Friday, 22 July 2016

TMC 2016 Morning Entry

To make the prior recap posts a bit more manageable (less long), and help consolidate, I've put the "Just Enough" Approach to Intervention for Students with Gaps, from Michelle Naidu's session, into this post. If that's your main interest, enjoy!


I went to Michelle Naidu's "Just Enough" Approach to Intervention for Students with Gaps. There were over 30 of us there. We started by introducing ourselves. Then there was a video on "Herding Cats" (From, to discuss at tables where we were sitting. (Cats would become a theme.) Seemed to work as a metaphor. Students want to go anywhere, we have to get them to a certain spot at a certain TIME too.

From there discussion went into "Modification" versus "Differentiation". We were to write down something we knew, and something we wondered, about each term. Then we crumpled the paper, threw it across the room to someone else, and in Round 2 either: Added to our new paper, contributed something more, or corrected something. In a class with less knowledge, a third round could be done. We then shared something, either from the third paper or our own mind.

Debrief: Why might this be a good activity? Gives an idea of where everyone is, has the know/wonder format, it's anonymous and can see others with the same struggles. And build off others' ideas. Writing should be a thing in math classrooms too. We need to make time for students who take time to think first, and those who share immediately. When might it be used? Can be midstream, it's a safe way to correct misunderstandings; ideally the class corrects it as a whole.

In terms of what we knew for differentiation: Good for all students. Individualization is important. Can include different tasks/strategies. Addresses different types of learners. Need to know your students. Meets needs for all. Everyone learns differently. Spontaneous/planned. Hard. Feels overwhelming. Same objective different ways. Not WHAT but HOW we teach.

In terms of what we wonder for differentiation: How do you get through everything? Pacing. Use preassessment and data how. What resources for low floor, high ceiling? Enrich and gap fill simultaneously? Which methods are most effective? Efficient, meaningful, like second nature? Self-monitoring?

In terms of what we knew for modification: May be pre-determined (by what’s allowed in state testing). Documented; IEP (Individual Education Plan), “504”. Legal definitions. Different outcomes. Testing allows for use of calculator or computer, etc.

Wondering for modification related to what we're expected to handle, and things are different in different states. In Oklahoma, students on modifications have to meet the same test standards, in Illinois they have an alternative assessment. For the purposes of the next three days, Michelle said we would live within the sphere of differentiation; we're not changing our teaching standards. In changing outcomes, everyone would need to know.

How do we review old instruction, or stretch other kids forwards while we're going back over something? Everyone split into five groups, publicly posting the barriers that currently exist for doing a great job at differentiation. Serving as a visual reference. I noticed that "Time" was the first thing written for most groups.

Michelle then led us through "The Planning Process" as a cycle which included: (1) Understanding by Design, meaning planning with outcomes in mind and working back from end goals - versus anything rigid; (2) Learner Circles, putting brains together to get better ideas than an individual, -using the same outcomes/expectations and perhaps even kids in a same school situation; (3) Lesson Study, conversations after to see how to improve the next time.

There were also three "Instructional Pillars": (1) Mastery Learning; (2) Learner Readiness; (3) Formative Assessment. What were we going to value in a classroom? Knowing only 50% going forwards is not okay, necessitates dealing with mastery learning.

'Curriculum Sort' was mentioned as a tool, whereby grade level standards are printed and played with. Put things you might teach together into piles, then those become units. Statistics may fit with number sense. "I don't use a textbook. Or I try not to. They are written for someone, but I am not that someone; they are for students, but not my students."

We will focus on one unit of study, and "Grade 6 fractions" was suggested as an example. Create a map of what the expectations would be of the student, bearing in mind where the boundaries for your grade level are. "Where I'm from, you cannot report on non-grade level material." We are throwing out "would be nice to know" - what do they NEED to know?

For "Division of Fractions", you NEED to know how to multiply fractions. And what division is. What size numbers are we dealing with? Less than 10? Really narrow your focus. What concepts are okay, in essence when can I stop caring? For homework, everyone was to pick a standard and attempt to map it out. (I may run out of time...) Incidentally, in Ontario, fraction division is Grade 8 (Grade 6 is comparison, not even addition yet).

Return To Day 1 Post


Planning involves mapping the grade level and pre-skills. It can help find holes in the curriculum, things that get dropped for a year or two - we're perhaps expecting students to recall and know a concept they haven't used in over a year. Also deciding on vocabulary (particularly in geometry) is important to be consistent with colleagues. (Aside: In Ontario, we use "Tables of value" in high school, but before that they're called "T-Charts".)

Related to tables, in Grade 3 they only look to extend patterns vertically. So if a Grade 4 teacher is wondering "why are they doing THAT" when the lesson plan had been horizontal, they're doing it because it's what they learned. We didn't know, and the prior teacher likely didn't know it was going to switch. We need to have this conversation.

As we clump concepts, know that the size can be different for a Grade 6 and a Grade 9 student, for instance the former may need to review adding separately from multiplying. How much can we intervene on at a time? Well, if the standard is "graph a line", we don't need to reiterate slope-intercepts, there's nothing saying HOW to graph a line. Give a new instruction, and from that they can develop better skills at graphing themselves.

Someone in the session noted, for those who teach common core, "" shows the standards in previous grades that they feel are relevant to the current one you have, and moves forward to look at where it might be useful. We paused at this point to shade in the bullet points regarding how much resolution we had to our "Barriers" from the previous day.

On PreAssessments: Don't go through all the stuff on the upcoming curriculum, it's no surprise the majority don't know it (and the ones who do, you already knew). Moreover, nothing about it can change your overall actions. PreAssess on what we THINK they should know from last year. (It took Michelle 8 years of teaching to figure that out, some education colleges still haven't.) A good preassessment should have one skill per question (to know in 20 seconds what a problem is, not wonder if it's denominators or mixed numbers), be organized, and be short (for students with perseverance issues - limit to a page, double sided, unless there's diagrams).

Remove as much language as you can from the questions. We also need to know if the barrier is the language, may be lots of English Language Learners. Be clear that there's no penalty for doing poorly, other than being helped. If you feel like you would love to play but are buried in paperwork, consider using coloured stickers. If kids get everything in a section, they get a certain sticker. All stickers means 100%, otherwise it's easy to scan and see where the holes are, what colour section is lacking. Makes it easier to turn things around for the next day, versus needing a weekend.

Time was given at this point to work on developing individual issues regarding mapping and writing preassessments. I linked up with Connie H, who was doing some work with the Unit Circle based on Texas expectations. (Of note, special angles is a pre-skill, whereas it's the same level or higher in the Ontario curriculum.)


Michelle pulled us back in later to look at another cat video, with a cat very interested in the workings of a printer, swatting at paper. She then asked, how is that like preassessment? "It's a losing battle with paper." Or there may be certain misconceptions you expect, but get something out of left field instead. And every year it's different. NOTE: For those who facilitate professional development, try showing a goofy video then seeing what people come up with, it can elicit totally different interpretations and gives a sense of what the room is thinking.

The activity "Give One Get One" was then done. A sheet was given with six boxes on it, we were asked to fill a square with our favourite way to differentiate in the class. Then to go around the room and meet other people to fill in whatever conversations we had. I'd started with multiple representations, then got formative assessment quizzes, grouping, writing thinking on desks to check off, split classes between rooms and accelerated homework.

How and why might that be used in our classroom? On the first day with the prompt "how to be successful in class". Because it's something they generate, and taking a note can be valuable. It can involve students teaching each other ways to do a problem rather than individually. The number of boxes can be changed. Noted that there can be a moment of stress to pick own topic at start, could be done in partners. Can also modify where my message goes, if I state the prior one I got, processing what's in my head rather than my original idea.

Now that a preassessment is done, ignoring it isn't ideal for students - so "if you're not going to do anything with [it], don't do it." (Waste of teaching and learning time.) Some learning opportunities if they do NOT KNOW: Video (found, or can make your own because "the internet is a horrible black hole"), Symbolic/Written (more clear than textbook), Game, Practice, Visual/Concrete. All five of these cycled around a "math concept". Assume colleagues do the best job they can, whatever happened didn't do it for this kid, so hopefully they'll now find something to latch onto.

What if they DO KNOW? We have to do something with that too, and enrichment of a select few can't be next week's work early, or you're messing yourself (or their next teacher) over. Find meaningful interaction and extension rather than acceleration: Can Create something (Egyptian fraction investigation), Curate something (Make a video), or Critique something (Is 0 even?). Great for artsy kids, can count with even a weak math link, address different skill sets.

Michelle then showed a model for "Year Flow". Preassess the necessary skills, then do a new instruction part. Then repeat. Length will vary (geometry is crazy with definitions and using tools) but we can take this pre assessing time from the six weeks of going back over things at the start of September. Address pieces before they're needed, not at the start. Each skill is a station, and have an enrichment station also. When they have everything they need, they do enrichment until everyone is there.

Lesson itself after, say, 8 days (the kid who needs 2 days per station) can be whatever form (task or lecture, I'm not judging you) the point is kids are more prepared to engage with it. Noted that they do like the stickers for completing stations (given out after an exit quiz). Takes a couple rounds for them to get the hang of it. Testing does become tricky to manage, don't want to be the "test manager", another adult in the room can help. Tomorrow? We unpack structure.

Return To Day 2 Post


Back in our morning session (which I have splintered out into this post), we looked at concrete examples of the preassessments from yesterday - trifold boards have a few advantages. First, they can fold up and go away to not take up outrageous space. (Putting sheets at tables tends to have students grabbing sheets and going elsewhere.) Second, the structure stays the same, the top title is the only thing that needs changing. (One teacher without room for trifolds used a bulletin board.)

If needed, there can be two sets of things in the folders. For instance, if multiplying fraction requirements are to the number 15, do that, but if multiplication of double digit numbers is relevant (not necessarily on fractions) you can add that skill building. We can ignore some of the basic skills in high school (when there's calculators) as time gets more condensed in the upper end of the curriculum. Find time to DO the preassessment and assess needs, but then students need to make time for an intervention themselves (with you or online). It's a fair trade off, we don't have time to redo graphing in Grade 11, and it would be a small percentage of students.

How much structure is repeated? Do it once, don't repeat pre-assessing multiplication at a station in November if you did it in September, but you can have a handout for those who need a reminder or bump up. The overall mapping was done for a strand, but can be a few units. Some structure elements to consider: physical environment, organization, student behaviour, tracking. The reality for teachers is barriers and benefits.

Michelle noted that they didn't transition their Grade 9s in one year, it was a three year process. They started backwards; as most are comfortable with the "patterns" unit, which is smaller, they transitioned there to get a handle on the process. The following year they tackled "number sense", the big ugly one. Then the last strand. "It's a slow process, and you can't do everything all at once." Your personal health and work-life balance really matter.

Doing that, they finished their Grade 9 curriculum six weeks early. Go slow to go fast. With the time, they went to Grade 10 teachers and asked what those gaps or problems where. Response, "if you could at least introduce factoring?", so they did. Hypothetically, this could take more time for you. And have a backup plan for if WiFi doesn't work (a game piece that needed computer videos).

Some kids beyond intervention need someone shoulder-to-shoulder, which became possible on preassessment days - you can do it and know that everyone else is being productive. If someone else is in the class, you have even more flexibility. Michelle noted that she needed time to circulate on Mon/Wed/Fri, so couldn't do the quiz on those days. So on Thursday, maybe someone takes three exit quizzes, but that's okay. Set classroom understanding and norms.

Michelle said this helped attendance, because students were being successful (less anxiety) and we gain ability to respond to need (almost) immediately. She said was a set of resources possible for the Games aspect (called "Well Played", K-5, 6-8), and Visual/Concrete wants a hands-on component, to make students okay with gong to the board and taking manipulatives. It's work to get things up and running, pre-think what you'll see in your classroom, but on those pre-assess days? There's no prep, and marking can be done on the spot - during this cycle, you can forgo the guilt bag (of grading).

It was at this point we did a last revisit of our sheets where we had been tracking our barriers, to see if anything was left to cover. Then there was some time for individual work. I'm going to give the las words here to a couple of our group members, Connie H, "We now have a place to begin." and Elissa M, "It might take five or six years to fully get it, but that gives me something to look forward to".

Return to Day 3 Post

I did actually leave with 30+ minutes on the clock (see the Day 3 post for why) so if anyone wants to make additional concluding remarks, feel free! Thanks for reading.

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