Better Conversations

Sharon Rendon, Coaching Coordinator

Everyday we have multiple conversations with people.  All types of communication happen with our families, friends, colleagues, supervisors, and students.  The many types of conversations that happen from teacher-to-teacher, teacher-to-student, and student-to-student are the lifeblood of any school. In order to improve our classrooms and schools, we must improve our ability to communicate.

We can learn how to coach others and ourselves on how to become better communicators.  In Jim Knight’s new book, Better Conversations, he lays out six beliefs and ten habits of better communication.

The six beliefs are:

  • I see others as equal partners in conversations.
  • I believe people should have a lot of autonomy.
  • I want to hear what others have to say.
  • I do not judge my conversation partners.
  • Conversation should be back and forth.
  • Conversation should be life-giving.

The ten habits include:

  • Demonstrate Empathy
  • Listen
  • Foster Dialogue
  • Ask Better Questions
  • Make Emotional Connections
  • Be a Witness to the Good
  • Find Common Ground
  • Control Toxic Emotions
  • Redirect Toxic Conversations
  • Build Trust

Although all these beliefs and habits are important to better conversations, the two beliefs, I want to hear what others have to say and Conversation should be back and forth, stand out as having a direct impact on our work in creating student centered mathematics classrooms.  Those beliefs are tied directly to developing the important habit of listening.  As a teacher there is no more important habit to develop than the ability to truly listen to our students and to teach students to listen to each other within teams and whole class conversations.  Additionally, as we work with our colleagues, coaches, and administrators, the ability to listen will greatly increase the effectiveness of our efforts.

The use of study team strategies and modeling for our students will help develop the listening habit in our students as well.  When you plan your lessons, make sure to include opportunities to hear what students have to say.  Be intentional about allowing the student voice to be heard in your classroom during the work time.  When you think of the mathematical goal or practice for the lesson, find ways to highlight the math or standard for mathematical practice during the closure portion of the lesson.

When the pressure of “covering content” rises its ugly head, and you are tempted to revert to a teaching by telling method, battle against that habit.  Stay committed to hearing what your students have to say through exploring the problems in study teams.

When working with your colleagues, think of how you can ask more thoughtful questions and then simply listen.  If we have the belief that we see others as equals, then we want to hear what they have to say.  We can learn from them and the conversation will be better because everyone involved created it.

As we examine our beliefs about conversations and then reflect on our actions, we are able to identify inconsistencies.  Then we have the powerful ability to create an actionable goal to initiate change in ourselves.  Take some time to consider those beliefs and habits and choose one to work on improving over the next semester.

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Algebra Tiles Blue Icon

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

The Building on Instructional Practice Series consists of three different events – Building on Discourse, Building on Assessment, Building on Equity – that are designed for teachers with a minimum of one year of experience teaching with CPM instructional materials and who have completed the Foundations for Implementation Series.

Building on Equity

In Building on Equity, participants will learn how to include equitable practices in their classroom and support traditionally underserved students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Essential questions include: How do I shift dependent learners into independent learners? How does my own math identity and cultural background impact my classroom? The focus of day one is equitable classroom culture. Participants will reflect on how their math identity and mindsets impact student learning. They will begin working on a plan for Chapter 1 that creates an equitable classroom culture. The focus of day two and three is implementing equitable tasks. Participants will develop their use of the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Meaningful Mathematical Discussions and curate strategies for supporting all students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Participants will use an equity lens to reflect on and revise their Chapter 1 lesson plans.

Building on Assessment

In Building on Assessment, participants will apply assessment research and develop methods to provide feedback to students and inform equitable assessment decisions. On day one, participants will align assessment practices with learning progressions and the principle of mastery over time as well as write assessment items. During day two, participants will develop rubrics, explore alternate types of assessment, and plan for implementation that supports student ownership. On the third day, participants will develop strategies to monitor progress and provide evidence of proficiency with identified mathematics content and practices. Participants will develop assessment action plans that will encourage continued collaboration within their learning community.

Building on Discourse

In Building on Discourse, participants will improve their 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 rich tasks with all elements of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices incorporated through intentional and reflective planning.