So we’re going to talk about our EQAO success story. And I thought we’d start by identifying that we used EQAO data to tell us about our areas that we knew we could improve on. And so we used the online tools to start seeing that we had some success in “knowledge and understanding” and “application,” but our area where we could improve was the “thinking,” our thinking questions. And so we really looked at thinking questions and tried to change the type of questions that we asked, and one of the big ones that we used was compare questions. So maybe, Brenda, you can talk about the compare questions?
Well, what I found was that the kids really did know a lot, and if it was a knowledge question, they were able to answer it, but as soon as we posted something more challenging, they were hesitant or they didn’t know where to start. So we started practising it as a group, and then we’ve also started partnering the kids up, so they can talk to each other. Compare questions: maybe we would—like in Grade 9 in particular, a huge focus on linear relationships—so we would give them a question where they had to compare different linear relationships. And it was amazing; when the kids were working together, they came up with a lot of ideas that maybe independently they wouldn’t have thought of.
And that really speaks to—we started getting at the “thinking” part of this instead of just identifying things about linear relations—the compare questions allowed us to talk about the thinking. And then we started to learn that the kids needed practice talking in mathematics. So that’s when our second strategy came in, and we became a part of a building-innovative-practices project at the Ministry level, where we wanted to talk about communication of thinking. That’s when the talk-moves came to a part of it, so we practised and learned about getting our kids to talk in class. So maybe, Lisa, you can tell us about that.
So some of the things that we’ve done to help with talk-moves in class is that we’ve paired our students together so that they are always with somebody else, so that if they don’t know how to start a question, they have someone to work with. We’ve also got them talking more in terms of giving answers and how they give answers and the type of answers we would expect from them.
And I was telling the team earlier that I always thought that noise in the classroom was a bad thing,that kids weren’t doing their math, but it was a real eye-opener for me when we put them with partners that they actually were talking about the math, and they were learning from each other, and that was really powerful.
And when we were talking to the kids, we realized that this was something that they do a lot in elementary school, and so we were really interested in partnering with our elementary feeder schools. So we have a really good relationship with our elementary teachers, and the building-innovative-practices project has expanded, and we’ve included teachers from Grade 7–8 and partnered with our Grade 9 and 10 teachers. And this allowed us to practise. We’ve learned from the elementary schools about elbow partners and group work, and that’s made us better teachers at the high-school level. And, you know, the elementary teachers have said that they appreciated coming into our classrooms and visiting the Grade 9 and 10 applied classrooms and the academic classrooms to get a better understanding of what their kids were leading towards. And it’s been a great partnership—lots of benefits from that partnership, especially this idea of the pathway.
So it’s nice when teachers recommend that a student takes a certain pathway, and then when they come into our classrooms, they see that student thriving in the class, that they’ve made the right recommendation and the student is doing well.
And the fact that we have this partnership in place gives us the luxury of getting to know our students, our Grade 9 students, well in advance of actually seeing them on the first day. We get to go into their classrooms; we’re teaching them; we’re learning about their learning styles; we’re learning about the kids; we’re getting to know them, so one of the coolest experiences is the first day of high school, is seeing all of these kids that we already know coming through the hall, and, you know, the kids have said to us that they appreciated seeing that familiar face, and we hope that it reduces the anxiety, not just coming into high school, but especially coming into math. We know there’s a lot of math anxiety out there.
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