Updated: Aug 1, 2020
It’s hard to believe we have reached the end of course 1, and even harder to believe that there’s less than 3 months until the end of another school year. I know that it sounds cheesy, but I’m starting to appreciate that old adage about time going by faster each year. Perhaps that’s because reflection has been so embedded in the COETAIL experience or maybe it’s because I’ve put a mindfulness practice on the front burner, but either way, it’s crazy. The other day I thought back to my very first year as an educator and remembered all of those insecurities and misunderstandings I had about teaching and learning. I can’t tell you how glad I am to stand here today with a clearer sense of purpose and identity as an educator!
Anyway, as part of the current stage of the journey, we were challenged to design an authentic learning experience through the Understanding by Design (UbD) planning framework that reaches content and technology standards (ISTE) for both the teacher and students. I have to admit that, like most projects I undertake, I probably could have scaled it back a bit and chosen a shorter unit. But alas, here we are in the final week of COETAIL, and it just so happened to coincide with a math unit that was the perfect guinea pig for the course.
The topic of decimals is part of the Grade 4 CCSS math standards we use at my current school and it follows the fraction unit that just finished last week, so it felt like a natural choice because I started looking at it a few weeks back and working with my grade level team to unpack some of it together at the same time I started planning this COETAIL project. Additionally, the unit lends itself nicely to authentic and real-world learning, which is fundamental to the UbD process. While I have been a 4th grade teacher, it’s been many years, so the previous learning experiences have essentially been created from scratch this go ‘round. But consultation with my 4th grade counterpart has given me a nice understanding of what things have been successful in our school context over the last 2 years that she’s been in the role.
Another reason I chose this unit is because I have been particularly uninspired in my math practices lately. It’s been hard to tackle all of the content with the same passion and zest, and math has been taking the hit since I stepped in to take over. Some of the considerations I made when starting this unit were:
How can I bring more student agency into math?
In what ways can I challenge students to apply the math concepts they’re learning?
In what ways am I scaffolding learning tasks and pushing their thinking?
What purpose does technology support in math instruction and learning?
The culminating project for this course has been similar to other units I’ve planned in that we use a similar planning template and we work backwards from learning goals in a UbD format. However, many new COETAIL influences have helped shape the way I designed this unit. For example, including ISTE standards as part of the process has not been something I’ve intentionally done before, but something I see as invaluable to crafting the learning experiences. Another Course 1 influence has been on helping students make connections. These connections take many forms; connecting with classmates in higher-order thinking discussions in number talks, connecting their conceptual understandings with real-world math application, and connection to me through conferencing and feedback sessions.
Link to Plan in Google Slides
Full disclosure: I started teaching this unit on Monday and this plan is very much a living, breathing part of the math unit for the next 3 weeks. So, while you will find the first sections completed, the last part will be updated and changed daily to reflect the learning taking place in my room. It’s my hope that students can collectively move toward mastery of the content skills but also, I hope to engage the reluctant students by giving them some choice in their learning. Additional reflections and update will be added along with artifacts, so feel free to follow along, comment, or add any insights you think might help me on this journey.
Signing off until next time,