Saturday, October 08, 2005

Reflections from the OCTM Conference

This past Thursday and Friday I presented a couple sessions the Ohio Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conference in Dayton, Ohio. Although it was a pretty small conference in terms of attendees, I had a decent turnout for both of my sessions. There were also several other good sessions, but I was particularly impressed by one.

On Thursday, I learned about the "3 Blocks"--Presenting Indicators, Practicing for Mastery, and Independent Practice--Framework for teaching math that is used in Dayton Public Schools. In developing this framework, the creators--two teachers from the district--hoped to have teachers across the district following a similar plan of instruction for each math class period.

The block that should begin each class, Presenting Indicators, was the one that hit home with me. Much of what the creators said should take place during this time was based on the work of Rick Stiggins, a man whose work I base a lot of my teaching on. In a nutshell, there should be a strong focus on having students "decompose" the state indicator (objective), which is written on a sheet of newsprint or the chalkboard, being taught before beginning the actual practice part of the lesson. In other words, students should know exactly what it is they are expected to learn. As part of this process, the indicator is presented and students, with the help of the teacher, underline the skill words and circle the concept words. For instance, in the indicator add and subtract whole numbers using regrouping, we would...
  • underline add, subtract, and regrouping.
  • circle whole numbers.
Ultimately, the teacher creates a word wall using the words from the indicators. As a result, students gain a stronger handle on mathematics vocabulary.

There was far more to the Presenting Indicators block--spaced review, problem-solving practice--but it was the decomposing that I think I will implement as soon as possible. I had been thinking for some time about how important it is for students to learn the "language of math." This session convinced me of it.

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