Leading Learners to Level Up – #LevelUpMath #LearnFwd12

At Learning Forward 2012 Conference in Boston, Jeff McCalla and I offer a session as described below:

Learn to model practical classroom formative assessments that naturally offer differentiation. Hear stories and gain artifacts from National T3 instructors as they share their struggles and successes as well as their students’ struggles and successes in middle school and high school math. Develop processes and tools for creating formative assessments that integrate technology and motivate student collaboration.

Our “lesson plan”

  • Quick introduction using Dan Heath: How to Find Bright Spots
  • Ignite talk, shown below, to overview the why of learning to create leveled formative assessments
  • Formative assessment using TI-Nspire Navigator for Networked Computers to get to know our audience
  • Enter workshop mode – our challenge is to let the participants choose the path that we take.

In our description we say “Hear stories and gain artifacts from National T3 instructors as they share their struggles and successes as well as their students’ struggles and successes in middle school and high school math.”  Here are some of the stories and artifacts that we plan to use:

  • Learning from Leveling, Self-Assessment, and Formative Assessment
    I spend about the same amount of time with these formative assessments as I did when I gave quizzes, but now my job is more interesting.  It is problem-solving, coaching, and having conversations with my learners.  They have the opportunity to critique their work and report back to me.  I feel like I’m coaching rather than judging.  My learners talk to me about what they can do and what they need.”
  • Helping Students Level Up
    The change in response from our students is remarkable.  The improvement in our communication is incredible.  Students now come in after school, sit down with me, and say “Ms. Gough, I can write the equation of a line if you give me a slope and a point, but I’m having trouble when you give me two points. Can you help me?”  Look at the language!  We are developing a common language.  Our learners can articulate what they need.  Regularly in class a child will ask “Is this level 3?”  They are trying to calibrate our expectations.
  • How do we use the December Exam as Formative Assessment
    In Algebra I, we aim to get “in the weeds” about this reflection and intervention.  We want every child to reflect on what they could demonstrate well and where they need additional help.  We do not want them to move to high school and geometry next year with any doubt or weakness if we can help now.  But, how do we know who needs help?  We collect data, but we let our learners do the data collection.  We need to be informed; they need to be informed.  We are a team working toward the goal of mastery or proficiency for all learners.
  • Informing Assessment:  Need to Check for Acquisition of Skills over Memorization
    We used our leveled formative assessment to identify a need, a gap, in understanding.  Our learners and our colleagues are helping us find the path to teach and learn.  Isn’t this the way it should be?  We should struggle to learn, but shouldn’t we struggle to learn together?  Shouldn’t we learn what needs to be learned rather than what is in some book written x years ago?
  • Level Ups with Formative Assessment to Improve Communication and Skill
    An unexpected by-product of this type of formative assessment is the leveling up of their vocabulary.  Rarely does a student now say “I don’t get it.”  Much more often a child will come by after school and say ‘I need help writing the equation of a line when you give me a point and the slope.’

In our session, we model using technology to make these type of assessment easier and more manageable to deliver, implement, and process.  We share video evidence of increased peer-to-peer communication and collaboration. We also share teacher-made classroom ready assessments as a jumping off point to “develop processes and tools for creating formative assessments.” 

We have several documents to share. If interested in having copies of these leveled formative assessments, please email me using jplgough dot gmail dot com, and I’ll share the Dropbox folder with you.

5 thoughts on “Leading Learners to Level Up – #LevelUpMath #LearnFwd12”

  1. I looked at one of your assessments. Is this same kind of process used throughout the math department? How do you keep track of which students should be doing which homework track and do you or the students decide whether to move up or not? (Or are the leveled home works simply suggestions?… How do you encourage the student who has mastered the lower levels to work on the upper ones?

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    1. Hi Scott,
      We have been working to integrate this type of assessment plan through our department. We do not keep track of which students should be doing a specific level of homework. It is their choice. We do, however, encourage our students to stretch and reach for the next level. If you were at Level 2 in class, start with the Level 3 homework. If the first 3 questions are easy, keep going! You have leveled up; yay! If the first 3 questions cause you to struggle too much, drop back to Level 2 – but come see us. Everyone must be at Level 3 to move forward as a community.

      I love your question: How do you encourage the student who has mastered the lower levels to work on the upper ones?. We don’t have to encourage leveling up. Success breads success. Human nature causes the desire to move up. Even the most resistant learner will try for the next level once they know you are going to advocate with them for leaning. It is not about grading; it is about learning. Here’s the path to success and we will go together. I encourage you to try it a couple of times to see how they respond. You will be amazed. When we change our focus from our teaching to their learning, magical things happen.

      As I said in this post, I spend about the same amount of time with these formative assessments as I did when I gave quizzes, but now my job is more interesting. It is problem-solving, coaching, and having conversations with my learners. They have the opportunity to critique their work and report back to me. I feel like I’m coaching rather than judging. My learners talk to me about what they can do and what they need. I believe that we are moving in the same direction, together.

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  2. You did a wonderful job and gave a middle school math teacher have new energy. I would like to see some of your 7th grade materials, so I can learn how to make my own, I also am buying the book you suggest. Thanks again for being the best workshop at the conference, when I left I said I can use this!! Now I need to get to level 3

    Thank you again, great conference. I learned a great deal in 2 hours

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    1. Hi Corinne,
      Jeff and I so appreciate how engaged you were during our session. We have talked about you a couple of times since our session. Your questions and comments helped all in the room think deeply about learning and what students need from their teachers. You clearly love and respect the children in your care. Thank you for modeling lifelong learning.

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