RTI Activities for Your Math Class & Giveaway

I’m always asked what are simple things that teachers can do in their rooms to support RTI in math. These four are easy to do and don’t require tons of up-front work and meet the learning needs of all the learners in your room. 

1) Math Journaling
Implementing a math journal allows your students to "think about their thinking" (metacognition) and record it in a way that makes sense to them. This journaling process gives you a window into each student's mind to determine where he or she needs help or enrichment.

Encourage students to draw, write and calculate in a math journal to solve problems, work through processes, and explain their actions. Assign math journals once a day, once a week or even once a month to create an invaluable, ongoing formative assessment.

In respect to RTI, you can differentiate journal assignments for Tier 1 students by providing open-ended questions, like "How would you quickly count all of the toes in this classroom?" Differentiate further for Tier 2 and Tier 3 students by asking more concrete questions, based on the concepts they are currently working on.

Math journals are a great way for students to show critical thinking and their problem solving skills.
Looking for good examples of a math journal?

Check out: Pinterest user Susan Cardin's "Math Journal" board.

2) Manipulatives
Consider a kindergarten classroom. It's likely stocked with colorful bins full of plastic toys, connecting cubes, blocks and three-dimensional shapes. Now, somewhere along the way to middle school those toys got left behind, but the cubes, blocks, and three-dimensional shapes still serve as valuable manipulative materials.

Manipulatives help students of all ages learn and understand math concepts, from counting to multiplication and division. Break out these manipulatives -- foregoing toys in an effort to respect the maturity of eighth graders -- to introduce more complex math concepts in a way students can see and touch (and talk about).

These manipulatives do not necessarily have to be concrete either! Recent educational technology developments even allow students to use virtual manipulatives on a touchscreen or laptop.
Your students will benefit from "seeing" math concepts in a new way. As they progress, some Tier 1 students will likely leave the tactile manipulatives behind as they "get it." Tier 2 and 3 students can continue to refer back to the objects (virtual and/or physical) for to help form better understandings and reinforce prior knowledge.

Check out: Megan Campbell's "Math Lessons,Manipulatives, & Ideas" board showcases a nice variety of manipulative ideas for math students of all ages and ranges.

3) Introduce and Review Math Vocabulary
As you know, math is its own language. Beginning in the early grades, your students learned terms like "sum", "difference", or "addend". These words (hopefully) became part of their everyday vocabulary. However, these mathematics terms often require revisiting and scaffolding, regardless of the student's current learning level and goals.

Post a running list of math vocabulary in the classroom and review it often. Going back to strategy one, ask students to journal about specific terms and real world application. It will be interesting to see how each student uniquely describes the term "factor" or "exponent." Allow students to draw, diagram or provide examples of terms rather than memorizing a textbook definition. 

Learning the vocabulary will help all students become more familiar with math concepts. In respect to your RTI model, you can stratify the complexity of the terms and the method of reviews between the tiers. For example, Tier 1 students might be best suited to learn more complex terms, as necessary, while Tier 2 and 3 students can continue to revisit learned terms via differentiated modalities as they develop needed comprehension. Plus, most state assessments use math vocabulary changing it or watering it down will cause confusion later on.

Check out: "Math Vocabulary Builders" Pinterest Board from Carol Camp for great math vocab activities and ideas!

4) Think Aloud
When teaching, or re-teaching, math concepts, using a "Think Aloud" activity is a great method for students to understand, hear, and see what's going on in your head as you solve the problem or work through a mathematical process.

Walk students through several examples by thinking aloud each step of the way. Encourage struggling students to model the "think aloud" process by asking them to explain each step as they go. This can be done in a whole-class, small group, or partner setting.


While Tier 1 students often "get it" without further explanation, thinking aloud helps break complex processes down into manageable steps for Tier 2 and 3 students. Also, by hearing and seeing explanations from their peers, students often have "light bulb" moments that may not have clicked during your teacher-led instruction. I use Think Alouds several times a week-I even work to get my students to lead them!

I hope you find something to take back to your class. Be sure to fill out the Rafflecopter to get a Broncos Magnet and a 25 dollar gift certificate to Teachers pay Teachers--just in time for Cyber Monday. Don't forget everything on my site will also be on sale!!




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What is Balanced Assessment?

What is Balanced Assessment?

A 21st Century Assessment System must include both Formative and Summative Assessment
The 21st century will usher in a new era for how teachers utilize assessment systems. The new model will include both summative and formative assessment. In contrast to summative assessment, formative assessment is more focused on collaboration in the classroom and identifying learning gaps that can be addressed before the end-of-year assessments.

A comprehensive balanced assessment system includes classroom assessments, interim/benchmark assessments, and statewide assessments that are aligned to state standards. Each component is important and should be valued for what it contributes.

Formative Assessment

A process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning to help students improve their achievement of intended instructional outcomes.
Formative Assessment includes:

  • Questioning
  • Discussions
  • Learning Activities
  • Feedback
  • Conferences
  • Interviews
  • Student Reflections

Formative assessment is found at the classroom level and happens minute-to-minute or in short cycles. Formative assessment is not graded or used in accountability systems. The feedback involved in formative assessment is descriptive in nature so that students know what they need to do next to improve learning.

Summative Assessment

A measure of achievement to provide evidence of student competence or program effectiveness.
Summative Assessment includes:

  • Selected Response Items
  • Multiple-Choice
  • True/False
  • Matching
  • Short Answer
  • Fill in the Blank
  • 1-2 Sentence Response
  • Extended Written Response

Performance Assessment

Summative assessments are found at the classroom, district and state level and can be graded and used in accountability systems. The information gathered from summative assessments is evaluative and is used to categorize students so performance among students can be compared.


What is Formative Assessment?

Formative Assessment is a vital part of successful teaching, and should be practiced continually throughout the learning process. This type of assessment is key in helping students to achieve their highest potential in the classroom.

Formative assessment is different from a summative assessment- some form of a test at the end of a unit or lesson; an assessment that is given a grade to determine how well the student learned the material after the content has been completely taught. Instead of occurring at the end of all instruction, formative assessment takes place during teaching, and continues throughout the entire learning process. Traditionally, these assessments aren't given a grade; they are instead used by teachers so they are more aware of how to approach future instruction with students on the subject.

Benefits of Formative Assessments

  • Gives the teacher insight on student needs, and provides the opportunity to adapt their teaching in order to best meet the unique needs of the students
  • Allows the chance for reteaching throughout the learning process 
  • Gives the teacher a concept of where every student stands with their current knowledge (and of what each student still needs to know during the unit or lesson)
  • Allows the teacher (and students) to determine a set goal for learning and decide how to best reach that goal
  • Helps the teacher to know what level of instruction to begin with the next time the material is presented to the students
  • Gives teacher the opportunity to make necessary changes and differentiate instruction appropriately for the students to be successful
  • Provides students with multiple opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge as they learn new things 
  • Provides the teacher with insight on how to appropriately group students for cooperative learning activities
  • Allows the teacher to adjust instruction in order to effectively provide for different student needs


By utilizing formative assessments in your teaching, you are enhancing both instruction and student learning. These assessments aren't solely for the use of the educator or the student. They provide vital information and feedback to everyone involved in the learning process and greatly improve the atmosphere of the classroom and the overall student achievement.

Types of Formative Assessment

Formative assessment does not (and should not) take the same form every time. It is beneficial to both the teacher and the students to use a variety of types of assessments
throughout teaching and learning. There are many ways that formative assessment can be implemented in order to give the teacher the most information possible, and to give students the greatest number of opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge.

  • Use individual, partner, small group and whole group activities in order to assess students (this will provide and overall concept of how the class is doing, as well as an individual look at student progress)
  • Students can discuss and share their thinking with others in the class in order to form a deeper understanding of concepts taught (such as a think-pair-share)
  • Students should summarize main ideas within the unit or lesson, and reflect upon learning (in order to best make sense of what they know)
  • Use writing assignments in order to cover specific questions or topics (allow students to use pictures along with words)
  • Provide vocabulary and main concepts on a topic both before and after the teaching and learning occurs (to determine how much learning has taken place, and how much still needs to be improved on)
  • Conference with students on an individual basis to discuss progress and establish future goals for learning
  • Have students use lists, charts or diagrams to organize the information that they know
  • Use cooperative learning activities so that students have the opportunity to work with other students and build an even further understanding of concepts


In the first grade classroom...

Formative assessment should be used in every grade level to enhance the teaching and learning that takes place in the classroom. Even in first grade, formative assessment can be used in many different ways to benefit the teacher and students. At an age where so much rapid growth and change can occur, formative assessment can be key in keeping up with the ever-changing abilities of students. In first grade classrooms many students are beginning to have a stronger concept of literacy and are rapidly growing into readers. Individualized formative assessments (such as a reading conference between the student and the teacher) should be used in order to determine the individual reading abilities of each student. If the teacher regularly holds reading conferences with students, they will be able to keep up with the unique needs of every learner, and set goals for reading throughout the year. This will make the teacher more aware of which types of materials to use with their students for lessons and assignments.

Although first grade students are young, it is still extremely important to utilize cooperative learning and small group assignments within the classroom.  If the teacher uses information gathered from other formative assessments to properly group students into cooperative learning groups, students will not only learn how to work with others early on, but they will be able to support each other’s learning.

In the first grade classroom, you can also have students reflect on their learning by writing a small summary of what they have learned or somehow relating the information to themselves. This accomplishes several important goals at once- gives the teacher an idea of what information has been learned, teaches the student to summarize and reflect on their own learning, and helps to develop early writing skills.

Formative assessment is a valuable tool in the classroom. It is an ongoing process that will help to guide the learning process and future instruction.


November Pinterest Pick 3

 I can't believe the year is almost over. Between planning for Christmas and working through the 4 C's, things have been crazy. You ask what the 4 C's are? Well, in many places the 4 C's are used in STEM, STREAM, or GT thinking but is some districts in the States its becoming a way of planning. In many ways to takes Common Core outcomes and challenges teachers to think about education as what it takes to work for company's like Google or  Instagram. The big thing: Backwards Planning to cover the standards and IEP goals.



My picks this month are to help provide a way for me to connect more dots as I plan the next 8 weeks for my instruction.




Thinking for working with the STEM or STEAM world when planning to meet IEP goals pushes you to thinking. Wrapping one of these into daily instruction and planning to do it with purpose as with Backwards Planning is not as easy as one thinks. I have decided to met the current IEP goals communication is key for where they are in their DRA reading goals. My district then wants me to create a communication rubric with my students. I'm not worried--they have done one with me already and several with their teachers. The nice thing, I will not have to assess this 4 C every week just as an interim and/or a summative assessment. 
 This website has tons of great ideas that they use in real classrooms. Finding real examples of Project Based Learning with videos talking about what worked and how students grew from the projects is well worth a visit. I don't have the time to do projects for the sake of a project they have to have a real impact and provide real growth on those IEP goals.


I have messed with creating a whole PBL experience for my groups but I'm not sure how to do it. This list of questions will help me create PBL over Christmas Break. I have added pits and pieces to their groups like presenting their retells like reporters and putting together a sentence in their notebooks that will make a short story in eight weeks. But these are little pieces--I would really like to try taking the cake.


Have a great week!









About Me

Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I'm Ms. Whiteley. I teach in the beautiful Mile High state--Colorado. This is my 13th year teaching in an rural K-6 Elementary school as a Exceptional Needs Teachers. As Exceptional Needs National Board Certified Teacher, I believe that ALL students can learn and be successful. When I'm not in school, I love to take my two Italian Greyhounds hiking 14ers and reaching for the stars. Thanks for Hopping By.
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