Facilitating 12 Math Groups Got You Feeling Down? Try a Little Coherence!

Facilitating 12 Math Groups Got You Feeling Down? Try a Little Coherence!

Planning instruction in light of the CCRS shift of coherence poses some challenges but offers great rewards. Following from Part 1, this article is Part 2 of a series describing Metro North’s experience with piloting program changes to move toward more coherent math instruction.

The “Aha” Posters

The PLC meeting was well underway, and my colleagues and I had covered virtually all of our wall space with sticky poster paper. Our team of intermediate ESL through ABE teachers had spent the last three hours listing class rosters, student math scores, and scope and sequence plans, trying to piece together what math instruction currently looked like within our individual courses. Ultimately, we wanted to address an underlying question that nagged and challenged us: after participating in hours of quality training in the CCR math standards and the corresponding shifts of focus, rigor, and coherence, why did our math instruction still feel incoherent?

As we stepped back and perused our notes, a clear pattern emerged. In our “aha” moment we actually laughed so loud that our site’s secretary came down the hall to check in on us! We assured her all was well, but it was clear our approach to math instruction needed some big changes in order to bring about better coherence.

The charts displayed the reality that among our site’s three highest language level classes, students’ math skills spanned all five levels of CCR math and all four levels of TABE 9/10 math assessments. The clincher was that in our valiant attempt to meet the varied needs of our students within our own courses, each teacher was running three to four small math groups, simultaneously, and separately, at CCR levels A, B, C, and D. Hence the incredulous “aha” laughter – and no wonder things felt a bit incoherent!

Integrating Language and Numeracy Study Circle

Armed with more questions than answers, but determined to collaborate and learn more about building our capacity to offer high-quality math instruction, we headed to our first of three study circle sessions led by ATLAS trainer Kristin Klas on strategies for integrating language and numeracy instruction.

During these sessions, Kristin led our team through several key exercises focusing on the shift of coherence, including working as a teaching team to build several sample lessons that integrated numeracy and language skills at various CCR levels (see Kristin’s article on Coherence Part 1). We also examined the standards organized in different ways, including orienting them by domain and then seeing how they spiral up from one level to the next, as well taking a closer look at each level individually and the connections between domains at that same CCR level.

My PLC team especially appreciated practice with viewing the standards through looking “backward” and “forward” from a specific standard to know where one concept is situated within a larger logical progression, and how previous learning at a lower level provides the foundation for a targeted skill that in turn, establishes a foundation for future learning.

Piloting Changes

The final study circle exercises and subsequent additional planning meetings resulted in our teaching team piloting a new model for our math instruction for our higher level courses. This pilot for math instruction seeks to place and move students through flexible groupings of CCR-leveled progressions of math concepts, replacing the multi-groupings we had been doing within our individual classes. We reorganized our schedules to create two shared math blocks per week and designated each of us a level of instruction within specific CCRS levels and domains.

Our road to more coherent CCRS math instruction has not exactly followed the geometric definition of a line, (yes, I teach the geometry domain!) but it has led us to much more coherent instruction for our students. Watch for the next installment of this Coherence series next week to find out about our big takeaways that will continue to inform our team’s journey!

Melody Chalmers, Instructor Metro North ABE