Mini Binders Part 3: The Heart of the Mini Binder

Oct 11, 2019

This is the heart of the mini binder: Lessons and Assessments.

Missed an episode? See the whole Instruction by Design Series here.

We asked the question: what lessons were we going to use from the math book? This section was very specific to the resources or program available (in this case, Eureka Math) and the student population of the district. Our goal for this section was to help teachers move away from being “page turners” that just teach the next page of the math book. We had already outlined targets, keeping our DOK levels in mind, so then we needed to map map out how that standard would be taught. We also looked at places we had struggled in the past, places in the standards where our at-risk kids had been victim of the “lesson a day” approach where they were taught the content as laid out in the book, but were not any more successful than the year before.

Working Together

We really needed the classroom teachers to be a part of the team to guide us. While I know all the math standards inside and out, when we work with eight different math programs among our project schools, and don’t have inside knowledge of every single book! What I do know, however, is that, when there are too many strategies being taught, students get overwhelmed and we have to adjust the contents. I use the analogy of egg rolls. Some are spring rolls, some have shrimp or rice or chicken, but the egg roll wrapping is the same regardless of what’s on the inside. Our standards stay the same, but we have to figure out what lessons, resources, etc.make the egg roll appeal to our guests, in this case, the students at an at-risk school.

The Process

First, we looked at recommendations from Eurkea Math, Embarc.online, and Great Minds as to how to map out the standards, lessons to omit, combine, etc. (FYI: Great Minds provides a detailed analysis of how Eureka Math aligns to teach state’s standards.)

Then, the task was to match the existing modules/lessons to the targets for the standards we had identified for that unit of study. We didn’t follow the lessons numerically, so it could get confusing as we jumped around. Maybe we started Unit 1 with a lesson from Module 3, or we went from Module 1 Lesson 2 to Module 1 Lesson 1. But we were following the instruction by design process of creating instructional units based on the previously identified topics, targets and standards.

The Result!

As you can imagine, this took more time than any of the other sections in the mini binder. We looked at the lesson launch, the homework, the exit tickets – pages and pages of information for each lesson – and we decided what to include, modify or omit.

For each lesson from Eureka Math that we decided to include in the unit, we created a “Quick Tips” page with three things: 

  • Objective. This was clearly written in a way that teachers could understand, but also that teachers could easily and effectively teach it to their students.
  • C-P-A Tool Options. Some of the Eureka Math lessons already included really great options for C-P-A, so sometimes we just listed those, but we made sure there were always options available.
  • Instructional Options. The teachers and the team that I was working with had taught these lessons many times over many years and these were tips and tricks teachers could use when teaching that lesson.

Springling - square

Considering our at-risk population, we wanted to streamline the strategies that we were teaching, so we wove Math Mights characters into the lessons when appropriate. We want students to have a deep understanding of the three ways, plus the traditional, instead of a partial understanding of a wide range of strategies. So, in the mini binder, one of the characters from Mathville might appear in a lesson to give reminders. It might say, “T-Pops is a great option here, but you could start with D/C to really understand what regrouping looks like before using T-Pops.” Or, in second grade, the lesson said to use the “take from 10” strategy, but we felt that was too difficult for our particular group of second graders, so Springling was there to suggest using the counting up strategy. 

As we were putting together the lessons, we felt like our students needed more time. Sometimes the kids are just learning how to put some of these new concepts together and then, bam, we’re on to a new concept tomorrow, when really they could have used a few extra days to solidify the current concept. For our curriculum, we found it really invigorating to be able to play with the instructional days allotted for each lesson, based on what we knew about our population. Maybe kids need an extra day for one particular concept, but then, we know that we can borrow days from this other concept because the students got it quicker last year, thanks to the use of CPA tools. And some of the concepts are really similar, so we were able to combine them together and save instructional days. Maybe we’re working on word form, expanded form and unit form. Instead of a series of lessons on those topics separately, we combined them so teachers could hit the broader target of that objective.

Planning for Flexibility

If we want to be able to show growth in what we’re doing, we can’t just keep doing it the way we’ve always been doing it. That road is not raising student achievement, but rather, its continuing to show compounded failure. With instruction by design, you don’t have to follow the district-purchased resource like a Bible. Instead, you can actually add some of your own resources to it, which just makes sense! 

For this project, in Kindergarten, we had kids coming in so at-risk that they weren’t ready to start the Eurkea Math program at all. So we decided to devote the first 30 days of Kindergarten to a unit that was going to give kids experience with all kinds of things like kinesthetic one-to-one correspondence, subitizing, Deck o’ Dots, the Counting Buddy, the rekenrek. Then, after those 30 days, we went back into traditional modules/lessons from Eureka Math. 

In second grade, our at-risk kids were struggling with learning nine different ways to subtract. Because we wanted to focus on the three ways, plus the traditional, with Math Mights, we ended up veering away from Eureka Math for those units. We kept true to the standards, but we really revamped what the addition and subtraction units looked like, giving kids more time to develop a depth of understanding around the four main strategies.

In third grade, we wanted kids to understand the patterns of multiplication and go through the multiplication journal, but with by-the-book instruction, where do we fit that in? With Instruction by Design, we had the freedom to stop traditional instruction for 15 days in order to go through the journals, fill in the gaps, and really build a solid foundation for multiplication.

If we ever omitted a lesson, we left a holder page there so teachers wouldn’t get confused by going from Lesson 1 to Lesson 3 or however we arranged the lessons. Many times, we moved the “missing” lesson to another unit, so we specified where the lesson went as well to ensure that teachers knew what to expect.

During the training we did for teachers on the mini binders, they were blown away by the detail of this section. Everything is right there! Yes, the book is a great resource, but having the objective laid out will help teachers keep the end in mind as they work with their at-risk students. This allows teachers to deviate from the rigid structure of a textbook to provide more authentic instruction. 

Assessments

The last section of the mini binder was a place to gather our interim assessments, our performance tasks, our student reflections, and our summative assessments all in one place. We included a small thumbnail of the various assessments in the back of the mini binder so teachers would be able to see how their students assessed within the unit. We did not include the summative assessment it will be available electronically so teachers can go look at the PDF online.

During the trainings, this section of the mini binder really came together. If we’d had more time during the summer, we could have done more with aligning these assessments, but we also wanted teachers to be a part of it so they would be able to keep that end in mind. We basically folded the assessments into where they would go in the pacing of the different lessons that we picked out to target, and the teachers wrote it directly onto the pages in their mini binder. 

Our teachers are using exit tickets, whether its a jot lot or Plickers (a free online formative assessment tool) or a quick exit ticket, that look at the targets we laid out (as we talked about in the assessment blog) and to gauge where the kids are so they would be able to feel confident that their students could be successful on an interim assessment. This is really important for the data piece for what we’re doing, especially with instruction by design because it’s really going to gauge the success of where we’re going in this unit.

We planned out the summative assessment and the performance tasks, many of which we felt would come at the end of the unit. Teachers are using a summative assessment from Illuminate, so we had them print it off and put it into their assessment binder so they have it, along with a collection of different exit tickets they might have and then the self reflection. Some teachers thought they’d give the self reflection before the unit, sometimes they thought they would prefer to give it after the unit is done to get a perspective of where kids were.

The Future of the Project

The teachers can now see the big picture so much more clearly and this is where everything really hit home. They can see the big targets of where we’re going so they know how to plan, not necessarily by number of days, but by objective. Eureka Math was never meant to be taught lesson by lesson, day by day for every single age. This new structure helps teachers figure that out better on their own, which is a win-win.

These teachers in our project district will be getting some intense coaching from our SIS for Teachers coaches in their buildings to help them with the implementation of this curriculum. The coaches will model things like guided math groups and parts of Math Workshop, and see where teachers need help with the implementation. 

The assessments will provide a lot of information towards the end of the school year to let us know how we did with this curriculum! By looking at the deficits, we’ll be able to determine which lessons might need to be replaced, which of those quarterly promises that we created might need to be adjusted, and which of those standards we thought were power standards could dropped to supporting standards. 

We’re excited to go into this year with a strong framework to guide teachers in their instruction, and with the mini binder resource that will give teachers the best chance for success as they implement this curriculum! 

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