Chris’ Corner – Movement and Music and … Stress Balls?

Chris Mikles, Director of Teacher Education

Visiting classrooms this week I was reminded of how much I have learned by sitting in SPED classes. The teachers are wonderful and have shared with and taught me a lot.

I remember having a SPED teacher telling me that music is very important in her classroom.  She said that the best choice of music was one where the beat was close to the tempo of our heartbeat.  I never found that music, but in my class I played the Beatles and the Beach Boys, and that worked to soothe the personalities in my classroom. If you use music, please share your experiences.  If you do not, try it and see what happens.  I would suggest you use your music and not necessarily what the students always listen to. Below is an excerpt from the article Music and Learning: Integrating Music in the Classroom by Chris Boyd Brewer.


How is it that for most people music is a powerful part of their personal life and yet when we go to work or school we turn it off? The intentional use of music in the classroom will set the scene and learning atmosphere to enhance our teaching and learning activities. Plus, using music for learning makes the process much more fun and interesting! Music, one of the joys of life, can be one of the joys of learning as well. The following pages give you suggestions for when and how to use music during your teaching or training. With these techniques, you, the teacher, can orchestrate a classroom environment that is rich and resonant– and provide learners with a symphony of learning opportunities and a sound education!

Music helps us learn because it will–

  • establish a positive learning state
  • create a desired atmosphere
  • build a sense of anticipation
  • energize learning activities
  • change brain wave states
  • focus concentration
  • increase attention
  • improve memory
  • facilitate a multisensory learning experience
  • release tension
  • enhance imagination
  • align groups
  • develop rapport
  • provide inspiration and motivation
  • add an element of fun
  • accentuate theme-oriented unit


I really believe that movement is very important in the classroom. Even taking a ten second “Stand up and tell the person next to you what you just learned or a question that you still have about the lesson” will benefit student learning.  For block classes, I think using movement as a transition from one lesson to the next can also be very important to learning. Movement helps dendrites grow just as making connections in your learning does. Even doing something silly as a brain break can reenergize the students. See  for ideas.

Stress Balls

One of the best lessons I learned from a SPED teacher was using stress balls; not for me but for the students.  I bought five of them and had them available for the students to use.  We had rules about their use and the students were very mindful of those rules.  I explained the benefits, and believe me, the stress balls were always in use.  The way to use them is to have the students squeeze the stress ball in their non-dominant hand while they are writing.  It helps the students concentrate on what they were doing.  I noticed the behavior became better and the off task time was less frequent. Have you used stress balls or something similar in your class? If so, please share.

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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.