I frequently pick up books to read…for school, for pure fun, for personal growth, etc…but rarely finish them as promptly as I buy them. This has been a trend for the last 10 years. I guess I’m not good at setting aside time to just read. I hop on my computer, or get on my phone, or watch TV, or sleep….or spend time with my kids ;). This summer I decided to take Jo Boaler’s How to Learn Math course online. When registering for the class, I saw she recommends reading a book to supplement it. I went ahead and bought it, and promptly read 30 or so pages of it. I thought I was doing great! But then, old habits crept back. Oh, and we had a 3 day workshop with two math consultants for our district. They were using Making Sense: teaching and learning mathematics with understanding as the core of our workshop. What I LOVED about this is they built time into every day for us to read DURING the workshop. I was forced to read, and take notes on, the book! It was great!!! While, I haven’t finished the book completely (there are a few chapters that are vignettes of actual classrooms…but all are elementary classrooms and I teach high school), it was a fulfilling and enriching exercise. I got so much out of it!
While trying to push myself to read, the good ole MTBoS was doing this great thing that helps keep teachers somewhat accountable…some book chats! I noticed some were reading 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions . It turns out one of my colleagues ordered the book for school. She read it, and then passed it along to me. In order to participate in the book chat, I had catching up to do…I am FINALLY ready to be a part of the book chat on Twitter this week…even though there are only a couple more chapters to go. It also turns out that Margaret (Peg) Smith was the first keynote speaker of the NCTM Institute for HS teachers that I attended last week in Washington DC. I hadn’t researched the speakers ahead of time, and didn’t recognize her name when I saw her on the agenda. But when I settled in for the first morning, I did a quick Google search and realized that she wrote this book that I had just started!! What an exciting surprise! She was a great speaker, and I will write more about that this week as I reflect on the Institute (which really was fabulous…though maybe not as fabulous as #tmc13 that I missed out on). I am excited to interact in this format and really hope someone gets a new one going after this. Being in a small school, there aren’t many people with whom to do things like this with, and the wonderful MTBoS is so large, it allows for these types of things, and while you feel accountable to them, you don’t feel like you’re a terrible person if you can’t join 100% of the time.
My latest summer read has been Mathematics Formative Assessment: 75 Practical Strategies for Linking Assessment, Instruction, and Learning. I don’t remember who I first found this through, but I put it on my Christmas list last year and got it! Since we drove (yes, 12ish hours with stops) to DC and back, that gave me quite a bit of time to get several chapters of a couple of books in. I was able to get through the first three chapters of the book, which is all about how to use the assessment strategies given. Though it was tempting to jump to the strategies, I found it was very beneficial to read the first three chapters that framed how to better assess in the classroom. This tied in well to what Dylan Wiliam, author of Embedded formative assessment, had to say during his keynote at the NCTM Institute (yes…another surprise since I hadn’t really looked ahead of time to see who the keynotes were). Oh, and there’s a book chat on his book going on Twitter right now, too!! So the 75 FACTs are challenging me, as are Wiliam’s words, to do a better job of assessing as I teach to INFORM my instruction and not just evaluate as an end piece. What I love about this book is the practical ideas it gives. I glanced through the 75 FACTs and saw I have done, or knew about several, but it gives me better ideas of how to use them, and gives me so many more tools to pull from my toolbox. I can’t wait to start implementing!
So…long enough post, with little reflection on the actual books. I will try and do a little more summarizing later. My point is this…I chalk the Summer of 2013 up as a win in the professional reading arena. I must give some credit where credit is due…on my own these books probably would have just sat and gathered dust. 1) Al Otto and Cheryl Lubinski—these were our math consultants who did the workshop in our district and provided time to read! 2) One of the teacher’s I work with…she’s devouring books this summer and has pushed me to do the same. 3) Long road trips…I have been in a car from central IL to Orlando (and back) and from central IL to DC (and back). I feel like I have a better frame of mind to start this school year, and am in a much better position to make the changes that need to be made to facilitate a more mathematical classroom. 4) The opportunity to interact with others doing the same thing I am: whether at our school’s workshop, the MTBoS, or my colleague, I have been surrounded by people doing the same thing I am. The accountability and encouragement is what has really driven me. To see I am not alone in trying to further myself and become a better teacher has been super encouraging!