Circle Investigation – #AskDon’tTell

What if we facilitate learning episodes by following the learners questions? How might we set up opportunities for learners to explore and think PRIOR to a show-and-tell scaffolded lecture?

What if we gave learners the a TI-Nspire document and asked them to explore it for a few minutes? What if we asked them to jot down observations, patterns, and questions  that come to them as they play with the document?

So, here’s the hypothesis:  We can teach just as much (or more) by responding to the learners’ questions.  What if we tried an experiment with a one page Nspire document and a protocol for question generation?

Sam Gough, Algebra II teacher at The Westminster Schools, was brave enough to try this experiment with his learners.  Here’s the original plan:

Using the TI-Nspire document CircleInvest.tns, facilitate a 3-12-3 protocol to generate student questions.

  • 3 minutes: Independent investigation of the CircleInvest.TNS file.
  • 12 minutes: Work with a partner to share questions, convert closed questions to open questions, and generate additional questions. Partners should identify their top 2-3 questions.
  • 3 minutes: Use the TI-Nspire Navigator to collect each student’s top question.

Using the TI-Nspire Navigator for Networked Computers, he sent his learners the circle investigation shown below and challenged them to interact with the document and record questions.


Using the 3-12-3 protocol combined with the ideas in Dan Rothstein’s Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questionshe coached his learners to investigate the TI-Nspire document and generate open-ended rather than closed questions. Below are the questions generated and submitted by his learners.


Pretty interesting, huh? Not bad for a first try.  Sam reported that he did teach what was in his original lesson. He was intrigued by the pattern question asked by his learners.  He said that he is concerned that when the lesson is more challenging than investigating a circle, he may not get the results he wants.  He also mentioned that the times might need to be 3-9-3 instead of 3-12-3.  I wondered if they might need more time as they improved as investigators and questioners.

Acknowledging that one trial does not make an experiment, we are going to try again tomorrow with a Parabola Investigation.

Vertical Coordination PD: Divide and conquer – as a team

When planning shifts in curriculum, do we all have to work on the same thing? Might we get further faster if we divide and conquer?

This Vertical Coordination Workshop will have 3 tasks:

  • Group 1:  Is our Social Studies Curriculum ready to go online?
  • Group 2:  Are our geography skills vertically aligned and documented correctly?
  • Group 3:  How do we identify when a student has reached the target level for our developing “I can…” statements?

This Wednesday’s professional development time is dedicated to vertical coordination of curriculum.  I want to write “vertical coordination of our Social Studies curriculum,” but that seems to narrow.  As a community, we are focused on Social Studies, but we are continuing to grow, refine, and reflect on, well, everything.

Based on a quick chat with our Faculty Staff Leadership Team (FSLT) curriculum co-chairs, Kathy Bruyn and Caroline Peevy, I drafted the following plan for the hour of vertical coordination planning using a Google doc.

I continue to be struck by the power of collaboration. Kathy, Caroline, and I met to review the plan.  We discovered that we need a 4th facilitator, so we naturally turned to Rhonda Mitchell, Trinity’s Personalized Learning Specialist.  Look at how much the plan improved as Kathy, Caroline, and Rhonda contributed thinking and planning.

Their brilliant thinking and contributions customized the plan to community needs and individualized learning opportunities.  Graphic organizers were developed to organize and share work.  Additional resources were linked for user reference. In my next post, I’ll share the feedback and reflections from this hour of faculty learning.

What if we crowd-sourced more lesson plans and agendas? What if we offered more opportunities for learners to participate in the “plan and structure” for learning episodes? How might we learn and grow through the process of co-designing and co-learning?

PD experiment: I want to learn… & I can teach… (1 of 4)

What if we designed professional development based on what faculty and staff wanted to learn? What if we experimented with different ways to gather information/data on what we wanted to learn and who was willing to facilitate learning?

We have ongoing peer-designed and peer-led professional development opportunities embedded into our calendar.  The Trinity School Faculty Staff Forums website offers a glimpse of some of the previous peer-designed learning offerings.

For the February Faculty Staff Forum session, we wanted to hear from learners.  What type of learning experiences are wanted and needed?  Rather than starting with who is willing to teach, what if we started with a combination of I want to learn… and I can teach…?

Here’s the doodle that got us started:


(To clarify, the doodle describes two parts of our experiment. We wanted to start with I want to learn… and I can teach… and after hearing from our community, post offered classes with an opportunity for self-selected sign-ups. Remember, it’s just a doodle to think out loud about what we might do. You will see what Molly and Erin turned this into in the next post.)

What if we posted prompts in the Faculty Staff Lounge that asked for information on what you want to learn and what you could teach?  Would the topics align? Would members of our community volunteer to teach something others wanted to learn? Could we construct enough learning opportunities to meet the needs of all involved?

The Faculty Staff Leadership team has a committee of three bright, highly motivated, and incredibly organized women: Erin Lindsey (@BusyGirlLindsey), Molly Flavin (@MollyFlavin), and Laurette Sirkin, who volunteer to take the responsibility of developing regular professional development opportunities for their peers and colleagues. They bravely accepted the challenge of conducting this experiment with me.

Erin asked our Coordinators to distribute the first communication about this experiment to our faculty:

From the Faculty Forum Committee: As an experiment, we want to customize this month’s Faculty Staff Forum Workshops.  We want to model learner driven instruction.  We need your help.  We want these workshops to offer you the choice to teach, share, and learn with others.
 Starting Monday, there will be a chart in the Upstairs Faculty/Staff Lounge for you to sign up to teach something you would like to share with others OR to add something you would like to learn.  This grassroots community learning experience will be more successful if we collaborate to cover as many requests as possible.  Will you please consider leading a session or designing a learning experience for us for one or both of the needed time slots?

The deadline for this will be Thursday afternoon, February 21 so that we may identify and coordinate the appropriate space for each learning experience. Thank you in advance, we look forward to working with you!

The plan is to have color-coded pages available for faculty to respond to the posted I want to learn… and I can teach… prompts.

In my next post, I’ll share responses from this experiment and our next steps.

PD Lesson Planning: Progress Report Ideation – Part 2 reflection

PD Lesson Planning: Progress Report Ideation – Part 2 shared the lesson plan (agenda) for Part 2 of our series of faculty brainstorming sessions on reporting progress. Here’s what actually happened from my perspective, the feedback from faculty, and some of what I learned.

It is awesome to have colleagues that you trust, value, and can count on!  I had double-scheduled myself for the first 30 minutes of the VELD meeting.  Yikes! Rhonda Mitchell (@rgmteach), Trinity’s Personalized Learning Specialist and author of TRUE Learning – Teaching and Learning Reflectively using Electronic Portfolios, graciously facilitated the VELD meeting through the Gallery Walk and the Think Pair Share after I introduced the agenda and announcements.

It is so valuable to have critical friendsAfter the Think Pair Share during the VELD session, I showed Annie’s report card from Westminster and my “next step” in what it might look like in 2013.  The faculty engaged right away designing an idea of the next iteration of our progress report.  When I asked Rhonda for feedback, she told me that she was concerned that we were getting similar ideas to what I’d shown for Annie.  I remembered this was a concern when Rhonda preview the lesson plan with me.  Isn’t it great that she feels that she can offer me cool and warm feedback?  I love that she was direct and kind. And, she was right! I am so grateful have critical friends to help me see outside my narrow field of vision. (Please know that I mean critical as crucial or indispensable instead of, as some assume, fault-finding or judgemental.)

I was not there for the Gallery Walk during the VELD meeting.  At the ELD-ULD meeting, I explained the reasons for the Gallery Walk and the Google doc for feedback.  Amanda Goebel asked if it was acceptable to do the Gallery Walk virtually.   It was AWESOME!  The room of about 70 adults went almost silent as some walked around analyzing and making notes while others studied the Google doc as recorded feedback. I thought that it could have been just me, since I’d thought I was wasting my time to insert all those images into the Google doc, but Maryellen asked me to discuss other uses for this technique.  Teachers could use this combination actual and virtual Gallery Walk for student-learners to give each other feedback on projects.  Real time feedback about my plan and my challenge questions!

Do we model with faculty what we want to see happening in our classrooms with children? Can we integrate technology? Can we model formative assessment practices? Can we design interactive learning experiences?

<Again, feel me jump up and down with joy and excitement.>

Based on Rhonda’s good feedback, I did not show any sample progress reports when ELD and ULD met at 3:30.  I bet you will be able to tell where the VELD ideas stop and the ELD-ULD ideas begin if you choose to peruse our ideas.

As we concluded the session, I reminded faculty to complete the attendance and feedback form.  I also mentioned that I thought the previous week’s meeting should count as professional development too.

Here’s the feedback from today’s session:

Last week when I checked, there were 15 responders out of an expected 85 offering feedback on the PD Lesson Planning: Progress Report Ideation – Part 1.  The reminder seemed to do the trick.  Here’s an update on the feedback posted on PD Lesson Planning: Progress Report Ideation – Part 1 reflection.

I don’t know about you, but I think, while the graphical data is easier to process and summarize, the comments give me valuable information.  I am always interested in what is said when Disagree and Strongly Disagree are selected.  Not that I focus on them, but I want to know.  I also want to know why someone selects Strongly Agree.  Truthfully, I read and reread the written comments after glancing at the graphs.

In the update on the feedback posted on PD Lesson Planning: Progress Report Ideation – Part 1 reflection, there was a Disagree and a Strongly Disagree for The content of this session can be applied to my work prompt.  Here are the corresponding comments:

The content of this session can be applied to my work. 

          • Disagree: “My work will be what is finally decided for us.
          • Strongly Disagree:  “Always great to hear what other grade levels wishes are and see how it works with our thoughts!! 

I will admit that I’m perplexed by both comments.  However, I’m grateful for the comments to go along with the ratings.  I will also admit that I’m disappointed in the lack of feedback from some.  I have recently read Seth Godin’s post The worst feedback is indifference.  As part of his post, he writes:

“No, the worst sort of feedback is no feedback at all. That means we’ve created nothing but banality.”

I wonder if my new colleagues know how much I value and crave their feedback.

PD Lesson Planning: Progress Report Ideation – Part 2

Last week I wrote PD Lesson Planning: Progress Report Ideation – Part 1 and PD Lesson Planning: Progress Report Ideation – Part 1 reflection to share my current thinking about lesson planning for PD sessions that mirror what we want for lesson planning for student learning as well as a reflection on the experience from my perspective.  Going in, I knew this was at least a 2-part session for our work.  Part 2’s lesson plan and my pre-thinking is shared below.

Progress Report – Faculty Ideation – Part II
February 6

VELD Meet in the Media Center near the circulation desk

12:30 – 12:35
12:35 – 12:50
Gallery Walk to view all ideas – feedback and questions (see below)
12:55 – 1:10
Think, pair, share: In 2013, what should be included in a progress report?
1:10 – 1:25
Working with a partner: Draw, sketch, illustrate what the next iteration of
progress reports might look like at Trinity. Please sign both of your names on the back of the paper.  Give to Jill when finished.
1:25 – 1:30
Complete attendance and reflection document

ELD & ULD Meet in the Media Center near the circulation desk

3:30 – 3:35
3:35 – 3:50
Gallery Walk to view all ideas – feedback and questions (see below)
3:55 – 4:10
Think, pair, share: In 2013, what should be included in a progress report?
4:10 – 4:25
Working with a partner: Draw, sketch, illustrate what the next iteration of progress reports might look like at Trinity. Please sign both of your names on the back of the paper.  Give to Jill when finished.
4:25 – 4:30
Complete attendance and reflection document

Gallery Walk 

Think, pair, share:

        • In 2013, what should be in the next iteration of our progress report?
        • Note: Let’s talk about what we should do, not what we are doing. Let’s talk about what will best serve our children and their families, not what we like and don’t like.

Work with a partner

        • Draw, sketch, illustrate what the next iteration of progress reports might look like at Trinity. Don’t be constrained by our current norm.
        • Please sign both of your names on the back of the paper, so that we can ask clarifying questions if needed.

Note: This is a continuation of the meeting last week

Look at a remix

      • Annie’s 1st Trimester 2012-13 Progress Report
      • Jill’s remix of Annie’s 1st Trimester 2012-13 Progress Report

I reviewed my original challenge, shown below, as I planned.

When designing professional develop learning experiences, are we as purposeful about the pedagogy and methodology as we are the content? Do we model with faculty what we want to see happening in our classrooms with children? Can we integrate technology? Can we model formative assessment practices? Can we design interactive learning experiences?

I, knowing that I’m wasting my time, downloaded every whiteboard photo from the  Flickr stream and inserted it into a Google doc hoping that some of the faculty will share their feedback digitally.

This time, I choose not publish the parameter for selecting your partner.  I intend to ask faculty to work with someone “not like them.” I do not want 2 science teachers or 2 first grade teachers as partners.  Once again, I reflected on collaboration by difference from Cathy Davidson’s book Now You See It.  Will faculty remember and consider how important collaboration by difference is in the learning process? We want diversity in the partners; we want collaboration by difference.

“Collaboration by difference respects and rewards different forms and levels of expertise, perspective, culture, age, ability, and insight, treating difference not as a deficit but as a point of distinction.”  (Davidson, 100 pag.)

Purposefully, we will use paper and pen for this ideation.  While we are still not making decisions, we want more permanence to the ideas.

So, in this one-hour faculty work session:

    • Faculty and I will access the Progress Report – Faculty Ideation – Part 2 Google doc for resources and the agenda.
    • We will use the white boards and the space in the Media Center for a Gallery Walk of ideas.
    • Faculty can use a Google doc to offer feedback on the ideas drawn on the shared white boards.
    • Faculty will work in pairs to draw, sketch, write, etc. on paper their ideas for a next step in our progress reporting.
    • Faculty will share the current version of their ideas by handing me these papers.  I will scan them to share them back to the faculty.
    • Faculty will offer feedback via Google form.

The plan calls for interactive learning for participants, some integration of technology, and a balance of technology and face-to-face engagement.  In my next post, I’ll share the outcomes from this hour of faculty learning.

Oh, and I have to remember to ask for feedback from both today’s session and last week’s session.  My hypothesis is that faculty thought of last week as Division Meetings rather than as Professional Development.  It was both.


Davidson, Cathy N.  Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. New York: Viking, 2011. Print.

“I’ve thought about your problem…” Posh Problem Posse in action – Part 3

I’ve thought a lot about the Posh Problem Posse question of painting my shoes.  On Saturday, I ran after it rained.  I discovered that I had worn a hole in my right shoe. (Yuck, I discovered this while running. Wet socks are gross!) Yay! New shoes.

I sent the following email to Kate for the Posh Problem Posse. I wanted them to know how much I value their feedback about my safety, running, and shoes.

From: Jill Gough
Date: Sunday, February 3, 2013 5:36 PM
To: Kate Burton
Cc: Maryellen Berry
Subject: Dear Posh Problem Posse
Dear Posh Problem Posse,
After 145.8 miles, I had to retire my Lance Armstrong running shoes.  I discovered – the hard way – a hole in the bottom of the right shoe.  Your guidance and good questions helped me select my new shoes.  Thank you.  I cannot wait for you to see them and give me your thoughts.
As you can see from the attached photo, they have some serious neon colors per your suggestions.
I’ll be in Dallas this Friday when we meet, but I hope to Skype with you again.  I will leave my vest and wire with Ms. Burton so you can work on my illumination.

My intent was to let these young learner-problem-solvers know that I was listening and taking them seriously.  What would they do with the above information? I had no learning targets or outcomes planned.  I hoped they would take it as positive feedback.

Imagine my surprise and delight upon receiving the following email after school Monday.

From: K
Date: Monday, February 4, 2013 5:16 PM
To: Jill Gough
Subject: Shoes

I have thought about your problem and have come to a conclusion. My mom just ran a marathon and her shoes of choice were Asics. She has always used these and has never used Nike. I have done some research and they are dramatically less expensive without losing any quality. I also may I add that the shoe you see there is NOT custom colored. In fact, if you go to their website, all their shoes are bright and neon. Also, because they are centered only on shoes they are typically better. They are great for any foot shape or size and have so many choices. I used to have Asics, but have just gotten a new pair of Nikes. I wish I hadn’t changed I loved my Asics. So now I have to wait and grow out of these before I can go back.

Other brands
saucony– more for racers and focused more on how light they can make a shoe for your running you want something with more support
Newtons – I think they are a bit trumped-up I looked at their website and it had things such as performance, or gravity but they all looked exactly the same I’m not to sure they are all that great however I must say I have never worn them.
karhu- if you want to run with style I do not suggest these they look like little nurse lady shoes with neon colors

I have found not to let the colors or the advertisement under sell you on a pair. Just imagine the shoe completely white and think is this really a  good shoe. Look mostly at the sole, the support, and the materials. I strongly advise not to get any with a foam bottom unless there is a thick covering of tread and rubber on top or you will wear them out like your old pair. But most of all look at heel support and the width of the shoe and know how wide your foot is. Don’t go against buying an expensive pair, because I assure you the cheapest will make up in surgery and doctor visit expenses.  Also, because you run it the dark I advise lots of tread that will prevent your feet from sliding.  If you have any questions just ask. K

Isn’t K’s reply great? Aren’t these awesome connections she’s making? How often do we use our research skills to serve others?

I absolutely love how relational her email is.  K connects me to her mother.  K shows she knows me with her comment about the karhu shoes.  Wow! “If you want to run with style I do not suggest these they look like little nurse lady shoes with neon colors.” She knows me well.

How much can and will our young learners research, do, and learn when we allow them to direct their learning and problem-solving?

PD Lesson Planning: Progress Report Ideation – Part 1 reflection

PD Lesson Planning: Progress Report Ideation – Part 1 shared the agenda (or lesson plan) for Part 1 of a planned 2-part series on progress reports.

I arrived just in time to prevent the theater seating setup of 150 chairs in the Media Center.  M. Burris, one of our Media Specialists, helped me think how to use the existing furniture since we planned to work in small groups. We decided to set up 3 additional tables with 6 chairs at each table.  We predicted that everyone would have a seat for the meeting, and we wanted to use our space well.

It was great to have all divisions at this meeting. Normally the Very Early Learning Division (VELD) faculty would meet at 12:30 and the Early Learning Division (ELD) and Upper Learning Division (ULD) would meet at 3:30.  (As a side note, we need to think about finding opportunities for all divisions to work together more often.)

As soon as everyone was seated, I launched the quick write using the slide shown below.

Quick Write Prompts

The purpose of the quick write was to take the opportunity to organize thoughts and focus on the task at hand.  Of the 80+ participants, 8 used the Google form to share their thinking.  Remember, we are not making decisions; just thinking aloud with each other.

Here’s some of what they shared:

I love the opportunity to share positive information with parents.  I am intentional to provide instructional feedback before the progress report goes home, but this is a great time to give the needed positive and affirming communication to parents.


They make you think about every child as an individual and make you realize you know more about them than you think.


[I wish for] A way to more clearly communicate with parents that the progress report is about PROGRESS and not about a finite expression about a child’s trajectory in life!

After the quick write, we shuffled into vertical teams.  We asked that each team have at least one Specials teacher and that the 6-member teams represent multiple grade levels.  Would it have been more efficient if I’d predetermined the teams? Yes.  Would I ask my colleagues to configure their teams themselves next time? Absolutely.  I intend to model learner choice at every opportunity.  Oh, and there was pushback about this.  In the chaos of teaming, a teacher explained to me that we should be working in grade level teams. Teachers of 3s-K, 1st grade-3rd grade, and 4th grade-6th grade should work together in this teacher’s opinion.  As I watched the beautiful chaos calm into a new configuration of teams, I calmly explained that the Academic Leadership Team intentionally decided to have multiple grade levels represented.  (More about the pushback later.)

When everyone was seated, we looked at a few ways we receive feedback about our progress. My favorite of the images shared is the dashboard from my Nike+ running account.  You can quickly see that while I struggled in February and July, I did make progress.


There were lots of questions.  We are at the idea phase, not a decision-making phase.  We should be thinking and discussing what is best for our learners, their families, and our teachers.  Right not, we should not be bound by what our current technology will “allow” us to do.  We should not be bound by history and habit. I love that Julia and Maryellen tweeted during the session. What great in-the-moment feedback!

Screen Shot 2013-03-05 at 1.45.02 PM

Screen Shot 2013-03-05 at 1.48.52 PM
Screen Shot 2013-03-05 at 1.44.02 PM

There was not enough time to share between groups.  I asked for one faculty member to take charge of the team’s board.  I explained that we would use them again at our next meeting.  The whiteboards would be used for a Gallery Walk so that we could see each others ideas.  I asked for one member of each team to take a photo of the board in its current iteration and email it to our Flickr account.

We ended on time having the last 5 minutes for the attendance and feedback form.

Though I didn’t mention it during the session, Shelley Paul (@lottascales) was there observing my work.  Shelley, Coordinator of Teaching and Learning at Woodward Academy, graciously agreed to attend this session at my request to conduct a peer observation and offer me feedback.

In addition to Shelley’s feedback over lunch, I thought I would have lots of feedback from the faculty.  When I checked, there were 15 responders out of an expected 85.  I suppose a reminder is in order.

A little more about the pushback to build the teams having multiple grade levels represented. I wonder if the pushback indicated fear, resistance, or poor planning.  I appreciated the pushback, because it tested my conviction and planning.  I planned for learner choice, but there were constraints. Often I worry that choice equals free-for-all.

Here’s a few comments gleaned from the feedback.

I enjoyed hearing thoughts and ideas that teachers from other grade levels contributed to our group.  As a result of the time spent, I gained a broader perspective on the needs of others teaching children of different age groups.


It was beneficial to meet and discuss with colleagues from a variety of grade levels and special areas; it was beneficial to hear how progress reports are currently formatted in various departments in school (i.e. VELD, ELD, ULD, etc…).


I enjoyed hearing thoughts and ideas that teachers from other grade levels contributed to our group.  As a result of the time spent, I gained a broader perspective on the needs of others teaching children of different age groups.

Collaboration by difference. Our differences make us a stronger team.

So, in this one-hour faculty work session:

    • Faculty and I accessed the Progress Report – Faculty Ideation – January 30 Google doc for resources and the agenda.
    • I used Keynote to prompt the quick write and share visuals of a few ways to report progress.
    • Faculty wrote using their MacBook, iPad, PC Tablet, or paper.
    • Faculty worked in vertical teams to draw, sketch, write, etc. on whiteboards.
    • Faculty shared the current version of their ideas by emailing a photo to my Flickr account.
    • Faculty will offer feedback via Google form.

While it seemed like a lot, it was fun.  Part II of this series will include a gallery walk of these whiteboard and more thinking and brainstorming.