September 2023 Teacher Voice 

Ellie Bak 
Clifton Elementary School
Mesa County School District 51
Grand Junction, CO 
Math Interventionist

The CCTM Teaching for Thinking Summer Institute was inspiring and I learned so much. It was inspiring in a way that I left feeling encouraged and like the material presented was within my reach.  In fact, as I was engaging in the routines with Grace and Amy, co-authors of the book, Teaching for Thinking, I was able to connect it to work I’d been doing with my fourth and fifth grade students the previous year.  As we learned about the Decide and Defend routine, I was taken back to some classroom experiences where students were comparing worked examples. I was struck by the similarities between the routine I did with my students and the routine presented at the institute.  With this new learning, I feel like I can introduce the Decide and Defend routine with more intentionality and clarity for myself and my students.  My best hope is that I am able to implement this routine with this new focus on the Five Essential Strategies, specifically Sentence Frames and Starters and the Four Rs.  Once students are more confident with these structures for discourse and collaboration, it will allow me to step out of the middle and shift the voice and authority to students. I am so excited for my students and can’t wait to get started.

Katherine Beeler
Orchard Mesa Middle School
Mesa County School District 51
Grand Junction, CO
Instructional Coach

The CCTM Teaching for Thinking Summer Institute was invigorating and affirming.  When I was teaching fifth grade, everything in my classroom was structured around the ideas in the routine, Decide and Defend. I used elements of that routine to elevate the mathematical practices and focused on getting kids to construct arguments and critique the reasoning of others. I wanted kids to rely on each other more than they rely on me and this routine really helped me become the facilitator within the classroom rather than the holder of all the knowledge. Decide and Defend is the routine that feels well practiced, but certainly not perfected.  I would like to dig deeper into the routine, Contemplate then Calculate and think about what it means for a student in math to think structurally.  

When it comes to the Five Essential Strategies, I’ve found Annotation to be easy to implement and I use it a lot, especially with Number Talks and Numberless Word Problems.  In my work with middle schoolers, I’ve found it challenging to get kids to reframe and talk academically.  The Sentence Starters and Frames along with the Four Rs helps build the mathematical language and connectivity with kids. My students have great ideas and I want them to have the confidence and the platform to share their ideas.  When kids are having conversations about math and their thinking, that’s what moves them forward. 

As an instructional coach, I will definitely lean on the definitive structures and tools I learned from Grace and Amy at the CCTM summer institute to effectively model and share the instructional routines with teachers.  I am excited to share these routines so that many more kids have the opportunity to do the talking in math class.


Tina Durham
West Middle School 
Mesa County School District 51
Grand Junction, CO
6th - 8th Grade Math Teacher

The CCTM Teaching for Thinking Summer Institute was educational and insightful.  The routines and information presented gave me ideas about how to get students thinking like a mathematician and talking about their math thinking with others. I have found that since I’ve started implementing some of the routines with students, their confidence in mathematics has grown. I have been doing some math talks in my classroom, but now I have some great ideas for structures and supports to enhance these math talks. 

The first thing I did when I got back to my classroom in August was to set up my classroom for Turn and Talks by rearranging my classroom so that kids are sitting in pairs. Since school started I have started to implement the Three Reads, Notice and Wonder, and Decide and Defend routines. After analyzing an end of the unit assessment, I realized that the majority of my students missed a particular question, and this became the task for our first attempt at Decide and Defend. I really love how easy it is to plan for these routines and utilize them with tasks I’m already using in the classroom.

When it comes to the Five Essential Strategies, I have introduced Turn and Talk, Sentence Starters and Frames, and the Four Rs.  As students are learning these essential strategies, I’ve seen an increase in participation and engagement and less of a need for “cold calling” on students. There is such positive energy and a buzz of excitement in my classroom, and I’m excited to see where this goes as we continue to practice and learn!