Episode #78: How to Organize Your Course and Day to Day Plans – A Math Mentoring Moment

May 25, 2020 | Podcast | 0 comments


In this episode we chat with Jennifer L’Arrivee a high school science and math teacher from British Columbia. After learning about spiralling in our online workshop this past Fall, Jennifer is on a mission to implement a content organizational structure that will maximize retention and understanding in her science and math classes. Listen in as she picks our brains about best approaches to stay organized both with content standards and with classroom activities. 

Stick around for this mentoring moment episode where we brainstorm with Jennifer how we can be more intentional with our planning, how to organize our day-to-day using google spreadsheets, and how to organize a whole course so you’re not overwhelmed.

You’ll Learn

  • How to be more intentional with your planning;
  • How to organize your day-to-day plans; 
  • How to organize your course so that you’re not overwhelmed


Download a PDF version | Listen, read, export in our reader


Jennifer L’Arri…: And so it really does lend itself well to this mixing of the curriculum. And so that’s a big bonus for us. So for me, I’ve always gone with the big ideas as my overall. I have them posted in my room for each class that I teach. That’s where basically everything comes down to that, and they’re simple.

Kyle Pearce: That there is Jennifer L’Arrivee, a high school science and math teacher from British Columbia. After learning about spiraling in our online workshop this past fall, Jennifer is on a mission to implement a content organizational structure that will maximize retention and understanding in her science and math classes. Listen in, as she picks our brains about best approaches to stay organized, both with content standards and with classroom activities.

Jon Orr: Stick around for this math mentoring moment episode, where we brainstorm with Jennifer, on how we can be more intentional with our planning, how to organize our day to day using Google spreadsheets, and how to organize a whole course, so you’re not overwhelmed. Hit it.

Kyle Pearce: Welcome to the Math Moments That Matter podcast. I’m Kyle Pearce from tapintoteenminds.com.

Jon Orr: And I’m Jon Orr, from mrorr-isageek.com. We are two math teachers who together…

Kyle Pearce: With you the community of Math Moment Makers worldwide, who want to build and deliver math lessons that spark engagement…

Jon Orr: Fuel learning.

Kyle Pearce: And ignite teacher action. We want to welcome you to episode number 78.

Jon Orr: 78, that just sounds so crazy Kyle, 78 episodes, and we are loving every moment of it. Let’s get ready for another jam packed episode. But first we’d like to say thank you to all of you Math Moment Makers from around the globe who have taken the time to share feedback, by leaving us a review on Apple podcasts.

Kyle Pearce: Yes, that’s right Jon, it is fantastic. Every time we see a brand new shiny five star rating and review. And this week we want to highlight a new believer who gave us a five star rating and review that said, “My go to podcast for teacher inspiration. As an educator, my mind is always thinking of ways to improve my teaching and capture the hearts and minds of my students. Listening to Kyle and Jon and the incredibly bright and helpful math experts and fellow educators that join them, feeds my brain and energizes me each time I listen.”

Jon Orr: Awesome stuff. We can’t thank new believer enough for taking the time out their day to not only listen, but help us increase our number of ratings to over 200 around the globe and over 60 reviews.

Kyle Pearce: Wow, that’s fantastic. If you haven’t taken a moment to give us an honest rating and review on Apple podcasts, we would certainly appreciate it.

Jon Orr: All right. Now, before we get to our discussion with Jennifer, we wanted to let you know that if you’re listening to this before May 29th, 2020, then you’re cutting it close to joining us for our 12-week self-paced, full online workshop for the summer semester, the summer cohort.

Kyle Pearce: Our workshop is designed to walk you through step by step, to help you teach through real world problems, problem based learning in order to create those resilient problem-solvers you’re after. And not only will you get certificate of participation from us, but you also have the option to take optional graduate PD credits from Brandman University.

Jon Orr: If you’re interested in learning more about registering, be sure to check out makemathmoments.com/onlineworkshop. If you’re listening after the summer 2020 registration, you can still head to makemathmoments.com/onlineworkshop to join the waiting list, in order to get notified of the next opportunity to participate, which won’t be until 2021 at the latest.

Kyle Pearce: That’s right. That’s right, Jon. So head on over, learn more and register at makemathmoments.com/onlineworkshop. And now we’re ready to jump into this awesome conversation…

Jon Orr: With Jennifer.

Kyle Pearce: Hey there, Jennifer, thanks for joining us here on the Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast. How are you doing today?

Jennifer L’Arri…: I am doing great. Thank you for asking me onto the show.

Jon Orr: Awesome stuff. Awesome stuff. Take a moment here, Jennifer, and tell us a little bit about yourself and our listeners about yourself. Where are you coming to us from? How long have you been teaching and fill us in on your teaching journey? How did you get into teaching? We’re always interested in these kind of background questions.

Jennifer L’Arri…: Okay. Thank you. My name is Jennifer L’Arrivee and I’ve been teaching now for about 17 years. My husband and I live in the Rocky Mountain Trench, which is the area of the Robson Valley in Central British Columbia. I began teaching a bit later in life. I returned to university 10 years after high school, and I’d worked in various occupations up until then. So what I did was I decided to return to university, I upgraded all my high school science and math courses, which I completed at a local college. Then I entered a bachelor of science program at the University of Victoria and graduated with a major in biology and a minor in microbiology.

Jennifer L’Arri…: Yeah. So I had initially wanted to become a veterinarian, so I could teach at a vet school, but then I became interested in a post degree high school education program that was offered at UVic. They were recruiting science majors. So I had a great mentor teacher during my practicum. He handed over the science 10 honors class to me, and then just let me go. It was a great experience. I am currently now a senior teacher at McBride Secondary. We teach grades 8 through 12. And my current position is teaching the senior science courses.

Jennifer L’Arri…: So I have anatomy and physiology, life science, forensic science, chemistry, mass, the precalculus and the workplace math as well. And I’ve also completed my Masters in Education now, and I had a concentration in counseling. So I work as a school guidance counselor too.

Kyle Pearce: Wow. That’s quite the experience you bring to the table there. And it’s always nice when we hear folks coming on the show and especially those who maybe got into the teaching game, maybe not straight out of their original plan. My wonder is if we were to back up and we were to think about Jennifer’s experience through K-12 math education. When we say math class, what math moment pops into your mind for those of us listening at home to try to get a perspective on your experience and what you bring into the classroom?

Jennifer L’Arri…: Well, I remember I loved math in elementary school, but not so much in high school. I was kind of one of those kids that really developed math anxiety. I just couldn’t process the content as quickly as others it seemed. So after I’d been working on a concept for a while, I was fine, but I would go through basically practicing and repeating the tasks and then eventually I would get proficient at it. I loved science, but my confidence just wasn’t great in math. So that’s kind of where I came from in high school. So I’m hoping that I can change that experience for our students.

Kyle Pearce: Something that jumps out at me when you share that memory, is this idea of not processing as quickly or at least that’s the way maybe you interpreted it. I’m wondering if you were to think back on that experience, you had mentioned that you sort of felt like you developed a little bit of math anxiety, probably because of that perception that maybe you weren’t processing as quickly. And you said after some repetition, maybe you caught on. I’m curious, were you catching on or were you just able to then regurgitate some of that memorized content?

Jennifer L’Arri…: Oh, I definitely think it was regurgitation, in many cases. I was good at kind of playing the game as you’ve mentioned with others. So I was able to develop the skills well enough to get through, decent marks. But I know for a fact, I definitely wasn’t learning deeply, I would say.

Jon Orr: That makes a lot of sense, a lot of our students have been in that situation. And I know that Kyle and I have said here on the podcast, many times that we’ve kind of were in that situation. We were great memorizers, great regurgitators, but not a lot of great deep thinking though. I would never have considered myself a great problem solver until I became a teacher and started to have that deep kind of level of thinking.

Jon Orr: Jennifer, we know that you’ve done a lot of learning over the last year. You were in our online workshops, through Grassroots this past fall semester. You’re a member of our online academy. We know that you’ve done lots of learning in this last little bit. Would you mind sharing like a recent success that you’ve had in your teaching role? Where was it you were struggling before and then what kind of success did you have after?

Jennifer L’Arri…: Well, one of the successes I can think of that recently has happened was, I was on a road trip this summer and I got… That’s actually, when I first heard about the Make Math Moments podcast, and I started listening to the very first one, How to Start a School Year Off, I think it was episode 30 something. And I knew then that… I think it was Kyle who was listing the various ways he started his first day in his school year. And I thought, “Oh boy, that’s just exactly what I have done for years and years.” You know, throw up the rules and the cell phone issues and things like that.

Jennifer L’Arri…: So just immediately I went in, it was right before school started and I just shut up everything. I threw out my course outline as far as handing it out the first day anyway, and I just changed my whole routine. So I was able to find a neat activity, a great startup activity from big Red Science, it was called. And then it was called the Polar Bear Inquiry activity. And I actually used that in my workplace math 10 and 11 class, which was a new course for me.

Jennifer L’Arri…: And so what I did, I didn’t hand out any course outlines or review any rules. I just began. It was a pattern based puzzle and the kids loved it. It was just a great experience for all of us. And it took almost the whole class to actually solve this. And it was kind of my first experience really with withholding information, developing kind of that productive struggle, that students can undergo when they’re going through this type of task. I tried and tried not to give out the answer. That was the hardest part about doing it, and it was an excellent experience.

Jennifer L’Arri…: It went so well that later that day, I actually chose to do it as my introductory lesson with the precalculus 12 students. And what was interesting, was how the students in precalculus reacted quite differently to the struggle than say the workplace math students. The precalculus students tended to demonstrate a lot more anxiety about not instantly being able to solve this puzzle. Whereas the workplace students just thrived on the struggle and the freedom. They thought it was a fantastic way to start math. So I just found that I definitely had that observation right off the start.

Kyle Pearce: That’s something that I’ve seen happen quite a bit. In my mind, I was sort of wondering, I was eager to hear what you were going to say about that. Because I have found… And we hear this a lot from folks who take our online workshop, and when we work with teachers face to face. And they talk lot about the students who seem to push back the most, when they try to switch from that more traditional approach to teaching that I do, than we do, than you do problems, where we sort of like unpack everything for the students. We sort of pre teach them everything. And then we try to get them to do some problem solving.

Kyle Pearce: It’s like the students who are successful in that model tend to push back the most. And usually in our minds, we tend to label those students as the ones who will persevere. But then when we actually put them in a scenario where they actually have to do some serious problem solving and they don’t have like the short-term memory or that example that we’ve already done together to reference, all of a sudden, it’s like, they feel they’re in no man’s land, you know? And it sounds like you’re seeing some of that experience as well.

Jennifer L’Arri…: Yeah, definitely. It really showed me how there was a strong need for more of that type of learning for sure, because they just weren’t comfortable. As you said, they really needed to kind of develop that type of resiliency to solve and feel comfortable and safe to solve the problems.

Jon Orr: Like Kyle said, we’ve had that experience already and it was not until much time has elapsed in those courses where those students start to feel that comfort level, that they’re not going to be judged by their peers on kind of taking risks. So that’s a big kind of stumbling block, many teachers have to get over. And like we’ve said here, that’s a big part of our online workshop is to talk about some of those kind of setbacks that you’re going to experience, when you’re trying to teach using the three part framework that we’ve talked about in that workshop there.

Jon Orr: Jennifer, we brought you on here because we wanted to talk about some more specific struggles you’ve had on your teaching journey. Could you fill us in on what’s on your mind lately? And then we can dig in to kind of brainstorm some next steps for you?

Jennifer L’Arri…: Sure. I am going to attempt to spiral my workplace math 10 and 11 class. I had listened to Michael Rubin’s podcast, I think there was two of them with regards to spiraling in the classroom, and I thought they were a perfect fit for how I like to teach. And in fact, I use a lot of those techniques, more so in my science courses, but for some reason just hadn’t put that together with my math courses. So one of my biggest struggles is keeping track and organizing the tasks and lessons to the big ideas.

Jennifer L’Arri…: So whether or not you’re organizing by big ideas or by tasks, I started with using Google Docs and I viewed Michael Rubin’s documents that he shared as well. And I got started doing that this past semester. But I found, I just couldn’t keep up a system that worked for me. So that’s actually what I would most like some feedback on. How can we organize the outcomes or the big ideas to make it work.

Jon Orr: I can definitely see that and spiraling itself. And I’m just going to summarize here a little bit for anyone listening, who’s not familiar with the spiraling term yet. Spiraling is this grand idea of restructuring your math lessons. So many of our, my math lessons in the past have been, we’ve used the term silos. Units are taught and kind of in silos that you’re going to do all of measurement in a two-week, or three-week span, then you have a kind of a test on it. And then you move on to say linear relations, kind of never going back to measurement until you’re reviewing for your final exam or at the end of the year.

Jon Orr: So spiraling is kind of taking some of those topics and notch, having them in silos, breaking them out. One of the most important parts, instead of just saying, taking lesson 1.1 and then 1.2 and then sticking to 2.1 right after, and 2.2. What we try to do is find connections in the curriculum. There’s so many connections that can be made across your curriculums and your standards that then find tasks that connect those together, and bring those out into the open to analyze.

Jon Orr: So we kind of jumble things up a little bit in spiraling, go deeper into how the ideas are connected amongst the different strands. So that’s spiraling. And if you’ve listened to the Michael Rubin episode, I can totally get your point here, Jennifer. That I think when you hear Michael talk and the work Michael put into his spiraling plan can be intimidating. Because Michael put I think… Kylie you’d have to agree more work into his planning process than we ever did. Would you agree to that Kyle?

Kyle Pearce: Absolutely. He came in and he definitely had this idea in mind and was pretty determined to get this really, really organized and well thought through before diving in. Whereas you and I, we were a little bit less tactful initially, if I could go back, I think it would be great if I was able to do some organization as specifically as he did. But, I think really what that says is that everyone is different, and I think approaching it in the way that’s going to ensure that you can get started and it’s manageable for you is really important.

Kyle Pearce: So for example, like I know I’m the type of person, if I put all of that workload on myself to try to get that all mapped out as clearly, and really just as, I want to say, detailed as he did, I feel like I would probably never have made a move to move in that direction, just because of that’s who I am. But clearly for him, it sounds like that’s kind of how he does things. He wants to make sure that everything is in its right place. It’s very intentional. And I think that’s fantastic.

Kyle Pearce: Now I would say that my planning looks a lot more like his, but I did have to kind of do a little bit of that experimentation upfront. So I’m wondering though, before we dive any deeper. I’m wondering Jennifer, what have you thought about what sort of strategies and approaches have you been considering? Is there any sort of first steps that maybe you’ve taken or some ideas that you’re working on or thinking about as to how you might go about actually starting this process?

Jennifer L’Arri…: Well, the past couple years, the British Columbia Ministry of Education, the curriculum has really been overhauled. And so it lends itself now very much so to a spiraling type approach. Our students now don’t have a standardized test anymore. They basically need a numeracy and literacy assessment to graduate, but no more provincial exams. So the curriculum is much more learner focused and flexible. So with a focus on big ideas, core competencies, which are our learning intentions and standards. And so it really does lend itself well to this mixing of the curriculum. And so that’s a big bonus for us.

Jennifer L’Arri…: So for me, I’ve always gone with the big ideas as my overall. I have them posted in my room for each class that I teach. That’s where basically everything comes down to that, and they’re simple. So there’s two to three big ideas per course. So they’re very general. And that’s where I’m thinking that… As I said, I’ve chosen my workplace maths. It’s a new course for me this year, the grade 10s and 11s are taking, it’s actually two courses and one that I’m teaching together. But I think that their big ideas are quite similar.

Jennifer L’Arri…: So if I could just figure out a way of, I have been adding in three-act tasks and good warmups with numeracy, fluency and practice. So next time I do this, will I be searching for all this material again?

Jon Orr: I’m thinking what your activities might look like. You’re saying three-act math tasks in the workplace. You’re starting with some warmups at the beginning. So I guess the question is, how are you organizing this right now, thinking for your course? You said before that you started with a spreadsheet, but then you’re kind of lost and some of the tasks are taking up some time. Is it time that you’re needing or you’re looking for? I guess I’m trying to dive into where you’re getting lost on your planning part.

Jennifer L’Arri…: I decided go with, after looking through the different strategies on incorporating spiraling. I first began with dividing the units into spirals, and I would begin to mix those up with multiple connections. For me, making the multiple connections makes the most sense and that way tying together tasks that we’re working on to a variety of topics. And then those would easily be reflected in my learning intentions. So that’s for me is kind of my focus.

Jennifer L’Arri…: I do that in my biology classes and chemistry classes to make those multiple connections. So we’re moving away from the blocks or the units, and that seems to really be effective, and it makes a lot more sense to me. So it’s more of just, I think organizing that material, that my day to day planning is fine. It’s more of organizing the say semester. So what’s my semester going to look like. I know what my outcomes are and so forth, but how do I organize all that for next time?

Jon Orr: Oh, I got you. Okay. So what you’re thinking is like, “I think my lessons are good. I think I’m getting a lot of good outcomes with my day to day. However, how do I ensure that I’m meeting all of the expectations and will I meet all the expectations in time? And also how can I organize this so that I can look back on this for next semester or next year, and I don’t have to redo everything?” Does that summarize a little bit?

Jennifer L’Arri…: That’s exactly it.

Kyle Pearce: It’s interesting because, I’m sitting back here listening, I’m jotting down a few notes. And I think sometimes too, and we’ve mentioned this before, and I know you know this from the online workshops, so I’m not suggesting that this is your mindset. But for someone who’s listening at home, they might be wondering about, “Does spiraling mean that like day to day I have to be doing something completely different?”

Kyle Pearce: And I would argue that that probably wouldn’t be super helpful, to be almost too intensively spiraling. And so when we talk about kind of breaking down those units, we can still think of these little chunks, but maybe the chunks just aren’t as big as they used to be. So I’m wondering if you were thinking about your more traditional sort of unit one, unit two, all the way to unit six, seven, eight, however many units you would normally have, have you thought about even as a starting point, maybe even taking those number of units.

Kyle Pearce: If it’s eight, let’s say, and literally like shopping at like right at that middle point, and kind of working your way through? It’s like midway through, then kind of like shifting to that next unit, so that there’s still connectivity from day to day in these smaller chunks. And then it doesn’t feel as all over the place. Because I think a lot of people, we look at spiraling and we sort of have this vision in our mind of hitting the mixer or hitting the blender and just sort of tossing it in without any intentionality.

Kyle Pearce: For us, we sort of started there and we try to… Unless there was a real good reason for us to whip something else in there. We did try to keep some of that connectivity from day to day, because without it, sometimes it’s like, if we haven’t landed on understanding with an idea, if I move on to something else, I wonder how helpful that will be for the student, and whether they’ll make those connections that I was hoping for.

Kyle Pearce: So I’m curious, when you look at your current organization structure, can you imagine what that might look like or sound like if you were to take maybe that first step, and maybe take those units and sort of like partition them into two or maybe even three chunks? And then just in that order, string them along in that way? Or is there a hiccup there that maybe I’m not thinking or I’m unaware of from your current content?

Jennifer L’Arri…: No, that definitely makes sense. That’s kind of how I started this semester. And once I’ve touched on a topic… So once we worked through it and proficiency is developing, then what I’ve done is added that into… Bits of it into say a warmup and then moved on to the next. And then when I keep track of them, then I’m able to return to that topic again at a little bit deeper level. And perhaps with a new task or perhaps with a task that we have already touched on.

Jennifer L’Arri…: So one of the topics today, since my students were having quite a struggle with was just data analysis of graphs, for instance. So I’ve incorporated those into each warmup. We do a little tiny, two-minute analysis of a graph. That’s attention getting and fun, and that they can get comfortable with and get able to discuss and have an open discussion about the graph. So I have been working on that type of aspect as well, and I think it’s easy to switch back to the teaching in the units in the sense that, I know I’ve caught myself a few times, just in the sense that it is a little bit safer way to go in some ways, it’s easier to manage the content.

Jennifer L’Arri…: So it’s one of those things that I’ve been trying to work on just as far as spacing the content out and trying to mix it up as much as possible. But saying that, then I tend to return to a unit here and then so far. So I’m hoping to be able to not take on too much, but still make it applicable to the students and make it work.

Jon Orr: I like that approach that you’ve just described here, but it can be overwhelming to think overall that whole course. And I think what has helped me stay organized and also to think about how Kyle gave us that good tip about thinking about the course and chunking it up. Because I think we’ve discussed this here on the podcast lots of times, is that I think as long as we’re thinking about being intentional with our learning goals day to day, and getting our expectations out into the open.

Jon Orr: And when you feel good about that day going, “Yes, I achieved the expectation or we achieved the expectation that we are going with.” And you’re overall planning so that you can achieve those expectations on a regular basis, there’s nothing wrong with the way that we’re planning it. It’s like, “Do I chunk it up so that it’s by task?” Because sometimes we chunk it up by task and think about like, “Let’s dive into this task and then pull the learning from it.”

Jon Orr: Some people chunk them up by the way Kyle said it. So it’s like chop you in half and do some now, and then save some for later, so that we can revisit. As long as we teachers are thinking critically about what we’re doing with our class, there’s no really real wrong way that I think that we can do this. But there are some maybe tips that we can share with each other, that I think will make it easier for planning for the next semester.

Jon Orr: For example, the one thing that Kyle and I did right away when we started spiraling our courses for the first time, is we had each other. And that was one of the first projects that we worked on together, which is super helpful. Is if you can find someone else to kind of go through this with you, because you can bounce ideas off of them. You can share back and forth. And Kyle and I set up a Google doc, where we wrote in what we’re doing day to day and we chunked it off.

Jon Orr: We chunked off that we were doing… Let’s do some of these days on linear relations and let’s do some of these days on measurement and let’s do some of these days… And we started planning some of those overall goals to slot into those kind of chunks, and that Google doc became our way of organizing. And then also what was great about the Google doc and I still use these Google Docs today. Is that the Google doc became a way for you to look back on what you did this year or this semester. And either I like what I did or I’m going to change it, because it was day to day.

Jon Orr: So each entry in the Google doc or sort of the Google spreadsheet, I should be saying, like each row is a day. And we laid out what our learning goals were. Where does it fit in the strand? What are the notes for the lesson? What are the links that we need? Like you’ve described that you’re using maybe some of the tasks you’re finding online. We put in the link to those web pages, or if you’re using an open middle task or if you’re using, a would you rather math task found on, wouldyourathermath.com?

Jon Orr: We put the links right in there. And this Google spreadsheet now became this great organizing tool to plan out our day to day. But also the course, you could see it, the whole course at a glance. Because each row is just a day, but then multiple rows is the whole year and it saves there forever. And so when I went back to teach that same course, the next time, then it’s in that order and you’d be like, “You know what? I’ve taught it in this one order, but I’m not happy.”

Jon Orr: And sometimes we just have to go through it once, just to see what you want to reshape for next time. And I think that’s important that we do go through it once and try something, but then totally ready to, or reorganize if needed, the second time. And we do that anyway, when you’re teaching a course for the first or second time anyway. But I think the Google spreadsheet that we’ve used is been one of our most useful organizing tools. Kyle, what do you think about that?

Kyle Pearce: You know, I think one of the benefits as well for you and I, Jon not only was the Google Sheet, a nice dynamic way for us to make modifications both with kind of our big long range plan, but it also provided us an opportunity, a spot to provide ourselves with a place to put our reflections. So for me, I remember one of the biggest things, we adjusted that quite a bit from day to day based on what was happening in the classroom.

Kyle Pearce: And I think one of the biggest pieces, and I sort of touched on it a little earlier, but I want to be really clear on this finding a balance between introducing the big idea, the topic that we’re after today and spending enough time on it, so that there’s some residue there, something sticky that students will take with them. Because what I guess I worry about, and I think I did this early on when I started spiraling, was that if I hop around too much and too quickly, before students have really solidified and sort of owned the understanding. So there’s one thing for us to take up a task and for us to consolidate it.

Kyle Pearce: And for me to think kids actually understand what’s happening, but what did they actually hear during that consolidation? Did everyone really hear what I’m hoping they heard? How do I know what they heard? So am I doing some sort of consolidation journal or some sort of reflection for students? A ticket out the door so that I can actually look at it and figure out, where are students in this learning journey?

Kyle Pearce: And then that information, so my observations and conversations, should be influencing where we go next or whether we need to dig a little bit deeper here. So it’s almost like finding this happy, medium about digging into content deep enough, that there’s at least a bit of a hole in the ground. But not too deep where we’ve gone all the way to the bottom, and we’ve sort of like finished it all. And now some students who haven’t understood the content as deeply as some others, which happens oftentimes in more of like a traditional unit-based set up or framework.

Kyle Pearce: Where students will do all of chapter one and then we move on and we never come back to it. It’s finding this balance between diving deep enough that there’s still a mark, there’s a mark there. And when I come back to it, the mark is still there. It hasn’t sort of washed away yet, but it’s not deep enough where it’s like, “I’m lost and now I’ve missed out on this opportunity.” So it’s giving me a chance to come back to this content to dig a little deeper.

Kyle Pearce: But in doing so, you’re going to notice that some of that hole, some of that dig, we’ve taken a couple shovel fulls out of the ground and you can see it when you leave and you go to this new concept. But when you come back, you’re going to notice that the wind and the rain has kind of actually made that hole fill in a little bit. It’s kind of gone away a little bit and that’s the benefit of spiraling. This benefit is like, “Okay, that hole isn’t as deep anymore, that, some of that understanding has sort of faded away. And now I get an opportunity to resurface it a little bit and then dig even deeper.”

Kyle Pearce: So it’s like finding this balance between how many times do I want to come back to a topic, and does it have to be a full blown lesson? Or can I do some of this work doing some of the things you’re already doing Jennifer. Which is some of your warmup tasks, some days it might be related to yesterday’s task, other days it might be related to something we did two or three weeks ago, right? To kind of check out that hole that we started digging. Let’s see where we’re at.

Kyle Pearce: Has that hole been completely filled in? Meaning students have forgotten some of the content, or all of the content, and it’s almost like it never happened. Or is there still a little bit of that hole there and we can sort of go back and we can dig or either make sure that that hole is as deep as it was. Or maybe we can dig even deeper with it and find this balance so that we’re doing a little bit of the space practice, but we’re also making sure the connections are deep enough before we move on.

Kyle Pearce: Does any of that resonate with you? Like, are you kind of visualizing what that might look like or sound like based on how… If let’s say we were talking about your workplace class and kind of visualizing that long range plan, which is probably in units? And if you were to kind of look at that and go, “You know what? Every three or four days, or maybe it’s every five days. If it’s maybe every week, I’m trying to get this idea of flipping the switch to something new, but we’re not leaving it forever. And maybe I’m going to insert some of this past information in throughout, and then we’ll dive even deeper in a few weeks as well.” What are you thoughts on that so far?

Jennifer L’Arri…: Definitely the idea I think of developing the balance. I liked your analogy of just the hole filling in. How many times to return and whether or not I’ve done enough consolidation to make sure that they do in fact have that information. And I think that’s an area that I certainly need to work more on. So whether it be the exit ticket review of some sort. But it’s that whether I’m maybe moving about a little too much and being a little bit more intentional I think, on follow up and whether or not that they are in fact ready to move on.

Jon Orr: Right. Right. And I think one of those big pieces, as well is like, there is such a big difference and I’m still really myself working on this and trying to be cognizant and aware that this is happening. But for so long I would cover stuff. And I thought that that was good enough, but it’s really about the students, them owning it. Right? So how do I know that they’re at a place where now they’re owning it?

Jon Orr: I used to show lots of connections, but it was me doing all the showing and the telling, but it wasn’t necessarily the students who were owning those representations or those connections. So even sometimes when we work really hard to let’s say spiral it, so that it’s like, “Okay, we’re going to come back to this idea. We’re going to come back to that one. We’re going to spend a few days on this one and we’re going to make sure that we’re spacing out all of this practice.”

Jon Orr: But until students are actually owning it themselves, if I’m doing all the work workup here, then it’s like me, who’s owning it. Right? And it’s great that I now have all these connections and I can see how they’re all connected. But if students in my classroom aren’t, then it could be all for not as well. Right? So it’s kind of this idea of, I’ve got to find some way, whether it is those tickets out the door consolidation journals, to figure out who heard what, and what does this mean for me and my plan?

Jon Orr: So I might’ve planned that, “Hey, I’m going to spend a week on this idea, and then I’m going to spiral off to a different concept, to maybe the next concept that I had planned.” But you might find out that maybe you only needed three days this time around, right? To get enough of that impact that you want to move on, or it might be the opposite. Maybe you do need an extra day. Like you thought it would be this many days, but it’s going to be a little bit more.

Jon Orr: And I think that flexibility is something that we typically in the education space aren’t super comfortable with, because we’ve been trained to have our long range plans and scopes and sequences and all of these things. But in reality, we have to be moving at the speed of learning, not at the speed of our curriculum or of our pacing guide or whatever that might be.

Jennifer L’Arri…: Definitely. I completely agree with you. And I think it was in one of the workshops that you discussed, to make sure that the students really… We had a good grasp on what their previous knowledge and understanding was. And that was a really good one for me to hear. Because sometimes we do jump in and we’re ready to do some exciting new tasks and they’re really not ready yet. So I think that’s an accurate point for sure.

Jon Orr: Right. And that lesson, I think you’re referring to is one of our lessons where we say it’s in our assessment part of our workshop, are we ready to proceed or are we pivoting? Do we pivot back to keep talking about this idea, or are we ready to proceed? In the assessment part of the workshop, because we have to listen to who are what our students are telling us. What assessment techniques are we putting into place, so that we can learn from them to decide, are they ready? And that’s that whole formative assessment piece. If they’re not ready. What do we do instead, if they’re not ready?

Kyle Pearce: We do have to be hyper aware. We have to understand what our kids bringing to the table. And if they aren’t, let’s say where I’m hoping they would be right now, and if they aren’t there, now the hard work is, what is that piece in the middle here that is missing? If they’re not ready to access where I was hoping, the tasks that I was going to give them today, and I know this, now I have to do this hard work again of like, “Ooh, geez, what’s this gap filler? What’s going to be the task that… Am I taking a current task and am I going to modify it?

Kyle Pearce: Am I going to lower the floor even more so, to make sure that we can kind of give them the experience, they need that missing experience? Or that maybe it’s an experience they’ve had, but it’s been so long that they haven’t retained it.” So now I’ve got to figure out, “Okay, what is that magic piece that I’m going to do? Because if I don’t focus on that, then that gap will never be filled and they’ll never be ready to move on to that next place.”

Kyle Pearce: So yeah, you’ve kind of brought some of these other challenges that isn’t just spiraling related because I mean, these are challenges that we’re facing regardless of how we organize our course. But they are really important pieces that we definitely want to be reflective on. So I’m wondering at this point, and we’ll start wrapping up here in just a few minutes here, Jennifer. But I’m wondering, are there any takeaways that you’ve taken away from this conversation so far? And if so, what might be a next step for you as you continue along this journey, and you look to take a bite out of this challenge and problem of practice that you’re working on right now?

Jennifer L’Arri…: I think the biggest takeaway for me right now is a couple of things. I do like the idea of finding the balance more so between the moving ahead too quickly and ensuring we know what the students have learned. So the consolidation part. So that’s something I’m going to for sure and focus on. And I do like the idea as well of back to the Google spreadsheet too. I think Jon mentioned each row being a separate day, and maybe I was going at it more going by topic or learning intention.

Jennifer L’Arri…: So I might change that around now and have a look at, if I can just go with each day and then adding in my tasks and links and so forth. And then I do really like the piece about having the reflections right on there. I think that’s really important to do.

Jon Orr: We’ve through a link in the chat box here on the podcast. You can have a look at my workplace math. I also teach the workplace math here in Ontario. So I threw that link in there. And also we’ll put that link up on the show notes page. I mean, if you’re listening, you can just head over to where I have many different spreadsheets for the different courses that I’ve been teaching. You can go to makemathmoments.com/peek. That’s makematsmoments.com/peek, which is like peek into my classroom. There’s some resources there to see what I’ve been doing in my classroom.

Jon Orr: So the one I sent to you, Jennifer is the workplace math. It’s got to the way that Kyle and I have organized our courses on that spreadsheet by day, by day. You can have a glimpse at that for sure. We want to thank you for joining us here on the podcast. And we’d love to bring you back on the show nine months, maybe next year, to see what you’re up to, see any of the new changes or next steps you put into place. Would you be up to coming back on and chatting with us in the future?

Jennifer L’Arri…: Oh, definitely. This has been such a highlight. I find the whole community, just a great sense of collaboration. I really appreciate everything both of you have done for opening up the math world to many of us teachers who perhaps math wasn’t our initial area of teaching. So I really do appreciate that.

Kyle Pearce: Well, you know what, Jennifer, that means a great deal to us. One of our big missions is trying to essentially provide high quality PD in any way we can possibly do so for teachers around the world. And we are so happy that we’ve had the opportunity to do some learning with you both through the podcast, but also through the online workshop and the academy. We want to thank you so much for joining us, being vulnerable enough to come on the show, share your current problem of practice, because we all are working on some problem of practice. So why not team up and work on it together?

Kyle Pearce: So thank you so much for sharing with us, and I am super excited to follow your journey here over the next school year, and hopefully we’ll be able to bring you back on.

Jennifer L’Arri…: Well, thank you very much.

Jon Orr: Thank you, Jennifer.

Kyle Pearce: Have a great night. We’ll talk to you soon, Jennifer. All right Math Moment Makers as always both Jon and I learned so much from these math mentoring moment episodes. But as we all know, in order to ensure we hang onto this new learning, so it doesn’t wash away like footprints in the sand, we must reflect on what we’ve learned. An excellent way to ensure this learning sticks is to reflect and create a plan for yourself to take action on something you’ve learned here today.

Jon Orr: A great way to hold yourself accountable is to write it down or even better, share it with someone, your partner, a colleague, or with the Math Moment Maker Community, by commenting on the show notes page or tagging us at makemathmoments on all social media. Or jump over into our free private Facebook group Math Moment Makers K-12.

Kyle Pearce: All right. And as we mentioned in the beginning, we want to remind you that if you’re listening to this before May 29th, 2020, then you’re cutting it close for joining us for our self-paced, 12-week full online workshop experience.

Jon Orr: Our workshop is designed to walk you through step by step to help you teach through real world problems and create those resilient problem-solvers you are after.

Kyle Pearce: If you’re interested in learning more about registering, be sure to check out, makemathmoments.com/onlineworkshop. And if you’re listening after the summer 2020 registration closes this May 29th, you can still head to makemathmoments.com/onlineworkshop to join the waiting list. So that you’re notified first when the next opportunity to participate comes up.

Jon Orr: That’s right head over to makemathmoments.com/onlineworkshop.

Kyle Pearce: Are you interested in joining us for an upcoming Math Mentoring Moment episode, where you share a big math class struggle? Apply over at makemathmoments.com/mentor, that is makemathmoments.com/mentor.

Jon Orr: In order to ensure you don’t miss out on new episodes as they come out each week, be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform.

Kyle Pearce: Show notes and links to resources from this episode can be found at makemathmoments.com/episode 78. That’s makemathmoments.com/episode78. Well, my friends until next time I’m Kyle Pearce.

Jon Orr: And I’m Jon Orr. High fives for us, and high five for you.

Start your school year off right by downloading the guide that you can save and print to share with colleagues during your next staff meeting, professional learning community meeting or just for your own reference!



In our six module (16 week) online workshop you’ll learn how to build and adjust your own lessons that engage students, build deeper understanding of math, and promote resilience in problem solving.


We’ll release one module each week for the first 6 weeks. Then you’ll have another 10 weeks to work through the content ON YOUR SCHEDULE!
LEARN MORE about our Online Workshop: Making Math Moments That Matter: Helping Teachers Build Resilient Problem Solvers. https://makemathmoments.com/onlineworkshop

Thanks For Listening

To help out the show:


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *