Teaching Sequences for Short-Term and Instant Interventions

At the beginning of Tuesday morning’s session for grades 3-5 mathematics, participants described conditions that they would want to have in place in their “ideal” teaching community. Answers included the no “blame” game, common language approaches, vertical and horizontal teaming, time for data driven instruction and an endless supply of manipulatives.The goal of the day was to continue discussing intervention methods, specifically short-term and instant intervention within a lesson, and how these methods could help the participants’ ideal community become a reality.

Short-term intervention is based on the same cycle as the extended intervention: assess, analyze, plan and teach. After assessing, the analysis focused on different types of questioning strategies that could be utilized to determine where the error occurred, where the last place that the student seemed successful was, and what gaps might exist that could make the next objective difficult. Questioning or “break it down” techniques included providing an example, providing a context, providing a rule, providing a missing or first step, the roll back, or narrowing/eliminating false choices. Teachers need to exercise restraint during the questioning so as not to take too much time out of the lesson and lose the focus.

Strong questioning techniques come from a solid knowledge of the content, not just at grade level, but across the board. Content knowledge is obtained through text study, collaborative planning, peer coaching and professional development. Participants discussed how to plan short-term interventions, which used the same process described in Monday’s post, but on a much smaller time scale. Teachers need to decide when a short-term intervention is more appropriate for supporting a student than extended intervention. Teachers also need to determine what they need to develop in themselves so that they can quickly craft effective short-term interventions.

The session concluded with reflection on a professional reading by T.R. Wang. This one quote seemed to summarize the objective of the presentation: “…one is to study whom you are teaching, the other thing is to study the knowledge you are teaching. If you can interweave the two things together nicely, you will succeed.”

Materials for this session are available here.

Supporting Students with Disabilities: The Modules and Beyond

In one of Tuesday’s sessions for grades 3-8 ELA, “Supporting Students with Disabilities: The Modules and Beyond,” participants were introduced to the four A’s of Intervention:

  • Anticipate – How do you anticipate student needs?
  • Assess – How do you assess the results of the instructional decisions that were made in a lesson?
  • Act – How do you plan to act to meet student needs?
  • Analyze – What do you do to analyze the results?

The teachers then saw the four A’s in action by watching videos of teachers in their classrooms and talking about how the teachers used the A’s with their students. Much time was spent on reflection and considering the information gained in Monday’s sessions regarding intervention strategies. The goal was to learn about how teachers can use these strategies to support all their students, not just students with disabilities.

The materials for this session are available here.

Module Focus: Grade 4 Math Modules 6 and 7

The focus of Thursday’s grade 4 presentation for mathematics was on the content of Module 6 and Module 7. Module 6, “Decimal Fractions,” allows students to extend prior knowledge of fractions by seeing decimals as an application of fractions. The progression of the module allows students to see that decimal and whole numbers behave the same way, and that working with decimals just increases their sense of number. Participants were reminded that that even though scaffolding is embedded in the lesson content, teachers may need to provide additional scaffolding measures. It is important that throughout any module, teachers amplify language. Teachers need to use academic language and be clear, effective and consistent. Teachers also need to develop conceptual understanding of the content matter by continually going from the concrete to the pictorial to the abstract. Too many visual representations might be ineffective, so teachers need to be strategic when choosing the best modeling techniques to use for the pictorial. Lastly, teachers need to model strong questioning techniques and demonstrate how to speak and write mathematically. Sentence frames and turn/talk opportunities are some examples of how to accomplish this within a lesson.

Participants started off by looking at the end-of-module assessment and working on question 6. They discussed how they could use the assessment as a planning tool and how it would guide the delivery of the lessons.

Module 6 starts off with students exploring tenths concretely through length, weight and capacity. A scale and pre-filled bags of rice was used to demonstrate how students can decompose 1 unit (kg) into 10 bags or tenths. What does the scale say? 0.1. Other decomposition problems are discussed in this module and the number bond is used. The same methodology is used in earlier grades for bundling tens and working with teen numbers. Teachers saw a strong connection here and were excited, saying “We just need to give this process time.” The overall goal of Topic A is for students to build fluency in writing decimal numbers three ways: as a fraction, as a decimal or in words.

In Topic B, students decompose tenths into 10 equal parts to create hundredths. Students model the meter stick with a tape diagram and quickly learn that tenths make us more efficient when counting hundredths. Sometimes we need to adjust the model depending on our learners; therefore, students not only work with tape diagrams but with area models and number disks to see the equivalence of 1 tenth and 10 hundredths.

Topic C gets students to apply their knowledge gained in the first two topics in order to compare decimals. Students continue using tape diagrams and area models to show their conceptual understanding of the decimal comparisons. Participants did an activity from Lesson 11 that involved cutting out decimal flash cards and ordering the decimal numbers from least to greatest. The decimal numbers were represented in various forms. Participants then needed to plot the decimals on a given number line and determine the best endpoints for the number line.

Topic D introduces the addition of decimals with tenths and hundredths, without using any algorithm. Students become more fluent with their conversions between the two in order to add and use decomposition strategies in the process. Lastly, money amounts as decimal numbers are introduced. Money is used to extend the students’ conceptual understanding of decimals while providing an application of the skills learned. Participants ended the morning session by going back to the end-of-module assessment and discussing what they learned as they were going through the lesson that would need to be reflected in the teaching of the modules.

The afternoon focus for grade 4 was on Module 7 that deals with exploring measurement with multiplication. Since fluency for grade 4 is multi-digit addition and subtraction, core fluency differentiated practice sets are used in this module. Lesson 2 contains the master copies for the 4 practice sets. A great feature of these sets is that each one is broken into 2 parts, with part 2 involving problems that do not involve re-grouping. Both parts, however, have the same answer key, which makes for simple grading.

Module 7 allows students to develop an understanding of the two measurement systems (metric and customary) and allows them to become fluent with converting between larger and smaller units. Great application problems that reinforce the RDW process are found throughout the module and students get to connect their problem solving with mixed units. An interesting approach is taken to time, as conversion is taught with the clock being an unwrapped number line. There is a strong connection here with previous work with number lines.

The module ends with 4 lessons that have year-in-review activities that focus on the area of composite figures, more fluency activities and games designed to solidify vocabulary used throughout the year. The presenters gave ample time throughout the day to work on problems and discuss. This was a very informative presentation that once again demonstrated the progressive nature of the modules and how they are written to build off of the prior knowledge of skills.

The materials for this session are available here:

What Can Kids Do? Raising Expectations for Research

The Grades 3-8 ELA Thursday morning session began with a review of the Norms for Collaboration which ensure that participants support each other in a constructive learning environment. The goal of this session is to learn about the principles of teaching research that underlie the Expeditionary Learning (EL) approach to research in the 3-8 ELA modules. The presenters distributed EL’s “Overview of Research in the NYS Grades 3-8 ELA Modules” which highlights how research supports the six shifts and meets the 3-8 Common Core Learning Standards. Participants then looked at a video to examine how the students in the video are engaged in research. The students were working on a case study where they observed an actual snake in the classroom, which was followed by the creation of individual books about the snake for an outside audience. The students were then going to use the research skills they acquired to do a case study of their own snakes.

Conversations around how expectations can impact students took place. The students in the video all rose to the challenge, acquired new research skills and were enthusiastic about the research and the process.

The second part of the morning was devoted to the Research Process. Participants examined the Common Core standards that deal directly with research: W.7-W.9. They looked at the nuances in vocabulary that distinguish one grade level from the next and how the standards evolve in complexity across the grades. This was followed by the reading of various articles in which the authors make connections between research and reading/writing. The participants at each table read each article and shared their findings with their groups. Discussion centered around the role of teachers’ expectations regarding student writing about research and how integral reading and research are to students’ lives now and in the future.

The materials for this session are available here:

Module Focus: Geometry

The focus of the Wednesday morning session for grades 9-10 math was to explore the topics covered in the first two modules of geometry. Congruence is covered in Module 1. The biggest change in geometry with respect to congruence is that two geometric figures are defined to be congruent if there is a sequence of rigid motions that carries one on to the other. Rigid motions are first introduced in grade 8 and teachers might want to take a look at Grade 8 Module 2 and Grade 8 Module 3 to see how the properties of rigid motions were explored. Participants discussed how they currently characterize transformations, and most agreed that they associate transformations with a set of rules and they tend to be very coordinate based. Students now need to develop a deeper understanding of transformations and their purpose without the use of the coordinate plane.

Module 1 starts off with 5 lessons on constructions. Students will be performing the same constructions as in the past, but the focus is on not just the figure being constructed, but the steps behind the construction. Students will need precision with their vocabulary, as they will need to be able to communicate clearly the steps behind the construction for all to understand. Focus is on the construction and instruction.

Topic C in Module 1 covers the transformations and rigid motions studied in 8th grade. The progression of intuitive, to the concrete, to formally defining a transformation is developed. Participants took a look at this progression with the concept of reflection in lesson 14 where students explore what they notice about the line of reflection and perpendicular bisectors. They then tie this exploration back to their work in the opening lessons that dealt with constructing the perpendicular bisectors and angle bisectors. Students are then introduced to the formal definition of reflections.

Topic D introduces the concept of congruence through rigid motion. Lesson 22 is the presentation of the proof by rigid motion for the SAS criteria. Students need to know the properties that are preserved with the transformations that are rigid motions (i.e. distance preserving, angle preserving) and need to be able to communicate these properties while writing proofs that involve the use of rigid motions. Once the congruence criteria (i.e. SAS, SSS, HL) have been proven, they then can be used in proofs for congruence as we saw in lesson 26.

Topic G reviews the content of the modules and reinforces the purpose behind the axiomatic system. A math teacher’s story was told: “We have to cover several chapters from the textbook and there are approximately 40 formulas. I may offer you a deal: you will learn just four formulas and I will teach you how to get the rest out of these formulas.” The students gladly agreed.

Module 2 focuses on similarity and right triangle trigonometry. Scale drawings are first introduced in grade 7 and teachers might want to take a look at the content covered in Grade 7 Module 1 for gap purposes. Scale drawings are approached in the geometry module with two methods, the ratio and parallel method. Participants had fun with the parallel method and using the set square to generate parallel lines. After scale drawings are explored, students go on to study the properties of dilations which sets the tone for proving the similarity criteria for triangles (AA, SAS and SSS).

The remainder of Module 2 focuses on right triangle trigonometry. Lessons 16, 21 and 25 set the foundation for the trig functions without officially using the language. These lessons explore the internal relationships within and between similar triangles and how the ratios of corresponding sides can be used to find missing lengths.

The materials for this session are available here:

Supporting Student Growth

The Grades 9-12 ELA Wednesday morning session focused on teachers being able to identify what students can and cannot do with respect to a given standard and identifying next steps and areas for supporting student growth. Teachers began by talking about barriers to using student work as a form of data, and the impact that a teacher can have on students’ ability to read closely, write well, speak and listen effectively and think critically. Teachers talked about not having the time to properly work with individual students, focusing on what students can’t do rather than what they can do, being willing to change the way they do things in their classrooms, and making an effort to teach individual skills rather than focusing on test preparation.

Teachers were presented with the Logic Model: If we analyze our assessments and a particular standard, articulate a learning need in terms of the standard, identify a high impact root cause and create a plan to address the cause, then the student’s skill level will improve. We cannot make an impact on what students do until we thoroughly understand what they can’t do.

To learn how to use the Logic Model, participants looked at student work from the Grades 9-12 ELA modules. This began with examination of the assessment map from Module 10.1 to understand the progression of standards RL.9-10.2 and RI.9-10.2 over the course of the module. Groups then analyzed student work against a rubric focusing on what the student can do in respect to the standard and what the student is struggling with so that teachers could then develop a plan to address the student’s needs. This discussion continued in the afternoon session.

The materials for this session are available here:


Argument Writing: Going Deeper with Teachers

For the second part of the afternoon, the grades 9-12 ELA session broke into two groups: teachers and coaches/administrators. Both groups continued looking at Module 9.4 (Sugar Changed the World) but with different purposes. The coaches focused on planning a coaching cycle for teachers to support student reading, writing and thinking in the classroom through this module.

Teachers began with a discussion about maintaining rigor when supporting struggling learners. The consensus seemed to be that when students struggle, teachers shouldn’t “rescue” their students; they need to support through scaffolding, adapting or accommodating. This is beneficial to students so that they don’t come to rely on being “saved” by their teachers. This will result in greater independence, empowerment and perseverance in their learning.

The teachers talked about their priorities when making adaptations to their lessons and found that they had common goals although their students’ needs are diverse. It was widely acknowledged that engaging students is key to helping them interact with and express their knowledge. The conversation then turned to thinking about when certain activities qualified as a scaffold, adaptation or accommodation and in what context they would be acceptable. One finding was that teachers have to be selective about which scaffold to use and when in order to maintain the rigor of the lesson.

The focus of the session then turned toward supporting language development in English language learners. There are 5 levels of language progression from entering to commanding that can be found on EngageNY at:

Teachers can use these tables to figure out where their students are in their acquisition of English and then figure out which scaffolds will best support these students in the classroom.

This led to an activity where teachers used a Class Profile to determine what kinds of supports they would need to implement to best serve the needs of their students. These profiles included students at varying levels of academic achievement including ELLs and students with varying disabilities. Teachers then looked at some lessons from Module 9.4 and talked about which lesson they would adapt for the students in their class profile and which supports they would implement in order to meet their students’ needs.

This was a very informative session and many teachers are looking forward to teaching this module to their students next year.

The materials for this session are available here: