Join Us for the Educator Development Series on Wednesday!

The Educator Development Series. It’s not just for new teachers!  The series is designed to facilitate learning for teachers who desire to shore up their foundational knowledge and skills. Personally, I am an educator who is always in need of shoring up in at least a couple of areas!

The series is hosted monthly at Cascade Middle School. This Wednesday, choose from a variety of breakout sessions including Elementary Reader’s Workshop, NCTM’s Effective Math Teaching Practices for Secondary, and much more.  Feel free to join us for any part of the series that fits your specific need, or sign up for all of it! This is a voluntary professional development opportunity. Clock hours are available if at least three hours or more of the series are attended throughout the year.

What’s the Work During Modeling?

Having looked at conceptual modeling in science last spring, this might be a good time to consider some questions about instructional modeling in any content.

Instructional modeling of strong and weak work is a key practice for helping our students meet their learning targets. Sam Bennett emphasizes modeling during mini-lessons and catches in That Workshop Book as a way for students to develop as readers and writers.

So what are students expected to do during the time that teachers are modeling? Do students know what they are expected to do? How can we help them get the most out of these minutes? Perhaps we need to engage students in some meta-modeling: demonstrating the thinking and reflective practices that we want students using as they observe us modeling. Metacognition is critical to all phases of learning, including instructional modeling.

Modeling strong and weak work is included as the second strategy of Jan Chappuis’ Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning. While it is a common practice to show students positive examples of work that is proficient or exemplary, sometimes we forget the value of modeling weak work. Not wanting to point fingers at struggling students, we might avoid sharing examples of student work that needs improvement. But in order to help students notice and be able to articulate the differences between strong and weak work, we need them to observe, discuss, and make comparisons for themselves. The act of comparing and identifying areas to improve becomes the student work during modeling. Two ideas for making modeling weak work a safer activity for students:

  1. Using the teacher’s “work” as a weak example. This provides a safer opportunity for students to examine work critically as they provide feedback to the teacher instead of one another.
  2. Looking at weak work or incorrect responses and asking “Why might an intelligent person have thought ____?” This creates an opportunity for students to be critical and identify misconceptions, while still honoring the thinking of students who might hold those same ideas.

What strategies do you use to help students get the most out of instructional modeling? Please share in the comments below!


ABCs of PBL (Project Based Learning)

If you have been hearing the term PBL (Project based Learning) bouncing around and felt intrigued but too busy to dig in, here are a few resources that can get you started:

  1. Gold-Standard PBL: Essential Project Design Elements
    If you want to get a solid overview in under four pages, start here.
  2. Minding your Ps and Qs for Better DQs
    If you have a pretty good idea about the basics of PBL but feel the need to know more about developing engaging and effective DQs (driving questions) around which to build a project, start here.
  3. BIE Project Search
    If you are the type that would rather see something to understand it than read about it, go here and poke to find a project plan built around  a topic of interest to you (and your students).
  4. 20 Days to PBL
    If you are the type that just needs to dive right in and try something out, try this plan (developed by Texas PBL teacher and instructional coach, Erin Starkey) for getting students ready to engage in the team work, problem solving and critical thinking needed for PBL to be successful.

Brand New One by One Sessions Involve Kids!

Watch Kids in Action as they Interact and Learn with Sphero, Seesaw, BeeBot Coding and Scratch!

K-2 Seesaw Classroom Observation & 3-5 Seesaw Classroom Observation
Come and see what Seesaw looks like in action!  See how students are able to use Seesaw when given choice in demonstrating their understanding.  

K-2 BeeBot Coding Classroom Observation
Bee-Bot is an exciting new robot designed for use by young children. This colorful, easy-to-operate, and friendly little robot is a perfect tool for teaching sequencing, estimation, problem-solving, and just having fun!  During this session, participants will be able to observe students learning to code and problem solve.  

3 – 5 Sphero Robotics Classroom Observation
Sphero Edu uses app-enabled robots to foster creativity through discovery and play, all while laying the foundation for computer science. Sphero goes beyond code with collaborative STEAM activities, nurturing students’ imaginations in innovative and engaging ways. During this session, we will be able to see students being introduced to the Sphero, and engage in programming to solve a problem using the Sphero.

K-2 Sphero Robotics Classroom Observation 
Sphero Edu uses app-enabled robots to foster creativity through discovery and play, all while laying the foundation for computer science. Sphero goes beyond code with collaborative STEAM activities, nurturing students’ imaginations in innovative and engaging ways. During this session, we will be able to see students being introduced to the Sphero, and engage in programming to solve a problem using the Sphero.

3-5 Ozobot Coding Classroom Observation
Ozobots are miniature smart robots that can follow lines or roam around freely, detect colors, and can also be programmed. During this session, we will be able to see students engage in programming to solve a problem using the Ozobots.  

K-2 Scratch Jr. Coding Classroom Observation & 3-5 Scratch Coding Classroom Observation
Watch kids create their own interactive stories, games and animations using Scratch.

Listen to Students’ Honest Stories of Their School Experiences
Uncovering Hidden Bias
During this session, a panel of high school students will share their stories and experiences living and learning as an EL in Evergreen Public Schools.

Find Your Tribe

The best learning is organic; it happens because we seek it out, we discuss it, we explore it, we do it, and then we do it again! Learning is risk-taking. In the book AMPLIFY, Kristin Ziemke talks about finding your tribe; those professionals that share your passion, that sharpen your thinking, that force reflection.

Connecting with others can sometimes feel awkward or uncomfortable at first, but seeking out professional relationships will “nurture your teacher soul and inspire you to be great”. (Ziemke)

AfterMath is a group of Evergreen elementary teachers who are working together to improve their instructional practices in math. These teachers meet face to face and they connect online. For more information, or to join their Facebook group contact

You can connect with many of your Evergreen colleagues online to share resources or view each other’s blogs. Here’s a peek at some of Brian Cleary’s work: Personalized Learning is isn’t just for Big Kids,  Old Brain Teacher

There are endless opportunities to connect with teachers around the world online. Here is a resource to help you get started:

Put yourself out there! Connect with others who share your passions. Lean on them for ideas and inspiration.  You’ll be glad you did.


Math Anxiety

I wonder how many of us experienced some degree of math anxiety as we moved through our required  math courses and how many of us pursued another subject due to the knots and angst in our stomachs. Perhaps just the title of this blog post brought back unpleasant memories of your own mathematical encounters.

I remember struggling with and dropping out of my high school trig class and being chastised by a college professor who informed me in front of the class that “You are stupid.” Yet, I still saw math as challenging, rewarding and exciting all at the same time. This is why I chose to persevere, ignore the insults and pursue both my Bachelors and Masters in Mathematics. I felt accomplished and as if I could tackle challenging problems outside of math and be a contributing, problem-solving team member.

In Math Anxiety, Jo Boaler shares five reasons why math anxiety is still prevalent in our educational system.

  1. Math is taught as a performance subject. Students see their role in math as to get the correct answer.
  2. Communication to students centers around either having a math brain or not in spite of the fact that all students can learn math.
  3. Math is often taught as a series of procedures and calculations rather than an opportunity to be creative and collaborative.
  4. Math is not portrayed as an opportunity to struggle, to dig deeper and to generate ideas.
  5. Math seems to be the subject that has the most homework.

As I read these, I easily saw how, at times, my teaching fell into several of these areas and wished I could have a mulligan and better meet the needs of my students.

Research by Ashcraft and Krause indicates that math anxiety “severely impacts student’s ability to enjoy math, motivation to take more math or do well in math.” As math educators, we get this and we continuously battle with the age-old stigma of  “You either get math or you don’t”.  We have the opportunity, though, to change this and mold our students’ thinking to perceive math as both pleasantly frustrating and exciting as well as to believe that they can be successful at it; in other words, they can become mathematical thinkers!

Mathematical Thinker



Normalizing Math Discussions Outside Of The Classroom

log truck

How many logs are stacked on the bed of the truck? How did you count? 

Fact is, we’ve all been stuck with this view, and more likely the first question that comes to mind is, “How soon can I get around this truck?”

Which is the better deal? How many caramels come in a pound? 

caramel comparison

What do you notice in this picture? What do you wonder?


We encounter math every day in a variety of situations, however it is rare that it is brought up in every day conversations within the homes of our students.

So…how do we get parents involved? Gain interest in talking about math without feeling intimidated? Start conversations with their children that construct understanding and number sense? John Stevens (@jstevens009) is working to foster these exact kind of discussions within the home in his new text Table Talk Math. If you are looking for a resource to support family involvement in the area of mathematics, look no further. This inviting text provides parent assistance in understanding how to support math fluency, provides prompts to discuss mathematics and build number sense in an informal and enjoyable way.

table talk math.JPG

Subscribe to John’s site for free newsletters to promote math conversations (many available in Spanish).