Learning Teams Collaborate Remotely with Google Docs

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Geoff Brown, Chagrin Falls, OH  geoff.brown@chagrinschools.org

When our school shifted to remote instruction last March, I wanted my middle school students to interact with each other as much as possible, despite being isolated in their homes. I decided to ask them to continue to work in small teams to explore the same CPM lessons that they would have seen had they been in our classroom.

To enable the students to “construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others,” I transferred the problem number and a small amount of key information from the eBook to shared Google Docs. Each question from the lesson was inserted into a table and then each student was asked to paste their answer into the other rows of the table (See an example of CCG, Lesson 9.1.5 (gdoc)). Along the way, I hoped the students would read each other’s answers and make comments.

I asked everyone to attempt the problems to the best of their ability on Mondays and Wednesdays, and then we looked at the answer key together on Tuesday and Thursday mornings (See an example of the key for CCG, Lesson 9.1.5 (gdoc)). We were often able to share creative student work from the day before. To finish the lessons, I asked students to attempt normal Review & Preview problems on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

I was interested when some study teams decided to work through their lessons together, at the same time, and ask each other questions. This type of collaboration shows the potential of synchronous instruction, which our school has been planning to use in the fall. In the document pictured below, each team typed comments back and forth to other teams in the shared Google Doc as they explored CCA, Lesson 9.4.2. This virtual conversation was happening on a Wednesday morning, and I was excited to see it! The next morning, I shared this image with the rest of the class during our Thursday closure session.

Looking ahead to this fall, I think this strategy might be a good one to use for as many lessons as possible, especially if our classes will be synchronous with some people in the classroom and some at home. I can imagine having a Resource Manager sitting in my classroom showing materials to teammates in a Zoom breakout room. Then all teammates could discuss and type answers on a shared Google Doc. Finally, a Recorder/Reporter, sitting in their house, might announce a team’s conclusion to the whole-class in a Zoom meeting.


If you are interested in using Google Docs, here are a few strategies I developed.

  • I originally planned to share a template of the note guide via Google Classroom and ask the students to make copies and give writing permission to me and their teammates. But, some students filed away the copies in surprising places, so ultimately I made the copies and placed them in a shared Google Folder. This way, all students were able to view every other team’s work, but they only edit their own. However, it took 10-15 minutes to make and share all the copies each morning, and the Turn in feature of Google Classroom was no longer usable.
  • It was cumbersome to view student work when I had to open and scroll through many 20-page Docs. I am optimistic that, with synchronous classes, I can circulate through the work of a few teams at a time from my computer and offer the students more immediate feedback.
  • I enjoyed seeing the students access outside resources, such as Desmos and Geogebra, to attempt problems and then paste screenshots or links from their work into these shared docs. The students did a nice job praising each other for creative work!
  • For the formative assessment, we analyzed the keys for the Review & Preview problem every morning after they were due. My students also used DeltaMath.com once per week for additional individual practice and formative assessment.

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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.