Monday, November 17, 2014

Close Reading Literature Passages Task Cards

(Just released) These task cards are unique because they enable students to practice closely reading text during their literacy center or small group time.  A special answer key is included that shows the key details that should be highlighted in the text. It contains text annotations to explain the significance of each detail, plus the document contains a full written response answer for each question. Students gain practice doing exactly what is expected of them during reading instruction and during assessments.  These task cards are designed to make reading instruction, the transition to Common Core, and general test assessment review much easier.

The questions go beyond the surface level and are posed at different levels of Bloom's Taxonomy to help students truly understand what they read.  

Students can use dry erase markers to highlight directly on the task card as well as write their annotations.  Literature topics include:  character traits, figurative language, plot, theme, and character motive.  Each task card has a different short passage. The original passages as written using the same techniques as award authors to give students authentic practice.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Connection Between Close Reading & World Knowledge

Common Core and reading advocates are shifting away from skills based reading instruction.  Both promote the use of close reading.

Close reading involves students reading and sometimes rereading text.  During the process, students highlight, underline, or circle information that they deem to be important.  This approach helps students focus on how and why they determined an answer to a question.It helps students pay closer attention to the nuances of language and how authors put words, sentences, and paragraphs together to create ideas.

This approach works well with a great number of students.  What about students that do not read?  Or, what happens to students that read playful comics rather than historical fiction or classic literature?

When we learn about rocks and minerals, my students participate in mineral dig and mock gold rush activity.

Students come to our classrooms with a wide variety of backgrounds.  I have had students that have traveled to France from the United States for family vacations.  I have also had students that have never traveled to a local museum other than through a school field trip. These experiences matter and add to the knowledge that students bring to the table when they read a book.  

This is a hands-on activity students participated in to accompany a science lesson.

To level the educational playing field as much possible, I incorporate as many hands-on experiences as I can into our units of study. Reading lessons are often taught in thematic units to help students connect the dots.  Time is spent reading challenging text (with support) for just a few minutes a day. Students read one paragraph from a nature or science magazine and closely read the paragraph.  After two or three minutes, we discuss what was stated in the paragraph and I walk around to look at the annotations they have on their papers.  This is very important. Students must read leveled text to reduce reading frustration.  To ensure that students are still accessing reading materials at their level, we read higher level text together with a lot of scaffolding.

This approach works very well.  Increasing world knowledge is not limited to historical facts or science information.  It also includes closely reading models of excellent writing and investigating how the writers convey character, theme, etc.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Free Daily Common Core Math Practice

Happy Friday to everyone.  I am back with a math freebie.  I just released a sample of my Daily Common Core Math Practice.  Many people that have used Daily Common Core Reading have asked when I will release a math version.  A free sample version of the math version has just been released.    The entire bundles will be released very soon.

This resource poses math questions at different levels of Bloom's Taxonomy and DOK levels plus it contains carefully crafted questions to help students understand each Common Core Standard inside out.  This is VERY IMPORTANT.  If you have seen the Common Core Standards samples and have awakened after you have passed out from seeing them, you can tell that they look very different from the released samples from previous state assessments.  Common Core is really trying to get students to go beyond memorizing procedures.  They want students to really understand math concepts.  

(Try this sample at a variety of grade levels to review concepts or challenge students.  More daily practice will be released across the grade levels.)

This free resource is unique because the problems help students understand math concepts inside out.  They consider the common errors that students commonly make in math to help alleviate these errors. Math problems are posed in a variety of ways to help students have a FLEXIBLE understanding of math.  Questions gradually build in complexity and provide systematic practice in just a few minutes a day.  It also includes critical thinking skills practice that directly connects to math.  Click Here To Access It

Deepen Math Understanding: Solve a Math Problem in Different Ways

Learning how to solve a math problem in different ways has many benefits.
1.  It helps students understand the underlying principles of a math topic.
2.  It leads students to think about which approach is the fastest or most efficient way to solve a math problem.
3.  It also leads students to understand that math questions can be posed in a variety of ways just like math problems can be solved in a variety of ways.

Let us begin with the third benefit.  Some students can solve a math problem when it is presented in one way.  When the same idea is presented in a different way, they are completely lost.  Not only would this be a nightmare on the day of state assessments, this misunderstanding undermines the entire point of a math lesson.

This chart shows the different ways that multiplication can be presented.  Many students just know of multiplication as being represented as "groups".  Each example shows multiplication in a different context.   It is important for students to understand the different ways that a math topic can be presented.  It is also just as important for students to know that a math problem can be solve in a number of ways.

I can remember walking past a student that had not memorized his multiplication facts. He drew tiny circles on the corner of his paper to find the answer to a math problem. This leads to point two on our list.  Using multiple approaches to solve a math problem helps students determine which one is the most efficient as well as fastest.    There is a place for drawing tiny circles to determine the answer to a problem.  Using this method is not the most efficient because it takes so much time.  Showing how to solve the same math problem in multiple ways helps the student determine the best approach to solve a math problem.

 Use the four box or two box approach.  The math problem is written in the center of the page.  The larger box can be divided into two or four parts.  Each part can show a different way to solve the math problem. 

To Access Math Task Cards That Teach And Review A Variety Of Math Concepts Click Here and Scroll Down

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Math RTI

What is math response to invention (RTI)? RTI is an intervention strategy in which interventions are arranged in tiers.  Although it is commonly used for improving reading ability, it can also be used to increase student performance in math.

Tier 1 is whole class intervention.  Tier 2 involves intervention for students that need even more assistance with grasping an idea. Tier 3 is for students that need more intensive practice.  Progress monitoring is done on a regular basis to assess student performance.

Lessons are differentiated to meet the needs of a variety of learners and learning styles. Students that grasp math concepts easily might begin with abstract math concepts.

Students that need extra practice can complete task cards that match their ability.

Instruction for tier two or tier three students can begin with manipulatives or step-by-step illustrated directions.

Students tend to respond well to this layered intervention technique.

Math RTI Resources






Word Problems







Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Argument Writing

Recently, I began argument writing with the middle school students that I work with and have started opinion writing with my elementary students.

Above is an example of the poster that I developed for our lessons.  My first goal was to make sure that students know the parts of an argumentative essay.  

As I presented the poster, the students helped to generate ideas about how each part of an argumentative essay should be presented.  We spent some time talking about writing good evidence.  This is a great distinction.  Providing evidence is not enough. It is important to provide really good evidence that can make the claim of the essay convincing.  The text support should also be able to stand up against the counterclaim.

Stop back by to look at examples as we progress through these lessons.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Quick and Daily English Literature Practice (Grade 7)

Have you ever wished that your middle school students could review literature concepts in just a few minutes a day?  I used to look for something that would allow my students to review concepts between novels and other stories.  These passages were created for exactly that reason.  The document contains 100 quick passages for daily practice.  Realistic fiction, historical fiction, poetry, dystopian fiction, folktales, and informational text passages.  Character analysis, theme, inferences, cause and effect, figurative language, and more topics are covered.