Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Do you need some ideas for a sub plan?

The 2014 Annual Meeting & Exposition of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) is being held in New Orleans this year. I am taking a group of preservice math educators to the conference, as well as co-leading a workshop on Playing with the Common Core with my wife. This means that I (like many other teachers attending a conference that meets during the school-week) will be away for several classes and in need of sub plans. Fortunately, for me, I teach teachers and they have several projects they can work on for the two class periods that I will miss - no sub needed, just plans. But I remember being a middle school math teacher in need of plans that could be "sub-proof" while I was away facilitating professional development at other districts. My favorite activity to assign was "Rewrite the Text."

Now it might be called "Math Book Makeover" in homage to Dan Meyer's TEDxNYED (see below). In fact, there are a lot of things I would change, given what I know now. If you are looking for some sub plans, here is a workshop I might use.

Math Book Makeover Workshop
My thoughts are in blue.

Schema Activation: (Done before I leave) Chair-Pair-Share
  • What would you expect to see in a math book?
  • Which of these things helps you learn math?
  • Are there any things you think are missing?
  • Are there any things you would get rid of and why?
Focus: (Watch before I leave) Math Class Needs a Makeover

We are going to watch a former math teacher talk about some ways we might change math class. I want you to pay particular attention to ideas associated with changing math books and how we might apply these ideas to our textbooks. Please keep a record of these ideas so we can talk about it later.

I know that much of this might go beyond a middle school learner's current level of understanding, but I believe he or she can get a sense of some ideas of things to do to change the text. The goal is to immerse the learner while focusing on what is important.

Whole class discussion: What were some of the ideas you might consider applying to a makeover of our math book?

I hope they will notice that we need to change the text so it:

  • Supports reasoning;
  • Promotes problem solving;
  • Matters; and
  • Incorporates dynamic resources (video, technology, ...)

Activity: (While I am gone) The Makeover

Depending on the number of days I was going to miss, I might assign a section for each day. I know this would probably not be enough time for my learners, but I am in the habit of giving learners too much to do because it forces them to make choices about what is really important to accomplish. For each section, they would need to identify what part of the lesson would go, what would stay, and what they would add. I could require particular features (practice problems, assignments, technology, assessments, rubrics, teacher notes, ...) if it made sense given where my learners were in their understanding of math books.

The level of polish would depend on my audience and purpose. If I am the audience and the purpose is to simply to see how they thought about revising the text, then sticky notes might be all I needed to see. But if the purpose is to really revise the sections and perhaps use some of the ideas with future learners (leaving a legacy - another good TEDxNYED Talk), then I might want something more substantial. This might require giving them more time and feedback. And, if I want to avoid checking their Google Docs at the hotel after attending a day full of sessions, some time in class after I get back.

Reflection: (At the end of each period when I am gone) Glows and Grows
  • Glows: What are the two parts of the revision that you are most proud of and would want to share with others? What makes them so good?
  • Grows: What are the two parts of the revision that you believe still need some work before they are ready to share with others? What work do they need?
These questions put the learners' work into perspective. I can spend more time evaluating the Glows, because they are presumably the best work, and allow for some approximation in the Grows. The learners can also use this reflection to make a plan for what comes next.


If you are looking for sub plan ideas, I hope this helps. As a middle school teacher, one of the reasons I liked this plan was because it was so adaptable to whatever content we were currently exploring. I did not need a special project that addressed some specific content. I could also avoid using a plan that was disconnected from our current work. It seemed like an approach that could be used with any section in any middle or high school text.

So what do you think? Would a workshop like this work as a sub plan for you? Why or why not? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

P.S. If this doesn't work for you, then check out these sub plan ideas from Julie Reulbach.

1 comment:

  1. Great plan, David; I love the premise, particularly the legacy part. I would flesh out the Schema Activation points. What are you anticipating? Expecting? Why did you ask these questions? What do you want your students to take from this?

    I say this as a sub, because I often get plans of varying detail and quality that mean nothing to me because the regular teacher assumed I would understand what his or her intention was for the assignment. The expansion need not be more more in depth than your reflection notes here.

    Though it does not apply to this task, I would also ensure the sub gets a copy of the assignment and all related materials (text for instance) too. I typically do what the students do while subbing for them. I think it models good workmanship and willingness to do what they do, prepares me for specific questions (since having done the question myself, it is not cold when a student needs guidance), allows me to think aloud where most students need help with concepts and schema, and reminds me (and updates me in some cases) on the concepts being taught. There is nothing more frustrating than getting a plan with no material for me to review or work through and no idea what and how the students are doing because of that. Well, I've had some classes with no class lists and no plans, but we will not speak of these.