Category Archives: #ppschat

Get to Know Your Students pt 2 #julychallenge Post 12


 Get to know your students, especially how they learn and think.

Taking my lead from this post, my intent is to consider how I can improve or implement the 14 ways discussed.  In my last post, I shared how important I feel it is to know our students as real people.  This one is to share #5things that impacted my classroom and helped me know how my students learn and think.

My 3 years with Kentucky Leadership Network and my experiences with #MTBoS have changed my mindset.  The work with KLN introduced me to a new set ideas and #MTBoS allowed me to explore with others and develop a new frame of reference as I seek to grow as an effective educator.

I cannot be grateful enough to all those who have challenged me and help me grow.  But as I think of the experiences that have opened my eyes to see better ways I can consider my students as learners, these are the ones that first come to my mind.  #5things for getting to know how my students think and learn…

Wait Time II
I learned about this routine from 75 Practical Strategies for Linking Assessment, Instruction and Learning (Keely, Tobey 2011).  A simple adjustment.  Yet it forced me to really listen to my students.  You can read more on a previous post, here.  Basically, it allows  the students AND teacher to process a student response.  We were all told in undergrad to wait 3 seconds after asking a question before calling on a student.  Some people actually think this deters the class flow.  I disagree. The idea with Wait Time II is to wait again, after the student response.  It allows the responder to consider what they said, the classmates to process what was said and the teacher to consider next steps, questions, etc.  A bit uncomfortable in the beginning, but once I explained the rationale to them, they got it, as did I.  Waiting and listening adds value to what students are saying.

What Makes You Say That?
Making Thinking Visible, (Ritchhart, Church, Morrison, 2011)
A chat with Liz Durkin challenged me to consider ways I could implement these routines into my high school math classroom.  It was the question “What makes you say that?”  that helped me begin drawing out student thinking.  What were they seeing? What evidence supported their statement?  With this routine, I began learning new ways of seeing problems myself.  Students’ ideas, strategies and approaches are way more intuitive than my own.

Notice and Wonder
I was first introduced to Notice & Wonder with Max Ray’s Ignite talk sharing The Math Forum’s simple, yet impactful strategy.  You can read more in Powerful Problem Solving (2013) as well.  When I pose a problem, scenario, graph, students may not readily know where to start.  But they can tell me what they notice.  Its a starting point.  Everyone can share something.  When we listen to what others are saying, that ignites other ideas as well.  And they begin sharing their “I wonders” which are great transitions to explore more.  Its great.  Its simple.

This routine carries over to standardized tests as well.  Students shared how they didn’t know how to approach certain problems on ACT or their EOCs, but they looked at it, thought about what they noticed, connected it to something they knew and was able to at least make an educated guess. 

Friendly Class Starters
After reading What’s Math Got to Do with It? and completing the Jo Boaler How to Learn Math course last summer, I knew I needed to find ways to invite students to think differently about math in my classroom.  Some major a-ha’s and sad realizations as to why so many kids are down on math.  I began with things like Number Talks she presnted during one session.  Amazing how many different ways students can see / approach a single problem.  When I invited them to share their thinking, they owned the math.  This past year, I implemented Counting Circles, Estimation 180, Visual Patterns as well.  These resources were primarily used as bell ringers to get students in math mode. However, there were days it lead to deeper, richer discussions and I was flexible enough to go with it.  My students’ confidence began to grow.  Their number sense was developing.  They were sharing their reasoning without me asking them to.  I saw some big gains on benchmarking and standardized testing for several students and I attribute them to these “friendly” and accessible resources.

Small Groups and Discussions
When I completed my initial National Board Certification in 2002, I quickly realized small group discussions provided a definite means to seeing student thinking.  It was a chat last summer, that made me realize I needed to quit butting-in.  I would hear a misconception and jump to add my 2 cents rather than allowing them to reason out if they were correct or needed to adjust.  I was stealing their learning opportunities! Yikes.  I began listening more-offering questions rather than telling them the direction they should go.  It was frustrsting for some students.  They despised me answering their questions with questions.

5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions (Smith & Stein, 2011) is a quick read that offers samples to incorporate into your classroom. The 5 practice provide structure to help you develop discussion based tasks rather than step-by-step inquiry lessons.

Another valuable resource for me are the Formative Assessment Lessons provided by Mathematics Assessment Project.  Most lessons follow a similar format to the #5pracs.  I used to struggle offering questions that would move learners forward.  Though some disagree with scripted lessons, this resource supported me with sample questions for specific student misconceptions.  As a rssult, I began asking better questions on my own.

Another aspect of the FALs is the way they suggest grouping students, not by ability, but similar thinking – whether it be similar misconceptions or approaches to a problem.  This supports what I have been reading this summer with Ilana Horn’s Strength in Numbers (2012).  She presents how social status in the classroom may actually hinder student learning and achievment.  I believe grouping students homogenously by approach and thinking puts them on equal playing fields to share and build their ideas. 

By observing student responses and listening to their discussion, I am able to select and sequence ideas for them to share that will allow more engagement from the class as a whole.  Students are able to listen and view strategies similar to their own, but also consider new approaches which in turn builds their own skill set and toolbox for thinking.


The common thread is to not to do all of the talking, but to sincerely listen to my students and their thinking.

#5things to Do with Sticky Notes #julychallenge


2-Minute Assessment Grid ideally is for the end of a learning task, but is a great reflection tool used toward the end of an entire unit.  Each student gets 4 sticky notes to respond on for each prompt as seen in the picture.  I like it 3 or 4 days before a unit assessment.  I am able to create a chalk talk with the questions they still have-which allows students an opportunity to respond/learn from one another before I intervene.  Read post here.


12×12 Sticky Notes These were a treasure from our local Mighty Dollar store.  25 large sheets for $1.  Yes, I bought all 10 packs!  I basically cut apart a pre-assessment and tape one question to each giant sticky then distributed them to pairs of students.  They responded to the question, then hung the sticky on the wall.  Students carouseled around…responding they agreed or disagreed with suggestions.  I believe this particular one had 9 stations and I asked that they visit at least 5 or 6 in the alloted time.  We then discussed their responses and arguments as needed. Full post here.


Post-It Note or Stop Light Quiz has been around for several years, post here.  The basic idea is for students to place their name on the back side of the quiz.  They respond on the front side, self-assess to determine their level of understanding/confidence and place it in the corresponding space.  Its a nice visual for me yo scan as they leave the room in determining what’s next the following day.  I have RYG folders for them to drop their papers into when we aren’t using stickies.  Red – needs some help, most of the time these are the students who have been absent.  Yellow – still lacks confidence, maybe a little more practice.  Green -Got it! Ready to move on.


Flip for Answers -I like having sttudents create their own problems.  When they enter class the following day, they can exchange, work each other’s problems, then check.  The sticky can serve as a cover-up for the solution. 


Notice & Wonder The last suggestion came during our ppschat last winter Powerful Problem Solving by Max Ray, his post here.  If you aren’t familar with it, you need to look it up!  His Ignite talk is great too!   With student work displayed, either patterns, data collection, graphs, various models or solution approaches…give each students 2 stickies, preferably 2 colors.  One is for something they notice, the second is something they wonder while viewing other student approaches, etc.  They attach it to the samples.  Continue to visit each station, reading others notice and wonder postings.  This should be a nice springboard for class discussion. 

SMART goals #MTBoS30 Day 4


So, in Kentucky we are piloting PGES – Professional Growth and Effectiveness System.  Component are based on the Danielson Framework for Teaching.  I, personally believe it is an opportunity for major impact on student learning…

Back in the fall these are 2 goals I wrote for my classroom…  Wondering what feedback anyone could offer (please and thank you).  Do these follow the SMART goal format? What adjustments do I need to make?

I completely understand these should have been revised earlier in the year but it’s been a learning process for me. 

Goal 1:  Student Growth

Student Growth

My goal is for all Algebra 2 Learners and will be measured using Discovery Education Benchmarking Assessments.

My goal is for all students to improve their overall score by 15%  on the next Discovery Education Benchmark assessment.  If this is accomplished, 90% of my students would move up at least one proficiency level.  This is an achievable goal considering an average of 8% will move the class averages up one proficiency level.

Looking over commonly missed questions, I found there were gaps in the areas of Quantity and Functions for my students.  I plan to address these by:
• Using resources like Estimation180, 101 Questions, Visual Patterns as bell ringers for class discussions to build learner confidence and numeracy reasoning.
• Our most current unit is an Overview of Functions – through interactive, engaging instructional activities, learners will have an opportunity to talk about and discuss things they notice about different types of functions.  This will allow for conceptual development of learning targets.  Intentional formative assessments will allow me to adjust my plans daily. 

Goal 2: Professional Growth…

The Classroom Environment

I want to provide more meaningful problem solving opportunities for students to engage in discussion with their peers through activities that highlight and allow for students actively use the 8 Standards of Mathematical Practices.

3 goals for my administration/ peer observations:
Better questioning to draw out student ideas / strategies;
Provide quality tasks and structure the class time in a way that allows ALL students to be engaged in learning and discussion.
Develop a better culture of listening by lessening the amount of times I repeat what a student says – encouraging students to listen closely as their peers are talking.

I will read Powerful Problem Solving by Max Ray and participate in an online chat – then implement strategies discussed, reflecting, adjusting and sharing either through chat or blogging.
I will use suggestions from 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematical Discussions by Smith & Stein to plan learning sequences that will impact student engagement and learning. 

Gallery Walk #ppschat Challenge


A common theme in many chapters of Powerful Problem Solving is Gallery Walks. Several techniques are offered throughout the book, but the common goal is to allow students to view their classmates’ approaches to problems.

One of my faults with online book chats is lack of follow-through. I can sometimes use an extra nudge of accountability. There are often so many great ideas and strategies in the books we are chatting that I get overwhelmed and not sure where to begin. Advice: pick 1 thing. Try it. Reflect. Revise. Try it again.

So here is my attempt at a gallery walk. I simply cut apart a pre-assessment for a Formative Assessment Lesson and each pair of students taped it to a large sticky note, discussed and responded. I was confident in many of the questions, but my goal was to identify the few some students were still struggling to understand completely, mostly questions involving transformations.


1. The large majority are fine with creating a possible equation, given the x-intercepts.


2. Initially these students tried -6, -4 and 2 as their intercepts. I asked them to graph their equation then reread the instructions. Oh. They had read write an equation, looked at the graph for possible intercepts and failed to read the y-intercept of (0, -6). One quickly stated the connection between y-intercept and factored terms and was able to adjust their response with ease. I believe it happens often to see a graph skim question and think we know what we’re supposed to do, only to realize skimming sometimes results in miseed information.


3. Within the lesson, many students quickly realized when a factor was squared it resulted in a “double root” and the graph would not actually pass through the x-axis at that point.

The 4 transformations seemed to causes the most disagreements. These were the ones we discussed folowing our gallery walk. However, it was during the gallery walk most students were able to adjust their thinking.


4.i. Listening to students as they were at the poster helped me realize there was not a solid understanding of the reflection across x-axis and maybe we needed to revisit. Possibly, they are confusing with across y-axis?


ii. A few students disagreed initially, but the convo I overheard was addressing that changing the x-intercepts was not sufficient, they looked at the graphs, then said, the functions needs to be decreasing at the begiining, that’s why you have negative coefficient.


iii. Horizontal translations always seem to trick students up. One disagreement actually stated ‘they subtracted and did not add.” Of course, we definitely followed up with this one.


iv. This pair of students argued over which one was right. The expaned version or factored form. Simple, graph the new equations and compare to see which one translates the original up 3 units.


A1 & A2 I believe they’ve got this one.


B1 & B2 some confusion here due to the extra vertical line in the graphic. This student was also interchanging graph & equation in their statement.

I thought the gallery walk was a good task to overview some common misconceotions. It was not intimidating, students were able to communicate their ideas, compare their own thinking to others. I truly tried to stand back and listen. They were on task, checking each other’s work. Each station allowed them to focus on one idea at a time. They were talking math. Most misconceptions were addressed through their discussions or written comments.

Having a moment to debrief the following day highlighted the big ideas students had addressed the previously and reinforced the corrections they had made. This was so much more valuable than me standing in front of the room telling them which mistakes to watch for. Their quick reflection writes revealed majority have a better ability to transform the functions, which was my initial goal for the gallery walk. A few still have minor misgivings that can be handled on an individual basis.