NEW ROCHELLE, NY — At least once a week, Brittnee Sabatino and her grade colleagues set aside time to work on how they can improve the quality of student learning.
As a first-grade teacher, Sabatino’s focus for most of January and February is to elevate the quality of “math talk” – the standard of speaking and listening on math topics, and effectively critiquing the reasoning of others.
A student who is successful at math talk can, for example, effectively explain the strategy he or she uses to add two numbers, and catch an error in another student’s calculation, said Sabatino. The successful student can also ask math questions, use objects and visual representations to explain thinking, and build on the ideas and thoughts of others.
The effort ties in with the listening and speaking standards built into the Common Core, and it eventually has an impact across classes and grades, according to Sabatino. Her work and the work of her colleagues was highlighted before the Board of Education Tuesday in a presentation on Davis Elementary School.
Sabatino videotapes her class and plays it back to her students for self-analysis and to match their participation against indicators of success in a rubric that Sabatino has created. She also invites other teachers from Davis to critique her performance and make suggestions for improvements.
“It becomes like a congress. We are sharing ideas. If there is an area for improvement, we talk about how we can address it,” said Sabatino. “The focus is what we can do as teachers to improve our practices and adjust to the needs of our students.”
During this current cycle of inquiry, Sabatino and the first-grade team hope to raise the standard of math talk in their classes before moving on to another area that needs improvement, such as reading or writing.
Sabatino and her team’s efforts are part of a districtwide push to become a Professional Learning Community, an ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively in cycles of inquiry to achieve better results for the students they serve.
“It’s our charge as educators to reflect on our practices and keep on learning,” said Sabatino. “Learning is life long.”