Category: Providing Instructional Leadership

Number Sense Can’t be Taught

I’ve been on a learning journey around math and how students develop and understanding of numeracy.

I haven’t used my blog to talk about my learning very much this year, as I’m not using it for my Professional Growth Plan. However, I’ve decided I need to keep documenting my learning and use this site as more of an eportfolio.

So, do update what I’ve been doing

  1. Investigation into math diagnostics
    1. Decided to purchase Leaps and Bounds for our grade 1-4 classes
    2. Grade 4 classes using Mathletics
    3. Purchase “Mind the Gap” for K-2, and 3-4 to assist teachers with the task of diagnosing and teaching to fill in the gaps in understanding that our students may have.
  2. PD
    1. Math PD from ERLC – Supporting Struggling students in mathematics (October 22)
    2. Early Childhood Education Conference
      1. attended math sessions around manipulatives and games to support learning
    3. Admin council session on analyzing Provincial Achievement tests.
    4. Worked with Math teachers from Gibbons School in examining their PAT results
    5. Lots of online research on numeracy and the development of numerical understanding, including this linked video by Ch which really helps to encapsulate the need for making sure our youngest students are  Developing Number Sense.
  3. PLCs
    1. My VP and I have been participating in our grade level PLCs which focus on goals the teachers have chosen. However, we have directed them in some activities. One of the first things was to look at results of the MIPI which measures students understanding of math concepts.
      1. the analysis of these results led to some plans to address lack of understanding in certain areas.
      2. We were involved in some rich discussions about what areas were lacking and what we could/should do about those gaps.
    2. PLCs have also been asked to participate in learning sprints for Nov-Jan. Three of our grade levels chose to look at math concepts for the sprints. I am looking forward to the progress that is made. I will definitely post our learning when we get a chance to analyze the results.

One thing that has been affirmed to me can be summarized in this quote by Christina Tondevold.

Number Sense Can’t be Taught. 
It’s Caught!

D Propp

A New Passion

I’ve revamped my Professional Growth Plan this year. I will working on instructional leadership in the area of math. Specifically around looking at the data to find the gaps in students’ understanding of mathematical concepts.

Our school has already started on a few processes to help move us forward in this area. We administered the MIPI at the beginning of the year to help us with our understanding of where each student is at in their journey to mathematical competence. We spent time analyizing group and individual results in our grade level PLCs, as well as looking across grade levels and what areas might be better supported as students move up in grades.

We have purchased Nelson’s Leaps and Bounds and are looking forward to the diagnostic and remediation support that it offers. The program is being used in other Alberta schools, and from what I can tell, is a great resource in supporting students who are experiencing gaps in their understanding. We are also trying out Mathletics in our grade 4 classes to allow for ongoing diagnostic assessment of all of those students.

On Monday, I attended a Professional Development session offered through the ERLC entitled “Math Strategies for Struggling Students”. The session offered, not only ideas for math activities, but looked into the gaps in students’ understanding around specific concepts and the kinds of activities that might be necessary to support them in their learning.

And lastly (at this point), I’ve acquired two books by Jon SanGiovanni, entitled Mine the Gap For Mathematical Understanding, which offer strategies for finding and addressing the gaps in understanding for students.

I am really looking forward to working with my staff on this journey to better meet the needs of all students as they move along on their journey of mathematical understanding.

D Propp

Planning Coherence

Since reading Michael Fullan’s book called, Coherence we’ve started having discussions as a leadership team at my school. I really work in a great place, and many of the things we do here align with what is discussed in the book.

We are a team; we have a high level of trust; we collaborate; we use capacity and develop it. Many of the pieces are in place. I think we are in an ideal place to take the next steps.

We are meeting tomorrow to discuss this. Narrowing down our focus to one or two main things is going to be the first step. There have been conversations happening around this already, and I am excited to see where we go. It’s a great team, and I know the potential for excellence is within us.

I’m looking forward to reporting on our progress as we move forward.
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Back to the Good stuff

This year, as a school we’ve decided to make Balanced Literacy our focus. An outsider might think, “What!! Balanced Literacy has been around forever and you’re just focusing on it now??!! Where have you been?”

Well, we’ve been doing a LOT of great things, including Guided Reading, and many components of balanced literacy. What we realize though, is that we may not be doing it the best that we can. We could look for something new and flashy to focus on, but why not take the things that we know to be good practice, and make sure we are doing them well.

One of the great things is, this is a grass roots endeavour. The teachers recognized that they had been focusing on other things over the last few years and have realized that they need to spend time thinking and talking about what they’re doing in their language arts (and all) classes. Are we using our alloted time the best we can?

As admin we have decided to make the process of gathering data around how this affects student acheivement to be our focus. My Vice-Principal is an ‘expert’ in Balanced Literacy, and is a great resource. I am not an expert, by any means. This means I have to start learning. I attended my first professional development on guided reading yesterday with a number of teachers from across the school division. I was there for a different reason, but I certainly enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about this one component of literacy.

I’m beginning to see this idea cropping up in other places. People are realizing we don’t need something new to revolutionize our world. We need to focus on the things that work, and do them well.

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Just Outside of the Comfort Zone

My professional growth this year has been focused in the area of instructional leadership. I  set myself a goal of being more involved directly in the task. There are a lot of great things going on at my school, and I am proud to work at a place where the staff are professional and take the work they do very seriously. It would be easy to sit back and just let things happen. I have learned over the last 8 years in this job though, that that is a fast track to mediocrity.

We have to be mindful about moving things forward. One of the most important things we have to do as leaders is encourage that movement in the right direction. That doesn’t mean we have to micromanage everything that goes on. What we do though, is ensure that we are mindful of the direction we are going, and setting up the space to keep things moving.We remove barriers and tweak when necessary. We listen and reflect. We never allow ourselves to think we have all the right answers.

I’ve made myself do a number of PD presentations this year. I don’t mind speaking in front of people, but believing that I have something to offer those who are amazing at what they already do, doesn’t come easy. Presenting professional development is that area that is just out of my comfort zone; it’s the best area to  be in to make things happen.

The great thing is, that uncomfortable zone becomes the new comfort zone, and we can keep pushing ourselves forward. It works with our students, and it works with ourselves.

change-do-nothing-cartoon

D Propp