March 13, 2020 will be a date forever etched in my memory. One can say it is a day that every teacher realized that the future is now. For myself (and my colleagues) this was a realization that did not frighten or intimidate us. We have been preparing for this moment for over 2 years now. I am eternally grateful for the incredible learning opportunities our Head of School Dr. Jon Mitzmacher gave us and the incredible mentorship of Sylvia Tolisano in order to make this shift to Distance Learning pretty much seamless. An incredibly proud moment for OJCS. So how did this impact my PGP that I started at the beginning of the school year?
As I continue to make the shift from differentiation to personalization in Phase Two of Distance Learning, I was able to share a new math program that is all about self directed learning. IXL has just been introduced to my students and I am excited to gather feedback from both students and parents. Students begin working in the Diagnostic Arena, which will allow them to narrow down their personalized independent working level. They may click on “I haven’t learned this yet” when faced with a level that is presently beyond what they can do independently. What I noticed through Distance Learning, was that I was able to see first hand how our students have become very comfortable with technology and can use it to share their thinking. Flipgrid is a platform we use often, and can be used to reflect on what students learn in our math block each week. Each student’s voice is heard, and from these shared math explanations, we learn from each other. It is also a great way to evaluate what they understand and the strategies they have mastered. “Not all students have to master every strategy, but they do have to have a strategy tool box.” This is a direct quote from David Costello’s OAME2020 math online workshop (Developing a Mathematically Literate Environment) which I attended virtually last week. Following the online session I immediately reached out to my colleagues to share how inspired I was by his explanation of mathematical instruction,thinking and physical space. Part of personalization is having the students involved in documenting their thinking and reflecting on artifacts that display their growth. Flipgrid reflections are an excellent artifact for student blogfolios. Jamboard (yet another tool I have learned to use) is a way students can build their strategy toolbox during Distance Learning. Each student could create a list of math strategies they are comfortable using and this artifact can be placed into their blogfolios. At this point in my blog post, I had an “AHA” moment. I am most definitely ready to create, simultaneously with the students, blogfolios. Distance learning has accelerated my timeline. Learning new ways to evaluate students (IXL math program) having them use new ways to share their thoughts and strategies, creating blogfolios, all coming together.
Diving deeper into math strands is something I continue to work on with our math coach, Mrs. Chelsea Cleveland. After listening to an online workshop by David Costello, he reaffirmed what problem solving in my classroom should look and feel like. I agree that there is a big difference between providing practise in problem solving, versus having students really have to work on a problem. Working on a problem, possibly for days in order to refine strategies, revisiting their original plan, add new tools to their strategy toolbox or make errors in order to get closer to a solution, all part of the process. To quote my math coach, ” Don’t steal the struggle.” Distance learning forced my hand to make this happen. I have a better understanding that the problem itself is just a tool to help them with their mathematical understanding. In order to support them as they problem solve, ask why did you use that strategy and how did you know that strategy would work, instead of what strategy did you use. Go deeper! As I go deeper into my PGP, I better understand how to set up each component of the Math Daily 3 program in order for it to run independently. This in turn allows for more one-on-one time with each student. I have also found new websites (brainingcamp.com, IXL, mathbuddyonline.com) to help make independent learning possible. The Daily 3 station known as Math Writing (problem solving) is where I will continue to challenge my students to go deeper. I will approach math as I do my literacy block, setting my students up to be able to self-monitor by using a strategy tool box they build for themselves, communicate their thinking to others and most importanly to have a strong mathematical understanding of all the concepts being introduced.