flipped through my book, I found these notes…penned on the last day of summer break, on a final trip to the water park, I’m assuming 2012…reading while my daughter and her friend splashed in the wave pool.

I was preparing for the first few days / unit of Algebra 2…

So, here’s my goal for the #MTBoS30 challenge: to revisit #5pracs and plan a couple of intentional lessons, ask better questions, monitor observations and conversations – maybe even record with my phone in pocket and see if  can accomplish some of the “Try This” Smith & Stein have outlined in their book.

I’m asking for accountability, MTBoS.  Mayday! Mayday!

The title, I thought was fitting, rather than sink these last few weeks – which normally kick my butt, I am determined to finish strong in an effort to leave a great impression with my budding, almost 10th graders – allowing them to see that math is more than just math.

from etymonline:

mayday (interj.) Look up mayday at Dictionary.comdistress call, 1923, apparently an Englished spelling of French m’aider, shortening of venez m’aider “come help me!” But possibly a random coinage with coincidental resemblance:

“May Day” Is Airplane SOS
ENGLISH aviators who use radio telephone transmitting sets on their planes, instead of telegraph sets, have been puzzling over the problem of choosing a distress call for transmission by voice. The letters SOS wouldn’t do, and just plain “help!” was not liked, and so “May Day” was chosen. This was thought particularly fitting since it sounds very much like the French m’aidez, which means “help me.” [“The Wireless Age,” June 1923]


Summer Reading 2016


Yep, its April and I’m already thinking about Summer.  I don’t recall doing a countdown to end of the school year in years past.  I’m not trying to rush away time with my students, I have really grown to like them. A.Lot.

But as I have been reflecting on the year, I keep asking what can I improve and how can I do it?  Here’s a start for my summer reading, though it will likely change.  Any suggestions and recommendations are welcomed.  Would love to hear what others are thinking about reading this summer.

These are books I currently have.  I have watched some of Cathy Humphrey’s lessons and even used some of her ideas.  I feel its imperative to help students talk about their thinking, allow them space to play with their numbers – and build their confidence with numeracy.  I’m curious about the Mathematical Mindsets and Pam Harris’ session last year at KCM made me think, a lot about how can I approach certain topics differently.

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And these are on my radar, curious if anyone has read that can make a recommendation:

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I really enjoyed Make It Stick last summer and feel that I need to process some more in order to really continue making changes in my approach for students to really grow.  Hoping How We Learn will build on my understanding.

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I am constantly running across tweets and posts from Couros that strike a chord and I want to read more.

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I grew as a teacher when I read and implemented routines from Making Thinking Visible a few years ago and I want to continue that growth.

Just because reading recommended by a student and a colleague:

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