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You’ll learn:

  • What makes an effective team and why math teachers need to know it;
  • Why we need to understand fight or flight in math class;
  • How to create a welcoming atmosphere in our classrooms;
  • How to embrace conflict in math class.

Make Math Moments Academy Forums Lesson 4: Psychological Safety & Assessment – Discussion

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  • Lesson 4: Psychological Safety & Assessment – Discussion

  • Jon Orr

    December 6, 2019 at 4:55 am

    What was your big take away from this particular lesson?

    What is something you are still wondering?

    Share your thinking below.

  • Cathie O’Malley

    December 19, 2019 at 10:20 am

    I’m wondering how those grouping cards work. I downloaded from the toolbox but I don’t know how they work. I’m assuming they will be explained somewhere. 

  • Kelly Eddy

    January 4, 2020 at 3:44 pm

    I am also interested in the grouping cards, however the link does not work.

  • Mary Ali

    January 30, 2020 at 10:25 am

    I have been working a lot on classroom culture using the words expected, unexpected and getting students to think about how they want others to think about them.  I meet the kids at the door before they enter and try to get there when they are leaving.  I started my year out with Kagan, totally loved it, then switch to random grouping when I am getting them to work on the white boards.  It is a work in progress but I am enjoying the results.  I do have one class where some of the students have a bad history so they are adamant that they not be put together. I say Okay and work around it.  I liked the activities you showed on getting kids to stand and make decisions.  Do you have this resource available for download? And thanks for the group cards. I have been using a deck of cards and your group cards would be more fun.

  • Maggie Moor

    February 17, 2020 at 8:36 am

    Math is collaborative, but everyone has something to offer. It’s not just about the ‘smart kids’ leading the way.

    I wonder – how can I get students reliably grappling with the work in group situations and not letting others do the work for them.

  • Lori Noyes

    March 18, 2020 at 11:51 am

    Our school is talking a lot about this topic of building relationships this year…with respect to the research regarding trauma and adverse childhood experiences. Developing these relationships has been a struggle for me…within the confines of our curricular and delivery mandates (teach in small group rotations .. direct instruction, independent (computer practice), collaborative activities. It has been difficult to not let the timer run the classroom! I finally began to be braver about making my own structural decisions…but now I share students with a learning support teacher, who has her own requirements pertaining to IEP instruction…and we are back to the timer. 🙁

    Looking forward to learning how to help my students learn and grow…and appreciate the journey.

  • Kyle Kline

    March 22, 2020 at 2:58 pm

    It is so funny seeing the word “safety” being related to assessments. But honestly, if you think about schools, one of the best things about school is the safety a teacher and a school environment can provide for a student. When I was in the classroom I tried very hard to make attempts at learning more about students than just their math abilities. My question for everyone here is this…what do you say to a co-worker that doesn’t necessarily believe in the importance of a positive teacher-student relationship? I have a co-worker that seems to drive students away because of their abrasiveness. When do you step in to work with this peer? Thanks in advance.

  • Pat Morris

    March 23, 2020 at 12:44 pm

    Thanks for the 5 tips to creating a safe atmosphere. I like the first one, breaking the golden rule. Teaching the students through empathy to treat others the way that they would like to be treated. It’s an interesting process, one that I’m very disappointed has been short this year, to see where your students are as a group from the start of the year (I don’t want to work with her!) to the end of the year, when they look forward to group activities despite it’s random outcome.

  • Tricia Newton

    March 27, 2020 at 11:24 am

    I loved the statement to treat others the way they want to be treated. I teach middle school and that’s what it’s all about. My 6th grade team was having such a great year…we turned a group of students that had been negatively labeled into relatively productive members of our school. We are each keeping in contact with them through this period of remote learning, hoping that this won’t be a setback.

    Some days it seems that the whole day was dedicated to psychological safety and very little education took place. But, that’s what you sign up for in middle school. Slight Smile

    Thank you for a powerful session!

  • Holly stop

    April 9, 2020 at 2:41 pm

    Does anyone have recommendations for building trust and cultivating vulnerability early on in the year?

    This year, one of my four 6th grade classes ended up being a psychologically unsafe environment. It was nearly impossible to do cooperative activities with this group because they were so closed up around each other. I tried hard to model vulnerability, empathy, and curiosity for these students, but something about the combination of personalities in the room just shut down discussions and collaboration before it started.

    • Daniel Whittaker

      July 15, 2020 at 10:56 pm

      I started using Name Tents at the beginning of the school year with my classes a couple of years ago. Each day for the first 5 classes, the students respond to a simple prompt, then I respond to them that night. It takes a lot of extra time, but it helps me to know the students better and gives them a chance to know about me. One of my prompts is always a request for them to ask me a question and I typically then share this with the whole class.


  • Dianne Brodie

    April 18, 2020 at 4:02 pm

    I loved the shift to the Golden Rule: Treat others the way they’d like to be treated. Very wise!

  • Amy Kopcznski

    April 27, 2020 at 10:44 am

    I found the five key outcomes to group work to be interesting as not one of the key outcomes states to look for people who have specific qualities. This, to me, means that any team can be successful given the proper tone and culture.

    I am wondering how you set the stage to beginning to have healthy debates in your classroom.

  • Maria Carmela Sanchez

    June 5, 2020 at 9:52 am

    This lesson is very informative.I had always encouraged collaboration or group work as long as each team member respects and trusts eadh other. But our supervisor who is more of an English teacher wouldnormally discourage me about this. This lesson has given me an assurance that I am in the right track. I can share this info with my colleagues in the next school year. Love the group random cards.

  • Daniel Whittaker

    July 15, 2020 at 11:01 pm

    I have those cards and use them occasionally, but I’ve actually moved away from them because it is much quicker and simpler to just distribute their name sticks (popsicle sticks that they write their name on at the beginning of the year) randomly at the desks instead.

    I’m nervous about this coming year post Covid as from what I’m seeing I think I have to have a set seating arrangement for the semester at least to minimize contact, and this will have to include social distancing, so no group work at the same table. I’m hoping that I’m reading things wrong.

    I do like the idea of using estimation 180 and WODB and the like to start math fights. I’ve never really gotten into a daily practice of these as I fear the amount of time they take out of the day. But, I think I’m going to make an effort this year. Especially since I’ll be removing my daily timed HW quiz.

    • Jon Orr

      July 17, 2020 at 6:47 am

      I echo your concern here Daniel. I am also concerned about what group work will look like (if any). I too am hoping that I’m wrong. Great suggestion about the sticks!

  • Jennifer L’Arrivee

    October 30, 2020 at 5:49 pm

    After listening to the many podcasts, I spent much more time at the beginning of the semester building class culture. What a difference this has made!

  • Jaana Gray

    November 1, 2020 at 5:20 pm

    A safe classroom is so important.

  • Ryan Foley

    December 14, 2020 at 3:19 pm

    It shouldn’t surprise me but I always find it refreshing to hear that safety is at the top of the list for what can determine a functional team. It really sets the stage for everything else we do.

    • Kyle Pearce

      December 15, 2020 at 7:27 am

      Couldn’t agree more! So important, but often overlooked!

  • Salam Lotfi

    December 22, 2020 at 8:52 am

    Definitely phycological safety is related to assessment ; love the way it was presented. Moreover we have to admit how many negative psychological impacts math assessments do have on our students!

  • Carol Butel

    March 9, 2021 at 9:08 pm

    I really like the “Break the Golden rule”. For me that is my big takeaway and that what we think others will find helpful may not actually be so and we need to get to know our partners and their preferences well.

    • Kyle Pearce

      March 10, 2021 at 6:01 am

      So true. Building a trusting relationship is so key to ensure that there is no offence taken and that both sides are open to learning based on where they are currently in the journey!

  • John Gaspari

    March 21, 2021 at 9:11 pm

    I feel that the safe classroom culture that I have instituted since the start of the year is really paying dividends now that we are in the latter part of the year. Students are always excited to see what random group they will be in each day. Student discussion is immediate when they get into their groups. They are respectful of each others’ thoughts and ideas. There is much to be learned about the importance of psychological safety in groups.

    • Kyle Pearce

      March 26, 2021 at 7:08 am

      This is fantastic to hear! Glad to know the hard work is paying off!!

  • Christopher Ernst

    March 25, 2021 at 6:29 pm

    My biggest takeaway was the last bit about how the change of one, either assessment practices/lessons, necessitated the other! I’m finding myself firmly in this camp. I am learning more and more to change my assessments, and am trying to follow along with my lessons.

    A question I have is, is there such a thing as too early to start this? I’m pumped about it now, but the school year is coming to an end, how do I start building these habits/skills now without “pulling the rug out” from my students that have gone all year with different practices/beliefs?

    • Kyle Pearce

      March 26, 2021 at 7:10 am

      I don’t think it is ever too late to start, but I do think that you could go too hard too fast. At this point in the year, you’ve got a solid understanding of who your students are. Maybe you just say from this point on, you will be assessing / evaluating like ______ and with that comes multiple opportunities for showing their growth. I don’t think any students would have any problems with that!

      • Christopher Ernst

        March 26, 2021 at 12:34 pm

        That’s a great idea and a conversation I’ll look to have with them post-spring break. Good point about good too hard too fast too.

  • Maryanna Biedermann

    May 28, 2021 at 2:49 pm

    Take away: What will I change first and remain focused on that will create a culture of trust and support which will allow for challenge? Set expectation of consistent regrouping from the start so that students are hearing from a variety of learners and spend time planning, facilitating and feedback to build my “trustworthiness”

    • Jon Orr

      May 30, 2021 at 8:25 am

      Great plan! We’re convinced that consistent regrouping is a key to a safe classroom atmosphere.

  • Jennifer Gordon

    June 8, 2021 at 6:27 pm

    I appreciated what makes a team work well and concrete ways we can build that psychological safety! I can think about my own personal experiences and how feeling unsafe definitely creates risk-taking avoidance. I really like the card activities… handing students cards and have them partner up with students with the matching card. How do we help students who might have social conflicts outside of class feel safe with each other when in class? How do we overcome some of those situations that happen outside of our classrooms that we might not even know about?

    • Jon Orr

      June 9, 2021 at 6:35 am

      Great wonders here @jennifer.gordon

      Knowing your students will be the key to this. We definitely want to be sensitive to anxiety and outside influences. Play the room and nudge when you can.

  • Anthony Waslaske

    June 16, 2021 at 4:12 pm

    Random grouping is my takeaway here because it will also keep that embarrassment of the last one picked from interfering with a students’ learning. This all makes sense to me and I’m glad to hear this message again.

    • Kyle Pearce

      June 17, 2021 at 7:29 am

      Glad to hear it!

  • Pamela Brock

    July 20, 2021 at 2:28 pm

    I, too, am excited about the random groupings and using the cards. I’m worried about a couple of students I will be getting this year. I’ve seen them in class and/or worked with them in labs for the past few years and I fear that I won’t be able to engage them. I’m worried about their buy-in. Otherwise, I’m excited to try! I keep telling myself “keep that growth mindset”!!

  • Jamie BALLARD

    July 21, 2021 at 6:34 pm

    Big Take Away: Every DAY change groups. I just need to do this… I already do random grouping and change every unit as it feels like it creates routine. However, a routine could be new groups everyday.

    I wonder how I can help my PLC team feel safe. I like to change things up and find I need to make adjustments based on students’ understanding. Many times I allow the struggle and this takes time, where others might jump into the rule. Therefore, we have a disconnect on how long it takes to teach learning targets.

    • Kyle Pearce

      July 22, 2021 at 7:15 am

      Sounds like a great conversation for your next plc ? What are the advantages / disadvantages of each approach?

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