Planning for the Student Experience

by Sarah Caban and Kristin Gray

Teachers are so amazing and resilient. Amid all of the many thoughts and feelings about the challenges this school year brings, conversation continually revolves around their students. 

When discussing instruction, teachers wonder: 

  • How will I get to know the students?
  • How will I learn more about what the students are thinking?
  • How will I build a classroom community?
  • How will I support each student along the way? 

And, perhaps most frequently in relation to piloting the K–5 curriculum materials, how will I teach the content?

All of those questions are complex in a typical school year, so thinking about them within the ever-changing constraints of teaching and learning during a pandemic just blows the mind. It is hard to even imagine how to be helpful and supportive when the setting and activity structures we are designing for were intended for a teaching space that no longer exists. 

So, when the curriculum materials are not created in a digital format to use during distance learning, “teaching the content” is often muddled with “delivering the content.” 

In the current situation, we know that technology is helpful in supporting the delivery of materials to students. As districts move all or a portion of instruction online, the pool of tech tools continues to broaden. There is a lot to consider. We want to do more than translate the curriculum materials into a digital worksheet, so we need to think about how students are engaging with the math. We have to consider what it looks and feels like for students. What message(s) does the math content and the format in which it is presented send about what it looks like to engage in mathematics? What message does the content send about what we value? What can we learn about our students along the way?

Collaboration between IM Authors, Classroom Teachers, and Coaches

To tackle this challenge, this summer we worked with teachers and coaches involved in the IM K–5 math beta pilot. Each week, we collaborated on ways to prioritize and reimagine content for distance learning in a way that focused on the student experience. We talked about the math, student discourse, formative assessment, and family engagement, as well as the affordances and constraints of technology. Choosing the tech tool became a result of what we wanted students to experience, not the thing that predetermined that experience.

Together, we created “storyboards” for routines that provide teachers the purpose of the routine and include copy/paste-able text that can be used in any tech platform a teacher chooses to use. We also created generalized processes to support teachers in planning around mathematical goals and assessment opportunities.  

When we started this work, the group was understandably anxious to create resources in virtual platforms as fast as we could. Through many conversations, we transformed into a group that focused on getting to know the students, learning more about their thinking, and building a classroom community. The actual process of choosing and creating materials within a digital platform became a natural extension of those conversations. 

Every single member brought tremendous value to the group. As each person shared in our last working group meeting, we had goosebumps and tears in our eyes. Each resource was developed with such thought and intention, and there was a palpable “we got this” confidence our group had developed together. While it is impossible to share everyone’s work in this space, here are a few examples created by amazing teachers in Portland (ME) Public Schools.

Considerations for IM Lesson Design in Different Settings

Sarah Norsworthy thought about lesson planning as a flow chart that starts with the math students are engaging in and continues along the trajectory of planning a lesson through the lens of students thinking.

(click to enlarge)

Planning for Hybrid Classrooms with a Story in Mind

Jen is a Kindergarten teacher leader who created a planning template for first grade teachers to use for unit 1. She considered the story of the math as presented in the section level planning guide and aligned it to the structure of her school week.

Sample week for one hybrid cohort

She integrated community building into her synchronous time with students. Finally, she considered how technology might be used to support students as they engage with the math in each activity.

So, how do we plan for the student experience during the chaos of a pandemic? We plan together. We can’t do this by ourselves. As a writing team of teachers and coaches, we have known from the beginning that writing this curriculum in collaboration with teachers was imperative. Many of the changes we made from alpha pilot to beta came from conversations with teachers and recommendations that teachers made. This summer, working with teachers, it became even more clear to us how essential it is to connect our work to the lived classroom experience, whether that classroom is in a building or a zoom room.

Next Steps

In what ways are you putting students at the forefront of your planning? We would love to hear your ideas and strategies in the comments below.
Not a part of the IM K–5 beta pilot? Not a problem! Unit 1, along with the guidance for distance learning, is available for any K–5 teacher. You can access the materials and  connect with other educators on the IM Community Hub.

Coming Together Around Distance Learning

By William McCallum

I can’t imagine what it must feel like right now to be a teacher facing the uncharted territory that is the coming school year. Will I be teaching 100% online, or have some face-to-face interaction with my students? Will I be teaching synchronously or asynchronously for most of the school year? How will I get to know my students and how will they engage in one another’s ideas? How will I get to know my students’ families? How can I give them manageable guidance to support students this year? Most of all, where can I get help with all these questions?

Continue reading “Coming Together Around Distance Learning”

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.   

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

Looking to the Fall, Part 1: Welcoming and Supporting K–5 Students

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

It is overwhelming to think about how teaching and learning will look in the fall. The uncertainty of the impact of students missing so many days of school, and the educational inequities that have been magnified as a result of the COVID-19 virus, leave us all with so many unknowns. 

With so much uncertainty, we imagine there may be some knee-jerk reactions to unfinished learning this fall. There may be a temptation to frontload the school year with the prior grade-level content students may have missed or assess each student immediately on arrival back to school and then “fill in” the unfinished learning. As well-intentioned as these ideas may be, we can’t help but think about the impact they could have on students mentally, emotionally, and mathematically as they reenter school. 

Continue reading “Looking to the Fall, Part 1: Welcoming and Supporting K–5 Students”

Shifting Practices: Helping Everyone—from Students to Administration—Find their Voice in the Math Classroom

It was easy to say yes!

By Crystal Magers

Last spring, I was approached by our Math Coordinator and asked about piloting a new math program. I knew my staff was ready for building-wide consistency and we were ready to try something new. I easily said yes! 

My teachers were offered training over the summer and access to the resources to begin teaching this fall.

After just a few weeks of instruction, my staff began to voice concerns. 

Continue reading “Shifting Practices: Helping Everyone—from Students to Administration—Find their Voice in the Math Classroom”

K–5 Curriculum Design Features that Support Equity and Inclusion

By Dionne Aminata

Before I joined the K–5 curriculum writing team at IM, I was a K–8 regional math content specialist for a public charter organization that largely consisted of Title I schools, or schools receiving federal funding to support a large concentration of students in poverty. Prior to that I had experienced the joys and challenges of serving communities like these as a teacher and math coach in South Central Los Angeles and Crown Heights Brooklyn. 

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The Art of Reflection

“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.” —Mr. (Fred) Rogers

By Kaneka Turner

We are never more “on” than when we are teaching a lesson. All of our senses are heightened and all of our energy is focused on understanding students and being understood by the students we are teaching. Often times, it is not until the lesson is over that we have the mental space to look back over the student work samples and anecdotal notes, or replay scenes from the lesson in our minds to gain insight. I was reminded of this recently when I was invited to test out new problem-solving structures from IM K–5 Math’s Grade 4 Unit 8 in my colleague’s classroom.

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Using Diagrams to Build and Extend Student Understanding

By Jenna Laib and Kristin Gray

Take a moment to think about the value of each expression below. 

\frac{1}{4}\times \frac{1}{3}

\frac{1}{4}\times \frac{2}{3}

\frac{2}{4}\times \frac{2}{3}

\frac{3}{4}\times \frac{2}{3}

What do you notice? How would you explain the things you notice?

If you are like us, or the students in Ms. Stark’s grade 5 classroom, you may have noticed many things. Things such as each expression has the same denominator, or the way in which the values increased as the problems progressed. When students notice these things, we often ask, ‘Why is that happening?” but it can be challenging to explain why beyond the procedure one followed. 

Continue reading “Using Diagrams to Build and Extend Student Understanding”

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