Sunday, March 13, 2016

Go-Cart Collaboration Across Levels: Take Two!


Yes, I know it is the middle of March and I just realized this collaboration day took place almost a month ago :( I am embarrassed it has taken me this long to post this...Angela and I will both agree that the month of February was a crazy, whirlwind of activity in T.E.A.M. Togetherness. Between the end of the quarter, parent teacher conferences, visitors, guest teachers, amazingly fun activities, even an extra day, the month flew by and this post sat in our "drafts" for far too long. 

About a month ago we had another awesome morning with Mike Mohammad's AP Physics students from Brookfield Central High School. After our first collaboration day back in December, Mike and I knew we wanted to get the "bigs" and "littles" together for another day of Physics Fun! Knee deep into our Models and Designs unit, Mike came over to Swanson to observe what we were learning and help me figure out how we could make the connection. When he saw our students would be designing and building self-propelled go-carts, he quickly found a perfect fit!

4th Grade Go-Cart Challenge
Use the supplies provided to design and build a self-propelled go-cart that can move 2 meters on its own

Our students were divided into groups and given their baggy of supplies. They were super excited about the challenge and were quick to design conceptual models and jump into the self-propelled challenge. Within minutes, Angela and I began to see the students' frustration grow. They could easily design a go-cart that could roll down a ramp, but they were stumped when facing the self-propelled challenge. We let them struggle for a while and listened in for glimmers of hope. As the conversation and collaboration continued, students started to figure out that the rubber bands in their bags would be the most realistic item to get the go-carts moving on their own. Other groups decided they needed larger wheels. 

After a day or two of working with their small groups, we met as an entire class to discuss the problems we were facing. We then shared out solutions! That is when the magic started to happen...groups started listening and coaching each other. They started sharing ideas, creative juices were flowing, and the go-cart creations started coming together. The grown ups in the space took a back seat and we let the students take over! We had one group of young ladies quickly meet the 2 meter challenge. We celebrated their success, and then encouraged them to share their design with the other groups. They then went out and became our resident experts on self- propelled carts. Within 4 days, all of the groups when from bags of supplies to functioning, self-propelled carts. They were ready to video their cars in motion.

All groups were able to get their go-cart moving on it's own, so they each had the opportunity to have their go-cart video taped for analysis. Some of the go-carts traveled beyond the 2 meter challenge, many did not. Regardless of the distance, the videos were then sent to Mike's students. They used an app called Video Physics to measure the velocity and acceleration of each go-cart vehicle. The high schoolers then created detailed reports that were tailored to each group's go-cart and, more importantly, comprehendable to our 4th graders. They included graphs and explanations that related directly to our Models and Designs learning. The conversations between the engineers from BCHS and Swanson were amazing, to say the least!

Along with investigating the motion of our student's go-carts, the high school students orchestrated five interactive motion stations. Mike, once again, AMAZED all of us with his creativity and work with his high schoolers. Our kiddos were exploring, learning, and in heaven the entire time! If only my high school science courses were this engaging and fun!!

Station 1: Speed Tubes
In this station the BCHS students showed our 4th graders the basics of speed using color tubes filled with air bubbles. The bubbles rose at different rates and our 4th graders used collaboration, and mathematics of course, to measure the speed of the bubbles.


Station 2: Acceleration Cars

What kid doesn't love a wind up car? Using fun pull-back cars, our 4th graders learned the difference between acceleration and speed. They looked at ways to measure acceleration and they even explored how mass affects acceleration.

Station 3: 1st Law Pucks
Newton's First Law of Motion is often stated as An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. Using Air Pucks and a TON of interaction, our 4th graders learned more about Newton's First Law of Motion. The Air Pucks, hovering on a cushion of air, helped bring this difficult concept to reality.

Station 4: Energy Coasters

What 4th grader doesn't love roller coasters? This station showed our students the affect gravity has on roller coaster movement. They also discussed free-fall acceleration on other planets. Our students used an awesome simulation tool to build their own skate tracks on different planets. So cool!


Station 5: Motion Sensor Graphs
Our 4th graders have been working with graphs all year and learning the difference between the X and Y axis. At this station, our kids developed a deeper understanding of the X and Y time graph. They learned what different shapes on the graph mean and they used a motion sensor to graph their own movement. They also used this station to practice their Whip Nae Nae!

As I type up these station descriptions, I am thoroughly impressed at what our 4th graders are tackling (and UNDERSTANDING!) with the help of Mike Mohammad and his amazing high school students. I am incredibly thankful for this collaboration time and I LOVE our time together. Also glad that Laura, from Epiphany Learning, was able to pop in and see our two groups in action! One more science unit Mr. Mohammad...the Human Body! I can't wait to see what we come up with next!! 

~ Kate

Math Workshop at a Glance


So many people ask us about our Math Workshop framework, I thought it would be wise to outline the way Angela and I unit plan and use Math Workshop to personalize in math. Like many classrooms, we have a wide range of math learners in our learning space. This year, we have 56 math students in our workshop each day. 47 of those students are working through 4th grade standards, five are accelerated math students from T.E.A.M. Togetherness, and we pick up an additional four accelerated students from other 4th grade classrooms. Historically, our accelerated math students would have gone to a 5th grade classroom to receive instruction during the math block. This year, it was important to us to keep ALL of our learners together in our space knowing we could personalize for ALL of our mathematicians each day.

Unit Planning & Pretest Data:  Our school district is currently using Everyday Math as one of the resources we are encouraged to use within our classroom. For Angela and I, EDM provides us (loosely) with a scope and sequence of units, but we definitely do not teach it lesson by lesson. We follow the 4th grade scope and sequence outlined, but bring in corresponding 5th, and sometimes 6th, grade standards since nine of our mathematicians have already received 4th grade curriculum as 3rd graders. We have been co-planning with a couple of other teachers throughout the year for math. Together we have looked carefully at the standards within each domain and planned our units accordingly. This unit planning can be hairy, but it's actually some of my favorite work as a teacher!

We use a shared Google doc to organize our lessons, activities, formative and summative assessments, along with game ideas, video links, etc. These unit plans have become our go-to resource hub. There are three 4th grade teachers and one 3rd grade teacher co-planning for math, so we needed something to keep us organized across many standards and three grade levels. Do I see room for improvement in the unit plans? Absolutely! Have we made minor tweaks and changes throughout the year? Definitely, but it is what is working for our team right now and it keeps us somewhat organized.

Here is a sample of a UNIT PLAN we created. Within the plan are a variety of links to our Google Slides, Pear Deck slides (if you don't know about Pear Deck, stay tuned for another blog post. We LOVE using Pear Deck to increase student engagement), formative assessments, task cards, etc. across 4th and 5th grade standards. Our plan also includes anchor chart ideas, interactive notebook options, videos and games that coincide with each lesson. We use these videos for reteaching opportunities and the games are incorporated into the May Do time outlined below. We organize all of those videos and games, along with links to our Google Slide lessons, on a Videos/Games Doc that is shared with all of our math students at the beginning of each unit. Once this unit plan is well under way, we can create our pretests for the unit. We administer a 4th and 5th grade pretest for each unit and then plan accordingly.

After our pretests are administered and scored, we use this data to develop an initial long range plan for instruction. This plan may change based on students' daily performances, but we have an initial pathway outlined for students based on their pretest results. To keep ourselves relatively organized, and sane, we use this spreadsheet to organize our data and outline what lessons our students will need for the unit. The spreadsheet lists the 4th and 5th grade learning targets and students are automatically highlighted in green if they have already met proficiency based on their pretest.

From there, Angela and I create a Student Sort that gets printed and put on our desk for the entire unit. We purposely print our Student Sort and fill in student names in pencil because we are constantly adding and/or moving kids around on this doc. Based on the pretest results, students may fall within the 4th, 5th, or 6th grade lesson throughout the unit. We have movement of students daily across the multiple mini lessons within our space. We have had 4th grade students get 100% on the pretest, so they move for the entire upcoming unit. Typically though, we see 4th grades move for a handful of lessons. We also have accelerated students that come down for a 4th grade mini lesson prior to receiving their 5th grade mini lesson because there were holes in their learning. Daily formative assessments are also analyzed daily and results from those assessments may show us that students need to move at a faster or slower pace through the learning targets. Our students are flexibly grouped and added to the Student Sort doc in that way as well.

Mini Lessons: Now we get to the fun part...TEACHING! We run a 75-minute math workshop every day. This Math Workshop at a Glance doc outlines how we organize that time. We begin most workshops with our students coming together to activate their brains. We utilize a variety of math routines to do this. All of these routines involve math discourse, and most last 5-6 minutes. From there we move into our 15-20 minute mini lesson. Once in a while we will begin workshop with a thought provoking problem solving task that can last upwards of 20 minutes depending on the complexity of the problem and where are students go with it. On the days we begin with problem solving, we typically run that workshop across two days.


Everyday we run two, occasionally three mini lessons. Our mini lessons are prepared using Google Slides. To increase student engagement in the lesson, we then upload our slides to Pear Deck which allows us to bring interactivity into the slides. We typically used whiteboards and markers during math workshop mini lessons, but as soon as I was introduced to Pear Deck I was sold. Our mini lessons are focused on the day's learning target, and we use them as a springboard to support problem solving during May Do time. They are interactive and involve a lot of turn and talk opportunities for the students. As mentioned above, the number of mini lessons and the types of mini lessons held each day depends on the needs of our students.

Extended Mini Lesson: Because our mini lessons are relatively quick, we have come to realize that some students need extra practice, more examples, and/or more direct instruction. Every day we offer an "extended" mini lesson immediately following. Students that struggled during the focus lesson can stay for more guided practice. Pear Deck allows us to track our students responses during the mini lesson on our iPad, laptop, or phone...whatever device is handy and in our hands. While the lead teacher is instructing, the co-teacher will jot down students that would benefit from this extended mini lesson. If those children do not stay on their own, we often encourage them to come and receive the extra help they need. Our students are really good about this though. They understand the importance of taking charge of their learning, and they know that sometimes that means advocating for themselves and receiving extra coaching along the way.

Guided Math 


At the end of the mini lesson, we move into our guided math time and our Math Template goes up on the board in both rooms. This template outlines the Must Do work, Bullpen needs, and some of the May Do options. We do not list Seminars on the template because our students have taken over a different whiteboard in our room to advertise for their Seminar time.


Must Do Time: From mini lesson, the students move in to their Must Do time. Must Do time includes practicing the skills taught during the mini lesson and completing the daily exit slip. During this time, the teachers and assistants are rotating throughout the room and supporting students. We will do a lot of on the spot strategy lessons at this time. All of the adults in the room understand that the exit slip should be the student's independent work. If they seem unsure or lost, we pull out whiteboards and do some reteaching immediately. When the students feel secure, they are invited to go back to their exit slip. Exit slips are graded as quickly as possible to provide rapid feedback. We then use those results to drive the following day's instruction and "bullpen" needs.

May Do/Choice Time: As students finish their daily formative assessment, they move in to their May Do time. This time provides students with voice and choice in their math block. It is an opportunity for kids to work on areas of interest. It is centered around a variety of options including games, journaling, fact fluency, problem solving, QR codes, scavenger hunts, ALEKS, Front Row, Dreambox, personal areas of growth, inquiry and/or STEM options. In all honesty, as long as they are focused and working on something math related, we are thrilled! Students may work independently or with peers, and it is flexibly paced.

Bullpen Time: Our daily "Bullpen" is pulled during May Do time. Bullpen is an intensive reteaching based on the previous day's formative assessment. It is often teacher directed, although many students ask to join Bullpen and come on their own. It is another opportunity for students to revisit the work done throughout the current unit, and receive extra teacher support.

Seminars: Several times/week we offer seminars to students. These could be remedial or enrichment opportunities based on student interest or need. They cover a variety of concepts. These topics may coincide directly with our current domain of study. Other times seminars are based on a topic of a child's choosing. Initially our seminars were primarily teacher led, but our students have now taken over seminars for us, allowing us to support individuals or small groups throughout the workshop. We typically host 1-2 seminars/day, and they are conducted after the Bullpen so that ALL students have an opportunity to participate.

Closing: As our workshop time comes to a close, we often review the day's learning target, address any remaining questions, and discuss homework options for that evening. From Math Workshop, our students head to Learning Lab

As you can see, Math Workshop is a whirlwind of learning! Our 75 minutes together goes by so quickly, and it is often my favorite part of the day! If you have questions about what you read or any of the embedded links please do not hesitate to comment or email us. If you are new to Math Workshop, or looking to add something to your existing math block, you are welcome to come and see our students in action! 

~ Kate