The Common Core State Standards in math expect students to be able to explain their thinking and discuss mathematical concepts. This is quite a challenge for most students, but especially for those who struggle with language as English Learners or students with disabilities.
Discussion Poker Chips are something I have used successfully for literature circle discussions. Last week we tried them out in an inclusive, co-taught Algebra 1 class for the first time.
Students were placed in groups of 4 and provided with a Math Discussion Board. This is available for download here. (Modify to fit the level of your students.)
Each student was given 3 poker chips of a single color (1 student had green, 1 student had red, 1 student had blue and 1 student had white.)
My co-teacher and I modeled how to use the chips to have a conversation while working together through a set of problems.
We explained that the goal was to use the vocabulary represented on the board. If a student used the word, he could place his chip on that space. Students were encouraged to cover as many of the spaces as they could – just a hint of competition!
While it took a little while for the conversation to get started, we began to see students who never talk participating in the discussion! I credit three aspects of the activity – the symbols on the board serve as cues for students who can’t think of what to say, the poker chips add a tactile component that heightens alertness and the friendly competition between groups provided some motivation.
Video is a wonderful media for engaging students and providing them close to real-life experiences. However, its effectiveness is maximized if students are given a viewing purpose and a concrete way to capture their ideas.
Today I took yellow sticky notes and cut them to look (a bit) like popcorn. We gave each student one and explained that when you go to the movies, you take time out to munch on popcorn – just like we would stop during the video to make a note on our popcorn stickies.
A specific prompt was provided on the board. In this biology class, we wanted to students to complete an analogy based on ideas in the video, so the prompt was:
After viewing the video students came up to the board and placed their popcorn, on which they had written an analogy, in a large popcorn tub that I had drawn. Discussion followed.
How do you keep students engaged and responsible for learning while watching videos?
Photo by Enokson, Flickr
Infographics, the newest form of internet wallpaper, are complex representations of information. Because they seem to be popping up everywhere, students will need to be able to read and comprehend them. Yet, the characteristics and layout of infographics are varied - some more readable than others.
To help students approach these complex text forms, we printed out several types for them to explore. Each infographic was placed inside a page protector. Students used dry-erase markers to mark various elements of the info graphics. (You can do something similar with iPads and annotation apps.)
- Place a star next to the very first thing that catches your eye.
- Place a circle around the one word that best describes the topic.
- Place a square around important quantitative information
- Draw an arrow to point out the best graphic that helped you to understand the topic.
- Put a smiley face next to the data source.
- Draw an arrow showing the best pathway to follow to read all of the important information.
Students were able to realize that not all infographics read from left to right, top to bottom; not all infographics have sources listed and therefore may not be reliable; some infographics use much more effective visuals to make a point, and some have too much information! At the end of the lesson, students had to choose which infographic they are thought was the best and If you would like to use some of the infographics we used in the lesson, you can find them at this weebly site.
After more than a year in development, my Reading Comprehension Booster iPad app is now available on the App Store! Many of my regular readers have attended my workshops and seen the app in the early stages. I welcomed your input and changed the design to include your suggested features. Testing with children of various ages also improved our design to the point where I believe it will be an asset to any literacy program.
What makes my app different? I have reviewed many apps tagged as reading comprehension apps. What I found was that most of these provide students with text to read and then answer questions. It seems to me that this assesses reading comprehension but doesn’t work on the skills needed to improve reading comprehension! Reading Comprehension Booster targets the foundational elements of understanding fiction and non-fiction and engages students in interactive responses to these. The app is also fully accessible - children can respond with audio recordings, drawings, text and drag and drop.
Click here for a video overview of the app, or read below for the specific details. If you feel that it is worthwhile, I would appreciate you spreading the word for me through your contacts, blogs and other networks. I will also welcome your feedback as we work on updates. I already have ideas for adding more non-fiction features in a future release.
Boost reading comprehension with this set of interactive tools! Based on the idea of paper bookmarks, each booster encourages the child to record responses, while they are reading, based on a specific reading focus. No more wondering if your child or student was actually paying attention while s/he was reading!
Booster bookmarks were designed by an expert in the field of differentiated instruction, and are based on essential instructional elements identified in literacy, brain and learning research. Each booster has a variety of interactive options to tap into different ability levels and interests. Users can read or listen to directions, draw, type, drag or record responses, and much more. Children can choose from Characters, Connections, Story Seeds and other bookmarks, or use several simultaneously. Children can easily email their work to a parent or teacher for review and discussion.
• Interactive tools to increase reading engagement and comprehension
• Each bookmark provides cues to prompt thinking
• For beginning readers through early teens
• Allows for multiple users for classrooms sharing iPads
• A range of response options increases accessibility
• Data can be emailed to parents, teachers, RtI specialists, IEP team members
Athletic teams and charitable groups have used wrist bands for several years as a way to promote their organizations and goals. Frequently, students can be seen with several different colored bands dangling around their wrists. Here's an idea for tapping into this interest to promote your learning goals, especially with rote information such as spelling words and math facts. (Great for primary grade students!)
Obtain two different colors of Velcro ( the non-adhesive type.) From one color, cut strips approximately 7 inches in length. On the other color, use a permanent marker to write numbers and operational signs (or letters for spelling.) The written material will attach to the wrist band strips, so be sure to use the opposite Velcro structures so that they will stick together. Fnally, cut a one inch piece to serve as a clasp or connecting device to hold the band together.
At the start of the day direct your students to create a band that shows one of the math facts that they have not yet mastered (or to spell their name, or phone number, or missed spelling word.) As they wear the learning bands throughout the day they will see a frequent reminder of the key fact they need to learn!
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting Heather Newman, a high school Spanish teacher in Delaware. Heather participated in a workshop I facilitated on co-teaching and differentiated instruction. One of our conversations concerned the need to add tactile and kinesthetic instruction to our lessons, no matter how old our students are. Heather showed this photo to me and explained how she had her Spanish 1 students match vocabulary to pictures using yarn. What a creative idea! She reported that her students loved it, commenting that it was so much better than another worksheet. Thanks for sharing, Heather!
T-Charts are a common graphic organizer to assist students in thinking about the differences between two things that are related in some way. At times they are used to show examples and non-examples of one thing. Visually, they typically look like an capital or lowercase t.
For students who struggle with language, whether because they are learning English or a student with a disability, T-charts can be enhanced by using pictures in addition to the traditional words. Here is a photo of a student-generated T-chart to show the differences between narrative writing and expository essay writing. Students worked with a partner. Each pair was given a paper with either a word or a picture. Pairs came up and placed the paper in the correct column and justified their decision.
Research is clear that non-linguistic representations are very powerful. The next time you are using a graphic organizer, whether on chart paper or the computer, consider adding simple drawings, printed pictures, or photos.
For the last few years I have been collaborating with a Nebraska school district to improve their co-teaching practices. Through a series of workshops, observations and job-embedded modeling, teachers have engaged in analysis and reflection. I am excited to see so many teachers embracing new ideas for engagement and hands-on learning!
Last week I visited co-taught classrooms at two different middle schools, both teaching author’s purpose using the RIPE acronym (Reflect, Inform, Persuade, Entertain.)
In one class, the co-teachers used a novel approach to activate student thinking. They began class by putting on banana necklaces! Students immediately wondered what was happening, and started making predictions. What a creative, novel way to activate learning! (For more ideas about novelty, download a Novelty Schedule on this website's downloadables page.)
In the other class, the co-teachers chose to use “cootie catchers” (also known as fortune tellers) to increase their students’ motivation. The teachers made the largest cootie catcher I have ever seen and used it as a model. What I loved about this was that it was impossible for one person to manipulate – it had to be collaborative. Students then made smaller versions and paired up to practice their knowledge of the four author purposes. Watch this video clip from the BER video Making Inclusion More Successful.
On a whirlwind tour of classrooms in Smyrna, Delaware this week, I saw a teacher use a simple strategy for engaging students. The teacher had 10 paper lunch bags, one for each small group to share. Inside the bags she had placed 26 cards, each with one letter of the alphabet. The lesson objective was to identify and discuss the impact of the narrative elements in a story. Students were listening to the teacher read, and reading along in their own books. Every so often, the teacher stopped, directed the students to pull a letter out of their “letter bag,” and then make a connection between the letter and a narrative element. For example, one group pulled an “O” and discussed how the setting of the story was “outdoors.” Another group pulled an “E” and wondered what the “exciting” climax would be.
This is the type of strategy I love for 3 reasons:
1. Highly engaging – it was multi-modality and had an element of unpredictability that students immediately loved
2. Highly applicable – the same strategy could be used to encourage connections to any content discussion, as an activator, or even as a summarizing moment, K-12!
3. Low prep – such a quick thing to put together
Yesterday I had the opportunity to work with students on building skills for writing a cause/effect essay. As a thought activator, I asked students to quickly line up some Legos I provided so that I could demonstrate the domino effect. Students worked in pairs to observe what occurred, talk about it and record the types of transition words they used to describe the cause/effect experience.
Next, I provided them with graphic organizer puzzle pieces. I modeled how one might plan for a cause/effect paper, including key transition words on the bridge shapes. Because we used puzzle pieces, instead of a static piece of paper, students were able to brainstorm first and then move pieces around to cluster their ideas. As a final step, they will put them into a sequence before they write their paper.
If you would like the graphic organizer puzzle shapes, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will happily send them to you!