All in with OUR/IM – Digging in to Planning – Part 1

Spinning my wheels

Is anyone else is finding themselves filling their time with things besides actually planning lessons? I have definitely been falling into that. In the last couple weeks I have made carefully color coded pacing calendars for 8th grade. Here was my first version:

Notice how awesomely the unit colors match the book colors. Made me so happy.
This one looks great on my computer screen, but when I printed it, my printer did not translate colors well. So I spent about 3 more hours and what seemed like a full ream of paper until I got it to print in colors I was happy with. Here is that version.

Then I made a binder with color coded tabs by unit for my teaching notes. Then I added lesson tabs to my copy of the Unit 1 teacher’s edition. Then I decided I wanted to do the same for my student edition. Now I have decided that tabs on the side were maybe a bad idea, because they get bent on the shelf. So I begin contemplating moving all my tabs to the top.

If I was a classroom teacher I am sure I would also be spending time on labeling my storage bins, creating file folders, deciding on how to arrange desks, handle geometry toolkits, etc, etc. And all those things would be awesome and make it easier to stay organized as the year progressed. But none of those things alone help me know what I am going to say when the students are sitting in front of me.

So wherever you are in your prep, at some point you need to evaluate the time you have left and say, “Enough of the side dishes. Time to dig in to the lessons themselves.”

How to begin

The experience of planning feels a little different to me now that I have a print teacher’s edition. This January I planned a bit of Grade 8 Unit 1 using materials I was looking at online. This summer I am planning with a hard copy of my teacher’s edition in hand. To be fair, 100% of the teacher edition material is on line. But the way the teachers editions are put together helped me personally not skip important steps, and allowed me to make notes and highlight questions and ideas I wanted to make sure to include when I ran the lesson. Here is a picture of the table of contents for my Grade 8 Unit 1 teacher’s edition:

table of contents

Step 1: Unit Overview

So I started at the beginning and read the Unit Overview. I underlined, circled and highlighted the things that I wanted to remember and come back to just before we start the unit. I made a list of terms that students would be learning in the unit, and I added post-its to things I did not understand or wanted to read more about.

8.1 overview

In the picture above, the post-it quotes “Experimentally verify the properties of transformations, reflections and rotations.” I wondered which properties in specific. To resolve this I looked at the 8th grade common core standards for Geometry. Because I am obsessively thorough, I also talked to some knowledgeable friends who suggested I read the 6-8 Geometry progression documents from Achieve the Core. Any of these are good options for your questions as you plan. The facebook community, Open Up Resources 6–8, by Illustrative Mathematics is a great place to look for knowledgable friends.

Here is what I found:

Screenshot (7)

“Which properties?” was answered right there, under the main standard. Yeah!

Being an old high school teacher, I wanted to also include that reflections carried a point perpendicularly and an equal distance across the line of reflection. When experimenting, students might notice that, but it is not an 8th grade standard and I do not need to add that detailed definition at this point. I share this because no matter which grade or which unit you are teaching, it is easy to overteach. So as you begin to go through the unit, it is important to decide what you are actually responsible for. This is the number one thing you can do to make sure you are able to make it through the whole year of curriculum. Good news – The reason there is only one post-it on that page is because all my other questions were answered as I read the materials included with the curriculum and worked through the rest of my planning.

Step 2: Assessments

Next, with the overview fresh in my mind, I worked through the assessments – pre, mid- unit, and end-of-unit. Most units do not have a Mid Unit Assessment, but if they do, realize that most of that material will not again be tested on the End of Unit assessment. You and your PLC need to come to some decision about whether those will be counted as two separate unit exams, two half exams, or a quiz and a full assessment. In 8th grade, because the first unit is so long and we need to send report cards at the end of 6 weeks, I am leaning toward weighting them equally just to get more grades in the grade book.

When you are looking at the assessments in the teacher’s edition or teacher materials online, you are looking at the full answer key. In the Pre-assessment that includes why each question topic was chosen and when they are going to need that information in the unit. In the later assessments, solutions include discussion about what misunderstandings would cause students to pick each multiple choice answer, and rubrics that helped me fine tune my understanding of what was expected from students.

As I worked through these I removed many of my question post-its and added details to my notes on the overview page.

Step 3: Sections

Next I opened the teacher materials on the computer and marked out section grouping on the table of contents ( see pencil brackets in picture above). The lessons in the same sections are developing the same set of ideas. I found it helped to think of them as one giant lesson, because one day does not complete one idea like it did in my previous textbooks.

In one sitting, I:

  • Read through each lessons learning goals and learning targets,
  • Looked at the Alignments in the print version (called CCSS Standards online), and
  • Read through the cool down and possible answers.

Then I moved to the next day. In the Alignment section, I noted whether the standards were listed as Building on, Addressing, or Building Toward. This really helped me get a better feeling what I needed to talk about in each day, and what could wait for a day or two.

2018_07_20 3_40 PM Office Lens

2018_07_20 3_41 PM Office Lens

2018_07_20 3_47 PM Office Lens

I especially liked this one from 8.1.3, which should me they were addressing standard 8.G.A.1 in that lesson, but there would be more work in subsequent days on that same standard.

2018_07_20 4_47 PM Office Lens

Why so many days on a single standard?

According to course guide, each sequence of lessons includes the following:

  • Activate prior knowledge – invites all students in
  • Introduce representations and contexts – essential for developing an understanding of the mathematics
  • Concepts – where I used to start if I did a great lesson
  • Language and notation – where I started if I was pressed for time
  • Connections and consolidation – the place where students can move to the most efficient method of solving problems
  • Procedural fluency – the goal

As you look through the section, think about which of parts of this progression are happening during each lesson. Having a clear grasp of what exactly you are trying to accomplish in the day will make sense of everything you are doing. It will also help your activity and lesson synthesis be clearer and to the point.

Under Pressure

In a perfect world, you would do this for all of the sections of the unit before you begin you lesson planning and teaching for the unit. Having the assessments fresh in your mind will be a huge help in figuring out where you are headed. If it’s summer and school is still two weeks away, invest that time. If you need to know what you are teaching tomorrow, that is probably not realistic. Finish your one section and then begin digging into the lessons. Not optimal but it will probably happen sometime this year.

So Much Time

Yes, planning for new curriculum is going to take time. But until now, you have probably been in the curriculum writing business. Writing warm ups, searching out and adapting activities to support your lessons, finding or writing performance tasks or other problem solving opportunities – all that took time that you no longer have to spend. And the thing that is making you nervous now is the nagging feeling that you have no idea what you’re getting into. So let’s fix that. Sit down and put in the time. The confidence you gain in knowing where you are headed and what you are talking about from day one of the unit will definitely be worth it.

Up next- Planning a lesson

How I Became a Stand and Talk Believer

stand and talk
I wanted to share a story of how I ended up using Stand and Talk during a high school model lesson, because that day I became a huge believer.

I was teaching the same lesson 4 period in a row with a colleague in her classroom. The point was supposed to be to demonstrate how to run a lesson on Desmos, and I had wrongly assumed that because the students had been taught something 2 days prior, they actually fully understood and could use those skills. Immediately I could tell that was not the case, and they were going to get stuck right away if they didn’t know that previous learning.

In the first period i decided to direct instruct the material, because that seemed fastest and I wanted to get to the fun stuff. After 20 minutes I had said all the stuff i needed to say, but the glazed eyes i was looking at made me wonder if I had accomplished anything.

The next period, I decided to handle the pre-teach with a Stand and Talk. Since we were on the fly, we did not orchestrate who they paired with. (Topic doesn’t matter. For this class it was high school trig and using the unit circle. Look past that and think how it could apply in your room.) We quickly wrote 3 pairs of short questions.

“Everyone grab your unit circle and stand up. Find a partner not from your group.Person with birthday closer to start of year is partner A, other partner B.”(1 minute)

“Partner A, show your partner how the unit circle helps you find the sine of pi/3.”

One student told me he had been absent. I told them to switch so he could go second. He didn’t have a unit circle. I gave him my copy that was filled out.

In this first round, we told them the correct answer and then had them talk again about how to adjust their thinking if they had missed it. (2-3 min this first round for partner A).

“Partner B, tell your partner how to use the unit circle to find the cosine of pi/4.” Students had never been trained in this routine and were pretty cool/apathetic juniors and seniors. But by this time the class was acting pretty collaborative. Groups where neither student understood were being helped by other groups. We also had the luxury of two teachers circulating and listening to conversations. When we told them this second answer there was a small cheer.(1.5 minutes)

We did two more rounds of partners, upping the difficulty or bringing up something slightly different with each round.

“Person with longest hair is partner A”

“Person whose first name is first alphabetically is Partner A”

Round 2 and 3 took about 2 minutes each in total. By round 3 the student who had been absent was explaining to one of the RSP students how to do it, and by the end they both understood.

I looked at the clock. Just under 10 minutes. Everyone was alert and back to their seats. Everyone was awake. There was energy in the room. And EVERY SINGLE STUDENT was ready to apply the prerequisite skill.

Sometimes I just need to be quiet and let the kids talk.

Here is a link to Sara Vanderwerf’s original post on Stand and Talks. Enjoy the read!

And here is one of my favorite ignites by Graham Fletcher, The Less I Talk, The More I’m Listened To. 

All in with IM/OUR – Planning your year

In the last few posts in the series I encouraged you to:
✓ download your blackline masters and cool-downs and start your materials prep
✓ Dig in to IM resources to get the big picture of how this curriculum is built to be taught
If you haven’t read The Big Picture post, I encourage you to stop and do that first. Without a grasp of how differently this curriculum is put together, the specific planning you do will be less effective.

Pacing out the course

Finally it is time to answer everyone’s burning question – can I fit it all in? The best way to know is to sit down with a calendar of the year and start filling in squares. Everyone’s district calendar is a little different so this is something each site really needs to do for themselves. Before you begin, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Minutes Minutes Minutes

Not every lesson is written to take the same number of minutes. If you are in a self-contained classroom, this may not be a big deal. But for those who will teach 5 different sets of students per day, how things fit into a period is really important – even more so if your site runs a block schedule,where you see students in 110 minute chunks of time every other day. For you thinking about minutes per lesson is crucial.
In our district, 6th grade is self contained, but 7th and 8th grade students move classrooms period by period. To help get a grasp on the difference in lesson length, I made a spreadsheet for 7th and 8th grade. You can access this spreadsheet here.
Below find a picture of unit 1 from the 7th grade sheet.

7th minutes

A few important things to recognize –

  • Not all lessons are planned to take the same number of minutes. Notice as you look at the second column in the table above, the number of minutes per lesson varies. Especially if you are planning for a block schedule, some lessons are easier to put together on a block day than others.
  • The lesson synthesis is not included in the number of minutes. That lesson synthesis is where you lead discussion, drive home the important learning of the day, have students write down new vocabulary, orchestrate discussions, and tie ideas together. As you make decisions on whether you will include optional activities or discuss a previous cool down that students struggled with, you need to make sure you think about how long that Lesson Synthesis will take you. Most teachers say that for the first unit or so it took them longer than it did later in the year, when the they and their students were used to the structure and routines built into the curriculum.
  • Some lessons are optional. For myself, I begin by calendaring them all, but marked optional lessons in case I got behind or really wanted to add a day of error analysis and practice. Fyi 8th grade has less optional lessons than the other two.
  • Some activities are optional. We will worry more about choosing which activities you want to include as we plan individual lessons. For now, knowing you have some flexibility on those days will help you plan when you might have time to include any extras you are wanting to add (setting up classroom norms, error analysis, homework discussions, fluency games and review activities are all things that might be on my list.)
  • Units are divided into sections. Notice in Grade 8 Unit 1 pictured below, there are 4 separate sections plus a culminating lesson that is not pictured. Lesson from the same section will fit together more seamlessly on a block period.
  • Your previous experience If you have experience with the instructional routines embedded in the curriculum and with orchestrating class discussions that build on student thinking, the transitions to this curriculum will be easier for you that the rest of us. But for many, the transition will take some getting used to for both us and our students. Lesson synthesis time may just take longer at first. If that’s you, plan to move a little slower through the first unit.

Getting started

Chose a planning calendar you are comfortable with. Here are a few options you can download:
Year at a Glance – one page, back to back

year at a glance

I love that I can see the whole semester on one page with this calendar. There is room for 3 separate rows of text on each date, but two of them are pretty microscopic. Good for noting special schedules and lesson minutes.
2018-2019 traditional school calendar template

traditional school calendar

Handy for someone who likes to a little more space to write or who prefers to see only a month at a time.
Look up your own district calendar and put any holidays, staff development days or other special events on your document.

Some planning information and pacing guidelines to help you:

In our district, there is one teacher on special assignment supporting each grade level as they roll out the Illustrative Mathematics curriculum. These are some rough calendars we made to assist our school site PLCs in pacing out their year.
planning and pacing info 6th, 7th, 8th
The grade level I support is 8th grade, and I have reworked and revised this several times. I think it would be ideal if we could finish unit 4 before winter break, but that leaves little time to go slower at the beginning or establish class norms. You will see both versions reflected on this document.
Here is an example of how I paced 8th grade using our district calendar. As you can see, it really does all fit. Yeah!
8th grade calender draft This map is color coded to match the workbook covers. That makes me unreasonably happy, so if you are into details like that, you might enjoy this one.
Did you sit down and try it yet? No time like the present . . . everything is right here.

A Good Start

Take a moment to enjoy the sense of accomplishment as you look at your completed calendar. You know there will be little adjustments as things come up during the year, but with the number of minutes and the optional lessons noted on the document, it will be easy to make those adjustments when the need arises.

Sharing the work

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) can be wonderfuls ways to share the workload and advance your practice. But it is easy to let them become bogged down in the details of calendars and the tasks that need to be done. This year, with this new curriculum, you are going to need to spend that precious meeting time on the math and the teaching. In fact, when discussing with school districts who used IM this last year what teachers needed most in the way of administrative and district support, they universally said time to talk and plan together. We encouraged out site leadership to be ready to provide substitutes so teachers could have this time to prepare. And as teachers, I encourage you to do whatever you can to take care of those routine tasks in advance or via email. Save meeting time for digging in and uncovering the mathematical purpose for each activity and warm up, so you can make sure your students get out of them what they should.
In support of that, there are some recurring jobs that will need to be done. Below I have listed a few tasks that your team might find helpful to delegate.You may able to be able to lighten your load even further by cooperating with the person that has a similar role at other sites. Check if there is someone in your district who can help facilitate this inter-site collaboration.

possible plc jobs

An aside about final exams

An aside about final exams. We are considering using this as the final retake opportunity. Since the curriculum is coherent and the practice problems are spiraled, student continue to have opportunities to improve their understanding of content from previous units. We want to honor their continued hard work at growing their understanding and computational fluency. If the final is loaded into our assessment program with questions grouped by unit, teachers can chose to replace a unit score with a higher score on that unit at final exam time.

But what about me?

If you are the only teacher on your site that is using IM, consider linking up with other users via the Facebook User Community Open Up Resources 6-8, by Illustrative Mathematics. It is a closed group, but if you ask to join you should receive acceptance pretty quickly.
Speaking of the user’s community, one of the hot topics there has been organization and storage. That would be another great thing to get set up before school begins. See a small piece of this conversation blelow:

facebook community 1
And here are some other recent posts:

facebook community 2
If you are on facebook, I encourage you to make this group a part of your year.

Next up – planning a unit, a lesson.