From Read Alouds to Number Talks

One of the promises that I made to myself when I made the decision to transition from a system role back to a school was a commitment to ensuring that both Literacy and Numeracy would be equally highlighted, celebrated and supported at Sir Arthur Currie.  I firmly believe that a skilled, caring educator has the capacity to create both an engaging literacy experience for their students through the selection of a powerful text and memorable activities as well as an exciting math experience through well-crafted tasks, access to math tools and everyday applications.   The similarities between the pedagogical moves for both subject areas far outweigh the differences when we dissect what quality instruction looks like.

The other promise that I made was to spend as much quality time in classrooms as possible and to continue to hone my practice as an educator.   In the fall I set a goal to share a special Read Aloud in each class by Thanksgiving. I absolutely LOVE reading to classes.  I’ve learned a great deal over the past number of years about how to effectively share a story ~ when to stop and ask a question, how to engage the listener and what are the salient parts that need to be recognized. The Friday before Thanksgiving I read a book to the final 7 seven classes and my goal was met.

For my next goal, I decided that I wanted to lead a Math/Number Talk in each of our 24 classes, for my own learning.  It’s been 15 years since I had my own class and math instruction has radically evolved of late.  As I shared with the students when I visited each class, back in the day my math class was usually the quietest class of the day.  I would demonstrate the lesson, a few students would try a question or two and then the remainder of the time was spent with independent practice based on questions from the text book.  In knowing that one of our strategies on our school goal relates to students’ articulating their math thinking through number talks, I decided that I needed to have first-hand experience.

I created a set of Number Talk tasks for learners from K-8, discussed them with our Instructional Coach (who provided me with my additional guidance), downloaded them to a jump drive and set off to visit each class within this past week.  I was very honest with the students and shared that I was learning how to lead a number talk and needed their help.

It quickly became evident that Number Talks are an everyday occurrence in all classes. I was overly impressed with the high level of participation, the number of strategies that students used to  determine “Which One Doesn’t Belong”, the mystery pattern, balancing the mobile or the most popular task, Esti-Mysteries and their active listening to each other as they shared their thinking.

I was thrilled that Steve Wyborney’s Esti-Mysteries site was a new one for our SAC Crew. They are such a superstar team ~ it is rare that I stumble upon great finds before them.

There’s something powerful about setting and meeting goals, but it was far more powerful to see the excitement, participation and depth of thinking that our students demonstrated with each Number Talk.  I found myself gaining more confidence with each class.  The intentional questions, which open the conversation to multiple strategies, seemed to flow more naturally and I found myself genuinely loving each experience.


Now on to the next goal!!

What goals have you set?  Come write with me….

4 thoughts on “From Read Alouds to Number Talks

  1. Kudos to you for using FreshGrade to create portfolios for your staff and for your support of them. The data collected from my Number Talk “road trip” was invaluable. That was a lovely unanticipated outcome ~ those are the ones that I love the most!

  2. I loved watching the teachers as much as engaging with the students. Some teachers played along and tried to guess the correct answer. Others used the opportunity to capture some meaningful observations of their students. As I was leading a number talk in one of the classes, one of the students shared that their younger sibling had had me visit the day before. They enjoyed the Esti Mystery so much that they were creating their own. Loved that!
    Thx so much for reading and commenting

  3. I’m really impressed, Sue, for you surely have a busy school to ‘manage.’ This form of instructional leadership is rare and a reminder that it can be done. I have never been successful – certainly, not like this – but I am better than I was.

    I have learned that as soon as I commit to sitting down in a class for fifteen minutes or more, the ‘data’ flows and I’m in a position to offer feedback and support. I use Fresh Grade and I have all staff and students organized by class. Slowly, but surely, I will work my way through all classes to the point that I have commented on all members – yes, the quiet children, the bright ones and the ones who have lost hope and demonstrate it through their behaviour.

    I rarely lead a class, but this has me thinking, Sue. I thank you.

  4. What an accomplishment! Knowing how challenging it would be to commit the time and planning given the variety of demands across an administrator’s makes your goal that much more inspiring. There is no better way to empathize with teachers than to put yourself in their shoes; likewise, there’s no better way to empathize with students than to learn something new and share your vulnerability with them. It’s key.
    Imagine the supper table conversations you sparked about the principal teaching a lesson!
    I also wonder about its impact on classroom observations…knowing what to look for not only in the learning but the culture of each class. You’ve certainly galvanized your school culture by weaving your beliefs and values into action through this teaching.
    Kudos to you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *