Pre-Service Math Teacher Tips and Tricks

I would love to get some feedback on our second version of the form we use while on instructional rounds at our school. To see the PDF of our form, please click the following link.

SHS Instr Rds Participant Walkthrough Form Version 2_0.

So far we have only had one set of formal instructional rounds. Our math department has common planning time as an administrative support from our administrators and counseling department, something for which we are eternally grateful. Our department went to visit two language arts classrooms and one science classroom during our first instructional rounds session. Below is a scanned image of the revisions made to the original form as a result of our conversation after rounds took place.

12-4-14 Instructional Rounds Form Revision

I collaborated with a social studies teacher at our alternative school while constructing the form. We drew from the works of both Charlotte Danielson and Robert Marzano. Our math department has spent some time together in our PLC (Professional Learning Community) meetings revising the form prior to its initial use.

What we have found with both novice and experienced teachers observing expert teachers is that it is really, really easy to be dazzled and get lost in the instruction and action in the classroom. Teachers often forget the reason why they came in the room in the first place. Filling out the form has three purposes:

  • Keep the participating teacher focused on observing the actions of the students and the observed teacher. This minimizes the chance the participant is passively captivated.
  • Provide a basis for the conversation afterwards. Almost like an autopsy, what did the teacher do that facilitated learning? What did the students do that facilitated the learning?
  • Scaffold the experience of being evaluated by an administrator for the participating teacher. The participating teacher learns what it feels like for an administrator to go into someone else's classroom looking for particular things. This in turn reduces the anxiety the teacher has towards having a formal evaluation.

Here's some background information about us. Our math department has nine teachers. One of these teachers spends her day at our alternative high school. The other eight of us are in the same building. One of our eight in the building is on a different floor, but roughly speaking, we are geographically located in the same area in our school building.

We have worked really hard to establish a culture that engages in cross observation on a consistent basis. Our math teachers know that, to improve their own instruction, they must learn from the instruction of others. For a year and a half, our department members have spent portions of class periods observing their peers in the act of teaching about once every two to three weeks. The frequency of the observations usually depends on how busy the teachers are, time of year, etc. But our conversations are always positive and lead back to supporting one another.

I have spent a lot of time visiting with Angela Mosier at Omaha Westside and followed the example set by Kristi Bundy at Ashland-Greenwood within our own state (Nebraska). They have established great cultures within their schools using this as an in-house professional development strategy. After observing the teaching of others, we send out a "positive blast" email to the observed teachers. This email highlights the positive actions and learning we observed in the classroom. Everyone involved learns something about teaching as well as learning in the classroom.

Our goal at SHS is to participate in instructional rounds on a once per month basis this spring.

Here's a video that explains different types of collaborative structures in a middle school setting. Administrative support is essential to creating a culture of collaboration and trust. Cross observation is featured as a professional development tool at the [2:05] time signature.

Here is a prime example why Twitter is a great collaboration resource for math teachers. Last night I was killing time while waiting for a haircut. Reading through some tweets, I noticed a chat going on with the hashtag #ggbchat. With some luck, I caught the very end of the session and posted a question about something that's been bugging me about Geogebra.








I use Geogebra to analyze student summative assessment data in my classes. I like to sort the data to guide me when deciding which students I should group together for class activities. Sorting the data inside a Geogebra spreadsheet would eliminate an extra step for me (specifically, entering the data into Excel and sorting prior to copying & pasting data into Geogebra). I would think the software should allow a user to select a list, right-click, and then be given the option to sort the column of data. Here's a solution to the problem I faced, compliments of Geogebra guru John Golden (@mathhombre).



John also followed up with an idea to create a "Sort" button using a script.





Here is a screencapture of John's suggestion for making a Sort button.



This post is a quick hitter about the way I have approached grading tests for several years. I purposefully try not to stretch the point total to 100 or some other tidy multiple of 10 or 20. Instead, I assign points to each problem based on sub-steps. I use my trusty TI-84 to compute values quickly for grade book entry.

Suppose a test turns out to be worth 68 points. Here's what I do.

This is the linear function with slope 1/68 and y-intercept 0. One approach is to construct a table of values like below.

But the trouble occurs when grades vary wildly. Say some students are getting poor scores, like a 41 out of 62. Then we have to either reset the initial table value or, even slower, scroll up.

Instead, I set the viewing window and make a graph.

Just ignore the delta-x and TraceStep at the bottom of the screen. I set the window to have an Xmin of 0, an Xmax of 68 (because these x-values span all possible raw scores), and then set the Xscl to 1. The Xscl assigns integer values to tick marks on the graph, but for our purposes, this is really a personal preference, not a requirement.

Setting Ymin = 0 and Ymax = 1 with Yscl = .1 computes the percentage for the student's score. I could obviously do a little extra work by graphing Y = (X/68)*100 and make window adjustments accordingly, but for the sake of speed, I will just mentally convert the decimal to a percent.

By pressing the TRACE key, I can now manually enter any score and see the decimal corresponding to the student's percentage instantly. For example, suppose a student answered 44 items of 68 correctly.


I know there are other ways to do this... but, this way works well for me. This is another of the many things that students in math teacher ed programs may not see or talk about before student teaching experience, or in some cases, at all before entering the classroom.