A fertile mind?

I have been here before. I have returned from (now my 6th) TMC and have lists of all sorts of ideas that I would like to implement in my classroom and teaching practice this school year. What is going to be different this year? I ask that question because I looked back at what I posted after TMC16 and what I wanted to change and very little of it happened. I didn’t have the heart to go back and look at TMC15 to see how I did there. I could certainly make excuses or list reasons why I didn’t do what I had wanted to. It really doesn’t matter at this point.

So, what’s different this year? I think my mind was ready to receive the learning and implement it in my classroom.

For years, (yes, you can go back and look if you really want to), I have been saying I want to implement (more) Rich Tasks in my classroom. I haven’t. Or at least I thought I hadn’t done any, although I learned that I have been doing some of this already in my classes. I had pretty much decided that I was going to the Rich Tasks morning session with Cal Armstrong, Peg Cagle, and Bill Thill. Cal, Peg, and Bill have taught at PCMI. They did not disappoint my anticipation of this session and far exceeded whatever it was I expected from my learning. Some high points for me from the 6 hours I spent with them:

The first day, we took one of the Visual Patterns similar to what’s on Fawn Nguyen‘s website, but rather than asking the question “How many are in the 43rd one?,” Peg asked us to complete the following statement as many different ways that we could:

“As the step changes, _________________ also changes.”

We came up with a rather lengthy list – some obvious, some not so much so. Then we were directed to find someone who wanted to explore the same attribute the we did. I chose to work with Andria Kelly and Bob Batty on what was termed the “Modified Minesweeper” (how many squares shared an edge). Here is what we created:

It was a lot of fun to explore this and I would have happily spent another couple of hours doing more math with the pattern given. What I liked about it was that we were not restricted to a specific pattern and worked with others who wanted to work on the same thing that I did. I haven’t quite figured out how I will implement this specifically into my classes, but I’m thinking of some possibilities.

On the second day, we worked through various teacher moves while discussing rich tasks. We also looked at participation quizzes, which intrigue me.

On the third day, we looked at how we could work with existing materials and modify them to be richer. This was also very powerful for me. I realized that I had been doing some of these rich tasks already in my classroom (and here I had thought I hadn’t done anything!) and found many more ways to improve upon a worksheet. I left feeling empowered to implement rich tasks into my classes and with resources (website and people) to help with my journey.

Another useful session to me was Henri Picciotto‘s Reaching the Full Range. Henri talked about several strategies, but the one that I absolutely wanted to learn about was Lagging Homework. This is also something that has been on my list for a few years and, while I have implemented it a little, I haven’t gone to the lengths that Henri has. I am also considering assessing material multiple times (not just once) and these two strategies work hand-in-hand. Henri has posted quite a few resources on the linked page, so if you are interested in Lagging Homework, you can check it out. Steve Leinwand also talked about this in his session Practical Ideas on the Coaching We Need to Provide and Demand – although his variation is a little different (2 problems on today’s topic, 4 review problems – 1 from yesterday, 1 from last week, 1 from last month, 1 other review, and 2 thinking problems – explain how you got your answer). I am leaning towards the way Steve does it, but may modify a little.

There were several My Favorites that I had made notes about, but probably my favorite one was by Jonathan Claydon titled “Let’s Buy a House.” What struck me about it was the practical tone of the whole unit. I had taught something similar last year in my Senior Applied Class but I struggled with it. It was boring – and if I was bored, my learners had to be also. I am hoping this will help me revise the unit in a positive way.

While there are other sessions I attended and other My Favorites that I liked for various reasons, these speakers stuck with me for the same reason: my mind is ready to receive what information I learned from them. While intellectually I liked or wanted to implement many concepts over the years, I honestly felt that when I left TMC17 that my mind was ready for the seeds of these sessions. I am open to trying these things in my classes this year. I feel ready to do so. The seeds are planted. Let’s see how well they grow this year.

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