Category Archives: PLC

PD Planning: Number Talks and Number Strings

As we begin the second part of our school year and as the calendar changes from 2016 to 2017, we review our goals.

The leaders of our math committee set the following goals for this school year.

Goals:

  • Continue our work on vertical alignment.
  • Expand our knowledge of best practices and their role in our current program.
  • Share work with grade level teams to grow our whole community as teachers of math.
  • Raise the level of teacher confidence in math.
  • Deepen, differentiate, and extend learning for the students in our classrooms.

Our latest action step works on scaling these goals in our community. The following shows our plan to build common understanding and language as we expand our knowledge of numeracy.  Over the course of two days, each math teacher (1st-6th grade) participated in 3-hours of professional learning.

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Sample timestamp from PD sessions.

Our intentions and purpose:

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We started with a number talk and a number string from Kristin Gray‘s NCTM Philadelphia presentation. We challenged ourselves to anticipate the ways our learners answer the following.

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We also referred to Making Number Talks Matter to find Humphreys and Parker’s four strategies for multiplication.  We pressed ourselves to anticipate more than one way for each multiplication strategy to align with Smith and Stein’s 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions.

Screen Shot 2017-01-15 at 7.23.12 PM.pngFrom our earlier work with Lisa Eickholdt, we know that our ability to talk about a strategy directly impacts our ability to teach the strategy.  What can be learned if we show what we know more than one way? How might we learn from each other if we make our thinking visible?

Screen Shot 2017-01-15 at 8.46.22 PM.pngAfter working through Humphreys and Parker’s strategies (and learning new strategies), we transitioned to the number string from Kristin‘s presentation.

Screen Shot 2017-01-15 at 7.41.14 PM.pngThe goal for the next part of the learning session offered teaching teams the opportunity to select a number string from one of the Minilessons books shown below.  Each team selected a number string and worked to anticipate according to Smith and Stein’s 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions.

To practice, each team practiced their number string and the other grade-level teams served as learners.  When we share and learn together, we strengthen our understanding of how to differentiate and learn deeply.

Deep learning focuses on recognizing relationships among ideas. During deep learning, students engage more actively and deliberately with information in order to discover and understand the underlying mathematical structure.
—John Hattie, Doug Fisher, Nancy Frey

As we begin the second part of our school year and as the calendar changes from 2016 to 2017, what action steps are needed to reach our goals?


Hattie, John A. (Allan); Fisher, Douglas B.; Frey, Nancy; Gojak, Linda M.; Moore, Sara Delano; Mellman, William L. (2016-09-16). Visible Learning for Mathematics, Grades K-12: What Works Best to Optimize Student Learning (Corwin Mathematics Series) (p. 136). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

Humphreys, Cathy; Parker, Ruth (2015-04-21). Making Number Talks Matter (Kindle Locations 1265-1266). Stenhouse Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Norris, Kit; Schuhl, Sarah (2016-02-16). Engage in the Mathematical Practices: Strategies to Build Numeracy and Literacy With K-5 Learners (Kindle Locations 4113-4115). Solution Tree Press. Kindle Edition.

Smith, Margaret Schwan., and Mary Kay. Stein. 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2011. Print.

Common mission and vision: Be together, not the same

What if we share common mission and vision?  During the 2015-16 school year, we worked together as a team on our SAIS accreditation.  We brainstormed, struggled, and learned together.

As a team, we have completed our professional learning during Pre-Planning.  I had the privilege of attending and participating in all meetings.  (I did not sketch the sessions I helped facilitate.)

Can you see our connectedness, themes, and common language?

August 9: All School Meeting

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August 9: Early Elementary Division meeting

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August 9: Upper Elementary Division meeting03-Berry-PrePlanning1

August 10: Deepen Understanding to Strengthen Academic Foundation

August 10: Goals, Structures, and Processes

August 11: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion04-Diversity-PrePlanning

August 11: Positive Discipline (a la Dr. Jane Nelsen)05-PositiveDiscipline1 06-PositiveDiscipline2

August 12: Strategic Teaming: Leadership, Voice, Hopes and Dreams

August 15:  Upper Elementary Division Meeting07-Berry-PrePlanning2

August 15: Early Elementary Division meeting08-Mitchell-PrePlanning2

Again… share common mission and vision.

Be together, not the same.

HGSE Teaming: Sketch notes for learning

Our team (Maryellen Berry, Rhonda Mitchell, Marsha Harris, and I) attend the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s 2016 session on the Transformative Power of Teacher Teams taught by Katherine Boyles and Vivian Troen.

Below are my notes from each session and a few of the lasting takeaways.

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Teams that lack open conflict are dying entities.

Boyles and Troen challenge us to level up from a “culture of nice” to a collaboration.

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Elizabeth City joined us to make the case for teacher teams and introduce intentional talk around the instructional core.  How might be build collective efficacy?

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Boyles and Troen then facilitated a session to help teams set norms and change the sense of what is possible.  The instruction core was again emphasized as well as task focus.

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Daniel Wilson started our second day with a session on cultivating collaboration.  How might we have communication, coordination, cooperation, and collaboration.  His definition of collaboration, coming together to create something new, inspired our team to co-labor and set new goals?

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Monica Higgins used the Mount Everest case study as a catalyst for discussion around leadership, responsibility trust, and teaming.

Changing your mind can be a show of strength.

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Aviya Schler and Jacob Pinnolis discussed implementing faculty rounds at their school.  How might we build a culture of inquiry where we are curious about each other’s practice? What if we share our questions and help each other “see” what happens during class?

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Jodi Doyle and her team creating and sustaining collaborative, committed teaching teams.  How might we grow together to serve all learners in our care? What if we structure team meetings to embrace the power of positivity, have serious task focus around students learning, and be product oriented?

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Tina Blythe began our last day with using protocols to learn from student and teacher work.  How might we support deep learning and thinking?

Many eyes looking helps us learn and notice more.

How will we team? norm? collaborate? support? become more curious?

Empower learners to deepen their learning

How might we empower learners to deepen their understanding?

After creating and administering common assessments, the next question is perhaps the most challenging: “Are students learning what we think they are supposed to be learning?” (Ferriter and Parry, 75 pag.)

What if our learners are grasping the content, but they are struggling to communicate what they know and how they arrive at a conclusion?

How might we make our expectations clear? What if we empower our learners to take action on their own behalf?

What if our culture embraces the three big ideas of a PLC?

Learning is our focus.
Collaboration is our culture.
Results guide our decisions.

Our #TrinityLearns 2nd grade team sat down together last week to analyze the results of the most recent common assessment.  While our young learners are grasping the basic concepts, we want more for them. We want confident, flexible thinkers and problem solvers.  We want our learners to show what they know more than one way, and we want strong clear communication so that the reader can follow the work without to infer understanding.

Teams at this point in the process are typically performing at a high level, taking collective responsibility for the performance of their students rather than responding as individuals. (Ferriter and Parry, 77 pag.)

As a team, these teachers sorted their students’ work into four levels, shared artifacts of levels with each other, and planned a common lesson.

Laurel Martin (@laurel_martin) explained to our children that the artifacts they analyzed were not from their class and that they belonged to a class across the hall.

Here’s the pitch to the students from Sarah Mokotoff’s (@2ndMokotoff) class:

Don’t you just love the messages: Be like scientists. Make observations. Offer feedback on how to improve.

Here’s what it looked like as the children analyzed artifacts from another 2nd grade class:

Once the analysis was complete, our teachers facilitated a discussion where the children developed a learning progression for this work.

From Kerry Coote (@CooteMrs):

We created these together after looking at student work samples that were assigned at each level. Our kids were so engaged in the activity; they were able to compare and give reasons why work was at a level 3 versus a level 4. It was really good to see! I believe this will empower them to be deeper thinkers and gradually move away from giving an answer without showing their thinking and work.

Here’s what the students in Grace Granade’s (@2ndGranade) class developed:

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More from Kerry Coote:

After we helped them develop the learning progression, we conferenced with each child looking at their math assessment. They  automatically self-assessed and assigned levels for their thinking. Many scored themselves lower at first, but the activity of crafting the learning progression helped in making sense of explaining their thinking! Today in math a boy asked me – “so Mrs. Coote, what are those levels again? I know the target is Level 3, but I want to use numbers, words, and pictures to get to level 4.”  It is all coming together and making sense more with these experiences!

In their morning meeting the next day, one of Kathy Bruyn’s (@KathyEE96) learners shared the poster she made the night before.

Don’t you love how she explained the near doubles fact and her precise language?  Wow!

Since we focus on learning and results, this team offered learners an opportunity to show growth.

From Samantha Steinberg (@spsteinberg):

This is an example of leveling up after looking at our assessment.  Initially, [he] used the learning progression to rate his work at level 3.  After reading my feedback, he added words to his next attempt to show his additional thinking.

Before the class developed the learning progression:

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After the class developed the learning progression:

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Can you see the difference in this child’s work, understanding, and communication?

A growth mindset isn’t just about effort. Perhaps the most common misconception is simply equating the growth mindset with effort. Certainly, effort is key for students’ achievement, but it’s not the only thing. Students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches—not just sheer effort—to learn and improve. (Dweck, n. pag.)

Kudos to our 2nd grade team for reaching for the top stages of  the seven stages of collaborative teams! Learning is our focus. Collaboration is our culture. Results guide our decisions.

How might we continue to empower learners to deepen their understanding?


Dweck, Carol. “Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’” Education Week. Education Week, 22 Sept. 2015. Web. 02 Oct. 2015.

Graham, Parry, and William Ferriter. Building a Professional Learning Community at Work: A Guide to the First Year. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2010. Print.

Strategic Teaming: 3 Big Ideas Learning Communities embrace

Bringing differences to the same essential-to-learn highlighted our 2015-16 community goals and how the lessons were designed and delivered from our Head of School and Division Heads.  Today, I facilitated the next lesson for our teams.

We reviewed the 3 Big Ideas and the 4 Key Questions that high functioning teams embrace.

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We want to grow in leadership and in teaming.  In The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle writes

The trick is to choose a goal just beyond your present abilities; to target the struggle. Thrashing blindly doesn’t help. Reaching does. (Coyle, 19 pag.)

How might we, as a team, reach to target the struggle, to work on the edge of our abilities?

What if we use the seven stages that collaborative teams traverse from  by Parry Graham and Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) as a way to target our struggle? How might we use formative assessment to self-assess where we are now to make an informed decision about our next reach as a team?

Below are a sampling of the results when teams were asked to reflect and respond to the question At what stage do we currently function (most of the time) during team meetings?

If we focus on learning, have a collaborative culture, and use results to guide our decisions, how will we now differentiate with and for these teams who are different points in their collaborative journey?


Coyle, Daniel (2009-04-16). The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. Random House, Inc. Kindle Edition.

Graham, Parry, and William Ferriter. Building a Professional Learning Community at Work: A Guide to the First Year. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2010. Print.

Developing a Virtual Learning Community – #T3Learns session

How might we stay connected, offer additional ideas, and share experiences with others? What if we leverage social media tools? How might we continue to lead learning without stretching ourselves too thin? How might we continue to contribute to our learning community when we are apart? How might we be more intentional in PD sessions to foster continued learning? What if we explore effective use of tools to develop and maintain connectedness and build learning communities? Will we learn and share?

Jeff McCalla, @jmccalla1 and Confessions of a Wannabe Super Teacher, and I facilitated a session for T3 instructors on building and maintaining learning communites to learn, share, and support learning.  Our lesson design, strategies, and resources are shared on the Developing a Virtual Learning Community Google doc.  We were charged with the responsibility to lead a session for T³ instructors to  brainstorm and share useful strategies to connect and learn from and with others. At the end of this session, our community should be able to say:

    • I can contribute to learning communities both face-to-face and virtually.
    • I can use social media to connect with fellow T3 instructors before , during, and after PD.
    • I can use social media to connect with participants before, during, and after our PD.

We ran 4 sessions today – all very different.  Jeff is a master of the art of questioning. He guided the discussion and connected to the learning plan while accommodating the learners in the room.  At each session we answered questions concerning the how and why of Twitter and blogging. His blog post What Super-power do you want? offered a grounding story for our discussion.  (Read comments by Bo and Jill to learn more.)

Here are snippets of our conversations, learning, and questions.

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The Most Important 21st Century Skill #MCHunter

Who are you?
Why are you here?
What do you hope to leave with?

I wonder how my learners would answer these questions on the first day of school.  How would I process this information and engage with my learners so that they feel heard and valued?

Here are my answers when challenged to “dig deeper” than name, school, family, and education:

I am a collaborative learner, confused – in a good way – by my experiences and my questions.  Labeled a “math” teacher, I feel that I am a teacher of children (and adults) and need to know, lead, and learn so much more.  As a mother, I see how much my child can and wants to do.  Have I been limiting my learners because of history and assumptions? … and fears?? Why do I stay in the safety of what I know?  How do I model learning and risk taking?

I am here to learn.  I believe that we underestimate our learners, their ability, interests, and motivation.  It is easy to teach what I deem essential, but how many times have I missed opportunities because I did not ask questions and listen – really listen – to their answers?

I hope to leave with more than I have right now: more relationships, more curiosity, more willingness to experiment and do, and more courage to “do different”.

The Martin Institute for Teaching Excellence and Trinity School contributed to my personal learning growth by providing me an opportunity to participate in a Master Class with John Hunter (follow the conversations on Twitter: #MCHunter).  John Hunter (@worldpeacemovie), and Jamie Baker (@JamieReverb) facilitated the two days of professional development renewal experiences.

How often do I rush to “teach” content – the stuff they need to know?  How many times have I said “I just don’t have time to…” because I’m so focused on trying to cram in one more thing?

John and Jamie spoke of and modeled creating space, empty space…hmm….

What if my learners simply need space and time to process, question, think, share, and learn? Shouldn’t the human-ness of learners be the first focus? If the foundation is a solid relationship between and among learners, how much can be built? How sturdy? How beautiful? How long-lasting?

Spend time to gain time…Think how much more can be accomplished if learners know that it is safe to reveal their needs, concerns, strengths and weaknesses because they are in a supportive learning community focused on growth.

Today’s big take-a-way is the power of building relationships – the MOST IMPORTANT 21st Century skill.

Who are you?
Why are you here?
What do you hope to leave with?