Professional learning comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes – reading, taking courses, attending series, workshops, presentations, study groups, inquiry communities, twitter, etc. Teachers in our district are fortunate to have a variety of opportunities. In the past few years, there has been “Innovation Grant” money that has been available to schools for the purposes of collaborative professional inquiry. I have worked with many schools on their professional inquiries, with schools often choosing to use these funds to bring in TTOCs so that teachers can meet and plan together.
Kidd Elementary is using their Innovation Grant as a way to extend their work around their school goal which focuses on increasing students’ overall numeracy.
I spent a full day at Kidd in November, discussing with grade group teams of teachers what they noticed and wondered about the assessments they had done with their students and to make some plans as to what they could do next with their students. During the first week of January, the staff at Kidd used some of this release time to have two math days to focus on both their school goal and the focus of their innovation grant project. During these days I taught alongside teachers in their classrooms and then we met in grade group teams to share what we noticed and to set some plans in place that focused on both intentions for student and professional learning.
We began in the kindergarten classroom where the students have been focusing on counting and developing number sense. We read the story Frog in the Bog and asked the students to figure out how many critters were in the frog’s tummy. The students used all sorts of strategies to solve this problem and they enjoyed walking around their classroom and seeing how others had solved it.
In the grade 1 classroom, we read the book Bunny Money during which siblings Max and Ruby have all sorts of money problems. We asked students to think of their own problems that they could pose about money.
In the grades 2&3 classrooms we did Number Talks, focusing on addition building from single digit to two-digit addition. Students shared their strategies, focusing on how to communicate their mathematical thinking. Students then chose a “just right” question to work on in their math journals, from three choices, and then were invited to share their strategies on the board if they wanted to.
In the grades 4&5 classroom, we looked at the concepts involved with multiplication – visual models to understand grouping, repeated addition, multiples and mental math strategies to compute multiplication facts as well as operate with larger numbers through Number Talks. Students then could practice a couple of questions on their own, deepening their understanding of the strategies.
In the grades 5&6 class we looked at the concept of division with larger numbers, making connections to other operations (subtraction and multiplication). It is so important for students to see the connections and relationships between the four operations. Students were then given a choice of questions to practice with – we asked them to solve the questions in at least two different ways to emphasize the importance of fluency and also that there isn’t just “one right way” to do things in math.
In the grades 6&7 classroom, the students had been studying fractions. We introduced them to the “routine” called Which One Doesn’t Belong? The students worked with a partner to discuss the fractional numbers represented and to choose which one didn’t belong and to be prepared to justify their choice. This routine focuses on mathematical thinking, reasoning, analysis, conceptual understanding, justification and an ability to communicate using specific mathematical vocabulary.
We did a short lesson on renaming mixed numbers to improper fractions, discussing different ways to help us think about this concept. The students worked on a couple of practice questions and then worked in small groups to create their own WODB? task – not an easy thing to do and this created much discussion and debate!
As the teachers, principal and I met together, common themes came up between the groups. We noticed the importance of developing common mathematical language for the students to be able to use to communicate with. We also discussed the importance of providing opportunities to for students to talk about math – talk to each other, talk to orally rehearse their thinking and process and talking to share to the whole group. Another aspect that crossed all of the grade groups was the importance of building a numerate culture within the school and community – not just during “math time”.
Big questions came from these discussions – what does it mean to be numerate? what does a culture/community that values numerate citizens look and sound like?
I am looking forward to continuing this inquiry with the Kidd staff!