Vertical Alignment Cluster Talks

Yesterday was our district-wide curriculum day with secondary math teachers. Every year we hold this at one of our high school campuses, but due to the circumstances, we turned the day virtual. With over 300 teachers, it was a daunting task, but I was so proud of the work we put into making the day a success and was inspired by the conversations with teachers throughout the day. Our second session was focused on vertical alignment, which is something I have been excited to discuss as many teachers have expressed a desire to talk outside of their bubble of grade level teams, and become more united and clear on student learning progressions. We, as a district (with teacher and district collaboration), have determined power standards, but we wanted this discussion to highlight these essentials and allow teachers to find connections among them. We had originally planned for clusters (middle and high schools) to create posters showing how their courses and essentials align over time, but in making it virtual, we transformed the session using a variety of digital platforms.

Interacting with the Learning Target Using Zoom Chat

To begin, we had teachers rank themselves on the learning target (below) by typing in the Zoom chat a 1-5. This was a great way for us to gauge the foundational knowledge of the group and overall, I saw most were around a 2-3 in their understanding.

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Next, we set the stage with a video by Mike Mattos, Getting Insanely Clear on What Students Need to Learn, in which he talks about the need for essentials and vertical alignment to know where students are coming from and where they are going.

The Task

We then moved into 5 different Zoom breakout rooms with various strands of content and tasked teachers with 5 intentional questions as conversation starters to uncover the connections (see below).

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To do this in our new virtual setting, we supplied breakout teams with a GoogleDoc (above) of those questions for each content to speak to and also asked everyone to select and rename themselves with a role (see below). As I have been in a breakout rooms over the past few weeks, I have noticed I am always feeling anxious wondering who will talk first or how I should play a part in the conversation, especially in a room where I don’t know many people. So, I reached out to Kelly Harmon to use her team roles that we had used in one of her PDs. But after talking with her, we knew we needed to rewrite them with specific wording for our digital space and came up with the template below (click to download). It was exciting to hear more voices and direction when I popped into rooms as a host. The conversation stayed focus and all teams were able to complete the task, ensuring it aligned to the target of preparing students as their knowledge builds in each course .

5 Zoom Team Roles (1)

Reflections Using Ideaboardz and Zoom Chat

Finally, after coming back together whole group and sharing out, we asked teachers to record their learning on an Ideaboardz (one of my new favorite tools I learned this summer thanks to a group I joined under Jim Knight). The comments were powerful as teachers expressed their deeper understanding of how their courses aligned, the need for using correct mathematical vocabulary, and knowing how to access prior knowledge with their students.

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Finally, we asked teachers to refer back to the learning target and rate themselves now based on how prepared they are to use vertical alignment in their planning and instruction. Most shared out a 4 or 5 which was exciting to see the growth and confidence from our work together.

Screen Shot 2020-08-13 at 2.59.59 PM I look forward to seeing the evidence of this session throughout this year and continuing the conversation with teachers!

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