Engaging Students With Feedback

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Cathy Sinnen, Mckinleyville, CA, trc-cathysinnen@cpm.org

In March when schools suddenly closed due to COVID-19, I had a vision, perhaps a dream, of what distance learning would be. I imagined my students all logging into our Zoom class at the prescribed time, me facilitating teams in breakout rooms, and having great conversations. While some of that has happened, it did not turn out the way I planned. My “optional” Zoom classes were great, but not so well attended. Many of my middle school students slept in or procrastinated. Learning turned out to be a blend of synchronous and asynchronous. I found myself scrambling to engage with the students who did not “attend” virtual math class.

I wanted to have interactions about math with my students and encourage them to try to revise their math as they did in my in-person CPM classroom. The two platforms that I used consistently for distance learning were Google Classroom and Desmos activities. Both have great features for feedback, and I used them regularly in my physical classroom as well.

In Google Classroom I posted new assignments or announcements daily and left feedback for each student as a private comment on every assignment. I tried to be as predictable and consistent as possible so that students would check in at least asynchronously every day. It took some time to give specific feedback, but it was worth it. I felt like learning was happening. I tried to focus feedback on the work and also on the effort by giving students encouragement and direction. Google Classroom was easier for me to manage than a full email box with the entire message in the subject line.

When students became more familiar with communicating with me using the private comments in Google Classroom, they even initiated conversations.

During quarantine, as my students referred to it, I discovered the feedback feature on the Desmos Activity Builder. It is my new favorite thing. You can leave feedback for students that they can read in real time or come back and read later as long as they are logged in to Desmos when they complete the activity. On the teacher side, you need to turn on the written feedback feature at teacher.desmos.com/labs.

The feedback I gave during distance learning was related to the task and often in the form of a question. I tried to encourage revision. The
feedback is visible when students click on the feedback icon at the top of the screen.

The grayed feedback boxes are links. When my students clicked on the feedback, they were taken to the screen that they needed to revise. I structured time in our school week for students to read feedback and revise their work. Two features I would like to see are the ability to edit the feedback after you send it and a question screen where students could ask a question or make a comment while they are working. My students asked questions or let me know they were stuck by adding a private comment on the assignment post on Google Classroom. I love the Desmos features like snapshot, present, and pause for synchronous learning. The feedback feature has helped me continue the math conversation with students who are not learning with me in real time.

Activity Builder is a fantastic resource for beginners and experts alike. You can launch a CPM-aligned activity for Core Connections, Courses 1–3 or a Desmos-created activity. You can even create your own activity. You can also make a copy of an activity and edit it or add screens from Desmos’ starter screens and distance learning screens. When I surveyed my students they indicated that they preferred to do distance learning lessons with Desmos over other platforms because it is easy to write and draw on the screens. I prefer Desmos because I can give feedback and have a math conversation with my students. Plus, the activities are dynamic. If you want to learn more about Desmos, you can go to learn.desmos.com.

I hope to be able to engage with my students in person again soon and give and receive feedback in real time. If that is not possible, I feel learning can still happen if I keep the feedback going in distance learning.

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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.