Key Takeaways from MSIS Institute #2

The second MSIS institute was just as enlightening and inspiring as the first! It focused on the Number and Operations strand and progressions of the CCSS.

Good reminders for me included:

  • the importance of focusing on the big ideas of quantity, change, shape, dimension, and chance
  • great lessons are often based upon mini-lessons, workshop tasks, and an exit ticket
  • tasks should promote reasoning and problem solving
  • purposeful questions will encourage effective discourse between students
  • procedural fluency follows from conceptual understanding

People often talk about the need for focus, rigor, and clarity. What should this mean in math? It should mean FEWER topics, DEEPER understanding, and more EXAMPLES and STRATEGIES.

I really loved the explanation from Steve Leinwand that the “sweet spot” of instruction is “YOU – I – WE”. Students explore, the teacher may check for understanding or ask purposeful questions, then students work together to develop their understanding. Traditionally, a lesson would more likely be “I-WE-YOU”, but of course current research shows that best practice is a more student-centered approach. Exploration should not be “YOU-YOU-YOU” – there needs to be a partnership between students and teachers. The teacher should always intentionally facilitate/coach the lesson and not simply leave students to figure things out on their own. The “YOU-I-WE” approach is more likely to ensure that students are empowered, engaging in productive struggle, and constructing viable arguments.

Based upon the “YOU-I-WE” methodology, we had to work in a team to create a mini-lesson. We needed to start with the standard, then write it in a more student friendly learning target. Here is the mini-lesson on polynomials that we created, based upon adapting a problem from another site.

Some very useful websites from this Institute were:

The goals that I have set for myself between now and MSIS Institute #3 are:

  1. create &/or revise a rich lesson/task based upon the idea of ‘gradual release’, such as the 3 Act Lessons created by Dan Meyer)
  2. use exit tickets (or perhaps entrance tickets) more consistently (I often feel that I run out of time)
  3. as a PLC facilitator, guide my team to unwrap CCSS standards to create learning targets for a unit on circles

On May 7th, 2016, this great Edutopia article Harnessing the Power of the Productive Struggle seems to be an amazing description of the “you – I – we” focus that can be so powerful in math classrooms.