Groups of 3 with a 4th Desk Free #VRG

Yesterday,  my students were working on their independent practice problems on solving similar triangles on Khan Academy. As I reflected at the end of class, it was so obvious to me how important it is to have a seat free at each group’s desks so that I can sit with them to help them one-on-one. And while that seems obvious, I’m sure I’m not the only one that lets myself be lured into the temptation of sitting at my teacher desk while students work & saying “come over to me if you have any questions!” meanwhile I can shoot off an email or two that need sending. And of course a couple of students will come over to ask me something. But so many others will not leave their seat. Might not even get any work done at all & I won’t notice. Some just can’t get started because they have no idea where to start. So they’ll make it look like they’re working, but at the end of 75 minutes they haven’t done a single practice problem.

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Each group has either 4 desks or 3 desk + a stool.

Even on independent practice days, I have students sit in “visibly random groups” by giving out playing cards as they enter class. New partners, new seat every day.

So yesterday as my students started on their practice problems, I moved from group to group, helping students that asked for help. I also sat down to work through a question together with students that hadn’t even started yet (not because they’re being oppositional – but they just don’t know where to start!). Here’s a short video with my reflection on that 4th seat at each group:

Or you can view the video here also.

How do you make sure your quiet, reluctant learners get the same one-on-one help from you as those that self-advocate a little louder?

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

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Push-Back to Student-Centred Learning. #sketchnote

I’ve often said that I would hate to be a learner in my own classroom. I was a very strong student in high school. I didn’t need to be in class; if I missed class I would read the section in the book & do the homework problems & learn it myself. I made beautiful pages of copied notes from the teacher’s board and was able to understand the content as I copied. I did not enjoy group work; hated relying on partners to do their bit. I am still the first person to roll my eyes at ice breakers in a staff meeting or workshop.

And yet, my classroom is the opposite of this. I ask my students to work in groups, beginning with a getting to know you question every day since we change groups daily. I don’t give many notes, rather I give students time to summarize their new learning in their course packs. We do problem-based learning with hands-on components whenever possible. This is a far cry from the teacher notes followed by homework problems routine from my day.

But many to most of my students are not able to learn that way (although a small number of them are & would prefer a more traditional teaching style). Most can’t understand the notes they’re copying down because they’re too busy copying. (Have you ever asked your students if they’re able to listen to the teacher while they copy notes? My students tell me straight up that they are not able).

So over the years I have searched for strategies & pedagogical methods that would transform my classroom to be a better learning environment for my students. But my students haven’t always been eager about my methods; group work, problem solving, critical thinking, feedback separated from marks, etc. The workings of our Math classroom are so different from their experience so far that they sometimes push back. And for many teachers, this push back stops them from continuing to pursue different teaching methods. For example, I’ve had students say “you don’t teach us!”. But upon drilling down further as to what they mean, it becomes clear what they really mean, is you don’t write long, detailed notes on the board to copy down. They think that is teaching and don’t view the careful orchestration of a student-centred classroom as teaching also.

My advice to teachers: keep trying! Don’t let that student (or parent) push-back stop you from pursuing new & innovative teaching methods. It’s normal – it happens to all of us! But eventually students (most anyway) get past it. Alice Keeler shared this great article entitled “NAVIGATING THE BUMPY ROAD TO STUDENT-CENTERED INSTRUCTION” by Felder & Brent that likens the student push-back during student-centred teaching to the 8 stages of grief. I love sharing the article with teachers that are frustrated by students that are reacting negatively when they try to transform their classroom to a student-centred learning environment. So to make the ideas even more shareable, I put together a sketchnote version:

Student centred instruction.jpeg

But I really do encourage you to read the whole article as the authors go on to explain some suggestions as to how to mitigate the push-back, such as sharing with students the reasoning behind the methods, and modelling & establishing criteria for the successful use of the critical thinking skills expected of students.

I’ll finish by including a few of the tweets from other teachers on the topic:

What push-back have you experienced in your classroom and how have you dealt with it?

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

Captive Audience: #LearningInTheLoo

Do you ever read a great article or blog post and think I HAVE to share this with my colleagues! So you email everybody the link & say you have to read this. And then maybe 1 or 2 people actually read it?

I find so many great things on Twitter & blogs (#MTBoS) that I want to share with my colleagues, but they often don’t have (or make) the time to check them out. So when I happened upon a tweet about Learning in the Loo I thought it was genius – a captive audience!

So I have made it a habit to create & post a new Learning in the Loo 11×17″ poster in each staff toilet in our school every 1 or 2 weeks this semester. I curate the amazing things I learn about online & turn them into quick read how-tos or ideas to read while you … “go”. And it just occured to me that I should have been posting them to my blog as I made them. But now you can get a whole whack of them at once and next year I’ll try to remember to post them as I make them.

The whole collection so far can be found here with printing instructions.
Feel free to make a copy (File –> make a copy). Also the sources of images & ideas are in the notes of the doc above too.

Here they are:

Learning in the Loo Assessment FeedbackLearning in the Loo Cell Phone Work Life BalanceLearning in the Loo EdPuzzleLearning in the Loo Adobe Spark VideoLearning in the Loo TwitterLearning in the Loo Google ClassroomLearning in the Loo Grouping StrategiesLearning in the Loo KahootLearning in the Loo Google Docs

What would you share in your school’s first Learning In The Loo poster?

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

#3ActMath – What is it?

I learned about a great tool this past weekend at the Ontario Summit; Adobe Spark video. A huge shoutout to Rushton Hurley for the introduction to this tool. It’s a super fast & easy way to combine photos, videos & text and narrate over top of it to create a seamless professional looking video.

I tried my hand and created one about 3ActMath lesson style. Give it a watch & let me know what you think:

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

Building #ThinkingClassrooms

Almost 3 years ago now, some math teachers in our school board returned from a conference with two concepts from the research of Peter Liljedahl; vertical non-permanent surfaces (VNPS) & visibly random grouping (VRG). I was blown away by these 2 strategies & implemented them in my classroom immediately after learning about them.

Peter tells a great story about a Math teacher saying upon meeting him “Oh, you’re the vertical surfaces guy!”. While he’s happy that teachers are finding benefit from implementing VNPS in their classrooms, he hopes those teachers will be inspired to go even further and delve into the 11 conditions Peter says will help us build “Thinking Classrooms”. A thinking classroom is . . .

“a classroom that is not only conducive to thinking but also occasions thinking, a space that is inhabited by thinking individuals as well as individuals thinking collectively, learning together, and constructing knowledge and understanding through activity and discussion” (Liljedahl, 2016)

In his chapter titled “Building thinking classrooms: Conditions for problem solving” Peter outlines 11 practices teachers can adopt in order to build a Thinking Classroom. Actually, I think that chapter proposes 9 of them, and Peter has an upcoming chapter to be released that details all 11 practices that his most recent research has unveiled. Here is my sketchnote summary of those practices:

Thinking Classroom.PNG

Building a thinking classroom:

  1. Begin with problems/tasks
  2. Visibly random groups
  3. Vertical non-permanent surfaces
  4. Oral instructions
  5. Defront the room
  6. Answer “keep thinking” questions
  7. Build autonomy
  8. Hints & extensions to maintain flow
  9. Level to the bottom
  10. Student-created notes
  11. Assessment

That last one is the one I am the least clear about what it entails. I heard Peter say in a talk that it would take him another 3 hour session just to cover that piece alone. I’m hoping that the more I explore his publications, the more I’ll learn about what he proposes for assessment as I am keen to get away from tests & make my assessment match my classroom time.

For more of my posts on Peter’s Thinking Classrooms work, click here.

Peter’s Thinking Classroom research can be found here.
He provides some “good problems” so you can start with the 1st step, here.
You can watch a 1-hour archived webinar by Peter on the topic here.

Update: I wrote an article for Edutopia about the first 3 elements of the Thinking Classroom – good tasks, VRGs & VNPSs – that you can read here https://www.edutopia.org/blog/student-centered-math-class-laura-wheeler

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

Self-verbalization & Reciprocal Teaching

I’ve been selected to participate in a lesson study at my school this semester linked to Ontario’s “Renewed Math Strategy”. My homework after the first meeting was to read up on two of John Hattie’s high-yield strategies; self-verbalization & reciprocal teaching.

Our next meeting is tomorrow so I did some last minute reading & put together a couple of sketchnotes to summarize what I read:

reciprocal-teachingself-verbalization

Update 2017.05.15: I just got back from OAME 2017 where I attended a session on Reciprocal Teaching for the Math classroom. Lynne Vink, Chad Warren & Luke Kordupel shared the roles they’ve developed to help their students use this strategy in their classes:Reciprocal Teaching in Math

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

Studenting & Visibly Random Groups: #Sketchnotes #ThinkingClassroom

A few years ago I started using visibly random groups & vertical non-permanent surfaces in my Math classroom. I got so excited about these strategies when some colleagues brought them back from a PD they had attended and immediately changed my classroom routines & setup. These strategies come out of a body of research by Peter Liljedahl on the Thinking Classroom.

Peter came to Ottawa last week for our Math PD day. He keynoted our event as well as offered workshops, both beginner & advanced, on how to apply his research findings in our classrooms. I tell everyone I can about how much Peter’s research has changed my classroom for the better, and so after his recent visit I decided to work on sketchnoting & sharing his research.

Here are my first two sketchnotes:

Visibly random groupings:

visibly-random-groups-vrg

Studenting behaviours around homework & studenting behaviours in the “now you try one” teaching model:

studenting-homework-now-you-try-one

Stay tuned for more sketchnotes about the Thinking Classroom!

Update: I wrote an article for Edutopia about the first 3 elements of the Thinking Classroom – good tasks, VRGs & VNPSs – that you can read here https://www.edutopia.org/blog/student-centered-math-class-laura-wheeler

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

Video clip of students at work

Today while Ms. Fahmi, my student teacher, was teaching I went to take a photo of the students at their boards solving in their groups. Then realised that I should try taking some video since there are several of us in the room & I can take the time to do so (I had parents choose at the beginning of the year whether or not they were comfortable with me including photos & videos of their child in class on my professional learning network platforms)

Here is a quick (1 minute) video clip of my students working on a visual patterns 3 act math task on vertical non-permanent surfaces in their visibly random groups:

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

Student-Paced mode in @PearDeck for #3ActMath tasks

This summer Pear Deck announced the introduction of student-paced mode; the ability for the teacher to allow students to work through the slide deck at their own pace. This is a feature I enjoyed in the Desmos activities I’d been building for graphing (interesting also that Desmos introduced their teacher-paced mode around the same time that Pear Deck introduced student-paced; both platforms now offering both pacing options).

Not sure what Pear Deck is or does? Watch this quick video before reading further:

How to turn on student-paced mode:

Click the 3-dot menu icon on the bottom right of your screen while presenting your Pear Deck, and the option to turn student-paced mode on (or off later) will be there:file-DY4DfcYV8V.png

How do I use student-paced mode?

Most of the activities I do in my math class are in the style of 3 Act Math (a concept put forth by Dan Meyer).

Act 1 consists of present my students with a scenario via photo or video & asking them

  • What do you notice?
  • What do you wonder?

Then I show them the problem I’ve chosen for the day (usually it’s one that most kids write down for “what do you wonder?” since I’ve carefully selected the scenario to lend itself to asking the question I want based on our learning goal).

  • Estimate the answer: too high, too low, best guess?

Act 1 happens via Pear Deck in TEACHER-paced mode. Students are at their seats in their visibly random groups for the day assigned by playing cards. They use their own phone or a loaned chromebook (I have 6 that live in my classroom) to answer these questions on Pear Deck. We often have a quick class discussion here too about reasonable estimates and their strategies for that. I, as the teacher, am choosing when to move the slides forward for the entire group.

Act 2 consists of sending each group to their assigned vertical non-permanent surface (ie. chalkboard or whiteboard) to solve the problem. Often groups also need to do some data collection or measurement here in order to solve the problem.

At this point I have a slide with the original picture & the problem to solve written on it projected on the board while the groups are solving. The moment the first group to finish solving heads back to their seats, this is when I turn on STUDENT-paced mode. The rest of the slides will be follow up questions to reflect on their solution or to apply their thinking to extension problems. Students work on these at their own pace at their own desk.

When all groups are done and back at their seats, I lead a class discussion about the solutions from each group using the 5 practices for orchestrating productive mathematics discussions. During or after this discussion, we might also look at some of the responses to specific follow up questions on Pear Deck. If we do, I turn OFF the student-paced mode to bring everybody’s screen back to whichever one we are discussing.

Act 3 consists of checking our answer either in real life (as we did for the cup stacking activity) or by showing a video or image answer (as we did for the phone charge activity).

Normally, in Pear Deck, there is a projected screen being shown on the board to the whole class by the teacher. The students see a “response” screen on their own device that is different than the one being projected. When in student-paced mode, the student can see both the content slide AND The student response slide on their own device. On a tablet or laptop the two screens are shown side by side when in student-paced mode:IMG_1923.PNG
When using a smaller device such as a phone or iPod, the student will see a blue bar across the bottom of the screen allowing them to toggle back and forth between the “content” & “response” screens:

Have you used student-paced mode in Pear Deck yet? Share in the comments below how you use it with your own students!

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

#EdInnovation2016 Recap

I attended the EdInnovation summit this past weekend in Ottawa to present on behalf of Pear Deck. This was the first year that this conference was run by a new organization team (in the past it was an EdTech Team event). There were over 1200 teachers from all of the major (& not so major) school boards in the Ottawa area. The conference is bilingual; in fact 3 of the 5 workshops that I attended were in French! Here are my sketchnote summaries of the keynotes & workshops I attended:

Chris Hadfield keynote

edinnovation2016-chris-hadfield-1

The A-Z of Generation Z by Jean Marc Dupont

EdInnovation2016 Jean Marc Dupont Gen Z.PNG

Pedagogical Documentation by Chantal Picard & Johanne Ste-Croix

EdInnovation2016 Pedagogical Documentation.PNG

Leading & Learning & the Modern Administrator by Jim Jamieson

EdInnovation Digital Leader Administrator (1).PNG

Google Cardboard & Google Street View keynote by John Bailey

EdInnovation2016 Google Cardboard.PNG

GAFE tools to support research & make thinking visible by Jim Jamieson

edinnovation2016-gafe-tools-research-visible-thinking

and last but not least, my own session on Pear Deck:

Pear Deck Sketchnote.png

Keep an eye on this conference if you work in the Ottawa area; it’s a good one!

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)