The One with the Video Project Jobs


While this blog has helped me to reflect on my work, as well as to keep an archive of sorts, I fear that the thing I will remember most about today’s lesson is that a lot of the kiddos summarized the jobs they had to do for the Video Project instead of just writing their names like we wanted them to. Apparently no amount of mental wishing made this happen. English Language Development for the win (when just plain efficiency would have done).

Photo: Picking roles within the group to ensure that people get to do a range of videos explaining how to solve equations with algebra tiles:2017-01-18-17-35-28What do you notice? What do you wonder?

My Favorite: Group Roles

It’s always hard for me to think of something that’s my favorite that a) feels like it’s something I feel I’ve used enough to call it “mine” and b) is related to mathematics.

I’m rather fond of the 4 group roles we’re currently using in mathematics class (9th and 10th grade algebra and geometry). It’s hard to trace where the roles started from, but I’m fairly certain they’re from CPM and have been used frequently by folks from Grad Skool and in the Complex Instruction schools in our district. We’ve put our own emerging multilingual spin on them. Most of the credit here goes to my awesome Curriculum Partner and our Teaching Coach.

Here’s how it goes:

I seat kiddos in groups of 4 (or 5, if we’re getting stuffed to the gills, which, surprise, we are, right now). Each kiddo is given a role:

Task Manager: Responsible for getting the group started. Asks “What do we do?”

Group Manager: Responsible for making sure everyone understands. Asks “Do you understand?” (I lean on this one heavily; there have been disputes over whether such a closed question is useful, but I find it easy to ask and understand)

Communications Manager: Was responsible for making sure people are writing. I think I’m going to rewrite this one to make people put things in the middle of the table or helps with translation. Currently asks “What do we write/say?”

Resource Manager: Calls the teacher for group questions (if no one in the group knows and all resources have been exhausted). Says “Excuse me, we have a question.”

(Side note: I love the use of “excuse me”. So polite and makes it ok to ask other people things even if they look busy. Also the use of “we” rather than “I”.)

Evolution of How I Use Roles

I used group roles when student teaching and tried implementing them unsuccessfully for about 2 years.

The gamechanger was actually taking away structure. I used to assign each manager a role and them make them sit in a specific seat. Somewhere during Year 2 or 3, I gave up on assigning roles and just told all the kiddos in one corner of the table that they were Task Managers and went from there. I also taped the roles down on the table and one of my super awesome coaches taped the sentences on them.

It’s been a game changer. Mostly because I’m able to name and call different managers. Even if the kiddos don’t remember their roles (they often don’t), they are visible enough on the table that some of the more on-point kiddos can remind them.

How We Made the Roles

At some random District planning day, Curriculum Partner, Coach and I randomly decided to pick apart the roles. We knew about them and had tried to use them, but weren’t entirely sure about them. We decided that there needed to be a tension between someone who pushes the group ahead (Task Manager) and someone who slows the group down so everyone has access (Group Manager). We’ve always needed a Communications Manager and a Resource Manager, so those roles stayed.

(I teach mathematics at a high school entirely for emergent multilinguals who are recent immigrants. Groupwork is heavily encouraged in all classes.)Laminated group roles

The One with Bags and Coins Groupwork


On our 3rd day back, I’m finally getting back into the swing of norms and routines (recovering from sickness is not helpful here). As part of our differentiation snake (a term Curriculum Partner and I borrowed from our coach last year), we spent yesterday working on bags and coins problems together. Some kiddos saw it last year, some are just now starting to understand. So we spent today doing individual practice. (Differentiation Snake note: We’ll be doing groupwork again tomorrow)

Even though work was individual and kiddos could move at their own rate, a couple groups worked together. In one of those rare “Only-In-First-Period-Am-I-Functional-Enough-To-Do-This” moments, I was doing a checkpoint with a group and they actually worked and talked together to help one kiddo correct a mistake.

2017-01-05-08-33-23-1What do you notice? What do you wonder?

(Context the first: This is from a mathematics class for students who are all emerging multilinguals.

Context the second: This blog is part of the #MTBoSblogsplosion, spearheaded by Carl Oliver. The Mathematics-Twitter-Blog-o-Sphere is a collective of mathematics educators on the internet who commit to blogging a certain number of times throughout January.

I’ve said I’m going to post a photo of student work every day for #teach180 (Thanks Sarah Carter!) and one post every weekend on more reflective things.)

Day 53: The One with the Linear Equations Group Test


I always feel somewhat uncertain of exactly how to assign grades/frame group tests. Especially by the end of the day when the kiddos are done and I am done.

That being said, this group got off to a slow start (one group member almost didn’t want to even think of ways to help the group for the opening) and with a little prodding (saying the good things they were doing, showing a lower grade and saying they could easily get a better one, pushing group members who are good at asking questions), got to this stage, where they’re mostly all talking and working in the center of the table.


(Slightly fuzzy because one kiddo was photo-shy and I had to zoom in).

What do you notice? What do you wonder?

Day 48: The One Where We Explain Slope to Each Other


We’re heavily borrowing structures and curriculum from the last time we taught this course 2 years ago and I’m totally OK with that. One of those structures is the Explain to Each Other where students try to solve a problem and then explain it to a group with a different problem. The emphasis today is on finding the slope in a linear equation, given an equation and the option to make a table and a graph.img_20161024_084234What do you notice? What do you wonder?