Tag Archives: The Talent Code

Mentor Sentence: Notice, Emulate, Learn #LL2LU

As part of our Embolden Your Inner Writer course, Marsha and I drafted a learning progression for each chapter to help our writers when they feel stuck or need a push. However, these are just drafts. In order to feel confident, to have the courage to use them, we must use them ourselves, share them with learners, and seek feedback.

I’m trying out the following learning progression for Anderson’s chapter on Models, Chapter 2.

I can strengthen my craft, word choice, and mechanics by applying techniques from models and mentor texts.

Enamored with Daniel Coyle’s writing, I picked up my copy of The Talent Code, and found the following sentence.

The goal is always the same: to break a skill into its component pieces (circuits), memorize those pieces individually, then link them together in progressively larger groupings (new, interconnected circuits). [Coyle, 84 pag.]

Noticing the colon, I wondered if I am skilled at using them, knowing when to use them, and using them correctly.  (Ok…I’m not, but what can I learn?)

Another  Coyle book, The Culture Codeoffers this gem using a colon.

One pattern was immediately apparent: The most successful projects were those closely driven by sets of individuals who formed what Allan called “clusters of high communicators.”[Coyle, 69 pag.]

And, in 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Knowour anchor text,

Students need to know the truth: writing is cumulative. [Anderson, 9 pag.]

If I read and observe how these authors use a colon, I think I can use it myself to imitate the great writers.

Perseverance calls for action: show an attempt to think and question, ask and seek clarifying questions, try again with new information and actions.

What do you think?

I’m not sure I “read like a writer” as stated in Level 1, but I annotated well. I could find sentences that helped me think about using a colon. Maybe I read more like a writer than I thought. Hey, that’s one of the tips!  Then, I collected and recorded examples to imitate as suggested in Level 2. Curiosity caused me to want to know more.  I have asked questions, and I love how Jeff Anderson, in Mechanically Inclined, offers notes and a visual.

And, then…boom! I was struggling with a sentence in my previous post when it dawned on me: Use a colon! Here’s what I wrote:

The editor in my head – no, not the editor – the critic in my head convinces me to wait: wait until I know, wait for someone else, wait.

While I think I’m currently at Level 3 (maybe Level 4 when I press publish), I have more to learn and more work to do to be confident that “I can strengthen my craft, word choice, and mechanics by applying techniques from models and mentor texts.”

I do have the courage to continue.


Anderson, Jeff. 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know. Stenhouse Publishers, 2011.

Anderson, Jeff, Vicki Spandel. Mechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage, and Style into Writer’s Workshop. Kindle Edition.

Coyle, Daniel. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Coyle, Daniel. The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Coyle, Daniel. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Fear of imperfection; deep practice; just make a mark

Do you know any learner’s that are stuck?  Are they convinced that they can’t?

“Fear of imperfection keeps us perched on the edge, afraid to dive in and start writing. If we sit and wait for the perfect words, they don’t come. Inertia sets in. Our mind halts. The clock slows. Much like hesitating at the edge of the ocean, afraid of the shock of cold, we wait. And in waiting, our anxiety spins.” (Anderson, 9 pag.)

Hesitating at the edge, afraid, we wait. How might we develop brave, bold learners who wonder – on paper – what they are thinking so that they might see it? What do we do to overcome the fear of the blank page? This fear, as real as it seems, is just a doodle away from getting your feet wet, right? The editor in my head – no, not the editor; the critic in my head convinces me to wait: wait until I know, wait for someone else, wait. What force is needed to overcome inertia? Is it just as simple as a doodle?

Are math and writing this closely related? Wow! Far too many students will not write the first step in math because they are not sure if they are going to be right? If they are going to be right, are they learning anything?

In Daniel Coyle’s “The Talent Code,” he writes about deep practice, working at the edge of your ability so that you make mistakes, learn, and repeat.

Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways — operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes — makes you smarter.  (Coyle, 18 pag.)

The second reason deep practice is a strange concept is that it takes events that we normally strive to avoid —namely, mistakes— and turns them into skills. (Coyle, 20 pag.)

In SMP-1, “I can make sense of tasks and persevere in solving them,” the first level asks for a visible attempt to think and reason into the task.

Are our young mathematicians and writers stuck due to inertia? Is it blank page fright? Is there space in class to draft and redraft, making revisions as you go? Are missteps celebrated and seen as opportunities to learn?

How can we help students dive – or tiptoe – in to get their feet wet? What if encourage learners to just make a mark and see where it takes them?

It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time… or does it?


Anderson, Jeff. 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know. Stenhouse Publishers, 2011.

Coyle, Daniel. The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Reynolds, Peter H. The Dot. Library Ideas, LLC, 2019.

#SlowMath – Looking for Structure and Noticing Regularity in Repeated Reasoning from @jwilson828 & @jgough #NCTMAnnual

At the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference in Washington D. C., Jennifer Wilson (@jwilson828) and I presented the following session.

#SlowMath – Looking for Structure
and Noticing Regularity in Repeated Reasoning
4:30 PM – 5:30 PM
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 145 AB

How do we provide opportunities for students to learn to use structure and repeated reasoning? What expressions, equations, and diagrams require making what isn’t pictured visible? Let’s engage in tasks where making use of structure and repeated reasoning can provide an advantage and think about how to provide that same opportunity for students.

Here’s my sketch note of our plan:

Here’s our slide deck:

Cross posted on The Slow Math Movement

Deep Practice: Building Conceptual Understanding in the Middle Grades

2017 NCSM Annual Conference
Deep Practice: Building Conceptual Understanding
in the Middle Grades
Jill Gough, Jennifer Wilson

How might we attend to comprehension, accuracy, flexibility, and then efficiency? What if we leverage technology to enhance our learners’ visual literacy and make connections between words, pictures, and numbers? We will look at new ways of using technology to help learners visualize, think about, connect and discuss mathematics. Let’s explore how we might help young learners productively struggle instead of thrashing around blindly.

Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways — operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes — makes you smarter. Or to put it a slightly different way, experiences where you’re forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them —as you would if you were walking up an ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go— end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it. (Coyle, 18 pag.)

The second reason deep practice is a strange concept is that it takes events that we normally strive to avoid —namely, mistakes— and turns them into skills. (Coyle, 20 pag.)

This term productive struggle captures both elements we’re after: we want students challenged and learning. As long as learners are engaged in productive struggle, even if they are headed toward a dead end, we need to bite our tongues and let students figure it out. Otherwise, we rob them of their well-deserved, satisfying, wonderful feelings of accomplishment when they make sense of problems and persevere. (Zager, 128 pag.)


Coyle, Daniel. The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. (p. 18-20). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Zager, Tracy. Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had: Ideas and Strategies from Vibrant Classrooms. Portland, ME.: Stenhouse Publishers, 2017. (pp. 128-129) Print.

Productive struggle with deep practice – what do experts say

NCTM’s publication, Principles to Action, in the Mathematics Teaching Practices, calls us to support productive struggle in learning mathematics. How do we encourage our students to keep struggling when they encounter a challenging task? How many learners 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?

Effective teaching not only acknowledges the importance of both conceptual understanding and procedural fluency but also ensures that the learning of procedures is developed over time, on a strong foundation of understanding and the use of student-generated strategies in solving problems. (Leinwand, 46 pag.)

Low floor, high ceiling tasks allow all students to access ideas and take them to very high levels. Fortunately, [they] are also the most engaging and interesting math tasks, with value beyond the fact that they work for students of different prior achievement levels. (Boaler, 115 pag.)

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. (Hattie, 136 pag.)

Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways — operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes — makes you smarter.  (Coyle, 18 pag.)

Or to put it a slightly different way, experiences where you’re forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them —as you would if you were walking up an ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go— end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it. (Coyle, 18 pag.)

The second reason deep practice is a strange concept is that it takes events that we normally strive to avoid —namely, mistakes— and turns them into skills. (Coyle, 20 pag.)

We need to give students the opportunity to develop their own rich and deep understanding of our number system.  With that understanding, they will be able to develop and use a wide array of strategies in ways that make sense for the problem at hand. (Flynn, 8 pag.)

…help students slow down and really think about problems rather than jumping right into solving them. In making this a routine approach to solving problems, she provided students with a lot of practice and helped them develop a habit of mind for reading and solving problems. (Flynn, 8 pag.)

This term productive struggle captures both elements we’re after:   we want students challenged and learning. As long as learners are engaged in productive struggle, even if they are headed toward a dead end, we need to bite our tongues and let students figure it out. Otherwise, we rob them of their well-deserved, satisfying, wonderful feelings of accomplishment when they make sense of problems and persevere. (Zager, 128-129 ppg.)

Encourage students to keep struggling when they encounter a challenging task.  Change the practice of how our students learn mathematics.

Let’s not rob learners of their well-deserved, satisfying, wonderful feelings of accomplishment when they make sense of problems and persevere.


Boaler, Jo. Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching (p. 115). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Coyle, Daniel. The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. (p. 20). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Flynn, Michael, and Deborah Schifter. Beyond Answers: Exploring Mathematical Practices with Young Children. Portland, ME: Stenhouse, 2017. (p. 8) Print.

Hattie, John A. (Allan); Fisher, Douglas B.; Frey, Nancy, Visible Learning for Mathematics, Grades K-12: What Works Best to Optimize Student Learning (Corwin Mathematics Series) (p. 136). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

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

Zager, Tracy. Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had: Ideas and Strategies from Vibrant Classrooms. Portland, ME.: Stenhouse Publishers, 2017. (pp. 128-129) Print.

Deep practice: building conceptual understanding in the middle grades

Deep practice:
building conceptual understanding in the middle grades
2017 T³™ International Conference
Friday, March 10, 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Dusable, West Tower, Third Floor
Jill Gough
Jennifer Wilson

How might we attend to comprehension, accuracy, flexibility and then efficiency? What if we leverage technology to enhance our learners’ visual literacy and make connections between words, pictures and numbers? We will look at new ways of using technology to help learners visualize, think about, connect and discuss mathematics. Let’s explore how we might help young learners productively struggle instead of thrashing around blindly.

[Cross posted at Easing The Hurry Syndrome]

Growth mindset = effort + new strategies and feedback

What if we press forward in the face of resistance?

For me, the most frustrating moments happen when a learner says to me I already know how do this, and I can’t learn another way.
Me:  Can’t or don’t want to? Can’t yet?

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.)

What if we offer a pathway for learners to help others learn, and at the same time, learn new strategies?

What if we deem the following as essential to learn?

I can demonstrate flexibility by showing what I know more than one way.

I can construct a viable argument, and I can critique the reasoning of other.

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 provide pathways to target the struggles to learn new strategies, to construct a viable argument, and to critique the reasoning of others?

MathFlexibility #LL2LU

ConstructViableArgument

What if we press forward in the face of resistance and offer our learners who already know how to do this pathways to grow and learn?

How might we lead learners to level up?


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

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