Video Enhances ‘The 5 Practices’ for Math Teachers

Video Enhances ‘The 5 Practices’ for Math Teachers

Miriam SherinMiriam Sherin, associate provost for undergraduate education and the Alice Gabrielle Twight Professor  A new companion book to the modern classic, 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions, illustrates the steps in action using vignettes and videos from real middle school classrooms.

The 5 Practices in Practice, coauthored by Margaret Smith and Northwestern University’s Miriam Sherin, dives deep into each of the five strategies -- anticipate, monitor, select, sequence, and connect -- as well as setting goals and selecting tasks.

Smith originally designed the framework to help teachers advance lessons and spark classroom conversation, while staying flexible and open to student’s ideas. The addition of video helps teachers see how colleagues handled challenging situations and overcame obstacles, said Sherin, one of the nation’s foremost researchers in the use of video and learning.

“The five practices are exactly the right grain size,” said Sherin, associate provost for undergraduate education at Northwestern and the Alice Gabrielle Twight Professor of Learning Sciences at the School of Education and Social Policy. “They’re complex but doable. They draw on how kids learn and help teachers interact with kids productively.”

To access the videos, readers simply place their cell phone camera over the Quick Reader (QR) codes in the book. They can also view the videos online.

“When you teach math, you need to pay close attention to student ideas,” Sherin said. “At the same time, a teacher has to honor the mathematics. It can be difficult to do both at once while moving your learning goals forward. That’s exactly what the 5 Practices help with.”

Sherin, who has been studying video in teaching since the 1990’s, has shown that the medium can be especially powerful when it’s used to observe classroom interactions, rather than solely for demonstrations and to evaluate teachers.

Her latest work looks at how teachers can effectively record themselves in action. She also has a grant to study what teachers are sharing with peers outside of the classroom via social media.

Teachers familiar with the original five practices describe the book as a ready-to-use professional development plan that makes class discussions more coherent and focused and empowers students.

“It literally connects theory to practice and provides honest and thoughtful reflections and guidance to work towards our ultimate goals―students’ mathematics learning and agency,” said Cynthia Callard, executive director of the Center for Professional Development & Education Reform at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education.

Jennifer Dao, a middle school math teacher in Evanston/Skokie School District 65, met monthly with Sherin and a team of teachers over the summer to learn how to implement the five practices in their classrooms.

“We’re already doing some of the things unconsciously, but it helped with intentionality and improving on things we aren’t doing as well," Dao said.

The middle school version of the 5 Practices in Practice will be followed up by books targeting elementary and high school teachers. The book and companion website provides other resources, including planning templates, sample lesson plans and completed monitoring tools and mathematical tasks.

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 12/9/19