Predicting through Synthesis

Last week I shared how I had a reading group where all the students were in different books. Well, this week, they did predicting through synthesis. Predicting is one of those skills that all readers learn how to do early on but well worth revisiting at each reading level because the depth that students must use this skill changes.

I started with a modeled lesson using "Wednesday Surprise." The format was "At first I was think... but while I was reading my thinking change .... Then my thinking changed ... Then my thinking changed again ... My new understanding is ... This format requires students to determine what was important as they are reading so that they can add and change predicting. Remember that synthesis is all the reading comprehension strategies to create a new understanding of the book. The group determining important anchor charts are below.

Using "Wednesday Surprise" to get this group started was great but they still need help making the connection between all the pieces needed to using predicting to create a new understanding of the text. So we did "Just a Dream. (I love his books.) We used the same template as before. 

This book required the group to also do more inferring because of the pictures. This didn't stop them from creating a new understanding of the book.

This week student's will do this task on their with their own books using the same template. I can't wait to see what they come up with. Tying all these strategies together was not easy for them but in the end they got it. 

Have a great week. Stay warm or in my case hang onto something (high winds for yet another day)

Three Guided Reading Groups in One

This week I'm changing one of my guided reading groups to not guided reading but guided reading. Confused yet? I was when I was asked to make this change. I have three readers that are outliers and if I had tons of time to give each one on one guided reading I would.

First off, I had to find a common overarching strategy that they all needed to work on but the text level didn't matter. After looking at their reading data and talking with my coach, synthesis was decided on.

Next, finding text that would fit each and allow me to target synthesis. This took some looking but after some time I found three that would fit the bill. Once, I had the books, I crafted questions that would target the skill. I put the questions on return address labels, so I could put the questions in each students reader's response journal.

Before starting the lesson, I told the group that we were going to do some playing. (As I had never done this before.) Because this was new and I would most likely be making changes as the week went on. They were cool with this and couldn't wait.

I started the lesson by creating an anchor chart. I made the pieces large enough to add specific story element information. We used Tacky the Penguin. I wrapped up the lesson by asking the girls to change the end of the story to where the hunters didn't run away.

Day Two: With the questions matching everyone's own books on stickies, students knew what they were reading for. They also had to complete--a four square. (character, setting, problem/solution) This gave me the time to go around, having each one read to me and a chance to ask specific questions about each book, clear up any confusion, and talk about the questions they had to answer by the end of the book. Just like any other guided group! (I got this!) I closed the lesson, by bringing them back to the anchor chart and talking about what they knew of their characters. They had not finished their books and I was laying the groundwork for the next day.

Some sentence frames I used for synthesizing:
-If _____________________, then then the outcome maybe _______________________.
-What would happen if __________.

Its important to remember that synthesis is taking multiple strategies to construct new insight and meaning as more information and ideas are added to a reader's background knowledge. My group of sixth graders, needed a visual to see what I meant when I explained  synthesis. I gave them a couple of different pictures like making cookies or a pizza. All the ingredients are comprehension strategies and the finished product is synthesis. This group of 5th graders sees synthesis as an banana split.

  This week we are going back and doing prediction. With the overall target being synthesis and the daily target being prediction. I'm hoping that this works as I continue to work out the kinks. I'll let you know. Have a great week.

How to Build Number Sense

Number sense involves understanding numbers; knowing how to write and represent numbers in different ways; recognizing the quantity represented by numerals and other number forms; and discovering how a number relates to another number or group of numbers. Number sense develops gradually and varies as a result of exploring numbers, visualizing them in a variety of contexts, and relating to them in different ways.

In the primary and intermediate grades, number sense includes skills such as counting; representing numbers with manipulatives and models; understanding place value in the context of our base 10 number system; writing and recognizing numbers in different forms such as expanded, word, and standard; and expressing a number different ways—5 is "4 + 1" as well as "7 - 2," and 100 is 10 tens as well as 1 hundred. Number sense also includes the ability to compare and order numbers—whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and integers—and the ability to identify a number by an attribute—such as odd or even, prime or composite-or as a multiple or factor of another number. As students work with numbers, they gradually develop flexibility in thinking about numbers, which is a distinguishing characteristic of number sense.


Number sense enables students to understand and express quantities in their world. For example, whole numbers describe the number of students in a class or the number of days until a special event. Decimal quantities relate to money or metric measures, fractional amounts describing ingredient measures or time increments, negative quantities conveying temperatures below zero or depths below sea level, or percent amounts describing test scores or sale prices. Number sense is also the basis for understanding any mathematical operation and being able to estimate and make a meaningful interpretation of its result.


In teaching number sense, using manipulatives and models (e.g., place-value blocks, fraction strips, decimal squares, number lines, and place-value and hundreds charts) helps students understand what numbers represent, different ways to express numbers, and how numbers relate to one another.

When students trade with place-value blocks they can demonstrate that the number 14 may be represented as 14 ones or as 1 ten and 4 ones. They can also demonstrate that 10 hundreds is the same as 1 thousand. By recording the number of each kind of block in the corresponding column (thousands, hundreds, tens, or ones) on a place-value chart, students practice writing numbers in standard form.

Using fraction strips, students find that 1/4 is less than 1/3 and that it names the same amount as 2/8. Using decimal squares, students see that 8 tenths can be written as 0.8 or 8/10. By pairing up counters to identify even numbers and marking these on a hundreds chart, primary-grade students discover that, beginning with 2, every other number is an even number. Intermediate-grade students can mark multiples of 3 and 6 on a hundreds chart and find that every number that has 6 as a factor also has 3 as a factor. Using a number line, students see how fractions with different denominators relate to the benchmark quantities of 0, 1/2, and 1. From these concrete experiences, students build the foundation for number sense they will bring to computation, estimation, measurement, problem solving, and all other areas of mathematics.


Many teachers use the calendar as a source of mathematics activities. Students can work with counting, patterns, number sequence, odd and even numbers, and multiples of a number; they can also create word problems related to the calendar. A hundreds chart can help them count the number of days in school, and the current day’s number can be the "number of the day." Students can suggest various ways to make or describe that number. For example, on the 37th day of school, children may describe that number as 30 plus 7, 40 minus 3, an odd number, 15 plus 15 plus 7, my mother’s age, or 1 more than 3 dozen. The complexity of student’s responses will grow as the year goes on and as they listen to one another think mathematically. This is a great language building time.


  • Model different methods for computing:

When a teacher publicly records a number of different approaches to solving a problem–solicited from the class or by introducing her own—it exposes students to strategies that they may not have considered.  As Marilyn Burns explains, “When children think that there is one right way to compute, they focus on learning and applying it, rather than thinking about what makes sense for the numbers at hand.”

  • Ask students regularly to calculate mentally:

Mental math encourages students to build on their knowledge about numbers and numerical relationships. When they cannot rely on memorized procedures or hold large quantities in their heads, students are forced to think more flexibly and efficiently, and to consider alternate problem solving strategies.

  • Have class discussions about strategies for computing:

Classroom discussions about strategies help students to crystalize their own thinking while providing them the opportunity to critically evaluate their classmates’ approaches. In guiding the discussion, be sure to track ideas on the board to help students make connections between mathematical thinking and symbolic representation.

  • Make estimation an integral part of computing.

Most of the math that we do every day—deciding when to leave for school, how much paint to buy, what type of tip to leave in a restaurant, which line to get in at the grocery store relies not only on mental math but estimations.  However traditional textbook rounding exercises don’t provide the necessary context for students to understand estimating or build number sense.  To do that, estimation must be embedded in problem situations.

  • Question students about how they reason numerically.

Asking students about their reasoning—both when they make mistakes AND when they arrive at the correct answer—communicates to them that you value their ideas, that math is about reasoning, and, most importantly, that math should make sense to them.  Exploring reasoning is also extremely important for the teacher as a formative assessment tool.  It helps her understand each student’s strengths and weaknesses, content knowledge, reasoning strategies and misconceptions.

  • Pose numerical problems that have more than one possible answer:

Problems with multiple answers provide plenty of opportunities for students to reason numerically.  It’s a chance to explore numbers and reasoning perhaps more creatively than if there was “one right answer.”

All of these number sense activities contribute to your students’ abilities to solve problems. When children have daily, long-term opportunities to work (and play) with numbers, you will be continually amazed by the growth in their mathematical thinking, confidence, and enthusiasm about mathematics. By helping your children develop number sense, especially in the context of problem solving, you are helping them believe in themselves as mathematicians.

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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