Tuesday, July 24, 2018

My #TMC18 Morning Session

A few years ago, my colleague, Kathy Campbell, @kd5campbell and I heard Alex Overwijk @alexoverwijk speak about vertical white boards #vnps.

At our first TMC, #TMC16, Kathy heard him speak again on the subject and we both decided to make it our #1TMCthing for the school year of 2016-2017.  We went to Home Depot and bought the 4x8 feet shower boards, super strong velcro, command strips, and duct tape for the edges and we outfitted our rooms.  We started teaching with it here and there that school year. We loved it so much, Kathy and I wrote a grant to the HEF, the Hopkinton Education Foundation, and received the grant.  It allowed us to buy permanent whiteboards and materials for our classrooms!  Thank you HEF!

At our second TMC, #TMC17, we presented on Going Vertical: Our First Year Experience with Whiteboards in an hour session.  We loved sharing together because it really lent itself to conversations both ways, us talking in the session, but also great ideas coming from our session participants.

In school year, 2017-2018, I was to teach Accelerated Geometry.  I taught Geometry years ago and was excited to try VNPS in this class.  I went into it trying to find situations where oral directions from the teacher and students standing at the board would provide opportunities to discover geometry and practice it.  Not every lesson used VNPS, not even every unit.  I might sit down and try it and it just didn't fit, or it would take too much precious time to describe where direct teaching might be better.  Often, I would look at the section in the book, the content, the vocab, and the example problems and just change them to oral directions with kids at the boards.  Totally different experience than sitting individually at their desks.  The oral directions allowed the students entry into the problem.  With everyone at the board, the fishbowl takes effect and I can see all their work and they can see each other's work.  Mistakes can be caught and discussed early rather than repeated without knowing it is wrong.  The conversations are priceless.

As I began to teach the class this way, I knew I wanted to share the next step in my thinking classroom at TMC, so Kathy and I proposed to do a morning session at #TMC18.  She hasn't taught Geometry in a long time, but we share rooms and I taught that class in her room so she got to experience it as well.  And, it turns out she is teaching it next year.  She got a preview!  Our proposal was accepted.

I would often take pictures of my students' board work and then blog about it.  Having my scripts, student work pictures, and blog posts really help me put my session together.

Kathy and I worked on the presentation at the end of the school year.  We had three mornings, 2 hours each, from 9:30-11:30 am to really dig in and share.  Our plan was to have them right up to the boards doing problems on Day 1.  On Day 2, we would analyze.  I showed them a video of my Alg 2 class doing the Law of Cosines at the board.  I had every intention of videotaping my Geometry classes this year, but it just didn't happen.  We also discussed how we bought the whiteboards first, then got the grant for the boards.  On Day 3, we wanted to flip the class.  We would have the participants brainstorm ideas for which they wanted to create a lesson and then give them time to go through that process and finally, they would read them scripted lesson to their classmates to practice being the teacher.

I will admit, I was nervous/stressed/anxious, all of the above.  It was just the not knowing.  We didn't know how many people would be in our session.  I had planned 4 problems for the 1st day and 4 for the second.  Would it be too much, too little.  Well, thank goodness, it all went so perfectly if I say so myself.

We had 10 people in our session.  This lent it so well to great conversations.  We had them take a survey first thing to see what they were bringing to the session - how long, if at all, have they been teaching geometry, and have they done whiteboards.  Here are the results:

2.) How many years have you been teaching Geometry:
9, 6, 20, 11, 12, 8, 3, 8, 10, and have in the past and will again this year.
Look at those numbers!  Remember, me - 2 years, Kathy 0 years, presenting to these people with years of experience!  But, we kept in mind, they chose to come to our session to learn about VNPS.

3.). Was to explain their interest in the session.


Day 1: We went through this Google Slide 1 with links to the 4 problems.
We came up with our own hashtag #vnpsgeo.  If you happen to use VNPS with Geometry this year, please use it so we can all share.
It was a classroom of Geometry teachers with TIME - imagine that.  We could talk about what is important to us.  I am pretty picky with notations - is it a lower or upper case A?  Do you need arrowheads?  If I state the units as inches, do they have to write inches every single time?  To some teachers this important, to others, not so much.  One thing I learned at a conference a while ago, if you mind, it matters.  I go by that rule.
We had such great conversations that I just don't have the time to have during the school year.  Kathy and I were learning from them as well.  Each of the teachers chimed in on how they have taught that lesson and how they might be able to change it to oral and vertical.  They all offered ideas for ways to label points around the room, to what to use to erase the board, to how to ask a question or make a statement different so it worked better.  We were tweaking lessons together!
Away slipped the nervousness and the anxiety.  It was going to be okay.  This was good!

We ended with handing out an exit ticket asking:
1.) What did you learn today?
2.) What are 2 questions you have?
We went home that night, and read through them, entered them into our Day 2 Google slide and thought about how we might answer them.

Day 2: We did this Google Slide Day 2.
Within this google slide, I included two links, that I will include here:
Link to all my vertical board problems for Geometry.
Link to my notes for this 3 day session.
Everyone showed up again, plus one who couldn't make day one and the awesomeness continued.  I loved it.     
We did not get to the last circle problem, but that's because of so much great conversation.
Oh, and I baked cookies for Days 1 and 2.  Had Hershey kisses for Day 3.

Day 3: This Google Slide 3.
We brainstormed what we might try to convert into a vertical/oral lesson:
Cavaleri's Principle
Polygon Interior Angle Sum
Area of Polygon Formula
They worked on this for about 45 minutes in groups of 2-4, then we took a break and then they practiced on their classmates.  They were getting to practice being teachers and trying out their lessons.  It was so fun.  I wish we got to collaborate like this all year long.

I hope our participants got as much out of this session as Kathy and I did.  I can't wait to hear what they share throughout the year.

Here's our group on the last day as we became a family over our 3 mornings together.
By the way, we were lucky enough to get to work in our #TMC18 host's room, Dave Sabol.  Thank you!
Shout out to our Geometry morning session family:
Elyssa Miller @misscalcul8, Barb Lynch @Stelladuma, Todd Feitelson @Toddf9, Philip Taylor @phitau13, Lisa Henry @lmhenry9,  Andre Sasser @MrsSasser, Melissa Allman @MAllmanAHS, Brian Cerullo @bcerullo12, Carolyn Fisher @FishercMHS, and Maggie Mocete @MMocete.


  1. We definitely got more out of it than you and equally enjoyed the conversation and collaboration. It's like my twitter feed came to life. I can't even thank you enough for sharing these scripts. I plan to dive right in with them and I can't wait! The thing I love most is that this is something that I can integrate into what I do and not feel like I've been doing everything wrong and need to redo it.

    And the cookies were divine!

  2. Exactly what Elissa said!!! I'm so glad I chose your session. The conversations and the camaraderie were priceless!