Sunday, October 9, 2016

Space for All Learners

In my ongoing quest to find great math resources on Twitter (not hard), I started following Steve Wyborney (@SteveWyborney). Steve is a math teacher and coach in Oregon. He has been posting high quality math activities immediately usable by elementary teachers. I will share a few of them here.

Teachers often struggle with math tasks that feel just right for some students but not others. Steve’s activities are accessible by a wide range of learners in the elementary grades. They provide access points for many but also opportunities for challenge within the realm of grade-appropriate number sense, place value understanding, and additive or multiplicative reasoning.

Steve has created this subitizing/number patterns video that teachers can show to students, pausing at a certain spot to allow thinking and noticing. It couldn’t be much easier. He provides a printable page to give to students. Simple to try, powerful results.

Watch Steve’s video of ideas for how to use this resource. Then you can get the interactive powerpoint slide he created and try it with students. I can’t get it to work on a Chromebook, so you probably need a computer with Powerpoint installed.

These are simple tools, already frequently used in elementary mathematics, but often without the kind of exploration and reflection encouraged by Steve.

If you explore Steve’s blog, I’m on a Learning Mission, you will find lots more high quality instructional strategies as well as tools that are immediately usable with students.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Project School Visit

Recently, a group of educators from the Burlington School District visited The Project School in Bloomington, Indiana. This was part of an ongoing partnership with Daniel Baron, one of the school’s founders.

We had three amazing days of quality time with students in classes and meetings with the school staff.

Some takeaways:

School climate matters. When the staff is happy, it shows. Everyone knows it, especially the students, and it creates a healthy, happy, productive learning environment.

Decision-making based on student needs rather than adult needs feels very different. Adults at The Project School have shared core values that guide their decisions. They are flexible, positive, and student-centered. They shift schedules, resources, groups, and plans throughout the year as needs change.

Multi-age classes have many benefits. Observers noticed all students seeming to rise to the level of the oldest students in the class.  We saw a high level of peer support for learning, greater acceptance of differences, and increased self-sufficiency and student leadership.

Having a really great mission and vision matters. Here is theirs. You can read more on their website.
The mission of The Project School is to uncover, recover and discover the unique gifts and talents that each child brings to school every day. Our school works collaboratively with families, community members and social service agencies to solve real problems, as well as to create art for public spaces. Students graduate from The Project School as stewards of the environment with the will, skill, capacity, and knowledge to contribute to the greater good.
The vision of the Project School is to eliminate the predictive value of race, class, gender and special abilities on student success in our school and in our communities, by working together with families and community to ensure each child’s success.

Student voice and choice is critical. A 1st through 8th grade multi-age daily class called Passions helped us see how school can be more enjoyable for everyone.

Themes and big questions are powerful. This year they are focusing on Struggle and Progress.

Problems, Projects, and Place make up the P3 framework used by The Project School. Students do integrated, relevant, compelling projects throughout the year.

Wow! The trip gave me a lot to think about. Our group will continue to meet relative to this experience and our work in Burlington.

Thanks to Daniel and the rest of The Project School staff for helping us see some different ways of thinking about and doing education.