Don’t you sometimes wish that students could just see inside your head and understand exactly what you are thinking? That may be every teacher’s dream. If someone would invent a tool that allowed students to see inside our heads, they would become a millionaire! Unfortunately, this invention hasn’t been created yet, so we need to find a way for students to “see” what we are thinking through strategic teaching methods. Marcia Dove and Andrea Honigsfeld call this idea “making thinking visible” in their newest book Co-Teaching for English Learners: A Guide to Collaborative Planning, Instruction, Assessment, and Reflection. In their book, they give several strategies for making thinking visible for students so that they can begin to magically see inside our teacher heads to increase reading and writing skills.
Think Alouds are one way that makes thinking visible for students. It seems so simple. Just talk about what you are already thinking. Yet it is extremely powerful for students. Teachers can model their thinking by making text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections. Check out this video to see a Think Aloud in action:
A Write Aloud provides a scaffold for students to guide them through the process of writing. Teachers can model a piece of writing so students can see the steps and procedures in the writing process. Throughout the process, the teacher explains verbally what he or she is thinking. The teacher can talk about why they selected a particular vocabulary word, phrase, transition word, or structure. Write alouds can be done with one teacher, or in a co-teaching partnership. In a co-teaching partnership, one teacher can do a think aloud while the other teacher takes notes or writes out what the other teacher is thinking in a structured format (or with a graphic organizer). Another idea is to have one teacher think aloud and write out what they are thinking, and then the other teacher performs a separate think aloud to show the differences in their writing and thinking processes. If you have a paraprofessional, it would be helpful to give them a frame for the think aloud so they can assist and/or provide other think aloud strategies.
A Scaffolded Comprehend Aloud is another version of a Think Aloud. While think alouds support different reading and writing strategies, Dove and Henigsfeld believe that scaffolded comprehend alouds “make thinking visible about processing and analyzing the language of complex readings at the word, sentence, and text level” (pg. 85). Dove and Henigsfeld provide the table below with different sentence starters (pg. 85-86). Each content area, and grade level, may have to adapt these, but this list can provide a start to using think alouds and/or scaffolded comprehend alouds.
Think Alouds, Write Alouds, and Scaffolded Comprehend Alouds are three great strategies to make our thinking visible to students. They provide a way for students to see inside our heads, model good reading and writing strategies, and allow students to use critical-thinking skills.
If you would be interested in trying any of these out with students, reach out to an instructional coach, or I would be happy to come out and model them beside you.
This post brought to you by Katie Miller, K-12 EL Implementation Associate
Dove, M.G., & Honigsfeld, A. (2018). Co-teaching for English learners: a guide to collaborative planning, instruction, assessment, and reflection. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, A SAGE Company.
Recently I was asked about an article that I had shared awhile back so I am sharing it again. The focus is around the things we can do in our classrooms to help our students be more successful in regards to mathematics.
The ultimate goal of mathematics is to produce students who can think mathematically and solve
If that is truly the ultimate goal, we have to teach as though we believe it. We have to maximize every
opportunity for students to think deeply, to create their own solutions, to build/write/draw/talk about their thinking! Students learn important mathematical concepts THROUGH problem solving. This is a mind shift away from the idea that we teach math concepts procedurally first and only then can they do problem solving.
Quotes from Principles to Action: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All, NCTM (2014)
Here are some different ways we can change our practices to be more effective.
We think we are being helpful, but are we handicapping them for later?
We used to help students identify words like “altogether” and “in all” in story problems and we said these meant to do a particular operation. I clearly remember posting lists of these words under various operations. My intentions were good and I had seen it done by others. Now, I know there is strong evidence that this practice may actually hinder students’ comprehension of the story! Why?
1. Now we know that when the emphasis is on the “key words” themselves, students tend to find the numbers and just do the operation without thinking about the overall story in the problem.
2. These words can be present in a story problem but not necessarily indicate a particular operation. For example,consider what operation you would use to solve the following problems that contain the word “altogether”:
3. Standardized tests often make a point to avoid these key phrases. When students become dependent on finding the key words and doing that operation, they no longer have a strategy for solving problems when the words aren’t there.
Even at the earliest grades, our focus needs to be on comprehension of the story and true problem solving. It is with good intention that we offer up tricks or shortcuts, but in the long run, these tend to expire and negatively impact student learning.
At every grade level we want to be sure that we are presenting students with practices that create a problem solving environment because that is where true learning and enduring understandings are taking place.
This post brought to you by Carol Lucido, the K-8 District Math Coordinator
Are you aware of all the amazing things that our school librarians can do if you just ask? Listed here are just 10 of the ways you can better utilize this amazing resource that is already right at your fingertips!
1. Plan & co-teach engaging lessons.
Librarians cover topics that are important to their media classes which, depending on your media specialist, can include digital citizenship, research, book selection, state and national award books, components of fiction and nonfiction books, book care, database usage, teaching App usage, literature appreciation, multimedia presentation tools, book genres, growth mindset, keyboarding skills, citation, plagiarism, oral presentation skills, keyboarding skills, mouse skills, website evaluation, note taking, and alphabetization skills. This is just the tip of the iceberg of topics covered in media classes.
They also value and connect with the content that is being delivered in each of their buildings, each of their grade levels, and each of their individual classrooms. Frequently, teachers will ask librarians to reinforce a skill they are teaching in class, and librarians feel this is a major part of their role. They plan lessons for multiple grade levels, often for 2 different buildings: some of those buildings have 1:1 iPads, some don’t; some have computer labs, some don’t. Like classroom teachers, they seek to make their lessons engaging and enjoyable for their students. Librarians also push into classrooms to co-teach lessons when teachers are looking for support. They are happy to lead the lesson or just be an extra set of hands.
2. Partner in integration of new technology in your classroom.
3. Locate, vet, curate and share high quality resources for you and your students.
As most teachers know, librarians will research and acquire materials such as books (from their libraries or from other school libraries), websites, and databases to support student learning. Some of the greatest resources are quality databases which can easily be accessed through MackinVia by both teachers and students. Please see your media specialist if you have any questions regarding access or ways to best use these resources.
4. Connect students with books to nurture life-long readers.
5. Support and advancement of curriculum development.
Librarians often work on curriculum writing teams in order to support their work with valuable resources and offer their unique perspective. There are librarians who work on articulation committees, attend PLCs, participate in summer curriculum writing, and work with grade levels on planning teams. Feel free to contact your librarian if you feel this is something that would be helpful for you or to your team.
6. Cohort in exploring and trying new things and ideas.
7. Help students develop research and presentation skills.
Everyday there are new and exciting ways that students can present their learning. The more tools the students feel comfortable with, the more choice they have in presenting the information. The more comfortable they are with different methods of presentation, the more efficient they will be in their choices. They can target their strengths and/or explore new options. Librarians teach them not only presentation skills but presentation options. They teach the most effective ways to research and how to translate what they have learned into information that is easily consumed. Whenever possible, librarians give students voice and choice in their topics and encourage real world application and sharing of the knowledge they have acquired.
8. Community Builder - Both within the school and globally.
9. Collaborate on innovative projects.
Even librarians on fixed schedules can find time to collaborate on new and exciting projects with teachers. There are often resources they are aware of that can be added to enhance a particular project. Librarians can also teach components of the lesson that will help students achieve their goal. They can also just be another set of hands when needed. They are always happy to help.
10. Facilitate lessons and discussions on digital citizenship topics.
Librarians are there for you in whatever way they can be helpful. If they can’t answer the question or find the resource - they can find someone who can. Please don’t hesitate to seek them out.
Allowing for student choice is about creating learners that are inspired, embrace creativity, and take ownership of their learning. Allowing for student choice is acknowledging and embracing the idea that in order to grow passionate and invested learners, we as teachers need to give our students the opportunity to have choice and voice throughout their day. Here are some meaningful and easy ways to incorporate student choice in your classroom that ensures you are meeting student needs, while allowing them the flexibility to do it in their own way.
Think about how you can incorporate time into your day when students are able to have unstructured innovation time. How often in your classroom do students get to work on projects that they are passionate about? Not only is this a great way to learn about your students but it allows them to create something that they are passionate about and grow their love of learning on a topic that interests them. After all, don’t we want to grow students that are curious and have a passion for lifelong learning? Don’t forget to let students study, research and build on topics of their choosing!
This is one of the more popular and perhaps easiest ways teachers can incorporate more choice. Choice boards allows the teacher to ensure that the tasks students are choosing meet the standard for the day but allows a student the flexibility to show their learning in different ways. Choice boards can be used in many different ways. If you typically provide students with how you expect them to complete a specific learning target, consider providing them with a choice board. You will immediately see their interest and engagement level rise because they now have the opportunity to complete a task in a way that is interesting to them. You both win!
There are many great tools online that allow for students flexibility and can fit in with everyday lessons.
When asking students in the classroom to collaborate on a project or reflection sheet, consider allowing them to collaborate over Google or on a Prezi. You will be surprised by how quickly your students will pick up on these technology tools even if you don’t feel like an “expert” using the tool yet. Don’t let your lack of comfort with technology hold your students back. If they can demonstrate the knowledge on how to use the tool, given them the flexibility to do so!
Do you have students in your classroom who could teach a topic to another student? Instead of always using a traditional peer tutor, ask your students if they would be willing to create a short video tutorial and pair your older and younger students together. If you aren’t partnered with another classroom, find a topic that your students are an “expert” at and allow them to create a video to help other students in the classroom when they have questions. This allows students to review a certain topic on an iPad or computer at their own pace.
Create Opportunities for Student to Give You Feedback:
Student choice leads to more student voice! Don’t be scared to ask your students for feedback after a lesson or unit. Taking the time to allow them to reflect on how the lesson went not only allows them time to reflect on their own learning, but allows you to find out how you could change in the future to be more effective. Creating a “Teacher Report Card” like the one below lets student know that you are open to feedback as well and wanting to ensure that you are meeting their needs.
Remember that when you provide your students with choices, they feel heard and their learning in turn feels more valuable. Students who have choice and voice in their classroom are engaged and take more ownership in their learning. If as you reflect on your own teaching style you find that you don’t allow for student autonomy in your classroom, try incorporating some of these ideas into your room and you will see a difference in the level of engagement and excitement in your students.
This post brought to you by Kate Palmquist, APOSA overseeing Elementary Curriculum and Instructional Coaching
Principles to Actions, Ensuring Mathematical Success for All, the 2014 groundbreaking publication from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) lists productive disposition as one of the five interrelated strands that together, constitute mathematical proficiency. The other four strands include:
The National Research Council defines productive disposition as the tendency to see sense in mathematics, to perceive it as both useful and worthwhile, to believe that steady effort in learning mathematics pays off, and to see oneself as an effective learner and doer of mathematics (2001).
While instruction to develop competency in these first four strands are often easier to understand and implement, developing productive disposition in students tends to remain more elusive. A disposition is a person’s inherent qualities of mind and character. Inherent is defined as existing in something as a permanent, essential or characteristic attribute. Productive disposition in mathematics is a combination of a positive attitude toward math and one’s own math identity and perseverance to stay with something until you succeed. As teachers, how do we develop this within our students?
The first step is to address our own, as well as our students’ attitudes about math. We all need to develop positive math identities. Winston Churchill said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference”. In her book Building Powerful Numeracy in Middle and High School Students, (also a great resource) Pamela Weber Harris’s motto is “math is figure-out-able!” We need our students to truly believe this. We also need them to embrace the quote by American philosopher and psychologist William James, “It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome."
The best resource I found for helping teachers develop a positive disposition in their students came from the American Psychological Association. Barbara McCombs, PhD from the University of Denver has developed Teacher’s Modules for applying psychological science to practical instructional problems in the classroom. This comprehensive and user friendly resource entitled Developing Responsible and Autonomous Learners: A Key to Motivating Students “provides tools for what teachers of all age groups can do to inspire natural curiosity, creativity and autonomous lifelong learning.” I encourage you to check it out.
Just for fun, a parting thought… Coincidence or not?
This post brought to you by Julie Ace, Elementary Implementation Associate
With the district work focusing on cultural responsiveness and Dr. Hollie returning to RPS to work with teaching staff on being culturally responsive, C&I has started receiving questions more frequently about being a culturally responsive teacher, in addition to requests to help teachers implement these practices into their classroom. These recent requests have prompted the sharing of these discussions with a district wide audience.
-Definition of Culturally Responsive Teaching-
As C&I staff talk with teachers about culturally responsive teaching, it is important to ensure we share a common definition. The commonly excepted definition comes from Gloria Ladson-Billings, pedagogical theorist and teacher educator at UW Madison. Gloria states that “Culturally responsive teaching is a pedagogy that recognizes the importance of including students' cultural references in all aspects of learning”.
-What It Is And What It Is Not-
The next thing C&I staff look at with a teacher is examining what culturally responsive teaching IS and what it IS NOT. According to Zaretta Hammond, author of the book Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain, it is not about “motivating students of color by mentioning cultural facts or naming famous people of color.” It is also not “teachers rapping their content…or...doing a call and response at the beginning of a lesson to get kids excited.” It is also not just about “motivating disengaged students’.” It is about “helping culturally and linguistically diverse students who have been marginalized in schools build their skill & capacity to do rigorous work.”
-Characteristics Of Culturally Responsive Teaching-
Finally, C&I staff have been working with teachers to identify what can be done in the classroom to foster an environment of cultural responsiveness.
This is the basic outline of the discussions that have been taking place with teachers across the district as we all continue our journey of becoming more culturally responsive. Hopefully, these resources make a terrific springboard to help make lessons more culturally responsive.
This post brought to you by Rebecca Mecikalski, Elementary Implementation Associate
During the Back-to-School staff development days, the vast majority of our elementary and secondary math teachers attended a training on the 8 research-based mathematics instructional practices from NCTM. Participants had amazing conversations about how to make math learning more powerful for all of our students. The million dollar question now is… NOW WHAT? How does this impact my classroom?
It can be daunting to make sweeping changes to your instruction all at one time. Don’t let that deter you – just start somewhere. Here are some first steps you might try!
| 1 |
Get to know your students as math learners
Pose some questions and ask students to discuss, write, or even draw a picture about their answers…
| 2 |
Establish positive norms for your classroom and revisit them often
Communicate ideas such as those suggested by Jo Boaler in Mathematics Mindsets:
| 3 |
As you begin to plan lessons, try to enhance the use of the 8 instructional practices.
Even small changes can have a great impact. As one math teacher shared in the August training, “I started by just having kids talk more and explain their thinking…and it made all the difference!”
Here are a some things to consider (again, from Jo Boaler, Mathematics Mindsets):
Finally, don't forget to give yourself and your students time to grow into these new practices!
This post brought to you by Carol Lucido, the K-8 District Math Coordinator
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