April 1st, 2017
At Stenhouse, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to create resources that are useful for teachers. We are always eager to hear how teachers, coaches, and administrators use our books, videos, and courses in practice. That’s why we’re especially excited about Jill Gough and Jennifer Wilson’s upcoming NCSM preconference. In it, they’ll be talking about how they use professional literature to grow their teaching practice. How do they apply what they’ve read? How do they collaborate, both in-person and online, to reflect on that application with their colleagues? What new learning and productive changes in teaching practice result from that work?
We asked Jennifer and Jill for a sneak peek of their session, and we’re happy to share it with you here. We hope you can join them in San Antonio, or follow along online.
Read, Apply, Learn
By Jill Gough and Jennifer Wilson
In Kindergarten Reading Workshop this week, the teaching point was when we want to learn new things, we first read what experts say. Now, it is clear that we are preparing our young learners for a unit on nonfiction reading and on research. What if we transfer that simple, direct teaching point to our own work?
We set three goals this year as a team of teachers committed to narrowing the achievement gap for our learners. These goals are to learn more math, to scale what we learn across our schools, and to more deeply understand the Standards for Mathematical Practices. With these goals, we have to ask, what do experts say?
We have been reading a lot lately, and we have been considering how to share what we are trying and learning in both our home communities and in a more global community. We are now studying and strongly recommend 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions by Mary Kay Stein and Margaret Smith, NCTM’s publication, Principles to Action, The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. by Daniel Coyle, Beyond Answers: Exploring Mathematical Practices with Young Children from Mike Flynn, and Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had: Ideas and Strategies from Vibrant Classrooms by Tracy Zager and more.
In Beyond Answers, Mike Flynn suggests “We need to give students the opportunity to develop their own rich and deep understanding of our number system. With that understanding, they will be able to develop and use a wide array of strategies in ways that make sense for the problem at hand.” How might we slow down to afford our students the opportunity to develop their own deep understanding and grow their own mathematical flexibility? What will be gained when our young learners have acquired a deep foundation of understanding, confidence, and competence?
In Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had, Tracy Zager encourages us to engage our learners in productive struggle so that they are “challenged and learning”. She writes “As long as learners are engaged in productive struggle, even if they are headed toward a dead end, we need to bite our tongues and let students figure it out. Otherwise, we rob them of their well-deserved, satisfying, wonderful feelings of accomplishment when they make sense of problems and persevere.”
So what does productive struggle look like in the classroom with students? What does productive struggle look like in professional learning communities with teachers? How do we learn to bite our tongues and give students time to figure it out? What stories can you share about students engaged in productive struggle?
What if we take ideas and apply them in our learning and teaching? What might we learn about our students, ourselves, and mathematics? What is to be gained by reflecting on our learning and sharing our thinking with our PLN here, there, and everywhere?
We look forward to considering these questions Sunday at our NCSM pre-conference session. And we look forward to sharing what we learn and discuss with those who can’t attend in real-time on Twitter and later through our blogs.
Flynn, Michael. 2017 Beyond Answers: Exploring Mathematical Practices with Young Children. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
Zager, Tracy. 2017. Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had: Ideas and Strategies from Vibrant Classrooms. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
Jill Gough learns, serves, and teaches as the Director of Teaching and Learning at Trinity School. Previously, she taught in the Westminster Schools, after 14 years of teaching in public schools in Mississippi and at the Kiski School of Pennsylvania. Jill received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in 1998 and Mathematical Association of America’s Sliffe Award in 2006 for excellence in teaching junior high.
Jennifer Wilson has been an educator for 24 years, spending 20 of those years teaching and learning mathematics with students at Northwest Rankin High School in Flowood, Mississippi. She currently teaches Advanced Placement Calculus and Geometry and also serves as a Curriculum Specialist with the Rankin County School District. Jennifer is an advocate for #slowmath, in which students and teachers take the time to enjoy mathematics.