Collaborative Planning: Questions, Questions, and More Questions

March 3, 2017 / by Kristin Gray

Lesson planning is so hard.

That very thought runs through my mind every single time I plan. Whether I'm planning alone or with other teachers, I simply can't get over how difficult planning truly is. While you'd think it gets easier the longer you teach and the more you learn, I actually believe that makes it more difficult. The more I learn about teaching and mathematics, the more I take into consideration during my planning. I find the following questions circling in my mind before, during, and after I finish a lesson plan:

  • What lesson ideas am I building on and building toward?
  • Where are the students in their thinking?
  • Where does the mathematics fall in the progression of learning?
  • What pedagogical structures best elicit ideas from students?
  • How do I make the mathematical ideas explicit without telling the students?
  • Is there research I should read to better understand how students learn these ideas?

I think it's safe to say this list could probably go on forever based on what I see students doing in the classroom, but you get the idea. I can’t imagine having to consider these questions and answers alone, which is why I'm such an advocate for teachers as collaborators.

In November, I had the opportunity to collaborate and ponder these questions around planning with Jody Guarino and Bethany Lockhart. We wrote a task to be published on the Illustrative Mathematics website, and sent it out for feedback via Teaching Channel before we taught it together. The feedback we got was amazing and allowed us the opportunity to adjust our ideas while also giving us more questions to think about in the process.

We taught the lesson based on the feedback we received and had a great day of learning in kindergarten!

Here is a quick glimpse into our day:

We then had the opportunity to sit and reflect on the lesson with all of the lesson collaborators, including the principal of the school.

Teachers working together

As we know, every lesson or activity leaves us with more questions to consider and this experience was no exception. We have since taken the task and narrowed it down to the following structure:


Warm-up: Ten Frame Quick Images

  • Flash each Ten Frame image for students to see for three seconds.
  • Ask: How many dots do you see and how do you see them?
  • Flash the cards in the following order, asking the follow-up questions:
    • 0 Dots: How many dots would we need to fill the whole thing?
    • 1 Dot: How many dots?
    • 5 Dots: How many more dots would fill the 10 frame?
    • 10 Dots: How did you know it so quickly?
    • 9 Dots: How many more to fill the 10 frame?

Activity: Ten Frame Match

  • Arrange students in partners.
  • Give students a bag of 10 frame cards.
  • Ask the students to lay the cards out on the table face up.
  • Partners take turns combining the 10 frames, to show pairs that make 10.
  • Each time a partner makes a combination of 10, they explain to their partner how they knew it was 10 and take the pair.
  • For the cards that do not have a pair, tell students to fill in the blank 10 frame that would combine to make 10.

Exit Ticket: Ten Frame Card Completion

To help write up the commentary for the Illustrative Mathematics site, we would love your feedback and/or questions in the comment section below. Thanks so much in advance, and we look forward to learning with and from all of you!

Topics: Professional Learning, Math, Leadership, Co-teaching

Kristin Gray

Written by Kristin Gray

Kristin Gray, a National Board Certified, 21-year veteran teacher of grades 5-8, is currently the Director of K-5 Curriculum and Professional Learning at Illustrative Mathematics (IM). She has served as a writer for the IM 6-8 math curriculum and as a Teaching Channel Laureate. Kristin has developed and facilitated mathematics professional learning at district, state, and national levels and presents annually at the NCSM and NCTM conferences. To reflect on her experiences, she blogs and connects with educators on Twitter, @MathMinds. Kristin has a B.S. in Elementary Education with a concentration in mathematics from the University of Delaware, a M.Ed. in applied technology in education from Wilmington University, and is the 2014 Presidential Awardee for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

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