"Planning and Carrying out Investigations" is one of the eight RPS Prioritized Learnings in science. This skill is essential for scientific inquiry and it requires that our students have many opportunities to gain proficiency. For many educators, allotting the time necessary for our students to reach proficiency in this scientific skill can seem daunting and prohibitive.
Many science teachers find that it is easier for students to follow prescribed procedures to "carry out investigations" as all they need do is follow the steps to obtain the results that confirm a scientific concept or theory. The same science teachers often ask, "How do I afford students the time to practice the planning part of this prioritized learning?" Teachers often skip having students plan the investigation because of the very real possibility that the student ideas for procedures will be impossible to implement due to time, materials, safety, etc.. Teachers often find that by sacrificing the planning part of the investigation, the students are more likely successfully complete the lab and see that the science works. Experience has shown us that students often contrive a procedure that will not work or cannot be competed in the school environment. When students do not come up with a workable procedure, we teachers feel that the students will be devastated by a failure. In reality, much of the research on brain development suggests that by not allowing our students to learn from their mistakes, we are inhibiting their learning. What we need is a way to give students practice in planning experiments in a manner that is not impeded by time, materials, and/or safety. An intriguing idea to increase opportunities for students to plan experiments is described in the book Academic ConversationsClassroom Talk That Fosters Critical Thinking and Content Understanding by Jeff Zwiers & Marie Crawford. In the chapter "Academic Conversations in Science," the authors lay out a reading activity that fosters scientific thinking, inquiry, and communication skills. The authors contend that much of what students read in science textbooks is written as statements of fact and advocate that educators use these statements of fact to increase student investigative skills. The authors suggest that student pairs design a lab experiment, or research project to support the claim(s) made in the text. The students should look for statements in the text that are testable through experiment. For instance, two excerpts from our current high school science texts are given in the table below:
Zwiers and Crawford suggest the use of prompts to get our students engaged while reading the textbook. Engagement in and discussion around the text can be jump started with prompts such as:
For instance, in the biology example, students might design an experiment to test the diffusion of various substances across a membrane. In the chemistry example, the students might compile a list of the materials and chemicals they might use to measure the mass before and after a reaction. True, there are already laboratory experiments performed in science classrooms to support these statements but having students follow prescribed procedures without the opportunity to create their own procedure denies the student the opportunity to learn the practice of experimental design. Why not have the students design it first? The simple classroom activity described above allows the student an opportunity to read and understand scientific texts and to practice and be given feedback on the skill of planning an investigation. In some cases, after the students have designed and critiqued their own procedures, the teacher might have students follow a tried and true lab procedure that can be successfully completed in a safe and efficient way.
Many constructive conversations may arise through comparison of the students own invented procedures and the prescribed procedure. Who knows, the students might come up with a better procedure with more consistent results than the one prescribed. By having students read our textbooks we can, with multiple opportunities, help our students to become proficient in the Secondary Science RPS Prioritized Learning of "Planning and Carrying out Investigations."
This post brought to you by Dan Devine, Secondary Implementation Associate
With the end of the semester on the horizon, many teachers are searching for review strategies that use formative means to help students prepare for semester exams. The "Stay and Stray" strategy can be very useful when multiple skills or concepts are being reviewed.
I recently saw this strategy being used at CTECH with our students as they prepared for the CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) practical exam. By the time this formative assessment was used the students had already practiced performing many CNA skills throughout the semester and were now preparing for the state certification practical exam. The student's knew when they arrived for the day they would be assessed on one of several skills. The teacher used the "Stay or Stray" strategy summarized in the table below.
The following process was used:
The use of "Stay or Stray" review strategy got the students up and out of their seats, while ensuring they were accountable to themselves, their group members, and their teacher. The strength of this activity is that the teacher used an ungraded formative assessment to give quality feedback though peer, individual, and teacher interaction. The teacher reduced her workload by enlisting students to perform peer and self assessments. No grade was applied, but the students were given ample opportunity to think about and apply their learning.
If you are wondering why she did not apply an actual grade to the assessment, you may wish to read the previous blog post "Grading for Learning". By using peer assessment, the teacher reduced her own workload while still providing quality feedback for the students. There are many ways to give feedback to students while helping them review at the end of the semester; for more ideas see the blog post "Quality Feedback Structures that Save Teachers Time and Keep Students Learning".
This post brought to you by Dan Devine, Secondary Implementation Associate
 1 Math + Football
I recently ran across an interesting article complete with video from Sports Illustrated called, “A Calculated Decision: Why John Urschel Chose Math Over Football.” There’s a powerful message at the end about choosing your own path in life that shines through. Plus, his passion for mathematics is inspiring. This would be a great piece to share with your students or could become the foundation of a great new lesson!
 2 Minnesota STEM Resource Teacher Center
If you're looking for a resource to help you more fully understand the Minnesota Academic Standards in science and math, then check out the Minnesota STEM Resource Teacher Center. SciMathMN (a nonprofit business) and the Minnesota Department of Education created the “frameworks” (resources) to help teachers easily translate Minnesota state standards into classroom practice.
From the login, you can search by subject and grade level to find clusters of standards for your courses. (If you don't already have one, you'll first need to create an account.) Within each cluster, you will find pages of information that will bring you deeper into those standards. It's under these heading that you will find a treasure trove of information:
To get a feel for this resource, click on one of the following hyperlinks for a sampling of standards that you teach:
If you would like to explore or discuss these resources with me, or should you like some help implementing these in your classroom, please reach out to me, Dan Devine, or an Instructional Coach. We'd love to help you!
This post brought to you by Carol Lucido, the K8 District Math Coordinator
I recently came across Cathy Seeley's article "Turning Teaching Upside Down" in ASCD's Education Leadership. The article struck a chord with me because it supported the work and research that RPS teachers of math are engaging in. The ultimate goal is for our RPS teachers of math, and all teachers for that matter, is to use teaching practices that help our students become flexible thinkers who are empowered to take on the many unknown challenges in their future. To accomplish this goal, RPS teachers of math use a pedagogical approach in which the traditional teaching method is turned on its head. The table below is a quick visual of the difference in pedagogy. As you scan the table, notice that the upside down teaching method "You do, we do, I do" is inverse to the traditional teaching method "I do, we do, you do".
So why is UpsideDown Teaching the necessary pedagogical method for fostering students who are willing and able to be problem solvers? Sometimes, the use of analogy is a powerful tool for describing a concept or practice. In this time of harvest, let's use a corn maze analogy to help us compare the traditional teaching practice to the upside down teaching practice.
A Hypothetical Corn Maze Competition As you likely know, corn mazes are giant puzzles that have dead ends and multiple pathways where people can often get lost. To prevent the adventurers from getting permanently lost, farmers provide a map of the maze. For many people, the greatest satisfaction comes in conquering the maze without the use of the map. Imagine that two teams are practicing how to navigate corn mazes and will participate in a corn maze competition at the end of the growing season. The coaches know that on the day of the competition, the students will need to navigate a unique maze without the use of a map. The coaches’ have a choice as to how or when to use maps in practice. As you read the practice schedules, think about the parameters of the maze competition and ask:
The coaches provide the format for practice and specific instructions for participates as follows:
So how are the teachers of math in RPS working to create “AMazing” students?
Many RPS teachers are using short daily exercises such as number talks to help our students feel increasingly comfortable in solving math problems and to validate individual student thinking. Number Talks use UpsideDown Teaching to foster a can do student mindset. Think of Number Talks as short math problem (loop in the maze) that takes about 10 minutes for students to navigate. The students find their own solution and then describe how they found their answer to the rest of the group. Number talks happen almost daily and are meant to foster students who are more confident and comfortable solving new math problems (entering the maze). We are actively engaged in a teacher workshop to find Rich Mathematical Tasks (Mazes) for our students to navigate. Our teachers use UpsideDown Teaching when helping our students to navigate through the rich task (Maze). The strength of the rich task is in the discussions that students use to see all of the paths through a real world problem and to more deeply understand the concepts being studied. It is analogous to seeing the maze and its beauty in entirety. Finally, we are working through articulation to align our curriculum with a focus on prioritized learnings to answer which concepts in the overall mathematical universe are worth our attention. It is analogous to deciding which mazes or sections of mazes are worth our attention. Articulation is about making sure that our students are flexible thinkers who are empowered to take on the many unknown challenges in their future. It is analogous to our students knowing how to navigate mazes, not about our students knowing a specific maze. In Summary, the math teachers in RPS are in the middle of a process that is moving towards a new scope and sequence while developing a new and different pedagogical method in mathematics instruction. There are many RPS teachers using UpsideDown teaching in RPS. If you would like to increase your practice with UpsideDown teaching, enlist the help of a colleague or instructional coach who is experienced in its practice. By incorporating more UpsideDown teaching in your practice, you will open the eyes of your students to discover deeper connections and different pathways to mathematical success.
This post brought to you by Dan Devine, Secondary Implementation Associate
Educational researcher John Hattie notes in both his 2015 book The Applicability of Visible Learning to Higher Education and his 2011 book Visible Learning for Teachers that student participation in classroom discussions, specifically ones focused on learning, have an effect size of 0.82 (Waack). Considering that Hattie identifies an effect size of .40 to be the ‘hinge point’—the point of average academic growth—with “anything above such an effect size [having] more of an impact than just a typical year of academic experience” and “an effect size of 1.0…[being] equivalent to advancing [a] student’s achievement level by approximately a full grade” (Wiggins)…well, 0.82 is notably significant. Combined with the knowledge that cooperative learning (vs. individualistic) has an effect size of 0.550.59 (Waack), and it becomes a nobrainer that as teachers we want to provide more opportunities for students to talk in our classrooms.
For this reason, I am always looking out for new, easytoimplement, instructional dialogue strategies that can be applied in any classroom. Strategies that I can weave into my own instruction—strategies that I can share with you. So, this past week, when I was lucky enough to attend the ASCD Conference on Educational Leadership, I kept my eyes peeled. Even though the foci of the conference were instructional leadership, leveraging resources, and supporting staff and students—and not on instructional best practices—I lucked out. I experienced two newtome structures that assist students (and teachers) in peertopeer instructional conversations. A  B Partner Pyramid
A twist on A  B Partners (details on that strategy can be found here), this strategy is great for engagement and getting all students talking about their learning. When I participated in this activity, instantly the energy shifted: suddenly everyone in the room was engaged and having fun while learning.
Directions:
Suggestions & Modifications:
4Square
Perhaps what I love most about this strategy was its simplicity. If structured well, a generic version of this could be used for virtually every unit one teaches, so it takes very little prep time but still has a large effect size. Also, it gives introverts and internal processors a chance to think before sharing, helping to ensure an alldoall structure.
Directions:
Suggestions & Modifications:
If you would like to try either of these in your classroom, let me know: I would love to see your students in action. Likewise, if you would like to discuss Hattie’s work, please consider reaching out. Either way, I would love to help you help your students.
This post brought to you by Heather Lyke, Secondary Implementation Associate
Resources:
Waack, Sebastian. “Hattie Ranking: 195 Influences and Effect Sizes Related to Student Achievement.” Visible Learning. 1 Nov. 2017. Wiggins, Grant. “What Works in Education—Hattie’s List of the Greatest Effects and Why it Matters.” Granted, And… 7 Jan. 2012.
In her book Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students' Potential Through Creative math, Inspiring Messages, and Innovative Teaching, Jo Boaler lists six ways to change a ordinary activity into a rich mathematical task. The use of any or all of the six ways described below will increase a tasks "richness" and will help students to think like true mathematicians.
1. Open up the task so there are multiple methods, pathways, and representations.
2. Ask the problem before teaching the method
3. Ask the problem before teaching the method
4. Add a visual component and ask students how they see the mathematics
5. Extend the task to make it 'low floor' and 'high ceiling'
6. Ask students to convince and reason; be skeptical
Incorporating one or all of these six changes does not need to be difficult. I saw a great example while visiting the classroom of a science teacher earlier this week. He was teaching a chemistry class where he was asking students to find the density of irregular shaped objects. The students were given an overflow cup and a very short list of instructions.  DIRECTIONS 
First, watch the following video of Archimedes
Then, design an experiment to measure the density of 4 irregularly shaped objects
Next, create and design a data table for data collection.
Finally, come up with a way to represent your results.
I have personally seen this same activity presented to students with a full set of step by step instructions that take away the students imagination and opportunity to struggle and learn. This way, the task is wide open for the students.
All six of Jo Boaler's ways for making a task rich can be met with this simple set of instructions and with a purposeful instructional pedagogy that allows all students to enter the activity, use their creativity, and explain their thinking Instead of telling the students what to do. This teacher let them figure out what to do and how to represent their results. He did not have to search the internet for a creative and rich tasks on density, he only needed to make simple changes to an activity in front of him. If you have traditional STEM task that you'd like to develop into a rich one, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I would love to help you develop your idea.
This post brought to you by Dan Devine, Secondary Implementation Associate
During the BacktoSchool staff development days, the vast majority of our elementary and secondary math teachers attended a training on the 8 researchbased mathematics instructional practices from NCTM. Participants had amazing conversations about how to make math learning more powerful for all of our students. The million dollar question now is… NOW WHAT? How does this impact my classroom?
It can be daunting to make sweeping changes to your instruction all at one time. Don’t let that deter you – just start somewhere. Here are some first steps you might try!  1 
Get to know your students as math learners
Pose some questions and ask students to discuss, write, or even draw a picture about their answers…
 2 
Establish positive norms for your classroom and revisit them often
Communicate ideas such as those suggested by Jo Boaler in Mathematics Mindsets:
 3 
As you begin to plan lessons, try to enhance the use of the 8 instructional practices.
Even small changes can have a great impact. As one math teacher shared in the August training, “I started by just having kids talk more and explain their thinking…and it made all the difference!” Here are a some things to consider (again, from Jo Boaler, Mathematics Mindsets):
Finally, don't forget to give yourself and your students time to grow into these new practices!
This post brought to you by Carol Lucido, the K8 District Math Coordinator
It’s June already?! In August I always think that this year couldn’t possibly go as fast as last year! I am always mistaken when June comes back around and the year is suddenly coming to a close. During those long winter months I long for spring and when it finally comes, it comes fast and furious. So much to do, so little time...
My todo list keeps getting longer and longer in the spring. Each year I put on my todo list “reflect” and each year it gets shoved further and further down on my list. This year I am making it a point to keep it at the top and to do a better job of reflecting this year. I’m going to reflect in a number of different ways such as conversations with colleagues, writing down my thoughts in a Google Doc or in my journal, and turning off the music in my car to silently reflect on my drive home. I’m going to use the following 10 questions to help me on my reflective endofyear journey. My goal is to select one each day between now and the end of the school year.
Will you join me? Will you take a reflective journey, too? If you are looking for more questions to reflect on, see the Colorín Colorado article "Reflection Questions for Teachers and Students: A School Year Like No Other" by Lydia Breiseth.
This post brought to you by Katie Miller, K12 EL Implementation Associate
A Teacher's Perspective on the 2017 MCTM Conference
Attending the MCTM math conference in Duluth really got me thinking about math identity. How do we build up our students' math identity rather than just divide them into math and nonmath people? On the last morning of the conference, I attended a session that helped me really think about that in some new ways.
The session was called Instructional Strategies to Promote Positive Math Identity and the presenter is a teacher in the the AnokaHennepin school district. She started by walking us through an activity where she asked us each to write our mathography. We answered the following questions:
It was really interesting just to see how the different adults did this activity. I’m a pretty linear thinker, so I divided my paper into 4 sections and answered each question in a different section. I saw others that wrote lists or paragraphs, while others drew pictures. It didn’t matter how we did it, it still got us thinking and then talking about math. Often, there isn’t enough of that happening in most of our math classrooms.
I have been thinking about how I could use this in my own classroom. I think that I would adapt the questions some for my students: for example, I think that I might change the question about where they want their math journey to go to something more specific about goals. I have done something similar to this in the past during the first week of school, but I like this idea of presenting it as a 'math journey' better. Plus, having students write in math is something that I struggle with as a teacher and this activity helps to address thatnot that all students would need to approach this as a writing assignment. The presenter also suggested having the students do this more than just during that first week of schoolhaving them revisit throughout the year. Personally, I love this idea! I think that I’d like my students to do this activity three times a year, during the first week, at the end of first semester, and again at the end of the year. I would love to see if kids view math differently at the end of my class. Of course, I want my students to know, understand, and be able to apply the standards that I teach, but I also work to build their confidence in math, and I hope that I can instill at least a little bit of the love that I have for math in them. I think that this might give me just as much information about the growth of my students and the effect of my teaching as giving a survey at the end of the year. I also took away many other ideas from the conference to use in my classroom. Some are ideas about specific activities to do, especially around the idea of math discourse in class, others are about changing the way that I approach what and how I’m teaching. For me, the best part of going to a conference or taking time to work and plan with other math teachers is challenging myself to look at things differently, to try to stretch and grow in my teaching. I hope that I never stop learning or stop trying to improve.
This post brought to you by Carrie Sparks, Math teacher at Kellogg Middle School
Feel free to follow Carrie Sparks on Twitter @CarrieSparks or to connect with her via email Keep Climbing the Stairs of Inquiry to Prevent Slip Sliding Away
I don’t know about you, but to me this Paul Simon song makes a whole lot of sense in May. The seniors are sliding, the juniors are jelly, the sophomores are slumping, and the freshmen haven’t changed (**wink**).
So what can we do about the slipslide? Well, we have to keep moving upward or we will begin to slide backward. A cursory internet search under “things that teachers do at the end of the school year to keep students engaged” will link you to site after site that often suggest you get students out of their seats and into some inquiry based learning. Inquiry based learning is all about giving students the freedom to investigate, explore, probe, examine, review, analyze a question or problem. Structures like Learning Menus and TicTacToe Boardsare excellent frameworks for inquiry activities that help teachers organize inquiry activities so each student (or group of students) is guided down a path that allows for choice without compromising on depth of knowledge. In fact, the last line of Paul Simon's song, as shown below, is less likely to occur if we keep the students engaged, which we can certainly do through inquiry based learning.
As an added bonus, our blog post “Individualized Learning through Independent Projects” written by Nikhil Marda (a senior at John Marshall High School), published in April of 2017, gives a student perspective on why inquiry based learning is important and how it engages students.
Song lyrics from: Simon, Paul. Slip Slidin’ Away. Columbia Records, 1977.
This post brought to you by Dan Devine, Secondary Implementation Associate

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