Digging Deep Wells

After my post about feeling basic, I got a lot of comments, tweets, and messages of others who are feeling the same. We are not alone! Thank you so much for your feedback and for always pushing me to dig deeper, even to write this follow up post.

I had a great conversation with a few of my longest Twitter teacher friends about this and they also encouraged me to narrow it down to something I can work on and actually change.

Tom had a great comment, especially for a super-logical-organized-planner-rule-follower like myself, which was to use the Charlotte Danielson rubric, which my school uses as an evaluation instrument, to pick some areas to work on. This is exactly what I need to give myself some focus.

As I read through the 4 domains, I was encouraged that I feel like I am rocking Domain 2 and my recent post-observation meeting confirmed that. She pointed how students came in and got their binders and start working, knew where supplies were and got them out when needed, discussed their work with each other without prompting, helped each other pick up stuff when a student dropped a drawer out of the cart, and that my procedures are in place. I thought those were things that came naturally....because they do come naturally...to me. Cue Annie's on point comment. It also follows with how I see I'm a great teacher but not a great mathematician. Domain 1 scares me and I'm floating on sea level in Domains 3 and 4 with plenty of room to grow.

I picked a few things that I thought were doable and I noticed an interesting pattern...

  • The teacher’s plans demonstrate awareness of possible student misconceptions and how they can be addressed
  • The teacher’s plans reference curricular frameworks or blueprints to ensure accurate sequencing. 
  • The teacher connects outcomes to previous and future learning.
  • Assessments provide opportunities for student choice.
  • The teacher uses rich language, offering brief vocabulary lessons where appropriate, both for general vocabulary and for the discipline.
  • Students have an opportunity for reflection and closure on the lesson to consolidate their understanding
  • The teacher’s assessment of the lesson is thoughtful and includes specific indicators of effectiveness.
  • The teacher seeks regular opportunities for continued professional development, including initiating action research.

These are all things I can create! I am a creator at heart. Now that my curriculum is aligned, I'd like to write some nice unit plans. 3 out of 8 on my list have to do with plans.

I have provided student choice on assessments by giving them 6 questions and asking them to choose 5. What other ways can I give student choice?

I included the one about rich vocabulary because I am bad about breaking things down so much that I don't used academic vocabulary like I should- a student pointed that out in our semester reflections and I know she is right.

I was including some reflection questions on quizzes and tests thanks to @pamjwilson's suggestion. I need to do this consistently. I also need to remind students about shading their colored circles in their INB table of contents.

Sadly I just completed my post-observation assessment but I love the idea of 'specific indicators of effectiveness'. I need to think about that for each lesson- what do I want to achieve and how will I know if I achieved it? I think that also ties back to plans.

But the last one got me really excited- action research! I learned about it and did it during my master's program but never used it since. Once again, it's something I can create. I don't even know what to do but it sounds fun!

I already feel like this post is rambling but this is me explaining my brain.

I think what makes me a good teacher is that I am very observant and I think very logically. I want to enhance those traits in my students. I think Number Talks and WODB are great tools for that so I am committing to reading Number Talks books and researching it in depth during this year and this summer.

I also think I ask good questions and while I get better at it every year, I'm definitely not asking those higher order questions like synthesizing and application.

Shelly @druinok brought up a good book we read a while ago and so I dug it out.

I'm also committing to reading these throughout this semester and this summer. My goal is to come up with one good question a week for the rest of the school year. It can be for any content area and it might come word for word from one of these books but that's okay. My plan as of now is to maybe just add a slide at the end of a lesson with a 'challenge' question for students to discuss and maybe something like it will also show up on the study guide or as a bonus question on a test. The idea of asking questions and adding one here and there doesn't overwhelm me- even though making them up does. I know I have to start before I can get good so this is my plan.

For those of you who commented on NBCT, I'm applying for funding in February even though it scares the crap out of me. My state no longer has stipends and no one at my school has ever done this so....there's really no financial reward for so I don't see myself pursuing it if I don't get funding from somewhere. Thank you for thinking I can do it!

While this post might seem all over the place, it's better than how I was feeling two weeks ago and it went a long way as far as 'underwhelming' me. Also, I'm giving myself nine months to read two books so that I don't feel rushed and give up.

Anyone have idea for an action project? Formative assessment? Questioning? Vocabulary?

Anyone want to do it with me? :) :) :) :) :)


  1. Things I've found helpful with vocabulary...

    Using an online etymology dictionary like http://www.etymonline.com/ Not just the meaning of the word, but the history of it. Especially in geometry. I ask students what other words a term reminds them of, for example isometry. I hear things like isolation, isotonic, isotope. Or diameter to diagram, diaphragm, dialogue. The idea is to let students make connections to other terms they already know and/or use in other content areas and see what they have in common. Some interesting conversations can arise...usually connections I would never think of.

    Also, have you used Frayer Model for vocabulary? Examples, non examples, definition, characteristics?

    And finally, in the past I've used a structure called LINCS strategy for struggling students.

  2. Hi Elissa,

    I do want to join you! It will take me a couple of weeks to think about what it is I can do. I want to be committed and know myself well enough to take the time and make it doable.

    I don't spend enough time thinking about misconceptions until I am in the thick of one!

    A book that comes to mind with asking good questions is Accessible Mathematics by Steven Leinwand.

    I use Frayer Models for vocabulary. I am a super word nerd and don't use many vocab "tricks," ie, "noodles and bowls." (I also use more yiddish that I think I do...especially when looking for euphemisms for darn) I play a game with students called, "Breaking the Definition," as an introduction to vocabulary. Start with Polygon. Have students write a description. Can his/her partner draw something that is not a polygon (breaks their definition) but is true do their description?

    This is on my board at all times:
    Definitions are:
    Have no counterexamples (unbreakable)

    Inspiring Post!

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