School Name: Randerson Ridge Elementary
School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith
Inquiry Team Members: Darren Brick: email@example.com
Kim Needham: firstname.lastname@example.org
Val Martineau: email@example.com
Linda Baldwin: firstname.lastname@example.org
other staff members involved through discussion and ongoing learning
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Mathematics / Numeracy
Focus Addressed: Differentiated instruction, Formative assessment, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Universal design for learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? For our inquiry, we would like to continue to grow our knowledge of mathematical instruction (year 2), focusing in on how we can teach/assess the curricular competencies with the intention of deepening our students’ understanding of number sense, and making our instruction accessible for all learners.
Scanning: During the scanning phase, we focused our beginning of year assessments on number sense. We recognized that we do not have a consistent tool in order to look at our school data; however, individual teachers do design their own assessments to look at where students are at in their understanding of new concepts (prior to instruction) and how they are doing in retaining previous grade concepts. Specifically, many teachers used the ISLAND NUMERACY ASSESSMENT and SNAP assessment to see where our students are at with their concept of number. Furthermore, we randomly chose students across grades 2-7 and asked them the four questions. Generally, we found that students had some understanding of what they were learning, however they appeared to have a minimal level of mathematical vocabulary which limited their ability to explain their thinking and articulate how they were doing in their learning. We also asked students the question: “What is mathematics?” We discovered that their concept of math was mostly based on number operations, such as “adding numbers together, multiplying, etc….”. The students were not connecting concepts of mathematics to each other, and to other areas of the curriculum or real world. Their concept of mathematics generally was concrete and black and white, either right or wrong. They generally do not yet see mathematics as a stimulating problem solving discussion or integrated across the curriculum.
Focus: We recognized that many of our students struggle with retaining their knowledge of number; this makes it very challenging for them to apply number concepts across other concepts being learned, or build on previous learning to learn new ideas. The students do not have a deep enough understanding in order to really pull apart numbers and explain their thinking in multiple ways. We also recognize that many of our students do not have the mathematical vocabulary to explain their thinking or make their thinking visual. Our goal is to find new strategies to engage our students in mathematical thinking, and provide multiple opportunities for students to practice concepts with their peers and engage in higher level mathematical discussions.
Hunch: Our hunch is that traditional instructional strategies are being utilized (instruct, model, student complete work) and resources being used may not be aligned to the curriculum. We are working on gathering resources that match the new curriculum and designing our instruction so that students can engage in active mathematical learning. We believe that if we design our instruction with more collaboration and game-based strategies, students will be more engaged and gain a deeper understanding of the concepts & competencies taught. Are we using manipulatives? Are there opportunities for collaboration in math? Are we providing opportunities for students to explain their thinking, use multiple strategies and making math visual? How can we align our assessment practices to the curricular competencies and not just the content?
New Professional Learning: At the beginning of the school year, many of the staff attended a professional learning session with Carol Fullerton. This was a good jumping off point and certainly stimulated the learning for many staff. Our PLC groups were focused primarily on math both at the primary and intermediate level; therefore, there was built in, ongoing collaboration and learning throughout the year, focused on engagement and teaching the curricular competencies. At the primary level, the focus of PLC was on teaching concepts through hands-on games and providing multiple opportunities for practice, engagement and deeper learning. Specifically, the team looked at structures to support a balanced numeracy program (balance of computation practice and new concept learning), strategies for teaching across concepts (eg. number of the day), and hands-on concrete ways to teach new concepts (manipulatives and visuals). Intermediate groups focused in on the structure instruction (year long plan) with discussions around strategies for revisiting and connecting concepts (eg. number talks) and teaching for understanding and deeper learning of concepts through problem solving. There was a lot of discussion and consensus making around the mindset of teachers (what’s important and how to achieve that) and professional dialogue in relation to the research (Jo Boaler). This led to the goal of better letting students struggle to solve problems, and designing / providing learning opportunities to facilitate this process. In February, our school brought in Box Cars and One Eye’d Jacks, with three other schools joining our staff. This session focused on engaging all students through dice & card games, and providing differentiated hands-on practice opportunities.
During Covid and our online learning, teachers worked to learn how to present opportunities and materials for students in alternative ways. We researched and learned about new technology resources (Boom Cards), and how to optimize the programs that we were already familiar with (Prodigy, Mathletics, etc…). We collaborated to provide Choice Boards and create hands-on real-world numeracy tasks for students at home. Many teachers participated in sessions with our NLPS coordinators to engage our students and provide online learning opportunities.
Taking Action: During the school year, our Primary team (2/3 level) shared various games that could be used to support skills taught. We wanted to give students various collaborative practice opportunities, while also focusing on providing a fun learning experience. We took turns presenting a game or two each PLC, sharing the resource and having discussions about implementing with our students. We collaborated on how each activity could stretch to meet our students’ needs (remediation & extension). We collected resources and created a resource binder, while sharing successes and challenges. We discussed structures that would be conducive to help facilitate this type of instruction and practice. At the intermediate level, problem solving was the focus and strategies were shared and implemented. There were discussions around the explicit instruction of mathematical vocabulary and collaboration to gather resources and categorize different types of problems, striving to understand the concept of balanced numeracy, as well as depth of knowledge. Teachers also looked back at old FSA questions and accessed multiple websites to help work through this process.
During online learning, the focus was mainly on how we could present materials online to continue to engage students in their learning. We were challenged with determining how to present materials so they did not need to be printed and/or could be adapted as reusable templates. Teachers worked to be creative, providing opportunities that were hands on and utilizing materials that could be found outside or at home, to facilitate review and practice of concepts (Choice boards, and game-based practice using dice/cards). Teachers developed new strategies using technology, such as the use of Google Slides for problem solving tasks, boom cards, and optimizing technology that had previously been utilized such as Prodigy, Mathletics, and other web based math sites. There was a focus to maintain routines that had been developed during the school year while students were at home (ie. number of the day routines / number talks), and providing a balance of computational fluency and new concept learning.
Checking: Prior to Covid, the teams felt they were struggling with resources and the need for an assessment, as well as the need for further learning and consensus about the New Island Numeracy Assessment. In some cases we used the Island Numeracy Assessment, but as this is specific to each unit (doing the collaborative task, assessment for learning, and the end performance task), we felt that it was necessary to align our scope and sequence in order to collaborate on what was working and what wasn’t, and then be able to look at our data to inform next steps. We think the next step is to use the INA more consistently among teachers, so that conversations can be had to discuss student strengths and areas for further improvement. We feel that there is a need to have an assessment that shows a continuum of skills that could be used at the 2-7 level, and show where kids true understanding is for number sense and operations. Because of Covid-19 (inconsistent participation & programming), we don’t feel we have adequate evidence of where ALL students are at in their math skills across the school, to truly know the impact that our work has had on student achievement. Up until March break we were working hard, both school wide and in our teams. Because of Covid-19, we didn’t ask the four questions again to see where our students were at with their metacognitive thinking – knowing where they think they are in their math learning.
Reflections/Advice: We feel we have had much success in bringing numeracy instruction to the forefront of conversation. We were exposed to many new resources, and continuous conversations sparked new thinking and learning. We feel we had some success with shifting the mindset of teachers, with the realization that different resources provide different learning opportunities for students and greater depth of mathematical thinking. There was a realization that the instruction and ways in which questions and materials are presented to students can make a significant shift for student thinking (ie. what do you see/what do you wonder), thereby facilitating the instruction of the curriculum competencies and not just the content.
Next steps would include gaining further understanding of new ways to assess the competencies, alongside more practice with explicit competency instruction. Our students continue to need to gain deeper understanding of concepts so knowledge can be retained and then built on, rather than “knowing” algorithms for solving. We need to continue to shift mindsets around the need for deeper learning, and how to facilitate this process for our students. The amount of resources is overwhelming, and we need greater guidance with an updated primary resource to use a basis for instruction and then be supplemented. We also need a clearer understanding of pedagogical principles to guide our practice. We continue to need more sharing across teams and more conversation around the curriculum. We need to take more time to collaborate and understand the “whys” behind the new curriculum (less & deeper), understanding why concepts are where they are at each level, and the continuum of concept learning. In some cases, we have the teaching of concepts beyond the curriculum, which is counter productive and contributing to surface level understanding. We need to focus our instruction by starting with the curriculum, and then matching resources for instruction. The main barrier is workload, and all this takes time, especially when this expectation is happening in all areas of the curriculum.
We benefited from our school wide focus on mathematics and an aligned professional learning plan. The time given in PLC to collaborate around instruction and its impact on student learning was significant. Next steps are focused on resources and assessment. We need to look specifically at student data to inform our practice and guide our work. We need to focus in on better tracking student progress and implementing a more targeted approach to our inquiry, in order to close the gap in achievement and differentiate our instruction. Our discussions are focused on practice, but not yet directly connected to student learning through data.