For more than twenty years, Lucy West has been studying mathematical classroom discourse. She believes that teachers need to understand what their students are thinking as they grapple with rich mathematical tasks and that the best way to do so is through talking and listening. Adding Talk to the Equation helps teachers learn how to skillfully lead math conversations so all students stay in the game, stay motivated about learning, and ultimately deepen their understanding.
This video features five case studies filmed in grades 1–6 and shows teachers at various stages in their practice of generating and managing rich mathematics conversations. Lucy emphasizes the progression that occurs as teachers get more comfortable with new talk moves and as they learn to tune in and respond to the math conversations taking place among their students. Although these discussions occur during math instruction, the strategies used to create an environment for respectful, productive discourse can be applied to any subject area.
The video segments examine the importance of creating a safe learning environment; the value of thinking, reasoning, and questioning; the role of active, accountable listening; and the necessity of giving all students a “You can do this” message. Lucy also emphasizes that slowing down, even in the face of time constraints, is crucial for creating a classroom where all students feel they have something to contribute.
The 84-page companion guide includes transcripts of all of the case studies, with detailed commentary from Lucy that gives you a window into her thinking and the complexities of the work she is doing with teachers, as well as her reflections on missed opportunities.
Teachers everywhere are concerned about students whose reading development inexplicably plateaus, as well as those who face challenging texts without applying the strategies they’ve been taught.
In their follow-up to Reading Wellness, Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris explore how some traditional scaffolding practices like read-aloud, shared reading, guided reading, and independent reading, may actually rob students of important learning opportunities and independence. They argue that if we want students to use these reading strategies indepdendently, we must question the ways our scaffolding is getting in the way.
Who’s Doing the Work? suggests ways to make small but powerful adjustments to instruction that hold students accountable for their own learning. It offers a vision for adjusting reading instruction to better align with the goal of creating independent, proficient, and joyful readers.
Students love math games and puzzles, but how much are they really learning from the experience? In the third book of the popular Well Played series authors Linda Dacey, Karen Gartland, and Jayne Bamford Lynch help you engage students in deep mathematical discussions, enhance students’ conceptual understanding, develop students’ fluency with number systems, ratio and proportional relationships, expressions and equations, statistics and probability, and patterns, graphs, and functions.
Each book in the series shows you how to make games and puzzles an integral learning component that provides teachers with unique access to student thinking.
The twenty-five games and puzzles in each of the Well Played books, which have all been field-tested in diverse classrooms, contain:
explanations of the mathematical importance of each game or puzzle and how it supports student learning;
variations for each game or puzzle to address a range of learning levels and styles;
clear step-by-step directions; and
classroom vignettes that model how best to introduce the featured game or puzzle.
We continue to reflect on the role of stories today with an examination of the stories that surround us every day. At the end of her post, follow Katie’s tips on bringing stories to the forefront of your teaching. And then tell us on Twitter: What is your story today?
Investing in Stories
Katie Egan Cunningham
These days it seems like every industry is talking about the power of stories. Want your advertisement’s message to stick? Tell a story. Want your shareholders to keep investing? Tell a story. Want to bring in more customers? Tell a story.
In fact, if we want students to be college, career, and life ready, an investment in stories looks to be one of the most important investments we can make. Here are a few examples across industries that caught my attention.
In the December 2015 issue of Inc. magazine Thomas Goetz, CEO of Iodine, a digital health startup, says, “The story, it turns out, is the most important thing. It can’t just review what we’ve done; it must also excite the imagination about what the world will look like once we do more. It won’t be enough to present a plausible, worthy case for our future—our story must convince people that it’s worth millions of their dollars to see that future happen.”
At the online health hub HospitalityNet, consultants in the hospitality industry advise business leaders to use the structure of fiction to improve their forecasting and strategic thinking: “A good fictional storyline may seem like a whirlwind of characters and events, but for exactly that reason it can captivate and motivate an audience to grasp real issues and see different possibilities, all within a framework that everyone understands could plausibly evolve from the world as it actually exists today.”
The streets of New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood have a new retail store that changes the shopping experience—including the store’s layout and merchandise—every few months. The name of the store? Story. The driving idea is that the store is a place for discovery and maybe even reinvention. What is your story? What do you want it to be? Come in, look around, and find a new story for yourself.
Audible, the audiobook giant, advertises finding “stories that surround you.” Folding laundry? Surround yourself with a romance novel. Eating cereal? Surround yourself with the French Revolution. Sitting on the beach? Surround yourself with a noirish thriller.
Finally, the world’s biggest media brands now trust the “social media evangelists” at Storyful to “discover, verify, and acquire social media for their storytelling.” Businesses want to know which stories are worth telling.
All of this points to what, I believe, we as educators have always known—that humans are addicted to stories. That when we listen to someone else’s story we encourage a sense of belonging and make change possible. That stories are a pathway to connection.
As teachers, this gives us even more justification that time spent on powerful stories is time well spent. Here are some simple and joyful ways to keep stories at the forefront of your teaching:
Make read-aloud a daily ritual, without exception. Create space for discussion before, during, and after reading.
Vary the kinds of stories you share to highlight different perspectives and life experiences.
Explore the structural elements of narratives as both readers and writers.
Zoom in on craft techniques storywriters use to hook readers.
Listen to songs and have students rewrite the lyrics as a narrative.
View print and media advertisements, noticing how they tell stories to persuade their market.
Listen to audiobooks as a class to “surround” yourselves in stories.
Make it a year-long goal to build a classroom culture of story every day.
Where do you notice other industries spotlighting stories? How do you build a world of story in your classroom?
We are excited to kick off this week with Katie Egan Cunningham, author of Story: Still the Heart of Literacy Learning. We invite you to read her post below and then think about the role of stories in your classroom. What is your story today? Share with us here on the blog or on Twitter using this template and #Story.
Each Day Should Be a Story-Worthy Day
Katie Egan Cunningham
We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.
― Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human
Each morning I wake up to the human alarm clock that is the sound of my children’s feet climbing out of bed, letting me know it’s time to get up. Once my eyes are open, I grab my five-minute journal and jot down three thoughts about what would make today great, three things I am grateful for, and an affirmation of who I am. Before I close my eyes at night, I grab my journal once more to process the day—to remember three amazing things that happened that day and how I could have made the day better. This journaling ritual in my life began as a Valentine’s Day gift from my husband. Better than flowers or chocolate, he somehow knew that envisioning the story of my day before it happened and remembering storied moments at its end would be a simple way to bring me happiness every day. He was right. For a year now, I have been hooked.
When my children hop on the bus or walk through the doors of their schools, I envision their day, knowing that there will be story-worthy moments. I wonder what amazing things will happen to them. What stories will they hear that inspire them to be kind or to take new risks? What will friends say that make them laugh or make them cry? Will they bravely share an idea out loud? How will it be received? I know there will be Morning Meeting stories. Talking in the hallway stories. Monkey bars stories. Roaming in the library stacks stories. P.E. team-picking stories. Bus riding stories.
In my work with teachers and students, I’ve started to adopt the five-minute journal philosophy—that is, that envisioning and remembering the stories of our days in a few simple words and phrases is a way of building a story-worthy attitude about every day.
I also believe that, as teachers, we have the power to be story changers for our students. Every Monday, I work in an afterschool program supervising soon-to-be literacy specialists working with fourth and fifth graders. I tell my graduate students that their primary role is to learn as much as they can about the students’ stories—what matters most to them—and to use that information to drive their decisions as teachers.
One day, during the afterschool program, I read aloud The Best Story by Eileen Spinelli. With each turn of the page, children nodded their heads in agreement—oh yeah, lots of action makes the best stories. Plenty of humor makes the best stories. Stories that make people cry are actually the best. Rather than go along with the chorus of agreement, a boy named Andrew talked back to every page, letting us know he was resisting this particular story and maybe even the story of our time together. We needed to show Andrew that he had choice and challenge in our time together, and that what mattered to him was valuable to us. As the weeks went on, Andrew became the first student to arrive and the last one to leave. He stayed to work on his new comic book, to write about Yo-Kai Watch characters in their fantasy world, to talk to me about his soccer match and what he wanted to read next. His identity in the afterschool program changed from resistor to most passionate contributor. Andrew unknowingly convinced me each week that what we were doing together as readers, writers, and thinkers mattered, and that as teachers we have the power to change the narratives we tell ourselves about our students.
I am convinced that human connection is the pathway to knowing each other’s stories, so I decided to use heart mapping in my work with teachers last fall. Through the process of jotting and sharing, I learned that one teacher was battling throat cancer as she tearfully explained the cancer ribbon drawing she made on her map. I learned that I grew up in the same small New Jersey town as someone sitting across from me. I learned that other teachers also had two sons. Our relationships to one another changed. We came to know more of one another’s stories.
To help your students (and yourself) take note of the story that happens each day, try starting with these simple methods:
1. Take time at the start of the school day to jot down what would make today great.
2. Take time at the end of the school day to jot down three amazing things that happened and one thing you could have done to make the day better.
3. Build in time for students to share their interests through heart mapping, community mapping, and hopes and dreams mapping.
4. Provide time for partner talk, emphasizing the importance of listening as much as speaking.
5. Tap into students’ interests to support their book shopping—what connections do they have to characters, real-life figures, and settings?
6. Step back and observe your students, both in and out of the classroom. Notice and jot down the storied moments you see, and share them with students as fuel for their writing.
7. Share your own jottings about the story of your day.
8. Remind students that every day is a story-worthy day.
What are the stories you are grateful for each day in your classroom? When have you been a story changer in a student’s life? When have students changed your story?
Why do stories matter? Whose stories count? Where do stories live? How do stories come alive? How do we build stories? How do we talk about stories? And why does this work take courage?
Join us next week here on the blog and on Twitter and explore the role stories play in your classroom and in life. Katie Egan Cunningham, author of Story: Still the Heart of Literacy Learning will join us with two blog posts –on tips and ideas for helping your students (and yourself) to take note of the story that is today, and a thoughtful examination of the stories that are around us in marketing and in the news.
Watch this video with Katie where she talks about how stories help us care for students and enrich classrooms. Then come back on Monday to read more from Katie:
We invite you to tell us: What’s your story of the day? Download and use this template, or just use #Story on Twitter.