Whole-Class Discussion—Beyond Crickets

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Mollie Siegel, Louisville, KY, trc-molliesiegel@cpm.org

Have you found that your class discussions have you speaking much more than the students? Does it seem like the students that do volunteer are a predictable few while the rest of the class sits idly? Or when you have asked for volunteers to get the discussion started, all you hear are crickets? This shared experience led Mollie Siegel (trc-molliesiegel@cpm.org), Cathy Sinnen (trc-cathysinnen@cpm.org), and Penny Smits (trc-pennysmits@cpm.org) to wonder how they might be able to change this dynamic. As members of CPM’s Teacher Research Corps, the aim of their action research project was to foster richer whole-class discussion driven by student ideas. They conjectured that instructional moves could improve participation in whole-class discourse and, even more, involve the whole class in deeper thinking and mathematics.

Many of the initial discussions as a team were about their experiences facilitating class discussions. They had trouble narrowing the factors that contributed to a discussion that “went well.” It was easier to identify the pitfalls: one or two students participating, teacher questions that fall flat to a silent classroom, and disengaged students. This led the teacher researchers to identify the obstacles that kept students from participating. Four common themes emerged: shyness, fear of making mistakes, anxiety, and needing more processing time. In response, the team developed a whole-class discussion planner based on the work of Smith and Stein’s 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematical Discussions.

They also curated specific teacher moves to address each obstacle and empowered students to self-regulate through a student participation tracker. Ultimately, students asserted more ownership over ideas, became better listeners, and spoke more productively in whole-class settings.

To read the entire white paper and gain access to all of the innovations and strategies, email Mark Coté.

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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.