The Power of Rituals

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Mollie Siegel, Louisville, KY

Recently, my friend, who is a preschool teacher, shared a story with me. The mother of one of her students  contacted her about a curious question. The young boy could not attend class and he told his mother, with great enthusiasm throughout the day, about the classroom “wishing well.” My friend, the teacher, explained to the mother that the little boy must have been referring to the class practice to “wish well” any student who is not present during attendance time. This teacher made it possible through this ritual for that student to know that he would be missed from the classroom when he was not there.

This past summer, I clipped a July 2020 New York Times piece written by Neha Chaundhary, entitled, “Rituals Keep These Athletes Grounded. They Can Help Parents, Too: With stress levels high during the pandemic, every day can feel like overtime. Here’s how to take back control.” While this article charged parents to combat the angst caused by the pandemic through mindful action, I believed the messaging also applied to me as a teacher. I was struck by the author’s suggestion that rituals are anchors to help bring calm and navigation. She wrote, “In addition to calming nerves and focusing the mind, rituals play a big role in reminding people who they are and giving them back a sense of power over their world, both of which are critical during times of stress and uncertainty.” (Chaundhary, 2020). One suggested ritual from the article was inspired by Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who created a workout playlist called “Airplane Mode.” He explained that while listening to it, he would “shut off” the outside world and focus just on exercising.

As I consider the return from winter break, I am not tempted to add new resolutions to my workload. If you were a teacher during the year 2020, I am willing to bet you are also not tempted. For me, late August is actually what January 1st seems to be for the non-teachers in my family. I consider setting new goals for the academic year as a summer time activity. Winter break is for rest, and January is for doubling down on what is good. “What is good” means any action or activity we do that reminds us why we do what we do. I am interested in the questions, “What is working well to foster a sense of security for students that I want to continue?” and “What activities have been conducive for community building for each class?” Now, more than ever, it is a time to bolster our favorite classroom rituals and continue them into 2021.

For updates on progress on how teachers are incorporating ritual, among other ideas, check out the CPM Teacher Researcher blog site.

Chaundhary, Neha. “Rituals Keep These Athletes Grounded. They Can Help Parents, Too: With stress levels high during the pandemic, every day can feel like overtime. Here’s how to take back control.”, The New York Times, July 6th, 2020 article.

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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

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.