As I move back into the math specialist position at my school this upcoming year, I have really been thinking a lot about the way in which our district PLCs are structured and, as a whole, how we treat each subject area as separate professional development entities. As an elementary classroom teacher, we either participate in a math PLC or a language arts PLC twice every week during our planning time. While it feels like it would work content-wise for the teachers who are K-3 and teach everything, it becomes a bit trickier when teachers are departmentalized in 4th and 5th grade. Not that there isn’t a need for everyone to be involved with both content areas due to everyone teaching RTI groups, however it still feels like there is a disconnect and sadly can lead to the “waste of my time” mantra because it doesn’t feel applicable to what they are doing in their core classroom work.
So, the question I am working through, is how can we do this better?
The more I engage in math conversations around the book Connecting Arithmetic to Algebra, the more I begin to see the structure of future PLCs evolve. (To catch up on those convos, @Simon_Gregg did a nice recap here: http://followinglearning.blogspot.fr/2015/06/mathematical-reasoning.html) It may seem odd to pull other content area ideas from here because the book is about amazing math reasoning and thinking, but I really see huge potential in this idea of “Making Claims” across all content areas. Thinking about this, I dug into the ELA CCSS, found these standards and started thinking about how this process sounded similar to our book discussions:
Upon further reading I came upon this ELA unit on Making Evidence Based claims: https://www.engageny.org/resource/making-evidence-based-claims-units-ccss-ela-literacy-grades-6-12
Then I moved into the Next Generation Science Standards and in a quick search I found this…
I just see so many potential connections here to have everyone engaged and leaving feeling like the PLCs were worth the time invested.
There is much more learning to be done on my part in the content areas, but I am seeing a way to structure our PLCs so they are not so much “by subject area” each time, but more “by ideas and reasoning process.” Questions I am thinking about….
– Could we center PLCs around ideas such as “Making Claims?” Talk about what students do during this process, how we foster the environment and share with each other content-focused work to look for similarities/differences?
– Could we center PLCs around various purposes for writing, or my favorite “Journals”? Discuss how and why we use them and share student work to discuss?
– Could I use the PLC time for this “Idea work” and have content knowledge come out more during coaching and hopefully some type of Math Lab as Elham has talked about?
As usual, not many answers and many more questions! Would love thoughts around this so I can work on making it useful and applicable for everyone next year!
Wonderful post! You probably have seen this VENN for the practices across CCSS Math, ELA and NGSS http://nstahosted.org/pdfs/ngss/PracticesVennDiagram.pdf. BTW – I too am excited to be playing the math specialist role locally in the fall as well as my CueThink contributions!
Thanks Norma! That is so exciting that we will be in the same position and able to chat about it! I have seen that Venn Diagram and I am glad you posted the link here. I completely forgot to look at that within my thinking around this idea! I have been so focused on making claims that I have really been diving into that piece across the content and grade levels!
This sounds like a really fruitful direction that you’re taking this in, Kristin, and one that’s relevant to teachers and educators everywhere.
My school is moving to the IB PYP curriculum this coming year, and I’m hoping with an emphasis on “inquiry-based learning” there’ll be lots of talk about big ideas that give more learning power.
The idea of claims is definitely one that extends beyond mathematics, as does writing reflectively (my Y4s do a weekly book log on what they’re reading).
I think there are a lot of other themes, some of which emerge in Connecting Arithmetic to Algebra.
Using talk for learning is a big one – how we get productive discussions where the children share what they notice, what they wonder, what the stimulus makes them think, where they respond to each other.
There are key ideas that are worth teachers discussing too. A couple off the top of my head: Abstraction – I introduced this this year in an art lesson looking at Mondrian and the evolution of his painting. It’s important to understand it in writing too. And computing. And of course mathematics – and claims.
Another idea is metaphor, which needs to be rescued from poetry class and seen for something much more universal, how we call one thing another.
I’m really curious to see what other cross-curricular themes and approaches other people come up with!
Thank you so much Simon! I absolutely love your examples of abstractions and metaphors….it has my head spinning into so many other avenues these big ideas could take! It is really fun to think about!
Love this post, Kristin! Thanks for continuing to pushing my thinking!
push my thinking not “pushing!” : P
Thanks Jenny! I am excited to be thinking about this in creative ways! Did you read Simon’s comment above because he has some really cool ideas too!
Interesting look at PLC’s…I cannot believe you have to take two planning periods a week to meet. This wouldn’t fly with our union.