In late June Theresa and I outlined our plan, using what we had learned from running our PLC. We would have 12 hours over 3 days in early August. Our audience would be a mix of K-5 classroom teachers, district instructional coaches, and fellow math specialists. Since all but 3 of the 24 teachers attending would have little or no 3-Act or estimation180 experience, I started to think of the workshop as "Intro to MTBoS", with the image of someone dipping their toe into the water.
We decided to start everyone off with a 3-Act, then work backwards and deconstruct the process by focusing on the important parts of Act 1: noticing and wondering and estimating. We'd do a 3-Act each day, allow for plenty of discussion and text study, and build in time for teachers to find resources in the computer lab.
And then I went to Twitter Math Camp.
Everyone raising their hand paid for their room or travel to attend #tmc15. What do you notice and wonder? pic.twitter.com/nNOJfCNj6x— Levi Patrick (@_levi_) July 25, 2015
Being immersed in that amazing community of 200 committed, smart, funny, passionate, and inclusive educators, and watching their presentations, made me realize that what Theresa and I had planned just wasn't going to cut it. We needed more. Pumped on adrenaline, my mind raced most of the days and nights in Claremont:
@JSchwartz10a at least you got some sleep. My roommate liked to get up at 4am. @Veganmathbeagle @cmmteach— Graham Fletcher (@gfletchy) August 6, 2015
I was determined to bring more of the TMC excitement back to New Jersey. Fortunately, I still had about a week to prepare, and TMC attendee Brian Bushart was already running a PD session in his district and blogging about it. Although I was afraid we might be pressed for time, Theresa agreed to two important additions:
- Putting a frame around the workshop by demonstrating how the instructional practices and activities we were promoting would help students (and their teachers) build a healthy and positive emotional relationship to math. This was something we had done in the PLC, and that Brian had done in his training.
- Introducing the participants to important MTBoS figures by 1) calling them out by name, and 2) interspersing video clips throughout the PD experience.
We kicked things off with an extended quote from Tracy Zager's Shadowcon talk, "Breaking the Cycle". Tracy was generous in allowing me to use some of her slides, and the sometimes hard to confront facts regarding elementary school teachers and math anxiety was put on the table within minutes of our 8:30 AM start. Although I had made my own struggle with math anxiety public in a post last year, most of the teachers present were unfamiliar with my story, and I took the opportunity to recount my unpleasant experiences in school, complete with evidence:
|One example, taken from my first grade report card. The older I got, the more confused I became.|
During the discussion that followed, some participants admitted to similar experiences. But I was struck by a comment from a fellow specialist.
"I never had any trouble with math in school," she explained. "But I have vivid memories of watching classmates struggle after being called up to the blackboard to work out problems in front of the class. I felt embarrassed and ashamed for them."
It was a perfect lead-in to Tracy's Shadowcon slide, which I used to define our mission:
|A call to action.|
After setting the table, we had them jump right into our first 3-Act, Andrew Stadel's classic File Cabinet:
|We grouped them randomly, and ran the lesson as if they were students in our class. We asked them to jot down any questions, reflections, comments, or reactions on a separate piece of paper.|
And then turned our attention to one of my pet peeves: the traditional "math message". We explored what it would be like to tweak math messages with a notice and wonder prompt:
We even explored using the prompt to introduce games:
|This is a Factor Captor game board, minus any indication that it has anything to do with being a game. Lots to notice and wonder about here, before any talk about rules or directions. |
By then the teachers were ready to head over to the computer lab. Their assignment: get in grade level teams, look over the new Everyday Math on-line Teacher's Guide, and find a math message, game board, or other resource and change it by adding a notice and wonder prompt. But before they left I gave them their homework assignment: Take a picture that might inspire some mathematical noticing and wondering, and e-mail it to me.
Within five minutes after the session ended, I had 3 teachers submit pictures. By 10 PM that evening, 23 out of 24 had completed their homework. I felt that the response was a good sign that the teachers were excited about the session.
Theresa and I decided to start Day 2 by introducing the group to Dan Meyer, the originator of the 3-Act task. Four years ago I happened to stumble on Dan's Ted Talk Math Class Needs a Makeover, and watching it (along with reading Paul Lockhart's A Mathematician's Lament) was my Road to Damascus moment. It has over 2 million views, and I joked that at least 1 million of them were mine:
We acknowledged the enthusiasm everyone brought to their homework assignment, and I asked the group to look at this submission:
|It prompted some great noticing, as well as some wonderings that had 3-Act potential, such as: How heavy was the rack of weights? and How many different ways could the weights be combined for a 100 lb lift?|
|Many kids would not even get beyond the first few sentences before disengaging and shutting down. Text-heavy and full of pseudo-context, it begged for a makeover. It provoked an interesting discussion, and some suggestions were floated for altering the task to lower the barrier to entry.|
The day's 3-Act was Lisa Anglea's Piggy Bank (Found here in the Georgia Frameworks, Grade 3, unit 1, pgs. 57-62.) This is a favorite of mine; I used it in all our grade 2 and 3 classrooms last year. The noticings and wonderings were decidedly more "mathy", a tribute to all the work we had done. And rather than random groups, Theresa and I decided to allow the participants to work with whomever they pleased.
Another benefit to using Piggy Bank was the fact that two of the teachers in the workshop had seen the lesson in action, and were able to explain exactly how it played out in their classrooms. And I had brought along some student work samples I had collected and saved. The anecdotal observations from fellow classroom teachers, plus the look at the samples, sparked a lively discussion, and helped the participants visualize what a 3-Act would look like in their classrooms, as well as realize that implementing a 3-Act was not really as complicated or intimidating as some of them may have thought.
After a break, we turned our attention to estimation180. As readers know, I've lived and breathed this for several years. Open number lines, too highs, too lows, and just rights, justifiable reasons, discussions, embedded content...it is, as Graham Fletcher says:
As an introduction, I chose to work the group through Day 116 (as an example of a standard task with a picture reveal), Day 98 (as an example of a task with a video reveal that would allow a teacher to pause the video periodically for students to reevaluate), and Days 51-53 (as an example of a series). I also showed them some homemade tasks collected on our district's shared drive. Since we had grade levels K-5 represented, we had a discussion about appropriate expectations and implementation.
Before letting the teacher's loose again in the computer lab to explore the site and find tasks they'd like to use with their classes, I introduced them to man behind it all, Andrew Stadel:
We gathered back together and I had the teachers share what they had found. The excitement and energy that had been building all day was evident in their enthusiasm for what they had discovered, and I knew that they were looking forward to the final day. And that was a good thing, because we needed one more day to seal the deal.
Theresa and I decided to start Day 3 by putting the hammer down. We took a slight detour from the workshop description and introduced the participants to this signature MTBoS activity...
WODB is emblematic of what I think of as "the MTBoS ethos": low floor/high ceiling, engaging, multiple correct responses, virtually impossible to be wrong, embedded content, tasks submitted by teachers, collected on a site created and curated by a teacher (Mary Bourassa), and completely and totally free of charge.
The participants loved it. I mean, it's hardly fair. I don't care what kind of teacher you are, or how long you've been at it, or what grade you teach: if something like this doesn't make you wish that school was in session so you could try it right away with your class, then I don't know what will.
We tried several more examples, at which point I thought they'd like to meet another important MTBoS figure, and one who'd been integral in popularizing the WODB task: Christopher Danielson.
For their final 3-act, Theresa and I chose Graham Fletcher's Shark Bait. There were kindergarten and first grade teachers present, and we felt that it was important they see a task designed with their students in mind. Theresa and I had given this one a workout in our kindergarten classrooms last spring, so it was familiar and we knew what to expect. And again, this time cribbing from my blog post, we had work samples to look at, discuss, and help teachers visualize what it would look like in practice. (Note to self: Next time make sure you bring a supply of unifix cubes.) With three 3-Acts now under their belts, we felt they were ready to do some text study, and here we chose the Effective Instructional Practices Guide from the Georgia Frameworks, which includes a wonderful guide to implementing these lessons.
With roughly 2 hours left, the teachers were eager to get into the lab and work with their grade-level colleagues to find 3-Act tasks. Theresa and I guided them to several of our "go-to" spots: the incomparable Georgia Frameworks, Dan's 101qs, and both Graham Fletcher's and Kyle Pearce's 3-Act collections. We circulated among the working groups answering questions, and offering advice, opinions, and encouragement. There were excited cries as teachers found meaningful resources, and I was glad that they were beginning to feel the thrill of MTBoS discovery that by now I knew so well, but that still gives me the feeling of, "I wish I had some kids in front of me right now so I could try this out!" It wasn't easy getting everybody back. But I still had some important business to conduct.
Many teachers volunteered to share what they had found. Even though they wouldn't be in front of students for another month, I felt optimistic that at least some of the learning would stick. We took a look back at the slide that I used on Day 1 to frame our work:
|Tracy's call to action. It seemed possible!|
|There was talk at TMC about growing the number of elementary school teachers in the community. I hoped that after three days, a few more could be added to our ranks.|
I talked about the incredible colleagues...
|That's Christopher Danielson's phrase.|
...and the support, encouragement, and growth they would find there.
In his talk, Justin paraphrases Archimedes: "If you give me a lever long enough, and a place to stand, I can move the world." Justin likes, "The optimism and the vastness of that vision," and so do I. And I think he would agree that the more people we can get pushing down on that lever, the more likely it will be that the world will move.
|More hands on the lever. Teachers show off their prizes: estimation180 stickers!|
Simply amazing, Joe and Theresa. This is a blue print for differentiated, open ended PD. So much for the teachers to notice and try. I can't wait to hear stories about what happens next with these teachers.ReplyDelete
Thanks John! It was our first time attempting something this comprehensive. I really hope that what's exciting in August carries through to September and beyond. But I think even small, little shifts, when added up, can make a big impact.Delete
Ah! I LOVE this! I was on the 3act team for Ga frameworks and learned about estimation180 then. Graham introduced me to wodb. Love it! I used it on the 1st day of school with my second graders. I'll be presenting at the Ga math conference about changing math messages and would love to share some of your ideas! (I'll give credit of course)ReplyDelete
Thanks Christy! Great work on the Frameworks. It's no secret how much we love them here in my corner of NJ. You're welcome to share whatever you like; I also wrote a post about math messages earlier this year and continue to work on making them over.Delete
So when are you taking this incredible Joe-and-Theresa-PD on the road?! I'm at a K-8 one-school district, and one of my "leadership" goals this year is to work more with our K-5 teachers as we share the same campus! Thank you for sharing your gigantic -- and full of heart, of course -- PD, Joe. You're the best!ReplyDelete
Thanks so much Fawn. It means a lot to us. I had a great time in California last month and am happy to come back! I think you'll find a very welcoming and receptive audience in the elementary teachers at your school. One of the most exciting things to come out of TMC were the interactions between the high school, middle school, and elementary school teachers (and those university professors too!) There is so much we can learn from each other as long as we keep our minds open. Unfortunately we have little or no opportunities to really collaborate. Hopefully in your K-8 school those opportunities will present themselves. Looking forward to hearing what happens.Delete
This post is full of awesome! I'm excited your teachers are so excited. As happy as I am with the two days I led this summer, your post makes me wish we had gotten to dive into 3-Acts. Thankfully I get to meet with my cohort numerous times after school this year, so I just may yet have that opportunity. I have so many ideas of what to do with them; I really need to narrow it down some.ReplyDelete
Thank you so much for documenting these experiences. It's an invaluable resource for me to see the amazing and meaningful things you are doing with their teachers, and I'm sure many more will find it just as inspiring.
Thanks! You did a great job in your sessions, and reading about them was something that helped me rethink our plan after TMC. Yes, it was hard to narrow the focus, but we wanted to try not to be too overwhelming. And, like you, we will get a chance to meet with a group of our primary grade teachers in a PLC this year where we hope to explore more ideas.Delete
Change is coming. I can feel it. One classroom at a time. One lesson at a time.
Joe, I'm moved and inspired by your thoughtful, earnest, and hopeful approach to PD. You are such a gently positive change agent, always leading by example. You've provided a powerful framework for PD- sort of a guide to making the leap to powerful mathematics experiences for students and teachers. I love how you create a safe space at the very beginning by being vulnerable and sharing your journey, giving your participants permission to do the same. I bet everyone left feeling well-equipped to try on new approaches. Your team is so fortunate to have you as their very own mathematics John Chapman. As always, best wishes to you and your colleagues, and thank you for all the sweetness regarding GA resources. Your influence is felt and appreciated here in the south, and not just by your GA roomy at TMC!ReplyDelete
Thanks Turtle! I had never tackled something that ambitious and was a little concerned about how to keep things going over three days, with an ebb and flow and a coherence. My big takeaway was that the material (notice and wonder, estimation 180, 3-acts, wodb, etc) really sells itself. It's just such good stuff! When you really believe in it, you just talk from the heart. And my GA roomie, with all his presentation experience, was really helpful.Delete
Thanks again for your kind words. Looking forward to opportunities for more GA-NJ collaboration in 2015-2016.
Just finished reading this post for the 3rd time in 2 weeks. It gets better each time! Love the impact you and Theresa are having and can't wait to see how this plays out throughout the year.ReplyDelete
Thanks Graham. We owe a tremendous debt to you and all the other MTBoSers out there for the inspiration and encouragement.Delete