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  • Sarah's Progress Log

    Posted by Sarah Merrylees on August 12, 2019 at 7:36 am

    Set specific goals/targets:

    1. Experiment with Seesaw as an ongoing assessment portfolio tool in a similar way to John’s use of Fresh Grade (in one of his awesome 15 minute webinar sessions). First experiment starts later this week with grade 7 using it as a tool to explain their understanding of angles, lines & parallelism.

    2. Compete Jo Boaler’s Youcubed course on Mathematical Mindsets. Trying for 3 lessons a week.

    3. Using Kyle’s visual youtube on angles for the first time to have some fun guessing angles with my students this Friday.


    Sarah Merrylees replied 2 years, 3 months ago 3 Members · 10 Replies
  • 10 Replies
  • Sarah Merrylees

    August 22, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    Seesaw is working brilliantly as an interactive assessment tool. (Thank you, John for giving me the idea with your Freshgrade approach). I have been able to provide feedback almost instantly and address misconceptions with guiding questions so that students can work through the thinking process themselves and make changes.  This is helping them know what to do to improve their grades (Thanks, John Hattie for helping me realise that I needed to be more explicit with giving students the tools to do improve and not just the encouragement, time and support). The platform has also given my students opportunities to be more creative about demonstrating their understanding.  They have posted drawings, movies and annotated photographs as well as examples of pen and paper solving.

    I have also used Kyle’s new youtube videos on angles and the students really enjoyed the guess the angle.  We had done the cutting of corners of the triangle as our own investigation but they felt that Kyle’s visual proofs made things even clearer. 

    Completed my next Jo Boaler session.

  • Sarah Merrylees

    August 22, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    Next goals – continuing the first 2 and using the three-acts more consistently and regularly. Gradually phasing out traditional tests in grades 6 & 7 to see if this has an impact on their MAP scores, working with our coordinator of Data & Inclusion to assess whether or not we can continue down this track.

  • Jon

    August 26, 2019 at 9:49 am

    Amazing reflections Sarah! 

    Iā€™m glad you are finding the portfolio approach helpful and beneficial for students. My wife likes Seesaw too! 

    Looks like a lot of success so far. What have been some stumbling blocks so far? 


  • Sarah Merrylees

    August 26, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Stumbling Blocks:

    1. Getting far enough ahead in my planning to ensure an interconnectivity of ideas and authenticity.  It is not enough to simply engage with fun activities, there has to purpose, direction and ironically, enough built in flexibility and space to explore the directions that the student may choose to go for which I haven’t yet thought or prepared.  (Middle schoolers never cease to amaze me).

    2. Maintaining the momentum, not giving into to tried and tested shortcuts and just using activities as “one-offs”.

    3. Trying too many new things all at once with too many classes and hence missing out on the opportunity for deeper reflection and modification.



    Slow it down, take time to reflect and modify, spend time listening to student feedback, try some of their ideas for improvement.  Take it one year group at a time.  Keep reading, learning, asking questions, seeking answers.

  • Sarah Merrylees

    August 27, 2019 at 7:31 pm

    Specific Goals: 

    – Read Jon Hattie’s “Visible Learning for Mathematics”. 

    – Analyse my teaching plans to look for ways that I can measurably impact student learning.  The challenge being to really bring out the “transfer learning” skills

    Reflection: Just read Chapter 1.  I have been working with the learning outcomes and success criteria but have yet to really get my 6th grade working at the “transfer learning”. It is now Week 3 and we have been consolidating basic number operations and getting to now each other.  It is now time to try and deepen their understanding and get them using transfer skills. 

    As always, Don Steward has come to the rescue with a few gorgeous challenges and Ikea catalogues are brilliant for putting these skills into effect. 

    What worked well in the surface learning phase was asking the students to all draw their ideas about addition simultaneously on the 360 white boards and then share.  One student uncovered for herself a major gap in her understanding of how the standard algorithm worked but the other students were able to explain their thinking and there was a lovely “light bulb” moment when she suddenly realised where she had been going wrong and was able to self correct and then re-explain.

    Setback: after two and a half weeks of activities, sharing, challenges and only one lesson where they were introduced to the textbook that is used, I asked my students what activity they had enjoyed most. The majority said they had really enjoyed learning to use the textbook.  Gutted!

    • Kyle Pearce

      August 28, 2019 at 4:08 pm

      Thanks for sharing!
      Don’t look at students using the textbook and referencing how they enjoyed that as a “setback”. Something that we have to remember is that many students might actually find that to be easier and require less thinking, thus they might have enjoyed the break :). 

      I’d dig deeper into that and see what about that experience students liked (or whether they actually ENJOYED it or just didn’t want to do much thinking). 

      I’m sure you’d be interested to know, because I know I AM šŸ™‚

  • Sarah Merrylees

    October 18, 2019 at 9:02 pm


    Thanks to Robin, discovered “Math Recess”.  What a wonderful read filled with so many gems.  Some familiar and glad to be hauled back from deep in the long term memory, others just waiting to be added to the toolbox and of course the inevitable 10 more books to read and TED talks to watch that were cited throughout.  Now reading Craig Barton’s “How I Wish I’d Taught Maths”. Loving the solid research foundation on which it is built. Particularly timely to be reminded of the cognitive difference in learning stages just before planning a new unit. 

    Exploding dots was interesting.  Grade 7 & 8 loved it but grade 6 did not engage at all.

    Specific goals: To work out a way to pretest that is not a test so I prepare stretch material for the students that have already grasped the material and not bore them all to death with repetition. Source better problem-solving activities for grade 8 indices & surds.

    Challenges: Meeting students where they are and not being a slave to the prescribed curriculum.

    • Jon

      October 25, 2019 at 7:36 am

      Solid plan here Sarah! What are ways you’ve done the “pre-test” in the past? Usually, for me, giving students a task to solve that has a high ceiling let’s me discover all the information I need to see if a student is ready to move beyond my initial plan. 

      Also, I’ve been enjoying Math Recess as well! 

  • Sarah Merrylees

    October 27, 2019 at 10:13 am

    Challenge: Normally when we think of a differentiated classroom, we are dealing with students who have usually been following more or less the same national curriculum.  The challenge being faced in my current international school classroom in China is that some students are two or three years ahead of the set curriculum because of private tutoring and/or different home country curriculums, while others are brand new to the grade level concepts.  In an unstreamed environment it is particularly difficult for some of the students not to see themselves as “behind” or not “good at maths” because they are comparing themselves unfairly with students who have seen (and mastered) the material before. The amount of planning required is huge to cater for such diversity of knowledge rather than ability.  Any suggestions for doing this well will be most appreciated.

  • Sarah Merrylees

    August 8, 2020 at 8:17 pm

    Specific goals for 2020-2021 academic year

    Wow. What a rollercoaster it has been. I have been teaching my students in Nanjing, China remotely and then virtually for the past 7 months from Australia and it is all about to start again next week. Thankfully we may be able to head back by October to be in the classroom again. Isn’t it meant to be the students who are not at school rather than the teacher?

    Anyway, goals…

    Just finished AJ Juliani’s amazing online master course this week which was AMAZING in its depth and helpfulness. Hoping to utilise the big takeaways of UDL with help from Caitlin Tucker’s great input. Next step is to finish reading Launch then Empower by John Spencer and AJ. Going to really focus on helping my students ask deeper questions as well as continuing to focus on building their sense of curiosity over compliance. Have created a set of “Discussion Game” cards to get us started. We already use images from the websites “101 questions”, ‘Would you rather” and “Which one doesn’t belong” as warm-ups but I think getting the students to give each other meaningful feedback on the depth of each others questions could be a good next step. We are starting the year off with not an algorithm in sight. Reading Launch also gave me an idea to modify one of my early projects exploring ancient number systems to add more choice to the students’ lines of inquiry. If they don’t like the questions I have asked them to research and share, I will give them the MYP criteria they have to hit and let them design their own lines of inquiry to get there.

    Next goal is to catch up on my make maths moments matter podcasts. I have been disciplined this holiday and listened to them while walking everyday but I have still have about twenty left in my downloads.

    I also bought a subscription to Braining camp so am going to really try to incorporate more visuals and physical manipulative this year.

    That should keep me going for next week šŸ™‚