I, like my colleague Carina Stillman, had the incredible opportunity to collaborate with the kind of teachers I strive to be like every day one weekend in January. The Washington Core Advocates Convening in Seattle was one of the best professional development experiences I’ve participated in in a long time! In fact, I didn’t realized I was missing a late season Seahawks game until halftime!
My focus for the weekend was in math. It was in those math meetings that I found one of the most powerful and free resources for math instructors.
Even before CCSS, I remember the work being done to try to structure student learning for longer than just one year. As teachers, we’re validated in knowing that we’re preparing students for the future. However, with the adoption of the CCSS, vertical alignment has become even more important. The ultimate goal of creating ‘college and career ready’ requires that a definition of this readiness be created and backwards planning occurs to create a sequence from kindergarten through high school to get students there.
Over time the vertical alignment work, as I’ve known it, has consisted of planning vocabulary lists and assigning grade levels responsibility for teaching particular terminology, deciding on building wide algorithms to be used, and making lists of materials that might be shared among us. These types of work were beneficial – particularly for myself as a teacher. The more time I spent reading, exploring and discussing standards with my own grade level and those around me, the more I internalized exactly what I needed to teach.
In January, however, I found that Student Achievement Partners have been doing this work in a much more powerful way. On top of it, they’ve even labeled the work more effectively. The Coherence Map is my new go-to tool in vertical alignment. This continually improving tool uses a set of several arrows to show how CCSS math standards connect across grade levels and domains. This is powerful information for 3 reasons:
1) Alignment starts within a grade level. Having a clear understanding of the connections between domains allows a teacher to teach multiple standards in more relevant and rigorous ways.
2) Knowing the building blocks prior to the current learning, as well as for future learning, allows for standards to be interpreted in a more accurate way.
3) Interventions can be more effective if the gaps in learning can clearly identified. Using the Coherence Map gives a clear path of of learning. Following the path backwards allows a teacher to identify what ‘stop’ (or standard) is the point of misconception.
I still believe the work we’ve all done with standards before has been powerful. However, I realize that this work has much more to do with coherence and much less to do with making a perfectly linear pathway of learning. This work has much more to do with coherence and much less to do with organized supply rooms labeled by grade level. This work has much more to do with coherence and much less to do with resources lists.
Student Achievement Partners has done tremendous work in creating a map for teachers. My focus has shifted since learning about this tool to connecting instruction and using collaboration time to agree on best practices for teaching.
What do you think about the Coherence Map?
I grew up here in Western Washington, wanting to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. As the oldest child in my family, I had plenty of opportunities to "practice" teaching my younger siblings. I enjoyed this. They may not have. :) When I'm not working, I enjoy outdoor activities with my husband and our two Australian Shepherds (whom are far too spoiled for their own good!). I also love spending time with my family, being an auntie (to the cutest kids ever to grace this planet!), hosting dinner parties for friends, crafting, taking photographs and shopping.