As the Elementary Instructional Specialist in Mathematics for East Hartford, Connecticut, I have been tasked with designing a curriculum plan that builds a strong foundation in number sense so students have the content knowledge necessary to access algebraic reasoning. For educators to succeed with this hefty task, we need to ensure that they have the road map necessary to navigate students through the educational journey. The Materials Adaptation Project provided the opportunity for my district to look critically at the enVisionmath 2.0 program we use and helped create that roadmap for our teachers.
The enVisionmath 2.0 Materials Adaptation Project was designed to allow Student Achievement Partners, districts, and Pearson to work collaboratively to ensure that the program and materials are aligned with the standards and the progressions. We hosted a convening in August 2017 and worked together to draft the guidance documents. Then it was up to each of the districts to ensure the new guidance made its way into classroom instruction.
Following the convening, my original plan was to have only the three teachers who participated in the convening pilot the guidance documents; however, our teachers and our students could not afford to have another year of instruction that did not effectively leverage the most standards-aligned aspects of enVisionmath 2.0. So, I set about using the guidance documents to help administrators, instructional coaches, and teachers to understand the grade-level content standards and use the Anchor Tasks identified in the guidance documents for planning.
To put this plan into action, I created the following documents:
Grade-Level-Specific Scope and Sequence
This document gives a snapshot of the plan for math content for the year. The “year at a glance” allows teachers to view how the order of the topics aligns with the district assessments and the three reporting periods. Having the standards listed under the topics provides efficiency with grading on the standards-based report cards. Teachers can consult this document to find the:
- Topic Name, Dates, and Number of Instructional Days
- Primary and Secondary Standards addressed
- EHPS Assessment schedule
Topic-Specific Guidance Documents
I modified the guidance documents created at the summer convening to fit our district needs. In order to fully understand the intent of the standards, we have to intentionally plan and we need a curriculum document that supports the process: What, Why, and How. The focus for the 2017-2018 school year is on the big picture: teaching grade-level content. Prior to planning for effective instruction, teachers need to know what they are teaching and why they are teaching it. This information on “why” can be located in the Pro Tips and the Topic Rule of Thumb. The Anchor Tasks supply the ”how” for teaching the content. I added supplemental resources to this section to highlight additional programs we own as a district to embed as part of The Workshop Model.
- Topic Rule of Thumb with Rationale
- Essential Vocabulary and Essential Question
- Anchor Tasks including Supplemental Resources (e.g., Number Talks, Developing Number Concepts, Math Workstations, Problem Solving with Math Models) our district has purchased that I embed within the Guidance Documents to bring together the various district efforts and resources
- Assessment Guidance
Guidance Document Terminology
This informative document explains the purpose and use behind each aspect of the Guidance Documents:
- Pro Tips
- Topic Rule of Thumb
- Essential Questions
- Anchor Tasks
- Essential Vocabulary
- Assessment Guidance
Teachers did not receive professional development prior to using the guidance documents. I needed a reference page so teachers would have a shared understanding of the terminology and purpose of the new documents they were expected to use for planning.
These resources were shared with the administrators and instructional coaches in September, and I’ve been revising them and creating new documents in response to feedback and new learning. The reception from teachers so far has been really positive; the guidance has allowed teachers to focus on the math topics and activities that matter most. One teacher shared that, “The guidance documents have been extremely helpful when planning and implementing math units. They provide a concise outline of the math concepts.” Another teacher found that, “The guidance document simplified an otherwise overwhelming amount of math…It saves us time trying to weed through enVisions and figure out what activities will be best to use, what do we skip, and what assessment questions will work best.”
As teachers are learning and growing, and focusing their instruction and time in new ways, many comfortable practices and habits must shift to a new mindset which will change practices and beliefs. The previous lack of a curriculum and overreliance on the textbook has resulted in gaps in students’ prior knowledge. Teachers find themselves spending too much time re-teaching the foundational skills necessary for students to access the grade-level content and many teachers have noted that they gravitate towards re-teaching the whole class versus creating small groups with targeted interventions. As we continue to refine our practice with The Workshop Model and begin to utilize the Coherence Map, which illustrates the connections among the standards both within and across grades, we will see a rise in the number of students that are able to access new content knowledge and a decline in the number of students with significant gaps in their foundational skills.
I am also able to support teachers by assisting with the planning of instructional coach, staff, and grade-level meetings. Each of these represents an opportunity for us to have courageous conversations about misinterpretations and misalignment of the standards (as part of past practice), and misconceptions about what the standards measure and how. This has proven to be a challenging process! . . . but a worthwhile one. These conversations help develop our knowledge and ensure that we can provide our students with the challenging and targeted mathematics instruction that will support their success in college and career.
In the coming months, I will continue to revise the guidance documents by honing in on focus – ensuring support for the most critical content and embedding supplemental resources. I will also begin embedding supporting and additional clusters throughout the year as workstations, so that they are no longer taught as isolated topics. I will infuse fluency resources, provide research-based evidence on the most effective and efficient instructional models and strategies, and create formative assessments that assess content rather than strategies. I will continue to be mindful of how to make curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development cohesive so that through the implementation of these changes, we ensure that we are meeting the needs of both our teachers and our students.