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Episode 24: KMT Spotlight - Promoting Parent Partnerships w/ Video Feedback Loops (Nick Harris)

Updated: Jul 30, 2021

Desiree Harrison 0:00

KMT Spotlights aim to highlight additional voices in the math community and celebrate all of the amazing things happening. Today’s guest is a Math Intervention Teacher who is sharing all about the innovative ways that he is using technology in order to connect with and build meaningful partnerships with families who have chosen remote learning for their children.

We are looking for additional teachers, teacher educators, and parents for these episodes. If you would like to be a KMT Spotlight guest, email me at or connect with me on Twitter.

Desiree Harrison 1:17

Today on the podcast, we have Nick Harris, who is a Kindergarten math intervention teacher in Kentucky. Welcome to the podcast!

Nick Harris 1:26

Thank you! Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Desiree Harrison 1:28

So, we are connected on Twitter. I love the videos, and the quick and simple PD that you provide through those posts that you have. And just you're always so willing to share all of your ideas and just open up your classroom and you embody that open door policy, so it's really much appreciated because then we're learning and we're growing together. And I came across one of your posts a few months ago that involved the parent connection.

And we know that parent involvement is always something that's on our mind. But in particular, you have found this way to truly make parents a partner.

So, give us an overview of this framework that you have, who's involved, and how it's different from what you've done in the past.

Nick Harris

Nick Harris 2:17

Absolutely. Yeah, I would love to talk about that. So, the framework that is

kind of fully in implementation at the moment- it was kind of just born out of the chaos and panic of the beginning of this school year. As a lot of I'm sure really good pedagogical ideas have come out of this year. Just born out of necessity.

So basically, what happened at the beginning of the school year is, my district set up three learning options for students to choose from, for students and parents to choose from. There was, what would ostensibly become hybrid learning, which is what we referred to as Option 1, and so those were the in person kids but they would also get quite a bit of virtual learning.

And, skipping to Option 3, those were students who would get distance learning, kind of like what't been referred to as NTI, just the packet kind of way of learning. So, teachers would provide packets, parents would facilitate that at home. And then there in the middle, there was this thing called Option 2. And that was the fully virtual option that would never be in person, unless they chose to otherwise, and their students education would be provided entirely through Zoom, through Class Dojo, through virtual platforms.

And so at the beginning of the year, I was made aware of this huge caseload of- at the time it was about 100 students - across the county in kindergarten, who had chosen this option. And, I was asked if I could help kind of facilitate what the learning would look like for these students.

So, I'm still doing my intervention job, still have a full intervention caseload, but I'm also helping to facilitate the learning through these, what at the time was 100 kids, now it's closer to 80, but quite a few kids, who needed to be assessed, who needed to have their Tier I instruction designed, the scope and sequence, and so the first challenge there was figuring out how I was going to get baseline diagnostic data.

My preferred way for gathering baseline diagnostic data for my intervention students and indeed on my classroom students when I was a classroom teacher, has always been AVMR.

Desiree Harrison 4:07

Can you just talk, just a line or two, about, like, breaking down AVMR for the listeners, so that they know what that means?

Nick Harris 4:16

Yeah, absolutely. So, AVMR is something that you have to be trained for. It's a proprietary assessment that people are trained for and so it's got a list of tasks that fall across 5 domains. There's a number word and numeral cluster, which is forward counting, backward counting, which features number word after and before, then there's numeral identification, and so that gets us to three, and then there's addition and subtraction and structuring. So this is an interview based assessment that teachers are trained to give to students and it gives really good feedback- or really good diagnostic data - about their students present understandings with foundational math skills and it kinda provides a really good roadmap for how to instruct them.

When you come in as a new teacher in Madison county, you get put into an AVMR cohort. And we've got several champions here that are MIT's (Math Intervention Teachers) in the district who can give the AVMR training. So pretty much everyone gets AVMR trained eventually. This year has been a little bit different because they weren't able to run their regular cohorts in the summer, but they try to at least get course one for everybody. So as of right now, most teachers in the district have that training to kind of fall back on when it comes to not just giving the assessment but also there's a whole entire instructional component to the training the teachers have in their arsenal to use when they're designing instruction.

Desiree Harrison 5:38

Okay. Because I was gonna ask about teacher buy-in. Because this is already a stressful year for everyone and then if it's something like this being so different from what teachers might have done in the past, then I was wondering about what kind of culture you all have created in order to promote that buy-in. But it sounds like the district itself with that onboarding process helps initiate that culture.

Nick Harris 6:06

So buy-in specially for AVMR and AVMR style things?

Desiree Harrison 6:09

About saying, "Okay, I'm going to work with you." I'm going to say, "Yes, let's implement this, let's send these to parents and then when I'm getting all these videos back, I'm gonna be on board with giving that feedback." Whether it's still in the text mode or the video mode, I'm on board with this new plan on top of the stress that I might be feeling with this pandemic learning and the three different options of student learning.

Nick Harris 6:38

Yeah, for sure. Again, it was sort of just born of panic, chaos, and necessity.

So, my first instinct was to try to AVMR virtually, a hundred kids. But there were so logistical and pragmatic challenges there and I did the math and it was going to take me several weeks worth of one-on-one interviews that I would be conducting through Zoom. And I thought, Okay, if I do that I will get the data that I need, but it will become obsolete fairly quickly, and I won't get it that timely enough fashion to really start designing instruction for these students and start implementing however we would be instructing these kids virtually.

So, then I was sitting in a meeting with some colleagues and we were talking about Class Dojo. Which, for your listeners, is a free app that a lot of teachers use in public school. It's usually used in kind of almost like a Pavlovian way I find. There's a lot of extrinsic motivation involved with it. It has been used historically for parent communication. So, we had access to this. And I just kind of threw it out there in a meeting. Like, can. I get the parents to assess the kids through Class Dojo. And when I asked that question, I wasn't expecting an answer because I didn't even know if it was possible.

So, I went back to my classroom and I started playing around with it and what I found is Class Dojo has a feature where you can assign an activity. And in the activity, you can ask for different response types. One of those response types is a video.

So the very first thing I did was I prioritized what information I wanted from this large amount of students. And that was forward counting information. Because that was what my instruction was going to target through intervention and also through their Tier I instruction through Option 2, so that's what I wanted to know first.

So, I sort of stripped away the other tasks - I didn't worry about structuring, I didn't worry about addition and subtraction - and I focused in on the forward counting, and I just put it out there. I'm using AVMR to guide my instructional planning and scope and sequencing, and therefore what I'm trying to assess. And what I want to know and when. But it's not so much like I'm doing a verbatim AVMR task. It's more like, "Oh, I want to know about forward counting, so I'm going to adopt this kind of, 'start at a number, stop at a number' kind of stuff, so that I can communicate to the parents that it's not just about the forward momentum at one and going forward - like there's a starting and stopping.

Desiree Harrison 8:58

Having the background, I think affords you the opportunity to then create something like that- the same philosophy, but it's not Math Recovery.

Nick Harris 9:11

I said, "Hey, sit your student in front" - I have this fox puppet that I use to illustrate these things with the parents, but- "sit your student in front of the camera, and hit record, and ask them these questions." And then there was a little script to follow and there was a tutorial video for them to follow as well. They asked the questions, they sent the video back. And here, I've got all these videos coming in of students answering these math tasks and showing me how they could count. And I'm watching their faces. I'm seeing the nuances in their faces in their expressions. And is what we know as math teachers is what we need. We don't necessarily need the response, we need the nuance. And that's why the video component of this was so important - is I got to see what they were doing. They looked off to the side for help - I saw it and I took that into account.

If they dropped a number, or if they struggled, if their eyes were glancing off from one direction to the other, I saw all that. And so, I got excited! And I wanted to respond to these videos to the parents and I wanted to kind of say, "Hey! I'm noticing this about your student's counting, let's do this at home."

So I get on the app, and I start typing all this out. Then my thumbs get tired. Because I've got a lot to say about math stuff and then I thought - there's got to be a better way to respond to these videos. Like, they can send videos in through Dojo, but, if I respond to all of this in comments, like, my thumbs will fall off, and I won't be nearly as effective as I want to be.

So, that sort of, again, necessity, it caused a little bit of creativity on my part and I found a work around for sending of feedback videos to the parents. So, I started doing this in my role, and had it up and running for - it was a month or two before anyone really inquired about it. I had been keeping my principal in the loop and kind of letting her know what I was doing. But we had quite a few general ed classroom teachers in the building who were having difficulty getting parents and students to just connect. Not just to respond to assignments or engage in content, but just plain connect. (11:00)

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