On Tuesday, May 5, 2020 at 2 pm, the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation Professional Learning offered a webinar to specifically meet the needs of classroom teachers as they take up supporting numeracy for students and families remotely during the COVID-19 crisis. The series was free to all Saskatchewan educators.
The first numeracy event was a facilitated panel conversation with classroom teachers currently supporting students from K-9 and was moderated by STF Professional Learning.
Lana Steiner: Grade 5/6 teaching in Spiritwood and Numeracy Coach for GSSD
Chad Williams: Grade 3 teacher in Clavet
Kate-Lynn Weisbrod: Grade 5-8 teacher in Pense
Summary of Numeracy K-9 Remote Webinar Series
What does your teaching situation look like and how have you organized your time?
- Right now I am planning for four grades so that’s pretty intense when I plan I to plan in chunks. I am not planning a day at a time. I am planning an indicator and outcome at a time. My brain settles into one outcome or indicator for one grade and so I’m kind of focussing on one grade per day of the week if that makes sense.
- I currently have grades 5, 6, 7, 8 math I am planning for and some 7-8 ELA. I find my workday honestly is working with students all day. We meet in Google meet or we meet in small groups. Sometimes they just message me through Google Classroom so my focus for each day is just meeting with the students and making sure they’re okay and everything that they are doing for me is making sense. I am really trying to make everything I put out there interactive, especially for math just to try to keep that engagement up. Even though the first week or two was a bit of a learning curve for everybody I find that we are now getting into the groove and the kids are understanding the technology more and everything seems to be running much smoother.
- With grade three it’s having something everyday in terms of a number routine and so meeting a half hour every single day kind of going through what might be different routines of which doesn’t belong and number talks daily with the class. A number of things I have done right now is just kind of sitting back and supporting students who might have questions or difficulties with some things. I did a lot of work upfront and so a lot of the focus for me going into this whole thing was kind of looking at access and equity and really doing a lot upfront to ensure families had paper packages and USBs. All of those things they might not be able to get now if they don’t have the technology. Meeting with students every day and then access to videos and things outside of the at time. If students have struggles or need more support they contact me and we set up some one-on-one times with families and with students. Do you find that your students are engaging in that daily meet time? Yes, I mean I am not getting, as I expected, all attending every time, but people choosing kind of what works so giving them variety two in the afternoon and two in the morning to allow. I know families are busier than others so trying to hit all of the students and then some coming more often. Just realizing every family is different and they’re doing stuff at their homes and stuff. Just ensuring and a big thing for me is to keep in mind that this is supplemental and that families are busy and we know we’re all doing the best we can. Whoever is showing up is great and we go with that. That’s a different approach than what I have seen from other early elementary teachers who seem to be doing less frequent, longer meetings so I wanted to push you a bit on how that’s looking for your families because I think its certainly something to consider. I shortened a meeting on Wednesday where I had an hour meeting where it was class sharing and all that kind of thing and I just realized that for my students and myself that an hour online was a bit much and respecting the families with technology and the kids on that to try to limit that to 30-45 minutes daily.
What is the one thing you are still finding challenging and that you’re either hoping to problem solve here today or maybe a bit later?
- One of my biggest challenges is because I am in a rural school I am the only grade 5-8 math teacher and I am the only one who can help those 5-8 students with math and it’s just a lot of work. Changing everything, finding videos and finding time to meet with everybody is really, really hard to do it all by yourself.
- One of the things we were spending a lot of time exploring in the classroom was lots of language and conversation and opening the kids up to different ideas by listening to one another and that whole exploration. How do you, I don’t want to use the word imitate, but how do you mimic those explorations and that language-rich environment in the online world? Those are the two things I wish I could give my kids and I can’t. That is what made the classroom dynamic and vibrant was those times they were exploring and figuring things out. It was a very language-rich math classroom and it was something very beneficial to the kids and I even through zoom, I meet with my kids through zoom, we’re just not a place where that is happening and that is a place that I would like to spend more time to problem-solve that. You can get the visual piece down and you can get the symbolic or number down, but I want that communication in there too and that’s the piece that I am struggling with. How do I do that?
- Communication when we’re doing the online daily kind of number routines, different things like that. I know that the conversations we have in the classroom will come no where close to what we’re doing online so with students being online a lot of them who might be the talkers in the classroom or might be the ones willing to share, are the ones that are holding back and not sharing. That could be for a number of reasons – their brother is right next to them and they don’t want to say anything their sibling is going to hear or parents might be in the room. I’m finding that with some of my students where they are there and they are listening and they might be doing stuff and hearing a parent say they don’t want to share online, but maybe they could show a picture towards this camera. Again, it’s kind of that problem-solving of how do you get those students engaged in communicating in where again, especially for grade three’s, may not be something they are familiar with to have those rich discussions we were going to have in the classroom and I’m just kind of that point that we’re not going to get there. For me, do I beat my head against the door trying to find some others or do we just say this is something we’re going to try and make do within the next coming months.
- I will admit going into this situation I didn’t realize how much differentiation would be required. It’s not a matter of putting a lesson together – it’s all of the elements of differentiation involved and it’s not looking even at how the kids the learn the math, it’s looking at the children from a more holistic perspective and how they are needing that support in their in general or maybe their well-being in general. If they need to connect with you or if they have that support at home – whatever the case may be, you just didn’t realize that going into this situation.
What, so far, is working well or has been worth your time to poke a little deeper and think about how could I facilitate this better for students that seems to be working for your students?
- A lot of the things I will kind of you show that students have with kind of the concepts in the class with what we have remaining to cover in videos and in some activities. One of the things I am trying to do is a lot of thinking task logic puzzle type things that I am getting a lot of engagement from the kids and for that they’re bringing in their families and their parents are getting involved in some of that stuff. Trying to give them different things that might not be that they have to sit down and be taught something but they can work at and their older brother/sister can join in on it. Whether it might be a zucki geometry spatial reasoning puzzle or giving them kind of a snake puzzle that they can do. For me I’m using Google Classroom so they can do it online and they can show me their solution and in turn trying to take some of the games and do them online so kind of open up a jam board on Google Classroom. We were doing a black hole activity from Ben Orlan who just posted on Twitter. We did that activity in Google Classroom on the jam board so again an activity that the students are doing with their classmates and trying to do side-by-side but not really. They can then take those games and to do them at home and continue with it for the days to come. I think that’s where going with the family piece I was trying to present the material to the students I had set the outcomes so that if the families wanted to take, because a lot of the time they were like you know what I’ll do some things at home, but I don’t know where to start. By giving them those outcomes, okay we’re doing this with measurement and doing this kind of thing with data the family goes perfect I have the skeleton for what we may do outside or in the household. Its important letting the parents know what are the big goals from now until the end of the year and you can join us online or you can accomplish those things in your own home in your own family setting.
- I think to build on what Chad said, even though something may not be taught, when you look at a puzzle it might not necessarily be tied to a curricular outcome, but if you look at the seven mathematical processes, it’s hitting multiple processes. There is value in that that perhaps we need to explore a little bit more.
- I have a good routine going right now. At the start of the week I send out what I call a week and a peek and they see what their goals are for each day and at a specific time each day I will release an interactive lesson and kids can go through and it’s a hyper doc so I have done a lot of research on Alice Keebler, Catlin Tucker and Cassie Bell they all have really great websites. I have created interactive lessons where the kids can go in and I start with the 5 E model so I do an engage activity where it might be a video or something that they can create at home and then they explore. I usually, for example the Pythagorean Theorem, so for the Pythagorean Theorem I had a whole bunch of pieces that I had made and they had to drag them and create the Pythagorean Theorem based off the letters, numbers and symbols which I gave though may seem small, but some kids really liked that they get to click on something and move it. Within those I embed videos on Pythagorean Theorem – here it is and these are the pieces. I try to put some fun videos in and keep it short and then I do some explaining where they use some examples and I show and then they show me and then I do some that are a little bit tougher and at the end of my lesson I have the I can statements and they kind of rate themselves on how they feel on what they learned today. I found that’s really been working to give me a snapshot of how they are feeling about things and they are constantly interacting and not just sitting back and watching. They are doing things which is really nice. I also try to incorporate project each day that they are working on, so in Grade 8 they are doing a Barbie zipline for Pythagorean Theorem and in Grade 6 they’re creating a pizza so I give different ways they can do this at home and how to explore fractions. In Grade 7 they are shopping and creating a new Barbie so I am just trying to create different things they can do at home with their families as well as with me and whatever kids would like to show me I have a virtual WOW wall on my website I post student work and share it with everybody. I don’t necessarily put whose it is, just a collage of what people have been doing and that’s been really positive as well.
- I follow a formula in my mind I usually start with some kind of hook whether it’s something just interesting, a math book, whatever it might be and then its into some videos, a virtual manipulative, a game and possibly what we call naked numbers where there is no context. It’s just practicing that skill and there’s the application and there is usually a challenge. The challenges are often connected to art or science and I’ve really enjoyed putting those together for the kids. The thing the kids are liking the most, and I have got this feedback consistently across the four grades, is when I am making the video and I am talking to them in the classroom, I spoke to my kids a lot about what their brain does when they are learning math. It allows me to talk though a lot of the things that they are learning and I talk to them about the choices I am making as a teacher because what I have learned is the more the kids know why I am doing what I am doing the more likely they are willing to go along with it essentially. The virtual manipulates or today I put a fraction kit in for one grade and I talked to them about what usually is in the hand it goes to the mind there’s an early years belief about that. I talk to them about what we’re doing and that we’re doing this in more than one way because we want to demonstrate flexibility in our thinking. Kids really seem to be taking to those more than anything.
With different levels of engagement right now, we know families are engaging in different ways, which means students are doing different math. How are we all feeling about September knowing we are coming back to classrooms that are going to be sort of extra differentiated?
- The fall doesn’t bother me because I have spent a lot time with my fives and sixes this year. We talked a lot about the difference between being a student and a learner. They understood very deeply the difference between what a student does and what a learner does. Before they left the classroom I told them regardless of how long they were gone that as long as they were learners they were going to be fine and it didn’t matter if they learned a concept this June or next November as long as they came to that concept wanting to know and using those learning behaviours when they learned it they were going to be fine. Part of our morning routine was they had to tell me every morning just with their fingers, from one to five, how open and willing they were to learn. The reason why we did that is I told them that when they weren’t getting something I was constantly trying to problem-solve, but I said I need to know if you are invested. I can teach you anything if you want to learn. We got to a place where they were very open with me about if they were open to learning every day and even the kids who loved school were very rarely fives, they were three and fours and lot of the kids were twos. Just because they are in that building doesn’t mean they’re there to learn. The kids and I talked about how teacher make that assumption that just because they kids are they that they are fives. Just because the kid are at home right now doesn’t that they’re not learning. They are learning we are just in control of the content as much. I don’t have a lot of concerns of over the kids coming back it the fall. I will pick up with them from where they’re at and they will be okay. That being said I work with my kids for four years so I have a lot of privilege in that. I want them to be well right now – that’s what I want for my kids.
- When I look at it I don’t think it’s going to be any different than a year before I went through my past year. I know in my Grade 3 class I am going to have kids at a K level to a Grade 6-7 level. I think next year will I have a few more who might not be there – might be – but I think the activities and things I do will continue to be the same because I’ve had those kids in my class the whole time. That’s where I am not worried at all either. I think it’s just going to be the same as we do every year as teachers. We receive our students and they come and we move along with them wherever they’re at. So now to say that they are going to be completely behind we’ve always had those students. We know that they lose things over the summer and we know from year to year we say, “I’m sure you were taught that last year why I am resaying this?” well we’re going to do that this next year. We just have to be okay with and I think with reassuring the families that if you are not partaking in any of this, it’s fine. We’ll grab their hand when they come in the fall and we’ll continue teaching them. For me in Grade 3, we have lot more years until they graduate to ensure that learning is going to happen and they have the understanding they need to be citizens in the world.
Chad, do you let your kids have their mics on at the same time or do you ask them to raise their hand? How are you managing grade threes on a live call?
- The platform I am using for that is Google Meet. They way that I have it is they mute themselves or I have the ability as the teacher to mute them, and when they want to say something they will either give me a thumbs up or raise their hand. The tough part is when I’m in presenting mode then I can only see a couple of people on the side. We’ve gotten in the routine that if they have something to share, and that’s for me too to be mindful of the language I use to ensure if anyone has a question to put it in the chat right now. If anyone wants to share let me know, they use yes/no and that’s where I can see who wants to share during my class meetings.
Is anyone using SeeSaw?
- We were using it prior to leaving the classroom. The division I am in, we are working through Google Classroom. One of the things the digital coaches have told me is that basically three clicks and the kids get lost so I tried to be very mindful about that. I try to be pretty mindful about not using to many apps and so that was something we were using in the classroom. I know the younger are using a NGO sisty but I am not currently using it right now.
- I am not currently using SeeSaw, but other teachers in my school are and it sounds like they’ve been having lots of good success with kids hearing and seeing their teachers voice and video. I guess there is a lot of built-in activities that the teachers use as well, especially for math.
What sort of process are you walking yourselves through to kind of decide when you look at the curriculum, what are you going to lend your focus to right now in terms of what is worth the time to either develop resources around if it’s for curriculum, if it’s for enrichment, if maybe you are trying a tiny bit of new instruction? How are you deciding of all of your outcomes and all of your indicators what’s worth your time?
- When I look at it I think just as I would at the end of the year, what do I want my students to leave with knowing how I teach moving to another teacher are they going to be okay? If you look at, say a mathematician, what do they need so that is where I am concentrating on – number sense, problem solving and those types of things. With the numeracy one of the things too is what activities can I give students and families games to play that will build on that, to build on their number sense so that moving forward if we didn’t quite get to graphing, if we didn’t quite get to geometry, but what are those core things and big ideas in the elementary math – that’s number sense. In talking about ways that we can continue to ensure students are having opportunities with that. Through the games that we can present to families, through the chats that we can do virtually online is the way I am focussing my time with those essential things – the number sense, number strand, problem solving with my grade threes.
- I feel like I am very fortunate because I teach a lot of math and science and I’ve also taught all of the high school math and sciences. If I am looking at my grade eights they are going to high school next year so I am thinking what are they going to see next year in grade nine and what are still some of the skills or concepts they need to even be introduced to so that when they see it next year if somebody sitting beside them has knowledge about it, I want them to think to themselves I’ve seen that, I’ll be okay. Something I worry about next is there is already that mental block in math, I don’t want there to be this huger barrier of there wasn’t any school or I didn’t do this so I am already set up for failure. I don’t want them to think that so even just giving them some exposure to some of the things I know they will see net year, if they’re going into high school, that’s how I think about it for them. For the younger grades I know that I will have them again and it’s really just strategy for me and how can I incorporate it into even science classes. If they are doing something and working with numbers and practicing just like the others have said – that’s really the goal. Engaging and getting to work on things with their family is really important too – creating that positive mindset. I think there is such a power too in talking with other teachers and gaining that insight into what is to come for these guys next year. It’s a really good background knowledge just to have in general.
- One of things were directed to do was to not introduce new learning and so I was fortunate enough that I was pretty much through my number outcomes and this to me is kind of fascinating because the middle year’s curricula in Saskatchewan are jam-packed to the point where May and June are not fun. This is a really interesting time because there is some freedom there. Because we were asked to not introduce new outcome and because we are not required to complete all of the outcomes I’m now going through a process of to create a consolidation as much of that math learning as possible because consolidation in math is a major, major issue because those curricula are so jam-packed. This is a really unique opportunity for the kids that are engaging to consolidate what was taught in the classroom. That’s kind of how I have been looking at it, and like Chad, I am highly-focused on the number outcomes right now.
What are you doing right now for formative assessment for your students that’s working or what your vision is long-term?
- For my assessments I have a couple of ways one is some online assessments via the Google Classroom. For the assessments I would have in class they would in turn do online knowing that I am not going to get near as much information as I would have if they had done it in the class. When I think about it someone asked it authentically you know with the assessment I’m not going to get it. Even when I do one-on-one with some of the students, even having it over Google Meets one-on-one I’m still not going to be there if I was side-by-side with them in the classroom. I have those one-on-ones with students where they can kind of share what they are doing of the formative ongoing if they can in the Google Classroom, but also families have been sending pictures. The families that are using the paper packages and doing the work and videos from USBs that were provided they’re just sending snapshots and pictures. For some families the parents are doing the checking and doing that assessment for me and if there is any questions they will ask and if not they could carry on. It’s going to look a little bit different in June because I am going to have to gather some information from a variety of sources with EAs working with some students and parents. I can anticipate that the report card in June will have, for some students, information and some may not have any and I think we have to be okay with that moving forward.
- Assessment looks a lot different in five-six versus seven-eight so I will talk about seven-eight first. I find that my goal is to give feedback. I am unsure of how the June report card will look and the expectations are so I am just of planning and giving more than what is expected. I know in Google Classroom you can attach rubrics so I give them a mark with the rubric although I am very generous and I think really my goal is to give them feedback and I do a weekly concept check, very short, just to see how they’re doing – it’s online. Like Chad said it doesn’t give you the same information, but if somebody’s really struggling it does give me something and I know that maybe I do need meet with them virtually and help them or do what I can to support them because maybe it’s something else going on at home. I think it’s just taking it slowly for the kids, not being really hard on them because this is optional for them and they want that positive feedback. I use the rubrics as an assessment tool for myself just in case I need that data tracking because we did end right at the end of our term too. For term three anything I get will be online and I am preparing the best I can. Five-six for all of the classes I post the answer keys or anything they do that the parents can check or they can check themselves. I do weekly concept checks and some of them you can like wow they’ve gotten really good at home and there’s others which it is what it is and once again you are just happy they are engaging and doing the work. I will give feedback in any way that I can and that’s my goal.
- In my five-sixes embedded in every lesson, kind of when the teaching part is over, after they have had some time to explore and play, I have been using knowledge hook in there. The questions in there have visual support and then the results come straight to me so I kind of like that because it’s given me a snapshot, but it’s giving me something. I do have a few kids, like Chad, who are taking pictures but pictures are hard on the eyes in all honesty. One thing I have realized and I always say this to my teachers too, everything is an evolution and I feel like this is one area where I already recognize I’m going to evolve in and I have to. One of the things we were working on prior to leaving the classroom was self-assessment and do I have comfort and confidence in this concept so I’ve been talking to the kids when they have been asking… how do you feel and then I will look at your work. I really think it is important for the kids to have the skills of what do I know that I know and what do I know that I still need to work on. I am trying to nurture that in them through this process and then look at their work. My circumstances are slightly different than Kate-Lynn and Chad’s where I am expected to work on things and deliver things that have already been worked on in the classroom so this is their second time around with it. There’s a little bit more opportunity for that skill to be developed in this situation too.
- One things I have found so valuable with mostly my older students, the grade seven and eights is asking them what they want and what they will get the most out of and what is reasonable in their day. At the beginning, I am fortunate because I have a small group of Grade 8 and a small group of Grade 7, we talked about what they want and their biggest fear was not being ready for high school. As much as I can tell them it will be okay there is still that fear and they said unanimously they want to keep going and that’s what their driving factor is. They have all been on and been working and it has blown my mind and I just constantly ask them what they want more of, what do you liked and what is not working. I work with them and they work with me as a team almost to come up with what will work best and that’s unique to do I guess maybe being in a rural school and having that relationship. I found that because we put the time in at the start to figure out what the kids wanted that has shaped where we are going I think.
Final thoughts …
- There was a question on the side about suggestions for people who were expecting to teach new outcomes and I think back that the class did learn some new outcomes and one of the things where we might be in the classroom of having these big problems and being there and working through it for 40 minutes and stuff like that just can’t happen online. I think with the new stuff that I’m having students to learn in its size its in small pieces. The small pieces might be a little video that we might explore something and then go try it for yourself and come back and build on that. Kind of like you would do that catch and release in the classroom in kind of an full 40 minutes to an hour. Those catch and releases are happening in tidbits day by day so half hour here, half hour there when you are kind of building on top of each other when we have to have that new – some of those outcomes that we want that maybe we didn’t cover earlier in the year. I would say to that sizeable chunks, let them go out and practice a bit and get a little feedback, where do we need to adjust and that’s not going to happen in one class. That’s happening over days and that’s where my tweak shifted, I am not getting that in an hour, it’s in a week. What are the little pieces to throw at them that they can do and build on it.
- I think it’s a mindset thing. I think teachers need a lot of kudos – they have been through a lot in the past six weeks and to ride that wave – good for you guys! It’s an evolution and things aren’t going to be perfect and it’s okay to give yourself grace to figure this out and give yourself permission to do that along with your students. I think having that mindset and that approach to what you’re trying to achieve is super important right now and realizing that the kids’ well-being is important because if they are not well, they are not learning – making sure that’s in place and the learning will come.
- I would say celebrate! Celebrate everything you have done, no matter what you have learned, your kids are learning from you even if it’s just to see your face on a Google Meet or hear your voice knowing that you’re somebody who’s trying to encourage them to learn. No matter what you are doing – celebrate it because your kids appreciate it. Celebrate your kids because they are working and I think that is so important – it is optional but they are trying and I think we need to just be there for them and help them in whatever way they need and I think celebration is the best way to do that.