Category Archives: Questions

Reader’s Response: Learning to use learning progressions (reflections from 5th grade learners)

What if we design a lesson to orchestrate productive discussion, critique the reasoning of others, grow as readers and writers, and deepen understanding through reflection? How might we engineer effective discussions, tasks, and activities that elicit evidence of learning as we learn to provide feedback that moves learning forward.  Will this help activate students as learning resources for one another?

The 5th grade team invited me to co-labor with them to help our young learners deepen their understanding of reader’s response journals.  Using their readers response learning progressions, our 5th graders offered me feedback to help me grow as a reader-writer and to practice critiquing the reasoning of others.

Knowing how important it is to close the lesson with purpose, we asked our young learners to reflect using the following prompts.

Here are a few samples from their reflections.

  • I learned to pay attention to making sure I explain the book.  I learned to ask myself if I added quotes and page numbers.  An “ah ha” for me was when I learned about the importance of adding page numbers and quotes.
  • I learned to pay attention to the page numbers and the definitions of words. I learned to ask myself where are the mistakes in this and how can I make it better? An “ah ha” for me is to look up definitions of words I don’t understand.
  • I learned to pay attention to focusing a lot on text evidence. I learned to ask myself if I really did my best and met the level 3 requirements. An “ah ha” for me is to be able to link my writing and the book together.
  • I learned to pay attention to specific details and listening closely. I learned to ask myself questions about the text. An “ah ha” for me is critique versus criticism and constructive criticism.
  • I learned to pay attention to feedback I receive, because it will make my writing better.  I learned to ask myself about text evidence, making thinking visible, and formatting.  An “ah ha” for me is including text information in my writing at all times.

How will classroom culture grow as we strive to focus on the five key strategies we studied in Embedding Formative Assessment: Practical Techniques for F-12 Classrooms by Dylan Wiliam and Siobhan Leahy?

  • Clarify, share, and understand learning intentions and success criteria
  • Engineer effective discussions, tasks, and activities that elicit evidence of learning
  • Provide feedback that moves learning forward
  • Activate students as learning resources for one another
  • Activate students as owners of their own learning

Wiliam, Dylan; Leahy, Siobhan. Embedding Formative Assessment: Practical Techniques for F-12 Classrooms. (Kindle Locations 493-494). Learning Sciences International. Kindle Edition.

Reader’s Response: Learning to use learning progressions (my reflection)

What if we design a lesson to orchestrate productive discussion, critique the reasoning of others, grow as readers and writers, and deepen understanding through reflection?

The 5th grade team invited me to co-labor with them to help our young learners deepen their understanding of reader’s response journals. As a team, they are focused on implementing and deepening their understanding of these five strategies from Wilam and Leahy:

  • Clarify, share, and understand learning intentions and success criteria
  • Engineer effective discussions, tasks, and activities that elicit evidence of learning
  • Provide feedback that moves learning forward
  • Activate students as learning resources for one another
  • Activate students as owners of their own learning

Can we engineer learning experiences that orchestrate effective discussion and elicit evidence of learning? Can we empower our young learners to serve as learning resources for one another and deepen their own learning?

The plan called for crisp, quick moments to think, write, and talk. Using the learning intentions below, our young learners read a reader’s response entry from me and offered me critique.

First, they read my entry silently and analyzed it using the given success criteria.  Next, with a partner, they discussed what they read, what they thought, and if they agreed on their ratings? Then, we began to develop critique using the starters shown below.

After thinking and writing silently, partners shared their sentences. Then, they chose one sentence each to share aloud in the group. I heard important, informative feedback for every voice in the room.  Here are a few samples from their feedback.

  • I like how you included the definitions from the dictionary; I did not know what cur was. I wonder if it would be easier to understand if you told us what was going on and went in chronological order. What if you add a few more details to explain your thinking?
  • I like how you were descriptive, because it helped me understand a bit more. I wonder if you thought we had all read the book.  What if you include the title next time?
  • I like how you added the page numbers in our writing, because you really told us how/what page number it was so if we found the book and wanted to read a part, then we could just find the page really easily. I wonder what the title of the book is because it sounded interesting.  What if the title of the book was on the page, because it would really give us a quick summary of what the book was.
  • I like that you included a sketch, because it helped me think about the names Bud was called.  I wonder what Rule 118 is. What if you explain the connection to the text and your thinking?

Engineer effective discussions, tasks, and activities that elicit evidence of learning as we learn to provide feedback that moves learning forward.  Will this help activate students as learning resources for one another?


Wiliam, Dylan; Leahy, Siobhan. Embedding Formative Assessment: Practical Techniques for F-12 Classrooms. (Kindle Locations 493-494). Learning Sciences International. Kindle Edition.

Reader’s Response: Learning to use learning progressions (the plan)

How might we take action to deepen learning and empower students? What if we focus on the five key strategies we studied in Embedding Formative Assessment: Practical Techniques for F-12 Classrooms by Dylan Wiliam and Siobhan Leahy?The 5th grade team invited me to co-labor with them to help our young learners deepen their understanding of reader’s response journals. As a team, they are focused on implementing and deepening their understanding of these five strategies:

  • Clarify, share, and understand learning intentions and success criteria
  • Engineer effective discussions, tasks, and activities that elicit evidence of learning
  • Provide feedback that moves learning forward
  • Activate students as learning resources for one another
  • Activate students as owners of their own learning

On Thursday, they facilitated a lesson on making thinking visible and introduced the following to our young learners.

On Friday, I facilitated a lesson on using the above to improve and strengthen reader’s response journal entries.

What if we design a lesson to orchestrate productive discussion, critique the reasoning of others, grow as readers and writers, and deepen understanding through reflection?

Slide deck:


Wiliam, Dylan; Leahy, Siobhan. Embedding Formative Assessment: Practical Techniques for F-12 Classrooms. (Kindle Locations 493-494). Learning Sciences International. Kindle Edition.

Embolden Your Inner Mathematician Week 2: Contemplate then Calculate (#CthenC)

For our second session of Embolden Your Inner Mathematician, we focus on Numeracy and Visual Learning: Elicit and use evidence of student thinking.

What is we use powerful tools to elicit student thinking? How might we learn about students to deeply understand them as mathematicians? And then, what actions do we take to ensure mathematical success for all?

This week’s session began with a gallery walk using Amy Lucenta and Grace Kelemanik’s first five Contemplate then Calculate (#CthenC) lessons found on at Fostering Math Practices.

From Ruth Parker and Cathy Humphreys in Making Number Talks Matter:

No matter what grade you teach, even high school, so-called “dot” cards (which may not have dots) are a great way to start your students on the path to mathematical reasoning. We say this because, from experience, we have realized that with dot cards, students only need to describe what they see— and people have many different ways of seeing! Arithmetic problems, on the other hand, tend to be emotionally loaded for many students. Both of us have found that doing several dot talks before we introduce Number Talks (with numbers) helps establish the following norms:

  • There are many ways to see, or do, any problem.

  • Everyone is responsible for communicating his or her thinking clearly so that others can understand.

  • Everyone is responsible for trying to understand other people’s thinking.

To embolden mathematicians and to prepare to elicit and use evidence of student thinking, teaching teams must practice to develop the habits put forth in 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions.

You can see our teacher-learner-leaders working to deepen their understanding of and commitment to the Making Number Talks Matter: norms, Smith and Stein’s 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions, and NCTM’s Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All.

How might we continue to deepen our understanding of NCTM’s teaching practices? What if we team to learn and practice?

From Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All

Elicit and use evidence of student thinking.
Effective teaching of mathematics uses evidence of student thinking to assess progress toward mathematical understanding and to adjust instruction continually in ways that support and extend learning.

And, from Taking Action: Implementing Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices in K-Grade 5

In ambitious teaching, the teacher engages students in challenging tasks and collaborative inquiry, and then observes and listens as students work so that she or he can provide an appropriate level of support to diverse learners.  The goal is to ensure that each and every student succeeds in doing meaningful, high-quality work, not simply executing procedures with speed and accuracy. (Smith, 4 pag.)

Worth repeating:

The goal is to ensure that each and every student succeeds in doing meaningful, high-quality work, not simply executing procedures with speed and accuracy.

We continue to foster creativity, visual and algebraic representation to strengthen our mathematical flexibility as we learn together.

When mathematics classrooms focus on numbers, status differences between students often emerge, to the detriment of classroom culture and learning, with some students stating that work is “easy” or “hard” or announcing they have “finished” after racing through a worksheet. But when the same content is taught visually, it is our experience that the status differences that so often beleaguer mathematics classrooms, disappear.  – Jo Boaler

#ChangeTheFuture

#EmbraceAmbitiousTeaching

#EmboldenYourInnerMathematician


Seeing as Understanding: The Importance of Visual Mathematics for Our Brain and Learning.” Journal of Applied & Computational Mathematics 05.05 (2016): n. pag. Youcubed. Standford University, 12 May. 2016. Web. 18 Mar. 2017.

Humphreys, Cathy; Parker, Ruth. Making Number Talks Matter (Kindle Locations 339-346). Stenhouse Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kelemanik, Grace, and Amy Lucent. “Starting the Year with Contemplate Then Calculate.” Fostering Math Practices.

Leinwand, Steve. Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All. Reston, VA.: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2014. (p. 46) Print.

Smith, Margaret Schwan., et al. Taking Action: Implementing Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices in Grades K-5. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2017.

Embolden Your Inner Mathematician Week 1: Number Talks

How might we deepen our understanding of NCTM’s teaching practices? What if we team to learn and practice?

For our first session of Embolden Your Inner Mathematician, we focus on Subitizing and Number Talks: Elicit and use evidence of student thinking.

From Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All

Elicit and use evidence of student thinking.
Effective teaching of mathematics uses evidence of student thinking to assess progress toward mathematical understanding and to adjust instruction continually in ways that support and extend learning.

And, from Taking Action: Implementing Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices in K-Grade 5

Meeting the demands of world-class standards for student learning requires teachers to engage in what as been referred to as “ambitious teaching.” Ambitious teaching stands in sharp contrast to what many teachers experienced themselves as learners of mathematics. (Smith, 3 pag.)

In ambitious teaching, the teacher engages students in challenging tasks and collaborative inquiry, and then observes and listens as students work so that she or he can provide an appropriate level of support to diverse learners.  The goal is to ensure that each and every student succeeds in doing meaningful, high-quality work, not simply executing procedures with speed and accuracy. (Smith, 4 pag.)

Worth repeating:

The goal is to ensure that each and every student succeeds in doing meaningful, high-quality work, not simply executing procedures with speed and accuracy.

How might we foster curiosity, creativity, and critical reasoning while deepening understanding? What if we listen to what our students notice and wonder?

My daughter (7th grade) and I were walking through our local Walgreens when I hear her say “Wow, I wonder…” I doubled back to take this photo.

To see how we used this image in our session to subitize (in chunks) and to investigate the questions that arose from our wonderings, look through our slide deck for this session.

From  NCTM’s 5 Practices, we know that we should do the math ourselves, predict (anticipate) what students will produce, and brainstorm what will help students most when in productive struggle and when in destructive struggle. What if we build the habit of showing what we know more than one way to add layers of depth to understanding?

When mathematics classrooms focus on numbers, status differences between students often emerge, to the detriment of classroom culture and learning, with some students stating that work is “easy” or “hard” or announcing they have “finished” after racing through a worksheet. But when the same content is taught visually, it is our experience that the status differences that so often beleaguer mathematics classrooms, disappear.  – Jo Boaler

What if we ask ourselves what other ways can we add layers of depth so that students make sense of this task? How might we better serve our learners if we elicit and use evidence of student thinking to make next instructional decisions? 

#ChangeTheFuture

#EmbraceAmbitiousTeaching

#EmboldenYourInnerMathematician


Boaler, Jo, Lang Chen, Cathy Williams, and Montserrat Cordero. “Seeing as Understanding: The Importance of Visual Mathematics for Our Brain and Learning.” Journal of Applied & Computational Mathematics 05.05 (2016): n. pag. Youcubed. Standford University, 12 May. 2016. Web. 18 Mar. 2017.

Leinwand, Steve. Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All. Reston, VA.: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2014. (p. 46) Print.

Smith, Margaret Schwan., et al. Taking Action: Implementing Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices in Grades K-5. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2017.

Embolden Your Inner Mathematician Week 1: Talking Points

How might we deepen our understanding of NCTM’s teaching practices? What if we team to learn and practice?

For our first session of Embolden Your Inner Mathematician, we focus on Subitizing and Number Talks: Elicit and use evidence of student thinking.

From Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All

Elicit and use evidence of student thinking.
Effective teaching of mathematics uses evidence of student thinking to assess progress toward mathematical understanding and to adjust instruction continually in ways that support and extend learning.

And, from Taking Action: Implementing Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices in K-Grade 5

Meeting the demands of world-class standards for student learning requires teachers to engage in what as been referred to as “ambitious teaching.” Ambitious teaching stands in sharp contrast to what many teachers experienced themselves as learners of mathematics. (Smith, 3 pag.)

In ambitious teaching, the teacher engages students in challenging tasks and collaborative inquiry, and then observes and listens as students work so that she or he can provide an appropriate level of support to diverse learners.  The goal is to ensure that each and every student succeeds in doing meaningful, high-quality work, not simply executing procedures with speed and accuracy. (Smith, 4 pag.)

Worth repeating:

The goal is to ensure that each and every student succeeds in doing meaningful, high-quality work, not simply executing procedures with speed and accuracy.

Let’s pay attention to the whole child. Content is mission critical, but so are disposition and efficacy.  What if we learn more about our students disposition to support the social/emotional well-being of our mathematicians?  How might we elicit and use evidence of student thinking to understand  assumptions/beliefs about learning math?

We used the following exploratory talking points from Elizabeth Statmore:

To learn more about cultivating exploratory talk, read #TMC14 GWWG: Talking Points Activity – Cultivating Exploratory Talk through a Growth Mindset Activity.

What is we use powerful tools to elicit student thinking? How might we learn about students to deeply understand them as mathematicians?

And then, what actions do we take to ensure mathematical success for all?

#ChangeTheFuture

#EmbraceAmbitiousTeaching

#EmboldenYourInnerMathematician


Leinwand, Steve. Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All. Reston, VA.: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2014. (p. 46) Print.

Smith, Margaret Schwan., et al. Taking Action: Implementing Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices in Grades K-5. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2017.

Statmore, Elizabeth. “Cheesemonkey Wonders.” #TMC14 GWWG: Talking Points Activity – Cultivating Exploratory Talk through a Growth Mindset Activity, 1 Jan. 1970.

Instructional Core practice #WordsMatter How will we show we CARE?

As part of our school’s Pre-Planning, I facilitated a faculty-teams workshop to continue our work and learning in the Instructional Core.

Here are my notes from the session.

The agenda, shared ahead of the meeting, looked like this:

The slide deck that accompanies this plan looks like this:

We watched 4:05 minutes of Practice is Everything to renew and review our norms around teaming.

How we practice, how we team, makes a difference. The words we choose and use when offering feedback contribute to how our learners author their identity.  As we work to calibrate our expectations, we can also hone and enhance our ability to offer high-quality, positive, actionable feedback that empower learners to reach for their next independent level.

As seen in the slides, I used video timers to pace the teamwork time. What I learned is that the timers held me accountable for the work time promised to teachers.  I was forced to wait, to be patient, and to not rush. So helpful to hold the time for our teachers.

When we focus on learning,
we hold time for learners.

And, just as we carefully plan and hold time for learning, we carefully choose what we notice and note. Words matter; the story you tell impacts how a learner is thought of and seen.

Amanda Thomas (@TrinityMrsT) found and shared the video below. I used it in our session to illustrate the power of story.

As we begin a new school year with new learners, how will we seek a balanced story, describe what we want to see next, and balance our feedback to highlight success?

What story will we notice and note?
What feedback will we offer?
What will we contribute to how  learners author their identity?

How will we show we C.A.R.E.?