Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Week 1 in Math - My Motivations & Understanding Expectations with Students

What, Why and Where

I am finally embarking on my vision of a "gradeless" classroom. What does that mean? It means that my students will receive feedback that is feedback-based. Learning becomes about learning. Grades take a step back and are determine for reporting periods.

Why am I going here? I am giving the ownership of learning back to my students. For too long I have been the owner of the learning. It was believed that the teacher "gave" marks and students always wanted to know what they needed to "do" to get an 80. The shift is simple - I give feedback based on set criteria that students need to work toward and they reflect on their learning and act on a next step to meet those criteria. 

Where am I now? In the past 2-3 years I have done some work with creating overarching learning goals and reformatting evaluations (i.e. taking marks off of quizzes, using one-point rubrics to give feedback, etc.). Ultimately these changes have led me to need to go to a fully feedback-based classroom so that I can focus on doing this well. So this year (my grade 10 classes in particular) will learn math through feedback based on 5 overarching learning goals.

Our First Few Days

After spending a period on vertical surfaces solving a problem in groups we started to attack the curriculum. I wanted students to have a chance to find out what the curriculum was and to understand the lens through which the curriculum is taught. In fact, I wanted them to own it.

The Math Processes - the lens through which the Ontario math curriculum is taught

Students were in 7 groups of 3-4 students and each group was assigned to one of the processes. They were tasked with rewriting their process in their own words. I gave them two prompting questions to consider to help with the process: What does it mean? What will it look like in class?

Groups then rotated around and had a chance to add or suggest changes to the work of the other groups. When they returned to their own group they were to look at the suggestions made and decide on their final sentence - sharing their final work in a shared document.

As a group we looked at the final sentences which was my chance to ask them questions about their choices of words. This lead to us making some changes (I tried to make sure we were keeping as much of their wording as possible) and agreeing as a class that we understood what it looked like.

Overall Expectations - the content

Students were given the curriculum for one of the strands of the course and were tasked with rewriting the overall expectations in their own words. When they were finished I had the groups working on the same strand get together and come to an agreement before sharing it on our shared doc. We then looked at it as a class.

With my second section I made a better point of talking about the language in the document, defining words they needed and talked about what words were important to leave in.

Learning Map - putting them together

I reworded my overarching learning goals to use the students words from the above and then shared my learning map with the students. The 5 goals on this map are where we will focus our attention for the semester. Instead of having 7 processes and 10 overall expectations students how have 5 goals to manage and reflect on.


While I am at a school where deconstructing curriculum is not new to grade 10 students it was their first time doing it with math "jargon" so the struggle was largely around the vocabulary used. When I do this again with students who are new to this process in math I would spend time at the start looking at math and instructional vocabulary and make sure that we know what they mean and which ones are important to keep.


  1. Thanks for sharing your journey Heather! I will be following with interest.

    1. You are welcome. Thanks for the comment!