Post-Pilot Pre-Training OUR by IM reflection

I have delayed this blog post for quite some time. I wanted to get it off my chest before I go to the Illustrative Mathematics 6-8 3 day training in South San Francisco tomorrow through Friday. So, let’s start with some back story:

I’ve taught CPM for most of my career. My first 2 years, was a lot of direct instruction out of a bad textbook. My 3rd and 4th years were a combination of PowerPoints, CPM lessons, and other resources. In my 5th through 9th years I exclusively taught our unofficial adoption of CPM. I’ve done a lot of training, assessment development, and professional development with them and I love and respect the people involved there.

The issue was some of my colleagues outside of 8th grade weren’t as on board with CPM and didn’t fully understand the philosophy. I also was supplementing some of my lessons with tasks from the IM website and the Formative Assessment Lessons from to ensure my students were getting to the depth of knowledge I was seeking for them.

I convinced my district to pilot a unit of Open Up Resources 6-8 by IM. They insisted we pilot a unit in CPM so all teachers could compare the two curriculums and we’d receive a day of training from each company. To help convince my district, I wrote up a blog post with colleagues comparing the two curriculums that received a lot of attention here: CPM versus IM.

To make a long story short, our math department decided to move forward with IM. Janelle put it succinctly, “my students don’t speak this curriculum, they speak IM.”

I taught Unit 1 transformations, Unit 5 volume ideas, and some of the pythagorean theorem unit to my 8th grades. I taught some of Unit 5 integers and all of Units 1 to 3 to my 7th graders. Next year I will be teaching exclusively 8th grade and this summer plan to dig into units 6 and on.

We have the consumable workbooks ordered and may consider going digital in the future. We are all so excited that instead of spending time in the copy machine room we will be spending time planning together weekly, responding to cool down exit tickets frequently, and adjusting our instruction as the year goes on.

Also, one big selling point on the curriculum is the instructional routines, or math language routines (MLR’s). Here is an example of MLR 2 Collect and Display when looking at the informal language of rigid transformations from unit 1:

This blog post was inspired by a great one recently written by teacher Sara Vaughn. Check that one out. She has a cool visual on there with circles showing all the different aspects of the lesson. In the past I have used Estimation 180, number talks, visual patterns, or a Which One Doesn’t Belong prompt to launch my lessons. These sometimes were related to the new concept of the day but more often than not, they weren’t. Although they were fun, they weren’t getting the kids primed for the new information. Thankfully, this curriculum incorporates a variety of engaging warm-ups such as the ones mentioned, but also algebra talks, true or false, and more. Most importantly, they introduced a skill that may be from a previous grade level that they may have forgotten about that will be crucial to the upcoming lesson.

It’s hard to find the sweet spot for the timing of a cool-down. I think it depends on the complexity of it. I felt sometimes 5 minutes was too long, and 3 minutes was too short of a time. I remember a 7th grade cool down that was creating a scale drawing and I gave them 15 minutes for that because it was so involved.

I also like to save paper by using the photocopier’s ability to print 2 pages on 1 page and chop them in half or duplicate a cool down to have 4 copies and print it on 1 page to make quarter sheets. I sort them into piles and based on the common mistakes or next steps using comment codes. Then I display the comment code key on the board as I pass them back during the warm-up the next day and have a quick discussion after the warm-up. These exit tickets are study tools for the students. My issue is they lose it and when I give them time to correct it if they got it wrong many can’t listen and correct it at the same time.

Also when enough students struggled with a particular cool down I made an interactive anchor chart based on the cool down to lead a bit of a longer discussion like this one:

I have two ideas to correct this: one is to use the SeeSaw app. I saw Hedge did a presentation at TMC18 on it which I want to look at once it is posted. Apparently this app allows students to see each others uploaded work, annotate it, and comment on it. My second idea is they post it to a wordpress blog like this one with their corrections and a reflection on it. I also would want this blog post to document some prafctice problems form that week that they felt like were easy, difficult, or very hard. This is a new idea that I want to continue to develop. I know for sure I will not be spending class time checking homework as it is not a good use of time and is an equity issue on many different levels.

I am also going to continue having fast finishers write their work on the board for the class to analyze. Ideally I could get a variety of finishers so I’m not honoring speed but it allowed some to finish up.

Students absolutely loved the day we did this 7th grade lesson with powdered drink. I had 3 volunteers taste test all 3 and report out the class. Many mentioned this as their favorite lesson at the end of the year:

I highly suggest making this poster to aid your students the MLR Info gap routine:


I tried to embed a lot of tweets into this blog post, and didn’t all of them in, so if you want to glance at other tidbits and thoughts, here’s a link that will pull up all tweets from me with the hashtag #learnwithIM.

There’s more I wanted to include in this blog post, but I will save it for another.

Next steps:

  • attend the 3 day training this week and take good notes
  • carefully select some tasks from Week of Inspirational Math to start the school year off with
  • Get as many of my math department on board with Sara Vanderwerfs Name tent feedback form (google it, I highly recommend this for first 5 school days)
  • Plan an efficient professional development day for our math department based on the training I attend
  • Backwards plan the cool-downs, and select learning goals that can be combined into a skill to be used in a weekly SBG system like we have used before

Author: mrjoyce180

6/8th grade math teacher using open up resources tweeting from@martinsean

3 thoughts on “Post-Pilot Pre-Training OUR by IM reflection”

  1. I love how your department worked together on this. Sounds like you are getting set up for a great year!

    I am also a huge fan of name tents, and have one more suggestion you might want to consider – adding pronouns. Sometimes we don’t have a good way for our less extroverted kids to get this information across. Here’s what I used last year:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m discovering that I need to follow your blog! We did some piloting of Open Up last year, and are diving in this year – your thoughts and embedded tweets are extremely helpful. Thank you so much!


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