Thursday / April 25

I’ve got The 5 Practices in Practice, Now What?

Psst… Have you read the first post in this two-part series? Learn how to put the 5 practices in practice to move beyond the challenges!

With this month’s release of the high school volume, teachers across the K-12 spectrum now have access to video, narrative cases, tasks, and student work that unpack how the practices unfold in their grade band. This set of books answers the call we have heard for nearly a decade from teachers for vivid images of the 5 Practices being used in real classrooms and support for overcoming the common challenges in implementing the ambitious teaching that the 5 Practices frame.

With these tools in hand that take a deep dive into Setting Goals and Selecting Tasks, Anticipating, Monitoring, Selecting, Sequencing, and Connecting, we’d like to share some thoughts about how to work with your colleagues to implement the 5 practices and advance instruction in your school and district.

Why should we work with these ideas?

The 5 Practices model requires time and energy to implement. Why take on such an endeavor? To start, the 5 Practices provide practical guidance for creating a discourse-rich classroom. Developing opportunities for students to share their mathematical ideas with peers and with the teacher and building on those ideas during instruction can be challenging work, but the 5 Practices have been shown to help! The 5 Practices also support an equitable mathematics classroom, in which all students are positioned as capable learners with ideas worth listening to and examining. Nothing is more important than making sure our classrooms are places where all students have the access to the mathematics under investigation. Teachers with whom we have worked have consistently reported being better able to reach more of their students as they engage with the 5 Practices work. Finally, the 5 Practices align with ideas that you’re likely already working on in your district, like implementing the NCTM effective mathematics teaching practices, strengthening student discourse in your classroom, and supporting students to be mathematical reasoners and problem solvers.

While every district is different, we are all invested in supporting students to learn mathematics in ways that will be durable and useful in their lives. The 5 Practices can be a valuable resource as you work to do so.

[A]t the end of the day, the work of the five practices will bring the largest opportunities for all students to show progress from their current level and will outweigh typical stand-and-deliver instruction. –Jen Mossotti, middle grades mathematics teacher, Syracuse, NY

Choosing a focus

Transforming teaching doesn’t happen after a 90-minute PLC meeting. Really bringing the 5 Practices to life in your classroom is a long journey!  It may feel daunting to figure out where to get started. One strategy that we’ve seen teachers use in PLCs is to start with the list of challenges across all the practices. Which challenges resonate with you?  Which challenges do you feel like you are meeting, or on your way to meeting? Which ones stand out as tall orders?  Asking teachers to keep those challenges as the focal points for their work can help keep things grounded and manageable.

It’s also important to focus on selecting strong tasks. Without a rich task, the rest of the 5 Practices work falls flat!  If your curriculum doesn’t have them, there are suggestions in the books for where to find them. If you’re already working with rich tasks in your school, take things to the next level and start sharing lesson plans and student work as you and your colleagues work through making the 5 Practices come to life.

Sharing with the Community

When math teaching changes in your classroom or at your school, it’s important to make sure everyone in the community knows what you and your colleagues doing (and why!) right from the start. One community that is often interested are parents! Here are some talking points as you share the journey with your parent community:

  • We all share the same goal – supporting your student in learning math in ways that are meaningful and will support their future goals
  • The 5 Practices rest on a foundation of decades of research and is consistent with recommendations from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics on effective teaching.
  • Teachers have been working to implement the 5 Practices for over a decade and they’ve seen positive results with students from diverse backgrounds
  • There may be more discussion and different perspectives on how to solve problems, but at the end of the day we’re committed to bringing the important ideas together

Inviting parents (as well as other teachers in your building) into your classroom as you do this work is a fabulous way to build a shared understanding of the changes you’re making to your mathematics classroom. Having allies inside the building and out can make a big difference!

We can’t wait to hear what you do with the 5 Practices in Practice! Please reach out to us as you take up these ideas and share with us how it’s going. These books wouldn’t exist without the feedback we’ve collected from teachers over the past ten years!

The 5 Practices in Practice: Successfully Orchestrating Mathematics Discussions in Your Middle School Classroom (Smith & Sherin, April 2019)

The 5 Practices in Practice: Successfully Orchestrating Mathematics Discussions in Your Elementary School Classroom (Smith, Bill & Sherin, September 2019)

The 5 Practices in Practice: Successfully Orchestrating Mathematics Discussions in Your High School Classroom (Smith, Steele & Sherin, March 2020)

Written by

Margaret (Peg) Smith is a Professor Emerita at University of Pittsburgh. Over the past two decades she has been developing research-based materials for use in the professional development of mathematics teachers. She has authored or coauthored over 90 books, edited books or monographs, book chapters, and peer-reviewed articles including the best seller Five Practices for Orchestrating Productive Discussions (co-authored with Mary Kay Stein). She was a member of the writing team for Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All and she is a co-author of two new books (Taking Action: Implementation Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices Grades 6-8 & 9-12) that provide further explication of the teaching practices first describe in Principles to Actions. She was a member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (2001-2003; 2003 – 2005), of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2006-2009), and of Teachers Development Group (2009 – 2017). Victoria Bill is a former elementary and middle school mathematics teacher. She is currently a Fellow and lead of the mathematics team with the Institute for Learning at the Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh. She has been designing and facilitating professional development with administrators, coaches and teachers in urban districts for more than 20 years. She also develops curriculum, intervention materials and performance-based assessments. Bill was the Co-Pi on a collaborative research project between researchers from the LRDC, the IFL, and the Tennessee Department of Education in which an instructional Mathematics Coaching Model was developed. Bill regularly speaks at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, National Supervisors of Mathematics, and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Research Conferences. She is co-author of the NCTM best seller Taking Action: Implementing Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices Grades k-5. Michael D. Steele is a Professor of Mathematics Education and Chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is currently the President-Elect of the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators. A former middle and high school mathematics and science teacher, Dr. Steele has worked with preservice secondary mathematics teachers, practicing teachers, administrators, and doctoral students across the country for the past two decades. He has published several books and journal articles focused on supporting mathematics teachers in enacting research-based effective mathematics teaching practices. He is the co-author of NCTM’s Taking Action: Implementing Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices in Grades 6-8 and Mathematics Discourse in Secondary Classrooms, two research-based professional development resources for secondary mathematics teachers. He is also the author of A Quiet Revolution: One District’s Story of Radical Curricular Change in Mathematics, a resource focused on reforming high school mathematics teaching and learning. Miriam Sherin is Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education and the Alice Gabrielle Twight Professor of Learning Sciences at Northwestern University. Her research interests include mathematics teaching and learning, teacher cognition, and the role of video in supporting teacher learning. Sherin investigates the nature and dynamics of teacher noticing, and in particular, the ways in which teachers identify and interpret student thinking during instruction. She is the author of The Five Practices in Practice for both Elementary and Middle School, and The On-Your-Feet Guide to Orchestrating Mathematics Discussions.

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