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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Using Picture Books to Support At-Home Learning

Wow! When I published my last post nearly a week ago, I don't think anyone could have anticipated exactly where we'd be today (and who knows where we will be at this time next week).

Over the past week, I have watched as our teaching community has come together to share resources with one another in hopes of helping get them started on this new distance learning journey.  It has been truly amazing!

One thing that I've seen come out over and over again is to just let the kids read.  Make sure the kids are reading at home, being read to, being read with.  Although I firmly believe they should still practice some other skills during this time, I am also a firm believer in the power of picture books as a teaching skill.

I've had a blog post drafted for FIVE YEARS titled "10 Ideas for Using Picture Books With Big Kids."  It occurred to me that now would be the perfect time to adapt that and make it a printable for parents to use as a guide for reading picture books at home with their children.

Before I go any further, I want to preface this with the idea that picture books should be read once through FOR PLEASURE AND ENJOYMENT before taking on any of these discussion ideas.  We want students to grow a love of books, immerse themselves in the story, and build their own thoughts about the story before we start questioning them or trying to teach them something based on the story. However, after they've read and digested the books, they can become POWERFUL learning tools that anyone can use!

So, I've compiled this list of eleven suggestions (plus a handy cheat sheet for parents) for parents to use after they've read a picture book with their children.  These are easy to implement, fun for students, and straightforward for parents.

Please feel free to save it to your drive and upload it for parents to use as a resource.  You can access and save the file HERE.

If you are continuing to look for more distance learning and digital resources, I have converted many FREE and paid resources in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Here are a few snippets of information of my digital updates:
  • Digital Reading & Math Projects: I have finished converting ALL of my reading projects and all but two of my math projects to digital formats. They are included with the original files, so if you've already purchased them, you can download them at no additional cost. Click HERE for reading projects and HERE for math projects.
  • Free at-home learningIf you haven't already visited my most recent post, you'll want to! It includes a wide variety of free resources to help you during this transition.  Click HERE for access.
  • Digital Resources: You can see all of my digital resources HERE, including so much engaging reading review, advanced reading task cards, and more to help you plan for the next several weeks. I will continue to add more digital updates so that you can use the same resources you know and love.

Keep on keeping on! You've got this.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Supporting Student Learning at Home

Hi There!

This feels unprecedented.  This feels scary.  This is unknown territory.

Ever since the cascade of school closures began (including all of our schools in Colorado Springs), I have been wracking my brain about how I can best support teachers across the country.  I want to do something, anything to take the burden off of you and enable you to fully support your students while you are away from each other.

**UPDATED: I have now included the PDFs and Digital Access to all of the free resources.  Enter your email below, and it will send you the new link. :) 

Literacy Resources: I have taken some of my most popular, most wide-reaching resources and compiled pages from them into a FREE At-Home Learning Resource.  It includes twenty pages of free, very high-quality and rigorous resources that you or your students can print and complete at home.  The following skills are covered in the PDF:

Main Idea
Text Features
Text Structures
Informational Text Comprehension Review
Fiction Comprehension Review
Language Skills
Oral Reading Fluency
Summarizing, Paraphrasing, Quoting
...and more

Math Resources:  I have done the same with my math resources.  The following skills are included in the math version.

Error Analysis (Elapsed Time, Place Value, and Subtraction)
Graphing & Data
Daily Math Skills
Multi-Part and Multi-Step Math Problems
Operations Review
Perimeter and Area
...and more!

I have also added a folder of all of my free digital access resources for easy access and organization.

While this will never take the place of the experiences you would have provided students during your time with them, I hope it is able to take some of the burdens of planning off of you.

FREE At Home Learning

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    I would also encourage you to download this FREE at-home support printable to give to your parents.

    I am also hastily working to convert many of my free resources into digital formats if you are able to assign them via Google Classroom.

    Please click HERE to access all of the resources that INCLUDE a digital version, including 6 (and growing) free resources.

    Monday, March 9, 2020

    Engaging and Meaningful Ways to Prepare for State Testing

    It's March, and that means it's time to start preparing our students for state testing.  If I'm being honest, I try my hardest to not make "test prep" a big deal to my students. Instead, my goal is always to integrate test prep seamlessly into our normal routine.  That way, students never get the impression that we are doing something solely to prepare for a test--instead, we are just learning and growing like any other day at school.  

    ​Here are a few ways that I add in review/test prep this time of year that are still engaging and meaningful to students.
    Task Cards​: Task cards are still a staple in my classroom because there are SO many ways you can use them!  Go on a scavenger hunt, play SCOOT, use them with board games.  The options are endless.  Here are a few of my favorite ways to use task cards for test prep:
    • With games! It's easy to prep and students LOVE it.  I like to choose fast games like Candy Land (yes, even big kids love this), Chutes and Ladders, Guess Who?, Connect Four, etc.  Each time it's their turn, they get a task card and complete it in order to take their turn.
    • As a "Passport" activity.  Students get a passport of tasks they have to complete for a variety of different topics.  I love this because you can totally differentiate it.  I usually end up with multiple different passports because students have different needs.  I separate my task cards into concepts, and I usually put 2-3 sets in each concept area so that they get a VAST review of concepts.  I do not use the entire set of task cards for this.  I usually pick out 10-12 for students to complete from each set since it's just a review.  You can use the rest throughout the year! You can grab the FREE, mostly editable passport HERE as well as suggested task cards that I use for review (you can use any task cards AND you can include reading skills as well).

    • As a Jeopardy-style game show.  I have blogged about this before... click HERE for more information on using task cards for a game show style review!  It's always a huge hit in my class.
    I have hundreds of task cards (including many free versions) for READING and MATH.

    Math Projects: Math projects are a staple in my classroom, so it made so much sense for me to incorporate a math test prep project into my schedule.  I created this years ago, and I absolutely LOVE using it!  It reviews every single standard for 4th and 5th grade, and it's such fun, too. It is a school-themed project, so I usually do a mini room transformation to make it look extra "schooly."  Think: yellow tablecloths for school buses, red apples, etc.

    Topple Blocks Games:  Talk about ENGAGEMENT! When I use Topple Blocks as a review, I typically combine several games and have them do one color from each game as a review.  I've heard of some teachers doing stations, too, where they work through as much uch of one full game at each station.  You can read more about how I use Topple Blocks HERE.

    Paired Passages:  In the past, I'm guilty of using rigid "test prep" passages with students.  They were always so, so bored, and I felt like we were just doing them out of obligation.  Recently, though, I have come up with a much more engaging (AND rigorous AND meaningful) way of incorporating paired passages into my reading test prep. I created two different types of booklet format reviews.
    The first style uses paired passages to review certain reading skills.  While these are really great for use year-round, they are also great for test prep time, too.  Here is a sample of my Cause and Effect Paired Passages Booklet:

    This next set of paired passages booklets is TRULY made for test prep!  It covers two stories in GREAT depth and reviews a wide variety of reading skills.  There are TWO sets of paired passages in this resource.  Click HERE to learn more.

    Error Analysis:  When we teach our students to think critically about math concepts, we are setting them up for success during state testing.  There are SO many multi-step questions and problems that require students to evaluate errors, so I always incorporate several of these tasks as I am prepping my students. HERE are all of my error analysis units, including a FREE addition version!

    Strategy Reviews: ​This is key! In both math and reading, I incorporate specific skill strategy reviews.  In Math, this is usually done in the form of reviewing CUBES for problem solving.  In reading, I usually make comprehension skill review foldables with them.
    HERE is a huge blog post about how I teach and review problem solving.  it also includes some great FREE resources for reviewing multi-step problems!
    HERE is a huge blog post about how I teach and review reading skills that includes a FREE reading skills sort.

    is another post that includes a FREE anchor chart and interactive notebook resource.
    I know this blog post featured more paid resources than usual, but I just had so much I wanted to share! Are you looking for a HUGE post of even more test prep ideas, including anchor charts, motivators, etc?  Here is an old blog post chocked full of ideas.

    Tuesday, January 28, 2020

    Tips for Teaching Interviews

    It's that time of year!  Schools are beginning to look at their staffing for next year, current teachers are making plans for their future, and new teachers are keeping a close eye out for teaching job opportunities. Here, I've compiled some tips and information on how to ace teaching interviews.  This definitely won't be one size fits all, but it's a good starting point!

    I will be the first to admit that the number of interviews that I’ve HAD is a much smaller number than the number of interviews where I’ve been the interviewee.  My perspective here comes from both angles— The teacher interviewer and the teacher interviewee.

    What to Expect During Teaching Interviews
    What should you expect during a typical teaching interview?  You’ll almost always be one of many teachers that an interview committee is speaking with that day, as most districts have protocols they follow about how many people must be screened before making a selection.  They also have protocols about the number of people giving input on a hiring decision, which means it’s fairly rare to go into a one-on-one interview.  The most common scenario I’ve seen is the principal, the assistant principal, and 2-3 teachers (some who will be on your team and some who won’t be, since positions change) doing the interviewing.  When you sit down in the interview, most of the time, everyone on the interview committee will read a question round-robin style.  When you’re answering, speak to the whole room, but I typically recommend that you make more eye contact with the person who asked you the particular question.

    The Interviewers

    There are a few types of people you need to be prepared to meet during an interview: 

    There are interviewers who try their hardest to be warm and welcoming.  They take plenty of notes, smile the whole time, and make eye contact while asking questions.  They nod their head while you answer questions, and they tend to ere on the side of being overly accommodating, which can make even the most unqualified candidate feel like they are nailing it.

    On the other hand,  I’ve seen the sweetest colleagues of mine go completely stoic when they’re interviewing.  Their goal is to get down to business and see who you are as an educator.  They want real answers, and they don’t necessarily want to make you feel like you’re nailing it when you’re not. These interviewers will make eye contact, but they usually won’t smile.  They’ll furiously write down every word you say (or on the other hand, they won’t write down anything, which will make you equally as nervous), and they’ll probably give you a nod or two when you’ve answered their question. You'll leave the room wondering if you bombed it, but they will probably smile big and say, "She was amazing!"

    These are the people that will cause you to question your interview skills and make you give a big “I don’t know” when people ask how your interview went.  Again, I want to emphasize that neither style is better, but I feel like it’s so important to be prepared for both as you are going into your first few teaching interviews.  Don’t let people like me leave you feeling like you nailed it, and don’t let people not-so-like-me intimidate you to the point that it impacts your ability to ACTUALLY nail it. 

    Now that you have a good idea of what you’ll encounter when you sit down to a teaching interview, here are some more general tips I can offer you having been on both sides of the proverbial table.

    On Portfolios

    Every college preparatory program I’ve ever known requires that teacher candidates create a portfolio full of lessons, their mission statement, etc.  I’ve never pulled one of these out during an interview, and I’ve never witnessed someone pull one out during an interview.  It’s not a bad thing to have with you if you get stuck, but time is often of the essence, and fumbling through a portfolio can take up precious time.  Instead, find every opportunity to show your awesome communication skills by explaining different lesson plans, giving an example of parent interactions, and giving a casual but heartfelt impression of your “teaching mission statement.”  Half of an interview is seeing who you are as a human.  Instead of spending precious moments leafing through your portfolio to give an example, use your words and use your heart. 

    On Communication 

    In order to use your words, though, you are going to have to go into this interview completely prepared.  Think through the types of questions that might come up (more on that later) and practice your answers.  If there is a specific learning experience that you want to make sure you highlight during your interview, THINK THROUGH exactly what you are going to say about it.  In fact, brainstorm a list of specific experiences that you would consider highlighting during your interview and think about what you would say about them. 

    On Research 

    Researching the school and district is absolutely crucial to your preparation.  It will help you anticipate what types of questions might come up, and it will help you brainstorm talking points. YOU MUST RESEARCH YOUR SCHOOL/DISTRICT.  

    If you ask a question at the end of the interview that could have easily been answered with a quick swipe through the school’s website, the interview team will get the feeling you aren’t taking the interview seriously.  Likewise, if you ask a question based on something you saw when you researched, they’ll know you’re taking this more seriously. 

    On Honesty 

    Have you ever met someone who looks really good “on paper” but then ends up treating you poorly in real life?  Don’t be the person in an interview who looks great on paper and in the interview and turns out to not be who they say they were.  I’ve seen this happen several times over the years and have thus become wary of those who appear overly book smart in interviews and who give obviously canned or "perfect" answers.  

    If you’ve never taught using a math workshop approach, don’t talk about how you’re a pro at that or how you love using a workshop approach.  If they ask, or if your research has revealed that they use math workshop at the school, tell them about what experience you DO have that would support math workshop and emphasize the fact that you are excited to implement it (if you are, of course) and know it will be great to learn alongside the children. 

    If you’ve never used Daily Five, but you know the school does, research the heck out of it to show that you’re willing to do so, but own the fact that you’ve never taught with it— just be sure to emphasize that you are eager and willing to learn about it and implement it alongside your teammates.  

    95% of the time, your lack of experience in a school-specific implementation will not eliminate you from the running.  I previously taught in an International Baccalaureate school, and while having IB experience was a plus, we would ALWAYS choose an enthusiastic, willing teacher over one who wasn’t as enthusiastic and willing but had IB experience.  Teaching is learning, y’all! 

    The Truth About Jobs

    NOW, before I go any further, this is an important note, especially for first-year teachers who are newly navigating the waters of teacher interviews. I want you to keep in mind that you may end up in an interview situation where, no matter how amazing you are, you will definitely not get the job because someone else already has it.  

    Let me give you an example:  In my former district, any teacher hired after August 1st is automatically considered an INR (Intent Not to Rehire) and their contract is only for one year.  At the end of the year, no matter how much of a rock star they were that year, their position still has to be reposted, and interviews still have to be conducted for that position.  In most cases, that person will get rehired on an actual contract and admin is just going through the protocol.  I’ve sat on many interviews just like this, watching the poor interviewees pour their hearts into the interview, not realizing that the person in the position is actually staying in the position.

    Another example of this scenario is when there is movement within the school.  Depending on tenure and contract terms, I’ve seen teachers have to reinterview for specialty positions (interventionists, reading specialists) when they are already a “shoo-in.” 

    **TAKE HEART!** Even though you likely won't know this is the case until after the interview, even if you suspect it's a formality, give it your all.  These interviews are not a total loss, as I’ve also seen many people in these interviews get called back for later interviews who are subsequently hired on in a different position.  Every single opportunity that you have to interact with the administration is an important one.  Rockstar teachers will stand out, no matter if they have a job for you right then or not.

    General Tips for Teaching Interviews

    • Use “we” as often as possible when referring to your experience in schools.  It shows that you are a collaborative team player and willing to work with others and give credit where credit is due. 
    • While it's important to show a growth mindset and a willingness to adapt and learn, be prepared to talk about failures, both in the classroom, with colleagues, with parents, and with students. Do not sit in an interview and say you can’t think of any failures or professional weaknesses.
    • It’s okay to thoughtfully pause between a question and your answer.  Take a moment to pull your ideas together.  It shows that you are thoughtful rather than impulsive, and you’ll almost always come up with a better example the more time you think about it.   There have been several times that I haven't followed this advice, finish my answer, and then end up saying, "ACTUALLY, I need to add to my answer."
    • Ask for clarification or to repeat the question as needed, especially if they are long questions with multiple parts.  Again, don’t try to skim over an answer when you don’t know what they’re asking.
    • Never, ever, ever talk poorly about former colleagues, students, parents, or administration. Seriously, never. You can put a positive, learning-based spin on any negative situation, and this is the time to do that.  I can’t think of a time we ever hired someone who talked poorly about former positions.
    • Many schools have a school-wide behavior management program implemented (Love and Logic, Responsive Classroom, PBIS, etc.).  Be sure to look it up ahead of time so that you are familiar with it and possibly reference it at some point during your interview. 

    • S.M.I.L.E.  I will be the first to tell you that when I walk into an interview (or really, any situation that requires me to talk in front of people), I have a very physical reaction that I can’t help.  My face and neck turn bright red, my breathing gets funny, and my hands get shaky.  Every. Single. Time.  I know this happens to me, and I always go in prepared with a line like, “Eek! I can stand in front of kids and sing songs about verbs all day, but a room full of adults is something else!”  It’s a good way to break the ice, acknowledge that physical reaction that you can't control, and get things started.  Smile.  Be human.  I’ve said it a few times before, but they are not only looking at your pedagogical knowledge, but the interview team wants to know your heart, too.  Show it to them. 

    Sample Teacher Interview Questions

    Note: Most interview questions are lengthy and have multiple parts.  These are some of the more basic questions that you should know YOUR answers to ahead of time, but be prepared for more detailed questions, too. 

    • How do you accomplish vertical and horizontal articulation within a school?
    • How do you structure your reading/math block so that a wide variety of students’ needs are met?
    • Give an example of a time you had a difficult interaction with a parent and how you handled it. 
    • How do you encourage students to show grit (growth mindset) in their learning and in the classroom?
    • What does rigor mean to you, and how can you be sure you are providing a rigorous experience for all students?
    • How do you incorporate cultural awareness, worldwide views, diversity, and equity into your lessons and classroom?
    • How do you promote a cohesive classroom community?
    • How do you keep students engaged while still maintaining a rigorous classroom environment?
    • Give an example of a challenge with a student and explain how you handled it.
    • What is your policy on grading?
    • How do you decide on homework requirements?
    • How do you ensure ample communication between home and school?
    • What is your classroom management policy?
    • How do you incorporate technology into your classroom in a meaningful way?
    • How do you collect and use data to inform your instruction and monitor student growth?
    • What is your philosophy on working in a grade-level team?
    • What strengths do you bring to your grade-level team?
    • How do you handle [insert specific classroom management crisis/scenario]?  (My favorite version of this has been when a principal asked me what I would do if a student refused to call me by my last name...)
    • What is the most recent education-related book you have read or PD you have attended? Tell us about it. 

    Monday, January 13, 2020

    Teaching Character Conflict

    I've posted about teaching character conflict before, but I have a few updates to share and a NEW free resource for teaching the types of character conflict!  Here's a link the original blog post if you are looking for even more ideas.

    No matter what grade I'm teaching, I always start off my character lesson the same way: By watching the clip of Anna and Elsa in "For the First Time in Forever."  After we watch it, I ask the students to write down as many words as they can think of to describe Anna and Elsa.  Then we talk about the difference between character traits and character feelings and create an anchor chart like the one below.  After we've talked about the difference, we sort our descriptive words we came up with into the categories.

    Once they have a good handle on this, we are free to move on to the more tricky task of tackling character conflict.  For teaching character conflict, I start off by talking about internal vs. external conflict and what the main difference is.  We talk about times we felt conflicted about something.  Most of those conflicts end up being man vs. man conflicts, but we discuss what makes their conflicts different.

    Character Conflict Anchor Chart
    Now, here's the next step that students love so much.  Once they know what the four types of conflict are, we watch four different short clips from popular Disney movies. Each of these clips is a great representation of its respective character conflict.  I made a short recording sheet for students as well so that they could record their work and write a one-sentence summary that describes the conflict.

    You can download the free character conflict printable HERE.

    Man vs. Self

    Tangled: This is the movie I was watching that prompted me to start using Disney clips to teach character conflict! Poor Rapunzel has just left the tower and is feeling mighty conflicted about what she has done by defying her mother's wishes.  This scene is the perfect example of Man vs. Self conflict.

    Click HERE for the clip, though you really only need to let students watch the first minute for them to identify the conflict.

    Man vs. Nature

    Moana: Moana is determined to see what's beyond the horizon, but nature (the ocean) has different plans.  She struggles to make it past the waves, and this scene is an ideal Man vs. Nature conflict.

    Click HERE for the clip.  It's less than two minutes long.

    Man vs. Man

    Frozen: Anna and Elsa disagree about whether or not Elsa should return home.  We all know this ends with Elsa striking Anna.  This scene easily represents Man vs. Man (or person vs. person, in this case!) conflict.

    Click HERE for the clip.

    Man vs. Society

    Mulan:  The emperor needs men, and only men to help him defeat the Huns.  Mulan's father is called to war, and when Mulan tries to step up as in his place, she is disgraced.

    Click HERE for the clip.

    After we are done with this lesson, it's time for them to practice on their own!  This is when I have them work through character conflict task cards together.  You can see the character conflict task cards HERE.

    Monday, January 6, 2020

    Teaching Precise Math Vocabulary

    A few years ago, I was heavily pregnant, and my students were scheduled to go on a field trip three hours away from the school.  Since I was so close to my due date (and we all know how school buses are...), we decided it would be best if the interventionist and I swapped duties for the day.  As she was going through her schedule with me, she made a quick aside.

    "Make sure they say 5 plus 5 EQUALS 10, and not 5 plus 5 is ten," she reminded me before quickly apologizing with an abrupt, "I know you know that. Sorry."  It gave me pause because, while I did, in fact, know that many educators believe this to be best practice, it occurred to me that I rarely put this into action in my own classroom.  It was just the reminder I needed about the importance of math vocabulary and just how critical it is to use formal math vocabulary as much as possible during everyday conversation with my students...and encourage them to do the same.

    I know I've seen it said that using math vocabulary isn't crucial to student success- some opponents even argue that it is confusing for kids and adds an extra degree of difficulty to math tasks.  However, I truly believe that encouraging students to use correct, precise math vocabulary increases their comprehension and ability to tackle math word problems, improves performance on standardized tests (which almost always use proper, precise math vocabulary), and gives every child a little boost as they progress through the grade levels.

    While it takes a bit of extra time to incorporate this vocabulary as you are teaching concepts, my students love it when they sound like official mathematicians!  I do a lot of pre-teaching to explain that while some of the more informal terms aren't always inaccurate and certainly not wrong, it's so much more impressive to use formal math terms.  I also explain to them that it will help them in the long run and helps them better understand math concepts.  I make a big deal out of it (you don't usually learn this until 6th grade, but we're tackling it today, because I know you can handle it).  They eat it up!

    Here are a few ways that I encourage my students to routinely infuse formal math vocabulary in the classroom, and a few terms that I'm a particular stickler about with my students:

    Expression, Equation, Number Sentence 

    I'll admit that I previously used these terms interchangeably, just hoping my students would recognize them when it came time for testing season.  I know there are still anchor charts on my blog that use the terms incorrectly, and I cringe every time I see one (note to self: fix that!).  Eventually, though, I decided I needed to explicitly teach these terms to my 4th and 5th graders, and they did an amazing job! Here's a sample anchor chart to teach students the difference between an expression and an equation.

    You'll notice that "Express" is underlined under Expression and "Equa" is underlined under Equation.  Expressions are short, hence the "express" and "equa" is similar to equal.  This helps my students remember the difference.

    Decimal Points

    If you were to ask my former students what I'm MOST picky about when it comes to math talk, this would probably be it.

    1.24 is not one point two four or one point twenty-four.

    Well, technically, it is, but my students know they need "permission to use point," which is granted only in specific (and usually hurried) situations.

    1.24 is one and twenty-four hundredths.

    Reading Whole Numbers

    Along the same lines as the decimals points, I am hyper picky about students not adding "and" when they are reading whole numbers.  105 is not one hundred and five, just one hundred five.  "And" is reserved only for decimals, even with my young students who don't know how to read decimals yet.

    Reading Fractions

    If I student reads 1/4 as one over four, I usually ask them to rephrase it to either one fourth or a quarter.

    If a student tells me the "top number" of a fraction is one, I ask them to rephrase it to, "the numerator" is one.  Same goes if they tell me the "bottom number" of a fraction is four.  They rephrase it to "the denominator" is four.

    Greater Than > and Less Than <

    So often I hear kids say, "The arrow is pointing at the smaller number!" or "The alligator is eating the smaller number."  I know these are all techniques we use to teach young students how to use the symbols, but as they get older, it's so important that they can read an expression like 456 > 87 as "456 is greater than 87."

    Regroup and Decompose

    I know this one is controversial, but they aren't borrowing any numbers, they are regrouping the numbers.  This definitely causes a bit of a generational divide, as I grew up with the term borrowing and carrying, as did most of our students' parents.  However, if we are really focusing on using math vocabulary to help our students understand the math concepts, they will learn to understand what "regrouping" and "decomposing" mean just as we understood the function of "borrow" and "carry."  The only difference is that as they get older, they will understand that these terms are literal (and they are great for mini lessons on prefixes, too!)

    Improper Fraction and Fraction Greater than One

    I'm going to admit that I'm still not completely fluent with this change, but did you know that the more up-to-date and accurate term for an improper fraction is a "fraction greater than one?"  It's literal, and it's a great teaching moment.  Since "improper fraction" is still used regularly in textbooks and other resources, I teach both terms and use them interchangeably.

    Reduced and Simplified Fractions

    This one is very similar to the one above.  I still use both terms interchangeably and make sure that my students understand that we really aren't reducing the fraction or making it smaller, but putting it into its simplest form.

    Geometry Terms

    Those aren't corners.  Those are vertices.  :)

    Dimensions (Area & Perimeter)

    I can't tell you how many times I've had students get to me in 4th grade and have a good grasp on perimeter and area concepts but have no idea what a dimension is or how to read dimensions (ie. 4 x 3 is four by three or length times width). This is an easy, easy fix, and there's something that kids love about the word dimension.

    Along the same lines, I tend to always refer to the "outside" of a shape as the perimeter of it and the inside of it as the area.


    I constantly ask my students, "What operation did you use to solve this problem?"

    I have also stopped saying, "What's the answer?" whenever possible and replaced that with, "What's the sum/difference/product/quotient?" anywhere that I can.


    This is another important one.  There are three DIGITS in the number 453.  It's so important that students understand the difference between the digits and the number, just like they understand that letters are different than words.

    Attending to Precision with Informal vs. Formal Math Talk

    I want to emphasize that I don't call my students out as wrong or tell them that the more informal terms are inaccurate (unless they are).  To me, having my students practice their math vocabulary during conversations and math discussions is just like having them practice their reading fluency, and it becomes just that-- fluent.

    Do you teach the Standards of Mathematical Practice in your classroom?  If so, you'll recognize that this all really comes down to the Mathematical Practice of attending to precision.  When students say, "To solve this problem, I did take away," I think it's completely reasonable to ask them to be more precise with their language and say, "To solve this problem, I subtracted..."  

    What are you a stickler for when it comes to math vocabulary?

    A special note:  Please note that I have used these strategies and expectations with all students, but students needing extra support or English Language Learners may need additional scaffolds, support, and accommodations.

    Formal vs. Informal Math Talk Anchor Chart Inspiration:
    Building a  Bridge to Academic Math Vocabulary

    Other Math Posts You May Enjoy 


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    Wednesday, October 9, 2019

    Teaching Students To Use Observations to Infer

    If you've ever tried to teach students the concept of making inferences, you know this is never a simple task! That's why I have always taught my students how to tell the difference between literal and inferential questions and observations.  I've written extensively about this in the past, but I have a new inference anchor chart and free lesson for you if you are just getting started, or if your students need more practice with this!

    Inference Anchor Chart
    You may remember THIS  post about how I teach my students the difference between literal and inferential observations or THIS post that dives into using pictures to teach.  This is not a one and done skill!  I find a way to reinforce inference ALL YEAR LONG.

    This lesson and anchor chart are similar concepts to those I've shared before, but it scaffolds it even more for students who need more explicit instruction.  It's also a great way to introduce those two lessons because it even more explicitly teaches inference than those do!

    The inference anchor chart above really speaks for itself.  I start by explaining to my students that our literal observations (what's right there) help us make inferences. Then, we use the green sticky notes to brainstorm as many literal observations as we can about the picture.  After that, we discuss as a group some inferences we can make based on those literal observations.  Soon, students realize that they are actually inferring ALL the time!  It's a great lightbulb moment.  It's also great for them to see that you can infer multiple conclusions from the same observation (and that not all inferences are right all the time).

    I also made a free inference printable for you to use with your students to reinforce this skill.  You can download it (which also includes the picture I used in our anchor chart) for free HERE.

    Inference Activity
    Then, we use one of my literal and inferential text task cards as a whole group to apply this skill to text.  We color code our answers again so that they can see how we must use our observations in order to make an inference. 

    I hope that gives you one more idea about how you can use pictures to teach inference, especially to students who don't understand the concept the first time around.  Be sure to reference those two posts I mentioned above so that you know where to go AFTER this!