I believe that the opening sequence of a lesson should be assessable to all students, activate prior knowledge, and lead to accomplishing a grade level objective. I believe this, have taught this, and have seen it be pretty effective.
I met with a graduate the other day and she told me about her meeting with another math coach from an organization I respect. This coach taught her class and it was, in her words, “AMAZING.” He did “spend time telling my students that I was doing everything wrong.” According to the coach, the opening sequence of a lesson should be in context, challenging to all students, and be a situation that involves multiple representations. students be encouraged to draw a picture, make a table, and graph it. Students should write a gist statement, read the situation with a partner, and then draw a picture of it. When finished drawing, students should make a table and graph it. All this should be done every day. According to the “other coach,” the teacher should also pick one behavior every day, tell students what it is, and then give them points for meeting expectation for the behavior.
Obviously, this conversation rubbed me the wrong way and lead me to do some self-analysis. What was it about this conversation bothered me?
1. Not a fan about the coach building rapport with students by showing up a new teacher. Maybe not his intent but not cool either.
2. Not a fan of a coach hitting a fastball out of the park and then leaving the teacher to handle curve balls and sliders. I believe in context, discourse, challenging all students, and multiple representations. But once you leave behind the comforts of the quadratic formula and all the wonderful context that quadratic functions offer, you are facing with standards that involved addition, subtraction, and multiplication of complex numbers. What context do we do use with this? What do we do with the remainder theorem or countless other standards that are procedural and not application based? I need to learn more math, particularly above Algebra 1, but I tend to lean on the curriculum experts and they (Eureka and Illustrative mainly) dont offer much in term of context.
3. I do not believe that behavior should be graded. I hardly believe in grades at all but I certainly don’t think a students grade should be directly related to whether the student met the behavior expectations or not. If we have to use grades, I believe the grade should reflect the level of understanding of a particular concept.
What do I take away from this conversation?
1. Look for ways to open with context and have a routine for what students can do in groups with the routine. I like that ALOT!
2. Be explicit for the one behavior that you are looking for that day, what it looks like, what it doesnt look like, and then positive narrate like crazy when you see it.
3. Dump the ego. When I am co-planning or co-teaching with teachers, be sure to put myself out there and take the tough lessons in the tough classes.
4. Dump the ego part two. Teachers hear conflicting messages ALL THE TIME. I need to be in these spots more often and, when I hear what another math coach says, reflect on my beliefs about math, accept the good, and calmly let the rest go.