Here we are! Mid-April is slipping past and conversations are beginning to turn towards summer. At the same time, the weather in Kenya is heading in a direction opposite of what I am accustomed to experiencing. It’s getting cold! Will the change in season help me finish the year strong by tricking my mind to think that the year is still in full swing? We shall see…The school is asking a reflection of the year to happen now – I guess they want me to start packing my bags! – so here it goes.
A new school. A new home. A new group of students. And some new tweaks to the flow in my classroom. This year, I embraced many of the components of Peter Liljedahl’s Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics and my teaching journey centered around thinking about the changes and how they’ve played out with this group of students. I documented the year’s journey through a series of posts:
- PLJ Goals: My How, Why and What
- Tweak 1 – Reclaim the Markers
- Toolkit 1
- Challenge in Flow
- Midyear Check
- What are the kids saying? (Reflections on Conferences)
- Why do I/we continue to do things the same way
- Following Up – Is there a way to do it better?
- Baby Steps Forward
Students recently finished taking a standardized test in mathematics and I view results as an opportunity to pause and reflect. In my opinion, the test was offered about a month too early for a full measure of growth but that’s ok…this reflections seems a bit early as well! I wasn’t overly happy with the results and had expected more growth. Yes, there are a multitude of factors that I could attempt to analyze and describe but most will not aid in my own pursuit of growth. My response is centered around the question of What can I do better next time? That’s the joy of teaching! ‘Next time’ rolls around in a few months so get better.
1. Incorporate thin-slicing as a skill builder from the beginning of the year.
The standarized test is essentially a measure of skills. So, a tweak is to bring in skills-based aspects. During the second semester, I began to get a handle on ‘thin-slicing’ routines as described in BTC. I see these as powerful routines to build and reinforce skills. At the start of the year, I shied away from thin-slicing as I leaned towards a higher concentration of problem solving tasks.
2. Provide additional in-class time for individual practice.
I wrote about challenges in the flow of the classroom in this post and continued to tweak it throughout the year. I believe that one fix is external – more class time will become available next year. At the same time, more dedicated individual practice is needed. I leaned heavily on Exit Tickets at the beginning and am planning to balance the time with individual practice that lives in the notebooks of students. Even if exit tickets are given, more individual practice is needed.
Consolidation. Yes. This is an area where I struggled. In a few instances I felt good about how lessons were wrapped up but I was often left feeling like it could have been done better. This will be a great focus next year with the tips of keeping it to 5 minutes and ‘consolidating from the bottom’.
3. Notes to my Future Self
This ebbed and flowed throughout the year. I began the year using the OpenSciEd framework of posing a question and having students respond in text, picture/model and examples but when I hopped onto the BTC wagon I somehow dropped this format. What I like about it is that the response was open for students to reply as they see fit (i.e. notes to themselves, not me!). At the same time, there was a bit more guidance in what the students are writing about. Return to this.
The above are tweaks to delivery and flow in the classroom. I’ve also written about a few changes to sequence and also the need to incorporate more projects into class. The visual below is one from Robert Kaplinsky that I like and want to play around with more next year.
The figure is not drawn to scale and is one that can continually change depending on the unit; however, the key question holds true. How can I weave procedural fluency, conceptual understanding and meaningful application through a unit? This is a balance to work with and one that I’m excited for next year. My year’s experience with BTC has provided a good framework for procedural fluency (thin-slicing), conceptual understanding (rich tasks and other problems on the whiteboards) and now I need to bring back projects.
Other items to do for next year (this is a list that will likely grow and grow and….)
- ISK uses a framework of Habits of Learning. I need to be specific about the link between mathematics class and the “HOLs”. Peter Liljedahl’s research led to three competencies that rise to the top time after time: perseverance, willingness to take risks, ability to collaborate. What if I focused on these three, taught into them and regularly assessed / student self-assess these items?
- Be more regular on biweekly parent reflection letters. This also needs to have continuous reflection on how students are learning skills. Are they confident and working or unsure but not putting in effort / seeking assistance?
- Unit Projects: are there links to other departments for an ‘umbrella type project’?
- Kick off the year! What are the great non-curricular tasks that I will use next year to hook students?