Looking to the Fall, Part 2: Creating a Supportive Resource for K–5 Teachers

By Kristin Gray, Director K–5 Curriculum and Professional Learning
and Kevin Liner, IM K–5 Professional Learning Lead

In our previous post, we highlighted important considerations in planning to support students in the fall. While we need to first explore these ideas conceptually, we must also consider what this looks like in practice. In this post, we explore the unit adaptation materials we are creating under these considerations. We explore this structure through the IM K–5 Math beta curriculum materials being piloted this fall, but we believe this is a generalizable process and structure that could be applied to other materials.   

In deciding which content to emphasize and ways in which to support students in accessing grade-level content, we worked under beliefs in which the instructional resources would:

  1. Incorporate prior grade-level knowledge and skills, when necessary, to support access to current grade-level content.
  2. Use assessments meaningfully yet sparingly to make strategic instructional decisions.
  3. Integrate ongoing practice and review into the teaching of current grade-level content, instead of disrupting it.
  4. Be manageable and useful for teachers. 

So, what does a resource designed around these overarching principles look like?

For each grade-level unit we are creating a compilation of recommended additions and supports, called a “Unit Adaptation Pack.” These packs will include: rationale for recommended adaptations, prior grade-level lessons, assessment to inform instructional decisions, ongoing practice to address unfinished learning, and extensions and explorations for students who may have previously learned the content. Because we know teachers will not have added days for added lessons, we also will give guidance on lessons to combine or skip within each unit and ways in which to prioritize the major work of the grade. Here is our current thinking on how these four ideas might support students and teachers next school year in order to start the community conversation. 

1. Incorporate prior grade-level knowledge and skills when necessary to support access to current grade-level content.

Relying heavily on the coherence in the standards, we first determined where to add lessons in a coherent and “just in time” manner across the year. Then, to balance the number of allocated school days, we must analyze each unit to identify lessons that can be adjusted and combined or skipped. 

We are taking two approaches to the placement of the add-in lessons, depending on the content of the unit. The first approach is highlighted in this example from Grade 4, Unit 1, which focuses on factors and multiples within the context of area. Since this unit relies on grade 3 understanding of area and multiplication fluency within 100, we are adding key lessons on those ideas, before the start of the unit. Below are sample activities that represent the math progression the unit takes, including the add-in lessons. 

Grade 4 Unit 1: Factors and Multiples

The second approach is demonstrated in this example from Grade 3, Unit 1 which introduces multiplication through students’ work with scaled picture and bar graphs. Because of this, Section A is dependent on grade 2 measurement and data standards while Sections B and C rely heavily on students’ understanding of arrays and skip counting by twos, fives, and tens. In this case, teaching all of the add-in lessons upfront would feel disconnected, so we recommend teaching the add-in lessons where they most coherently fit in the mathematical story of the unit, between the sections. 

Grade 3 Unit 1: Multiplication

2. Use assessments meaningfully, yet sparingly, to make strategic instructional decisions.

We know that if you spend too much time administering formal assessments, you not only lose valuable instructional time, but can also be left with more questions than answers about what to do next. For this reason we embedded a formative mini-assessment to be used after each set of add-in lessons. This mini-assessment is 1–2 problems that can be given at the end of the last add-in lesson as the cool-down. 

Take the grade 3 example above. You will notice that the add-in lessons before Section B come from Grade 2, Unit 7, which introduces arrays and uses what students know about addition and skip counting to lay the foundation for equal-groups thinking. After these lessons are taught, we want teachers to consider the following question: Can students engage in the invitational beginning lessons of Section B? That is the purpose of the mini assessment. We are not focusing on mastery or completion, but rather checking in and supporting students’ ongoing learning towards the grade-level standards. 

Here is an example of what this process may look like for the Grade 3 example for Section B:

3. Integrate ongoing practice into the teaching of current grade-level content, instead of disrupting it.

Integrating ongoing practice is easier when a curriculum develops concepts and representations coherently along a mathematical progression, like telling a story. Because of the intentional choices that were made in the IM K–5 beta materials, both with concepts and representations, we can integrate practice students may need from prior units and grade levels directly into the lessons that are being taught at their current grade level.

This comes in handy because, as we know, after the mini assessment there may be students that need extra practice with the knowledge and skills that were covered in the add-in lessons. We also know that stopping to reteach all of the prior grade-level content will never get students through their current grade-level material. To keep the learning going, we leverage the coherence of the standards and our curriculum to align ongoing practice, in the form of centers and routines that can be integrated into the current grade-level unit. 

In the grade 3 example above, a teacher may learn that students need additional support with the array structure or skip-counting. For these students, we are suggesting the use of a center from Grade 2 Unit 7 that asks students to match groups of objects, first in varied group structures and then in an array pattern, with an expression that represents those groups. In addition, we pulled a collection of choral counts from grade 2 to give students more experience counting by twos, fives, and tens, as needed.

Below is how this process may look for a teacher between Sections A and B. 

4. Be manageable and useful  for teachers. 

While so much is still unknown, one thing we are certain of is that nothing will be seamless or easy about school in the fall. Our hope is that we can work together to best support students in feeling safe and successful after they have experienced so much recent change and uncertainty. To this end, we want to take special care to ensure students are building on their current understandings as they progress through grade-level content in a way that is inviting and safe and prioritizes the community building that happens particularly in the fall. 

And while we have spent a lot of time discussing the unfinished learning most students will have, we wanted to make sure we also added in materials for teachers to support students who are feeling more confident in the content as well. In addition to the add-in lessons, mini assessments, and ongoing practice, we are providing explorations and extensions for students who may have had exposure to the prior grade-level content. 

We share this sample Grade 3, Unit 1 Adaptation Pack overview to start a conversation. While identifying the content to support unfinished learning is a first step in planning for next year, there are many other considerations we need to think about moving forward. We look forward to hosting community chats with our K–5 beta teachers and anyone else who is interested in learning and brainstorming with us. Thank you all for everything you do. We appreciate you.


Next Steps

You can share your thinking via twitter #LearnWithIM or commenting on this blog post. Look for more information on social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) to learn more about upcoming community chats and brainstorming sessions. 

18 thoughts on “Looking to the Fall, Part 2: Creating a Supportive Resource for K–5 Teachers

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  1. I really like the thought process and graphic to help determine what steps to take in a classroom. I am curious whether there is any work being done if we have to go to distance learning with students in the fall or next year. I am so excited to use this program!
    Thank you for all the work you are doing.

    1. Hi Jennifer! Thanks so much for the comment! Distance learning is definitely a high priority for us right now. We are in the beginning stages of thinking through what it looks like and how we can support teachers in that space. I will be having some focus group chats in the upcoming weeks so be sure to keep a look out for that info on social (Twitter, Facebook, Linked In) and our blog!

  2. Hi Kristin,

    Love this! Especially appreciate that you are addressing the need to begin right away with instruction rather than spending too much time on testing at the onset. I think many teachers feel torn about that.

    Question: is there a document where you identify the “Add In” lessons for all grade levels?

    1. Hi Michelle! Thank you so much for your comment. We are in the process of creating a document for each unit that requires added lessons, but it is not complete yet. We are also compiling all of the Unit 1 materials so we can get those out to teachers as soon as possible and anticipate that will be done in late June.

  3. Do you think it’s more appropriate to talk about social-emotional needs before going directly into academic teaching? Many students are traumatized by losing their loved ones, so I believe we should spend time on this first.

    1. Hi Marie – I agree that is first and foremost. We tried to make the point explicit in part 1 of this blog series before jumping into the academic content in this post.

  4. What a great resource! I appreciate your thoughts and support on how to guide instruction this fall. So much of your message aligns with the work of Mike Mattos and the “Mind the Gaps” series put out by Solution Tree. I look forward to following your blog in the upcoming weeks!

  5. Our district is adopting IM in the fall We are curious if there will be any unit adaptations for students coming into Kindergarten since not all students attend 4K.

    1. Hi Lisa,
      So great to hear your district is adopting IM in the fall! We will not have adaptations going into Kindergarten but in our design of the kindergarten units, we do not make assumptions about students having any formal pre-k experiences.

  6. Love the graphs, and the STEPS process. Each student is unique and will really need to be evaluated individually and this will allow for just that. THANKS!

  7. Hi Kristin, This information was very helpful and I believe that our district is aligned with your thinking in moving forwarded in teaching this Fall. I’m excited that we are getting a jump on this and it has put me at ease and more secure in teaching our young children. I’m concerned about the distance learning for the younger children. This was very challenging for teaching our little ones and parents to get around the classroom. How do we give an accurate assessment on their learning?
    Thank you for this.

    1. Hi Patricia! We are grappling with that same question…it is so challenging. Right now, we are working on getting the content from the curriculum in place and thinking through ways to formatively assess as we go. For example, what can we give family members/caregivers to look and listen for and then what can teachers do to learn more about their students? I would love to hear more about what worked, and didn’t, this spring!
      -Kristin

  8. Hello,
    I appreciate this Blog so much! Thank you! It is true that our students and their families’ Social Emotional well being will be so important to address during our current life altering conditions. I am curious, is their a “work in progress” Pacing Plan for the year. I am a 5th grade teacher and I am looking forward to planning as much as I can this summer in preparation for the 2020-2021 school year? I am also very excited about the July 2020 Illustrative Math Professional Development that I signed up for!

    1. Hi Rosalia! I am working on a yearlong view of pacing for each grade as we speak. If you drop your email in a reply, I can pass it your way as soon as I get a draft ready!
      -Kristin

  9. Hi Kristin,

    I enjoy working with the Free resources from IM and hoping to explore the actual curriculum for possible adoption in the future. Meanwhile, during this very challenging time planning for reopening and blended learning, I’m interested in taking a look at these adaptation packs to address unfinished learning in the context of grade level work. Are these resources available to access and use? Is there a way I can email you directly. Thank you!

  10. I cannot wait for the adaptations to be read and shared. I am trying to wrap my head around this, but GLAD that IM sent an email with info as to how we could better prepare and plan for the upcoming school year. Cannot wait!!!

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