Think Alouds

I finally have some energy for my last blog post of year. After visiting my parents for Christmas, I got the flu. Or I should say they "shared" it with me since they had it as well.

I've blogged in the past about how I've structured my lessons using Gradual Release (Fisher and Frey.) Not to mention over half of the Teach Evaluation Rubric is based on integrating gradual release into every part of my day. (Easier said than done.) I've been focusing on the "I do" and "We do" pieces with my math groups.

The point of an "I do" is that I get to model my thinking and what I want students to do. This means I get to do all the talking. And the students HAVE to be QUIET. Yeah right!! Sixth graders don't like sharing the air waves. This is only to be no more than 5 minutes most of the time. This would happen if I got to do all the talking. We're getting there.

I created this visual to help me make sure that when I'm doing a "Think Aloud" to hit some specific ideas by the time I'm finished. This has helped me stay on track--even with the distractions. This is for me and not so much for my students. But I have seen them attend better to the lesson because it gives them very specific information about the days think aloud. I've noticed that they are making connections to other think alouds since I've added this.

Have a fabulous week and a great start to you New Year.

Math Progress Monitoring

Every teacher has to do some sort of progress monitoring. In my building we reading very, very well--it's second nature. But math we just can't seem to get our hands around. For me as well. I have two small math intervention groups and I have to say I relay on student work samples to determine if they have it or not. This is not enough to determine a student has a math disability or even if they are making progress within the intervention. Exit tickets work to show what if the student got the material taught that day and can be used as part of the data collection but for me these tend to be once or twice a week. One of the classroom teachers, I co-teach with during math uses them to make his small groups during the unit--they don't cover skills from previous units or missing skills. These are all great things but according to Colorado not enough or the right thing. (Go figure--that they tell you this know half way through the year.)

Colorado has outlined what a math intervention needs to look like and what the progress monitoring needs to be. (This would have been great to know- oh I don't know like in August. But moving on.) Interventions should be no longer than 10 weeks with a clearly defined baseline from a diagnostic measure with weekly progress monitoring. The instruction should cover no more than two to four domains as a focus for instruction (i.e., combinations to 10, skip counting by 5’s, counting across 100). My lesson plan should be broken into two pieces:

  • Inquiry mode: Activity that produces something new for the student (involves challenging, but solvable tasks)
  • Rehearsal mode: Develop automaticity with something that has been learned before
The instruction should be explicit and systematic. This includes providing models of proficient problem solving, verbalization of thought processes, guided practice, corrective feedback, and frequent cumulative review.
  • Ensure that instructional materials are systematic and explicit. In particular, they should include numerous clear models of easy and difficult problems, with accompanying teacher think-alouds.
  • Provide students with opportunities to solve problems in a group and communicate problem-solving strategies.
  • Ensure that instructional materials include cumulative review in each session
My students have the black and white part down in math. They can use the algorithm and have their basic facts down. It's word problems they have the most problem with. I have several that just shut down when they are come across one. With this in mind, I talked with my coach before break and we talked about what progress monitoring could look like and still make the state happy. I have created a ten-week word problem progress monitoring tool that I started to use with on of my groups. Its based off our 1st grade math curriculum; most are single questions and all are addition and subtraction. I give them twice a week with one posted on the board and one in front of them. This makes it easier for them, since they have to complete it using Explain Everything. (A student favorite.) 

Why word problems? Word problems tell you more about what a student needs. Can they explain their thinking? Did they get the right answer but can't tell you how they got there? This describes my student. My curriculum has more word problem type of thinking than algorithms. Plus, this where Common Core is taking us. Scoring word problems is rubric based--so even if they get the wrong answer they can still get points for explaining how their thinking. Which is why I love using Explain Everything--the word gets done because they don't have to write their thinking.  Click on the picture to a copy. 

I'm planning on creating more since I'm needing them before returning to work next month. I hop you have a wonderful Christmas Break and safe travels if you are out visiting family and friends. See you all next year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

iPad and Math

One of the hardest things to figure out is how to integrate technology into my groups and it not be game time. Not that games don't have their place but not as part of daily small group instruction. I have been working on how to use a couple of different apps for math and be more paperless. The kids love it--even when the tech and I fail.

We have been using Evernote and Explain Everything for them to show their work. In most cases we us QR codes to get to work. I've spent most of the time teaching them how to use the apps. They have to know the technology and what it does before you can leave them alone to do work. This takes time. I have made this mistake and I spend more time on the technology than teaching the content.

When I'm planing a lesson, I start with a a non-tech version of what I'm wanting them to do and then figure out which apps make the most sense to use. This takes time because you have to think through every step of the lesson and what I want students to show me.

Their engagement has improved in ways that I could never had imagine--which is so cool for students who dislike math. They get the work done in half the time than it would have if they just had to do it on paper. You can see the paper I give the students below. The directions are short and sweet. The point is for the students to do it with as little support from me as possible.

For this one the students have to use the QR code to get the assessment (story problems) and then use Explain Everything to complete the work. Once they are done they have to upload it to Evernote for me to see. Easy right? Well I'll let you know. This is the plan for the next two days before break.


My thoughts and prayers go out to Sandy Hook Elementary. The hearts in Colorado grew heavy after hearing about Sandy Hook.

This  tragedy in Newtown, CT has hit way to close to home for all of us teachers.

Please join the teacher-blogging community in a day of blogging silence for the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School. You can join by posting only the picture below on Sunday, December 16th.

With prayers and a heavy heart

Sleigh Full of Goodies Day 10 Blog Hop

My students are hopping through the days to break. It's snowing today in Colorado. Not like I'm wanting a snow day or anything :) As many of you know, my students LOVE anything that involves a timer and the possibly of beating me in a game. Run Cookie Run has become a fast favorite of my students--I'm sure your students will find it to be one of theirs too.

 I have only one request. PLEASE leave a comment below to let me know that you grabbed a copy. Have a fabulous week.

Sleight Full of Goodies Blog Hop

I'm so excited to link up with some great blogs who are giving away freebies!  What a wonderful way to start out the season of giving. Yikes, that means Christmas will be here before we know it!

I'm linking up with Beth at Thinking of Teaching for a "Sleigh Full of Goodies" Blog Hop.

Be sure to check out Monday's Sleigh Full of Goodies at The Flying Teacher.

Happy hopping and downloading.

About Me

Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.

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