As an instructional coach this past year, I had the privilege of visiting other buildings in our district, particularly elementary classrooms. Visiting these classrooms was one of the best thing all year about being an instructional coach. Elementary teachers are rockstars when it comes to classroom management, routines and structures to keep students engaged, and meeting the needs of all their students. I have learned so much from elementary teachers.
This past year our building (an 8-9 middle school) focused its learning in MTSS around student engagement. Our district uses innovation configuration maps to center our professional development. The maps move from right to left with Learning on the far right and Established on the left to indicate progression toward mastering the art of teaching (by the way – something we’ll never do). Here is a snapshot of part of the map we used this year:
Something to keep in mind – these maps were written for K-12 teachers and obviously a kindergarten teacher and a 12th grade teacher have much different needs in their classrooms; however, this is a guideline for maximizing student engagement (And because I’m a huge Pirates of the Caribbean fan … From Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl – Barbossa: First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement so I must do nothing. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the pirate’s code to apply and you’re not. And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules. )
If you noticed, an Established teacher will use student-centered learning opportunities daily, small group instruction daily, and whole group instruction sparingly. This is a rather tall order – but I set out to try it and here’s why.
We adopted a new resource 3 years ago. We also accelerated all 8th graders to Algebra 1 during the year. The resource we adopted was CPM which is a whole new way of teaching math. CPM and I didn’t hit it off very well. It has a “do it our way” mentality and I’m a rebel and don’t always want to do it the way someone tells me to do it. However, I love the problems in CPM. They’re great for getting students to talk and explore and discover the wonderful math things. The structure – however – doesn’t always work for my students, and I wondered how I might implement CPM and the workshop model together. The following is what I came up with.
BIG DISCLAIMER – I am not claiming to be an expert on this topic. I do not claim that this is the best way, only way, etc. What worked for me, may not work for you. I’m not claiming that everyone should do it this way. This was an experiment that ended up working from time to time.
Here’s a picture of how I set up my classroom for this:
There are 3 main station areas –
- Independent practice – desks are set up in 2’s in rows.
- Group work – desks are arranged in 4’s
- Teacher table work.
When I run a workshop, here are the components:
- Mini-lesson whole group
- Small group instruction with the teacher
- Student-centered learning opportunities (independent practice and group work)
- Metacognitive opportunities for students
- Formative assessment
- FA response
Here is a lesson I ran for students to learn properties of quadrilaterals. This took about 4 days to complete. Our school has 42 minute class periods and I always have a Do Now that takes the first 5 minutes and have a Final Countdown Google Form for metacognition for the last 2 minutes of class, leaving 35 minutes. I use Musical Cues for the Do NOW, the halfway mark of class, and the Final Countdown. This year the musical cues were Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train for the Do NOW, Livin’ on a Prayer is always my halfway song (it’s a 1-minute clip), and the Final Countdown is the final countdown song for 2 minutes.
The mini-lesson was a reminder of slope – so we watched Slope Dude and remembered how to find slope on a coordinate plane. Students had to use coordinate geometry to discover properties of quadrilaterals using slope and length (distance formula), so we needed to review those topics from Algebra 1.
Small group instruction with me was a mini-lesson on distance formula – we don’t actually use the formula – we just use pythagorean theorem to find the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle on the coordinate plane. I had a guided investigation for them to do this. It was review from their Algebra 1 class (at least it should have been review). I gave specific, targeted instruction for those students who needed the extra scaffold. For others, they worked through it quickly, remembering how to find the length of a segment on the coordinate plane. We also remembered how to find the slope of a line. When they got done with this, they moved on to the following investigations.
The student-centered learning opportunities included Geogebra investigations through GoFormative to find properties of quadrilaterals and independent practice once they had discovered all the properties of the quadrilaterals. They worked in pairs on the Geogebra investigations and mostly on the independent practice as well.
The Geogebra investigations were applets embedded in GoFormative. They were guided by questions that led them to discovering all the properties of a given quadrilateral which they then filled out on a Quadrilateral Toolkit. No memorizing of properties at all. Cause why would we do that to anyone?
The independent practice was then a connection between the algebra on a coordinate plane and the properties of quads.
All of what was just described is in the Hyperdoc found on slide 5 of the Google Slides for the week. I don’t think you’ll be able to look at the GoFormatives but if you go to Geogebra and search for quadrilateral properties – there are a ton of applets and investigations.
For metacognition, each day the students placed their name next to the activity that I had posted on poster paper on the wall. They also filled out our daily Google Form that had them rate their level of comfort and provide a space for them to give me details about where they’re at in their learning. If students weren’t on pace to complete all the tasks by day 4, they worked with me to get on track.
Once I got all the students through the slope and distance algebra skills, I was free to work with students on the investigations. This happened near the end of day 2. The investigations didn’t require students to know the algebra skills. They were merely playing with Geogebra applets and answering questions. The independent practice did require finding slope and length so in order to do those, they had to get through my instruction.
On the fifth day, the students took a formative assessment to gauge their progress on quadrilateral properties. When we came back that Monday, I had a response ready based on their formative data. The response was tiered and students were homogeneously grouped based on their need. Throughout the workshop the four days prior, students had been heterogeneously grouped randomly using Google Sheets to randomize the roster.
This was a rather long workshop because we investigated so many quadrilaterals. I’ve run shorter ones – but the shortest is still a 2-day workshop. One of these days I may get as good as the elementary teachers and run it in one day. That’s my goal.
Also – I do NOT do this all the time. For sure, I run a workshop once a unit. And we (as a Geometry PLC) always have a response to formative assessments.
Again – this is just what has been working for me to meet the needs of students. It’s most definitely not perfect, but I have seen way more engagement from students by using it.
Peace, Love, Math and the Workshop Model –