Showing posts with label lesson plan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lesson plan. Show all posts

What is Mastery Learning?

Each fall, there is always some new demand I have to make sure is part of my instruction. Moving three years ago to a new district is was innovation and tieing everything to the real world. It really wasn’t about moving students but what they would face in the real world. Well, after a year, I found you can have both.

Many innovations include elements of more established strategies for which do move students--like Master Learning.

So what is it??

The concept is simple: Students master concepts and skills before going onto other learning. How do you know they mastered it? You give them tests. If they do not reach mastery, then they go back and study and take the test again until they pass it. Benjamin Bloom, of Bloom's Taxonomy fame, came up with mastery learning in 1971.

I had noticed that because of the limited time I had with my groups, I always had a couple who need way more time than the everyone else. I also discovered that some of the basic skills had not been taught as I had been told. (You know how some IEPs are written.) I realize that part of the difficulty is that I am required to move these guys, no matter how big the gap.

What it looks like in my room?

Most mastery learning models stress the importance of giving quick and targeted pre-assessment to all students before beginning instruction to determine whether they have the prerequisite knowledge and skills for success in the upcoming learning sequence.  I do monthly progress monitoring and I give them the grade level assessment but also the grade under. I’m looking for the skills they don’t have. I’m also looking for data to support they have mastered the previously taught skill. I don’t have time to get both pre and post assessments. ( has reading and math K-6. It’s free, has norms, and students can take it online.)

For students whose pre-assessment results suggest deficiencies, mastery learning teachers take time to directly teach them the needed concepts and skills. In other words, I break the skills down and teach just that subskill. When they have that one I move on to the next. In math, skill accuracy is king. With my reading groups, if my group of 10s is working on picture clues--I’ll use two or three-word books to focus on picture clues or reading what is written. When that skill is mastered go back to 10s and move to the next skill they need to work on. (When working on skills go back to an easier level. This is important when working on comprehension skills, so they are using all their energy on decoding the text.)

To help students out, I rely on learning targets. I post them and they always reference the bog outcome. We talk about what it looks like and in some cases what it sounds like. I find this helps everyone get real clear about what their job is.This has saved me more than a couple times when an administrator pops in.

As a teacher, I’m not going to tell you this makes planning an easier for me and I find I have to be very clear about the steps needed to do a task. Backwards planning has become key when I’m planning. Backwards planning also helps make sure I’m hitting IEP goals.

Mastery Learning helps me balance focusing on students’ strengths and interests. Together, IEPs and mastery learning helps students to work on weaknesses and a customized path that engages their interests and helps them “own” their learning.

Mastery Learning can also give students the chance to build self-advocacy skills. I encourage students when they don’t understand a step or are lost “where are you confused?” If they everything, I try to get them to be more specific. This helps them focus on their own learning but also helps guide my own instruction to fill in that hole before moving on. We all think primary students are too young to self-advocate but how many times are will serious thinking about adding it to an IEP.? (stepping stones now)

The Hard Part?

The extra planning and comes with analyzing data. Some days I feel I’m drowning in data. But I have found if I’m truly teaching to IEP goals, then I’m progress monitoring IEP goals too. I don’t teach random stuff that has nothing to do with IEP goals. I only teach the IEP goals. The 30 minutes that student is out of his classroom, he is working on his IEP goals. Backwards planning and data dialogues help to ensure I’m hitting that target.

The key is to make sure that mastery learning is targeting the small skills needed to meet a larger target. By doing this, I can innovate how they demonstrate mastery--sometimes this is with technology and sometimes it's with STEM tasks.

At the end of the day is student growth. My goal is to work myself out of a job.

Until Next Time,

Websites to Support Math Planning

Planing for specific and targeted math instruction is a challenge and some days a pain. I work to make sure my instruction resources are free. I also work with these ideas in mind--even when I think I know which direction I need to go in next.

 Mathematics interventions at the Tier 2 level of a multi-tier prevention system must incorporate six instructional principles:
  • Instructional explicitness
  • Instructional design that eases the learning challenge
  • A strong conceptual basis for procedures that are taught
  • An emphasis on drill and practice
  • Cumulative review as part of drill and practice
  • Motivators to help students regulate their attention and behavior and to work hard

This is a collection of websites I use to plan math instruction to differentiate and help student’s access core instruction.  

Understanding Standard of Mathematics
  • The Illustrative Mathematics Project connects mathematical tasks to each of the standards. Bill McCallum, a lead writer of the Common Core State Standards, helped create the site to show the range and types of mathematical work the standards are designed to foster in students.
  • The Arizona Academic Content Standards contain explanations and examples for each of the standards created by teachers with the help of Bill McCallum a lead writer of the Common Core State Standards.
  • Achieve the Core is the website for the organization Student Achievement Partners (SAP) founded by David Coleman and Jason Zimba, two of the lead writers of the Common Core State Standards. The website shares free, open-source resources to support Common Core implementation at the classroom, district, and state level. The steal these tools link includes information on the key instructional shifts for math and guidance for focusing math instruction.
Curricular Resources for Mathematics
  • The Model Content Frameworks from Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) were developed through a state-led process of content experts in PARCC member states and members of the Common Core State Standards writing team. The Model Content Frameworks are designed help curriculum developers and teachers as they work to implement the standards in their states and districts.
  • The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) has released a new Practice Guide: Teaching Math to Young Children. From naming shapes to counting, many children show an interest in math before they enter a classroom. Teachers can build on this curiosity with five recommendations from the WWC in this practice guide. The guide is geared toward teachers, administrators, and other educators who want to build a strong foundation for later math learning.

Learning Progressions in the Standards for Mathematics
The Common Core State Standards were built on mathematical progressions. This website provides links to narrative documents describing the progression of a mathematical topic across a number of grade levels, informed both by research on children's cognitive development and by the logical structure of mathematics.

Differentiating the Standards for Mathematics

June Pick 3 Pinterest Linky

 For most of us we have began summer vacation. Mine started with a trip to New York City with my mom-who had a chance to sing at Carnegie Hall as part of John Rutter's choir. It was a great way to start off the summer!

Summer is also when we all start thinking about next school year. All that planning has to start at some point during the summer. I am not alone in this. I'm moving schools because my FTE went away and I'm hoping to move into my first house before the summer is over.

First up the planning. Looking at the whole year is hard. Looking at more than one grade level is even harder. But being in special education means that you have to know what is going on with each grade level where you have students. I have found it is the only way to make what I teach in isolation transfer and make sure they can assess the grade level curriculum.

First, when working with other grade level teachers putting things in Google is a must. In many ways even those of us that want nothing to do with computers find Google easy to use. I can across this freebie. I can go out and plan the year and share it with teachers. The fact that its in Google means I can change it as the year changes. This works perfectly with my online daily planner because I share it too. For many of us who have to make sure that we have some kind of grade level collaboration evidence throughout the year-this is perfect.
 Like most of things that land in a binder-it gets forgotten once its there. I like the idea of posting it on a wall. I find that when I see things on a daily basis it holds everyone accountable.

The cool thing about long range planning is once its done it take the stress off of the big things. The little things can always be changed as they come up.


So, I'm buying my first house this summer. My parents have been asking what I will do first after moving in. Honesty, I don't know. As a teacher, I don't have that kind of money--but I'm leaning to starting with the kitchen. The previous owner had put in new cabinets but there is not a back splash.  My kitchen is not this big but as a nature love the idea of pebbles as a back splash it so cool. I can get them a Lowe's and they just peel and stick to the wall--even better.
  Have a great beginning of summer. Until next time,

Strategies to Develop Expressive Language Skills in the Classroom

Working in a small district, my Speech-Language Pathologist is only in the building a couple days a week. Which makes collaboration with her very hard. I have a couple of students who have significant expressive language delays that make learning and making progress in reading very difficult for them.

I have used some of these activities to build both background knowledge and vocabulary to help with their comprehension of what they are reading. I have found that their first reads or cold reads of an instructional level text are at a frustrational read but by the second read its an instructional level. My SLP believes that this is because of their language delays.

I have decided to make a point at the beginning of each book to focus on their expressive language as part of their pre-reading. My hope is that by the end of the month these students have moved up a reading level.

Strategies to Develop Expressive Language Skills in the Classroom

  • Opportunities to speak and time to rehearse before speaking
  • Visual clues to help children order ideas effectively before expressing them
  • Vocabulary lists to help with word finding difficulties. Use appropriate and consistent vocabulary
  • Color coding different groups of words/sets of pictures
  • Giving correct models of language structures
  • Repetition and reinforcement of correct language structures
  • Small group work to give children confidence to express themselves
  • Appropriate questioning to give children the opportunity to reply
  • Self-questioning and the development of learning scripts (e.g. What do I know already? What do I do next?)
  • Rhymes
  • Word play
  • Restrict your language to short unambiguous language
  • Story telling – cutting up picture segments and retelling stories
  • Try and keep children ‘on topic’. Be specific, remind children e.g. ‘We are talking about…’
  • Discussing what they have seen or done with an adult or more verbally able peer
  • Puppet play/drama etc.
  • Sharing books
  • Revise links and associations between ideas and vocabulary – categorization/function/
  • context/similarity/association
  • As part of the partnership approach, it is important to detail which of these strategies have been most effective.

Barrier games

  • This can be used for both talking and listening. The child or children either side of the barrier have identical sets of equipment.
  • One child has a picture or constructs an assembly of objects and then gives instructions to the other to enable him/her to duplicate the picture or assembly.

How do I feel?

  • In a small group imagine a situation and talk about how you would each feel and what you might say (speech bubbles resource is good here).

Silly Stories

  • Collection of objects/pictures, e.g., horse, lady, man, child, dog, ball, pirate, dinosaur.  Adult starts story “Once upon a time there was a dinosaur”. Next child (house) continues the story “He lived in a house made of chocolate”.  Next child (ball) “One day he found a ball under his bed” …..


  • Color Coding approach.  Children take one color question ‘Who, What, Where, When’ and sequence a story using their own ideas.
  • Mind Map Activities: An excellent way for supporting new vocabulary and talking.

Defining and describing

  • Have a range of objects in a bag or a range of pictures. One child takes an object or picture and is allowed to give 3 pieces of information to describe their item. The rest guess.

Question Question

  • Barrier game. Once child has an object or picture and the rest ask questions to find out what it is. You cannot say the name of the item.
  • A good resource is Clowning Around or Guess Who?

What do you know?

  • Use a composite picture and take turns in the group (mini circle time). Each child giving a new piece of information about the picture. Extend by talking about a particular object or event in which everyone has been involved.
  • Tell me how to do it
  • Use a classroom activity or event which has already been experienced and get a child to re-tell the event in his/her own words.
  • Allow a child to explain to the others how to play a particular game.


  • In a small group it is possible to think about how we behave during a conversation and make explicit the skills we need. There are a couple of good resources for this.

I look forward to sharing how the next four weeks go. I wish everyone safe travels and a Merry Christmas.

What is Number Sense?

A person's ability to use and understand numbers:
• knowing their relative values,
• how to use them to make judgments,
• how to use them in flexible ways when adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing
• how to develop useful strategies when counting, measuring or estimating.

What is number sense?

The term "number sense" is a relatively new one in mathematics education. It is difficult to define precisely, but broadly speaking, it refers to "a well-organized conceptual framework of number information that enables
a person to understand numbers and number relationships and to solve mathematical problems that are not bound by traditional algorithms". The National Council of Teachers identified five components that characterize number sense: number meaning, number relationships, number magnitude, operations involving numbers and referents for numbers and quantities. These skills are considered important because they contribute to general intuitions about numbers and lay the foundation for more advanced skills.

Researchers have linked good number sense with skills observed in students proficient in the following mathematical activities:

  • mental calculation
  • computational estimation 
  • judging the relative magnitude of numbers 
  • recognizing part-whole relationships and place value concepts and;
  • problem solving 

How does number sense begin?

An intuitive sense of number begins at a very early age. Children as young as two years of age can confidently identify one, two or three objects before they can actually count with understanding. Piaget called this ability to instantaneously recognize the number of objects in a small group 'subitizing'. As mental powers develop, usually by about the age of four, groups of four can be recognized without counting. It is thought that the maximum number for subitizing, even for most adults, is five. This skill appears to be based on the mind's ability to form stable mental images of patterns and associate them with a number. Therefore, it may be possible to recognize more than five objects if they are arranged in a particular way or practice and memorization takes place. A simple example of this is six dots arranged in two rows of three, as on dice or playing cards. Because this image is familiar, six can be instantly recognized when presented this way.

Usually, when presented with more than five objects, other mental strategies must be utilized. For example, we might see a group of six objects as two groups of three. Each group of three is instantly recognized, then very quickly (virtually unconsciously) combined to make six. In this strategy no actual counting of objects is involved, but rather a part-part-whole relationship and rapid mental addition is used. That is, there is an understanding that a number (in this case six) can be composed of smaller parts, together with the knowledge that 'three plus three makes six'. This type of mathematical thinking has already begun by the time children begin school and should be nurtured because it lays the foundation for understanding operations and in developing valuable mental calculation strategies.

What teaching strategies promote early number sense?

Learning to count with understanding is a crucial number skill, but other skills, such as perceiving subgroups, need to develop alongside counting to provide a firm foundation for number sense. By simply presenting objects (such as stamps on a flashcard) in various arrangements, different mental strategies can be prompted. For example, showing six stamps in a cluster of four and a pair prompts the combination of 'four and two makes six'. If the four is not subitised, it may be seen as 'two and two and two makes six'. This arrangement is obviously a little more complex than two groups of three. So different arrangements will prompt different strategies, and these strategies will vary from person to person.

If mental strategies such as these are to be encouraged (and just counting discouraged) then an element of speed is necessary. Seeing the objects for only a few seconds challenges the mind to find strategies other than counting. It is also important to have children reflect on and share their strategies. This is helpful in three ways:

  • verbalizing a strategy brings the strategy to a conscious level and allows the person to learn about their own thinking;
  • it provides other children with the opportunity to pick up new strategies;
  • the teacher can assess the type of thinking being used and adjust the type of arrangement, level of difficulty or speed of presentation accordingly.

To begin with, early number activities are best done with movable objects such as counters, blocks and small toys. Most children will need the concrete experience of physically manipulating groups of objects into sub-groups and combining small groups to make a larger group. After these essential experiences more static materials such as 'dot cards' become very useful.

Dot cards are simply cards with dot stickers of a single color stuck on one side. (However, any markings can be used. Self-inking stamps are fast when making a lot of cards). The important factors in the design of the cards are the number of dots and the arrangement of these dots. The various combinations of these factors determine the mathematical structure of each card, and hence the types of number relations and mental strategies prompted by them.

Consider each of the following arrangements of dots before reading further. What mental strategies are likely to be prompted by each card? What order would you place them in according to level of difficulty?

Card A is the classic symmetrical dice and playing card arrangement of five and so is often instantly recognized without engaging other mental strategies. It is perhaps the easiest arrangement of five to deal with.

Card B presents clear sub-groups of two and three, each of which can be instantly recognized. With practice, the number fact of 'two and three makes five' can be recalled almost instantly.

Card C: A linear arrangement is the one most likely to prompt counting. However, many people will mentally separate the dots into groups of two and three, as in the previous card. Other strategies such as seeing two then counting '3, 4, 5' might also be used.
Card D could be called a random arrangement, though in reality it has been quite deliberately organized to prompt the mental activity of sub-grouping. There are a variety of ways to form the sub-groups, with no prompt in any particular direction, so this card could be considered to be the most difficult one in the set.
Card E shows another sub-group arrangement that encourages the use (or discovery) of the 'four and one makes five' number relation.

Obviously, using fewer than five dots would develop the most basic number sense skills, and using more than five dots would provide opportunities for more advanced strategies. However, it is probably not useful to use more than ten dots. (See the follow-on article focusing on developing a 'sense of ten' and 'place value readiness'). Cards such as these can be shown briefly to children, then the children asked how many dots they saw. The children should be asked to explain how they perceived the arrangement, and hence what strategies they employed.

What games can assist development of early number sense?

Games can be very useful for reinforcing and developing ideas and procedures previously introduced to children. Although a suggested age group is given for each of the following games, it is the children's level of experience that should determine the suitability of the game. Several demonstration games should be played, until the children become comfortable with the rules and procedures of the games.

Deal and Copy (4-5 years) 3-4 players

Materials: 15 dot cards with a variety of dot patterns representing the numbers from one to five and a plentiful supply of counters or buttons.

Rules: One child deals out one card face up to each other player. Each child then uses the counters to replicate the arrangement of dots on his/her card and says the number aloud. The dealer checks each result, then deals out a new card to each player, placing it on top of the previous card. The children then rearrange their counters to match the new card. This continues until all the cards have been used.

Each child can predict aloud whether the new card has more, less or the same number of dots as the previous card. The prediction is checked by the dealer, by observing whether counters need to be taken away or added. Increase the number of dots on the cards.

Memory Match (5-7 years) 2 players

Materials: 12 dot cards, consisting of six pairs of cards showing two different arrangements of a particular number of dots, from 1 to 6 dots. (For example, a pair for 5 might be Card A and Card B from the set above).

Rules: Spread all the cards out face down. The first player turns over any two cards. If they are a pair (i.e. have the same number of dots), the player removes the cards and scores a point. If they are not a pair, both cards are turned back down in their places. The second player then turns over two cards and so on. When all the cards have been matched, the player with more pairs wins.

Increase the number of pairs of cards used. Use a greater number of dots on the cards. Pair a dot card with a numeral card.

What's the Difference? (7-8 years) 2-4 players

Materials: A pack of 20 to 30 dot cards (1 to 10 dots in dice and regular patterns), counters.

Rules: Spread out 10 cards face down and place the rest of the cards in a pile face down. The first player turns over the top pile card and places beside the pile. He/she then turns over one of the spread cards. The player works out the difference between the number of dots on each card, and takes that number of counters. (E.g. If one card showed 3 dots and the other 8, the player would take 5 counters.) The spread card is turned face down again in its place and the next player turns the top pile card and so on. Play continues until all the pile cards have been used. The winner is the player with the most counters; therefore the strategy is to remember the value of the spread cards so the one that gives the maximum difference can be chosen.

Try to turn the spread cards that give the minimum difference, so the winner is the player with the fewest counters. Roll a die instead of using pile cards. Start with a set number of counters (say 20), so that when all the counters have been claimed the game ends. Use dot cards with random arrangements of dots.

Number Sense plays into how well order students grasp onto the more difficult concepts such as rounding, place value, and learning the basic math facts. Look for more information to come. Have a great week!

Common Core App

I have to share  a new app that I stumbled upon last week that I LOVE. Now I'm not one to pay for apps let alone twenty dollars for one. But I have to say Mentoring Minds Common Core K-12 Math app had everything I was looking in one place. The app is broken into three pieces: the K-12 Math Standards, Strategies and Vocabulary. 

 The standards are color coded and are broken down for easy navigation. From this menu, I can open up the standards to the specific grade level targets.

 The piece that I really love is once I open the specific target are the strategies. They provide other ideas in how to work on the target. From there I have the option to enter notes, precursors and successors for that target. I love that fact that I don't have to go looking to for the information what skills they should have mastered todo the grade level skill. And if students have mastered the grade level skill how to push the skill to the next level. I can send the task to classroom teachers with the share button. Mentoring Minds highlights if there is something they don't need to  know at a specific grade level. (Love this!)

The second section Strategies  has tons of information from accommodations and management to RTI and Critical Thinking. Each one has a page of ideas that can be easily implemented. Think twenty books in one place-makes planning with twenty books to one app. Just like there flipped charts in all right there. No more trying to remember where my Depth of Knowledge chart is or where the question stems are Bloom's.

 The last section Vocabulary covers all the common core math words that students need to know. I wish that there were pictures to support the words. But having short and simple definitions makes planning word walls easier.

I was very unsure when I bought this app that it would have everything I was looking for. As you can see you get tons for the twenty dollars.  I have bought the ELA app as well but have not played with it but understand it is set-up the same way. I'm cheap when it comes to buying apps but I love this one just for the simple fact that the strategies and what comes before and after the target are outlined for me. Its less stuff to find or to bring home when I'm planning. This app has been helpful when planning math for one of my tutoring clients. I can't wait to use the app when school starts.

I'm enjoying the last days of my summer break. Happy End of Summer and Beginning of the School Year.

Preparing for the Year--Lesson Planning and a Freebie

Last year, my building moved to Backwards Planning all units. This takes time. Lots of time. So I decided to get ahead start. Maybe save myself a day or two of planning down the road. If you're not familiar with backwards planning, it comes from Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins about ten years ago.

I have started by getting Step 1 complete: Desired Results. This is where I get my learning targets and essential questions. The key What should students know, understand, and be able to do? What is the ultimate transfer we seek as a result of this unit? What enduring understandings are desired? What essential questions will be explored in-depth and provide focus to all learning?

Step 2 is Determine Assessment Evidence. This changes unit to unit because I may need for assessment data or I may not. The key here is How will I know if students have achieved the desired results? What will we accept as evidence of student understanding and their ability to use (transfer) their learning in new situations? How will we evaluate student performance in fair and consistent ways?

Step 3 is daily planning. The key being How will I support learners as they come to understand important ideas and processes? How will I prepare them to autonomously transfer their learning? What enabling knowledge and skills will students need to perform effectively and achieve desired results? What activities, sequence, and resources are best suited to accomplish our goals?

The pros to planning this way--I hit all the standards by the end of the unit. I know that students are getting it because of either the progress monitoring or student self-assessment. What I dislike-is this takes time. Time is not something I have tons of in special education. But by spending the time I know that students will have the skills and knowledge to be stronger in class.

Freebie time--this is one unit for intermediate reading with Step 1 completed and a template you can print to complete Steps 2 and 3 based on your students and need. This will be the first unit that I will teach next month. It was planned using backwards planning. Have a great weekend! If you're traveling-safe travels.

Reading Interventions

I'm planing at home this weekend. My week was CRAZY. One of my groups is going to be starting off in LLI (Level Literacy Intervention). It's one of my favorite reading intervention programs is the Level Literacy Intervention by Irene C. Fountas & Gay Su Pinnell. It's a Tier 2 intervention but my students with IEPs have had great success with it. It's a tight 30 minute targeted reading program. Students read every day and are writing more than I've seen in guided reading. Plus students move--which is even better.  I've found as the group moves into the higher reading levels that I need to increase my focus on the comprehension depth of knowledge to continue to get the growth that they need to pass a DRA. I hope you had a great week and are having a relaxing weekend. What reading intervention do you use with your groups?

Gradually Release

Over the last two years, my building has used the gradually release strategy from Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey. In gradually release, the teacher gradually releases control of the use of the skills and strategies to the students. The expectation being students apply the strategies and skills learned in guided reading lessons to other reading outside of the lesson. Students should begin to 'own' the strategy as they mastery strategy or skill.  Guided reading is mosty on the students, where Modeling the strategy is totally me as the teacher, and in the middle is shared where both the students and I are working on the strategy together.

A highlight of their work is the learning goal; making sure that I have a clearly definded focus no matter what lesson I'm teaching. I weave my learning focus into my introduction. For example: Today, we will be reading another text that has lots of interesting information. When we read a text it has important things, sometimes something strange or not so important things. Today, we going to learn how to sift and sort what is really important and what interesting. This strategy is very helpful because you'll be able to use it with lots of different text.

For Wilson, this is far more interesting because it moves back forth between all three many times in a lesson but the lesson plans don't include a learning focus. Will I fixed that! I not have a lesson plan that includes lesson focus. I also couldn't find a lesson plan for think alouds and shared reading, so I made those as well. Just in time to use before Spring Break.
Modeled I Do Lesson Plan Shared Reading Lesson Plan Wilson Lesson Plan With Learning Goals

Wilson 3 Day Lesson Plan

Being part of the Building Leadership Team means that I'm out of the building at least once a month. To make sure that my students continue to move forward, I created a lesson plan format that someone without any Wilson knowledge could pick up and run with. Each  lesson moves at a quick pace with constant interaction between me and the group. The skills taught for decoding on day one of the lesson are taught for encoding (day two). Reading comprehension is taught on day three. The ensures that students get all 10 parts of a Wilson lesson. Enjoy!!
Wilson 3 Day Lesson Plan

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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