A Different Use for Study Team and Teaching Strategies

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Daniel Vrieze, Dover-Eyota Middle School/High School, Eyota, MN

Study Team and Teaching Strategies (STTS) are not just for students. A team of teachers in our district, supported by the administration, formed a building-level problem-solving group. We charged ourselves with the task of being a “forward-thinking team that has a direction, works cooperatively, and has positive energy to provide a consistent culture of professionalism and continuous improvement.” We named the group “Site Council”. Given the limited amount of time we are allotted, Site Council uses STTS to make sure everyone’s input is heard. Our organized, succinct meetings are infused with positive energy and there is a direct purpose for each staff meeting, as we demonstrate new strategies teachers can use in their own classrooms.

We believe that to have a strong collaborative culture, everyone on staff needs to connect through professional and personal relationships. In recent years, our staff has experienced more turn-over than we are accustomed, which unfortunately leads to many of us feeling that we have lost part of our family. To fill in the gaps and foster relationship building, we use grouping strategies from the CPM website to decide where everyone will sit during some of our staff meetings. This encourages staff members to sit by new people. Two of my favorite sorts are 1) choosing groups of two by typing jokes and punch lines on two slips of paper, passing them out randomly to the staff and having them find the person that completes the joke; and 2) choosing groups of four by cutting cartoons into five puzzle pieces, one piece goes on each table and the rest get passed out as people enter the room. The movement and humor created by these activities also help to provide a little energy by getting everyone’s blood flowing and provides a positive atmosphere to start the meeting. We have also lined up by birth month and day and years of experience to create more heterogeneous groups.

When staff expressed frustration with the growing separation between our values as teachers (work ethic and performance expectations) and the results we were seeing from our students, we decided to use STTS to help. We wanted to collect qualitative data about these frustrations and values of the faculty members in a manner that would create a positive problem-solving atmosphere while promoting trust and strengthening relationships between staff members. To do this we used a Think-Pair-Share mixed with a Dyad. We felt that these two strategies gave faculty members time to formulate their response in their head and practice it confidentially with a partner before sharing it with the whole group. The responses to this activity provided the direction for staff development for the next school year. We used the following sentence starters to keep the activity focused on student learning.

“I am frustrated with ___________ because I value ________. I feel this negatively impacts student learning because _______.”

In an effort to promote teamwork among staff, we used two different Carousels to collect and share ideas. During the first activity, we modified an Index Card Carousel to ask four different questions including “Can someone help me with…”, “I can help a colleague with…”, “Positive Celebrations”, and “How can I improve myself this school year”. The response to each question was placed on a different colored notecard and posted in the teachers’ lounge as a version of a Gallery Walk.

On a different occasion, we collected information on effective homework strategies, communicating essential learning goals, facilitating student self-assessment, ideas for open house/conferences, and effective teamwork strategies. Each topic was placed on a different poster and a Carousel-Around the World was used to collect responses. A Site Council member stayed at each poster to facilitate the discussion and to summarize the content using a Whip-Around at the end.

When we have needed new, fresh ideas about how to facilitate our staff meetings, we have referenced the STTS document from the CPM website for ideas. This year we plan to adapt a Fortune Cookie to collect information for next year’s teacher workshops and we plan to use a Silent Debate to have a civil discussion regarding the contentious topic of student cell phone use.

The Study Team and Teaching Strategies from CPM have livened up our staff meetings. They provide the structure needed to efficiently collect large amounts of qualitative data that provide the direction for teacher workshops and help create a positive culture of cooperative problem-solving in our district. In addition, teachers outside the Math Department are using the STTS documents in their own classrooms as a result of the experiences they have had at staff meetings.

To view CPM’s STTS, go to: https://www.cpm.org/pdfs/studyTeam/STTS%20cards%202012.pdf
https://www.cpm.org/pdfs/studyTeam/Grouping_Ideas.pdf

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Algebra Tiles Session

  • Used throughout CPM middle and high school courses
  • Concrete, geometric representation of algebraic concepts.
  • Two-hour virtual session,
  •  Learn how students build their conceptual understanding of simplifying algebraic expressions
  • Solving equations using these tools.  
  • Determining perimeter,
  • Combining like terms,
  • Comparing expressions,
  • Solving equations
  • Use an area model to multiply polynomials,
  • Factor quadratics and other polynomials, and
  • Complete the square.
  • Support the transition from a concrete (manipulative) representation to an abstract model of mathematics..

Foundations for Implementation

This professional learning is designed for teachers as they begin their implementation of CPM. This series contains multiple components and is grounded in multiple active experiences delivered over the first year. This learning experience will encourage teachers to adjust their instructional practices, expand their content knowledge, and challenge their beliefs about teaching and learning. Teachers and leaders will gain first-hand experience with CPM with emphasis on what they will be teaching. Throughout this series educators will experience the mathematics, consider instructional practices, and learn about the classroom environment necessary for a successful implementation of CPM curriculum resources.

Page 2 of the Professional Learning Progression (PDF) describes all of the components of this learning event and the additional support available. Teachers new to a course, but have previously attended Foundations for Implementation, can choose to engage in the course Content Modules in the Professional Learning Portal rather than attending the entire series of learning events again.

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Building on Instructional Practice Series

This series contains three different courses, taken in either order. The courses are designed for schools and teachers with a minimum of one year of experience teaching with CPM curriculum materials. Teachers will develop further understanding of strategies and tools for instructional practices and assessment.

Building on Equity

In this course, participants will learn how to include equitable practices in their  classroom and support traditionally underserved students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Participants will reflect on how their math identity and mindsets impact student learning. They will begin working on a plan for implementing Chapter 1 that creates an equitable classroom culture and curate strategies for supporting all students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Follow-up during the school year will support ongoing implementation of equitable classroom practices.

Building on Assessment

In this course, participants will apply assessment research to develop methods to provide feedback to students and to inform equitable assessment decisions. Participants will develop assessment action plans that will encourage continued collaboration within their learning community.

Building on Discourse

This professional learning builds upon the Foundations for Implementation Series by improving teachers’ ability to facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse. This learning experience will encourage participants to adjust their instructional practices in the areas of sharing math authority, developing independent learners, and the creation of equitable classroom environments. Participants will plan for student learning by using teaching practices such as posing purposeful questioning, supporting productive struggle, and facilitating meaningful mathematical discourse. In doing so, participants learn to support students collaboratively engaged with rigorous, team-worthy tasks with all elements of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices.