# Getting the most out of Formative Assessment – A Best Practice Story

I work with an amazing group of dedicated, talented teachers. One of the great joys of my position is seeing how they put the things we learn about together into practice. This guest post was from one such classroom.

In Math 3, we are learning about parent functions and translations.  The functions students struggle with the most are exponential functions.  We had been working with all of the function families for a few days. I really wanted to see how the students were doing with the exponentials, so I gave an exit ticket, which is pictured below.

# All in with OUR/IM: Week 5 – Wrapping up unit 1

Not sure how everyone else is doing, but as we approach the end of unit 1 and begin looking at the assessment, we are feeling the need for a little clarity. For confidentiality, I will not talk directly about test items, but I do want to focus you on a few ideas that need to be coming out as you wrap up this unit. You may get the most out of this post if you sit with a copy of the assessment next to you and have a little scavenger hunt through the document to find how the various math topics I discuss come up in the assessment. Then check out some of the resources I have at the end, and see what you can use to revisit what you missed on the first time around.

Ready? Here we go. . .

## Are two shapes Congruent?

In lessons 1-13, you dug deeply into congruence. This was not a brand new, unconnected topic. The understanding of congruence is built on the rigid transformations we learned about in the first half of the unit. Justifying congruence is the WHY of those lessons. The anchor chart above makes some of those connections.

But if you are like me, and have taught lots of years, this is probably not how you have spent your career thinking about congruence. At the high school level, congruence implied formal proofs based on matching corresponding parts. At the middle school level, it was an more informal set of thoughts around “exactly the same size and shape” and “fit perfectly on top of one another”. It’s this fits perfectly thing we are messing with here. If we are sitting together at the same table and you want to tell me two pattern blocks or puzzle pieces are congruent, you can pick one up and put it onto the other. If they are pictures on a piece of paper, you can trace one, move the tracing paper, and lay it right on the other to demonstrate that congruence.
But when you don’t have the person you are trying to convince right next to you, you need to write directions for how they need to move the figure so they stack up. Our precise mathematical language helps us write clear descriptions of that movement so they can follow those steps and be convinced.

Anyone done a puzzle with a toddler recently? If you haven’t, here’s an adorable 15 month old puzzle pro:

Notice his favorite transformation is translation. He slides the puzzle piece back and forth until they drop in. At around 1:25 seconds he has one that is not oriented correctly and his mother says “rotate counter-clockwise 180 degrees.” Well actually she says “ Flip it around.” He’s 15 months after all.

How would “flip it around” have worked for you? If you were blindfolded and trying to do that puzzle, would you have understood what she meant?

Now that our students are teenagers instead of toddlers, we are looking for better, more precise communication. But the idea is straight forward. Convince me they are congruent by helping me put the shapes on top of each other. Strong, well defined mathematical language is what makes that happen.

## Landmarks

Sometimes the diagram they are working from lacks landmarks and that makes description difficult. Your students need to learn to be resourceful and add those landmarks as needed. That could mean drawing in and naming a line of reflection. That could mean adding point names to important vertices. Lesson 13 practice problem 4 is a great chance to practice adding what is needed to make their communication clear. Take a little time to make that a piece of conversation. What did you add? Why? In lesson 15 practice problem 4 it comes up again. Notice that both of these are on a grid, and that might not be true of all the problems your students are about to see (scavenger hunt time). Think about how you will prepare your students to address that situation.

## But what if they are not congruent?

What if? How does that play out when we are sitting next to each other at the table with cut out shapes or pattern blocks? I imagine stacking them up and saying, “See? This angle is wider on the top shape,” or “See? The left side is longer on this one.”
That is how it works here as well. Show me what doesn’t match. That probably means you need to name, highlight, or circle the non congruent corresponding parts. That is practiced in Lesson 7 practice problems number 1 and 3.

Lesson 12 makes great practice on this topic. Consider introducing this anchor chart there.

## Vocabulary anyone?

“So there is some geometry vocabulary from previous grade levels that my students just don’t know.” (scavenger hunt time)
If that’s not true in your classroom, yours may be the only one in the world like that. News flash- kids don’t remember everything from previous grades. Shocking, I know. ( Aside: I just read an awesome article, Addressing Unfinished Learning in the Context of Grade Level Work, if you are interested in how you could address that in your classroom.)

So if you find yourself wondering, “Do my students actually know what a rhombus is?”, optional activity 4 from lesson 12 is a great place to bring some of those words up in the context of congruence. Don’t make it too tricky for yourself. We used plastic place value sticks of 10 because that’s what we had. Toothpicks would have worked great. For those of you who have too much money and don’t know what to spend it on, Ang-legs would be awesome for this. We gave each student six, and then asked them to build things. Make a triangle. Can you build one not congruent to your partner’s? Someone thought of doubling the sides, and so I asked if that also doubled to angles. I used the phrase “Convince me” liberally as we worked through building square, rectangle, parallelogram, and rhombus. In both classes students build a regular hexagon while trying to make a parallelogram different from their partner’s. All of a sudden I knew we needed to talk more about what a parallelogram was. We brought up that ALL the corresponding parts had to be the same for the shapes to be congruent. Just equal sides ( square non-square rhombus) and just equal angles ( square and non-square rectangle) did not guarantee congruence.
It was fun, it was quick, and we got a chance to work a bit on some unfinished learning from previous grade levels that the kids really needed. It would fit great as part of a review day.

## So define design . . .

Check out activity 13.4 again. This is a place to bring out that even though all the corresponding parts are equal, they are not arranged in the same way, and so the entire right face is not congruent to the entire left one. (scavenger hunt time) Also check out the extra diagram in your lesson synthesis for lesson 13. It reiterates this point in a way you could use as you reviewed if you didn’t use it before:

If you did, here’s another sample that you can use to review this idea:

There is not a single point of rotation that the entire first figure can be rotated around to give the second figure. Each piece of the first figure was rotated, but that did not create a rigid transformation of the entire figure.

## More Review Resources:

So for most of us it’s our first year, and you might not have got it perfect the first time around. In case you are wanting to revisit some things, here are a few extra review activities to choose from:

# All in with OUR/IM – Making It All Fit

It’s a huge learning curve for lots of us. We see the potential, but there are so many things to figure out – how am I going to collect homework – or am I? What do I do with all these cool downs? How do I carve time out of an already packed lesson to make the time spent on homework and the things I learn from cool downs valuable?

Time could be a question to figure out all by itself. The minutes per lesson are tight. The students are slow to engage in conversation and productive discussions so everything takes longer than it says.  People say to trust the curriculum and I do . . . I know each part is carefully inserted to bring students to conceptual understanding AND procedural fluency . . . . but all that just makes it harder to leave anything out.  I feel unprepared to make the important teacher decisions that often have to happen on the fly in front of kids. What can I skip? What do I stop and address? I know when something seems important, but you keep saying it is all important.  And the quote in my signature tagline mocks me every time I send an email:

“The greatest influences in the quality of the education that a student receives are the decisions that a teacher makes on a daily basis.”

I do not have a classroom of my own, but I am working with some amazing, caring, and talented teachers who are rolling out OUR/IM 6-8 math this year, and I hear and see all of this. We listen to the teachers and districts who are on their second year and hear:

“It was like that for us too at the start.”

“Don’t worry it gets better as you all learn the routines.”

And that is great and encouraging, but many of teachers feel like they are drowning now. Waiting a month for the rescue boat that is coming seems a long, painful wait away. They see individual great stuff, but, bottom line, they are awesome experienced teachers and they just aren’t used to not knowing what they are doing.

And on facebook and twitter I hear other teachers saying the same things. So let’s address this head on and get you a life preserver TODAY.

## Idea 1: Use a time machine

It would be awesome if this was actually an option.  If we had a year of teaching this curriculum under our belt, we would know what was coming, when something was a big deal that we had to address right then, and when we could wait for it to come up again later.

## Idea 2: Accept not knowing and keep treading water

This just isn’t okay. If we keep teaching without knowing where we are going and trying to do everything and go over everything, we are going to get desperately behind and not finish the curriculum. And we may collapse from exhaustion.

## Idea 3: Prep a week at a time

I get it. Prep is a ton of work at this point.  Every weekend I sit down and prep for the week just as if I was going in at 7:45 Monday morning to deliver the lesson. I have done it a couple of different ways, but I have to say nothing beats:

1. Working through the student lessons and homework and then reading the teacher guides to see what I was supposed to get out of them.
2. Doing 4 or 5 lessons in one sitting to see how things will flow throughout the week.

## With the vast experience of being on my 4th week, I suggest:

Sit and do 4 or 5 student lessons including homework, peaking a teacher’s guide only when necessary to clarity. You can really feel the overlap and spiraling when you do that.  Then go back and read as many of those teacher lesson notes as you can manage time for. Read the last couple as you progress through the week.

Some adaptations I was able to make this past week when I planned that way:

For 7th grade, I realized the second activity from lesson 11, which contrasted scales with units and scales without units, was a nice lead in to lesson 12, which had as a learning target:

• I can write scales with units as scales without units.
• I can tell whether two scales are equivalent.

If part of lesson 11 needed to run over the the next day, that was going to be fine. If the students have done well on pre-diagnostic test problems 1 and 2, skip the first activity of lesson 12 to get that extra time. If not, consider skipping optional activity 12.3.

For 8th grade, which I have been doing all along, it seemed there were 100 things that bled together like that.  I could condense lesson 7 a ton, because the ideas were repeated in 8, 9 and 10. However, doing them all together I noticed the rigid transformation in activity 7.3 was the same set of moves need in 8.3. If I skipped 7.3 originally because of time, I could have students look back at that page if they were struggling with 8.3.

If you want to get as close as possible to the time machine idea, this batch lesson prep is the way to go.

Words of wisdom from OUR/IM 6–8 Math Guru Sara Vaughn during her first year with the curriculum:

“I finally got into a groove and became much more efficient in preparing for my Open Up classes. Rather than preparing daily as I had done September through January, in February I started batching my lesson preps.”

(Here is the rest of what Sara had to say at the beginning of her OUR/IM journey.)

And this was Sara at the end of her year 1:

I could write for days about how jazzed I was each day as we learned math in an entirely different way this year. I could tell you how I learned something new each and everyday, not only about student learning, but also about math. You need to experience that for yourself though. Please be smart enough to do that the week or at least day before your students do. It will make you so much more efficient and effective than I was. I eventually got ahead of them, but not far. I am excited for next year for sure!

OUR made me love, adore, and treasure teaching Math 8 for the first time ever. It was fun. It was meaningful. It was amazing. I cannot thank OUR enough for bringing joy into my classes through quality curriculum. I would have never thought that possible, but I lived it.”

# All in with OUR/IM: Grade 8 Tips of the Week #3

### COMPILING THE WISDOM OF OUR/IM 8TH GRADE TEACHERS FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY TO MAKE THESE TIP SHEETS FOR TEACHER IN MY DISTRICT. THESE TIPS DO NOT REPLACE A THOROUGH READING OF THE AMAZING TEACHER NOTES PROVIDED BY THE AUTHORS AT ILLUSTRATIVE MATHEMATICS. BEGIN YOUR LESSON PLANNING THERE. YOU CAN FIND THOSE LINKED HERE.

This short week we will finish the first half of unit 1, and since it is our first time through, in many classrooms there is a little clean up and review necessary.

Lesson 8 was focused on rotation patterns, giving students more practice with this most difficult-to-master transformation, and give them opportunity to gain experience and noticing begin things about rotation line segments. Any other things that might be discovered are NOT the main learning goal of the lesson, which is simply:

• Introduce figures which are built by applying several transformations to one starting figure.
• Practice rotating line segments around various points.

Moral of the story – Don’t over-teach!

Hints for 8.3 –

• have students who are struggling look back at how they did 7.3 last week.
• Some students see the warm up has a center point they all rotate around and may look for a center point for this figure as well. Watch for that method as you circulate so you can call on that student to share their thinking ( mini 5 Practices opportunity for those of you working on using this teacher move)

Lesson 9 builds on these experiences, focusing on how translations effect parallel lines.
Both these lessons are full of opportunity to build a strong class culture full of curiosity and cooperation. Students should play and discover ways to move a figure from on place to another, and should appreciate the variety of ways found by their classmates. They should practice explaining their thinking and trying to understand the thinking of others.(MP 3) Having classmates try their methods out should naturally uncover their need for increased precision (MP 6) in their language and any misunderstandings about how the different transformations work.

Something to focus on:
One of the three learning goals of lesson 9 is
Understand that parallel lines are taken to parallel lines under rigid transformations.
This is something our previous curriculum did not emphasize, but the explanation for problem 7 from the end of unit assessment is built on this fact, so don’t skip it.

Lesson 10 finishes the idea that transformations preserve angle measure and segment lengths. Note that they are to be finding segment lengths and angle measures WITHOUT MEASURING. In the mid unit assessment they will see a problem very similar to the cooldown from lesson 10, so make sure your lesson synthesis hammers home they fact that they can figure out these measures without using rulers or protractors.

Teachers around the country are creating review materials for this mid unit assessment.
Sarah Kallis made Kahoot review for mid unit assessment.
Erica Ympa made quiz for this first half of the unit.
Matt Parker used Desmos Transformation Golf with his class to give them extra practice with their transformations.
Anne Agostinelli shared this great review strategy for revisiting cool downs. Maybe using it as you review for a test would be a good way to try it out.

Here are the slides she used with her students for this “Icon Feedback” Activity.