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  • Spiraling

    Posted by Alex Van Steen on May 25, 2019 at 10:39 pm

    Hi All,

    We finish school in about 15 days and pretty soon right after that I want to develop a rough plan to spiral my instruction. I have completed the MMMM 6-week course (which touched on it) and downloaded Kyle & Jon’s spiraling resources, but this will be my first effort to be intentional and thoughtful about the effort.

    I’m a fifth-year, fourth-grade teacher, we use Engage New York as our district curriculum (though I have complete freedom (very supportive principal) in how I reach standards), and I’m in Washington State (Common Core).

    I’d love to hear advice from the veterans, and I’d love to connect with others who are also trying for the first time.

    All the best,




    Alex Van Steen replied 3 years, 5 months ago 4 Members · 7 Replies
  • 7 Replies
  • George Garza

    May 29, 2019 at 3:32 am

    Hey Alex, I’m also wanting to try to switch to spiraling my curriculum for the next year.  Have you seen the other posts on here where people were asking for next steps?  When I finish up a draft of the spirals and the planning, I’ll post it here for feedback.  There’s a  lot of people here interested in spiraling and how exactly to execute it.  I think we are all over thinking it a bit.  I’ll post up what I come up with and hopefully we can all fine tune it.

  • Alex Van Steen

    May 29, 2019 at 9:55 pm

    Hi George. Thanks, that’s a great idea. I am kinda going through it step-by-step – not because I am trying to make work for myself – but because that’s just how I think it through. I’ll look for your plan. I’ll post mine as well.



  • Paolo Tolomeo

    June 24, 2019 at 2:52 pm

    Hey there! I too am a 4th grade teacher working on coming up with a plan for spiraling for next year. I live in Pittsburgh, PA and am also Common Core. Currently, we use Houghton Mifflin’s Math Expressions, but I also have the freedom to change things up and utilize outside resources. 

    My current plan is to align the Big Ideas from our math resource with our state standards. My hope here is that the Big Ideas are small chunks of a topic that have a small assessment at the end (5 questions). This can be a nice checkpoint for me and the kids, and possibly a good spot to then move on to a new “unit” that naturally fits with where we are. For instance, when we finish multiplication strategies (Unit 2 in our series), we can move into area (unit 4), then measurement (unit 7). 

    Which leads me to my next point, are you all trying to find natural progressions between content as you spiral or are you just going from one topic to another and keeping the curriculum spiraled? 


    Would love to hear all of your thoughts! I will post my spreadsheet. 

  • Alex Van Steen

    June 25, 2019 at 9:29 am

    Hi Paolo. Thanks for connecting.

    I want to follow the natural progression rather than the textbook units and I am really trying to develop a class that falls into line with Kyle & Jon’s ideas of sparking curiosity, withholding information, consolidating later rather than earlier, and getting kids to understand that “math is the authority” – not me (this is a TDG Teacher Design Group foundational concept).

    I have found that I also need time to create a growth mindset (I call it getting from “yet to yes”) so in addition to the lesson each day I include a calm down for the mind and then a warm-up for the brain. I start the school year with my version of Jo Boaler’s Week of Inspirational Math. Our district uses Engage New York (ENY), but – with the blessing of my principal – I also use tasks & materials from a wide variety of wonderful sources (Steve Wyborney, Andrew Persico, Andrew Stadel, Nat Banting, Open-Middle, Dan Finkel, Brian Bushart, Berkeley Everett). I am in Graham Fletcher & Christina Tondevold’s Foundations of Fractions course this summer.

    My idea at this time is to have a “Mastery Day” on Tuesdays (probably once a week), which I will use as my “check-ins” (quizzes) to see how kids are progressing from yet to yes. My check-ins and my tests (which I call practicing “show what you know”) will all be in the style of our Washington State Smarter Balanced Assessment. I don’t plan to give ENY-style assessments.

    I think I’d like to post my ideas/ progression as it develops. As I think about all of us posting our spiraling ideas, it’s a bit overwhelming to complete it and then post it. I think I’d rather puzzle through it, then post drafts. Then we could bounce ideas off each other. You’re welcome to do the same. Maybe that will be effective. I’ll try to post my initial thoughts either today or tomorrow just to get the ball rolling.

    All the best,

  • Kyle Pearce

    June 25, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    Hi @alexvansteen, @paolotolomeo, @georgegarza!

    Great discussion going on here indeed!

    I think one of the best places to start is to look at your course curriculum/standards from a high level. Some questions I ask myself are:

    What are the big ideas you are hoping students are able to take with them? 

    What do you want your students to know, understand, and do? Maybe consider making a chart outlining these things for each of your big ideas.

    What you’ll often find are that most curricula are designed to try and hit these things and they outline them at such a granular level that sometimes we overthink (and over-teach) them. 

    One of the biggest take aways I feel I got from trying to spiral was that I started to become more responsive to the learners in my classroom. Instead of teaching to the middle, I started to plan with my learners in mind.

    Let’s keep the discussion going here!!

  • Alex Van Steen

    June 25, 2019 at 9:56 pm

    Thank you, Kyle.

    So today I completed a draft look at the district-provided curriculum and broke it apart by both third and fourth-grade standards. The purpose of doing this is (1) to get my head back in the game of looking at the WHOLE picture for fourth grade and getting out of the tunnel of individual lessons, and (2) to reflect on how third grade standards are setting kids up for the fourth grade. I made the mistake this past year of thinking kids had already learned the vocabulary of right, acute, and obtuse angles – and then realized that I wasn’t familiar enough with the third grade standards.  

    Kyle, how do I import/upload the MS Excel spreadsheet I created?


  • Alex Van Steen

    June 26, 2019 at 11:02 pm