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**Seattle, WA. [July 16, 2018]**— This weekend, on stage in front of over 1,500 educators at the annual New Tech Conference, Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Getting Smart and Lydia Dobyns, CEO of New Tech Network, launched their new book—Better Together: How to Leverage School Networks for Smarter Personalized and Project-Based Learning. District leaders, Charter schools, principals and teachers aim to improve student outcomes, but old constraints and inadequate tools and supports make it extremely difficult to innovate at scale. The answer is working together in formal and informal networks. That notion and the power of network effect on education inspired Vander Ark and Dobyns to co-author the new resource.

The authors believe that students need to be problem solvers, capable of self-directed learning and demonstrate strong communication and collaboration skills. “Better Together” presents a tour through one of the modern era’s most important educational innovations and provides smart strategies for working together in both formal and informal networks to achieve the promise of high-quality personalized learning for all students.

“Global momentum around deeper, project-based learning is undeniable. There is widespread attention being paid to social and emotional skills which is encouraging and productive and more youth are gaining access to powerful learning in and out of school. The problem is, this stuff is hard to do,” said Vander Ark. “For the most part leaders are making it up on the fly. We can’t and shouldn’t rely on individual teachers building and delivering lessons for diverse groups of learners. If willing and able (and well supported), that’s great, but let’s leverage their work across 100 or 1,000 classrooms” he added.

Taking a “do-it yourself” approach to innovation poses significant challenges. “Better Together” profiles over a dozen school networks and introduces teachers, principals and district leaders who have re-imagined hundreds of schools with the support of networks. The authors also lead readers through:

- Proven learning models for scaled school networks
- The latest innovations for more effective collaborations
- Smart strategies for optimizing the educational network experience

“New Tech Network’s nearly 20 years’ experience is rooted in the belief that to build and sustain innovative schools, districts need to address the whole school ecosystem. One of our foundational beliefs is that schools get better by being part of a community. We think school networks hold the best potential for solving the most complex challenge we face today: closing the opportunity gap for all students, no matter where they live,” said Dobyns.

Vander Ark and Dobyns will be touring the country speaking about the new book. They are also launching a suite of workshops and events around Better Together and how to participate and start networks of your own. To learn more about the book, click here.

**###**

**Media Contact:**

Krista Clark, Director of Communications

707-307-3345

Jessica Slusser, Director of Communications

Getting Smart

253-944-1592

**About New Tech Network**

New Tech Network, a national nonprofit organization, is a leading design partner for comprehensive K-12 school change. We coach teachers and school leaders to inspire and engage all students through authentic and challenging work. The New Tech model combines pervasive project-based learning, an engaging school-wide culture and the real-world use of technology tools and resources. We support the whole school through three key structures: professional development events, coaching, and Echo, the NTN project-based platform.

New Tech Network students consistently outperform national high school graduation and college persistence rates. The network consists of more than 200 schools in 26 states and Australia.

**About Getting Smart**

Getting Smart® is a learning design firm passionate about accelerating and amplifying innovations in learning. Our service division provides advisory, advocacy and design solutions for a network of impact-oriented partners that help people and organizations learn, grow and innovate. Going beyond traditional consulting, our team integrates strategy, thought leadership, advocacy and strategic communications to maximize impact for our partners. Our media channel, GettingSmart.com is a community of learners, leaders and contributors that cover important events, trends, products and publications across K-12, early, post-secondary education and lifelong learning opportunities.

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]]>The post The Power of Us Award appeared first on New Tech Network.

]]>**What is it? **

New Tech Network is offering mini-grants to stimulate more cross-school interaction and collaborative learning/work within the network.

**Why?**

Our hope is to curate, refine and share compelling examples of cross-school collaboration to increase the level of connection between members in the Network. This could be work between schools or between individuals from differing schools.

**How?**

To receive “The Power of Us” mini-grant, you first must go through a brief online application process. You can apply as an individual and ask to be paired with another member of the network (outside of your own school) or you can apply to participate with another member of the network (outside of your own school) if you have one in mind or are currently working with someone on a project.

**What’s Expected? **

The expectation is that two or more people/schools within the network work together to collaborate and learn around a specific idea/topic. It is also expected that this work is shared with others in the Network in some way, shape or form. Ideas for work might be but are not limited to:

-a classroom project

-a whole school project

-work around a specific learning outcome

-building culture

-processes

-assessment

-implementing rubrics

-feedback

-and so much more.

**How Might the Money Be Used? **

Mini-grants will be awarded in the amount of $2000 and can go up to $3,000 if more than two schools are involved, or individuals from more than two schools work together. Monies for this project could possibly be used, but is not limited to:

-travel to an event/conference

-fees for attending

-travel for visiting your teammate

-materials needed for the project

-and more…

**Applications will open in August! **

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]]>The post The Chad Wick Fellowship appeared first on New Tech Network.

]]>In 2018 the award is being relaunched as the Chad Wick Fellowship, designed to recognize and support a cohort five teachers from across the network. New Tech Network will look for teachers who demonstrate/embody the following to be members of the inaugural cohort.

- A desire to grow their knowledge of educational inequity and its manifestations in K-12 public schools
- A desire to increase their capacity to address educational inequity, specifically opportunity gaps, in their local school/community
- A willingness to embrace a leadership/advocacy role as it relates to educational equity in the local school/community and in the New Tech Network

As a cohort, the Chad Wick Fellows will work to…

- Engage in deep learning and thinking educational equity
- Identify strong equity-based practices from around the Network and share/teach those practices with the New Tech Network
- Form a growing community/network of teachers within the New Tech Network who actively work to advance educational equity in their local schools.

**Applications will open soon! **

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]]>The post Why “Better Together” is Just the Beginning appeared first on New Tech Network.

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Parents and educators generally agree on what we want schools to be: places where students become problem solvers, capable of self-directed learning and able to demonstrate strong communication and collaboration skills. We want students to feel safe in their schools and to develop meaningful human connections.

There is, however, a palpable tension in K-12 education: the desire for silver bullet fixes – rapid guaranteed transformation – going up against the realities of the time and difficulty to start and sustain systemic innovation. Why take on the hard work of changing schools? So that schools become really good at supporting individual students, places where students connect with their peers and their community and graduate from high school prepared to pursue paths of their own choosing. We want this for all students in all communities. Traditional ways of teaching and measuring student progress won’t produce these re-imagined student outcomes.

If we want to realize these outcomes for all students, we think we have to go beyond new instructional methods to attend to the opportunity gaps present in the quality of education offered. Furthermore, we think our best shot at dealing with closing the opportunity gap, at scale, is with school networks. Networks can serve as innovation and improvement ‘connective tissue’ so that no classroom, school, or district feels the responsibility to solve this complex and complicated problem by themselves.

Tom Vander Ark and I teamed up to write a new book, “Better Together,” to give voice to the exciting work taking place in school networks around the country. Better Together: How to Leverage School Networks for Smarter Personalized and Project Based Learning provides smart strategies for working together in school networks to achieve the promise of personalized learning for all students. Innovating schools as a “do it yourself” effort is hard to get right, challenging to sustain, and difficult to spread organically grown solutions across a district where they originate. “Better Together” introduces teachers, principals and district leaders who have re-imagined hundreds of public district and charter schools with the support of networks.

School networks—and New Tech Network specifically—are still early in the work to achieve true network effect. As we approach our twenty-year milestone as a national school network, we want to celebrate and urge our network to aspire higher. Our voluntary network of more than 200 schools is noteworthy on many levels (higher graduation rates, higher college persistence rates, demonstrated student growth in critical thinking, across rural, urban and suburban locales; and the vast majority of schools opt to stay in the network over time). However, this is a drop in the bucket when there are 70,000 students in New Tech Network schools and there are 50 million students in elementary and secondary schools in the U.S.

One of New Tech Network’s foundational beliefs is that schools get better by being part of a community. We have just scratched the surface in the potential impact of a vibrant evolving network. With this new book, we hope to give voice to the exciting work in New Tech Network schools around the country. And, while this is hard-earned attention, we believe that now is the time to challenge ourselves, collectively, to define the potential “power of us”.

This week at the New Tech Annual Conference we are asking members of our network: “What could we become? What could we accomplish by working together in deeper ways?” To that end, we will propose a new and larger purpose for our network. We want to shift from what social network parlance calls an “ego-centered network”, where the New Tech school model is the ego, to become a “knowledge ecosystem network” where our shared purpose, our reason to engage in network weaving, centers itself around closing the opportunity gap. This, we suggest, becomes our North Star, our collectively owned mission statement, the overarching reason for our schools to give to, and get from, the network.

Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” We think we have come together (our beginning), we have made great progress (staying together) and that now is the beginning of our true calling as a network. To stand for a goal that is almost certainly unachievable one school at a time. After all, putting the “power of us” into action for all kids speaks to the best in who we are as humans: people who care and act for a higher purpose.

New Tech Network educators: What do you think? Does this excite you? Let’s take advantage of our time together in St. Louis from July 12 – 16, and then keep the momentum going into this next school year. What are your ideas to activate our network aligned to this North Star?

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]]>*This is a post in the ongoing Emergent Math mini-series: Routines, Lessons, Problems, and Projects.*

Ah problems. I have to reveal my bias here: I *love* problems. Problematic problems. Problems are where I honestly cut my teeth as an educator. If you’re reading this blog, might have stumbled across my Problem-Based Learning (more on that specifically in a second) curriculum maps. I’ve blogged about Problem-Based Learning (PrBL) a bit. I’ve learned so much from teachers and math ed bloggers about what makes a good problem, how to facilitate a problem, what kinds of problems are out there. Some of that I’ll share here. Let’s just start with *Problems*.

The questions on voluminous review packets? Not problems. My first resource on problems, problem-based learning, and problem solving is NCTM’s research brief on problem-solving, *Why is teaching with problem solving important to student learning?*(2010). In it, it hints at the “what really is a true problem” question:

Story or word problems often come to mind in a discussion about problem solving. However, this conception of problem solving is limited. Some “story problems” are not problematic enough for students and hence should only be considered exercises for students to perform.

This brings us to my personal, current definition of *Problems: *Problems are complex tasks, not immediately solvable without further knowhow, research, or decoding of the prompt. Problems can take anywhere from one class period to three or four class periods.

So when I say “problems” I mean problems that are genuinely challenging to the problem solver. Even the difficult, toward-the-end-of-the-section questions may not be problematic enough for some students. Also, a problem ought not to be so obtuse or convoluted as to not be accessible for all students. Just because something is *real hard* doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a *problem*. If someone were to challenge me to make the U.S. gymnastics team, I wouldn’t consider that a problem; I’d consider it futility.

I like to think of good math problems like this: a good problem is accessible enough so students a couple grades lower can attempt it, yet challenging enough so students a couple grades above have to think about it. I actually think this of all mathematical tasks, but it’s particularly apropos of problems.

Here’s a good problem (from Illustrative Mathematics):

I like this problem for many reasons. One, it combines two not-often mathematical things: lines and quadratics. In most curricula you have your unit on linear functions and your unit on quadratics. Why aren’t these two things combined more often? I have no idea. Most textbooks presents lines in one unit and quadratics in another, as if they’re in a different universe. It’s like we’re reading a geography textbook about pre-Columbian South America and Europe. But back to our discussion of problems, it’s the confluence of these concepts that makes this such an interesting, challenging, and worthwhile problem.

There’s straight up problems – just give students a prompt and facilitate as you see fit.

There are countless other modes of problems, here are a few.

*Would You Rather? problems*

I’m not sure of John Stevens is the first “would you rather” problem designer, but he certainly codified it with his stellar website. A Would You Rather (WYR) provides students two possible choices and students must decide which one makes more sense to choose: which one is cheaper? which one is better? what deal gives the greatest value? etc.

There are several things that make this format incredibly appealing: 1) Providing students an initial choice naturally facilitates guesses and estimates at the beginning of the problem. 2) Making it a choice makes CCSS.MP3, making arguments and critiquing the reasoning of others, a necessary part of the task. 3) In many cases, either answer may be correct, depending on how it’s interpreted, the desired outcome, or the input variables (in the WYR above, the answer may depend on how far away one is from the airport, how much airport parking is, etc.). And 4) there’s something delightful about the “would you rather” framing. Maybe because it reminds me of the “what’s worse?” scene from *So I Married an Axe Murderer.*

- 3-Act Tasks

Dan Meyer gave us this format years ago and countless of math teachers have built upon it sense. Following the narrative structure of movie, in act 1 the “conflict” is established and we’re drawn into the plot of the movie/problem. In act 2, our hero / students go questing for the solution. In act 3, we come to a resolution.

Most often these act 1’s kick off with a video or picture to pique the interest. What do you notice/wonder? What do you think will happen? In act 2, students will work through the scenario presented in act 1, sometimes provided with additional information or knowhow that might be useful to solve the problem. In act 3, students make their final answer and we come to some sort of resolution (often by playing the last part of the video).

Dan has the most comprehensive list of 3-Acts, but others have followed suit with their own libraries.

I’m sure I’m missing others. Please let me know in the comments who I’ve missed.

Like WYR, there’s something inherently appealing about a narrative structure that we’re already used to. We’ve all seen movies, plays, TV shows, and read books. If you can provide a successful hook, we’ll want to see how the movie ends.

- Just straight up puzzles

While sometimes challenging to align directly to required content, give students mathematical puzzles. NRICH has a great library of puzzle-like maths, or perhaps maths-like puzzles.

And I don’t know if the authors (or you) would consider these puzzles, but I quite enjoy the tasks from Open Middle as puzzle-esque math.

Let’s take a slight birdwalk into the practice of Problem-Based Learning or PrBL. It uses problems as a means to teach new concepts or knowhow. The problem creates a need (and in the best cases, a desire) that requires the intended content knowledge, additional information, or mathematical dispositions.

I suppose in some ways this may not differ much from just giving students the problem and teaching as-needed, as you go. In PrBL there’s an intentionality (and even predictability) with how the problem is posed and how the learning is facilitated (for instance, you prepare the lesson beforehand, rather than just winging it).

*Facilitating a problem*

One of the biggest mistakes teachers make when using Problems for the first time is that they think that by posing a clever enough problem, students will intrinsically work their way through it dilligently, testing out different methods along the way. And to be sure, it’s understandable to think that when you watch a presentation on problem solving in math or participate in a conference session and the participants or audience dilligently work their way through a problem. But here’s the dirty little secret about conference sessions: the audience is entirely composed of adults who are excited about math *and* presenters are showcasing their absolute best problems. It’s easy to present engaging problems as a panacea when the audience is entirely bought in and the presenter gets to cherry pick which problem or lesson he or she gets to present. So it’s easy to walk away from these experiences thinking that – just like in that session – I’ll present this super-cool problem to my students and they’ll collaborate, problem-solve, and stick to it just like at that conference.

It’s never that smooth. Rather than – like Carrie Underwood – letting “Jesus Take the Wheel” – you need to keep your hands on the wheel and your foot on the pedal (and sometimes the brakes as well). Problems should be *facilitated*, not tossed in like a hand grenade. So how do we facilitate a problem?

*Use routines*. The biggest tip I can provide for facilitating problems is something we’ve already covered in this mini-series: **provide routines**. Routines to get started on the problem, routines to facilitate discussion in the middle of a problem, and routines when students are sharing their solutions.

Consider this sample Problem facilitation agenda:

- Introduce the problem
- Facilitate a Notice & Wonder
**routine** - Identify next steps and let students begin working
- 20 minutes later, take a quick problem time out and have groups do a gallery walk
**routine**to see how and what other groups are doing - Give a problem “time in” and have students continue working toward a solution
- After finishing the problem, have students show appreciations to one another via a
**routine**.

One problem, three routines. And who knows? If students are struggling, you may want to hold a small workshop lesson in there as well. We’re starting to see our Routines, Lessons, Problems, and Projects framework become a set of nesting dolls.

*Provide consistent group roles*. Assuming students are working in groups, provide consistent, well-understood group roles.

And – like the problem itself – don’t just provide the group roles and hope for the best, check in with them and how they’re operating. Mix them up. Talk with them.

- “I’d like the Recorder/Reporter from each group to meet with me at the front of the class for five minutes to discuss your progress.”
- “Harmonizers – at this point give one of your teammates a compliment.”
- “I’d like all the Facilitators to swap groups for the next ten minutes.”
- “Resource Monitors – come up with a question as I’m going to go to each group and you can ask me one question.”

Use these roles, don’t just assign them.

*Make Problems the cornerstone of your class*

Quality problems won’t be the most often employed mode of teaching in your class, but make them the essential thing that students *do* in your class. Rich problems make for excellent assessment artifacts. They help teachers find the nooks and crannies of what students can do and know and what gaps in understanding still remain. They foster mathematical habits in a way that lessons and routines often can’t.

To be transparent, part of the reason I began thinking about this mini-series is because I was wrestling with the question: what’s the “right” number of problems to facilitate in a school year? And what are those problems? That’s when I began to think of the music mixing knobs analogy from my intro post.

There are endless ways to facilitate problems – use routines early, often and throughout a problem. Use Problems often and throughout a class. They are the bedrock of your class, and the discipline of mathematics more broadly.

For more information, go to Emergent Math.

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]]>When you think of a math lesson, you probably conjure up an image of a teacher in front of the classroom demonstrating mathematical concepts. While that certainly qualifies as a lesson, I’d like to broaden your mental image. Consider a “lesson” any facilitated activity where students are building or practicing their content knowledge. In addition to our imagined lecture, let’s also consider activities such as card sorts, investigations, practice time, and other structured times in the classroom.

Lessons include any activity that involves transmitting or practicing content knowledge. They can vary from whole class lectures to hands-on manipulative activities.

Lessons probably make up the bulk of your course. Students walk in to your room, you teach them some stuff, the day ends. That’s a lesson. How you teach offers endless possibilities. Let’s look at some of these possibilities.

**The Lecture**

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a lecture. I’d suggest it’s not always the best way to engage students. But oftentimes it is the most *efficient* way to transmit information, provided you are lecturing effectively. How does one lecture effectively? Despite being perhaps the most oft-used instructional approach, little time if any is spent in pre-service teacher programs in how to do lecture well.

Things to consider:

- How will you ensure
*all*students are engaged throughout the lecture, not just an eager few? - What’s the shortest amount of time you could possibly do the talking? Go with that. And maybe subtract a few more minutes.
- Are you incorporating visual elements into your lecture?

When you’re lecturing, you want to stop and prompt discussion often, perhaps every 3 minutes or so. Rather than asking a question and waiting for a student to raise a hand, consider utilizing some of our general discussion routines from the previous post. The more you can make your lecture feel like a conversation the more successful the lecture will be.

When you’re lecturing, try to get students in the mode where they’re talking to one another rather than to you. See this blog post on various lecture models.

Some additional tips for lecturing:

*Start your lecture with pizazz*. Bring in a recent news article that pertains the the topic. Start with a memorable or funny quote. Post a picture or diagram and ask a question about it. For example, launch a lecture on horizontal asymptotes with the following graph and the prompt “Do you think these lines will ever intersect? Turn and talk to your neighbor and explain your reasoning.”

Create a hook that will grab students’ attention. A picture plus the *Notice and Wonder*protocol works extremely well.

*Question authentically, not putatively*. Questioning to get to deeper understanding is a skill that takes years to hone. It’s important to get genuinely curious about students’ ideas. As much as possible try to avoid the punitive, I-bet-he’s-not-listening questioning. Of course we want students to be paying attention, but we don’t need to “gotcha” students by asking them to derive the quadratic equation on the spot when we’re actually trying to make them feel foolish for zoning out during our boring lecture on the quadratic equation.*Talk slower*. Every human talks 30-40% (not precise calculations) faster in front of audiences than they do in normal conversation. I’m not sure why, but it just is.*Slow down*. You need natural pauses and a good cadence, otherwise your words will morph into that of Charlie Brown’s teacher. I found this potentially effective technique:

Mark a paragraph / in this manner / into the shortest possible phrases. / First, / whisper it / with energetic lips, / breathing / at all the breath marks. / Then. / speak it / in the same way. / Do this / with a different paragraph / everyday. / Keep your hand / on your abdomen / to make sure / it moves out / when you breathe in / and moves in / when you speak.

Before you whisper each phrase, take a full bellyful of air and then pour all the air into that one phrase. Keep your throat open, and don’t grind your vocal chords. Lift your whisper over your throat. Pause between phrases. Relax. Then, take another full breath and whisper the next phrase. Whisper as if you were trying to reach the back of the room.

**The Investigation**

As a fan of the *Discovering Mathematics* series of math textbooks, investigations were a staple in my classroom. These lessons involve an intentionally structured activity that reveals some new mathematical truth.

*Using tools or manipulatives*

As an example, here is an activity on Triangle Inequality and dried spaghetti:

Kids use their hands and dried spaghetti to determine the triangle inequality theorem: the sum of two sides of a triangle must be greater or equal than the third side.

Discovering Geometry was big into patty paper activities. These were excellent, cheap ways to get kids using their hands to make discoveries.

*Using a highly scaffolded series of questions*

This was the mode for my Running from the Law lesson.

In this activity students (much like in the spaghetti activity) identify mathematical concepts through purposeful questions. In Running from the Law, it was the connection between the distance formula and Pythagorean’s Theorem.

The questions are carefully ordered to point out possible discoveries hidden in the mathematical weeds. In some ways these activities mimic a quality activity debrief.

*Using technology*

The desmos team – and many of their contributors via the activity creator – use the clean interface to construct lessons that allow for students to construct their own understanding through carefully designed activities.

Desmos’ Central Park is a great example of this.

Students begin by interfacing with a challenge, notably without any discernable mathematics. Throughout the activity, students are prompted to identify what information would be helpful to solve the challenge. Eventually, we build enough knowhow to write expressions that help us out. Each slide presents an additional prompt intended to get students to think mathematically about the scenario.

**The Card Sort**

Another general type of lesson is The Card Sort. Teachers provide students materials that need to be matched up or ordered in a specific way to make the puzzle work. The most common type of card sort is *matching*. Students match two or more like items, typically in the form of paper or card cuttouts.

A twist on the matching card sorts I quite like is that of “dominoes.” It’s like card sorts in that there are cuttouts and students are asked to arrange them in the matching order. But in this case each cuttout has two “things” on it and they match with another “thing” from another card. The result is a circular matching activity:

I like it because it offers an immediate check: the “dominoes” should circle completely around and there shoulndn’t be any gaps.

Things to consider:

- Card sorts take a little time to build. It’s helpful if you have a template. Here’s one: Card Sort Template
- Card sorts take significant time to cut out and put into plastic baggies. However, if you do it once – and have students place them back in the baggies at the end of the period – you’ll have them forever. I’ve had some card sorts in baggies for almost ten years now.

**The Practice Problem(s)**

Some classes and class days incorporate a lot of practice problems, packets even. That’s ok. We can work with that. A packet of a few high-quality problems can be an effective means of deepening understanding. I’ll go ahead and re-emphasize it for ya: **a few high-quality problems**. Now that we have that out of the way, we can hone in on effective means of teaching on a day – or a time of day – with a lot of student practice. I’ll offer two strategies that make the Practice Problem lesson an effective one.

*Same problem, same time*

Assuming students are progressing through practice problems in groups (which I recommend), make this a norm in your class: “same problem, same time.” This means that group members can*not* proceed to the next problem or next page until all their group members are ready and have demonstrated understanding. Every group and every group member ought to be on the same problem so they may discuss it when it becomes challenging. You should never have a student call you over to ask about a problem that they’re working on and their groupmates aren’t (either because they left him in the dust or vice versa).

*Participation Quiz*

What are the norms of groupwork you want to see in a given problem work time? Make those public and identify when those moments are happening – or not happening. This can easily be achieved through a document camera or anything that’ll project a document.

In this case, the teacher identifed “plusses” and “deltas.” Or, positive behaviors or phrases students are exhibiting and behaviors that need to be changed.

In this case, plusses include “OH I GET IT NOW!”, all heads in, paper in middle, “how do we solve this” and other markers of persistent problem solving. The deltas include “crosstalk” and “phone out”. At the end, you can debrief with the class with this document: how did we do today? What do we need to focus on for tomorrow? What ought we celebrate?

Note that the teacher has maybe five “plusses” for each “delta.”

***

That’s four lesson “types,” which is certainly not exhaustive. This exercise through the DNA of our classroom is not meant to be exhaustive or definitive. But it is meant to give us some common vocabulary. And, as with routines these activities are malleable, and even interchangeable. You may wish to employ specific sharing *Routines* throughout your *Lesson*. You may wish to follow up a Lecture with a Card Sort (is that a *Lesson* followed by another *Lesson*?).

What other lesson types or structures ought we add to our list?

*What else ya got?*

- I have this facilitation one-pager from
*Necessary Conditions*(Krall 2018). That might give you a nice menu of teaching techniques.

Read more at Emergent Math.

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]]>The post Routines: the driving beat of your class appeared first on New Tech Network.

]]>*This is a post in the ongoing Emergent Math mini-series: Routines, Lessons, Problems, and Projects.*

If our model of Routines, Lessons, Problems, and Projects is a four-piece band, routines are our persistent drum beat. It keeps the pace going and maintains the momentum within and in between activities. Routines occur every day and throughout a class period. They help students get prepared to learn and used as learning tools themselves.

Routines become more useful with repeated use. They can be deployed for several reasons. We’ll cover four of them here: routines to help students settle in, routines for math talks, routines for problem solving, routines to promote general discourses, and routines to help close the lesson and wrap up the day.

**Settling-in Routines**. These are routines that help prepare students for learning. They help transition students from, say, entering your room and getting settled in at their desk. Or from the warm-up to the day’s lesson. Or to help students obtain or put away necessary supplies. There isn’t really a name for these routines, but rather a norm. In my classroom, the norm was always the following:

- Check the agenda
- Begin the warm up

I had a warm up every day (including the first day of school, the last day of school, the exam days of school, etc.) waiting for them. Sometimes they were math-content related, other times they were math-play related, and other times still they weren’t math related at all. This “routine” helped prepare their brains for maximum engagement.

**Math Talk Routines**. These are routines used to energize students brains around multi-faceted math problems. Many of my warm-ups allow for a math talk routine to be the first thing we do. These are excellent for estimation tasks or visual patterns.

- CTC – Contemplate then Calculate (See David Wees’ post.)
- Notice and Wonder (See Amie’s post.)
- Too big / Too small / Just right (See Andrew’s Estimation 180 handout).

**Problem-Solving Routines. **After posing a challenging problem – but before fully letting go and having students get to work on it – engage pupils in a routine to help them decode and identify actionable next-steps for the task at hand.

- Know / Need-to-Know (See Robert’s Problem Solving Framework template).
- George Polya’s Four step process:
- Step 1: Understand the problem.
- Step 2: Devise a plan.
- Step 3: Carry out the plan.
- Step 4: Look back.

**General Discourse Encouraging Routines**. These are routines you can use liberally throughout a class period when you want to encourage deeper consideration for a prompt or statement.

*Think-Pair-Share*.- Ask students to
*think*about a problem silently (~1-2 minutes). - Prompt students to
*pair*up and share their thoughts with their partner. (~2-5 minutes) - Ask students to
*share*our their or their partner’s ideas (~5-10 minutes).

- Ask students to
*Turn and talk*.- Don’t proceed too quickly through a demonstration or problem solution. Don’t ask for hands. Instead, ask students to briefly “turn and talk” to their neighbors to discuss what they would do next.

- “Explain her answer” (from
*Necessary Conditions,*Krall 2018)

Teachers and students are used to the tagline of nearly every math problem ever assigned: “Explain your answer.” Leanne has an interesting twist on this prompt: “Explain his/her answer.” A student responds to a question posed by Leanne. Leanne asks another student to explain that answer and whether they agree, or if that is the tack they would have taken. This twist forces students to listen to one another while assessing the veracity of their claims.

**Wrap up Routines. **These are routines for when you are wrapping up the lesson or are looking to debrief the day. It’s possible you may wish to remind students of the concepts taught throughout the day or assign academic status on one another.

*Agenda Rewind*- Post the day’s agenda and ask students to place a sticky note where they had an “aha” or an additional question.

*Gallery Walk*- Ask students – or student groups – to spend 1-2 minutes at a peer’s artifact. Discuss and give feedback (optional). Rotate as a class after the allotted time to give an opportunity for everyone to see everyone else’s work (and give feedback if desired).

*Appreciations*- Ask students to publicly acknowledge a classmate who made their experience better by their presence or their actions.

You’ll likely use several different routines throughout a class period.

The more you use specific routines, the more effective they will become. Routines are especially important for Students with Special Needs as they often thrive with oft-used and reliable structures. Become nimble with routines and you’ll maximize class time and student discourse.

*Ok, but how do I know if I’m doing it well?: Checking for quality*

The easiest way to tell if a routine is successful is to see if every student is discussing the math. It sounds simple, but it does require some intentionality:

- Have someone observe or video your class and map the conversation. Who’s talking and what are they saying? Because we can target the video to, say, the first fifteen minutes of class, or the wrap-up, we can be judicious with our videoing. We don’t need to watch a 50-minute long video. We just need to review a 5-10 minute clip where you’re implementing or practicing a routine.
- Or use this tally-template to check for academic safety (Krall 2018).

This blog originally appeared on Emergent Math.

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]]>In my time in math classrooms – my own and others’ – I’ve developed a rough taxonomy of activities. Think of these as the Four Elements of a math class: the “Earth, Air, Fire, Water” of math as it were. Or perhaps think of these as the Nucleic Acid sequence (GATC) that creates the “DNA” of your math classroom. Or the *Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat* of a class. Speaking of which, the author of *Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat*, Samin Nosrat, suggests “if you can master just four basic elements … you can use that to guide you and you can make anything delicious.” While I’m certainly not the first to think about teaching-as-cooking, I’m compelled by the way Nosrat distills cooking into four essential elements. I’d similarly posit if you can master these four elements of math instruction – Routines, Lessons, Problems, and Projects – and apply them in appropriate doses at appropriate moments, you can craft lessons and an entire course year for maximum effectiveness and engagement.

Let’s define our terms – after which we’ll criticize them.

**Routines** – Routines are well-understood structures that encourage discourse, sensemaking, and equity in the classroom. A teacher may have many different types of routines in her toolbelt and utilizes them daily.

**Lessons** – Lessons include any activity that involves transmitting or practicing content knowledge. Lessons can vary from whole class lectures to hands-on manipulative activities.

**Problems** – Problems are complex tasks, not immediately solvable without further know how, research or decoding of the prompt. Problems can take anywhere from one class period to three or four class periods.

**Projects** – Projects apply mathematical knowhow to an in-depth, authentic experience. A project occurs over the course of two to four weeks. Ideally, projects are outward facing, community based, and/or personally relevant.

These definitions may not be perfect. I’d encourage you to come up with better (or at least more personalized) definitions and toss ’em in the comments. I reserve the right to change these definitions throughout this mini-series.

To be sure, these four elements often blur and lean on each other: you might teach a *lesson*within a *project*. You may employ a *routine* while debriefing a *problem*. Many times I’ve been facilitating one of Andrew’s Estimation180’s as a routine and it wound up leading to a full on investigation (which we’ll call a “lesson,” I suppose). Is *Which One Doesn’t Belong?* a routine or a lesson? Or maybe it’s a problem. It honestly probably depends on how you facilitate it.

Most of the time, however, you’ll be able to walk into a classroom and identify which one of these four things are occurring. If students are engaged in some sort of protocol, they’re in a routine. If the teacher is standing at the front of the class demonstrating something, we’re looking at a lesson. If students are engaged in a complex task, we’re probably in a problem. And if students are creating something over the course of days or weeks, we’re probably in a project.

*But why bother with such distinctions?*

Perhaps I’m overly interested in taxonomy, but I find it helpful to sort things into categories (perhaps it’s a character flaw).

The real answer to the question of “why bother with such distinctions” is that I was trying to describe the difference between a “traditional” math classroom and a more “dynamic” one. Both of these terms are meaningless, even if they do connote what I’m trying to convey: traditional = bad; dynamic = good. Traditional classes are ones where teachers are lecturing most of the time. Dynamic classrooms are ones where kids are working in groups most of the time. But even that’s not a sufficient clarification: good classrooms employ all kinds of activities, including lectures, including packets.

So it began as an attempt to describe the ideal classroom juxtaposed against a teacher-centric one. A teacher-centric classroom might employ *lessons* 85% of the time, while a dynamic classroom might employ *lessons* 55% of the time (I’m making these numbers up entirely).

Then I began to find it challenging to talk about Projects vs. Problems. In my work I’m often asked to describe an ideal classroom: wall-to-wall Project Based Learning (PBL) or Problem-Based Learning (PrBL) or a mixture of both? And how often ought we actually teach in a PBL or PrBL learning environment? How does an Algebra 1 class differ from an AP Stats course?

I’m not going to answer these questions for you, but I hope that this framework will equip you with the vocabulary to design your best math class.

And just like halfway through my adolescence, they discovered a fifth taste (“umami”) we can’t discuss these four elements without the thing that binds classes together: active caring. Perhaps it’s backwards, but we’ll conclude this mini-series with a discussion about active caring and how it’s essential. The best routines, lessons, problem, and projects in the world are moot to a classroom without caring. I suppose it’s a bit too on-the-nose to make a Captain Planet reference with the fifth planeteer’s power being “heart” but that works well as a metaphor if we’re looking for a fifth, I suppose.

One last metaphor: you know those sound boards they have to mix songs? Those ones with a million knobs? And in every movie about a band there’s always a really cool scene where the band is killing this one song and the sound engineer slowly pushes those levers up while bobbing his head and looking at the producer all knowingly? That’s kind of what we’re doing here: playing with the knobs and seeing what it sounds like. We want to get better at each of these instruments individually, and put them together to make beautiful music. Or food. Or genes.

Coming up in this mini-series:

- Routines: the driving beat of your class
- Lessons: the stuff we’re used to, but better
- Problems: then a miracle occurs
- Projects: what they’ll remember in 20 years
- Active Caring: the essential ingredient

This blog originally appeared on Emergent Math.

The post Routines, Lessons, Problems, and Projects: the DNA of your math classroom appeared first on New Tech Network.

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