Leading Learners to Level Up – #LevelUpMath #LearnFwd12 – the details

Hello, I am Anne Conzemius, the host for your Learning Forward session.

Well, no pressure there, huh?  Actually, about 15 minutes prior to this quick introduction, I scanned the roster of participants and noticed Anne’s name on the list of our Learning Forward conference session..

My previous post, Leading Learners to Level Up – #LevelUpMath #LearnFwd12, was written prior to our presentation.  Here’s what we actually did after I got through the nervousness and shock of Anne’s presence.  (I used a quote from her book, The Power of SMART Goals: Using Goals to Improve Student Learning, in the slide deck for this conference session, in this blog post, to collaborate with Bo (@boadams1) on this rubric, and in many discussions with teachers.

To lead learners to level up – learners of any age – we want to find and highlight their bright spots.  We want learners working from a point of strength and climbing to the next level.  To introduce this idea, we used the YouTube video Dan Heath: How to Find Bright Spots, shown below.

I gave a 4-minute Ignite talk on the why we should lead learners to level up.

Jeff used the TI-Nspire Navigator for Networked Computers to assess our small audience so that we could adjust our plan to meet their needs.  We quickly learned that Algebra I could be our focus (whew!) and that teacher growth as well as student growth was important to our participants (yay!).

Jeff then shared the YouTube video Leah Alcala: My Favorite No, shown below, as a jumping off point for a discussion on turning mistakes into learning opportunities.  We then discussed how leveraging technology – we use TI-Nspire Navigator, but PollEverywhere, Google forms, and other tools could be used – to offer faster, more public feedback and discussion opportunities while redirecting the work to the learners.

Since Leah’s video was about multiplying polynomials, I shared our Algebra I leveled formative assessment to engage our group in a discussion about bright spot and strength finding.

How do we offer students voice to self-advocate for their learning?  The days of the negative self-talk “I don’t know nothing” must come to an end. Everyone needs to acknowledge what they know and what they want to know.  It is about empowerment – empowering the learner. It is about coaching.  How powerful for learner to approach the teacher and say: I can do XX; will you help me learn to YY?  I want to work in that environment, don’t you?

A question from our participants caused us to discuss our assessment plan. How did I handle summative assessments and what did my grade book look like?  I cannot post graded assessments here, because they might still be in play in Algebra I classrooms. I can, however, share How do we use the December exam as formative assessment? and the Google doc that we used to document progress on non-graded formative assessment work. (This is a copy; feel free to explore and “report” data to see how it feels. You can view the results here.)

Jeff asked amazing questions to facilitate the discussion.  Through his art of questioning, we talked about the philosophy of doing homework with deep practice, I can statements…, and leading by following.

My concluding remarks began with a quote from Anne Conzemius (and Jan O’Neill) which “outed” Anne as an assessment goddess to the rest of our participants.

“In order to engage in high-quality assessment, teachers need to first identify specific learning targets and then to know whether the targets are asking students to demonstrate their knowledge, reasoning skills, performance skills, or ability to create a quality product.

The teacher must also understand what it will take for students to become masters of the learning targets…

Equally as important, the teacher must share these learning targets and strategies with the students in language that they understand. It is not enough that the teacher knows where students are headed; the students must also know where they are headed, and both the teacher and the students must be moving in the same direction.” (Conzemius, O’Neill,  66 pag.)

To end the session, we quoted CL – an 8th grader in my care while beginning her journey to learn Algebra:

“I truly believe the formative assessments are helpful for using as study guides for tests. I use them as study guides and I learn from my mistakes through them.

I do like the fact that they are not graded because it takes the pressure off of taking them and makes me believe it is okay if you do not know the material at first. They are really helpful for going back and looking at what I missed, and then ask you for help on those questions.

Having the four levels really helps because I know what levels I need to work on so that I can keep moving up to a higher level.”

Notice her last sentence: … I can keep moving up to a higher level.

Lead learners to level up by empowering them to ask their own questions.


Conzemius, Anne; O’Neill, Jan. The Power of SMART Goals: Using Goals to Improve Student Learning. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2006. Print.

2010-11 was the last year I taught Algebra I, but if you want to see the day-by-day plan for the entire 2010-11 year in Algebra I, it is still online as a resource.


  1. Hi Corinne, I do not have 7th grade examples. I’m sorry. As long as I was teaching math, I taught Algebra I and Calculus. Hopefully, you can transfer these ideas to your course. Let me know if I can help!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.