What about those SMPs?

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About a month ago my teaching team was asked by administration to map out our new sixth grade unit assessments.  By mapping, I mean that we had to review the questions on the tests and determine if the question was was multiple choice, short answer, essay or a performance assessment.  We then wrote what type of objective was present, the domain for learning, and the DOK level.

This mapping took a long time and the entire team was knee-deep in our teacher guides. It was a productive session, but we all needed some more caffeine afterwards.  While reviewing the assessments, we noticed how the guides emphasized the standards and the Standards for Mathematical Practices.  Both were given somewhat equal allocated text boxes in the guides.  Both seemed to be highly valued by the publisher and our district math coaches.  While the team was matching up questions and standards, I noticed that the SMPs weren’t getting any love.  They sat there unhighlighted and under appreciated. This had me internally asking questions about how teachers actually incorporate and communicate the SMPs.  So I went to visit the #Mtbos community and came across a Tweet by @cmmteach.

I completely understand that the standards are important, but what about the SMPs?  These practices are part of our lessons, but I’m wondering how teachers address that importance.  I asked a bunch of teachers this same question (I think they’re tired of me talking about it) and I generally get the same generic response.  That response generally is, “I know what they are and they are part of the lessons” or “I sometimes mention them when moments come up to use them.”  I see the SMPs briefly reviewed during math pd opportunities.  I also observe posters of the practices hanging in the classrooms around schools.  I even think there’s a Jedi one roaming the Internet as I’m writing this.  I wonder how often they’re referred to and what students think of them.  A few years ago I even had my students personalize the SMPs, but haven’t revisited them in as much detail since them.  Are they really engrained as part of the daily math lessons or do they need to be outright communicated.  Maybe there isn’t a right answer here.

I’m curious to how other educators communicate the SMPs.  What’s your favorite strategy or technique?

Author: Matt Coaty

I've taught elementary students for the past 14 years. I enjoy reading educational research and learning from my PLN. Words on this blog are my own.

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