Living on the Edge

As we walked into the “other” middle school across town, one of the teachers teaching the lesson was running back in with a new package of rubber bands and a receipt. Apparently during a bungee test run the rubber bands they originally purchased were too tight – so he had to run out and get new smaller stretchier ones:

Big Ones

Big Ones

Little Ones

Little Ones

Barbie's ankle anchor

The original large rubber bands would be used as anchors for Barbie’s ankles.

Next we assembled what one teacher dubbed “pre-packaging” – but first we had to free the Barbies from their childproof packaging.

Prep 2

Each “package” was a large ziploc bag that included:

  • 1 Barbie with a rubber band anchor tied around her ankles
  • 9 rubber bands (size 19)
  • 4 rulers
  • 4 markers
Barbie Packages

Barbie Packages

Barbie Packages

Barbie Packages

And one extra mermaid

And one extra mermaid

We also realized that Barbie needed to have her arms above her head and her hair tied back to make it easier to see the height of the jump. Accuracy could prevent a broken arm or a fatality.

After our assembly of packaging we got down to the nitty gritty. What were our goals for the lesson and what did we want to look for during the lesson?


  • Math applications
  • Creating a scatter plot with a best fit (trend line) and writing an equation
  • Understanding and applying slope and y-intercept
  • How to use data to make a prediction
  • Team work
  • CCSS Math Practice 1: Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
  • CCSS MP 3: Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others
  • CCSS MP 4: Model with mathematics
  • CCSS MP 5: Use appropriate tools strategically

Look Fors: Each observing teacher would script the following while observing the lesson:

  • Team structure (participation and communication)
  • MP1
  • MP3
  • MP4
  • MP5
  • Pacing, timing, transitions

Each lesson started with the last 1.5 min of this video

Then we were into lesson #1. I was scripting MP3. Amazingly it all went very smoothly. With the students fully engaged in the lesson, the time (and Barbie) flew by – but no rubber bands did (to my amazement!) Unfortunately, most groups only got to complete their data and set up their graphs. So the homework became completing the graphs, line of best fit, and making a prediction for the 5 meter jump Barbie will take later in the week.

Lesson 1 Lesson 2 Lesson 3

Debrief Time:

We tweaked the data table and removed the column for averaging the 3 jumps. We also added a place for a prediction after the data was collected but before the graphs was complete. And then a space for a final prediction. We were hoping for more discussion, critical thinking, explaining. We also talked about what would happen if we didn’t tell the students to start with one rubber band and add one each jump. What if we gave them 9 rubber bands but no instruction on how to collect their data? What would happen then? In the interest of a 45 min class, we decided to keep the lesson as is – but if we teach it in our block days at the other school we could add this for a point of discussion/critical thinking.

MP 1 and MP 5 went well – no tweaking needed.

But MP 3? In general, the students were too polite. They accepted each other’s reasoning too easily. They let the “smart” kid lead without question. Do we need sentence starters to help the critiquing process? Do we need to teach higher order questioning skills? Or should we use the “mistake game“?


Starbuck’s, cookies and the Hulk are necessary for a good debrief

Lesson #2: The teacher also added this video: Again no abuse of rubber bands or Barbies, but lots more discussion, even some arguing. Several of the groups decided to find averages anyway “We’re geniuses!” one group proclaimed when the idea came to them. Adding that line about a second prediction helped facilitate MP 3. And some groups wanted to jump to the scatter plot before making the prediction. Really? Isn’t graphing just more work? Apparently not. Leaving the graph axes blank prompted quite a  bit of discussion as well. What scale should they use, how should they be labeled and why? This class got a little bit farther on the worksheet.

Lesson 5 Lesson 4 Lesson 6

Follow up? Once the students complete their predictions they will explain how and why they made them to the class. Then Barbie will jump from 5 m and we are looking forward to video and/or vine to see which group  will give Barbie the best ride. At the other middle school, we will also attempt the Barbie Bungee. Anyone have some Barbies you’d like to donate? Email me

Lesson Study #3? Yes! We all agree this is valuable so let’s do one on quadratics! This time our high school cohort can teach it since they’ve taught quadratics before.

Thanks to our team of 8 for participating and making this an awesome day!


Are you Brave Enough to Bungee? Lesson Study Part 2

After the success of our first lesson study we were eager for more. Not only was this successful for our students, but also for the teachers – we enjoyed collaborating and this has been ongoing through email and one planning meeting. We are all feeling more comfortable and positive about the CCSS, we work well together, we have a whole team to collaborate with, and it’s FUN! Besides, we may never have taken such a leap to try out these “new” lessons on our own without the support of our colleagues.

And speaking of  leaps, one teacher on  our team emailed this lesson:

Barbie Bungee

which I promptly ignored because let’s stop and think about this:

34 (or more) 13 and 14  year olds  +  rubber bands + Barbie dolls + kids standing on chairs, desks, ladders or possibly platforms up to 160″ off the ground = chaos (at the minimum).  Possibly disaster.

I am not brave enough to Barbie Bungee. I can honestly tell you that I would NEVER attempt to do this on my own. NEVER.EVER. EVER. The end.

But not quite the end… thanks to our lesson study team. They are eager to take the leap.

One member of our team organized Lesson Study 2 with Barbie Bungee and he even recruited another teacher. He’s facilitating this time.

So we had a planning meeting. Since the lesson is already well-planned we focused on pre-requisite knowledge, what we need to teach before the lesson, what problems we may encounter, as well as follow up, organization of materials and graphics, and we are set to go! 2 teachers will teach this on Tuesday and we will debrief and improve as we go. Thankfully I’m not teaching it this time, but at least now I am considering teaching this after I see it in action.

And now we have 2 high school colleagues coming in to be part of the observation/debrief team! So now our team has grown from 4 teachers and our secondary math coordinator to 7 teachers and our math coordinator!

Here’s two more links with modified lessons and videos if you’re interested:

Lesson Day!

Lesson Day came and went…

  1. We started in my classroom at 8:00 for some prep. I had already modified the lesson to include a little more initial collaboration based students’ prior knowledge (this was spur of the moment). This also cut down on teacher talk time (which I personally love).
  2. During my lesson, we found the collaborative activity to take longer than expected. But this could also be due to the fact that the original lesson made part of it independent work – where we made it all partner work. Partner work always seems to take twice as long – but we feel is more powerful in this case.
  3. I also added a little closure discussion since we are on a block schedule and I couldn’t let them leave without this!
  4. At our first debrief, we decided to cut the collaborative tasks in half and make an exit card as formative assessment instead of closure. This was also easier to assess than the students’ collaborative work. During our debrief we went over our time and missed our break (ah, the life of a teacher!)
  5. During lesson two, the timing was diligently maintained by the teacher and all went smoothly.
  6. At our second debrief, we added a written reflection to the exit card – from my perspective this is a little peek into the student brain – but I am a SCWriP Fellow (South Coast Writing Project) so I am partial to writing across the curriculum.
  7. We actually took our lunch break.
  8. And lesson three (at the middle school across town) went well too.
  9. In our final debrief we came up with some great follow up lessons and activities to extend the math concepts and to focus on Math practice 3 as well as multiple methods to solve the same problem. We also talked about team building activities that would encourage student collaboration. My personal goal is to  spend about 10 minutes a week on this.
  10. Our objectives were met and we were all so impressed that the students were able to solve some complex equations with very little direct instruction – and they understood why. There was a lot more collaboration going on than anything else!
  11. I will use the exit card as my bellwork (warm up) tomorrow since I didn’t have that part during my lesson. That way I have a good formative assessment.

What was best of all?

  • We had a great productive and fun day.
  • We have a deeper appreciation and understanding of the other middle schools in our district.
  • We have built a team that works effectively together and  will work well together in the future for the benefit of all our students. How many teachers can say that they collaborate effectively across schools in their district?
  • We are planning to have a lesson study in the spring again with Algebra – and possibly a Core 7 or Core 8 lesson study as well. With the guidance of our Seconday Math Coordinator, our next lesson study will focus on teaching the lesson twice (instead of three times) so that we can spend more time perfecting it in between (our first debrief was rushed).

Now that the ball is rolling, we hope to keep the momentum on our collaboration…

Video and pictures to follow if I can get them linked to this site?

In the meantime, if you’d like a great lesson on building and solving equations that really focuses on student collaboration and understanding of why and how we solve equations, feel free to email me!

Planning Meeting #2

Ok, we firmed up our schedule (parking, room #s, conference rooms), made observation assignments and completed our lesson planning.

Observation assignments: We wanted the observers to specifically look for:

  • teacher-student interactions
  • student-student interactions
  • student questioning

For these last two we are specifically looking at Common Core Math  Practice 3 where students explain their own thinking and critique the reasoning of others.

Lesson: We took a two day lesson and split it where we thought would be best for a “pre-lesson” and our lesson study lesson. We also talked about the feedback we wanted to give on that first lesson – and how soon we should give it. It is suggested we wait until after the second lesson.

We then created our own “Do now/Bellwork” so the students would recall the “Pre-lesson.” One of our teachers will make a handout to mimic the collaborative activity handout for this.

We are modifying the collaborative activity handout to make it more obvious and splitting it into two different colored worksheets: One for building equations and one for solving. We are also making this a partner and full group activity so we have more discussion.

We’re not sure of the timing of course, as we think it will take longer than the original lesson suggested. But that’s all part of our lesson study – to see what we need to change in between each teaching of the lesson – and that definitely includes timing.

Finally, we talked about doing a second lesson study in the spring that would involve a kinesthetic portion. Another teacher has volunteered to facilitate, so our cross-school team can continue to improve our teaching!

The subs are requested, the date is set, now to make copies and get ready to teach!

Effective Practices PD

Today at our all school PD, our administration guided us through a meta-analysis by John Hattie – Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement,

What’s cool about it? The top 4 effective practices as they relate to achievement – and especially #4:

1. Student self report (students)

2. Piagetian Programs (students)

3. Providing formative evaluations (teachers)

4. Micro teaching (teachers).

Yes, we work on #1 in AVID and Spark – getting students to report their grades and reflect on how to improve them

Not sure about Piagetian programs, but maybe that is a topic for future PDs?

Formative Assessments? Yes! Our department co-chairs have planned a day where we can work on this with our grade level colleagues (and summative assessments).

But #4 is pretty similar to lesson study – studying our own teaching and lessons! It’s nice to know we are on the right track in improving student achievement!

Movie Trailer #1: From Scatter Plots to Equations

So last we spoke we were focusing on scatter plots in December.

Now it’s equations in October!

How things change. But we wanted to work on something that was difficult for the students and scatter plots aren’t it – they “get” them pretty easily. Focusing on an area of student need is a primary goal. Though we could find more relevant data and real world applications for scatter plots (like Scholastic’s Shake it up with Scatter Plots about earthquake insurance – which is relevant especially in California), but one of our teachers found this great lesson called Building and Solving Equations 1 from the Mathematics Assessment Resource Services (MARS) where students construct and then deconstruct their own equations. It’s like wrapping and unwrapping a present. So, we are going to modify this lesson to suit our needs.

Our modified lesson will need to include:

  • 5 min warm up/bell work as a reminder from the previous lesson since we will teach the pre-lesson the week before (ah, love the block schedule).
  • 10-15 min mini lesson from “Building and Solving Equations 1”
  • 20 min collaborative activity from “Building and Solving Equations 1” – but we thought to make this a pair and then group activity (instead of individual then pair) to encourage more discussion – so we can include Common Core State Standards Practice 3: Constructing viable arguments and critiquing the reasoning of others.
  • 5 min wrap up/formative assessment – we thought to have metacognitive questions for this along with their constructed and deconstructed equations.

October is a few weeks away so we had to jump on the ball and get things rolling….

We’ve scheduled our lesson link for the first week of October – same schedule as below.

And scheduled a second planning meeting for next week. We’ll firm up our lesson plan, make copies, and be ready to roll! We’ve all got some homework to do (but so do our students).

We had a very productive meeting with snacks even (thanks to our Secondary Math Coordinator), oh, and there’s a VIDEO. Yes, you can now watch how productive (and amazing) math teachers can be in the comfort of your living room! Catch it on HBO after Game of Thrones or download it on Netflix in 2014. Who doesn’t want to watch math teachers plan a lesson on a Friday night?

Actually, once all the teachers approve it, I may share it on this blog – so check back soon!

And now to reserve subs, parking spots and a meeting room… I need an assistant!

TTYNW (talk to you next week)

Teachers Make the Best Teachers of Other Teachers

So, we get a lucky Thursday off the third week of school, and where am I? At work (well sort of). But I’m sure a lot of other teachers are working today too.

I’m actually at the CTA Headquarters in Monrovia working with the Region 3 Teacher Leadership Cohort. We are all working on leadership projects at our respective schools and districts and not surprisingly many of our projects are focused on the Common Core. Why? Because people are FREAKING OUT!

But, really I find this all SO exciting. We get to teach collaboration, critical thinking, reading and writing in math. It feels real, it feels relevant, it feels useful – giving our students tools for their world (besides knowing to choose C for their answer).

Our discussions in Monrovia today seem to be along this vein of relevant and useful. The important thing about Professional Development is that it needs to be relevant and useful to the teachers. In the past lesson study has encompassed this: it has been very relevant and useful for everyone involved (students included).

So a new development at school this week is with our intervention programs. I teach Spark and two other teachers teach our Valued Youth Program. We are all newcomers to these programs but are fortunate to have our Community Liaison as our expert educator. She has been involved with both programs since their inceptions and we are teaching with and under her guidance in the classroom. But we would all like to do our best with our intervention students and were talking about how to do this… professional development?…lesson study?

So now we are entering into discussions about doing a lesson study too. We’ve talked about focusing on a skill to meet our students’ needs (listening skills, collaboration skills, etc?). And then I got the idea that we should also tie this in with our academic areas so the students can see a direct connection to how these skills can be useful in their classes.

It is my hope our lesson study (studies now!?) will be relevant and useful for all of us because after all teachers make the best teachers of other teachers.