ImagineIT Phase 6
My project was to create a professional learning community within my department. I had/have the support of my administration which gave me the go ahead with the project and ongoing support. My PLC meets weekly. Highlights from my implementation include model lessons with math talks and accountable talk. I attended a session at the Chicago Public Schools Framework Fest where the presenter was from the CPS STEM office. The presenter made it clear that all teachers are STEM teachers. In addition, STEM is really about allowing students to struggle and problem solve. This has also influenced my project development.
Model Lessons. Model lessons were lessons that I created in collaboration with the course teams that would demonstrate new methods. I presented the lessons in each teachers’ classes and the teacher sat in back and gave feedback. The lessons were not about me. The lessons about the methods I was trying to implement with the students and my interactions with the students. Teachers were given the opportunity to see their students from a different perspective. All my model lessons began with a Math Talk. A Math Talk is where you present a problem to students and ask them to consider ways to solve the problem – without a pencil or paper. The teacher calls on students to share their thought processes. The teacher does not say if the student is right or wrong. The teacher encourages other students to respond. The teacher writes the students’ explanation on the board along with their names.
Each model lesson then moved to students working in small groups. The Algebra 1 model lesson guided students as they tried to discover the rules for significant figures from examples. The Geometry model lesson had students working on a series of reflections and then writing the rules for coordinates as they are reflected across the x and y axis. The Algebra 2 model lesson reviewed absolute value graphs with translations and stretches and compressions. At the end of each model lesson, I demonstrated a technology resource: Plickers. Plickers (www.plickers.com) is a free resource for teachers to check for understanding. I used it as a quick exit ticket.
The model lesson was well received by teachers and students. I presented in honors, regular and diverse learner level classes. I learned from the diverse learner teachers simple ways to modify for their classes (colored markers and dry erase boards) and how to present the same material but limit the number of problems or concepts presented at a time. My team and I discussed the need for patience in waiting for student responses. We also discussed how to allow students to give incorrect answers and let them explain their thoughts – without correcting them, in order to see if other students would respond and challenge. This didn’t always happen and so we discussed at what point do you step in and redirect the discussion. Throughout all the model lessons I was focused on the productive struggle of students. The next steps with the model lessons is for teachers to find Math Talks (I would help locate questions) and use them in their classrooms once every two weeks.
Accountable Talk. My PLC is currently working on implementation of accountable talk. Accountable talk is the idea that students need to formalize their discussion language. This gives students options for sharing their voices and especially helps students who are struggling with how to share and not knowing how to start. I presented to my PLC (PowerPoint that I adapted from one that was developed by the CPS Office of Mathematics). The following week, I filmed volunteer teachers modeling accountable talk. They were going to use the film to help introduce the concept to their students. I created a placemat and had the Graphics Design teacher help with a poster for classrooms. I am now in the middle of scheduling class periods to coach teachers on the implementation of Accountable Talk. I would act as an extra person in the room to work with the small groups.
I am getting positive feedback from about 90% of my department and resistance from a few. I have heard teachers tell me that they don’t need this in the classroom. In talking with my assistant principal, she has supported the transition to a student-centered classroom and Accountable Talk in one model. If teachers choose not to use this model, then they need to use another model in their classroom. I still struggle with my role as a coach. I am not administration, yet some teachers see me in that role. I am a colleague. I have ideas, which they can use, if they want.
NEXT STEPS: The new area I am exploring is Standards Based Grading. Standards based grading would reflect mastery on objectives rather than percents in a category. I just attended a presentation at a CPS high school institute on Friday November 20th. If my goal is to raise achievement, we need an accurate way to track student progress towards mastery. I didn’t want to choose a standardized test on my own and I am not sure which standardized test CPS is planning on using. I plan on creating a think tank to explore. If I want this implemented with fidelity, I need to educate, discuss and then implement a plan created by the think tank. I think I will ask the Algebra 1 course team if they want to consider standards based grading.
Sample PLC Agenda
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