Tag Archives: Doug Fisher

Summer Learning 2019 – Choices and VTR

How do we learn and grow when we are apart? We workshop, plan, play, rest, and read to name just a few of our actions and strategies.

We make a commitment to read and learn every summer.

Below is the 2019 Summer Learning flyer announcing the choices for this summer.

In case you are interested, links to reviews of each book are shared below as well as the set of TED Talks for Voices from Diversity. #SoGood

Big Potential and The Power of Moments are repeats from last summer’s list because of faculty/staff engagement and enthusiasm. Blindspot and Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners are being used in book study groups during the current school year.  We hope to harness the power of the re-read and spread this ideas.

We will continue to use the Visible Thinking Routine Sentence-Phrase-Word to notice and note important, thought-provoking ideas. This routine aims to illuminate what the reader finds important and worthwhile.

Sentence-Phrase-Word helps learners to engage with and make meaning from text with a particular focus on capturing the essence of the text or “what speaks to you.” It fosters enhanced discussion while drawing attention to the power of language. (Ritchhart, 207 pag.)

However, the power and promise of this routine lies in the discussion of why a particular word, a single phrase, and a sentence stood out for each individual in the group as the catalyst for rich discussion . It is in these discussions that learners must justify their choices and explain what it was that spoke to them in each of their choices. (Ritchhart, 208 pag.)

What are you reading/watching/doing to grow as a learner over the summer? Please feel invited and encouraged to watch us (or join us) learn by following #TrinityLearns and #TrinityReads in June and July.


Ritchhart, Ron, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison. Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print

#TrinityLearns Leading Learners to Level Up as a TEAM (#LL2LU) Part 2

Continuing our work from last month, Trinity School’s Assessment Committee continues to grapple with the following questions.

As a team, how are we united (aligned) in our understanding and assessment of learning?  How might we grow our assessment literacy, understanding, and actions to focus on learning, assign competence, and empower learners to become agents of learning?

Under the leadership of Thomas Benefield (@yerlifeguard) and Becky Holden (@BHolden86), Trinity School’s Assessment Committee we continue our commitment to read and take action on Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners, Grades K-12: Maximizing Skill, Will, and Thrill by Nancy Frey, John Hattie, Douglas Fisher.  

Below is our agenda for the April meeting where we have begun to grapple with growing our understanding together.

As a team of teachers representing all grade-levels at our school, we chose to analyze student work together and hold a norming meeting to explore and learn one way to help our grade-level teams calibrate and clarify expectations around collaboration and citizenship.

To ensure that all voices were heard, we started with quiet reading time to preview the draft of the learning progressions.  As we did last month,  we used a Google form (shown below) to record everyone’s initial thinking around the level of work based on the drafted learning progressions for Working Cooperatively and Displays Respect.

The artifact, in this case, was a two minute video that offers a glimpse of partner work. (The video is not shared in this post, but a screen shot of one second is shown below.)

Using the Google form continues to be critically important. Everyone’s initial thinking was made visible to the team. Look at the results from our initial thinking.

As you can see, we were all over the place in our interpretation of the meaning and expectations described in our learning progressions.

As a team of assessment leaders, we had anticipated this result. You can see how this might be problematic for students in different sections with different teachers, right?

High-functioning teams that focus on learning must calibrate their understanding of what is essential to learn so that all students are assessed fairly and equitably.

What happened next was nothing short of magical.

First, we discussed our leveling with one partner to explain our reasoning and understanding. It was quiet, calm, and intense.  As partners listened to each other, different interpretations and points of view were represented.  When enough time passed, we returned to the whole group setting and discussed. Again, magical! Everyone confidently shared their initial level assessment and then spoke of how their understanding was shifted by discussing it with someone else.

Then, we took time for individual reflection and leveled the same artifact again, based on our developing common assessment. Just look at the results.

Closer, so much closer to common understanding.

To hone our skills and understanding, we used the same two learning progressions for Works Cooperatively and Displays Respect using video from a different grade level. (The video is not shared in this post, but a screen shot of one second is shown below.)

Again, more closely aligned understanding.

What can be gained when all ideas are made visible to the entire team? How might we learn and grow together by sharing our thinking, seeking feedback, and calibrating with our team?

How do your school’s teams calibrate expectations, shared values, and common understanding?

What actions will we take to become stronger and clearer as a team?


Frey, Nancy, et al. Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners, Grades K-12: Maximizing Skill, Will, and Thrill. Corwin Literacy, 2018.

#TrinityLearns Leading Learners to Level Up as a TEAM (#LL2LU)

As a team, how are we united (aligned) in our understanding and assessment of learning?  How might we grow our assessment literacy, understanding, and actions to focus on learning, assign competence, and empower learners to become agents of learning?

Under the leadership of Thomas Benefield (@yerlifeguard) and Becky Holden (@BHolden86), Trinity School’s Assessment Committee made a commitment to read and take action on Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners, Grades K-12: Maximizing Skill, Will, and Thrill by Nancy Frey, John Hattie, Douglas Fisher.  The committee has met approximately once a month to study, discuss, and learn more about growing our young learners as capable, independent, self-correcting, and self-reliant learners.  

Below is our agenda for the March meeting where we have begun to grapple with growing our understanding together.

As a team of teachers representing all grade-levels at our school, we chose to analyze student work together and hold a norming meeting to explore and learn one way to help our grade-level teams calibrate and clarify expectations.

To ensure that all voices were heard, we started with quiet reading time and used a Google form (shown below) to record everyone’s initial thinking around the level of work based on the given learning progressions for Making Thinking Visible and Using Text Evidence.  

Screen Shot 2019-04-10 at 7.18.23 PM

Using the Google form was critically important. Everyone’s initial thinking was made visible to the team. Look at the results from our initial thinking.

As you can see, we were all over the place in our interpretation of the meaning and expectations described in our learning progressions.  It was eye-opening.

As a team of assessment leaders, we had anticipated this result. You can see how this might be problematic for students in different sections with different teachers, right?

High-functioning teams that focus on learning must calibrate their understanding of what is essential to learn so that all students are assessed fairly and equitably.

What happened next was nothing short of magical.

First, we discussed our leveling with one partner to explain our reasoning and understanding. It was quiet, calm, and intense.  As partners listened to each other, different interpretations and points of view were represented.  When enough time passed, we returned to the whole group setting and discussed. Again, magical! Everyone confidently shared their initial level assessment and then spoke of how their understanding was shifted by discussing it with someone else.

What can be gained when all ideas are made visible to the entire team? How might we learn and grow together by sharing our thinking, seeking feedback, and calibrating with our team?

How do your school’s teams calibrate expectations, shared values, and common understanding?


Frey, Nancy, et al. Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners, Grades K-12: Maximizing Skill, Will, and Thrill. Corwin Literacy, 2018.

Focus on Learning: Establish Mathematics Goals to Focus Learning

Worry in her beautiful, tired, sad eyes communicates so much. Strain across her face makes my heart ache. As we sit down for coffee with our children playing nearby, she blurts, “I don’t know how to make myself clearer, Jill. They just don’t, won’t, can’t – I don’t know – get it!” I sigh into my coffee which causes steam to fog up my glasses, and she laughs through her tears.  

Knowing that I am an evidence-interested educator, she pulls out her unit plans for me to see and offer feedback. “You were in our class yesterday. What I can I do better…? How do I help them learn?” Love and concern for her students is evident in her thoughtfulness, craftsmanship, and design.

I was in this class yesterday and had been for many days of the unit. I go again and again, because I am learning from her and with her students. This strong, organized, empathetic teacher is, in fact, a very good teacher.  

“What if we take your teaching up a level to a stronger focus on learning? Let’s look at the output that is causing you this worry and stress. Together, can we look at their work and identify what they, in your words, ‘just don’t, won’t, can’t’ do?’ And then, what if we establish mathematics goals to focus learning for you and your students?”

Sitting there on the bank of the Chattahoochee, occasionally interrupted, joyfully, by a toddler that needed to show us a valuable rock or other important discovery, we combed through student work. Outpouring concern and frustration, she talked about each learner, their strengths, and what surprised her about what they did not understand. I listened in awe of what she knew about her students in granular detail, and what she thought they knew but didn’t really. My notes highlighted every success she saw and the joy and pride she felt with every success.

How might we shift her work to increase the amount of success for her and her students? How might we empower learners to take action, self-assess, and ask questions early and often to improve their understanding and communication? What if we take what we just learned about her class and level it out to make her expectations and her thinking visible?

We found four categories or groupings:

  1. As soon I as finish explaining the task, they are all over me, Jill. They have no idea what to do or are too scared to get started. They want me to hold their hand. They are not empowered or safe enough to try.” They are splashing around in the shallow end, maybe even thrashing.
  2. They started, but cannot think flexibly when their first attempt gets them nowhere. They will not hear feedback or collaborate to think differently. They just shut down.
  3. “They are happily working along and find success.” They are willing to work in the pool, but need support build around them to know this is a safe, brave space to draft and redraft to think and learn. Mistakes are opportunities to learn; they do not define you.
  4. “They are first and fast and successful. They want and need more. I want to deepen and connect their learning, not broaden it.” They are willing to dive into the deep end confidently to explore new connections and representations.

This hard, important work helped us gain clarity about what is essential to learn in her classroom. Articulating frustration points as well as success points during her analysis of learning in her classroom revealed and organized a path for communication of learning intentions.

How might we empower and embolden our learners to ask the questions they need to ask by improving the ways we communicate and assess?

What if we make our thinking visible to our learners? What if we display learning progressions in our learning space to show a pathway for learners?

Great teachers lead us just far enough down a path so we can challenge for ourselves.  They provide just enough insight so we can work toward a solution that makes us, makes me want to jump up and shout out to the world, makes me want to step to the next higher level. Great teachers somehow make us want to ask the questions that they want us to answer, overcome the challenge that they, because they are our teacher, believe we need to overcome. (Lichtman, 20 pag.)

We want every learner in our care to be able to say

I can make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.  (CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP1)

But, as a learner…What if I think I can’t? What if I’m stuck? What if I feel lost, confused, or discouraged? How might we offer a pathway for success? What if we provide cues to guide learners and inspire interrogative self-talk?

NCTM’s recent publication, Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All, calls us to support productive struggle in learning mathematics. How do we encourage our students to keep struggling when they encounter a challenging task? They are accustomed to giving up when they can’t solve a problem immediately and quickly. How do we change the practice of how our students learn mathematics?

How might we coach our learners in to asking more questions? Not just any questions – targeted questions. What if we coach and develop the skill of questioning self-talk?

Interrogative self-talk, the researchers say, “may inspire thoughts about autonomous or intrinsically motivated reasons to pursue a goal.” As ample research has demonstrated, people are more likely to act, and to perform well, when the motivations come from intrinsic choices rather than from extrinsic pressures.  Declarative self-talk risks bypassing one’s motivations. Questioning self-talk elicits the reasons for doing something and reminds people that many of those reasons come from within.” (Pink, 103 pag.)

Our coffee is cold and our children have lost interest in playing together. As we wrap up our reflection, feedback, and planning session, we agree to experiment the next week with her students. How might the work and learning change if we make a pathway for self-assessment and self-talk visible to the learners?

We plan to post #LL2LU SMP-1:  I can make sense of problems and persevere in solving them in the classroom and on the tables for easy reference.  Our immediate learning goal for the students is to make sense and persevere, to ask clarifying questions and try again, to show thinking for clarity and questioning, and to find multiple ways to solutions and find connections.

Excellent teachers think hard about when they will present the learning intention. They don’t just set the learning intentions early in the lesson and then forget about them. They refer to these intentions throughout instruction, keeping students focused on what it is they’re supposed to learn. (Hattie, 55-56 pag.)


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

Leinwand, Steve. Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All. Reston, VA.: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2014. (p. 21) Print.

Lichtman, Grant, and Sunzi. The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School. New York: IUniverse, 2008. Print.

Pink, Daniel H. (2012-12-31). To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others. Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

 

I can establish mathematics goals to focus learning #NCTMP2A #LL2LU

We strive to grow in our understanding of the Eight Mathematics Teaching Practices from NCTM’s Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All. This research-informed framework of teaching and learning reflects a core set of high leverage practices and essential teaching skills necessary to promote deep learning of mathematics.

Establish mathematics goals to focus learning.

Effective teaching of mathematics establishes clear goals for the mathematics that students are learning, situates goals within learning progressions, and uses the goals to guide instructional decisions.

In order to support our teaching teams as they stretch to learn more, we drafted the following learning progressions. We choose to provide a couple of pathways to focus teacher effort, understanding, and action.

When working with teacher teams to establish mathematics goals to focus learning, we refer to 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions by Peg Smith and Mary Kay Stein and Visible Learning for Mathematics, Grades K-12: What Works Best to Optimize Student Learning by John Hattie, Douglas Fisher, and Nancy Frey along with Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All by Steve Leinwand.

To deepen our understanding around establishing mathematics goals, we anticipate, connect to prior knowledge, explain the mathematics goals to learners, and teach learners to use these goals to self-assess and level up.

From  NCTM’s 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions, 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.

Once prior knowledge is activated, students can make connections between their knowledge and the lesson’s learning intentions. (Hattie, 44 pag.)

To strengthen our understanding of using mathematics goals to focus learning, we make the learning goals visible to learners, ask assessing and advancing questions to empower students, and listen and respond to support learning and leveling up.

Excellent teachers think hard about when they will present the learning intention. They don’t just set the learning intentions early in the lesson and then forget about them. They refer to these intentions throughout instruction, keeping students focused on what it is they’re supposed to learn. (Hattie, 55-56 pag.)

How might we continue to deepen and strengthen our ability to advance learning for every learner?

What if we establish mathematics learning goals to focus learning?

Cross posted on Easing The Hurry Syndrome


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

Leinwand, Steve. Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All. Reston, VA.: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2014. (p. 21) Print.

Stein, Mary Kay., and Margaret Smith. 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

High-purpose environment. Teacher clarity. Touchpoints of praise.

I wait patiently for my turn.

Carrots. Beep. Doritos. Beep. Milk. Beep.

Donned in her green Publix smock, she makes eye contact and small talk with the customer ahead of me as she swipes items across the reader.

Hamburger. Beep. Kale. Beep. Beep. Beep.

She says, “That will be forty-two. twenty-eight” Wincing, she shook her head and said, “No, no wait! It is twenty-eight forty-two.” Smiling sheepishly, she blushes and says “Ugh! I just hate numbers.” The customer, patient and kind, concludes her business at the register and goes on about her way.

I cannot stop myself. Why can’t I stop myself from attempting to put salve on the raw wound that someone else – knowingly or unknowingly – has inflected on this poor young woman? I hear my internal voice say, “You don’t have to fix this. You really can’t fix this. You did not do this.”

I know I should stop myself. I cannot. I softly say, “So I’m a math teacher. It is easy to mix numbers up. Don’t worry.”

And then it happens… again. It breaks my heart a little more every time. Though it is not unexpected, I brace myself for what is coming.

She takes a deep breath. In a painful blurt, she replies, “I did so many posters just so I could pass.  She decided that was never going to ‘do’ math well, so she let me create bulletin boards and cut out letters in order to pass. I just hate it. Math was never my thing. Early, we knew that I could not do it, and we created workarounds so I could pass and graduate.”

So then, as always, I apologize for her terrible experience.

I am so sorry.

I am so sorry that any child is led to believe they cannot be successful at math – the language, art, and communication tool that is my love and passion.

I am so sorry that any child is led to believe they cannot be successful.

I seethe inside that any teacher would “extra credit” a child out of learning.

High-purpose environments are filled with small, vivid signals designed to create a link between the present moment and a future ideal. They provide the two simple locators that every navigation process requires: Here is where we are and Here is where we want to go. The surprising thing, from a scientific point of view, is how responsive we are to this pattern of signaling. (Coyle, 180 pag.)

Teachers need to determine the gap between students’ current level of performance or understanding and the expected level of mastery. (Hattie, 66 pag.)

If someone received just three or more touchpoints, or instances, of praise in a single quarter, their performance score in the next review period significantly increased. If they received four or more touchpoints of praise or recognition in a quarter, the retention rate increased to 96 percent over the next year. (Achor, Kindle Locations 1766-1768.)

How might we create more classrooms that are high-purpose environments where teacher clarity empowers learners to close gaps between what is known and what is needed?  What if we highlight what is going well to create touch points of praise to embolden learners to reach for a next level?

CULTURE: from the Latin cultus, which means care.


Achor, Shawn. Big Potential: How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being (Kindle Locations 1766-1768). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Coyle, Daniel. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups (Kindle Locations 2378-2380). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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

Notice success, celebrate multiple milestones, level up

Learning intentions are more than just statements to convey to students what the learning is composed of; they are a means for building positive relationships with students. (Hattie, 48 pag.)

It is what I didn’t notice.  The bell rang. As always, I heard a chorus of “Thank you, Ms. Gough. Bye, Ms. Gough.” It was normal practice – and a much appreciated practice – for my students to say thank you and goodbye as they left for their next class.

I thought to myself “what a great class, everything went well, and they are so nice.” I busied myself straightening my desk, organizing paper, and mentally listing off the things I needed to do before my next class rolled in.  Eat lunch was at the top of the list.

Then, I sensed it. I was not alone.  It is what I didn’t notice.  There she sat, so still, except for the river of tears falling out of her beautiful, sad, green eyes. The river ran off the desk and pooled on the floor. “What is wrong?” I asked as I sat down beside her.

As I gently placed my hand on her arm, her shoulders began to shake as she said “I f..f..f..failed!” Whoosh, another flood of tears.

Now, she had not failed from my point of view. Her test score, damp as her test was now, showed a grade of 92 – an A.  And yet, she deeply felt a sense of failure.  As we sat together and looked at her work, we discovered that there was one key essential learning – in fact, a prerequisite skill – that caused her to stubble.

Tears, still streaming down her face, she said “I don’t know where I’m going wrong. I don’t miss this in class, but on the test, I fall apart.”

The point is to get learners ready to learn the new content by giving their brains something to which to connect their new skill or understanding. (Hattie, 44 pag.)

So, of course, the stumbling block for this sweet child is a known pain point for learners who master procedures without conceptual understanding.  Consistently, she expanded a squared binomial by “distributing” the exponent – a known pitfall. #petpeeve

When our learners do not know what to do, how do we respond? What actions can we take – will we take – to deepen learning, empower learners, and to make learning personal?

Kamb’s insight was that, in our lives, we tend to declare goals without intervening levels. We declare that we’re going to “learn to play the guitar.” We take a lesson or two, buy a cheap guitar, futz around with simple chords for a few weeks. Then life gets busy, and seven years later, we find the guitar in the attic and think, I should take up the guitar again. There are no levels. Kamb had always loved Irish music and had fantasized about learning to play the fiddle. So he co-opted gaming strategy and figured out a way to “level up” toward his goal:

Level 1: Commit to one violin lesson per week, and practice 15 minutes per day for six months.

Level 2: Relearn how to read sheet music and complete Celtic Fiddle Tunes by Craig Duncan.

Level 3: Learn to play “Concerning Hobbits” from The Fellowship of the Ring on the violin.

Level 4: Sit and play the fiddle for 30 minutes with other musicians.

Level 5: Learn to play “Promontory” from The Last of the Mohicans on the violin.

BOSS BATTLE: Sit and play the fiddle for 30 minutes in a pub in Ireland.

Isn’t that ingenious? He’s taken an ambiguous goal—learning to play the fiddle—and defined an appealing destination: playing in an Irish pub. Better yet, he invented five milestones en route to the destination, each worthy of celebration. Note that, as with a game, if he stopped the quest after Level 3, he’d still have several moments of pride to remember. (Heath, 163-164 pgs.)

What if I’d made my thinking visible?

What if I’d connected this learning to how 3rd graders are taught multiplication of two digit numbers by decomposing into tens and ones.  What if I’d connected this learning to how 3rd graders are also taught to draw area models to visualize the distributive property?

What if I’d shared my thinking and intentionally connected prior learning in levels?

By using Kamb’s level-up strategy, we multiply the number of motivating milestones we encounter en route to a goal. That’s a forward-looking strategy: We’re anticipating moments of pride ahead. But the opposite is also possible: to surface those milestones you’ve already met but might not have noticed. (Heath, 165 pag.)

How might we help our learners level up, experience success at several motivating milestones, and notice successes that might otherwise go unnoticed?

By multiplying milestones, we transform a long, amorphous race into one with many intermediate “finish lines.” As we push through each one, we experience a burst of pride as well as a jolt of energy to charge toward the next one. (Heath, 176 pag.)

Taken together, these practices make learning visible to students who understand they are under the guidance of a caring and knowledgeable teacher who is invested in their success. (Hattie, 48 pag.)


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

Heath, Chip. The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact. Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.